Saturday, August 22, 2009

Here is what happend this past week

Grandma and Grandpa visited from NC last weekend.

Thomas and dad wouldn't pose or smile for the camera...

Then on Thursday I made berry tarts from scratch --- they were great. And I served them with fresh whipped cream. Here is a link to the recipe.

Today, I went grocery shopping. Bought 41 items - and spent $45. That is just $1.10 per item. There were some items I had to have that weren't on sale - dishwasher soap, bananas, sweet potatoes, frozen veggies, and eggs. If I hadn't of bought these things, my average would have been 95 cents an item. In total I saved $85.

This afternoon I had a blast with Petra and Jasper. We spent about an hour at the park playing and talking with another mom. Then we headed to the mall. At the park Jasper finally decided he really likes the swing. He laughed and laughed.

The only thing frustrating about being outside with Jasper is that he loves to eat dirt! If you are thinking that he looks a little mischievous in the photo below - its because he is.

And Petra decided that today she would go down the slide again. It's been a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

15 of the Best Books for Babies (and young toddlers)

I hinted a few weeks ago that I would write a post soon on Petra's favorite story books. Let me please emphasize I'm talking about story books here, not number, shape or animal books. Here are the top 15 favorite books - starting with those that are great for a baby and ending with books suitable for a young toddler. I strongly feel like these should be in every child's book collection. Petra is just 21 months now and is quickly enjoying books that are more advanced, so I expect this list will be changing rapidly. But Jasper, 10 months, is just beginning to really enjoy some of these baby books.

Good Night Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown - I love this quiet little poem. Its simplicity is endearing and you quickly find that you can recite it from heart. A bedtime favorite, and a book that Petra loved as an infant. Jasper now sits captivated with this book as well.

I Love You Through and Through, by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak - This book expresses all the many ways we love our children. Great for young babies. By 18 months Petra enjoyed acting out all the different pages. This is another book Jasper loves.

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do You Hear?, by Bill Martin, Jr - Add some animal sounds to this book and I promise your child will be delighted. This is probably the main reason Petra could do 4 animal sounds at 10 months old, and can now do a sound for almost any animal you can think of ... plus other strange things we teach her. An absolute great book for every baby! I prefer this book over the popular book Brown Bear by the same author.

Dinasoar Roar!, by Henrietta Strickland - I actually added this book just to round out to 15 all time favorite books. This is one that Petra read a LOT at day care. Sometimes I thought it was the only book they must have had in the 1 year old classroom. But at a very young age, Petra came home "roaring" and I know she enjoyed this one.

Feed Mattisse's Fish, by Julie Appel - Bought as an adoption present by a doting aunt, we started this book with Petra when she was 14 months old. With a catchy opening on each page ... "tick-tock 8'oclock" ... our daughter was tick-tocking by the end of her first reading. And both the children enjoy this book now, not to mention that it features famous artwork and is a touch-and-feel book.

Eight Silly Monkeys, by Steven Haskamp - A favorite for Petra between 12-18 months. She loves "no more monkeys jumping on the bed" and often asked for this book by saying " monkey." It took me a while to realize which monkey book she wanted to read - but it was always this one. Now, she can say "no more monkeys jumping on the bed" which makes it a lot easier for me to understand what she wants.

Where's Spot
, by Eric Hill - The original spot book, and so far our favorite. Looking for Spot can be so much fun.

Who Took My Shoe, by Karen Emigh - Probably better for an older toddler, Petra liked this book starting around 14 months old. In the book a little boy with his dog looks for his shoe by asking "who, what, where, why and how" questions.

Busy Barnyard, by John Schindel - I really liked this book because it was real pictures of animals. But I was a little surprised that Petra didn't take to it earlier. It's considered a baby book, but she was not very interested in it until about 15 months old. At 19 months old she would beg for this book - "barn, barn, barn" she would say until I searched up and down and found it. Her sudden interest stemmed from her sudden interest in verbs. Every page has a different animal with a verb explaining what they are doing. It was around 18 months that she started using words like "barking, swimming, eating," etc, on her own.

Goodnight Gorilla, by Peggy Rathman - I was worried Petra wouldn't enjoy this book due to the lack of words. But the story is told mostly by picture and she found it captivating the very first read.

The Big Red Barn, by Margaret Wise Brown - Another book by Brown that I love. The story again is a mellow poem that captivates the reader.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear - Petra will ask for us to read this book to her over and over. I love the illustrations and the fun story.

I took the Moon for a Walk, by Carolyn Curtis - Having a difficult time finding this book for myself, so instead we keep checking it out from the library. I love the rhymes and illustrations. Again, another book Petra will ask to read several times in a row. A great book for a toddler's bedtime ritual.

Golden Picture Book of Poems - Ok, not a story book per se, but each poem is a story unto itself. We have an ancient book of children's poems (1955) we picked up at a yard sale. At 21 months old, and with a little reptition, Petra now has a one or two favorite poems. She loves to swing, so she has enjoyed the poem "The Swing" the most. While searching online I found this other poem book that is absolutely huge. It's never to early to introduce poetry to your child.

