Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Simple Birthday Memories

Birthday Pancakes!!!
We filled the day with little celebrations for our birthday boy's special day -- a balloon-filled hallway first thing in the morning, decorations in the dining room, presents before breakfast, Skype and phone dates with family, cupcakes (thanks to our friend, Lorraine!) at our weekly playdate, and dinner out at a favorite restaurant.  I think he had a pretty fantastic day!  In all of that excitement, the moment I most want to cherish is the look of pure joy on his face when Matt and I sang to him over breakfast pancakes.

I am one lucky mom to have this boy in my life!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Milestone Birthdays

Poufs and (a little) Bokeh!
To celebrate my milestone birthday this year, I threw a Favorite Things Party for me and my friends!  It was a blast.  I pinned the idea on Pinterest two Christmases ago and knew that the timing was not good during the holidays.  My 40th seemed the perfect time to give it a try!  Here's how it works . . .

Everyone invited is asked to think of a favorite thing (under $6) and to bring 5 of that one item to share with the other guests.  At the party each person describes why she chose her favorite thing and draws five names from the hat - those 5 people get to take her favorite thing home!  Though I was initially nervous about this part of the party, it ended up being so much fun -- it felt like you were winning every time your name got picked!

What I really loved about the party was hearing what people use and why they love it so much.  Additionally, it was interesting to find that almost everyone had an alternate favorite thing they wished they could have brought!  

Our Favorite Things

Here are the things we took home:
  • Norwex Face Cloth
  • Bath & Body Works Moonlight Path Bubble Bath
  • Bioderma makeup remover
  • (Indestructable) Glasses Case
  • Moroccan Argan Oil
  • Hazelnut spread (with a delicious recipe for Nutella Brownies!)
  • Clay pendants with inspirational phrases
  • Chatelaine Magazine with bonus cook book!
  • Espresso Vodka
  • Real Simple Magazine
Some other favorite things shared : 
  • Himalyan Salt Chocolate
  • Underwear
  • Frank's Hot Sauce
  • Tea
  • Herbs de Provence

Swag bags -- how cool is that Trader Joe's bag!?! 

I couldn't decide between the Norwex Face Cloth and the Trader Joe's Lemon Pepper, since I use them both every day!  So I thought I'd cheat and give the Lemon Pepper to everyone, along with my favorite quote and a calendar notepad.  I was disappointed to find that they only had two jars of the Lemon Pepper when I went down to TJs, and resigned myself to a rather lame Swag bag.  Enter, Best Friend in the World . . . she sent me a package with I Love NY Trader Joe's bags, TJ's Lemon Pepper, and TJ's Dark Chocolate Nibs for everyone.  Joy!  

I tell everyone I know they should try one of these parties!  It was a great time and added a cool twist to a fun evening with the ladies.  Let me know if you give it a try!

I would love to hear about your favorite things in the comments . . . what do you think -- what favorite thing would you have brought? 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Stolen Moments

Beansprout stopped napping last summer.  This was a pretty big deal in our house, as Matt and I are huge fans of The Nap.  We never felt any shame in lying on the couch for an hour after work before Beansprout was even born!  Once he joined the family, we usually left the little projects we could have been working on while the babe slept, choosing instead to indulge in a little shut-eye ourselves.

As you can see from today's photo, I had a lovely surprise this weekend . . . after our big hike on Sunday, Beansprout was absolutely spent by about 4:00.  At 4:30 he asked me to take him upstairs and I pulled him up on my lap to explain it was too late to take a nap so late in the afternoon.  As I was talking, his eyelids drooped and his little body moved with those falling asleep twitches.  He dozed off right there in my arms.

A priceless moment, that any mom of an almost-four-year-old could not disturb.  I held him there, snapped a photo, and tried not to eat him up.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rainy Day Walks

Moss on tree stump

Today is one of those days when I'm reminded why I live here, far away from our family.  After breakfast this morning we took a 15 minute drive and found ourselves in the middle of the forest.  For a girl from Southeastern Michigan, this is simply amazing!  I think I drag my feet sometimes getting out of the house; I usually think there needs to be a big plan and a production made of things in order to go somewhere.  Not today.  Today we simply grabbed two snack bars (one for the trip there and one for the trip back), some water, and our rain gear.  It was simple and the walk was just what we needed to start the day off right!

Beansprout leading the walk.

