On my Parenting Bookshelf

These are my favorite books on pregnancy, babyhood, and parenting.

Mindful Birthing, Nancy Bardacke

So this is not exactly on parenting, but the mindfulness techniques for coping with pain in labor are just as relevant when coping with anger and frustration during challenging times with a toddler. I am rereading this as we get ready to welcome our second baby (in about 28 days!!) and once again finding it so helpful.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Mark Weissbluth

This is the classic on sleep training. If you’re wary of sleep training, you’ll probably avoid this book. If you’re looking for a science/evidence based look at children’s sleep needs at each stage of development, along with clear suggestions for helping children develop good sleep habits, you will welcome this book. I’ve fallen into each category at different times in my parenting journey thus far. This book helped my family establish regular sleeping patterns after our daughter’s 4-month sleep regression. It saved my mental health at a time when it was really suffering, and I have since referred to it as she has moved through subsequent sleep changes, whether it’s dropping a nap, moving to a toddler bed, or adjusting bedtime as she gets older.

Oh Crap! Potty Training, Jamie Glowacki

Loved this book. The author has a great sense of humor, which you really need when you start helping your kid learn how to use the toilet. We followed a sort of relaxed form of elimination communication with Sky starting at about 3 months, and that helped her get familiar with the potty early on, as well as helped me learn to “read” her signals. But in terms of long-term independence and toilet learning, none of the EC books were nearly as helpful and straightforward as this one. This book kind of breaks down the process into simple, manageable steps and helps you trouble-shoot.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, Laura Markham

We are just starting this book, in tandem with an online parenting course at Aha! Parenting, and so far I really love it. It’s easy to talk about not yelling, but it’s a whole other thing to actually be able to commit to growing as a parent and human being in the way you need to in order to change a habit. I like how this book focuses on how to manage your emotions as a parent, so you can teach your kid to skillfully manage their own emotions. It’s so so hard, and I really, really want to do the best I can for Sky.

Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense, Ellyn Satter

This is a really long book about something as (seemingly?) simple as eating, but it was well worth the read for me. The gist is this: my job as a parent is to prepare and serve appropriate foods at appropriate times, and it’s my child’s job to decide if and how much she will eat. Period. Really simple, right? But tough in practice, especially when you’re worried about your kid’s developing preferences and habits. I like this author’s gentle, warm approach and learned a lot from her experience as a nutritionist and counselor.

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, Janet Lansbury

So good. I wrote about this earlier this year, but it bears a repeat mention because she is just so helpful. A friend recommended the RIE approach to me even before Sky was born, and Lansbury makes it pretty accessible. I also liked her earlier book, Elevating Childcare. Ultimately I’ve found the RIE approach a little more sensible than Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, which was a good starting point but left a lot of gaps and confusion for me.

Buddhism for Mothers, Sarah Napthali

Another supportive book for parents in learning to use mindfulness to parent calmly and lovingly. I also liked her follow-up book, Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children, and her book for couples. Napthali has a great sense of humor and an easy-going, clear way of explaining the nuances of Buddhism, woven into stories from her own and other mothers’ lives about putting philosophy into practice in the trenches of motherhood.

Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as Spiritual Discipline, Catherine McNiel

Last but definitely not least. This book was such a huge gift this year. McNiel brings a Christian lens to the interlocking circles of mindfulness, spiritual growth, and mothering. Reading it felt like drinking a big glass of fresh cold water. I’ve just been longing for good writing that situates motherhood as holy, fertile ground for spiritual growth within the Christian tradition, and this book does that so well. It’s both practical and lyrical; down-to-earth and inspirational.

 

 

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Fall Fun and a Simplified Holiday Bucket List

I’m thinking a lot about quality time with Sky as I head toward the last month of this pregnancy. We made some fun memories during the ever-so-brief but beautiful window of time called Fall in the Pacific Northwest. After a blistering summer with many days of wildfire smoke, the easy blue skies, golden leaves, and crisp weather of October and November felt like such a tremendous blessing. We were thrilled to be outdoors whenever we could.

Building on our summer bucket list, we created another short list of things we wanted to do before the weather turned wet and the days grew even shorter. Here are some of the fun things we did together as a family.

Mushroom Hunt— Lyle was an avid mushroom forager when we met in Santa Cruz, and one of the many reasons we were drawn to the Pacific Northwest was the potential for foraging. With a small business to run and a family to look after now, though, it hasn’t been as easy to make the time it really takes to get to know the good spots. That takes many reconnaissance missions, plus relationship-building with other fungophiles. With Sky in tow, we definitely hike at the slow pace needed to spot mushrooms, but we can’t cover nearly as much ground or do the same level of bushwhacking. But it was still fun to venture out into new trails just over the river in Vancouver. We spent a wet afternoon exploring a short loop with Sky. She tried out her rain boots in the many mud puddles and got completely soaked. (Turns out used Bogs aren’t nearly as waterproof as they should be, word to the wise.)

