Thursday, July 26, 2012

what we're reading now...july 15 (a belated post)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Inch by Inch.  For some reason, I had the idea that all of the Leo Lionni books were rather lengthy.  I only owned An Extraordinary Egg before Baby A was born, and I knew it would be years before he'd be able to enjoy it.  I could not have been more wrong, and I could not be more in love with the simple titles I have lately discovered.  Inch by Inch is rapidly becoming a new favorite.

Little Gorilla.  I had my eye on this little board book for months before finally succumbing to its 1970's charm.  It's incredibly simple, just a story about a beloved baby gorilla and the jungle animals that watch him grow up.  It felt appropriate, considering Baby A's momentous first birthday was July 5 (tear).

Boy + Bot.  I found this at our local bookstore a few months ago and snatched it up for A's first birthday.  Its greatest features are the illustrations, which are brightly colored but almost vintage in style.  A doesn't appreciate the electronic voice effects SH and I both use for the bot, but some day he'll find them quite humorous.

What Pet to Get?  Like last month's The Cow Who Clucked, this is a book that I might not have paid much attention to had A not yanked it from the shelf.  Yes, he has now taken to joyfully pulling piles of books off the shelves.  It's become a daily morning activity, and when his dad comes in to take over, he'll find A wedged in the space between our reading chair and the bookshelf, the floor covered with books.  As I was haphazardly replacing the books in a spare moment, What Pet to Get? caught my eye.  We've been reading it ever since.  The illustrations are bright and oversized, the pages a pleasing, slick texture, and the story of a boy who has a more "exotic" taste in animals adorable.

The Odd Egg.  My love affair with Emily Gravett continues.  This particular book is probably more notable for its illustrations than the story, which is merely the progression of an assortment of birds waiting for their eggs to hatch.  I'm sure Baby A will howl with glee at the surprise ending when he's a bit older.  For now, I think he enjoys the "flipboard" effect of the pages as each egg hatches.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

traveling with baby: after

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I will begin with the most important part of this post: WE SURVIVED!  And then shall move to an apology for only just now writing about it.  For all I know, one of my two loyal readers could very well be eagerly anticipating my traveling-with-an-infant advice!

As I am now constantly pressed for time, I thought I might create a recap of sorts with bullet points, rather than attempt to write long, witty paragraphs.  Not that I'm really that witty, anyway.

what worked for us:

  • timing the flight for maximum baby sleep time.  A slept like a CHAMP on both of the long transatlantic flights.  He woke up and nursed a few times, as he STILL does at home, but essentially kept to his normal night sleep.  We selected late afternoon departure times, and we only spent an hour or two playing and eating before he was ready for bed.  I think that for the most part, babies that are around A's age just know when it's time to sleep.  Even though we had to deal with horrible jet lag on our return, I am still glad that A slept on our flight home.  Side note: this is not rocket science, but we made sure to recreate our bedtime routine as well as we could: bath (in this case, a cool washcloth), book, boob (I apologize, sensitive readers!  I had to keep with the alliteration theme!).  We also changed him into pajamas.  
  • Ergo carrier in the airport.  I didn't think twice about bringing my carrier, but am now incredibly glad I did.  I was able to carry A this way through security, and it made traversing through various terminals so easy.  
  • new books.  These were by far the most successful items in what I like to call my "bag of fun," which I ruthlessly safeguarded and constantly reminded my SH not to disturb without my express permission.  I divided all the new items up into three separate groups, one for each new flight-heaven forbid there be any intermingling!  Two books that were particularly successful were Karen Katz's Baby Loves Spring and Dr. Seuss's All Aboard the Circus McGurkus, both of which were spur-of-the-moment purchases at our local used bookstore.  I'm not the biggest fan of the Katz lift-the-flap books, but Baby A was all over the $2 copy I found. 
  • stuffing the car seat bag with extra items you can no longer fit into your giant suitcase.  My dear sister-in-law shared this tip with me, for which I shall be forever grateful (though you would think I might have been able to figure it out).  Because A is already in a big convertible car seat, we purchased a bag to enclose it and then checked it for all our flights.  There is lots of room in the space where a wee one normally goes, and I filled it to the brim.  Car seats are checked for free, so no one blinked an eye when SH lugged the bag onto the counter.  *Note: Packing light is always your best option, but because we were traveling abroad with lots of uncertainties awaiting us, I felt better being as prepared as I could possibly be.  
  • small canvas bag with a few toys and books for the car.  I used the aforementioned car seat bag to store this item, and while not necessary for every trip, I have to say that it was SO nice to have a few familiar car toys to hand to Baby A when we embarked upon a three-hour drive as soon as we landed.  We've gone through a brutal phase of car seat rebellion at home, and since then I've always made sure to have two or three special, car-only toys that I can count on to appease A.  Our favorite is this Leapfrog phone, which we have had for MONTHS now and still retains its charm. 

