books + reading

Jonas’s Faves (Best Books for a 20-Month-Old)

It has been interesting to observe the differences in my boys when it comes to books.

Edgar loved books from a pretty young age. His two favorites while he was first crawling were The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin and Five Little Pumpkins, which was just hilarious because why all the pumpkins?! He was content, at nine months of age, to curl up in my lap and listen to a story.

Jonas has been different. A big reason for that is his status as Kid # 2. We haven’t had the same capacity to cuddle up with Jonas and a book as frequently while managing life with two young kids. A possible second reason is his early mobility. At nine months old, when Edgar was all snuggly with a book, Jonas was walking. He didn’t have time for books! He had to run after his brother and see what else his little body was capable of doing.

By the time Jonas was about 15 months old, however, his enjoyment of sitting with a mom and listening to a book had grown. Now he definitely loves it. Sometimes, he just loves to sit and look at one of his books. In fact, I’ll come over and try to read it to him, and he’ll push my hand away. Then he’ll go get a different book and bring it to me – so that I can read THAT book, to myself, and leave him alone to examine the pages of Curious George Visits The Chocolate Factory. 

Here are a few of his faves:

Where Is Baby’s Valentine? This one is part of a series; it’s a lift-the-flap book by Karen Katz. The BEST part is when Baby opens a cupboard and her Valentine’s not there, but there’s a jar of cookies. The reason it’s the best is that this is when Jonas pretends to take the cookies out of the book and feed them to me, Tamara, Edgar, himself, and whoever else is in the room (or on video chat) at the moment. It’s one of his favorite bits.

Baby Present by Rachel Neumann. I love this book, Edgar loved it, and Jonas loves it. It’s basically a mini meditation. “Breathe in, baby. Breathe out. You are perfect just as you are, sitting in the here and now. The past is gone; it was pretty short to begin with. The future is tricky, and a long way off. Right now is just right.” ETC. Each page has an ADORABLE baby photo on it, and it’s just the sweetest. It’s also the perfect calm down book for Mommy when she could use a meditation break and can’t take one!

 Doggies by Sandra Boynton. I mean – I hate this book, but I get it. It’s all about counting and doggie sounds. Love the counting – hate having to read all the different kinds of barking. I delegate this to Tamara whenever I can.

Big Board First 100 Words by Roger Priddy. Jonas loves this large, bright, and shiny book of first words with clear and simple photos. Edgar loved them when he was little too.

Time For Bed by Mem Fox.

Frosty The Snowman. If the book is basically song lyrics on paper, I sing it as I read it, and Jonas loves this one. Definitely one of the first books he’d listen to in its entirety. And yes, we’re still reading it on an 80 degree day in May, for sure.

King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley & Helen Oxenbury. OMG – this one’s the cutest. A hit with grown-ups, almost-four-year-olds, and toddlers. My highest recommendation.

Happy reading!

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books + reading

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books for an Almost 4-Year-Old)

It’s been a long time since I wrote about Edgar and Jonas’s favorite books. My last post was over a year ago in January 2019. Edgar was about two and a half years old, and Jonas was four months old.

It took a while for Jonas to love it, but now both of my boys love to curl up with books. They like different books, of course, so if we’re in the same room Tamara and I have to whisper so the storyline of Where Is Baby’s Valentine? doesn’t become entangled with Curious George Rides A Bike.

Edgar will come listen to any book you start to read, and I love that. One way to get him to come running across the house is to just start reading the first page of a book, especially a book he knows.

Here are some of his current faves:

EVERYTHING CURIOUS GEORGE. Curious George Goes To A Costume Party. Curious George Goes Fishing. Curious George and the Dump Truck. Or, “Regular Curious George,” which is what Edgar calls the original story of how George comes from the jungle to live in the same city as his friend, the man with the yellow hat. (I find this problematic, but we read the books anyway.) Edgar loves them all. A bonus is that, when things get quiet, Edgar sometimes start reciting the exact words to Curious George Rides A Bike or Curious George Flies A Kite to himself and it’s amazing.