Family Zoo Day— So fun! We picked the perfect day, a crisp sunny Wednesday morning when the crowds were thin and the animals were just waking up. Two hours went by in a flash. Sky could have definitely stayed longer but I didn’t want to push her nap time too late and Lyle needed to head to work. We loved seeing the elephants, lions, and giraffes the best. Sky was so much more engaged and interested than the last time we went. My parents gave us a family membership for Christmas and I’m looking forward to the return of warmer weather this spring so we can make it a regular activity.

Hike Shellburg Falls— I’m so glad we did this hike. Despite a rough start (Sky just did not want to be in the car), we all managed to enjoy the long meander through pasture to the forest. Sky liked using her hiking stick and running ahead of us on the trail. We put her in the backpack carrier for the winding trail up to the falls, though, where the edges get steep and slippery. The falls were really beautiful and we even had them to ourselves for a little while.

Pumpkin Patch— We headed east this time, and I’m so glad we did. Last year’s trek to Sauvie Island ended with a two-hour traffic jam on the way home. We hit the crowds and the weather just right this year, with a deluge starting just as we climbed in our car to head home with three giant pumpkins. We pet goats, had donuts and cider, and picked out pumpkins. I even rode one of those barrel/tractor rides with Sky. It felt extra bumpy while pregnant, but baby stayed in.

Carve Pumpkins— Sky was much more interested and involved this year. She was impressed with the seeds and “guts.” We were a little too eager with our timing, though, because all three pumpkins ended up rotting well before Halloween. We ended up composting them and picking up one small pumpkin at the grocery store to carve just before the trick-or-treaters arrived. Lyle and I both grew up in relatively dry California towns and it still surprises us how quickly the rain and humidity here can hasten the decomposition process. And last, we went to the same toddler halloween party as last year. She was the oldest one this year, but she still had fun. And all in all, we got a lot of use out of her her firefighter costume.

The one thing we still didn’t get around to: a day trip to the coast. This was a carryover from our summer bucket list. It poured the weekend we had planned to camp near Ft Stevens with friends. Even though we had arranged to borrow my brother-in-law’s camper (thank you Bryce!), the weather was a big deterrent. Sky had a cold, I was feeling very pregnant, and the thought of hunkering down in a cramped camper with two grumpy campers while 30-40 mph winds howled outside sounded, well, pretty bad.

I miss the ocean, but I kind of don’t think it’s going to happen this winter, and that’s okay. We can go in the spring or summer with our baby boy.

Our winter bucket list is super short because pregnancy. At 35 weeks I am pretty much falling apart physically and emotionally. I need to sleep a lot, I have sandwich emergencies, and my hips/pelvis/ligaments have stopped getting along, so I’m basically a waddling, limping, crying 90-year-old woman. I’m just not very fun or portable right now.

So here’s our plan:

*Get a Christmas tree from this front yard operation in our old neighborhood. Check.

*Decorate said Christmas tree with about a dozen simple felt ornaments I was able to sew while propped up in bed, that the cat/Sky can rip off and run around with to their hearts content. Check.

*Make cookies at some point with Sky. I think we are doing this tomorrow with my two neighbor mama besties. That way the extra sugar (and associated tantrums) get shared among three toddlers and three mamas.

*Go see some lights. I think we’re skipping the zoo part of ZooLights by going to (free) Peacock lane instead, and may even drive this year.

*Do a simple nativity activity with Sky (I loved this one from Story of this Life), and read one story a night from this Advent book. So far she is loving both and it feels simple and repeatable enough to turn into a tradition. We bought a Little People nativity set that she and her brother and any other future siblings will be able to play with for years. I printed short verses in the International Children’s Bible version on BibleGateway, so it’s easy to tell the story of the birth of Jesus in language Sky can understand.

*Have a baby. After the new year, I am clearing my calendar of everything except check-ups and simple prep work like freezing muffins and getting the second car seat installed. I hit 37 weeks on Christmas and I know I will not be good for much after that point except growing this baby. We can’t wait to meet him!

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Fall Reading with my Toddler

It’s time once again for a book roundup. Here’s what Sky and I have been reading this fall.

