Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Our ten favorite children’s books from 2017

Yikes, it was so hard to narrow this list down! But here we are, our ten favorite children’s books from 2017… in alphabetical order because I can’t decide on an order =]

Ladybug Girl... B loves this series (my personal favorite is Ladybug Girl and the Big Snow) like crazy, and the rest of us like it a lot too. Lulu learns a lot of great lessons but in a subtle, non-preachy way. The illustrations are lovely and so is the text. B also dresses as Ladybug Girl all the time and frequently chooses to be Ladybug Girl when the kids play superheroes. This and Uni the Unicorn are B's two favorite books on this list. 

Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery and Fairy Tales Collection… This sweet little collection of stories is a major favorite around here. My kids call it “the red fairy tale book” and ask for it frequently. Not only does it feature favorites they’re of course quite familiar with like Hansel & Gretel, The Three Little Pigs, Cinderella, Thumbelina, Alladin, and many others (20 in total), it features positively adorable illustrations in Mary Engelbreit’s classic style. We love her Christmas books so my kids are already familiar fans of her artwork. These are watered-down, “sweet” versions of the fairy tales which is just the way I like them at this age. I know a lot of people don’t like that though so fair warning!

Moses: How Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom… This is such an awesome historical fiction picture book. I really like historical fiction picture books any ways but this one was such an awesome story focusing so much on Harriet Tubman’s faith throughout her courageous time spent working the underground railroad.

Nibbles the Book Monster… This is one of my son’s absolute favorites, probably in his top ten or even top five. Nibbles, a cute yellow monster, nibbles his way through books. In this book he nibbles his way through a few classics (Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Goldilocks & the Three Bears) and the illustrations bring my boy so much delight. I, too, think it’s pretty darn cute. We love that there are cutouts and pages-within-pages but because of that we keep it put away until we’re about to read it and I definitely think you’ll want to save it for when your child is at least three, maybe four.

Pete’s a Pizza… We read this book at just the right time. Pete’s father pretends to make a pizza, using Pete as the dough, and my children were so delighted with it. The next day was Christmas Eve and my son whined that he wanted to make a gingerbread man cookie. We didn’t have the stuff for that (Will we ever? I h8 baking!) and we decided to make him the gingerbread cookie instead. He naturally jumped out of the oven (couch) and shouted, “Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” We’ve played this game many times since then and have of course made them pizzas too.

Redwoods… we read this nonfiction before our trip to the Redwoods and loved it so much that we’ve borrowed it from the library several times since then. The illustrations are truly gorgeous and they tell a wordless story while the actual words give a simple and typically-nonfiction overview of the Redwoods. I wish more nonfiction picture books were like this one and I hope Jason Chin eventually goes on to do one about each of the National Parks! This one is on my list of books-to-buy.

The Snatchabook… This is a cute story told in verse, about a creature called a Snatchabook coming in and stealing everyone’s bedtime stories. A and B both frequently name pretend characters Eliza Brown and A often sings a made-up song about Eliza Brown. We kept borrowing it and renewing it, and then Ryan’s aunt sent it to the kids for Christmas. We have probably read it 20 times since Christmas. It is a very clear favorite in our house.

Squirrels Leap… This is another of those cute nonfictions that just told us a lot about squirrels and provided cute illustrations… but the first time I read it was at 2am when B was sick with norovirus. She was miserable from throwing up so much and I was naturally paranoid she would aspirate and die, so I elected to stay up all night with her. I covered the couch in blankets and snuggled up with her, a just-in-case bucket, and my Kindle. She was too miserable to sleep so I turned on the light and grabbed the first simple picture book in our basket, this one. That one-on-one time made her feel very special and she of course fell in love with the book because of it. She kept telling us all about it and A and C caught her enthusiasm too. A month or two later we sat at a table in the library and watched squirrels scamper up and down trees out the window, then checked it back out and read it another 20 times.

