5 Summer Acitivities Your Kids Will Love

LittleMerciesOver the weekend, I read the novel Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf. The book begins on the hottest day of the summer and leads up to a family dealing with a horrible mistake. The novel examines themes like family, forgiveness, love, and what it means to be a mother. This lead to me thinking about my children and the gift it is for my husband and I to parent two amazing little boys.

We live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The summers here can be unbearably hot, and it’s taken me a few years to work out parenting in sometimes 100 degree weather.

Here are some of my favorite summertime activities to do with my kids:

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1. Mama’s Little Helpers: Sometimes the best kind of play for wild little ones is to “put them to work.” When I’m working in the garden, I let the boys come outside with me and tell them they’re my helpers. They love this! Even though they typically get too excited to really help and end up using the tools to “dig a hole to the earth’s core” (pictured above), it gives them a sense of what I like to call “playful purpose.”

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2. Swimming: A blow up pool in the back yard is my favorite standby summer activity. My boys love anything that involves getting wet. Swimming, water balloon fights, and the slip n’ slide all make appearances in our yard throughout the summer. It’s a great way to play in the sweltering heat while staying cool.

3. The Classics: Activities like flying a kite (Pictured above) or blowing bubbles (pictured below) can occupy the kids for hours. The same activities we enjoyed as kids can become your children’s summer favorites. You can find kites, bubbles, and a ton of other fun activities for the kids at the dollar store.

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British at The Little Beach

4. The Beach: If there’s a beach in your area, put it to use. Bring a cooler filled with drinks and snacks for the kids, some beach toys, and of course, loads of beach towels, and make a day of it!

British at Mary Mahoneys

5. Have a Staycation: Did you know that you don’t have to leave town to have an awesome vacation? Take your kids out to explore your town. Go to a museum or a restaurant you wouldn’t normally go to during the school year. Every week I try to take my boys to a place we rarely go. Last week we went for dessert at Mary Mahoney’s (pictured above). It’s a “fancy” restaurant and I used it as an opportunity to learn a little bit about table manners and etiquette for the boys.

Tip: One thing I took away from the novel Little Mercies was the importance of safety. Make sure your kids stay hydrated while playing outside. If they aren’t strong swimmers, make sure they wear floaties. Also, have fun! Your kids make memories all summer long that they’ll hold in their hearts as adults. Cherish the time that you have with them while they’re little. It all goes by in the blink of an eye.

Find out more about Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf:

·         Watch the Book Trailer

·         Visit Heather Gudenkauf’s Official Site

·         Follow Heather Gudenkauf on Twitter,Facebook, and Pinterest

·         Visit Little Mercies page on Goodreads

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Harlequin.


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Dancing With Dolphins

Dancing With Dolphins on Life Between Books MandyBoles.com

My family and I went to a Super Bowl party about a couple of weeks ago. We decided to take the scenic route down Highway 90. Highway 90’s known for the MS Gulf Coast’s beautiful beaches, casinos, and… souvenir shops. Every time we pass a certain shop with a huge shark head for an entrance the boys beg to stop.

This time we stopped, because sometimes you have to stop and dance with dolphins and hang out in a shark’s mouth.

Dancing With Dolphins on Life Between Books MandyBoles.comNate and I have two wild little men and the smallest things can make them so damn happy. Playing with dolphin and shark statues on the beach being part of a growing list of things that bring joy to their little hearts. Building forts out of cardboard boxes, making funny videos, and keeping a notebook of video game design drawings are a few of the recent activities British and Bruce have been obsessed with lately.

Everyday I’m grateful Nate and I have these two precious gifts we created together.

Of course they’re not always happy little angels. Lately Bruce, our sweet four-year-old, has taken to saying NEVER! when I ask him to do any sort of task. Bruce, the sweet one who always kind of went with the flow is starting to develop quite the forceful little personality.

British, my older boy whose eyes have a constant sparkle, has always had a willful personality. When the doctor pulled him out of me I’m pretty sure B looked around and said, “Where the hell am I”? So it’s surprising to me that Brucie is just now becoming an extrovert, because British was boisterous from the very beginning.