Sky, 2 years old

If You Listen, Charlotte Zolotow

I chose this book the way I usually do when in the library with Sky: hastily, based on the amount of text on each page and the quality of the illustrations, while simultaneously making sure Sky puts books back before she takes more from the shelves. I was thinking about how much I’d like for Sky to listen to me, i.e., do what I say, and hoping this book was about being still and paying attention.

It’s actually a beautiful, moving book about grief and loss. Though the book doesn’t explicitly discuss death, it describes a mother’s response to her daughter’s question: “How can I feel someone’s love when they’re far away?” When I realized what the book was about, I was hesitant to read it to Sky. But she chose it from the book basket every time we sat down to read, and listened attentively to the words. “She miss her Daddy?” she would ask me, pointing to the little girl in the story. It’s amazing how much kids can pick up on, even when they’re this small.

Puddle, Hyewon Yum. So, I love everything we’ve read by this author/illustrator. The Twins’ Blanket, which I found at the library’s Title Wave used bookstore, quickly became one of Sky’s all-time favorites, something we’ve kept on the shelf in our living room since she was about 16 months. As I’ve discovered favorite authors in my own reading, I’ve naturally requested and read as many of their books as I could find in our library’s collection. I don’t know why it’s only just now occurring to me that I can do that for Sky, too.

Puddle is a cute little story about a mom and a little boy stuck inside on a rainy day. The little boy is complaining about the rain, and the mom invites him to come draw with her. Together, they draw scenes of what it might be like to take a walk in the rain, taking turns “splashing” each other in the imaginary puddles with colored-pencil rain. Eventually, the pictures convince the little boy that taking a real puddle walk might be okay. Sky loves puddles, and puddle walks, and colored pencils, so needless to say, this was a big hit.

Blueberries for Sal (Audiobook), Robert McCloskey

I’ve been reading up on homeschooling options for Sky (see my book picks below), following a really informative education overview on the Coffee + Crumbs Podcast (“Mama’s Getting Schooled,” September 19, 2017). I’m investigating the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, and one thing that struck me is the level of reading material many Charlotte Mason homeschool parents choose for their children.

One mom wrote about playing audiobooks for her children as a way to give herself a break during a hands-on school day. I decided to try this one out, and I was really surprised by how much Sky responded to it. It’s wordier and slower than many of the books we read, and the pictures are simple– but she really loved listening to the tape and turning the pages on cue. We listened to it quite a bit as the weather turned rainy. I like how an audiobook is not quite a book, and not quite a tape. As a reading experience, it’s somewhere between watching an episode of Daniel Tiger and a cozy read with mom on the couch– I get a bit of a break to relax and listen with her, but we’re not dipping into our daily screen time allotment.

Frog and Toad are Friends, Arnold Lobel

In the same vein, I checked out this old favorite even though it’s geared much older kids than Sky. She always seems to gravitate toward the “I Can Read” bookshelf at the library, so I let her pick one out from the Frog & Toad series and carry it to the checkout herself. She felt very proud of herself, and again I’ve been surprised by her focus when we read these. We even brought it along to urgent care one weekend when her persistent cough got scary-worse and our doctor’s office was closed. She sat still through two or three “chapters,” though she definitely liked the one about Toad’s bathing suit the best.

 

My Body! What I Say Goes, Jayneen Sanders

I follow “A Mighty Girl” on Facebook and I always love their topical roundups on teaching kids about tough subjects like racism, war, and personal boundaries. Sky has been asking me lots of questions about my body and hers as the baby grows and my stomach gets rounder. I wanted to find something to read with her to help explain private parts, and how to trust your feelings when someone is asking you to do something with your body that you don’t want to do– even giving hugs to a new grown-up friend of mommy or daddy’s. Especially in light of sexual assault awareness month and the #metoo campaign, I want to start talking with her about her right to her own body in regular, daily conversations, and so far this book is helping us do that.

Books! Books! Storytime Singalong Vol. 1, Emily Arrow

Okay, this was a CD we checked out from the library, not a book, but since it’s about books and since I have listened to it by myself in the car when Sky was home with her daddy, I figured it was worth including here. Kids’ music you actually like to listen to?! Sort of a rare gem. My favorite tracks are “The Dot Song,” about making your mark as an artist and making it “matter,” and “Are We There, Yeti?” a funny song about whining in the car. It makes Sky laugh. (I mean really, how cute is this lady?)