Uni the Unicorn... I personally like-but-don't-love this book but B and C are crazy about it. I think A likes it slightly more than I do. It's a cute book with great illustrations and it's nice and simple, without any kind of deep storyline for littler unicorn-lovers to try and keep up with. (There's even a stuffed animal Uni!)

You Were the First… This precious book is one I read about on Everyday Reading. I requested it through the library and had it waiting for us after D was born. A few days after she was born, when all three girls were napping at once, I snuggled him on the couch and read it to him. I of course had tears in my eyes the whole time and he clearly loved the special attention because we’ve read it a few times since then and he frequently tells his sisters, “Did you know I was the first baby?” This is without a doubt the PERFECT gift to give your first child when you’re expecting a second… or third, or even fourth.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

For now

I have gotten almost none of my to-do list done today but now that all three girls are napping and my boy is working on a Yoda puzzle in the other room, I can't bring myself to get a move on.

I sat and stared at my sleeping baby for a while because tomorrow is her last day as a one-month-old and then I'll never have a one-month-old again.

I'm okay with it... and I am so heartbroken about it.

This face, this precious baby face, is going to be a woman's face long before I am ready. Her cheeks will thin out and her chin will sharpen. Her eyelids might bear a shimmering powder that hides the tiny veins in that translucent skin. Her hair will thicken--we predict as a much lighter color than it is now--and it won't be a baby-fine cap of fuzz I nuzzle with my cheek.

For now she's a sleepy, swaddled bundle of perfect innocence. Someday she'll live somewhere else, snuggle someone else to sleep.

I'll tackle my to-do list then.

For now you can find me snuggling baby girls to sleep, playing round after round of Life Jr., and curled up on the couch with a tall stack of picture books.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

SVT + Anxiety Update

I’ve been waiting to update on all my crazy tachycardia stuff again until I had had my next appointment.

I have probably typed this post up ten different times but it keeps getting so ridiculously long. 

Basically, it really was the prenatal vitamins. Every time I've tried again, I've had SVT episodes again. Otherwise I haven't been having any at all... and even better still, I'm free of anxiety and joint pain for the first time in years! 

I've had a few symptoms for years, since high school, and anxiety (and probably SVT that I considered panic attacks) and joint pain are among those symptoms. I would never have correlated any of that with vitamins until now. But I also took prenatal vitamins in high school since they were higher in iron and someone told me they'd make my hair and nails grow faster (don't think that was true, btw). 

I've also been diagnosed in the past with a sunlight allergy and it got INSANE this summer. I'm really hoping that was also related to the vitamin allergy but I won't be surprised if it isn't since I do have memories of sun issues that go back a lot farther than high school, and also have family memories with the same problem.

The unfortunate downside here is that it's going to be really difficult to figure out what, specifically, triggered the reaction. They do have some guesses which I haven't been brave enough to test out yet but there isn't any kind of blood test that will pull out the individual elements of the vitamins.

To be honest, I don't even care. As long as I don't have the episodes, I am happy to never really know. I am still going to pursue it but it's not super pressing to me right now. I'm just thrilled and feeling beyond blessed to be past that, and soaking up the newborn stage I was so worried I'd be too messed up to enjoy!!! <3

Sunday, January 14, 2018

7 quick and easy paleo favorites

Sometimes it feels like making something healthy and making something fast don’t mesh… but they can and do, so these are my go-to paleo meals, especially with a new baby in the house!

-Italian sausage sautee: This is truly one of my favorite lunches. Italian sausage (ground or sliced, doesn’t matter) sautéed with mushrooms, onions, and spinach or kale. I am a big garlic lover so I put lots on this dish. I have also topped it with cheese when I was in the mood and that’s delicious too… though it admittedly masks quite a bit of the flavor. I like to brown a bunch of sausage at once and then I freeze it specifically so I can pull some out for this meal.

