Unique Birthday Gift Twist

This year, I’m attempting something different for both of my daughters’ birthdays. Rather than get them a pile of store bought stuff they’ll love opening, play with, and forget, I’m trying to be a bit more thoughtful.

They each usually get one larger present. One year, this was magna-tiles. Who knew magnetic plastic could be so expensive?!?

madnatiles
For the hours of play over the last two years, worth it, though.

Another year, it was a My Little Pony castle. I wish this would’ve been as worthwhile as the magna-tiles.

This year, both of their main presents are being created by artists from Etsy. It’s required me to plan well in advance of birthdays as most artists have a four to six week lead time, but I’m hoping it’ll be worth it. I want to give them something unique, but it also feels right to know you’re supporting an artist rather than a plastics factory.

We’ll see how it goes when I get the items, but so far, almost everything I’ve bought from an artist on Etsy has been spectacular. You can tell that they care about what they’re making.

Of course I’m hoping the girls will love what they’re getting.

gift
We’ve all gotten gifts like this.

Okay, it’s not going to be as bad as shown above. These are artists, not me, making the gifts.

More than just liking the gift, I’m hoping it’ll spur their imaginations and bring them to new worlds. I love watching them play with dolls, action figures, or blocks. Listening to the stories they’re making up, the reason they’re doing whatever they’re doing.

It’s a writer’s dream.

They’re literally acting out all the amazing imagination running through their heads. Making their pretend worlds come to life.

Frankly, another thing I really appreciate about Etsy is that nothing I’ve ever bought there makes noise. Or has an on/off switch. Or requires batteries. The gifts I’ve selected will appeal to things they already like, but it will require the girls to use their imaginations.

While there’s nothing wrong with electronic toys, and goodness knows they’re going to need to know how to use electronics.

phone

DD1 will already be using an iPad in her kindergarten class. But I also feel like this has gone a little too far. Does the fisher price school bus have to make a series of noises? Does every stuffed animal have to talk?

Volume controls and on/off buttons are nice, but does every toy need this in the first place?

I like to see the kids use their imagination. I love seeing where it takes them. They even snitched my stuffed green dragon, which I still haven’t gotten back, for some escapade or another. They love that dragon, and all it does is sit there. No roaring. No talking. No breathing fire. Just a plain stuffed green dragon to take them wherever their imaginations want to go.

 

How about you? Do you find your kids or grandchildren toys to require too many batteries? What do you think of current toys or the classics? Ever got a child a handmade gift before? How did it go?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children and Birthday Parties

So, last year I waited until the end of September to start thinking about DD1’s birthday. I learned kid’s birthday parties are sorta like weddings. You have to plan them far in advance.

By the time we started, it was far too late for most things, so we ended up hosting it at home.

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This was extremely stressful, and frankly, the party was only so-so for my daughter and her friends.

October starts my busy season at work. It’s also Halloween, other family members’ birthdays, including immediate family. Yeah, it’s a pretty full month. Let’s just say her party last year was half-baked, but we got away with it because most of the guests were four.

We won’t get that luxury this year, especially as DD1 will be in kindergarten. So, I started planning early.

I’m not Pinterest mom, but we can do better than putting everything together the night before the party. Yeah. We were real organized last year.

amazonmom
So, so true.

So, here’s what I’ve come up with:

 

Dance Birthday

The dance place she dances at hosts children’s birthday parties. They provide an indoor venue (critical as we can have snow in October), and one of the instructors takes care of entertaining the monsters children. They also take care of the invitations, set-up and clean-up.

I’m leaning towards this because I’m really busy already. I bring the birthday child and cake. They do everything else

 

Water Park Birthday

There is a small indoor water park in our area. They offer birthday packages where the kids can play in the pool and on the water slides, then afterward they had a room for the monsters children to eat cake before I send them home.

However, this would mean getting into a swimsuit to help monitor them in the pool. I’d really rather not, but it’s an option.

waterpark1
Not this kind, but I’d like it better!

Other

  • I’ve checked the YMCA, but all kids have to be 6 and older.
  • I asked her about bowling, and she said yuck. Didn’t like the bowling field trip at school and quit after less than one round.

 

As I’m offering the two choices above to my daughter, she proposes a third: an at-home Zelda party.