Matt and I have always really enjoyed hiking and are happy to see, as I mentioned in this post, that our little guy feels right at home on the trails!  Today's hike was filled with extra excitement because we got to see a waterfall, huge construction vehicles, AND a helicopter at work.

Matt & Beansprout near the waterfall.

What have you been up to this weekend?  Anyone else out there who struggles to get out the house to do stuff?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Love Summer! The Farmers Market


One of my favorites things to do on a Saturday in summer is to head to our local farmers market!  There's live music, a kids corner, artisan wares, and gorgeous food.  These are a few things that typically fill my bag: fresh bread from A Bread Affair, a large carton of blueberries, eggs, and specialty soup/salad mixes (which are great for filling in meals during the week!)  I also couldn't resist the red kale on this particular trip; and though we missed it this time, we love to get a few ready-to-go soups from my favorite restaurant in town, Big Feast!

Do you frequent the local farmers markets in near you?  What are some of your favorite buys?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

"Of all created things, the loveliest and most divine are children."
                                                                     - William Canton
Trying Hopscotch!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Parenting is a Heartbreak

Our Exhausted Boy.

There are so many reasons I feared becoming a parent.  I put it off for years, ultimately, because I just didn't think I wanted to face the heartbreak that parenting can be . . . that feeling of always wearing your heart outside of your body because you have so much love for this being you call your child.  It's part of the package and I knew that from the get-go.

Taking the plunge has been life-changing in the best of ways, but there is no lack of those heartbreaking moments I so feared.  Yesterday Beansprout had a peanut challenge at the Allergy Clinic at Children's Hospital.  Neither Matt nor I have serious allergies, so I wasn't at all worried a few years back when we first introduced Beansprout to peanut butter.  To my great surprise however, he had an immediate reaction.  I have to pause for a minute and admit right now that I was one of those people who could never really understand this whole peanut allergy phenomenon.  It did not seem nearly so prevalent when I was a child and I half thought it was due to over-functioning, paranoid, helicopter parents.  I guess the joke's on me.  When we gave peanut butter to him for the first time, Beansprout's lips swelled within the first minute and he vomited twice before we got out of the driveway with our Care Card in hand.  His belly was covered in hives by the time we got to the hospital, which was within 5 minutes  (We live quite close to a hospital!) of his eating the tiniest sliver of it!   Lucky for us, a shot of Benadryl was all that was necessary, but I now completely understand the hyper-vigilance of families with food allergies.  

Fast forward to November of this last year when the dreaded prick test and blood work done at our initial visit with the Allergy Clinic showed only a mild reaction to the food.  Some kids outgrow their nut allergies, so based on the low numbers with the blood work we scheduled an in-office peanut challenge.  I guess science isn't always exact.  Yesterday, Beansprout spent three hours trying a little more Reese's Peanut Buttercup every fifteen minutes, but in the last five minutes of the challenge he vomited all over the Clinic hallway.  Heart. Break.

It's one of thousands, I know.  We have countless heartbreaking moments ahead of us, but that doesn't make it easier.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

Morning Playtime.

"Every cliche about kids is true; they grow up so quickly, you blink and they're gone, and you have to spend the time with them now. But that's a joy."

                                                                   --Liam Neeson

Monday, July 16, 2012

Home ownership love!?!

Our home.

I have spent the past few months trying to love my house despite its flaws.  I'm sure many of you can relate to the fact that this is often times no easy task.  It never fails that when I sit down at the end of the day and survey the place or, more specifically, when I'm struggling to open or close the kitchen drawer for the zillionth time, I grumble.  I grumble about the kitchen, the bathrooms, the driveway, and the deck - the list could go on and on.  I'm always thinking of ideas on how we could change things, and there are so many things that need to be done.  Admittedly, we totally knew this going in; we knew the house hadn't been updated for 20+years, yet felt we had to have it.  It's unique, it fits.  Hence my resolution a few months back to try to love the house and speak kindly of it.  I figure we're going to be together a long time, so I'm hoping that a loving approach will make things easier on everyone.  

How do you look at your house?  Do you see all that you love or all that needs to be done?  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

"Nothing I've ever done has given me more joys and rewards 
than being a father to my children."
                                                                                           --Bill Cosby

Shoulder Bi-plane!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Routine!

Summer Sillies!

I know family and friends back home have been sweating for months now, but Summer only arrived here last week.  Needless to say, we have been enjoying every minute of it!  I love swinging into the summer routine - laid-back mornings, picnics in the park, and early evening bike rides.  This pretty much describes my days with a three-year-old. . . 