-Meatballs & veggies: I like to make meatballs and freeze them so I can pull them out whenever necessary. Then I grab one pan and throw in meatballs and half a bag of Cascadia Farms frozen California Blend. Their blend is broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and zucchini. Most CA blend doesn’t have the zucchini but I think it adds so much to this dish.

-Soup. Twice a month, I make a massive batch of soup. Huge. Then I keep some in the fridge for our week and put the rest in the freezer for the weeks ahead. We eat a lot of soup around here. Sometimes with paleo bread/crackers, sometimes with Brazi Bites, and sometimes with a spinach grilled cheese. Personal favorites: Roasted red pepper, paleo Zuppa Toscana, Practical Paleo’s Broc-cauli Bacon Chowder, Albondigas (sans rice)

-Salad + Smoothie. For some reason I love a good salad but primarily eat side salads. Crafting a decent salad sometimes sounds like a ton of work to me but it’s really not if I keep the ingredients already chopped and ready to rock… and obviously smoothies are super easy. Sometimes I also add in a small baked potato if we’re extra hungry. My two main salad favorites are always spinach, julienned carrot, red onion, and tomato. Then I like to add either salami + pepperoni + olive or hardboiled egg + bacon + avocado. Sometimes I also make tuna and throw it into a bowl of spinach + veggies too, but usually it’s the first two options.  Oh, or taco salads.

-Chorizo bake. One of our family favorites. Chorizo (I use Mulay’s brand which is actually just sausage with chorizo-esque flavor to it), potatoes, onions, bell peppers, green chilies, teeny tiny pieces of kale. It’s sautéed, not baked… but I make a huge batch at once so we can have it for breakfasts during the week, and we usually heat it up by baking it in the oven. I typically serve this for dinner one night with another huge breakfast-for-the-week item (paleo waffles or muffins, for example) and this is always a hit. Always. You can wrap it up with a Siete grain-free tortilla or throw it into a pan of eggs too, all amazing.

-Sausage & peppers. Slice up kielbasa and sautee with bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, and always and forever garlic. Boom. I usually serve this baked peaches and cinnamon mashed-sweet potato and everyone devours.

-Snack plate. When all else fails, SNACK PLATE! The kids and I have these for lunch two or three times a week. I throw together a hardboiled egg or a minimally processed meat with at least one fruit and at least one veggie, and some kind of healthy fat. I often throw something “fun” into these too, like a handful of Jackson’s Honest chips or a little non-paleo something or other too. This week it’s been a couple of the Star Wars shaped Pop Chips because my boy has asked for Star Wars shaped mac & cheese like a hundred times but of course it isn’t gluten free. These are gluten free and non-gmo so when I saw them on Instagram (Pop Chips, your Instagram marketing is working!) I kinda freaked out and took an essential off the grocery list to make room for those.

Friday, January 12, 2018

In Defense of Winter

I woke up this morning and put on leggings, fuzzy socks, and a tunic-length sweater. I dressed my baby girls in sweet warm sweaters, buttoned up A’s flannel for him, and snuggled us all up on the couch with blankets and picture books about snow while I nursed Baby D.

Everybody played together while I made oatmeal and a steaming mug of chai tea.

We cleaned up after breakfast and then we all pulled on coats and boots so we could have an adventure. We trudged through the snow to explore and to move our bodies. We felt and heard that beloved crunch under our feet. We admired the girls’ purple coats popping so fiercely in the foreground of this monochromatic world around us. We looked for animal tracks, lined up our boot prints to determine whose were biggest (mine) and smallest (C’s), and played pretend.

We had soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, and then we all snuggled up for more book-and-blanket time before naps… and now here I am.

Leggings, fuzzy socks, my favorite sweater. Sleeping, fleece-pajama-clad baby girls snoring all around me. Snow falling in fat flakes out the window, quiet writing time with a view. The sound of pages turning in the other room—quiet time for a little boy who made me promise that our post-nap snack would be hot chocolate and bananas.