I squirm. I explain to her that our house is pretty small, she couldn’t have nearly as many friends over.

  • Read: I don’t want to clean and prep for the party. Or clean up afterwards. Or entertain monsters children for two hours.

She says she doesn’t care. She’ll just have fewer friends over. I try again, explaining that not many other children are going to know who Zelda is. She says she doesn’t care, they can come as other princesses.

link1
Not sure why it’s called Zelda when all you ever see is Link.

So, I back off. Maybe we can convince her later if we phrase it right.

We try again at dinner the next day, and I explain that the dance place has themes and she gets to pick the one she wants. She seems pretty happy about doing the party at the dance place and picked the princess theme.

Then, comes an awful, rushed, hectic morning. We’re finally in the car, with everything we need (I’d forgotten something and had to turn around twice), and now DD1 has me again trapped in the car.

You know where this is going. Yeah, like that.

She tells me she really doesn’t want to do a dance party. She really wants a Zelda party at home. I explain again that we can’t have as many friends come if we do the party at home. I explain again that I don’t think her friends will know who Zelda is.

She is undeterred.

She wants a Zelda party.

I told her to think about it. I have a little time yet to make a decision.

She gave me the patented DD1 look and said she’d think about it, but she already told me what she wanted.

*sigh*

How about you? Ever have to throw a child’s birthday party? Any pointers or tips?

Taking Time to Unplug

It’s Sunday night, and the family is getting ready to go back to our work schedule. I’m trying to get dinner ready while sneaking in a few more words, and DH and DD1 are trying to enjoy a game together.

Enter DD2.

She is angry and upset, crying for no apparent reason. We’re all testy with her. She cries harder.

One of our cats has had made a mess, and DH is irritated as he gets the vacuum to clean it up. Terror sparks in DD2’s eyes as she sees the dreaded vacuum. I put my iPad away, gather her up, and carry her to our bedroom.

Her tears instantly dry up as we lay on the bed together and play silly games of counting her toes, getting tickled (we took turns tickling each other), and just laying together with her head on my shoulder.

Her laughter and giggles made my night.

disconnect1
Or trying to understand and bond with a toddler?

Holding that in my heart, I cuddled with DD1 before work Monday morning. She is getting so big, but she still likes snuggles. For now. We talked a little, but she mostly just wanted to be held.

I’m starting to feel like the whole family is too busy, but not busy with the right things. Time goes by so fast now. I was looking at pictures of DD1 when she was just a few days old. Hard to believe that was almost six years ago. It seems like only last year we were bringing her home and learning what it was really like to have an infant in the house.

I need to slow down. Make connections. Build a relationship with my girls, and strengthen the one I have with DH.

Writing is a part of the equation. I really shouldn’t have been trying to sneak in words. But there’s more to it. I feel like my family has all become too reliant on technology for entertainment. We need to unplug.

disconnect2
Not this bad. Yet.

Bored? We turn on Netflix or Amazon, and we don’t even have to sit through commercials. Open the iPad or Kindle. Pull out your phone. A lot of this isn’t deeply entertaining, but the companies know how to lure us how. How to grab our attention and keep it. How many times has boredom had me checking my phone for a quick fix rather than getting up and actually doing something meaningful?

I got so consumed with these distractions that I got annoyed with my beautiful and amazing toddler rather than giving her the love and attention she both wants and needs.

A part of me wants to give away all of the electronics, but that’s just not reasonable.

Still, I need to find a way to unplug and disconnect more, help my family unplug more, so that we can really connect. So that we spend more time counting toes and less time staring at screens. I just don’t know how.

 

How about you? Ever tried to unplug? What did you do? How did it work? Ever try to unplug your whole family? What did you do? How did it work?

What to Do When Faced with Night Terrors

Per Kid’s Health, our pediatrician, and a child psychologist, “A night terror is a sleep disruption that seems similar to a nightmare, but with a far more dramatic presentation. Though night terrors can be alarming for parents who witness them, they’re not usually cause for concern or a sign of a deeper medical issue.

Night terrors happen during deep non-REM sleep. Unlike nightmares (which occur during REM sleep), a night terror is not technically a dream, but more like a sudden reaction of fear that happens during the transition from one sleep phase to another.”

 

nightterrors
A much cuter version of what we’re facing.