7:00: wake up
7:30: breakfast
8:00-10:00: read books, clean up, pack for outing
10:00-1:00: meet up with friends for picnic at playground, spray park, or someone's home
1:00-3:00: nap (YES!  He's still napping, shhhhhh.)
3:00-5:00: read lots of books, play in sandbox or with Aquaplay
5:00-7:00: prepare dinner, eat, evening walk or bike ride
7:00: Three-year-old's bathtime!
8:00:  Three-year-old's bedtime!
9:00: ahhhhhhhh . . .  three-year-old is asleep!
9:00-11:00: time for ME!

Things differ here and there and I have to count the sometimes morning and oft afternoon episodes of Cat in the Hat or Max & Ruby or Franklin and Friends.  In any case, I count myself lucky.

Do you have different routines in the summer?  What is your favorite part about the switch-over?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Month in Photos - June 2012

June Favorites
In and Out of the Sandbox.
Helping with the plumbing.
Reading with Momma.
Line 'em up with E. and C.
"I need a tis-u!"
Storytime with Tracey.
Daddy time!

It's amazing to see how different Beansprout is just since January.  He is always talking and not afraid to chat with anyone who will listen.  He often mentions his "friends" and loves to have play dates!  Though not as independent as some, he is expanding on his independence every day.  On the other hand, he still enjoys mimicking things we do and I love that he is just as cuddly as ever.  (I will hold on to that for as long as I can!)  I lamented last summer that it was his last year of babyhood, but I'm just as thrilled with this stage.  He is all BOY, but he still loves being reminded of when he was a baby and he doesn't have any reservations holding on to some "baby" ways.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Favorites

On Daddy's lap.
(Love those curls!)
We're Going On a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is one of our all-time favorites!  A classic.  I'm thrilled to know that it's a book that Beansprout's cousins also enjoy.  The way I read this book with him is borrowed from my sister -- she reads with an almost chant, adds knee claps, and uses some great animation.  It is one of my favorite memories, watching her read the book to my nephew :)  This picture is from last summer, but it's still a book on our shelves and will be for a long time to come.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

Grammy's Handmade Books

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall. 
                                                                          - Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Recorded Readings

It's so much fun to listen to my sister read these stories!  I'm just as hooked as Beansprout!

In an effort to be present in my nephews' lives while being so far away, I decided to record myself reading books for them.  When I moved out here from Michigan, it was one thing to maintain a connection with my oldest nephew, but only seeing the younger ones once or twice a year felt a real challenge to me.  The CDs have been a huge hit!  Not only do the boys still enjoy listening to me read to them as they fall asleep, but I was also able to make an instant connection with my nephew whom I had only met once before.  On one trip home, it made us all laugh when my (then) 2-year-old nephew gave me this wide-eyed stare when he heard me talking.  You could almost see the light bulb going on in his head as he made the connection between me and the "Aunt Shell" on his CD.  

Our latest read from Auntie!

Lucky for me, my sister has since done the same thing for Beansprout!  He and I will often listen to her stories when we're sitting around playing - I especially like to put them on when I'm feeling a little bit homesick.  Just as it did with me and my nephews, listening to my sister read aloud had really helped Beansprout make a connection to who "Auntie" is.  He can name everyone by their picture, but I love that he also has a voice connection to her and can recognize her even on the phone.

To do these recordings my sister and I both used Audacity.  It's a free download and it's pretty easy to use, even for people who aren't extremely tech-savvy.  It's something I highly recommend for anyone living far away from family!  

Hallmark Recordable Stories are easy to use and a great way to keep in touch!

There are other options that have been really fun for us, too.  The grandparents have sent recordable books from Hallmark, which we love!  At Beansprout's age the nice thing about these books is that he can control flipping the pages and listening to the story.  He often goes back and forth between one or two pages listening again and again.  I get the feeling sometimes that he is just trying to soak in their voices.  Only yesterday he said, "Momma, Grandma's going to read me a story," which is what she says in her introduction to reading the book.  Soooo sweet!  I am really grateful that we have these small ways of helping Beansprout stay connected to the people who love him so much!

Do you live far from family?  What are some ways you try to keep your family close?  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Post: Helping Children with Their Internal World

I'm so excited to have my first guest post today!  Deanne Yalkin has been working with children and adolescents for over 15 years and has a wealth of knowledge on how to help children understand their inner emotions.  I feel so lucky to have her wisdom in my life and I know that you will take away something valuable from her words today!

