Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How to Raise a Reader: Tips for Getting Your Kids to LOVE Reading

If you've been following along with this blog you know what a big part reading is in our lives. Just check out this hashtag! And not only do I LOVE reading myself, but our kids are major readers too. I often get questions from blog readers asking what we did to get out kids to love books so much and reading at an early age. As both a mother and a former high school English teacher, I have so much to say about this and I felt it was time I organized my thoughts on the subject. Most of all I want to share some tips for anyone looking to bring more books and reading into their home! So here goes:

1. To raise a reader, be a reader.

Now, I know not everyone loves to read. I have lots of thoughts and feelings on this- like I used to tell my high school students- "Everyone is a reader- you just haven't found the right book!" And I truly believe this. So quick little reminder- if you find yourself feeling less than inspired to read yourself, explore some new options or try to find books that align with simple interests you already have. There really is something for everyone, it just may take some time to discover something that really draws you in. But like I said above- to raise a reader, be a reader. Children watch everything we do. So if you want your kids to pick up a book when they're bored, or seek out something to read on their own, they need to see their biggest example and model doing the same.

2. Make books accessible. 

We have hundreds of books all over our home- bookshelves in our office, our bedroom, in the kids' rooms, books in the toy bins in the living room- reading is an easy choice at all times. This has been key for us. If you're just starting out, start small and create a book basket. This is a simple box or basket filled with books, next to your child's bed or in a common area. This doesn't mean you need to go to Amazon and spend $100 buying the latest and greatest children's literature. Used books are amazing- check your local thrift store, hit up the dollar store for new books, and of course there is always the library! If your kids come home from school and say they're bored, invite them to grab a book from the basket and come read with you. Read to your younger kids, have your older kids read to you- although even older kids love being read to just as much as the little ones. The biggest thing though is having books be a part of your environment so they will naturally become what children gravitate towards.

3. Build reading into your everyday routine.

Read aloud to your kids, every.single.day. If you have a baby Olive's age, you might feel like they aren't listening or interested in books at all, but keep at it. Have a stack of books on a side table in your little one's nursery and read when you wake up, before every nap, whenever you can fit it in. Let your child explore- encourage them to touch the pages, turn each one, and don't be discouraged if they only want to push it away. Just try again later. It's what you do everyday that matters and with consistency you will find that books eventually become something they will reach for. Tactile, touch-and-feel books are best for babies, and here are some of favorites: one, two, three, and four. For older kids, make sure you do a bedtime book every single night if possible. Have it be something you and your family look forward to as the very last step of your nighttime routine. Make sure you're picking books YOU love too so this is something the entire family can look forward to. Our routine is the same every night- bath, books, sleep. The boys definitely get excited about our story time each evening, but it's because it's always been what we've done- it feels weird not doing it! If you haven't made this a priority, no worries- there is no time like the present to start, so make it a new tradition beginning tonight and begin to enjoy this daily dose of extra cuddles and quiet time together.

Making muffins with Henry 2/21/13

4. Create real life connections to books.

Going on vacation? Head to the library and grab books on your destination. Reading a children's book that has a fun theme? Consider bringing it to life, like Henry and I did here with If You Give a Moose A Muffin. Connecting kid's everyday life to books is a very simple way to infuse magic into reading, even at a very early age.

5. Start reading traditions.

This is one of my best tips, and quite possible the one my family and I enjoy the most. We have special holiday books, birthday books, etc. that we pull out only for these special occasions. It's Christmas? We're getting out the holiday decorations and inside that big bin is a smaller box filled with our holiday books. During Halloween I'll display our collection of spooky, seasonal books and we'll reach for them every night before bed. It's SO fun for the boys to rediscover them each year and I love that we're creating these special memories together. Another great tradition to begin is weekly or monthly trips to the library. This is something your kids will look forward to, and a great way to hit so many of the tips above- and best of all, it's a fun, FREE thing to do.

I hope this helps inspire you and give you some an idea of what we do at home to encourage reading as much as possible. If you have anything else to add, please leave a comment below so we can all enjoy any tips or tricks that you use in your family. I'll be following up soon with our current favorite books to read as a family, so stay tuned.

