Thursday, July 31, 2014

Books About Getting a New Sibling

I've been realizing lately that my two year old is really open to the power of suggestion. For example, this morning we were watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and Daniel had to learn that he needed mittens and a hat to play out in the snow. A couple of hours later, she pulled her mittens and a winter hat out of her drawer, put them on and announced, "Snowing!" and then headed to the door and said, "Outside?" (Unfortunately she got her signals crossed on this one. She was supposed to be learning to dress appropriately for the weather. The message she got was that wearing mittens means you get to play in the snow. Even if it's been 100 degrees outside all week.)

With this in mind, I've been trying to prep her for some of the changes coming up in her life by getting books about the things we're going to be experiencing. For a month now we've been reading about Elmo's magical transition to a big boy bed in Big Enough for a Bed, and she now knows that Elmo picked out sheets with stripes, and she picked out sheets with horsies. The transition has been magical so far, so I think talking it up was helpful!

The biggest change we're about to experience is of course the arrival of baby sister, so I've been collecting books about that for the next couple of months as well. (She's getting two for her birthday, in fact.) Here are a few that I really love.

Books About Becoming an Older Sibling

A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban. Frances has long been one of my favorite characters, but I didn't discover this particular book until I was an adult. (We actually found it at a used book store and I jumped on it.) It's a bit above my two year old (mostly because it's a bit long) but for older kids it's so delightful, because it focuses almost completely on the older sibling, not on the baby. Frances is bugged that the baby is getting attention, so she decides to run away - ending up under the kitchen table. Her parents talk loudly about how much they miss about her, and how sad they are that her little sister won't have such a great big sister around, and it's just hilarious. (Luckily her chocolate sandwich cookie supply gives out before too long.)

I'm a Big Sister by Joanna Cole. (For the record, there is also an I'm a Big Brother and an I'm a Big Sister (Spanish Edition.) This book is pretty straightforward, but it's more up my two year old's alley with it's sweet pictures and short text. The pictures are so cute, and it's very simple stuff about how the little girl can help with the baby (if she asks Mommy), how she is still so special to Mommy and Daddy, and how being a big sister is one more way that she is special. Plus it mentions the benefits of being older, like being able to play at the park and eat pizza, which I think is a nice reminder to older siblings who lose some of the attention they were getting before.

The Berenstain Bears' New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain. I just love the Berenstain Bears. CB is mostly into their shorter books right now (Spooky Old Tree, C is for Clown, Bears on Wheels etc.) but I think this one is nicely in between those and the longer stories. It's quite cute, focusing on Brother Bear getting a big bed because he's outgrown his baby bed, and while he and Papa are making the bed and talking about what will happen to his old bed, Mama goes ahead and has a baby.

The New Baby by Mercer Mayer. Because who doesn't love Little Critter?

Best Ever Big Sister by Karen Katz. (And of course there's also Best Ever Big Brother, for fairness.) Karen Katz is always a hit with CB. Something about those big colorful babies in her books is just so appealing, and lift the flap is always a hit with the toddler crowd. Our copy of Where is Baby's Belly Button is totally trashed because she loves it so much, and this one is also adorable (and there also appears to be a couple of different versions for personalizing - I'm for sure seeing an African-American version of the big brother book along with the little blonde kid edition, so that's fun.)

There are so many books on this topic, and I think we'll be going to the library to find a few more in the coming months. We'd love to hear your suggestions!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Last Time

As an employee of Clark County School District, my husband receives fun little perks now and again. One of those perks happens to be free admission for him and a guest on the first weekend of every month to Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef. Because we A) enjoy getting out of the house and B) enjoy free entertainment, we have spent many weekends in the past few years visiting the aquarium with our little family. At 20$ per ticket for admission for children five years and older, it would be difficult to justify so frequent an outing, so we took advantage of the opportunity, noting every so often that when our oldest child turned five, we wouldn't be able to go as a family anymore.

My oldest child turns five at the end of the month.

 16 month old Hannah on her first trip to Shark Reef

When I realized that we were going to be taking our last weekend trip to Shark Reef as a family, my heart broke a little. We are entering into a new phase of life in our family. Sure, my husband will still be able to take our kids by himself, but things are shifting. Hannah will be heading off to kindergarten, Paige is starting preschool, and Sam adds a whole new dynamic to our family. Our family of three too quickly became a family of five, and I feel that I can't blink because I'm in danger of missing something vital. 

Five year old Hannah at the same spot

With my kids growing at an alarmingly rapid rate, I find myself feeling nostalgic for the difficult, but simple stage of infancy and toddlerhood. Now that I'm facing school, sports and music lessons, drop off play dates, and generally letting go, I'm thinking of the days where my most important obligation was story time at the library, or a picnic at the park. 

This poem keeps coming to mind:

"Babies Don’t Keep"

By Ruth Hulburt Hamilton 
Mother, O Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing, make up the bed,
Sew on a button and butter the bread.

Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown as shiftless as Little Boy Blue,
Lullabye, rockabye, lullabye loo.
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo

The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo
Look! Aren’t his eyes the most wonderful hue?
Lullabye, rockaby lullabye loo.

The cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow
But children grow up as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs; Dust go to sleep!
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

I'll admit, there are times when I've let distractions take me away from enjoying my babies, and that's okay. It's impossible to sponge up every precious moment and bottle it, and life needs to be taken care of. I don't have regrets. It doesn't mean that it isn't going to be painful to watch my daughter walk into her kindergarten classroom, and I'll still hate when my preschooler stops saying "tootie" and corrects herself, calling it a "cookie." Growth and change are painful, but still incredible. It's a beautiful ache.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Pit of Despair

Disclaimer:  I'm about to talk about deodorant and body odor and armpits.  If that grosses you out, please do not feel obligated to continue.  Honestly, it kind of grosses me out and they are my armpits so I empathize.  