Night terrors are caused by the over-arousal of the central nervous system, but science doesn’t know why.  The best hypothesis is that this area of the brain is still maturing, especially as the night terrors seem to fade as a child ages.

Doctors think it may be hereditary as most kids that have this condition have a family member who experienced them or who was prone to sleepwalking (which is apparently similar in nature to night terrors).

*Glares at DH*

Guessing it’s hereditary as the other things, like taking a new medication or sleeping away from home, don’t play into it.

Night terrors are rare – happening in only 3-6% of kids. Lucky us.

Our daughter has them regularly. Almost every night. We’ve talked to the doctor and a child psychologist. There is very little we can do.

Our pediatrician has told us the best way to combat them is to make sure she has a solid bedtime routine and is getting enough sleep. Of course, the child suffering from night terrors would love to stay up until 10pm  then sleep until 9am. It’s too bad our life doesn’t permit her the schedule she wants as I have to be to work at 8am.

bedtime
Actual footage of me at bedtime.

So, we do our best. Every night is a challenge, as she hates going to bed and usually wants me to be next to her when she falls asleep. I know, Ferber Method, etc. etc.  But I’m not sure I buy into the Ferber Method (also known as the cry-it-out method).

If my toddler is scared and alone, crying for me, I need to go to her. I need to hold and console her. Especially as I am there when she cries out at night. I’ve heard her fear.

Seriously. Until you’ve heard your toddler scream in terror in the night, begging some invisible something to “STOP”, it’s hard to understand. The night terrors are awful, and she is hard to wake up from them even if we want to wake her. She’s not in REM, so she doesn’t awaken easily. And when we do wake her, she’s shaking but doesn’t remember what happened.

Maybe I’m spoiling her, or maybe I’m showing her when she needs me, I’ll be there for her. Even if I didn’t hold and comfort her, I wouldn’t be able to sleep hearing her cries anyway. Better to follow  heart and gut on this.

gut

But it does explain why I’m not sleeping. Why I’m a little crabbier. And why I’m burning out.

At this point, I have no idea how to make it better. I’m rolling with the phrase I heard somewhere about raising kids, “This, too, shall pass.”

I hope it does. She deserves a good night’s sleep, and so do I.

 

How about you? Anyone in your family ever have night terrors? How did you deal with them? Did they ever go away? If so, when did they go away?

Truth from a Child

There are a lot of sayings about truth coming from children. After having two children of my own, I find most of these to be garbage.

Toddlers lie.

Preschoolers lie more.

truth
True story.

The concept of truth and why it’s important is something children must be taught. But every once in a while, my preschooler surprises me with an insight that shows how cultural some things are.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I broke my ankle over a year ago. It still isn’t back to the way it was before I fell. I also broke my foot as a kid and have low back issues. I know, lovely, right?

The back issues are hereditary, and I was seeing a specialist for it in my twenties when it first surfaced. First thing he told me was I needed to give up all high-heeled shoes. Even block heels couldn’t be more than two inches. I should also consider comfort brands (read old-lady shoes) as the extra cushioning would reduce my daily pain and the number of flare-ups I was experiencing.

At the end of the appointment, he told me if we didn’t get things under control, I could be looking at spinal fusion before I was thirty.

Okay, so, old lady shoes didn’t look so bad.

oldlady
Maybe they did, but back surgery still wasn’t something I wanted.

It was extremely hard to find stylish shoes that fit my new criteria, and I ended up settling for far fewer shoes as those old-lady ones cost a great deal more than what I had been spending.

As I’ve aged, I’ve found more and more stylish shoes that fit his criteria and more brands entering this market. Or, I’ve become an old lady and they’re just my style now.

Whatever the case, I was perusing the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale and selecting some new shoes to try. I love this sale as it’s the only time some of my favorite comfort brands are on sale and my size is still in stock.

DD1 climbs on my lap as I finish checking out, and I ask her if she wants to look at some of the shoes in her size. She is getting to the age where she wants more of a say in what’s in her closet, so she readily agrees.

Kids shoes at Nordstrom’s? Really?

Because of my back issues and a family history of bad feet, I tend to spend more on the girls’ shoes and go for brands like Stride Rite and Tsukihoshi  Yeah, I spend more, but I hope it will either prevent or reduce issues for them in the future.

