Learning As We Go

I’m someone who’s been reading about child development since I was a child. I’ve always been interested in the subject intellectually , and knew I wanted to be a parent. I believe in preparing. When I found out I was having Bitsy, I started seriously researching the best baby products right away. My husband and I spent two weekends in Birthing From Within classes (a class and book that I highly recommend–It helped me advocate for the kind of birth I wanted, while also accepting that the birth didn’t happen according to my plan). I believe in doing all of these things, while also accepting that as parents, there’s so much that we learn by doing.

When I created my baby registries, I did not include a shopping cart cover. It just seemed so unnecessary. I’m not fussy about germs and public spaces. I thought I was too smart and cool to fall for the marketing of another new purported necessity. My child could handle sitting in the shopping cart like all the children of yesteryear. My child need not be afraid of the world.

That was before I had a wiggly toddler. 

A scary experience I had today showed me how wrong I was. I was grocery shopping with Bitsy today. She loves shopping with her Mama, looking around at all the colors, the people, the stuff on the shelves that must seem so amazing to someone for whom everything is so brand new. I was walking along, happy to find really great items in the clearance section, sales on items we needed, rebates on Ibotta, and beautiful fresh flowers to take home and arrange. I talked to Bitsy about everything we saw, and narrated what I was doing. All was well.

Then we approached the checkout line. She’s been a bit wiggly in the baby seat of the shopping cart, but I’d watched her and turned her back around when she twisted to look in the direction we were going. Just as we were getting in line, she got very fussy. I unbuckled the seat belt and tried to lift her, but somehow she had gotten her leg stuck between the bars of the cart. I tried but couldn’t get her leg out of there. She got scared and cried louder. I got scared, too. I told myself, okay if her leg would fit in here, we must be able to get it out, right? Some ladies saw our predicament and came over and tried to help. I started to freak out. What if her leg gets broken?! What if she loses her leg?! I had tried to keep calm for my daughter, but now I was crying. There were some paramedics in the store, and one of them came over to help. He had a little trouble at first, but finally we got her positioned just right, and he was able to carefully slide her leg out of there. I was so happy to have her out of the cart and hold her close. It all happened in a matter of minutes, but those minutes of fear and pain felt so long.

Bitsy fell asleep in the car, and I carried her safely on me in the ErgoBaby at the next store. When I got home from my errands today, I shopped online for a shopping cart cover. Those who know our love for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and all things Eric Carle, will not be surprised at how happy I was to find this wonderful Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet shopping cart cover. I was even happier when I saw that it is 20% off on Amazon today! I ordered it, and with my 2-day Amazon Prime free shipping, it will be here before we need to go shopping again! I’m so relieved.

cart cover

As we raise children, parents will find over and over again that we were wrong about some of our ideas and expectations. We have to be willing to learn. We also can’t let it hurt our egos. It doesn’t bother me that I learned I really need a product that I thought was a little silly and fussy not so long ago. We don’t know it all, and that doesn’t make us bad parents. I’m just glad that everything turned out okay today, and that there’s an easy solution to prevent it happening again. As a mama, I’m going to keep reading child development literature, keep preparing, but remain flexible enough to keep learning as I go.

This post contains affiliate links. 

Something We Read: Little Owl’s Colors by Divya Srinivasan

A few weeks ago, I told you I included two books to read to Bitsy in my hospital bag when she was born. The first book read to her was Home For a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. This week I’ll tell you about the second book she read, which we read several times this week: Little Owl’s Colors by Divya Srinivasan.

Little Owl's Colors

This book was a baby shower gift from my Amazon baby registry I like that it uses nature to teach colors–a gray raccoon, blue pond, purple flowers, a red cardinal eating red berries.

Little Owl’s Colors was the first book we read by Divya Srinivasan. We have one other–Little Owl’s 1-2-3. She is both author and illustrator of the books in the Little Owl series, of which there are three more– Little Owl’s Night , Little Owl’s Day , and the upcoming Little Owl’s Snow –as well as Octopus Alone, a book about a shy octopus who learns to balance playing alone with playing with friends. I plan to complete Bitsy’s collection of Little Owl books.

