Children’s Book Review: National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs

National-Geographic-Little-Kids-First--pTRU1-19005951dt

 

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs
By Catherine D. Hughes, Illustrated by Franco Tempesta

Cars and trucks. Trucks and cars. These have been the two main interests for my kids for the past 3 years.  So, let me tell you, after years of trucks and cars, I am openly thrilled that we now are exploring the world of dinosaurs. I had never really paid much attention to them, to be quite honest. But as a newly initiated mom, let me just say: dinosaurs are so. cool.

What I love about this book is that it works for my 5 year old but is also pretty darn interesting for me too. There are 4 chapters: Small, Big, Giant, and Gigantic. (Gigantic! So. Cool.) The illustrations of the dinosaurs are wonderfully real and fill out the pages. My favorite feature is the snapshot of how big each dinosaur is compared to a human being. It’s hard to believe the size of these beasties.

My son wanted to start at the beginning of the book and read it start to finish, but I had to interrupt a few minutes in to at least just get a glimpse of a Gigantic dinosaur (Brachiosaurus! Awesome!) This book would easily take an hour for an adult to read aloud word-for-word. There are basic facts about each dinosaur including what it ate and when it lived. My son enjoyed the map that includes which continent each dinosaur’s fossils have been found on. So. cool.

Children’s Book Review: Winter is Coming

Winteriscoming

Winter is Coming
-By Tony Johnston, Illustrated by Jim LaMarche

If you love nature, if you love the changing of the seasons, if you love bringing your kids into the woods or prairie or ocean…. If taking a deep breath of fresh air makes you feel connected to yourself and looser, softer and stronger. Like you are a part of something comforting, powerful, easier and bigger than you can imagine….then this book is for you.

A girl sits in her favorite perch up in a tree and observes the natural world. She documents in her notebook what she sees and hears- about the chipmunks, the fox, the rabbits, the geese.  She watches, she sees, she hears, she draws. The simplicity of being a part of the world and not trying to make something happen is profoundly relaxing. This book is all about it. It’s calming to read.

Though infused with deep, great love for the natural world,  it’s not gushy or sappy about it. I loved sharing this book with my kiddos. We are outside for hours at a time every day- it is where we are most relaxed. I loved reading this because I felt the little girl was saying, “Yes, me too.”

Children’s Book Review: Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)

A few weeks ago, my 5 year old was having trouble falling asleep. I was resting next to him on his bed, waiting for the wiggling to stop, for his eyes to close. It didn’t and his eyes stayed open for 10, 15, 20 minutes. I had him place his hand over his belly to feel his breath and mentioned that when I was a kid, I used to have thoughts flying through my mind at night.  He turned to me and said, “That happens to me all the time.” (After weeping silently in my mind that a 5 year old has racing thoughts that keep him up, I gathered my composure.)  We talked about how paying attention to your body and breath can help shift you into a lower gear, settle those thoughts, and allow sleep to come.

On a mission the next day, not wanting him to have to go through the same anxieties I did as a kid with an overactive worried mind that never seemed to settle down, I went in search of a book that could help me help him start early with mindfulness and self-calming techniques. I hoped for simple exercises, short meditations, fun imagery, effective strategies, and a cd that could guide us through. And….

 

sittinglikeafrog

 Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)
– 
by Eline Snell

 

Every single one of my hopes was answered in this book.  It’s beautifully simple with tips and info for parents about mindfulness and soothing cd tracks that guide you through short (4 min+) mindfulness exercises. These tracks are stand-alone- they’re perfect. Simple enough for my 5 year old to listen to by himself, interesting enough that it keeps his attention.

After listening to a few tracks over the course of several days, he suggested we do a mindfulness exercise every day.  (Joy!) Ten minutes later I was buying this book online. You can’t buy happiness but you can buy this book. Being present in our bodies and teaching our kids to do the same is the happiest of happies.

I’m breaking my posting drought to share with you the raddest rock-n-roll kids’ album I’ve ever heard. My kids and I were listening to pandora a few months ago…to “E Eats Everything” station. (They Might Be Giants has rad kids music too, FYI.)  And on comes this track….”Crayon Man.”