Isn’t it crazy? I always think I have their personalities pegged. I think British is the funny one or Bruce is the shy one and then one or the other will do something that doesn’t conform to the label. Which I guess is why we shouldn’t label our kids or presume to know how they feel or the person they will one day become. They will always surprise us. One minute they might want to dance with dolphins and stand bravely inside the shark mouth door and the next? Not so much.

Kids Are Not An Extension Of Ourselves

Sometimes Nate gently reminds me that just because I suffer from anxiety and depression it doesn’t mean the boys will too. I worry about this constantly. I try not to over analyze when one of the boys has a bad day at school. If Bruce gets sad for what seems like no reason, I remind myself that he’s only four. Four-year-olds get upset when they’re sleepy or possibly just watched the end of Toy Story 3, and it’s not the end of the world. That’s what I tell myself.

I’m a worrier. It’s what I do between being stressed out, depressed, and anxious. I haven’t been able to focus long enough to write a blog post or finish a book lately. Tonight I finished a book I’ve been reading for a couple of weeks. Normally, I read 4-5 books a week. So, maybe I need to take a cue from British and Bruce. Stop being stressed and worried and take time to clear my head, dance with dolphins, and relive the childlike curiosity that lead me to love reading.

My goal for the rest of the week is to read three books. Next week I have lots of cool things to share on the blog including a Q & A with Jill Shalvis, a guest post from Bradley Spinelli on his first favorite book (a new feature Bradley is kicking off for me), and a review of Spinelli’s book Killing Williamsburg. Until then, I’ll be taking time to dance with dolphins and play in the mouths of sharks.

More pictures below.

Standing in the shark Mandy Boles Life Between Books

Dancing With Dolphins Life Between Books Mandy Boles.com

Outfit Details:

Shirt: J. Crew
Jeans: Madewell
Clogs: Kork-Ease
Bag: Rebecca Minkoff similar / similar
Necklace: Natalie B
Earrings: Natalie B
Rings: 1 / 2 – sold out, similar
Bracelets: 1 / 2

Natalie B and Stella and Dot Bracelets and Rings Life Between Books MandyBoles.comRebecca Minkoff Bag Life Between Books MandyBoles.comKork-Ease Clogs Life Between Books MandyBoles.comBag and Bling Life Between Books MandyBoles.com


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Vacation Boles 2013: Vail

Last month Nate and I took the boys to Vail, Colorado. We planned to go the week after Thanksgiving, but due to a scheduling mistake we ended up flying in the Saturday before Thanksgiving and flying home on Thanksgiving day. Yes, I’m familiar with calendars. I just don’t look at them as often as I should.

Why Vail?

With the exception of one trip to Mountain View Arkansas, New Orleans, and a few trips to the beach, all of our family vacations have been to Disney World. We live a day’s drive away from Orlando and we’ve taken advantage of that drive so much that when our kids ask to go on vacation they say “let’s go to Disney.” It occurred to me the last couple of times I heard the boys chant “Disney! Disney!” that I want the boys to get a look at the world beyond the Southeast. Nate and I normally go on vacation without the kids in November and take the kids on family vacations in the Spring and Summer. This year I decided to switch it up so that the boys could see snow for the first time.

Nate and I researched various ski destinations and decided Vail looked like the most picturesque, convenient, and family friendly location to take the kids. The week we arrived in Vail was the first week of ski season for the year, and lucky for us there was plenty of snow on the ground.

The Sebastian

We stayed at The Sebastian in Vail Village. The Sebastian made our stay. With a central location in the heart of Vail Village and the nicest hotel staff I’ve ever met, The Sebastian far surpassed our expectations. Since we were staying so early in the ski season our room was a fraction of the price it would have been during the peak of ski season.