Most people have heard of stride Rite, but if you haven’t heard of Tsukihoshi, give them a try. I was astounded how light the shoes are and yet how cushioned. They are amazing! DD2 can’t wear them as they aren’t wide enough for her foot braces (yeah, feet problems in the family, remember), but DD1 loves them.

Anyway, DD1 and I start looking at the shoes, and DD1 picks a pair with a beautiful flower embroidered on them. I explain to her that the brand she picked is known for cute but uncomfortable shoes. She probably wouldn’t wear them more than once if I got them for her, so we should keep looking.

DD1 looks at me like I’m from Mars and asks, “Why would they make uncomfortable shoes? Who’d wear them?”

envy2

Who indeed.

Which goes to show that uncomfortable shoes for women are a social construct, one that must be learned. I’m going to try my hardest to make sure this is something neither of my girls learn.

 

How about you? A child ever give you a truth that reframed your perceptions? Or perhaps you have children that are always truth-tellers? If not, any tips on helping them with learning to tell the truth?

 

 

Special Flower or Weed?

I have repeatedly heard children called flowers. Each one unique and special.

Whoever coined this phrase either never had kids or is a grandparent who has forgotten what having small children is like.

flower

My toddler is not a flower. She’s a weed.

Oh sure, she looks cute with her little pigtails when she smiles up at you. Her giggles of delight could make angels sing. But two seconds later, she’ll have found a crayon in her sister’s room and be coloring all over your walls while you’re making dinner, totally ignoring the toys you gave her to entertain her.

I had always thought coloring on walls was an exaggeration. I never did it as a kid, and neither did my sister. My oldest daughter never did it. My youngest? Not once, but twice so far.

Thank god for magic erasers.

mrclean

You can get them here. In bulk. Highly recommended if you have a weed in the house.

I was also spoiled by my first child when it came to potty training. I read the books on how to potty train a child, and DH and I applied them. They worked! We had a total of two accidents, and DD1 was potty trained.

After a solid week of intense training, DD2 was no closer to be trained than when we started. We showed her the books and what she was supposed to do. She just grinned at us. Or stomped her foot and shouted, “No!”

I’m telling you, weed. A spiny one at that.

thistle

Oh sure, some of these stubborn traits will serve her well later in life. I can see her stubbornness propelling her to CEO of her own company. I will probably be less worried about her succumbing to peer pressure as a teen as she isn’t a “pleaser”.

But right now, I need to be able to make dinner without my house getting trashed.

They don’t make playpens she can’t climb out of, so we must now jealousy guard all writing utensils.

toddler6
Okay, not legal playpens.

I should’ve bought stock in Pampers with how long she’s been in them. Okay, that’s not entirely true. She gets pampers at night because I don’t want to be woken up to do laundry when there’s a leak. During the day, she gets whatever generic brand Target carries.

Yeah, I’m mean. But that’s the way I roll these days. Maybe if she’s a little uncomfortable once in a while, she’ll be more apt to learn. Gotta make it her idea . . .

 

How about you? Any guidance for someone living with a weed instead of a flower? Tricks to help them morph into a flower? Or perhaps just some potty training advice when you’re trying to train a weed?

The Lunch Lady is a Chemical Engineer

No, I’m not joking. The lunch lady at my daughter’s school is, indeed, a chemical engineer.

ChemE1

I was shocked. Chemical engineering is hard. Damn hard. She graduated from a good school. Had a terrific job at a Fortune 100 company. Then, she and her husband (who is also an engineer) decided to have kids. She went back to work after their first child was born, but she didn’t go back after their second child and has no intention of returning to her old job.

Why?

She can’t work and do all of the things she needs to do with kids. That includes finding care for them during the multitude of school holidays and over the summer, getting them to and from school (school by us starts after most people have to be at work, and gets out long before most people are home), and getting them to the myriad of activities that require a day time chauffeur.

chemE2

My first thought was what a waste of human capital.

She is smart and well-educated. She was doing some cool work on batteries I barely understand, and there is so much more she could have contributed.

But an antiquated education system designed during an era when women didn’t work outside of the house has created a paradigm where a chemical engineer puts aside four years of grueling college work and another six years of industry experience to serve lunches and chauffeur kids around.

Think about that for a moment. Doesn’t it feel like such a waste?