Photo Courtesy of D Sharon Pruitt via Flick Creative Commons

Kids, teens and adults (all humans, really :) ) use stories to help them make sense of our world. Sometimes this means the world around us - but often times it means our INTERNAL world - a world teeming with thoughts, feelings, wishes, desires and intentions.  EVERY child's internal world is under initial contruction - shifting, stretching, and developing by way of wonders & fears, joy & disappointment, learning & refining, connecting & misunderstanding, confusion & 'knowing'.  This internal world is crucial to the development of a sense of self in childhood.

One of the greatest powers we have as parents is the power to ACKNOWLEDGE and HONOR our child's unique internal landscape.  Books can help provide a child with a verbal map - one their child can use to begin to share their internal world. 
Many parents find it helpful to use books to introduce basic terms and definitions of feelings.  Learning to identify and verbalize internal feeling states lays the foundation for important life skills like impulse control, problem solving and conflict resolution. 

The following early childhood books are particularly effective at introducing terms and desciptions of basic feeling states.  Young children seem to appreciate the fun, playful and creative way these authors present human emotions!

     The Feelings Book by Todd Parr
     Lots of Feelings by Shelly Rotner
     How Are You Peeling?: Foods with Moods by Freymann & Elffers
     The Way I Feel by Janan Cain
     My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuess

Deanne Yaklin, LCSW Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist

Monday, June 25, 2012

Children's Books Adults Love

There are so many great books written for children and youth that adults can really enjoy.  The titles I'm thinking of will come as no surprise, especially with so many of them being book-turned-movie material.  I feel they warrant mention in any case.  If you haven't read these books, most are real page-turners with some truly wonderful universal themes on life.

Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
The Golden Compass Series by Phillip Pullman
The Hobbit Series J.R.R. Tolkien
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

There is one book I would add to the list, that I haven't seen popularized the way I feel it should be. Before Beansprout was born we went to a talk by author, David Bouchard.  He spent a lot of time talking about the importance of reading to boys and expressed how determined he became to read more himself so he would be a role model for his own boys.  When one of the audience members asked him for some of his favorite reads we were frantically writing them down.  However, he spent time a bit of time explaining his experience with one book in particular, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo.  He wasn't lying when he warned that you shouldn't read the book in public - I cried big sobs at the end.   This is a wonderful book for older children and would make for a great read aloud (except that I would never get through it with all of my tears!)  It's book I highly recommend and one I think adults will also really enjoy!

It's so hard to write these lists, knowing that readers must have wonderful lists of their own!  I would love to hear what you would add -- what children's/youth literature have you enjoyed as an adult?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ten Tips for Finding Books at the Library

I always wonder how people approach the overwhelming number of books at the library.  The pressure is almost daunting.  Here's a little system I've found that works for me:

1. Judge a book by it's cover.
A number of years ago, I bought The Incredible Book Eating Boy, by Oliver Jeffers.  I bought it for my nephew because the title really caught my eye.  When I opened it up to check it out, I found it was easy to read aloud and a fun story. Of course there may be times you miss out on a great book if you only use this method; but often it helps, especially if you find yourself trying to do a quick scan of books to grab as your toddler wrestles at your leg.
2. Go to the bookstore first.
I always get ideas for books at the bookstore!  I often just take a picture with my phone or  write a few titles down to check out at the library.  I wish I could say that I have a highly efficient way of managing this, but it never seems to work that way.  The reality is that having it in my phone has been the most useful, so I can just pull out my phone when I'm at the library and find what I need.
3. Check out Bestseller and Award-Winner Lists
The New York Times features a picture books and a chapter books bestseller list.  I also check magazines -- Parents magazines specifically features a page for children's books and  is a great place to find music for kids too!  I find there's no losing when you look for the award winners!  In North America you can check out the following:  Newbery, Caldecott, Canadian Library Association, Governor General's Literary Award.
Here's another great link from the University of Calgary for book awards from other countries: Children's Book Awards.  
4. Follow go-to authors.
I mentioned that Beansprout is really enjoying Melanie Watts' Scaredy Squirrel books, so when I saw You're Finally Here by the same author, I knew we had to check it out.  It's usually a safe bet that your child will enjoy another book from a great author!
5. Talk to your librarian.
It seems obvious, but the librarians in the children's section are incredibly helpful!  When we first started with wordless picture books, our librarian was wonderful at helping me find more that we could enjoy.
6. Use the HOLD system.
If your library has a hold system, this is the best way to get your hands on the books that you found from #3.  Everyone wants these books, so I find putting a hold request allows us to get them much more quickly.  This is also a huge time-saver when you don't have time to browse.
7. Ask a friend
I'm always checking out the bookshelves of our friends.  I often talk about with friends about what they are reading, so it's a great idea to ask what they're reading with their children too!  You're sure to get a few great titles!
8. Pick a theme
This takes a little more planning, but even if you're in the library for a quick visit, you can usually find at least one section where books are featured by themes, especially during the holidays!
9. Go to story time
Our story time librarians always have a table of books out when we walk in.  I have grabbed books off of there a number of times.  I've also found that checking out the book the librarian read during story time is not only a great way to revisit the book, but these books are always easy read-alouds!
10. Revisit favorites
There are times when I've gone out and bought a favorite book we read from the library, but that can tend to get expensive.  Checking out the book again on a separate visit to the library makes a favorite-read new again!