I was so happy to find out that a new book (Little Owl’s Snow) is coming out in time for Christmas, because I love Divya Srinivasan’s illustration style. In addition to the books she wrote and illustrated, she has done art and animation for This American LifeNew Yorker, Weird Al, and others. She illustrated perhaps the most visually-appealing book I’ve seen recently: Neil Gaiman’s Cinnamon.

 

See her portfolio here. I’ll be on the lookout for more work from her.

Some of the links in this post are for items and/or services on Amazon. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Something We Ate: Baby’s First Tofu

 

This week, instead of making up my own recipe or finding something new and altering it to suit my purposes, I went for an old standby. I was a lacto vegetarian for years before I married my enthusiastically-carnivorous husband. I just found it easier, since I shop for our groceries, cook for us, and we eat together, to eat the same things he was eating. Plus, I’ve developed a taste for meat, so I’ll have to push myself to make the sacrifice if I decide to give it up again. In the meantime, I do like to find meatless meals we can enjoy so we’re not eating quite so much meat.

In my vegetarian days, I regularly turned to Isa Chandra Moskowitz for her great variety of delicious vegan recipes. One of my favorites was (and still is) her Orange Ginger Baked Tofu. Now that Bitsy is old enough for tofu, I was excited to make it for her. This dish has a subtle sweetness I knew she would enjoy, and I thought the texture would be one she’d chew well and enjoy feeding herself.

We’ve been very fortunate that Bitsy has shown no signs of food allergies thus far. Parents. com and Live Strong recommend tofu as a good food for babies around 8 months and older, as long as they aren’t allergic to soy. Ask your pediatrician whether your baby is ready for tofu.

I enjoy making this dish almost as much as I enjoy making it, because the marinade ingredients are so fragrant. It’s also pretty quick and easy. The tofu only needs to marinate for a few minutes. If you’re out of fresh ginger or garlic, it’s okay to use dried.

I baked the tofu in strips, then cut Bitsy’s portion into small, bite-sized squares before serving it to her. I was so happy to see her enjoy it, and eagerly pick up more and more pieces to feed herself. Even my tofu-adverse husband had to admit it was delicious, though he did say the sauce would be even better on chicken. I’ll keep making this for Bitsy, and try some other tofu recipes for her. I may try to keep up having meatless lunches for Bitsy and me, and save meat for dinner time.

 

 

Something We Read: Baby Faces Books

babyfaces books.jpg

This post contains links to Amazon listings for products discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Now that Bitsy can walk and bring me books to read to her, I’m really enjoying seeing which ones capture her interest–the ones she wants to read over and over again. Babies love looking at pictures of other babies, and lately Bitsy has been bringing me her books with photos of babies quite often. These are very appropriate books for her at this stage. It can be hard for a new walker to be still and focus for a long time, but these books are short and sweet, and the babies’ faces capture her attention. I love seeing her react to the babies’ different facial expressions.

The two we’ve been reading a lot this week are Goodnight, Baby by Rourke Board Books ,and Hugs & Kisses by Roberta Grobel Intrater from the Scholastic Babyfaces seriesHugs & Kisses features real parents and babies showing affection. I like to read her this one we snuggle at nap time, night time, or when we wake up in the morning.

Goodnight, Baby is one we borrowed from the library that will be hard to return because she has gotten pretty attached to it. I may have to order a copy, which we often do when she loves a library book this much. Fortunately, there are used bilingual English/Spanish editions editions available on Amazon for under $6.

The pictures and text in Goodnight, Baby are adorable and sweet. It’s perfect for helping a baby or toddler settle down for the night. I let my voice get softer as I read each page, and this seems to be very soothing for Bitsy. My only complaint is that in two places, the book ends sentences with prepositions. I’m just picky about stuff like that, but Bitsy and I enjoy this book so much, I’ll have to let it slide. I just correct it as I read, saying “Put away your toys,” in place of “Put your toys away.” I’m nerdy. My husband calls me Diane Chambers.