Yet, I am starting to understand as I struggle to find .

Our VP of HR hires a nanny during the summer even though her kids are all in elementary school. As she said, it was the only way to get them to all of the soccer camps, ballet camps, and various other summer activities that suburban children are expected to attend or risk “falling behind”.

Yeah, already worried about falling behind in elementary school. Because if all the other kids are in soccer camp and yours isn’t…  You get the idea.

I have no idea what a good solution to this is. I like to delude myself and think that there are people out there working on it, but I fear there aren’t.

ChemE3

That for some reason we’re content with this waste of human potential. I’m not even sure why we’re okay with it, just that we seem to be.

Maybe I’m just more aware of it as out little ones become school-age. I’m already seeing the issues as we have to cart DD1 to dance class, tumbling, or swim lessons. I recently received the school schedule, and counted 21 days off that the kids have that do not correspond to a normal work schedule. So, yeah, gotta find some kind of care for those 21 days.

I wish there was a magical place I could drop my kids off in the morning, pick them up there in the afternoon, on every day I have to work. They would be educated, get the activities that they need, and the socialization. This magical place sends me a monthly bill, and all is well.

I suppose we all have our dreams.

 

If you have kids, how do you handle all of the activities, especially if they are during work hours? Any kid chauffeur services I’m not aware of?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What, No Salt?

I never thought I liked hard boiled eggs. I though the outside was tasteless and rubbery, and the inside was a gritty yellow mess.

I avoided hard boiled eggs in all of their forms, including deviled. I knew they were a protein-packed snack full of good fats, but the knowledge did not make my taste buds snap into line and like the taste or texture.

Well, the nutritionists are telling us eggs are great right now. I remember as a kid being told they were high in cholesterol and terrible for us. Seems like the consensus on whether or not they’re healthy changes with the decade. My taste buds, however, have been unwavering.

Anyway, my youngest child mostly refuses to eat meat. Yes, she’ll occasionally partake of very expensive steak. Possibly a few bites of hamburger once a full moon, but otherwise, she doesn’t much eat it. After hearing this, the doctor told us to try several other protein sources, among them hard boiled eggs.

toddler1

So, I looked up how to make hard boiled eggs online. There are a slew of recipes out there, all that promise not to create the nasty sulfur-tasting green ring around the yoke.

I figured, okay, this is literally boiling an egg. How hard can it be.

*smiles*

Yes, I know you’re laughing at me, but after attempting to follow these recipes, I was able to soft boil an egg, but never hard boil one. A word on soft boiled eggs. A two-year-old can make quite a mess with one, and she will not eat it as much as see it as a finger paint.

After several dozen eggs and frustrating attempts, I pulled open my old Better Homes and Garden recipe book. You know the one.

Better-Homes-Gardens - Copy

I received it as a gift probably twenty years ago, maybe more. It has a recipe for hard boiled eggs, and it also discusses the sulfur taste as well as gives a way to avoid it. I followed Better Home’s recipe, and my first batch of eggs turned out perfectly. Yeah, perfect firm exterior and bright yellow middle. No sulfur taste, no discolored yoke.

egg1.png
You will note the perfectly yellow yoke.

I took a bite, but I still wasn’t impressed.

DH then informed me I needed to add salt. It would be a lot better.

I was skeptical, especially as we’ve tried hard to reduce the sodium in our diet. But he insisted hard boiled eggs were eaten with a sprinkle of salt on the exterior.

I sprinkled some salt and took another bite.

It was so much better!  I might even say I like hard boiled eggs.

My daughter, however, was still unimpressed.

On to beans!

 

How about you? Ever resort to old-school advice on anything? Have any tips or tricks to boiling eggs? Or getting toddlers to eat meat? Getting toddlers to eat or do much of anything you’d like them to do?

Practice, Practice, Practice

My daughter was recently in a dance recital.

She had begged to get to take a dance class, and knowing how much work she needs on her gross motor skills and coordination, we agreed to let her attend.

There is a huge recital at the end of the year that parents are required to attend. A four hour recital, but I digress…

dance1

After watching her dress rehearsal, and that of the group before and after her, she came back out from back stage and proclaimed that she was the best the dancer out there. I smiled. It’s not uncommon for children her age to be quite full of themselves.