Any tips you'd add to the list?  What's your favorite part of going to the library?  (Is it obvious Beansprout is more interested in the toys than the books from the picture above?  He does enjoy sitting down and reading, but the toys are the first thing he goes for!)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Learning and Understanding Feelings Through Books

"Mom, I'm bored."

The last few months Beansprout has surprised me by reciting entire lines from some of our books as if they are his own words.  It started with a line from one of the Berenstain Bears books, Sister Bear is home sick and says, "Mom, I'm bored.  Can I watch some TV?"  When he repeated this line verbatim, I must have given Beansprout the oddest look!  It seemed like he was actually talking to me, but he had never used the word "bored" and has never asked to watch "TV" - he usually asks to watch the iPad or specifies his favorite show.  I was completely dumbfounded.  After a second, I realized where it came from and played my part as Momma Bear by replying, "Are you sure you're feeling well enough to watch TV?"  We've rehearsed these lines a few times, and since then I've noticed that it is typically the lines about feelings that he enjoys playing with.  "I'm lonely," is one of the more recent ones.  At first my heart starts to break and then I realize he is referring to the story by Jamie Lee Curtis, Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods that Make My Day.  Phew!

Today I Feel Silly and Other Moods That Make My Day by Jamie Lee Curtis

I guess he's trying to understand the tone and the feeling that matches these words.  The line about feeling lonely usually comes out at night as he's getting ready for bed.  I'm not sure if he is actually having some of these feelings or if he truly is just trying the words on for size.  In any case, he doesn't even realize how spot-on he is with some of his word choices -- I have to laugh when he borrows another line from Curtis' book, "This family is weird!"  

I Was So Mad by Mercer Mayer

It's fascinating that simply reading stories to him can help him gain the vocabulary he needs to express himself.  Covert emotion coaching at it's finest!  We love reading the story from Mercer Mayer, I Was So Mad!  We use our best pouting/angry inflection and have him fill in the lines every-few-pages to make it even more fun.  That's the appeal of so many of the stories from Mayer and the Berenstains- they provide the context to refer back to when Beansprout is struggling with his moods.  Whether he initiates or we do, I love the power of storytelling as a parenting tool.

What are some of your favorite stories dealing with emotions?  

Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Favorites - Sara O'Leary

Where You Came From by Sara O'Leary

I don't know why I'm surprised, but little people tend to have rather big opinions.  When I think of all of our favorite books, I realize that though we have some of the same favorites, often times our lists differ quite a bit.  There are plenty of books and stories we own that Beansprout always enjoys and that I, quite frankly, try to avoid.  

One of the stories that always makes me laugh - Henry's father tells him he was found at the supermarket.
Where You Came From by Sara O'Leary is one of my favorites.  The illustrations are adorable and the story feels like it suits our family perfectly -- young Henry wants to know where he came from and his parents have a series of outrageous little stories they tell him.  There's something about the way the conversation goes back and forth between the parents as they "remember" where Henry came from that reminds me of the teasing ways we have with our Beansprout.  He enjoys the book more now that he's older, but it's definitely more my favorite than his.  In any case, it's a read I highly recommend for anyone, but I think it's especially great for children beginning to hit that questioning stage of where they come from.  

Can you think of any books that perfectly fit a particular questioning stage or any other stages?

Thanks for reading!