My then 4 year old stopped in his tracks, mesmerized by the awesomeness. He shouted, “Now this is rock-n-roll!” and launched himself onto the floor, throwing himself about in spasmodic fits of joy. Donkey kicks, jumping as high as he can and landing on his butt, then flopping about. (That is how he dances to rock-n-roll music- it’s like mosh-pitting, except he’s dancing by himself in a duplex.)

Turns out the single was by Roy Handy (Gerry Stanek) and he has a whole album of rock-n-roll kids songs that are actually well-written, really catchy and very well-produced. And it’s real rock-n-roll.

royhandy

If you are sick of kids’ music that sounds like circus music, please check this out.

Roy Handy & the Moonshot – Bandcamp

 

Strength vs. Guilt – Battle of the Fourth Trimester

I have a friend who just had a baby and is adapting to her new role as Lord Ruler of All Things Baby-Related. The boundaries she sets for visitors, for instance, are clear.  If you want to interact with her baby, you must be a close family member, your hands need to be washed, and you need to have received a pertussis vaccine. It’s her home, her baby, her rules. She is finding herself surprised at the strength of her desire to protect her family bubble for the first few months. Equally surprising is her guilt for wanting people to stay away unless they are fully on board with her style of parenting. It’s the classic inner battle for women: strength vs. guilt.

When I gave birth to my oldest, it was a surprise to find that I had a Mama Bear instinct. I was floored at how strong it was. I felt, for the first time in my life, that my own intuition and feelings about what I wanted for my family trumped what other people might feel or think about my choices. The most important views about what was best for my baby belonged to me and my husband. I had never felt that important before. Hello, power.

Photo by Lea Wolf

Lea Wolf, my doula for my that birth, was essential in helping me understand that the first few weeks after birth are yours, your baby’s, and your partners. They belong to no one else and no one else can claim them, though they may try to. I understood this rationally, but not emotionally, with my first and made some mistakes in not creating a month-long safe space to honor that fourth trimester bond, find a rhythm, and heal from the birth.

It can be hard and foreign to explain our instincts to others in the face of their sometimes different expectations.   We need to start with our instinct as the starting point and create space for it. If we can find the strength to create that space, we are rewarded in so many ways. Because as we maintain our truth, it grows bigger and stronger. Crucial!

Your inner, intuitive voice may ring so loudly and strongly after baby is born, it may take your breath away in how certain and solid it feels.  Following that inner voice is the most blessed actualization of mother’s intuition.  It is as real and valid as your five senses, developed over generations of our ancestors fine tuning their ability to love, guide and protect their children and themselves.

So when an un-nurturing neighbor knocks on the door two days postpartum and wants to see baby, and you hear that inner voice saying “No.” — that “no” is there for a reason. So that the word can find your lips: “No.” It’s not right for you.

Social expectations can push up against this instinct and try and sway you toward a “yes.” You might think “It isn’t polite” or “I want to be nice” or “I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate them.”  Part of listening to yourself is knowing that when you choose what’s right for you, it is quite likely that you will not please everyone all the time. And as far as I can tell, not pleasing everyone all the time, staying true to yourself, and accepting yourself for it…. is just the beginning of motherhood.

You are doing a great job.

 

From time to time, I listen to a meditation cd from a local energy healer, Mary Preuss Olson at Magnificent Living Institute.  It’s great for centering, collecting all bits of my thoughts and energy back to where they belong, clearing away what I don’t want, and enhancing my state of being. It feels good to this- I like the whole meditation. But my favorite part of the entire cd is where she says,

You are doing a great job.

It melts into my bones when I hear it.

You are doing a great job.

I know that she means it and I know I deserve to hear it. And so do you. Because it’s true. This is a phrase that mothers (ok, and everyone) need to hear and, most importantly, believe. Knowing this statement to be true calms every fiber in our energy field, especially when we are in a place of really being able to absorb its meaning.

I try not to argue with it, try to burn through the shadowy mental response of “But….” But I didn’t get the dishes put away. But we don’t make enough money. But my kids has peanut butter in his hair. But I don’t make freezer meals. But I never went to grad school. No buts, no coconuts.