 

Melissa, 30 something

Saints for All Occasions, J. Courtney Sullivan

I put this on my TBR list early this summer when it was mentioned ever-so-briefly in an NPR interview as the “sleeper” novel of the year (or something like that.) I wrote the title down on a receipt in the sticky center consul of my car before running into Dollar Tree. I carried that receipt around in my pocket and then wallet for a while until I remembered to place a hold on it at the library, and then it took about three months to rise up the impressive wait list– I guess others heard the same interview clip. ANYway, point being: this book was well worth the wait. I finished it in a few days and even now, the characters are still fresh in my mind and I kind of miss them. (I can only say that about one other novel, The Brothers Karamazov, which I used to read every summer, pre-kids.) I liked it so much I checked out and devoured her earlier novel The Engagements, which is a linked novel about the evolution of the ad campaign for diamond engagement rings. Educational and thought-provoking and very entertaining. Excited to read through her backlist.

Reading People: How Seeing People Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, Ann Bogel

This one was mentioned on a blog I follow, and sounded right up my alley. It’s a survey of personality types through various popular methods: Meyers Briggs, Enneagram, Strengthsfinder, and the like. I’ve always known and struggled with the fact that I’m an introvert, and earlier this year as I was preparing to launch my freelance grant-writing business, I took an official Meyers-Briggs test to confirm it. I came out pretty solidly INFJ, and reading through the author’s description in Reading People only reaffirmed it. Ann Bogel’s description of the spectrum of introversion and extroversion also helped me see how my nature is something I can work with, rather than something to hide or feel ashamed of. I was also interested in the chapter on Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) and Highly Sensitive Children (HSCs), something I hadn’t heard of. I saw myself pretty clearly in the HSP camp, and there were several parts of the descriptor for HSCs that struck me as fitting for Sky, too– though I’d say it’s still too early to know for sure, since 2-year-olds in general can be pretty sensitive people. I appreciate how Bogel presents each method using stories and examples from her own life, and then offers resources for learning more. This was an engaging read for a subject that could easily become overwhelming or dull.

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, David Rock

Not sure what it says about my brain right now that this took me FOREVER to read, and that I didn’t quite finish it before it was really overdue at the library. Sigh. Nevertheless, I did glean some strategies for working more efficiently by understanding a teeny bit of neuroscience, and so I’m including it in this list as a worthy read. Returning to work, even the moderate 5 hours a week I’m doing right now, has brought up a lot of old baggage and anxiety for me. I’ve noticed myself struggling with some powerful feelings of unworthiness, even though I know intellectually that my academic training and years of experience in education and writing have prepared me for exactly this kind of work. David Rock’s book helped me look at the triggers that might send me down this anxiety spiral. Like Bogel, he uses stories to illustrate concepts. Each chapter starts with a work scenario that did not go so well, unpacks the neuroscience behind it, then recasts the same scenario using simple, alternative strategies. Some of them will be familiar (take a walk or do the dishes to clear your mind, schedule prioritizing tasks first-thing) and others might surprise you.

The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling, Rachel Gathercole

This is the first book I picked up on homeschooling because it focuses on what is apparently THE question homeschoolers hear from the curious and the skeptical: “Yeah, but how will your kid get any social time?” I’ll place myself firmly in the curious camp, because I know a handful of families who homeschool and what they do seems pretty creative, varied, challenging, and FUN. Nevertheless, I’ve often wondered how homeschooling might impact a child’s social development, because the only experience I know first-hand has been “traditional” public schooling– something that’s really not so traditional at all, as it turns out. This book is somewhat academic in style. It parses out each element of the “socializing” question through definitions, studies, and lengthy excerpts from interviews with homeschooling children and parents. But it’s definitely approachable and readable, and it really challenged my preconceptions about how normal public schooling really is– and if we should use it as a healthy standard when it comes to raising well-adjusted kids.

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching your Kids in the Places They Live, Kathy Lee and Lesli Richards

This book is inspiring and fun to read, with lots of color photos and activity ideas for teaching preschoolers at home. In tandem with the more scholarly style of the book above, it’s getting me pretty excited about planning a homeschool curricula for Sky when she turns three next summer. There’s also a helpful website, The Homegrown Preschooler, with more articles, ideas, and resources for homeschooling the littlest learners.

 

Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend, Kim Frederickson

Another read inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, my friend Sarah’s Beautiful Brave. I wrote a post earlier this year about having trouble finding ANY books on self-compassion in the Christian tradition. At least two other writers must have been thinking the same thing, because two awesome books on the topic came out in 2017: Catherine McNiel’s Long Days of Small Things, and this book. Anyone who’s read Brene Brown’s work on shame understands the importance of recognizing the impact of negative self-talk– and yet the actual practice of working with what Frederickson calls the “inner critic” can be mysterious, even frustrating. I’ve read a lot about self-compassion and I STILL have trouble actually doing the simple mindfulness exercises well-known writers like Kristen Neff and Tara Brach describe. I loved McNiel’s and Frederickson’s books for that reason: they show you how you can practice mindfulness and self-compassion as a mother of small children. I like Frederickson’s no-nonsense style and the simple, doable exercises she describes. Excited to read her parenting-themed sequel, Give Your Kids a Break, next.