Bitsy also loves seeing babies’ faces in her favorite Youtube video. It’s video of the Suzuki Songbook 1 for violin, with toys, animals, and children smiling & playing. Bitsy is very interested in music, and we enjoy this video together almost every day. She smiles back at the babies, and laughs, claps, and points when she sees the toys and animals she likes best. Give it a try with your little one here:

 

 

Something We Ate: Short and Sweet Skillet Cake

short and sweet skillet cake

Steel Magnolias is now on Netflix, which means it has been and will continue to be watched in this house. Of course, I already have so many of the lines memorized, but can’t get tired of hearing them delivered by that wonderful cast and looking at those glorious ’80s hairdos.

shelby and truvy

So when I was thinking up a spur-of-the moment dessert while preparing dinner one night this week, I must have been inspired by the easy recipe Truvy (Dolly Parton) shares with the ladies while styling Shelby’s (Julia Roberts) before her wedding. Her Cuppa Cuppa Cuppa is so easy you don’t have to write it down– a cuppa flour, a cuppa sugar, and a cuppa fruit cocktail with the juice. Bake until the crust is brown and the fruit gets bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream to cut the sweetness! 

What I did the other night was slightly different, but almost as easy. It did involve some very minor prep work, since I used fresh fruit–didn’t have a can of fruit cocktail in the house. I baked it in my Lodge 8″ cast iron skillet. You may need to increase the amounts just slightly if using anything larger. I greased the skillet with just a little bit of butter, but you can choose to use oil instead, which would make this a nice vegan dessert!

This recipe can easily be made with whatever fruit you like. I used what I happened to have at the time (blackberries, grapes, plums, and pears), and it turned out so very juicy and delicious.

Here, at last is the recipe:

Short and Sweet Skillet Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2- 2 cups of fresh fruit, chopped
  • Orange wedge, for juicing (about 1/2 tsp of juice)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • dab of oil or butter to grease skillet

Directions

  • Combine chopped fruit in medium to large bowl
  • Squeeze juice from orange wedge onto fruit
  • Pour all of the sugar and cinnamon onto fruit and stir
  • Let sit in refrigerator for about an hour, until fruit is very juicy
  • Add flour to fruit mixture and stir until mixture is evenly combined
  • Bake in 350F oven 45 minutes to 1 hour, until fruit is bubbly, and crust is browned. Cake texture will be a little fluffy and a little gooey. The fruit is the star of this show!

Enjoy for dessert and if you have any left over, it also makes a great breakfast!

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for a product discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. 

Something We Read: Family Storytime With Winnie the Pooh: Surprise Tails

Bitsy is fascinated with her books. She is now at a stage in which she finds a book and brings it to me, saying, “Read!” in that sweet baby voice. A book-loving mama could not be more pleased!

Yesterday, one of the books she brought me was Winnie the Pooh: Surprise Tails, which turned out to be a fun surprise for us.

Winnie the Pooh Surprise Tails.jpg

Bitsy’s daddy was home for a lunch break. He heard us reading this story in which Eeyore is the main character, and having recently found his old harmonica, played a blues lick for each of the old grey donkey’s lines! This was so fun for all of us. The music enhanced the story, but most off all it was fun for the three of us to be goofy, laugh, and share a story together. You don’t have to be musicians–we aren’t–to include a little music when reading to your baby.