What Do People Do All Day?, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, and others by Richard Scarry. Edgar loves these books, and I love them, too. They are huge and colorful and have so much happening – and yet, I don’t find them overwhelming at all, and there’s always something to look at and talk about on every page. We like Richard Scarry’s smaller books, too – A Day At The Fire Station is a hit.

Trucktown Race From A to Z. Such a random book. So problematic, plot-wise. But Edgar loves it. What can you do?

Everything Berenstain Bears!  Particularly When I Grow Up and Dinosaur Dig. Edgar seems to really enjoy a series lately.

Everything Winnie The Pooh and Cars. Thanks to COVID, we’ve had this one book – Cars 5-Minute Racing Stories, which is BASICALLY fan fiction about what Lightning McQueen and his friends do between movies – for at least three months at this point. Currently taking a break from it for the parents’ sake, but Edgar would read it All. Day. Every. Day.

Froggy Gets Dressed and others by Jonathan London. These books came from my mom’s extensive collection of children’s books from her career as a kindergarten teacher.

The Blue Ribbon Day by Katie Couric. This book was gifted to me during senior year of high school from my friend Melissa; I was a huge fan of children’s books AND Katie Couric. Edgar loves it. I love it, too. I really like books that tell a story and have a rhyme scheme – they’re interesting when I’m paying attention and I can be soothed by the rhythmic flow when I’m zoning out. (Just me? Sometimes I read an entire book and realize I haven’t been paying attention – like highway hypnosis for parents.)

Where Are You, Little Green Dragon? by Klaus Baumgart. This is a short, simple, and sweet book that’s just silly and fun. I won’t spoil it by sharing the plot.

Dazzle The Dinosaur by Marcus Pfister. This book may have come from my mom’s collection as well. It’s super fun – just a little dinosaur adventure story. A couple of scary dinosaurs included but they don’t seem to have bothered Edgar at all.

I am hoping to get back into the routine of posting our faves every few months. It’s a great way to capture this moment in our reading life. If it’s helpful to you, too, then that’s doubly wonderful!  Happy reading.

I see a book, I see a coffee, I see a good day ahead #book #quote
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books + reading · parenting

How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen – Takeaways

A few months ago, I read How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King. I liked it a lot. It’s so easy, when you’re in the middle of parenting little kids, to forget your intentions and just lecture or yell or get frustrated.

I have a bunch of takeaways, and I think I’ll often refer

Takeaway # 1: Try it out on yourself. If you were having a lousy day, how would you feel or respond if someone acted the way you are acting toward your kid? How would you feel if someone:

    1. denied your feelings? (It’s not that bad. You love this dinner. You don’t hate school.)
    2. gave you advice or a lecture?
    3. compared you with another kid?
    4. asked a bunch of questions? (Why did you do that when you know you shouldn’t?)

Probably not good, right?  Try it out on yourself and see how it feels. Then check in with  yourself and make sure you’re parenting the way you want to.

Takeaway # 2: Acknowledge feelings with words.

Takeaway # 3: All feelings can be accepted. Some actions must be limited. (I can see you’re angry. I can’t let you hit me.)

Takeaway # 4: Sit on those “buts.” Say, “The problem is…” instead. Saying but indicates, I hear how you feel and now I’ll tell you why that feeling is wrong. The problem is suggests that there’s a problem that can be solved without sweeping away the feeling. Also, you can use, “Even though you know…” (You don’t want to leave the playground. The problem is, it’s almost dinnertime.) (Even though you know you have to wash your hands after you use the potty, you really wish you didn’t have to so that you could get back to playing with trucks.)

Takeaway # 5: Acknowledge feelings with writing or drawing. (Write or draw how they feel.)

Takeaway # 6: Give in fantasy what you can’t give in reality. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have candy every day?”

Takeaway # 7: Resist the urge to ask questions of a disturbed child. (I’m really good at this when it comes to my students, but not with my own kids. I constantly ask my three-year-old why he did things. Spoiler alert: usually, he doesn’t know why.)