I also think I’m going to be ready for a thick stack of novels after this fall’s heavy non-fiction list.

What are your favorite reads from this fall? What novels should I check out as we head into winter?

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Seven series: Food

**This is the first in a series of posts on experimenting with reducing consumption, based on a modified version of Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven. Check out my original post on the challenge for more info.** 

The first two weeks of this challenge coincided with my official start date with a new consulting client, and three big deadlines. So, I didn’t get the chance to enter in daily notes on the challenges. I’ll summarize here.

  • 7 simple meals repeated each week
  • Groceries < $100/wk
  • No eating out
  • Focus on whole foods
  • Make from scratch when possible to reduce packaging
  • Feed others/potluck and share
  • Donate to a food bank

I wanted to use this time to create a repeatable weekly meal plan for our family that would simplify our food expenses and create more time to just be together as a family.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. Monday: Carrot ginger soup, simple green salad, homemade bread.
  2. Tuesday: Rice, grilled or poached chicken, a seasonal vegetable, and a homemade sauce.
  3. Wednesday: Baked sweet potato or squash, steamed greens, and slow-cooker lentils
  4. Thursday: Vegetable barley soup with chicken, homemade bread
  5. Friday: Tortilla night (tacos or burritos), slow-cooker pinto beans, sliced avocado
  6. Saturday: Quinoa, baked frozen fish, seasonal vegetable
  7. Sunday: Homemade pizzas or easy egg dish (fritatta, omelet), green salad

For lunches we had leftovers or sandwiches. For snacks, homemade hummus with veggies, apple slices with nut butter, sliced tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs, granola bars, and yogurt with fruit.

So how did we do in terms of our goals?

7 meals repeated each week: For the most part I really liked this. It definitely took the headache out of meal-planning and prep. I like not having to recreate the wheel every week. I often get meal-plan burnout, which leads to me standing in front of our fridge around 5 o’clock, pulling out random ingredients and trying to fashion them into a meal to feed three tired, hungry people, including one hanging on my leg. Having a set menu takes the guess work out, and makes it easy for Lyle to get dinner started when Sky and I are at story time or the gym in the late afternoon.

Some of the recipes need to be doubled in order to provide leftovers (the carrot soup, tortilla filling). I also think a 5-6 meal menu might be more sustainable for us, with one of the meals doubled and repeated during the week (maybe the squash or vegetable soup, which yielded the most). This is just because LIFE. Sometimes we were too exhausted to prep a new meal. Especially while we’re transitioning to a two-income, two-kid family.

A highlight of this process: meals came together so much more smoothly, so we were all seated at the table at about the same time most nights, with way fewer tears/tantrums. And so we started saying a little prayer before meal times. I know this is probably a no-brainer for a lot of families, but it has been hit-or-miss for ours for a number of reasons. It’s a really short, simple moment in our day but it has meant so much to me, especially during the first weeks of September when there was so much pain in the United States and around the world. It was good to come together as a family and offer up our thanksgiving as well as our fears and love for people facing flooding, fires, and possible deportation. Sky caught right onto it, reaching her hands out for ours, closing her eyes and joining us in saying, “Amen.” Now she says, “Mama, say prayer!” every time we sit down to eat something together, even just a snack, and that makes me tear up a little just thinking about it. Thank you, lord.

Grocery spending: I finally did our budget for last month, and we underspent by $100, which is awesome considering we overspent in other categories like charitable donations, gifts, and ahem, clothing (see next week’s challenge…). We’re on track to stay within budget this month, possibly even a little under. We spent $18 over our $100/week goal, and I think the extra bulk basics we bought at Costco is part of that. But that should even out later as we use what we need and (hopefully!) spend less in subsequent weeks.

No eating out: Weeeelll… there may have been two stress-induced Starbucks runs in the last stretch. I’ve been worried about meeting my first project deadline for my new client, and we have an echocardiogram coming up for a possible hole in our baby’s heart. And then there were hurricanes, massive wildfires, and an earthquake this week. So, I haven’t been sleeping well and there were a few early mornings when I just needed to get us out of the house before preschool, with some small amount of caffeine involved. But these two mama-daughter dates over the mutual treats of a muffin and a decaf latte were really highlights of a sad couple of weeks for us.