Happy reading!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2017 Favorites/Best of 2017

This year's "Top 9" on Instagram- my most liked photos of 2017. All Olive, no surprise there! ;)

Before I say goodbye to 2017 and fully switch over to a brand new year, I wanted to share a big list of my 2017 favorites. I used to do lists like this every year (looking at you, Sarah/Livejournal!), and when I saw Emily's list over at Small Fry Blog I was totally inspired to do one this year! So here we go:

Favorite part: There are a few, but the biggest would definitely have to be growing and birthing Olive. I get emotional even thinking about the whole journey- from getting pregnant while in Switzerland, to finding out in July 2016, starting 2017 off knowing our girl would be joining our family in a couple short months, to giving birth in March. The third time around was the most beautiful experience, and I feel like I was really able to cherish it because I was fully aware of how fast it would go by. Also- the feeling of having our family complete is so amazing. I'm endlessly thankful.

Favorite trip: We went so many places this year- Olive got her first stamp in her passport when we traveled to Canada, we ventured to a lot of different states as a family of five, but the very best trip of the year would have to be our annual trip to the East Coast. My Dad was feeling great at that point and we were able to totally soak up some of the best quality time we'd had in awhile, and the bonding and memories we created on that trip are priceless to me.

Favorite fashion find: these jeans, hands down. I have them in both blue and black and love them to pieces. I highly recommend them to every woman.

Best baby item: the Owlet. It has given us so much peace of mind and it's the one baby item I would love to give to any and every parent. You can read more about our experience here, and I'll be sharing an update with the products we loved during Olive's first year soon.

Best kids' item: I would have to say the Kindle for Henry. His reading completely took off this year and we were not able to get to the library quick enough. The Kindle has been amazing for travel and to have all of his favorites in one place.

Best beauty item: Josh Rosebrook's Active Enzyme Exfoliator. The very best face product I've tried and used this past year, and completely organic, no animal testing. Try it, you'll love it. Also: this concealer, and this texture spray.

Favorite book: Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult. Have you read it? It's a wonderful read that makes you feel all sorts of emotions, think about current issues, laugh, cry, you name it. Add it to your list!

Favorite podcast: My most favorite podcast of the year was Bitch Sesh. There are a million podcasts out there, and I listen to a ton of motivational, inspirational, educational ones I'll share in a post soon, but this one is one that makes me LAUGH! I love it. It helps that the two women and I share a love for the Housewives, but they also tackle a lot of current issues through their humorous lens and I just really enjoy listening.

Favorite movie: This is hard. I feel like I didn't see a ton of movies this year just based on having a new baby, but of the ones I did get to check out, I would have to say Manchester by the Sea. This was released in 2016, but I *think* I saw it in the very beginning of 2017, so I'm going to count it. It's an odd choice for a favorite maybe because it's SO sad and heavy...but I thought the acting was amazing and the whole film made me feel so much.

Favorite show: Big Little Lies. A great book too, but this series was just insanely amazing. The cast, acting, storyline...soundtrack! It was all so good. And great news, a second season is in the works. If you haven't yet seen (or read it), give it a go- I bet you'll like it.

Biggest change: A few months after I had Olive I decided to hop on the macro-counting train to dial in my nutrition. I still owe this topic a dedicated post, but it's been such a great thing for me, and opened my eyes to so many things. I've never felt better in my life and as an added bonus (and something that goes hand in hand with my workouts), never been in better shape. My friend Amy is my macro/fitness coach, and she provides me with my macro numbers to hit, my workouts, and I check in with her weekly with measurements, progress pics, and details. A big commitment but one that's been so worth it for me.

2017- that's a wrap!


Monday, January 1, 2018

Sometimes Sweet in 2018

2018! It's here. And I'm so excited. This next year I have some fun plans for this blog, and I hope you will continue along on this ride with me. First of all- why am I here? I've asked myself that question over the past few months as I've thought about whether or not I wanted to commit to continue sharing here in the new year. I've been here for a long, long time with different ups and downs. Some years I've blogged consistently and others (like the last two), more infrequently, but regardless, I've always had a pull to be here.

Moving into this next year though, examining the "why" is important to me. First and foremost, I want to keep sharing. My biggest why is because I love it. I enjoy posting here when I do, and I actually want to share more! As I've grown and evolved I I love being able to have this space outside of my everyday work. I work IN the blogging and social influencer space, so at times it can feel overwhelming and just another "thing" to do, but more than anything it's a wonderful retreat to revisit what's important to me. I want to do a much better job at sharing all of the ideas that pop into my mind and also recreate this space as a resource for women who want to find inspiration, advice, or just want to read an essay or two.