So here's a thing. Apparently, I'm allergic to deodorant. I have been deodorant free for the last four months.  Some of you may realize that means, during the hottest, sweatiest months of the year, I have lived on the edge of feeling fresh and smelling disgusting.  Luckily, in those four months, I have only smelled twice (and that was after prolonged physical activity so it was to be expected).  That's not too shabby and overall, my experience sans deodorant has been positive.

Without going into too much detail, in March I  had an allergic reaction to my regular deodorant.  It wasn't the first time, but it was definitely the worst and longest lasting.  Generally, switching brands works and I move on.  This time, I switched brands and had another reaction.  After a visit to my doctor (mostly to figure out how to deal with my incredibly uncomfortable, itchy armpits), and after spending a boatload of money on deodorant, I was left with six sticks of deodorant, one bottle of Benedryl Gel (my new BFF), and the assumption that I must be allergic to the aluminum in regular deodorant.

Now I'm wishing this post from A Cup of Jo existed four months ago, because I spent 20 minutes in the deodorant aisle guessing what to buy and ended up with Tom's of Maine (unscented) and Crystal Body.  The Tom's didn't work (and caused a smaller, less irritating reaction, but a reaction all the same) and I was too nervous to even try the Crystal Body because I just wanted to not have itchy armpits anymore.  Also, once the reaction was finally and completely gone, I had zero problems with under arm odor and actually felt like I was sweating less.  It's hard to see the need for deodorant again.  The trick seems to be showering daily (which was already happening) and shaving every other day (also, already happening).  I occasionally use an essential oil (Lavender, Melalueca, or Purify from DoTerra) when I feel less than fresh, but that hasn't really happened.  I've spent days in the sun, walking around outside sight seeing, or just standing outside in the gross, humid, Maryland summer heat without any issues.  It's actually quite freeing, and it's less money spent.  Win win.

I know this would not work for everyone.  I know some people sweat a lot more or have to deal with body odor issues for various reasons.  But, for now, this is working for me and I'm kind of amazed. 

I'm curious if any of you have had similar problems or just choose to go deodorant free?  Is there a natural product you prefer? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reasons for a Winter Wedding

If I get married, I think I’ll have to be sure it’s in winter. (FYI, this is not happening anytime soon that I’m aware of, folks, so stop your girly squealing.)

     A. I love my friends, and I love supporting them as they mark important chapters in their lives.
     B. I also like having a summer where I get to do what I want to do when I want to do it (i.e. have a weekend at home doing laundry, cleaning, and wearing pajamas for 2 days in a row).
     C. Sometimes A. gets in the way of B.

It is wedding season folks. That’s right, the time of year when you don’t say “no” to anyone with a rock on their left ring finger because you know (or at least hope) that this is the only time they will be getting married, and they’re already stressed enough, and it is a big deal, and you darn well better be there to support them (and also because you want to be there to support them).

Remember my post about hating winter? I’m starting to reconsider. Not because of the freezing temperatures. Nothing will make me love those. But maybe having a reason to celebrate (after the holiday rush) would make me hate winter just a little less. (But only a little.)

And so I give you, in no particular order, my reasons for considering winter an ideal-ish wedding season:

  • As mentioned above, winter kind of sucks. Any reason to feel more upbeat in winter is welcome--so get hitched, and have a reason to celebrate! 
  • Winter weddings are far less common. After the last 10 years of having tons of summer weddings, I’m thinking our friends and family deserve a break from highly scheduled summer travel and gift-buying.  I feel the stress of saying “whose wedding are we going to next weekend?” and “wait, what did we get them again?” and “how do they expect me not to sweat through my clothing if it is an outdoor ceremony in JULY?”
  • An excuse to have a honeymoon (and subsequent anniversary) getaway(s) to somewhere warm? Um, that would be amazeballs. 
  • Off-season pricing for wedding venues--how many golf courses are charging full price in January? The same is true of gowns, right? When do new “seasons” come out for bridal gown designs? You’re bound to get a deal. 
  • Snow is reflective. Your photographer won’t even need those silver shiny disc things to get great pictures--the snow will do it for them!
  • Humidity be gone! Curls stay better, deodorant works better, and can we say sweat? Sweet! 
  • If someone passes out at the wedding, it’s not from the heat; it’s from their beverage choices, and you can kind of control what’s available to prevent that from happening. The heat, however, is not something that can be controlled. 
  • No need to worry about tan lines for your dress. You can go pale, because winter is the season of paleness. (For me, however, that season is all year ‘round.) Or you can just toss on a sweater or shawl over your shoulders. 
  • Permission to hibernate after the wedding. Winter = plenty of snuggle time with you and your new contractually-bonded partner. 

When do you think is the ideal time for wedding celebrations?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TBT: What do we inherit without knowing?

This past father’s day my siblings and I went together to get my dad a gift. Since I was able to get free shipping, I put the order together and each of my siblings paid me. None of this is earth shattering or new, or even interesting, until I opened a letter with a check from one of my brothers. Oftentimes you think about inheriting physical features from your parents: height, hair color, distinctive facial features, even your voice or vocal inflection.  When I opened that letter I realized that my brother’s handwriting is almost exactly like my dad’s, from the curl of the “C” to the combined swoop of the “St.” We tend to communicate through email, phone, or other family members, so I rarely see this brother’s handwriting. It was a nice reminder that not only do we get the physical features of our parents, but we also carry with us, for the rest of our lives, what they teach us growing up. They help shape us unto the people we are continuing to grow into, and that's a good thing.