Today I am thrilled to have the beautiful Vanessa, from Silly Eagle Books, as a guest blogger.
Vanessa is a good friend of mine who has started a blog that chronicles her adventures in reading with her gorgeous daughter, Juliet. Vanessa, who is very humble, never ceases to amaze me with all the ideas that she not only dreams up, but then executes on. She features endless crafty projects to accompany books that they are reading as well as sharing book reviews and age appropriate reading suggestions for your little ones.
I can only hope to be half as motivated of a mom as Vanessa is when Sean Patrick gets to an age where projects are fun! Vanessa has also been such a help to me when I have random blog questions, and I appreciate her more than she knows. Let's hear from her...
Tell me about your life/background before Juliet arrived on the scene…
After graduating from college with a degree in English Secondary Education, I taught high school English for 5 years. I then moved into the publishing world and worked as a textbook editor for an elementary science series. There were good and bad things about both jobs, but I think I enjoyed being an editor a little more than being a teacher! Being on a creative team with people who were excited about the subject matter was refreshing after hearing, "John Steinbeck is an IDIOT." for five straight years.
Do you have fond memories of reading when you were little?
I do! I used to read all the time and I remember going to the library and just wandering down the aisles, seeing what I could find. I always checked out several books and would read them late at night under the covers with a flashlight when I was supposed to be asleep!
At what age did Juliet start really getting into books? Do you have any tips for those of us with infants who don’t want anything to do with sitting down being engaged in a book yet?
I can't remember the exact age, but I know she was able to lay on her tummy and hold herself up--so it must have been around 7 or 8 months? Is that right? I can't remember when they start doing that! Anyways, she would lay on her tummy and we would look at a cloth book together. It was called Fuzzy Bee by Priddy Books and it had lots of flaps and textures for her to interact with. That book was the breakthrough book. Until then, she had always slapped books out of the way when I tried to read them to her. I think she liked having an active role in the reading experience.
My only advice is to just give it time! Don't feel pressured to be reading to your child the moment you give birth--a lot of babies are just not ready for it. I've heard of babies who will sit and listen quietly as their parents read the entire series of The Chronicles of Narnia to them, but my experience was not that at all. Juliet screamed, flailed, and generally freaked out any time I brought a book near her the first several months. If your baby doesn't respond favorably, just put it away and try again next week or the week after that. There is no rush. One day, he or she will enjoy it. You just have to keep giving them the chance to interact with books. I highly recommend the cloth books like Fuzzy Bee or Squishy Turtle. Let your baby take control of the experience with the book. Eventually, they'll be ready to listen to the words.
What inspired you to start your blog?
I had never read a blog until one of my college friends started one up. I was intrigued and thought maybe I should give it a go. A few other friends encouraged me to start, so I did. I was sure I would hate it, but surprise, surprise, I loved it and quickly became addicted! It's a nice creative outlet and I have really enjoyed meeting other bloggers having access to a wealth of creative ideas!
What has been your favorite aspect of blogging?
I've enjoyed the challenge of coming up with new ideas and also the friendships I've developed with other bloggers. Blogging is really no fun unless there are people reading and commenting on your posts!
Do you remember the first blog you started following? If so, what was it?
I started following Queen of Free and would check it everyday! Now I follow a million blogs--it seems funny to think that I only checked 1 blog back then!
Can you give us a sneak peak at all your crafty supplies? With every project you do, I think, wow…you must have the most incredible craft closet!!!
My supplies are such a mess! I have one craft box filled with basics like glues, paints, puffballs, glitter, etc, but then I have random piles of "garbage" around my house like bottle caps next to the sink, paper towel tubes and old food containers in the pantry, stray ribbon in my kitchen drawer, etc! I store stuff like a squirrel--wherever I can find an empty spot!
How do you stay so motivated to make all these projects? Do you sit down and plan out a week’s worth of projects and then figure out what supplies you need?
I go in and out of being motivated. Some weeks I feel really inspired and we do a lot of fun things. And then other weeks, I have no ideas and we spend time playing with toys or going outside. I really don't plan projects--just whenever I get an idea, I try to gather the supplies and then go for it when we have a block of time to fill--usually right after breakfast or after naptime. I base a lot of my ideas on what items I already have on hand, so the piles of random trash are actually inspiration! For example, I have a huge collection of bottle caps and I wanted to do an Easter project--so I came up with making bottle cap bunnies. Had we not had the bottle caps on hand, I don't think I would have come up with that idea.
Do you read a lot of books for yourself as well? If so, what is one of your recent favorites?
Again, I go in and out of reading for myself! When I do find a good book, I bury myself in it. And when I really get into it, I have several books going on at once. But then I finish them and don't read a thing for a month or two. I really enjoyed The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Gilead by Marilynne Robison.
Where have you learned about building a great blog? Any sites/tips?
I read ProBlogger from time to time, I like Sneaky Momma for easy to understand Blogger tips (like how to make a button!), and I just try to pick up what I can from more experienced bloggers like my friend Amanda of OhAmanda.
When I see your great photos on the blog, I catch glimpses of your home, and it looks so cute. Do you have any favorite spots for reading with Juliet that you can share?
Vanessa passed along the following pictures...
Their living room... I am such a sucker for globes!! And, I love the wooden bookshelf on the floor. It is actually a chair that Vanessa's husband, Ben, brought home from a trip to Uganda. They have re-purposed it into a bookshelf that is accessible to Juliet. Too cute.
Juliet's reading chair in her bedroom...check out the adorable artwork that Vanessa found at Goodwill featuring yarn and fabric houses. And that sweet pillow from Ikea...I just want to pick it up and give it a big hug!
Juliet's Room...check out this international mobile that was given to them by one of Ben's co-workers. What a fun thing for Juliet to look at! In the background, we catch a glimpse of Juliet's bed where they read lots of books. The cute letters above her bed are from Land of Nod.
Now, my favorite question…who is your favorite brother?
Whomever is giving me the least amount of backtalk.