I feel grateful for this site. I started this blog as a newlywed ten years ago, and so much has changed over the course of a decade. Moving forward I want to continue to tell my story, but also share things that you guys want to see too, and create a good mix of interesting things I love, all in a newly-designed space (coming in early 2018). Yes!

So here's to this new year- I have SUCH a truly good feeling about it and I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store. Again, thanks for being here.

And before you go- will you leave me a comment of one thing you'd like to read MORE of here in 2018?


Friday, December 29, 2017

Weekly Links

Happy Friday! I'm really excited for a quiet weekend at home, welcoming in 2018. We have sushi takeout planned for our New Year's Eve and maybe a Stranger Things marathon once the kids are asleep. Do you have any plans?

Here are some links to start the weekend off --

Outfit above: jeans and top. Olive's dress can be found here (sold out- but from here), shoes here, and her bow here!

Traveling? How to win the armrest battle. ;)

Wishlist: this cardigan, these slides, this sweater and this sports bra.

And I'm loving ANY of these pretty, splurge-worthy pieces. So pretty.

How to be a better listener.

I can't wait to see this movie!

The worst life hacks of 2017.

Absolutely love this outfit on Chelsea.

Motherhood is hard to get wrong.

I want to smell this candle in person! It sounds so lovely.

Why are more American teenagers than ever suffering from anxiety?

25 trips of a lifetime.

How to let go of things.

2017 search popularity- a huge list.

Do you do Elf on a Shelf? We do not.

Why tired mothers stay up so late.

Wishlist (home): these napkins, this ottoman, this bedding, and this table.

No college in the future?

Are the Real Housewives going stale?

The kids would love these!

On living in the moment.

And on "inbox zero."

Now you can buy plants on Amazon. Or maybe you always could, but it's new to me.

My favorite bathing suits! It's funny (and ridiculous) that I'm now officially excited for spring/summer.

This is another swimsuit line I love.

And finally, an interesting read: Motherhood and Instagram.


The Polar Express 2017

The Christmas spirit was alive and well in the Hampton house this year and we took full advantage of every bit of it! The Polar Express is something we always look forward to, and this year we decided to get everyone in on the fun- all three sets of grandparents, my sister and Lucy. We were just missing Hank's sister and her wife, but maybe next year! The Polar Express runs out of Williams, which is about an hour and a half drive from our house. Our family's ranch is up that way, so we made a weekend out of it. There wasn't any snow yet (sad!), but it still felt SO Christmas-y and special.

I'm pretty sure there are Polar Express trains all over the country, so if you're interested definitely check it out where you are. The one here follows lots of details in the book, and they also do a reading of the book on the train, so bringing your own copy is key. The whole experience is so special, and each year it's just as fun because the kids love it so much. I sometimes think about the fact that Henry is 7- I'm not sure how many more "magic" years we have, so I'll take all I can get. 

Another thing I wanted to include in this post is a bit about how we travel with Olive. I get a ton of questions about the items we use and love, so I snapped a few photos at the ranch to share. We always take along our 4moms Breeze (see photos below!)- it's the very best portable crib/pack-n-play we've used over the past 7 years and literally a "breeze" to travel with, open and close, etc. I shared a post about it with a very tiny Charlie here, and I highly recommend it for every parent. You can use it in the beginning thanks to the bassinet feature, and then later for all sorts of things- for containing a moving baby while you cook dinner, sleeping away from home...the list goes on. Check it out here- it's well worth it in my opinion and something that will totally hold up kid after kid.

We also always bring our Owlet with us, and we've found this GoPro case to be perfect for traveling with it. It's a hard case and perfectly holds the Owlet sock, cords, and everything else, as well as our monitor and our travel white noise machine (a must-have!). I have a baby product update coming soon, and I'll be including more on the Owlet there too, so let me know if you have any questions.


My hat (Topshop sold out- similar here)
My thermal top (love this so much)
My jacket
My jeans (BEST ever)
Olive's hat (sold out but from Zara)
Baby carrier

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Top 5 Gifts this Year

I wanted to share this year's favorite things that we got for our family this holiday season. We typically buy for my parents, Hank's parents, and Lucy. Lauren and I don't exchange and just focus on the kids, and for extended family we do baked goods and cards. We keep it simple, which I love. But each year we try to find something new to get our parents, and it can be hard! We're working with people who don't care too much about "stuff" so we have to get creative.