The touch-and-feel features in this board book are so interesting to a baby. The first page has a tiny mirror, and Bitsy is soooo amused by her reflection now. My favorite is the wooly tail Kanga knits for Eeyore.

kanga

Sharing this little moment together was so special for us. I hope you’ve been finding little ways to make reading to your baby fun for the whole family. If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for the book discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Something We Read: I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry

reading i am a bunny

I love each season. I’m happy to see the new ones come, and experience little moments of melancholy as I watch each one end. The cozy times spent indoors in the winter are replaced by the vibrant colors of spring. Lush, green, carefree summers fade into crisp, quiet autumn. Each season has its own beautiful fragrances. My favorite summer aromas are tomato vines and fresh basil. I had one of those brief, melancholy end-of-season reveries this week when I was gathering basil for a light summer pasta and saw that this year’s basil is coming to an end.

last basil of summer

I’ll miss the smell, the taste, and the experience of walking outside to the small kitchen garden to collect basil for our food, but I thought happily of what good use we derived from the plants this year, how much we enjoyed them. This summer has been a particularly special one, with Bitsy’s first birthday, a trip to celebrate a centennial birthday in the family, first steps, and first visits to the pool. It’s now time to start ordering bulbs to chill and plant in the late fall/early winter. All year long, I look forward to my spring tulips and hyacinths. I hope to share this love of the changing seasons with my daughter. It has brought me so much joy and reassurance through changing times all my life.

One way I can share this love of the seasons with Bitsy is by sharing with her one of my favorite books from childhood, I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry.

iamabunny.jpg

My adults read this book to me so often when I was a baby/toddler that I memorized it then, and have memorized it again now as it has become Bitsy’s favorite. The illustrations are beautiful, the tone is peaceful and happy, the text sweet and concise. Nicholas, the titular bunny, enjoys the entire year by finding something beautiful in the natural world to celebrate in each season.

He picks flowers and chases butterflies in the spring, blows dandelion seeds in the summer, watches falling leaves and snow, and enjoys seeing wildlife in every season.

chasing butterflies

Readers are reminded that winter is not the end, that the cycle begins anew, when Nicholas curls up to for a winter’s nap and dreams about spring.

dreamsaboutspring

Sharing this beloved book with my daughter, seeing her love it, too, helps me to see the beauty of change and the passing of time, just as the changing seasons do. My mother and I bonded over this book, now Bitsy and I love reading it together over and over again. I am reminded of my grandmother, how she would take me outside in the afternoons and point out the plants and animals we saw, helping me to share in her love of nature and watching things grow. I remember picking flowers for her from our yard.

This book is pretty in a very simple way. There is no major action, exciting plot, or gimmick, just a poetic love of the natural world and a gentle character who finds pure joy in all seasons. It is so dear to me, and I hope you can share it with the little ones in your life. Even more so, I hope you get to share with them the books you loved most as a child. What better way to pass on to children a love of reading?

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for the book discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”–Philippians 4:8 

 

Something We Ate: Chicken Tetrazzini

I love bringing joy into my household, and take pride in being able to do that in my new(ish) job as a stay-at-home parent. We don’t have to wait for celebrations and special occasions to experience joy in our homes; we can create it in small, simple ways every day.

My husband has shared with me that his favorite everyday joy comes from having dinner as a family. It is something he can look forward to during his workday, then enjoy a peaceful night with a full, happy belly.

I like for dinner to be special, but being busy with a baby and school can sometimes make getting dinner ready challenging. Of course, we occasionally end up ordering in. We try to reduce waste and make the most of our resources, especially when it comes to food. Composting helps us make the best of whatever food must be thrown away, but food’s real purpose is to be eaten. This means making the best use of leftovers.

Leftovers don’t have to be boring. Make them into something different, and the dish is just as new and exciting as last night’s.

Earlier this week, I made Engagement Chicken–a meal good enough to get a marriage proposal from a prince. I used a pretty large roasting chicken, so with plates for the two of us and some shredded pieces for baby Bisty, there was a good amount of chicken left over. No problem there–leftover chicken just gives us an excuse to have this rich, creamy baked pasta.

chicken tet

It’s not pretty, but it’s delicious. I snapped this pic before it finished browning. Once it was done, my husband was so eager to cut right into it, I didn’t get a picture of the finished product.