You are doing a great job.

You might not hear these words from your kids. They might not know you want to hear it. It’s ok to tell them that it sounds good to your ears, and that you like hearing it. You might not hear it from your partner either, unless you tell them it will make a difference in your life if they say it every now and again (and only when they really mean it.) What matters most is not who says it to you, but that you feel that it’s true in your bones.

You are doing a great job.

It’s true. Know it. Say it to yourself, especially when the wheels have fallen off the bus. There will always be unanswered questions and uncertain choices. There will always be more on the to-do list. Maybe it’s not actually your job to answer every question and be certain about everything. Maybe it’s ok to not know.  What preschool is the best. What size your kids will be in next fall. What toy they’ll take to. Maybe it’s ok not to be certain. I’m not sure if this music class will be worth it. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to pay off our debt this year. This car seat we bought might not be the best choice.  I don’t know.  I don’t know. And not knowing is totally ok. What a relief.

You are doing a great job.

I’m saying this to you now and I mean it. If you are keeping up with things and sometimes not keeping up, if you’re self-loving enough to take a moment to yourself to read a mom-blog, if you keep your kids breathing and fed, if you know how to cook a hot dog, if you notice things your kids might like, if you manage to shower when you need to and maybe even find time to shave your armpits, if you think about things like whether cloth diapers or disposables are more responsible, if you read to your kids, if you kiss them on the forehead before they go to sleep….

You are doing a great job.

(If this is not your child, you are doing a great job.)

 

Grocery Shopping with a Toddler and Preschooler

It started with pee and ended with screaming. In between there were samples of veggie chips, taquitos, and “granola bars” that were one layer of caramel away from being a Snickers. Also, a very convincing demonstration of a space-age blender by a man with a performance headset mic like Beyonce wears. (I’m pretty sure you could put some dandelions, a deck of cards, and a popsicle into that Blender and you’d somehow end up with a green smoothie.) There were also not one, but two trips through the understaffed checkout lines. And there were birds- including a red-tailed hawk- flying overhead. I’m talking about our trip to Costco today, of course.

 

grocery3

This photo from Tom on flickr. See more like this at RoadsideArchitecture.com

 

Now that my kids are 4 and 1 1/2, the mental preparation that needs to happen in order for me to take both of them grocery shopping is equivalent to whatever prep Serena does before Wimbledon. Serious focus is needed. I should have a shopping coach, really, and get a trophy every time I make it back to the car with both my kids AND our food. Really I’m lucky if I make it through half my list.

Most trips start out smooth in the beginning. We are excited about the carts. We talk about our list. We love being in America where every time you visit a grocery store there is a new type of cracker you have never heard of before, made with things that normally don’t go into crackers – like kale or lentils.*

Today was Advanced Grocery Shopping because it was at Costco – where the enticement for my 4 year old, Braden, to run out of sight are tripled (ice cream samples! cool toy aisle! massage chair!)  but I was prepared for the risk.

As soon as we had our cart and were focused into shopping mode, (already had a lifejacket and beach towel in it) the inevitable statement, “I need to go potty” comes from my four year old.

You can’t take items past the checkout at Costco unless they’re paid for. Now comes the philosophical question of our generation. Do you want to take your cart to the bathroom for the benefit of having your toddler strapped in, but go through the trouble of emptying the cart?  Or do you want to take your toddler out of the cart and try to contain him in the stall for who knows how long?  I opted to dump the beach towel and life jacket and go for the strapped-in toddler benefit. Smart choice- and we were back out shopping in no time, until I noticed Braden picking at his pants. Turns out his pants and underwear were sopping wet because his pee had sprayed all over them instead of into the toilet.  A rookie would have just gone home. But I was not going to abandon this shopping trip for a change of clothes, and thankfully we were at Costco where you can buy a replacement for virtually anything that gets broken, lost, or peed on during your shopping experience.  So we threw a pair of pajamas into our cart, waited in a line that moved So Slowly, bought them, returned to the bathroom again, changed his pants, threw the pee-soaked clothes into the cart and got things underway again.