Otherwise, Lyle and I ate in for all dinners, and I think he only had one lunch out, which was a big improvement for him. He said he really liked having the home-cooked leftovers for lunch the next day. On our sixth anniversary, we packed a strange little picnic and took it to Chapman school to watch the Vaux’s swifts make their annual spirals into the old brick chimney (obsolete but left intact for the birds.) That was a cheap and memorable date night. I really felt God’s work in us as we walked together to the park in the first rain of the season. Lyle has been working late hours and getting up early with Sky to help me with some of my pregnancy fatigue. He’s been stressed at work, and ordinarily we might have been a lot snappier with each other, more irritable. I might even have felt a little dissatisfied with our haphazard anniversary plans: neither of us had much energy to put into gifts for the other, and we cooked up our picnic plan last-minute.

Instead, we both felt really happy just to be together, and grateful for our family’s health and safety. It’s been a scary couple of weeks, and a difficult year for us personally in terms of losing a pregnancy, dealing with extreme weather, and managing our own businesses on top of two-year-old milestones (potty-training, molars, sleep and separation anxiety). I do feel that even the small changes we’re making around food helped us get centered around a predictable schedule and work together.

Focus on whole foods: Yes! I used my Vitaclay slow-cooker pretty much every day for beans, lentils, or rice, and I have to say, the results are WAY more satisfying than canned or stove top. Wow. And so much easier to just turn it on and walk away. However, the return of morning sickness (why??) threw a serious wrench in the plan toward the end of the second week. Maybe it was stress, or dehydration from several days of being stuck inside due to wildfire smoke. But I just felt grossed out by a lot of food, and not very hungry in general. So that made it challenging to stick to whole foods cooked from scratch. I ended up eating cream of wheat, oatmeal, and smoothies a lot.

1st loaf: cornmeal, whole wheat and all purpose flour

Made from scratch when possible: Oh yeah. I really enjoyed getting back into making some of our basics myself. I made two loaves of no-knead bread, four quarts of plain full-fat yogurt, two batches of granola bars, two jars of peanut butter, and a couple jars of hummus. It was definitely tiring, and I need to keep tweaking some of the recipes. The no-knead bread was super easy and delicious. I want to experiment with some lighter sandwich loaves that do require kneading. The yogurt wasn’t as firm as I remembered. I used to make A LOT of 24-hour yogurt with our Excalibur dehydrator when I was healing from SIBO four years ago, and I remember the yogurt being smoother and thicker. I’m not sure if I need to lower the temp, whisk the starter in better, or do a quicker high-heat ferment. So I’ll play around with that. The peanut butter was so-so. I have a super quiet, gigantic food processor that’s just been taking up space in our cupboard, and it grinds to a pretty fine paste– but not as easily, and not as creamy as the grind-your-own at Winco. Plus, Sky really loves that part of grocery shopping. I’ll have to do a price comparison to see if it’s really worth grinding our own at home. The hummus and granola bars were both easy and good. (For the hummus I just blended 1-2 cups cooked chickpeas, ~1/4 cup tahini, 1 tsp salt, ~1/4 cup olive oil, juice of one lemon, and a mix of paprika, cumin, and coriander, adding water until my very old blender could chop it).

Feed others (potluck and share, donate to a food bank): This was a really fun part of the challenge. We had another family over for fajita night and I couldn’t believe how easy and fun it was. They brought cooked ground beef and grilled veggies, and we provided beans, tortillas, and fixings. It all came together really fast and meant we had plenty of time to play with our kiddos, talk, and even take a walk up to the park together.

I also swapped homemade granola bars with two neighborhood mom friends, which was fun, and got invited to join a freezer meal exchange party– that one felt like providence. We also donated to our local food bank and hope to donate to Houston food banks once they reopen after the massive flooding. And I’m excited to start a monthly women’s dinner group later this month inspired by the IF: Gathering.

2nd loaf: flour dusting, all white whole wheat flour

In general? I’m amazed by how much can shift with just a few simple changes around food in our house. And I had to remind myself several times of the purpose in all this. Not to be super mom, but to connect to the Spirit during the ups and downs of each crazy-making day, through being present with my family, my friends, the world around me. I had to be pretty vigilant with my perfectionism that would rear up as irritability when things weren’t going just as I wanted them to. It’s okay to give Sky some pre-packaged fruit pouches and crackers: it meant getting out and connecting with friends at the playground. It’s okay to have that Starbucks date with Sky: it meant sharing giggles with her and gazing at her happy crumb-smeared face before our mutually-stressful preschool drop-off. Each time, connecting to the deeper purpose meant that God was able to do some good work in us, draw us closer to him, and even connect us to people we needed to meet. I need to remember that.