If you Google and Pinterest Chicken Tetrazzini, you’ll find a lot of variations. I’ll share with you the version I came up with that works best for us. I switch it up from time to time based on what we have in the house. For instance, I had some mushrooms in the refrigerator this time and threw those into the mix. Below is the recipe I use:

Chicken Tetrazzini

Ingredients

  • 16 oz (one box) of spaghetti, cooked
  • 1/2 cup (one full stick) of butter, plus more to grease pan
  • Cooked chicken torn or cut into bite-size chunks–I don’t measure this out but just use whatever amount of cooked chicken I have leftover. 1/2 to 1 lb is probably a good approximation.
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup, plus an equal amount of chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms, if desired
  • 1/2 cup of garlic-infused vinegar–I highly recommend Nakano Seasoned Rice Vinegar with Roasted Garlic. It is sooo good and makes adding just the right garlic flavor so easy. If you’re substituting with another vinegar or a 1/2 cup of dry white wine, just add a bit of garlic powder to the dish.
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp Romano or Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, combine butter, chicken, soup, broth, sour cream, mushrooms, garlic-infused vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Use butter wrapper to grease baking dish.
  • Add spaghetti to the chicken mix.
  • Pour into baking dish and top with all of the cheese.
  • Cover dish with aluminum foil.
  • Bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove foil, bake uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is as brown as you like. You may want to raise the temperature to about 375 F for the last few minutes if you like the cheese very brown and a little crispy on the sides.

This dish is great comfort food. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does. This was Bitsy’s first time eating it. I was so glad to see she like it. She was a little behind the curve on her growth at her 12-months pediatric visit, so her pediatrician suggested including a bit more fattening foods in her diet to try to catch up. The butter, sour cream, and cheese should help 🙂

Hold onto this recipe and substitute turkey for chicken as a great way to use your Thanksgiving leftovers. It’s a great stick-to-your ribs meal for a late fall night.

One of the links in this post is to an Amazon listing for a product I recommend. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualified purchases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something We Read: Sense and Sensibility for Your Little One

Children’s literacy is one of my passions. Start reading to your children early and do it regularly! It helps them develop important preliteracy skills and a love of reading, and even more importantly, is a wonderful way to bond with the little ones we love.

I’ve been reading at least one book to Bitsy every day since her birth, and keeping a journal of all the books read to her. My hospital bag included two books to read to her during our stay. I’ll never forget my mother reading Home for a Bunny, one of my childhood favorites, to Bitsy on her first day in the world.

As a weekly feature on Fridays, I will share with you one of the books Bitsy and I read together during the week.

This post contains links to Amazon listings for the books discussed in it. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Something We Read This Week

Sometimes Jane Austen is the best self-care. My schedule this summer has been busy and often sometimes very stressful (don’t take two summer classes with a newly-mobile baby while traveling out of state on the baby’s first flight!), and while I have a big bag full of exciting new books from my library, and plenty of required reading for my MLIS courses, there are times I just need to go back and reread a good Jane Austen novel to make everything feel better. Books we read repeatedly throughout our lives can take on new character and meaning with our own changing attitudes and experiences. My feelings toward Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, for instance, have grown more sympathetic over the years.

During a family trip to the shore this summer, I reread Mansfield Park, the Austen novel I’d gone longest without rereading. Later, I wanted the satisfaction brought by the triumph of wise, patient Elinor Dashwood and, let’s be honest, the sense of superiority over the foolish, bad-mannered characters the narrator so bitingly ridicules, so I’ve been enjoying my beloved clothbound edition of Sense and Sensibility. Which brings me to my choice for one of Bitsy’s books this week:

Sense and Sensibility: An Opposites Primer

opposites primer

How fun for Bitsy to have her own version of the book her mama is reading! I read it to her, then handed the sturdy board book to her so she could play with it while I read my own. She loves to play with her books, turning the pages, pointing to pictures, and vocalizing.

books on floor

She also loves pulling all the books off her bookshelf and throwing them on the floor.

The format is like any other first book of opposites, but what better way to teach my child the concepts of big and little than through the examples of Norland Park and Barton Cottage?