Already, I deserve a medal for this shopping trip and we haven’t even bought food yet.

By the time we actually start shopping for real, it’s been 20 minutes since we walked through the front door. This is already too long of a shopping trip for my kids.

On most trips to a normal grocery store, 20 minutes is when things start to break down. Today was no exception. My 18 month old, Wyatt, wants to eat everything I put in the cart and tells me this by shrieking and pointing. He can’t look at food without wanting to eat it. So I end up opening packages as we shop to keep him quiet so I can stay focused on our list. Gatorade- yes, Wyatt-here, take it. Goldfish crackers- yes, Wyatt- here, eat them.

Braden then gets tired of sitting in the cart and getting swatted & elbowed by his brother. He wants to “walk” next to the cart and “help” me shop.  If I let him walk next to the cart, he keeps his normal pace which is a slow sprint. Will I have to jog with the cart to try and keep up?  Will I lose him around a corner and find him carrying 3 mammoth peanut butter tubs in his hands?  Who knows?  If his listening ears aren’t on, it’s over. Store lock-down, my kid is fast and doesn’t care how far away he gets from me. He wants to help and I want to let him, but sometimes his help involves adding things to our cart that we would never eat in a million years-beets, orange sodas from Mexico, prune juice- anything from the bottom shelves is eligible.

Around this same time, Wyatt has turned completely around in his seat and is reaching for the foods I have intentionally placed away from him. (Once, I walked away from the cart to grab something and when I stepped back to it he had 2 eggs in his hands that he was starting to lick.)

When things get squirrely like this, I then have exactly 5 minutes to get out of the store before the wheels fall off the bus.  Game on. I race to try and get the last few things on our list like I am in a shopping game show, then panic and start grabbing random things off the shelves on the way to the checkout. If I did have a shopping coach, she’d be running next to me shouting, “Leave it! Just leave the guacamole! Go for the bacon! The bacon!”

When we make it to the checkout line, the lines make me cry. Why are there 17 registers and only 3 cashiers?! Why?! I open at least two more packages for my 18 month old. Yes, pretzels and applesauce pouch- here you go. We inch our way toward the register.  Up to this point, I have managed to hide the berries from him, which is essential. His passion for berries is unquenchable. But when we get to the register, as soon as I grab the blueberries from the cart to place on the moving belt, he spots them- and the shrieking begins. Shoppers at the far corner of the store look up and wonder if there is an orangutan loose by the registers. The cashier avoids eye contact and scans things as quickly as she can. Customers that, two seconds ago, were smiling at my kids and making googly eyes now shrink back in horror. “That woman’s cart smells like pee, her kid is wearing pajamas for some reason, she’s opened every package before she bought it, and her baby is louder than a bullhorn and covered in blueberries.” If I don’t start feeding Wyatt blueberries, the shrieking will just grow louder and louder until all our brains explode and our ear drums burst.

Once he sees the blueberries, he can’t not have a blueberry in both of his hands and his mouth. What he really wants is to hold the blueberry container and either push his mouth into the container or grab fistfuls at a time. But then even the gigantic Costco size tub would be gone before we get through the checkout and nobody wants that.

Finally we make it through the checkout leaving a trail of blueberries on the cement. Braden is squishing them unknowingly as he jogs back and forth, asking for a “sugar stick,” his word for churro.  (Um, no.)  The cashier is asking me something. Yes, I want that shit boxed. Do not spend one second telling me about the premium membership. My kids’ brains are melting into a pile of goo!

We push out into the fresh air, finally, feeding Wyatt blueberries the entire way. Braden is crying because I didn’t buy him a churro…But by God, we made it- and with almost half our list.

I am a great fucking mom.

 

lyd011-lydias-organics-green-crackers_1

Ingredients: Sprouted sunflower seeds* collards* carrots* celery* Kale* spinach* zucchini* arugula* radicchio* lettuce* Parsley* basil* tomatoes* sprouted flax* onion* garlic* original Himalayan crystal salt & ♥.*Organic

*