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What We Did This Summer

First trimester nausea plus a summer heat wave is not my favorite combo. Nonetheless, in spite of feeling pretty lousy all of June and for most of July, when I look back on our summer I’m grateful for what we managed to do together as a family.

Inspired by my friend Callie’s post on summer goals, I made a really hasty summer bucket list poster in June. Whenever we thought of it, Lyle and I tacked on a few post-it notes listing some of the things we wanted to try this summer. Callie’s was muuuuch prettier than mine, because she is something of a sparkly magician in general, but in the throes of morning sickness, this sad little sun was all I could muster.

Here are some highlights:

Camping in Mt Hood National Forest

I guess this is our annual tradition? We camped here last summer mostly because it was the only area with reservations available at the very late hour of May. Most people reserve even tent sites way back in winter for the following summer. Lesson learned? You’d think so, but nope. Didn’t even think about camping until June this year. Fortunately there was still a yurt site available at our “usual” campground.


Vancouver Community Library

This has been on my kid-activity bucket list for a while. A short drive across the Columbia, this library has an entire floor devoted to children’s books, plus a sensory exploration area and a kid-friendly, literacy-oriented technology center. Completely free. We carpooled with my friend and her two-year-old and spent a good two hours there, including a music/story time. Easily could have stayed for another couple of hours, but nap time prevailed.


Jamison Square splash pad

I love this interactive fountain downtown, and wish it was a more regular part of our summertime splash pad rotation. It’s a bit of a trek for us to get downtown, but well worth it for how much it thrills Sky. We met up a few times with my cousin and her kiddos, whom Sky adores, packed lunch and played in the water until we were all tuckered out.

Sandy River

We started bringing Sky here when she was a newborn. At our favorite spot, there’s a trail to the right of the main road that leads to a mellow bend in the river. In the late afternoons there’s shade, and it’s calm enough for little ones to wade in the shallows while rafts of inner-tubers float by with beer, dogs, and boom boxes.

Pickles baseball game

Portland got its first minor league team last summer, and we went to one of the first playoff games this season with friends and family. Sky learned how to shout, “Goooooo Pickles!” and kept repeating it for a full week after the game. She had a blast running up and down the grassy slope in the family seating area with all the other kiddos.

There were also a handful of post-its we never got to. Hiking Shellburg falls outside Salem. A day trip to the Oregon coast. A morning at the zoo with just the three of us. We liked this practice so much, we’re thinking of making a new board for fall. Maybe this could be a seasonal tradition.

What about you? Do you make summer bucket lists? What was on your list this summer?

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Summer Reading with my Toddler

I love our county library system.

Last summer when Sky was one, we participated in the summer reading program. My little reader and I picked up a stack of books every week after story time, took them home, and read them until we had memorized them. Then we traded them the following week for a new stack.

I’m a big fan of relying on the library system to feed my little one’s voracious appetite for books, while keeping a small stash of favorites at home. Her interests change so quickly, and she likes to read a book over and over again until suddenly, she decides she’s had her fill and won’t pick it up again.

We are diligently crossing off boxes on the little summer reading game board, turning it in every two weeks for a prize and eventually that coveted summer reading T-shirt. (Insider tip: toward fall, you can pick one up for 50 cents at the Title Wave bookstore.)

Meanwhile, I’m making it a personal challenge to cross out as many squares as I can on the adult summer reading Bingo board. Just for fun.

Here are our favorite books so far:

Sky, 2 years old

 

The mixed-up truck/ Steven Savage
A cement truck is new on the job, and he keeps mixing up the wrong stuff! In the end, all of the trucks take a bubble bath and go to sleep. The bubble bath was Sky’s favorite part.

One gorilla : a counting book/ Anthony Browne.
Really beautiful illustrations of ALL kinds of primates, finishing with a group shot of a diverse mix of humans– We’re all one family. I was shocked when Sky began naming the species she saw: “That’s a MANdril. Those are baBOONs.” We both learned a lot. Plus, this book is oversized, and she loves “big, big books.”

Piggies/ Don & Audrey Wood.
Do you love King Bidgood and the Napping House? Here are more of those arrestingly odd and sweet illustrations, plus a story about the different sized fingers on our hands, and, if you’re as lucky as we were, an accompanying CD with truly weird songs about the “piggies.” Sky loved this book best of all.