Takeaway # 8: FOR COOPERATION:

  1. Be playful. (Make inanimate objects talk. Turn a task into a goal (time them) or a game. Talk in funny voices. Freeze like an iceberg. Avoid lava quicksand (when you’re trying to walk somewhere). Give them an energy pill that makes them clean up really fast. Make up different characters – Dress Up Ninja Mommy. Pretend you’re flying. Be an animal – what animal should we be on our way up the stairs today?
  2. Offer a choice. Do you want to skip to the car or take giant steps? Do you want your bath with boats or bubbles? Do you want to put your pajamas on the regular way or inside out? What else could you cut?

That’s all I have for now, but there’s way more. I ended up buying a copy of the book for future reference. Highly recommend.

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books + reading · parenting

How To Be A Peaceful Parent

I read a book a while ago called Peaceful Parent Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham. I listened to it during the first week of the school year.

I reached for this book because I found myself becoming impatient and snappy with Edgar. When I ponder about the kind of mom I want to be, I think of three words: peaceful, playful, and present. So this book seemed like it would be a wonderful resource.

The book focuses on three main things: self-regulation for parents, connecting with your child, and coaching rather than controlling.

One of my favorite takeaways from this book is the idea of Special Time with your child. The book describes Special Time as a period (around 15 minutes) of completely focused play with your child, and suggests alternating between parent and child for activity choice. Ever since Jonas came home, I’ve noticed how challenging it is to manage life with two kids – particularly play time with two kids. It’s been difficult to play with Edgar in a focused and intentional way with Jonas trying to climb onto the kitchen table and then jump off. After reading about Special Time, I’ve been using Jonas’s morning nap time as a time to engage Edgar in play that’s just for him. Sometimes I just devote my full attention to him and let him pick what we play; sometimes I facilitate a crafty activity that would be impossible to do if Jonas were with us, like painting or jewelry making. It’s been really sweet and wonderful for both of us.

One of the other concepts in the book that I really like was the idea of natural or logical consequences instead of punishment. Dr. Markham offers these six tips for effective consequences:

  1. Plan.
  2. Be consistent.
  3. Focus on what you control.
  4. Be matter of fact.
  5. Accept your limits.
  6. Use “I” not “you” statements.

Here are my other takeaways, in no particular order:

  • Be calm, kind, and patient. I mean, duh? But in real life, this is really, really hard!
  • Give fewer warnings and have more follow through. I love this. Sometimes I give so many warnings that by the time I follow through on a “consequence,” I’m way too frustrated to follow through with a calm and loving voice.
  • Engage in rough housing or giggly play so that your child can release stress. 
  • Make things into a game whenever you can. It’s time for bed, but let’s take a horsey ride to get there!
  • Have child-directed play every day.
  • Give hugs and maintain the connection!
  • Look out for situations you can prevent.
  • Have regular end of day feelings talk and gratitude practice.
  • When we stay calm, we calm the situation down.
  • You can break a cycle. You can press a restart button anytime!
  • Figure out why you’re getting angry. Sometimes, I get super frustrated with Edgar, and then I realize that I’m frustrated because I’m tired or hungry. Sometimes I realize it’s because I’m beating myself up for not being better at some aspect of being a mom. Sometimes I realize it’s because I want him to be able to do something independently that he just can’t do yet. When I realize why I’m getting angry, I can either plan around it, fix it, or just allow that insight to help me with increasing my ability to accept the situation and be patient.
  • Wait before disciplining. You do THIS while I think about this.
  • STOP YELLING. If you find yourself angry or yelling, drop it immediately! Kids can’t learn if you’re yelling and they’re scared and insecure.
  • Ask yourself – when I’m losing my patience and my temper – what thought am I having?
  • Tell yourself and your kid – “We got this.”
  • If you are resolving to be more patient, it’s a sign that your cup isn’t full enough to begin with. What can you do to increase your capacity and energy when you’re NOT around your kids?
  • Don’t leave or abandon him if he’s tantrumming – he needs you! This one is tricky for me. I like the idea – but Tamara and I usually make an exception for when Edgar’s kicking or hitting, since time away from us usually helps him to de-escalate during those moments.
  • Turn things into a game or a joke (while still enforcing the rules). I love this. Sometimes, I can sense when either Edger or I or both of us are headed in the direction of frustrated, and I can quickly come up with something silly to change the mood – like pretending that we’re washing our hands with maple syrup instead of soap. HILARIOUS to a three-year-old.
  • You don’t yell at a flower that’s not thriving – you water it! I am fairly firm and boundaried as a parent; I think it’s good for kids to have limits and structure. But I don’t think yelling is ever helpful, at least not for me – it just makes me feel bad and doesn’t seem to correct any behaviors. (Don’t get me wrong – I have moments when I yell!  Well, not yell, but raise my voice. But it’s never my intention.) Instead I believe in trying to find out what need is not being met, at the moments when I start to yell. Like, Edgar using ALLLLLLL the soap in the bottle to wash his hands – really, he often shows signs that he can’t wash his hands independently yet. He loves water play, and I think it’s just too tempting. So I need to stay with him during hand washing time. Annoying – but more helpful than yelling at him after the behavior happens!)