BigLittle

And who wouldn’t want to get an early start sharing their favorite novels with their child? The book is as amusing for parents who are fans of Jane Austen as it is for little ones. Here’s Marianne Dashwood playing the pianoforte the only way it should be played–passionately:

NoisyQuiet

Sense and Sensibility: An Opposites Primer is part of the BabyLit series. I first discovered the series on a visit to a small local bookstore. What a boon to a literature-loving parent’s heart! All the books in this series are so clever, attractive, and well-made. I only bought this one that day, though it was hard to leave the others behind. I’ll definitely add more of them to our collection soon.

Does your little one have any books in this series? Which ones are your favorites? Let me know in the comments! I love discussing books and discovering new children’s lit!

 

Bitsy’s Very Hungry Caterpillar First Birthday Party, Part III (Decorations and Takeaways)

If you keep hanging out here, you’ll see how much I love to reuse and repurpose. One of the best decorations for Bitsy’s first birthday party was made from a shipping box. I used the great big one in which the play balls for the ball pit and toy fruit for the feed-the-caterpillar tossing game were shipped to make a big # 1 covered in pictures from Bitsy’s first year.

1 birthday

The only materials needed were the box, scissors, strong scrapbook glue (I really like Elmer’s Craftbond Scrapbook glue set, which I already had for baby scrapbooking), construction paper, and photo prints. Once you’ve completely unfolded the box, it’s easy to see how the flaps make a 1. Leave the bottom flaps and top left flap in place. Cut off the other side flaps. This decoration works for a first birthday party, no matter what theme you choose. I tied it in with The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme by making grass for the bottom out of green construction paper, and making some of the colorful construction paper circles into caterpillars, as you can see in the above image. This made a great entrance display beside the front door, along with a few balloons for the porch and some other purchased decorations. Most of what I bought came from Oriental Trading Company’s adorable The Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday collection, Michael’s, and nearby dollar stores.

flower pinwheels

These flower pinwheels were a lucky Dollar Tree find. They worked so well with the party theme and colors. I put three on each side of our front path. One of the kids liked them so much I let him take one home.

The “Best Day Ever!” banner at the dessert table and the cutouts on the food table, as well as some paper cake plates, napkins, a bib for the birthday girl’s smash cake and other cutouts at the entrance and around the house came from Oriental Trading Company. I was really happy with the quality, and they shipped much more quickly than expected.

cake bib

Decorating, setting up activities, and picking up the cake from the bakery were the priorities on the morning of the party. Some of the food had been prepared the night before, and it’s okay to keep putting out food as guests are arriving. One thing I just couldn’t get done before I ran out of time was decorating Bitsy’s high chair the way I’d planned. I ended up just tying a few balloons to the chair. Really, that was all it needed. The spectacle of a baby eating her first birthday cake is cute enough without a lot of adornment.

My biggest takeaway to share with you is not to get too overwhelmed with the details. Do you think the party was any less enjoyable because I didn’t put butterfly wings or a caterpillar spelling out “one” on the birthday girl’s highchair? No! As long as you have some food, drinks, activities, and a cheerful atmosphere, everything will be fine. What really matters is celebrating the birthday of one you love and spending time with your guests, making sure they feel welcome and comfortable.

After the party, I kept a few of the decorations for memory’s sake–my husband wanted the photo collage “1” for his home office, and a few smaller items can be scrapbooked. Others I donated to my local public library. The staff were thrilled to have them. I can tell you from my own experience as a library paraprofessional and current Masters of Library and Information Science student that your library probably won’t be able to use your old books, but donations of materials for storytimes and arts & crafts will be very useful to the library’s children’s department. Just check with the staff before bringing in craft materials. Some libraries restrict certain materials, like glitter. If you give a Very Hungry Caterpillar party, or any other children’s book-themed party, please support your public library by donating decorations and craft materials rather than throwing them in the trash!

Throwing the party took some planning and a bit of hectic running around to finish things up in the hours before party time, but it was well worth it. It brought so much joy to my family and me, and we’ll always have happy memories of the day. Joy is best shared, and it was so important to me to share with others in our joyful celebration of this most precious year!