Walter’s wonderful web / Tim Hopgood.
This book teaches shapes through the story of a little spider who try-tried again. It features a repeating narrative– “‘Whoosh!’ went the wind” and  “Walter sighed”– and Sky loved helping to tell those parts of the story. It has also come in handy as the early fall spiders start making their webs across our front door step. Despite my best efforts, Sky is already scared of spiders. I tell her the spider is just like Walter and his wonderful web. It kind of helps.

 

There’s No Such Thing as Little/ LeUyen Pham
Here’s one of those books I would not have guessed would be such a hit– but it was. Easily her first choice book the week we picked this up, every time we sat down to read. This book has sweet circle cutouts that reveal the ways in which something that may appear little– a tree, a fish, a candle flame– can actually turn out to be more meaningful and significant than you think. Just like your little one. (aww…)

Melissa, 30 something 🙂

These are some of my own favorites, along with the adult summer reading Bingo game prompts that inspired them.

Request a recommendation from My Librarian.
Reinventing American health care : how the Affordable Care Act will improve our terribly complex, blatantly unjust, outrageously expensive, grossly inefficient, error prone system / Ezekiel J. Emanuel.
This one took me forever to finish, and I’m more than a little late to the game in reading it, as you can see by the subtitle’s hopeful future tense. I requested suggestions from the library’s (awesome, free, online) My Librarian service. I wanted a few recent titles that would help me understand the appalling state of health care in the U.S., as the current “administration” gets ready to dismantle the few pieces of it that actually function. Next on the list is Elisabeth Rosenthal’s 2017 An American Sickness, but there’s such a lengthy list of holds placed on this one I figured I’d start in the past and work my way (queasily) forward.

Read a book with a single word as its title./Read a book you’ve always wanted to read.
March : a novel / Geraldine Brooks.
Little Women was a favorite for me growing up, and Brooks’ spinoff book, detailing the March girls’ father’s Civil War service, has been on my reading list for years. This was a suspenseful and emotional read. Not for the faint of heart– and ordinarily I’d count myself among that group– it’s more than a little gory in some chapters, but then, it’s a novel set in the Civil War. It’s hard to go back to Alcott’s flowery prose after reading March.

 

 

Read a book with a map on the endpapers.
A midwife’s tale : the life of Martha Ballard, based on her diary, 1785-1812 / Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
This won the Pulitzer in 1991, and it’s a meticulous contextualization of one of the oldest intact diaries we have in the United States– the story of a seemingly tireless woman who delivered over 800 babies in a small Maine town in the 18th century. (!!) I was fascinated by the details of Martha’s day-to-day life. Things that must have seemed so mundane for her– riding sidesaddle to attend midnight births, planting hundreds of beans in her “garden,” pulling candles and weaving flax, administering herbal medicine to her neighbors– filled me with admiration and curiosity. It was interesting to read the terse, factual diary entries that begin each chapter, and then to see how Ulrich, a gifted writer and history scholar, unpacked and set everything into context in terms of familiar U.S. historical events and feminism.

 

Read a biography of someone you admire.
Becoming Maria : love and chaos in the South Bronx / Sonia Manzano.
I happened to catch an NPR interview with Manzano in 2016, just after this memoir was released. Manzano had a 44 year run as Maria on Sesame Street, and in the past six months as I’ve introduced my toddler to the likes of Big Bird and Elmo, let’s just say she has become a very, very familiar face in our house. It was interesting to read about her tumultuous but colorful childhood in the Bronx.

 

 

Read a mystery
Big little lies/ Liane Moriarty.
I’m not sure this technically counts as a mystery, since I had watched the addictive HBO mini-series first, and already knew whodunnit. Still, the book added depth and nuance to the TV version, and it was interesting to see what had been changed/omitted on screen. For instance, the book is set in the author’s native Sydney, Australia– not a fictitious California coastal town as filmed in Big Sur. I read it in less than three days, so make sure you’ve got some downtime available when you pick this up. **Also, trigger warning: both the book and the series contain graphic imagery/language about abuse.**

 

Read a book that teaches you something.
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame/ Janet Lansbury.
Strangely, this book was nowhere to be found in the library catalog, and neither were there any other titles by Lansbury. I picked it up online and hope to buy an additional copy to donate to the library. It has smoothed out so many edges in my days with Sky. Though bringing this level of awareness and intention to my parenting takes more energy, it saves so much time and heartache, for both of us, in the long run.

 

I can’t recommend this enough for any parent of a spirited toddler– and show me a toddler who isn’t spirited.

Certainly not this one. 🙂

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