When I didn’t agree, she asked me directly if she was the best.

I told her “no”.

Harsh, maybe, but I then explained that while she’d done a good job of going to class and listening to the teacher, she hadn’t practiced outside of the class. Her friend, who happens to be a year older, had gone home and practiced every night. It showed.

I told her if she wanted to be really good, she’d have to practice more than once a week.

She was not happy with me. She argued that she didn’t have a partner to practice with at home.

I agreed with her, but told her she could still practice her parts. She could always use a stuffed animal as a stand-in for her partner, like her friend had.

My daughter was still skeptical, but as we talked some more, she decided that maybe next year she would practice more. Which means she wants a second year of dance…

practice1

I know this sounds harsh, and this next bit may sound like a deluded parent, but DD1 is very bright. A lot of things have come very easily to her because of it. She’s not yet in kindergarten, but she’s reading at a 2nd-3rd grade level. Why? Because she wanted to read, was determined to read, and had taught herself to read by the time she started 4K. She was one of two children that could read at the end of her 4K year.

We encourage her love of reading, of course, but she’s the one that practiced and practiced. That pushed herself, especially when she saw some of the cool books out there that she wanted to read without help. She’s starting to eye up early chapter books as she saw a few of those that were My Little Pony.

TwilightSparkle
This one, to be exact. Which, of course, features Twilight Sparkle.

Her math skills have also came easily to her so far.

We practice a system of rewards for good behavior. She had six behavior points and knew she needed fifteen to get the treat she wanted. She was able to devise that she needed nine more behavior points to get the reward without any help from me.

Also, if you send her to her room and tell her to count to one-hundred before coming out, you must specify she must count by ones. Otherwise, she’ll count by fives or tens to get out faster.

So, yes, I’m glad she’s got drive and some natural gifts in these areas. I’m also not upset that she isn’t naturally gifted at dance. I’m glad she still loves dance and wants to be good at it. I want her to have to work for it, to have to practice for it.

I want her to see she won’t always be the best at something just by showing up. But I want her to have fun along the way.

She’s my Type A child. She’ll push herself hard, and I want her to learn that it’s okay to not always be the best. That it’s even okay to fail as long as she tried her best.

I bit of wisdom in there I should perhaps practice as well as preach…

 

How about you? Ever had something come easy? Something come hard that you really had to work for? Did the extra practice make you the best? Were you proud of your accomplishments even if you weren’t the best?

And Another…

Order from Scholastic Book Club.

Yes, my daughter came home the other day with yet another Scholastic Book Order. These things seem to be quite prolific.

If you’re not familiar with them, this is a pamphlet of books your child gets through school. You can then order your kids books, sometimes at a discount, and the school gets some free books in return.

It’s a win all around. Or, it’s supposed to be.

My house is filled with books. Book shelves are overflowing. Book bins are so stuffed, they are too heavy for DD1 to slide back into place.

Mountains of books.

book1
Looks about like my daughter’s room. Or my living room some days.

 

So, I inwardly groan when she brings home another book order with half the books circled. Okay, maybe not half, but darn near.

Does she really need more books? Shouldn’t all the ones we have at home be okay?

I mentioned my daughter wanting so many books during water cooler talk at work, and the other parents told me to be happy.

One mom had to force her kid to sit down and read for half an hour a night. Her son hated reading, and it was a battle that she dreaded. He’d actually take most punishments over being forced to read, but she didn’t want him to see reading as a bad thing to be endured, either.

Another mom told me to encourage DD1’s of reading any way I could. It would help her in everything. Her daughter had struggled with reading, and despite tutors and extra help at school, it had taken her to eighth grade to read at grade level.

I felt a little sheepish.

Of course my daughter reading is an excellent thing. I do promote it. And they’re right. I should rejoice when the book order comes home and she’s so excited to read she wants “them all”. The fact that my pre-kindergartner is reading Fancy Nancy by herself is a source of pride. I even let her stay up a little later on nights we open up a new books so she can pour through what we read together and learn the new words in it.

It was a reminder to count my blessings. Sometimes, the glass is half full. And yes, I am going to let her have the books she wants. Most of them, anyway.

book2

 

How about you? Did your kids love the Scholastic Book Club? How did you feel when the order form came home? Did your kids love to read? Hate to read?