SebastianCollageVailEvery night after playing in the snow all day and enjoying dinner at one of the many restaurants Vail has to offer we would hang out in the hotel lobby for an after dinner drink or two. The lobby at the Sebastian is cozy and inviting with a beautiful double fireplace with overstuffed couches and chairs on each side to hang out in. Adjacent to the lobby is a beautiful library with a game table and huge selection of books. The boys liked hanging out in the library because of the game table. At one point a little boy British made friends with challenged Nate to a game of chess and beat him. It was hilarious! (And it was even funnier later when I looked at British’s iPod Touch and noticed he videoed it.)

Each night hotel staff left a sweet snack in our room along with plenty of sodas and bottles of water. The room was beautiful and the perfect size for our family of four. It might seem weird that I’m gushing about the hotel right now instead of the snow or the beauty of the mountains.

Let me explain.

I’m a hotel weirdo. Seriously. Whether or not I like the hotel can effect the entire trip for me. If I hate the hotel then I end up spending the entire trip dreading going back to the hotel. I’ve been known to leave trips early because I don’t like the hotel. One time during a five night trip on the fifth night I couldn’t stand the hotel I was staying at for one more minute, so I walked two streets over in my pajamas and got a room at another hotel. When I say I like a hotel as much as I like The Sebastian take note, and stay at that hotel.


At this point I think I should mention that Nathan and I have never been skiing. When we left for the trip we weren’t even positive we would try skiing or snowboarding. We were super worried that trying to learn how to ski or snowboard alongside our four-year-old and six-year-old would be a mistake.

VailSkiCollage2013Turns out it wasn’t a mistake at all. Learning to snowboard with our kids was so much fun. It was awesome to learn something for the first time alongside our little ones. Out of the four of us Nate and Bruce, my four-year-old took to snowboarding like they’ve been doing it forever. Our instructor said that younger children pick up snowboarding easier than older children.


Snowboarding is HARD. Towards the middle of the three hour lesson my legs started cramping and I took off my board which lead my older son British to take off his board. We ended up bellying up to the bar on the mountaintop. I had a beer and British had hot chocolate. Then we stripped down to our base layers and laid out in the sun while Nate and Bruce finished up their lesson.

It was so weird being hot in such cold weather. Never in a million years did I think I would ever be stripping down to base layers so I could lay out in the sun in 28 degree temperatures. (Keep reading after the pictures below.)

NateSnowboardVail2013FamilyVail2013We stayed in Vail Village for five nights and it became clear towards the end of the trip that we weren’t going to have time to do “all the things” during that amount of time. Among the highlights of our trip were eating at Alpenrose and Lancelot, taking a sleigh ride and making smores around the campfire after a yummy dinner at 4 Eagle Ranch, and hanging out in Vail Village. There’s excellent shopping in Vail Village, but to my dismay there wasn’t a bookstore. Someone really needs to open a bookstore there! I found the cutest store called Charm School that had beautiful clothing from European designers (such as Save The Queen) that are hard to find in my neck of the woods.

sleighridevail2013Bruce kept asking for eggs and pancakes for lunch. Every single meal that wasn’t breakfast Bruce would request a breakfast item. On our last day in Vail we finally found a restaurant that serves breakfast 24 hours a day. It’s called The Little Diner. It’s a tiny horseshoe diner, and the food is delicious. I think it was the boys’ favorite meal of the trip.

We loved going to parks and letting the boys play in the snow. When we got to Vail we bought sleds and the boys loved riding the little plastic discs down the hill over and over again. I asked British was his favorite part of the trip was and he said, “Snowball fight with Mommy”!

The boys were convinced we were in a different country at one point and it took me forever to convince them that this winter paradise was in fact, part of the United States. When I look back on that moment when the boys stared in awe at their surroundings, it reinforces my desire to get them out of their comfort zone and to introduce them to new experiences. Who knows? Maybe next year we’ll take the boys to Europe. 2013 was the year we opened our minds to taking major vacations with the kids in tow, and now the world is our oyster!

See below for more pictures from our trip.