what we didn't need:
  • miscellaneous inexpensive toys.  I raided the Target $ bin before the trip thinking it was a great place to snag things that might keep A's interest for a short while but wouldn't be devastating to lose.  As it turned out, he was absorbed mostly by his books when he wasn't sleeping or jumping up and down on my lap, trying to touch the hair of the person sitting in front of me.  I think it's still a good idea, but just didn't seem necessary during our experience.  While we were actually on vacation, A mostly played with the items I'd brought from home that were completely familiar.  
  • 500 blankets.  Even though we traveled to a cooler locale, I would have been fine with just one or two.  They take up too much space  (even in the car seat bag) and proved to be a hassle in the airport, when A threw them down to the floor repeatedly.  
for next time:
  • more food.  I rationed my baby food pouches fairly well, but by the end of the trip, we had to supplement with local baby food.  This turned out to be okay for the most part, but A definitely didn't eat with as much enthusiasm as he does at home.  I think for a big trip, it is a great thing if you're able to have access to what is most familiar to your baby.  If we had been in the U.S., the problem wold have been easy to rectify.  It didn't turn out to be a huge deal, and now that we're plowing through all kinds of new dishes (clam chowder! refried beans! crunchy kale and coconut bowl!)  it wouldn't hardly matter at all, but I'll remember for future babies.  
  • pack the medical stuff!  Fortunately, baby A was completely healthy for the vast majority of the trip.  He picked up a tiny cold (while I developed a monstrous one) at the end of the trip, and while his nose was running only slightly, it was enough to send panicky waves through me when I realized I had forgotten the nasal aspirator and saline drops.  Even if you never use them, it's a good idea to have a small bag containing those items, along with baby tylenol.  Again, not something that would have been an issue if we had been local, but still helpful.  And comforting. 

All in all, our trip was a marvelous success. A was a complete and utter gem the entire time, even though he faced daunting crowds of unfamiliar people and had to endure two rounds of jet lag.  While we probably won't be planning international travel any time soon, it was a good experience, and proved to us that our baby (and most babies) are much more resilient than we give them credit for.

crunchy kale and coconut bowl

I am horrified to realize that the last time I posted a recipe was back in JANUARY.  Lest you think we've been eating take-out and beans and rice all this time, I can assure you that despite my pitiful time management skills, I have indeed continued to provide a home-cooked meal almost every night and have even tried out a few new recipes along the way.

One of these is destined to become a new favorite (for me, at least-SH hasn't been fortunate enough to try it yet): crunchy kale and coconut bowl, courtesy of Joy the Baker.  Joy's blog is one of the most widely known and beloved foodie blogs, inevitably appearing in the reader feed of all the other biggies.  Because her focus is baking, I didn't spend a lot of time perusing the blog.  I happened to click over one day to land on this unbelievably unique and delicious recipe, and presto, Joy was added to my list of daily foodie reads.  I immediately bought her new cookbook, prepared this dish, and I haven't looked back.

Obviously, I get huge points for my love affair with kale, easily the most popular current "super food."  I had roasted it several times before, and it's almost addictive. The combination of large toasted shards of coconuts and Asian dressing, while unusual, pushes it completely over the edge to another realm of tasty.

Note: I was thrilled to have the opportunity to cook farro, which I had never tried before, but Joy says that brown rice would work just as well.  As per one of the comments on her original post, I think I'm going to add chickpeas next time.  I love them almost as much as I love doughnuts.

Happy cooking!

Friday, July 13, 2012

what we're reading now...june

Friday, July 13, 2012
I deleted my partially written introduction, mostly because I wrote it oh, a MONTH ago.  That's about par with my blog style, correct?  Instead, I will just cheerfully present our favorites from the whole month of June, no introduction necessary.

Green.  I had the good fortune to go on a lunch date with our dear librarian friend recently, and we made a trip to our local children's bookstore (it's truly wonderful, and I feel incredibly lucky to live in such close proximity).  She lit upon this book immediately, which is a good thing, because I certainly never would have picked it up.  It's a stunning concept book, each page a depiction of the various shades of green throughout the world.  My favorite is "sea green," showcasing a giant sea turtle drifting through blueish-green water, though "shaded green," a gorgeous portrait of a boy sitting under a tree with a book, is a close second.  There are few words in the book, but it provides a great opportunity for talking to your child about what they see on each page.