I loved this book. I’ll end with this bit: Dr. Markham writes that you, as parent, are your kid’s most trusted source for information about the world and himself. And that the parent is the kid’s secure base so that he can feel safe enough to explore the world.

That’s huge, impactful, and it makes a lot of sense to me. Reeeally hoping it helps me to keep my cool the next time Edgar fills the bathroom sink with soap, water, and cars and tells me that he made his own car wash. Fingers crossed!

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books + reading · habits

Atomic Habits: Part 1 of ?

I am currently reading the book Atomic Habits, and I love it so much that I can’t possibly wait until I finish to write about it. I’m only 113 pages in, and I’ve already found so much that I want to reflect on and write about.

A little background: the book Atomic Habits was written by James Clear, an author and entrepreneur who writes about making small and important (“atomic”) changes that produce great results. Here’s a list from James Clear’s website, highlighting what the book is about:

10 Things This Book Will Teach You

Learn how to…

  1. Build a system for getting 1% better every day.
  2. Break your bad habits and stick to good ones.
  3. Avoid the common mistakes most people make when changing habits.
  4. Overcome a lack of motivation and willpower.
  5. Develop a stronger identity and believe in yourself.
  6. Make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy).
  7. Design your environment to make success easier.
  8. Make tiny, easy changes that deliver big results.
  9. Get back on track when you get off course.
  10. And most importantly, how to put these ideas into practice in real life.

…and much more.

SIGN. ME. UP.

I seriously love it so far. And I’m going to try to include little summaries of Clear’s work as I write and process what I’m learning. Now, you all know that I don’t like writing book reviews, so this is NOT that. And I’m sure I’m not going to summarize his words perfectly,  but I’ll give it my best shot.

The first piece of advice I wanted to reflect on is: Clear advises to think about changing your identity rather than changing your outcomes or your process. So if you’re making a New Year’s Resolution, Clear advises: Don’t resolve to “lose ten pounds” (outcome-based) or “run every day” (process-based); resolve to “be a runner” (identity-based).

That makes so much sense to me. Phrasing your goals that way means there’s no end point; you don’t stop running after you ran the marathon, because your goal was to be a runner forever.

Now, when I think about some of the habits I’ve been struggling with lately, they are primarily related to health and wellness. Unhealthy snacking, too much caffeine, etc. And I couldn’t really come up with a one-word goal that would fit those little resolutions. But I came up with this: I am a person who prioritizes health and wellness. 

YES. That is who I want to be; that is who I am. And it’s what I can think about whenever I am debating whether or not I should buy a diet Coke from the soda machine at work. Clear advises that, too; he mentions a person whose identity-related goal was “be a healthy person.” This individual, according to Clear, would use a little question every time she was faced with a choice. When deciding between taking the elevator and taking the stairs, she’d ask herself, “What would a healthy person do?” And then she’d make the healthy person choice.

I suppose I could use I am a healthy person as my identity goal. But that one doesn’t cover as much as I want it to. Thinking about health and wellness together covers things like meditation, yoga, hydrating, and self-care all in one sentence.

Be a person who prioritizes health and wellness. That is my identity-based goal.

This post is Part 1 of “I don’t have any idea how many posts it will take to cover this book and topic.” There will be lots more to come; as I mentioned in my last post, I’m on a kick right now where I’m thinking a ton about goals, habits, changes, and pulling myself out of my regret-filled birthday funk. So stay tuned because self-reflection and goals are my jam.

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