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10 Great Holiday Books For Kids

10 Great Holiday Books For Kids

The Following is a fun list of 10 great holiday books kids ages 0 to 5 will love! Click the title to purchase a copy. Happy Holidays.:) – Mandy

1. Hanukkah!

Written by Ronni Schotter, Illustrated byMarilyn Hafner, Ages 4 – 8, 32 pages, $8.99, Published by LB Kids

2. A Christmas Carol: A BabyLit Colors Primer (BabyLit Books)

Written by Jennifer Adams,  Illustrated by Alison Oliver, Ages 0 – 3, 22 pages, $9.99, Published by Gibbs Smith

3. Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa

Written by Donna L. Washington, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans, 32 pages, Ages 4 and up, $10.39, Published by Katherine Tegen Books

4. Christmastime Is Here!: Lift the Flap

By Ellen Weiss (for Fisher Price Little People), 10 pages, Ages 2 and up, $9.99, Published by Reader’s Digest

5. Together for Kwanzaa

Written By Juwanda G. Ford, Illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger, 24 pages, Ages 3 and up, $3.99, Published by Random House Books For Young Readers

6. Charlie and the Christmas Kitty

Written by Ree Drummond, Illustrated by Diane deGroat, 40 pages, Ages 4 and up, $11.83, Published by HarperCollins

7. Happy Hanukkah, Corduroy

Written by Don Freeman, Illustrated by Lisa McCue, 14 pages, Ages 3 and up, $5.99, Published by Viking Juvenile

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

By Dr. Seuss, 64 pages, Ages 5 and up, $10.20, Published by Random House Books For Young Readers

9. Pete the Cat Saves Christmas

Created and illustrated by James Dean, Story by Eric Litwin, 40 pages, Ages 4 and up, $10.40, Published by HarperCollins

10. Hanukkah Lights

Written by David Martin, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, 26 pages, Ages 1 and up, $5.99, Published by Candlewick


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#MIBWeek: Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black and Kevin Hawkes

Title: Chicken Cheeks

Author: Michael Ian Black

Illustrator: Kevin Hawkes

40 pages, Published by Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers, Ages 3-7

Michael’s Info: Twitter | Website | Facebook

Kevin’s Info: Website

Buy The Book:Amazon

 Summary: Some bears will go to any length to get some honey. This one recruits every animal that comes along to form, well, a stack. The result? Tail of the duck to the gluteus maximus of the duck-billed platypus (with many other rears in between). Readers will giggle with delight at the bird’s eye view of some hysterical animal bottoms. Follow this back-sided journey up the tree – where the real surprise awaits. The pairing of Black’s minimal text with Hawkes’s visual story line will keep you chuckling from the bottom up. (Summary provided by Simon and Schuster Books For Young Readers.)

My Thoughts:

As the mother of two boys ages two and five-years-old, my household is the target demographic for the children’s book Chicken Cheeks written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. The book is about many different kinds of animals and how their posteriors help a bear attempt to reach honey high up in a tree. My boys thought it was hilarious. My five year old especially loved it. He regularly serenades me with a song he made up about his biscuits (aka butt) and uses the phrase “my buns are burnin'” pretty much every five minutes. So, if my five-year-old awarded Pulitzers, Chicken Cheeks would get one.

I asked my two-year-old what he thought of the book and he said, “Want to reeeeaad.” I asked him what he wanted to read, and he pointed to Chicken Cheeks. We sat down to read it again, and he enjoyed it even more the second time. With this reading he repeated each line after I said it the first time. He especially loved saying “Hound dog heinie” and “Kangaroo keister.”

Chicken Cheeks has very minimal text, so children ages three to seven can enjoy it on their own as a picture book as well. They will probably remember most of the funny descriptions that go with the pictures after a few readings. The minimal text is what makes it the perfect book for very young readers. Like Goodnight Moon, a book both of my children can recite by heart, Chicken Cheeks will capture the attention of  young readers!

Click below to watch the book trailer for Chicken Cheeks. It is SO funny and not in a “kid funny” way. Though kids will find it funny too. Ahhh, Michael Ian Black. *sighs*


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