Pouch.  Another gift from our dear friend, Pouch is the story of a shy joey, who wants to explore the world, but isn't quite comfortable being too many hops away from his mama.  I'm pretty sure Baby A can relate.  We have the board book version, which somehow makes the story even more endearing, probably because Baby A can more easily actively participate in the reading.


The Quiet Book.  For the record, this book didn't capture Baby A's attention the way it did mine, though I'm sure some day he will admire the illustrations.  I can feel my entire body relaxing and my heart warming as I read the incredibly poignant and thoughtful pages.  There is a companion book, The Loud Book, but I think that I'll stick with this one, reading things like "best friends don't have to talk quiet" and "first look at your new haircut quiet."

The Cow Who Clucked.  This was a book fair purchase that I never paid much attention to until one day when Baby A plucked it off the shelf.  About a cow who has lost her moo, who sets off on a day-long journey encountering not just the typical farm animal but also a bee, snake, and squirrel, it's another great example of how even very young children are captivated by patterns and predictable text. Baby A doesn't often sit still through other books of this length, but he seems to thoroughly enjoy hearing the animal sounds and gazing upon the splashy illustrations.

Old Bear.  Words cannot express how much I love this dear book.  That Kevin Henkes is a man of many talents.  To think that the mind behind such characters as Lilly and Chrysanthemum (side note: does anyone besides me remember how to spell "chrysanthemum" as a direct result of watching Anne of Green Gables 100's of times?) could create such an appealing vision of the seasons, as seen through the eyes of an old bear dreaming he was young's a wonder.

And now for the titles that Baby A and I indulged in during our late-night reading hours, both trying to recover from SERIOUSLY TERRIBLE jet lag after our European adventure (post-travel post soon to come!)

Swimmy.  Our dear librarian friend came through once more by initiating Baby A's Leo Lionni collection with this especially adorable book.  She knows that we've taken several trips already to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Baby A has loved these trips from the very beginning, and seems to take it in more there than at the zoo), and felt it would be appropriate.  I love the sparse, only faintly colored illustrations and am especially enamored of the description of brave Swimmy as "black as a mussel shell."

Tikki Tikki Tembo.  Funnily enough, Baby A has never once wriggled out of my lap during a reading of this classic tale, which even a four- or five-year old might not tolerate. I partially attribute this to my feet tapping and knee raising to the beat of Tikki Tikki Tembo's monstrously long name, but perhaps also to the simple, blue-toned illustrations and the relatively quick way I read the text.  It's one of those books that I vividly remember from childhood (in fact, one of my lifelong friends is visiting this weekend, and if she reads this post she will be sure to chant out the beloved moniker wistfully) and probably contributed to my fearful fascination with wells.  I'm sure that Baby A will love it for many years to come.

Blue Chameleon. I'd only seen a few Emily Gravett titles before I happened to pick this one up at the library, and I hadn't quite caught the spark yet.  I'll admit to being inordinately drawn to flash and bold color.  Having a baby of my own has inspired me to make the effort to appreciate books that are slightly more subtle, but often just as wonderful, and perhaps more so, than a Llama Llama or even a Seuss.  Blue Chameleon is a perfect example of such a treasure.  Calm, sweet, and simple, it's a great choice for young children, both for teaching about colors but also to talk about the feeling of loneliness and the longing for friendship.  (In case you're wondering, Baby A and I do NOT have deep conversations about such topics...YET).

The Three Bears.  I have already gone on about my newfound appreciation for the Paul Galdone  classics.  Though I love the humorous turn that emerges in modern-day versions, particularly for its appeal to the adults reading the story, the extremely traditional Galdone approach seems especially appropriate for very young children.  They aren't going to get the humor anyway, and even at Baby A's tender age, I think there is a vague comprehension that comes with the methodical, orderly "The porridge was neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right," semantics.  It's on the long side, I'll warn you-if I didn't use it as a pre-nap read, I am not sure we'd get through it every time.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  Yes, I know I've written about this one before, but considering how often we've read it in the past two weeks, I felt it would be pure dishonesty not to include it in our June list.  Even though its monumental length will probably be grating in a few years, I find it extremely satisfying to read it in a rhythmic, quick pace.  Weirdly enough, it seems to soothe Baby A, and is the perfect final book just before a nap.  Sort of like a glass of warm milk.