A Visitor for Bear, by Bonnie Becker - My absolute favorite story book at this time. The story is funny, and has a great lesson about hospitality and friendship. I especially love that this book is introducing my child to new words and phrases that I might not use myself - like "insufferable" and "for good measure." It's an absolutely perfect book for toddlers.

I'm not a child expert, or a teacher, but here are some quick tips we use for reading with our children:
  1. Try to require that your child finishes one book before starting the next (not necessarily all at once, if the child wants to stop and play that is fine, but try to finish the book when you come back to reading)
  2. Remember, your child may decide he loves a book after the 3rd read, not necessarily after the first
  3. So if your child doesn't take to a book right away, try it later that day or the next ... it may just be it was the wrong time
  4. Captivate your child for books that you think might be more difficult to finish - for instance I often introduce bigger and longer books to Petra while we are riding around in the car, she has nothing else better to do and nowhere to go - and it usually works.
  5. Encourage imagination and interest by adding noises, sound effects, and different voices whenever possible.
  6. Be sure to ask and talk about things on each page - especially on pages that the child might not find very interesting - its a great time to point and teach your child to point to an object
  7. If there is a page that your child finds too long and tedious - paraphrase for her until she is a little more mature and can sit through all of it
  8. After reading a new book, I always try to go back through the book a second time with our children and just talk about things on each page and not read the story
  9. Read to your child throughout the day - if your child is active try reading first thing in the morning, before and after naps, and before bedtime. But anytime is a good time.
  10. Go to your local library and try a book before you buy it. We have a long list we have tried, and I feel like I am closer to knowing what she likes now. ( I currently have 8 books on my list to try). I have found several popular books with good reviews that I don't like - usually due to the message or incorrect sentence structure.
  11. Check out used bookstores in your area for books - better prices means more books for your child.
  12. Read every day with your children! and be sure to read with each child individually as well.
  13. Gradually read with your child more and more each day - until you reach a goal - my goal with Petra everday is at least 2o books. For Jasper, 3 a day is a good goal for his age and stage of development. Change the goal as necessary as the child grows and develops.
A GREAT place to compare prices for books is

Monday, August 17, 2009

A day at Destin

This past Wednesday we drove to Destin, just for the day. Its a 2.5 hour drive each way, this is about the most we would probably try to drive in one day. The trick for us is to drive as much as possible while the children are asleep. So we headed after lunch during their nap, and came home at bedtime.

Our main focus for the trip was to shop at the outlet stores, have some seafood, and take the children to the beach to see if they like it. (I had a suspicious feeling they wouldn't hit it off with the beach right away b/c last time we put them in a sandbox they both screamed at the top of their lungs)

I enjoyed Destin. There was a lot to like about the place. There was plenty to do, plenty to see, and lots of things I wish we had time for. And the beach there is absolutely gorgeous. I automatically saw the appeal for a family vacation. And to make things better, our friends daughter KC was able to come with us. She was a huge help with Petra and Jasper and made the trip easier for both of us.

I would have loved for Thomas to have spent a day fishing, and we both thought the water park looked like fun. But we didn't have time for all of that.

Instead, we spent the day mainly at the outlets and it rained and rained. I was disappointed with prices and had hoped for better deals. The shopping was not worth the trip.

We headed to a place called Dewey Destin for dinner. I had read some good reviews online. And was quite surprised by its humble buildings. It was literally down a side road, right past abandoned buildings, and was entirely outdoor ... much like eating on a dock. Despite this, I found the atmosphere quaint and you could just tell that this was a local joint. The seafood was good, I really liked the breading. But the fries were bad and the meal was way overpriced. What I really enjoyed about it was that it was a perfect place for the children to actually run around some before dinner, and the fact that it was not crowded (due to the storm). Here are some pictures from dinner.

After dinner we headed to the beach for a quick view and made it just in time for the sunset. The storm had cleared and it was beautiful. I don't think there is anything more beautiful in Florida than the Emerald Coast. The sand is a delicate fine grain white sand and the water is perfect blue/turquoise. As expected, the children both screamed when we set them down. We need to spend some time getting them aquainted with it - next time we will plan to spend more time actually on the beach. Here are some photos from our short beach stop.

All in all we had a great time and want to head back soon, hopefully for more than just a day trip.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Jasper Walking

A few days before Jasper was 10 months old he started walking. Here it is a week later and I finally have a video up for you. As you can tell, he doing a great job. I'm slightly nervous about it because he loves to climb and I know that as soon as he starts walking, he will also be climbing on everything! (oh, and notice the semi-straight hair in the photo above -it seems to be a lot like mine, it depends on how you style it and the weather)

Monday, August 3, 2009

On the Move

I got a few pics and videos of the children playing outside that I wanted to share. I love that they are both mobile and can play.

Jasper is moving quickly. He can crawl at super speed and is really close to walking on his own. He took two tiny little baby steps today by himself. I expect in a week we will have a video up of him walking on his own.

Petra is becoming interested in baby dolls. She has named her babydoll "Jasper" and carries her around, rocks her, pretends to feed her, straps her down in the high chair, sings to her, dances with her, sits her on the potty, etc. Its been really great to watch. I would say the doll is her favorite toy these days and it actually will keep her entertained and happy at least for a few minutes. This is her playing "Ring around the Roses" with her.