Here are our top 5 gift picks for this year --

1. Framebridge Instagram Minis (shown above, along with my friend Brooke's sweet gift tag- see her shop here)

I LOVE these cute Instagram Minis! We have them throughout our home and they're such a nice gift to give. Plus, they're super easy to create online (takes minutes) and the quality is fantastic. Framebridge sent us this one to share with you guys, and I hope if you're in need of a last minute gift you take advantage of their holiday shipping. Order by 12/17 and photo gifts will arrive in time! The frame above is Richmond, an antique gold that goes with everything. This post isn't sponsored by Framebridge, but they did gift this frame to us and I loved it so much I wanted to share.

2. Instant Pot

Is it me, or is this thing EVERYWHERE right now? I made the mistake of searching Instant Pot recipes on Pinterest and now I can't escape it! Do you have one? I've added it to my cart on Black Friday for a couple years in a row, but still haven't pulled the trigger. I am nervous to give something I haven't tried myself, but the reviews seem amazing. However this year two people on our list wanted to try one so we went for it. If you have an Instant Pot, let me know your thoughts- I'm so curious.

3. Experiences.

This one should really be first on the list because above all, this is how we do gifts. The boys are getting to go to Monster Jam in February as their "big gift," which I love. I do NOT love Monster Jam itself but I love that we're doing something together! Even if it does involve huge trucks. As far as gifts for everyone else, this year we took all of the grandparents, Lauren, Lucy and our little family to the Polar Express. It was the perfect way to get into the season. I actually need to share photos of the trip soon- maybe tomorrow. The boys have three sets of grandparents so it was a big group with all of us, but so much fun. Have you ever been? Our family's ranch is up north that way so we spent the night and made a weekend out of it. It was such a great time.

4. Sonos One

We are LATE to the Alexa train. Both Hank and I were very hesitant to let these into our home (we're the weirdos with tape over our the cameras on our laptops!), but I'm glad we finally gave in. They're so handy, and the Sonos version sounds amazing. We play music all day anyway, and this just elevates our experience with fantastic audio. It works with our lights, ceiling fan in the living room, etc. and it's super handy to use for making appointments, asking questions, whatever you can think of! We love Alexa! I have a Sonos One in my office, our kitchen, and Henry has a Dot in his bedroom. The Sonos is what we got for one particular family who I won't name here because I know he/she reads this...but they're going to be so excited!

5. Books and more books.

Of course. For the boys we usually do one or two toys, some fun stocking stuffers, and LOTS of books! Henry has a Kindle now too (he's loving this one) so we got him an Amazon giftcard too. I have a post with his current favorite books coming next week, so stay tuned. But books as gifts are wonderful. I love gifting cookbooks, motivational books, and favorite novels from the past year. This year, I purchased these for family presents: one, two and three.

Enjoy, and happy almost-Christmas!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Weekly Links

Hello! Welcome to the new Weekly Links! Not new at all actually, just calling them "weekly" so I can feel free to share during the week if I so choose. Life is chugging along, we are deep into the Christmas spirit, and I'm looking forward to this next week full of more holiday fun. I love it. Bring on the cookie baking, Christmas movies, and so much time at home (in cozy pajamas with a fire going)! We're soaking it up. I hope you have a great rest of your week, too! Here are some links --

Outfit details above: coat, jeans, bag, boots (old- similar here), hat (color above sold out).

What to never say to your guests.

I just started watching this and LOVE it so far!

Interesting: modest dressing, as a virtue.

On Henry's Christmas list: this camera.

Yay! I'm so happy about this news.

Such a great article about money in your 30s.

Get yourself a silly winter coat.

My favorite jeans. My favorite holiday shoes. And my favorite concealer. A new favorites posts coming up soon.

The best books of 2017.

And the 10 best movies this year.

Kesha on self-care during the holidays.

And how to take a social media break. ;)

Wishlist: this coat, this top, and this swimsuit.

How great are these bags?

Cute: these book pins.

A minimal holiday with kids.

How sweet is this necklace- I'm imagining mine with H, C and O.

Loving this blanket- I have one in my office and one in our living room.

A new-to-me shoe brand- every pair is so great.

The great college loan swindle.

And finally, read this. I love and relate to this article SO much.