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Friday, June 25, 2010

First Books, Part 2

Last week I wrote a blog highlighting five children's books that I think are just a little bit unique that make good additions to first libraries! This week I am highlighting five more books that are also good additions, and they are definitely the more lovey-dovey type.

Kiss Kiss, by Margaret Wild, was one of the first few books I could tell Jackson really liked, and one that he asked to hear over and over. We originally checked this one out from the library, but loved it so much we had to own it! (That seems to be a trend...Hmmm...) The first couple of times I read it to Jackson, I kissed his head every time the story said "kiss." He started looking up to me expecting a kiss when we read this book or other talking about kisses! I LOVED that :) Not only is the book a sweet story about a mama hippo and her baby hippo, but it shows some varying terrains and uses lots of good preposition words. It never hurts to multi-task when reading good stories... ;)

How Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight?, by Varsha Bajaj, was the first Valentine's Day book I bought Jackson! In order for me to enjoy reading a book over and over and over it needs to have some rhythm and a bit of a story. I'm not such a fan of the one-word-on-a-page books. This book counts from one to ten (and some silly high numbers) as different animals ask their babies how many kisses they would like. It's a good feel-good book for bedtime :)

Won't You Be My Hugaroo?, by Joanne Ryder, is another Jackson favorite. This became a favorite later on because he liked pointing out all of the balloons! There are a lot of them, and I think he is also trying to tell us that the yellow ones are his favorite :) This book has a companion: Won't You Be My Kissaroo? They are both very sweet and follow the same pattern of showing different kinds of hugs and kisses. The animals in the pictures are so cute! I think this was also a Valentine's Day purchase...

I Love You Through and Through, by Bernadette Shustack, is probably one that I love more than Jackson, to be honest. It's a simple story, but the pictures caught my attention right away! They are so cute, you can't help wanting to snuggle your own little person!

I Kissed the Baby!, by Mary Murphy, was totally an accidental discovery! I was using up an Amazon gift card and needed one more thing. I was searching the children's books (this was right after Jackson was born), and I came across this one. I figured that it was only a five dollar investment, I would give it a shot. I was totally overwhelmed once it arrived and I read it! It caters to the idea that newborn babies really can only appreciate the contrast of black and white. There is a bit of color thrown in, but the pictures are very simple and mostly black and white. The words that accompany the pictures are so funny! Jackson laughs every time we read this now! He especially loves the Pfffwwwt! kiss at the end :)

Check out Feed Me Books Friday over at The Adventure of Motherhood!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Give-Away Perfect for Summer Reading!

Sarah (a friend of my blogging friend, Emily) at A Wife Loved Like the Church is hosting a give-away this week! She just read Pride and Prescience and is raving about it! She loved it so much that she is giving one away! I'm always looking for good books to add to my (ever-growing) stack, so I'm hoping to win this give-away :)

Go ahead and enter her give-away on her blog, and mention that I sent you because I get an extra entry :)

Updates :)

I feel the need to update a few of my more recent posts! I know, I know, everyone is just dying to know more :P

First up, Words to Remember. Josh and I have added considerably to the list of words Jackson knows. The list now includes: eyes, ears, shoes, book, snack, meow, more, on, raisins, airplane, uh-oh, ouch, socks, again, and off.

Next, Trader Joe's Groupie. I tried three new items at TJ's this week: Thai Joe's Coconut Curry Chicken Stix, Trader Joe's Yogurt Star Cookies, and Trader Joe's Apple Carrot Fruit Sauce Crushers. The Coconut Curry Chicken Stix were slightly disappointing :( I am a HUGE coconut fan, so I guess the disappointment was there was not a strong presence of coconut. They were pretty tasty, overall. The Yogurt Star Cookies are amazingly addictive :) I bought them for Jackson, but of course, I've stolen my fair share from the bag... Seriously yummy! The Apple Carrot Fruit Sauce Crusher is essentially applesauce in squeezeable form. I was really excited to try it, so Jackson was too! I took control over the first couple of squeezes, and then he took the pouch and totally finished the rest of the pouch on his own! There was only one fallen glob. He LOVED it! He just squeezed and sucked away until it was all gone! I am thinking we are ready for the squeezeable yogurts, but this was nice because it wasn't just a flimsy opening at the top--there is a screw-off cap that reveals a plastic opening to suck out of. I think that prevented a lot of the potential mess! I'm super psyched to take these to the beach--no muss, no fuss!

The third update, is regarding the dinner I made for Father's Day 2010. I am not a leftovers person. At all. However, the Chicken Parmigiana I made for dinner has been delicious as leftovers! The first night we had leftovers from it, there was extra pasta and chicken with sauce. I just threw it in a bowl, sprinkled more cheese on top, and stuck it in the oven. Tonight I was on my own for dinner so I just made some more pasta while the chicken and sauce heated up in the oven. It was so yummy, AND I actually looked forward to having these leftovers! That is quite an accomplishment :)

A Woman/Mom Who Looks Like She Knows What She Is Doing

Apparently I look quite confident with Jackson and James loaded in the double stroller! I have had four encounters in the last two days of people randomly coming up to me and asking for advice/sharing information!

The first encounter happened when we were walking through the Springfield Plaza shopping area (BuyBuyBaby, Trader Joe's, Hallmark, CVS, Starbucks, Giant, and Chipotle--load up the troops once and we are kept busy for a while!) and a man stopped me as we were walking by Giant. He was sitting on a bench with an adorable little girl, who was 10 months old. How do I know this? He told me when he asked me the following question, "Excuse me. Can I ask you a question? She's 10 months old right now. When do you think she'll start walking?" Ummm... I joke with some friends about giving Dr. Dana's opinion, but I'm not serious! I smiled and said it would be normal for her to start anytime between now and a few months after her first birthday. I added that both Jackson and James waited until after they turned one. He seemed pleased with that answer, we smiled and wished each other good days. I was flattered that he stopped me to ask, but why me?

The second encounter happened this morning at Walmart. I was not very organized as I perused the baby section and kept crossing paths with another mom and her toddler. As we were both moving on, she stopped and said, "Excuse me, can I ask your opinion?" I smiled and told her to go ahead. She was buying swim diapers for her son and was wondering if the Huggies Little Swimmers were good ones. I told her we used those last summer and this summer I was using Pampers Splashers simply because you earn points with Pampers! I told her they were very comparable, however. She thanked me and we commiserated over making the mistake of putting our sons in the pool in a regular diaper thinking there couldn't be THAT big of a difference between regular diapers and swim diapers (BIG mistake!). She was perfectly nice, but again I wonder, why me?

The third encounter happened at Target right after Walmart. I was wearing my t-shirt from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk and one of the employees stopped me and asked if I had walked. I told her I did, with my mom, and it was amazing! She said she has been hoping to get a team together. She also shared some of her experiences about doing the Relay for Life and helping out with other events Target sponsors. She told us about a cool sounding neighborhood safety event they are hosting in the Target parking lot at the beginning of August (unfortunately, we will be out of town). This one isn't so random, I just haven't been stopped because of my shirt in a long time! She did give the boys stickers because they were wearing their seat belts in the cart, and I had a chance to complain about the carts that Target has for kids to "ride" on. She totally agreed! Maybe I'll write a letter about that one...

The fourth encounter happened this afternoon as poor Jackson and James were given no choice but to accompany Pax and me on a walk! It actually wasn't AS bad as I thought it'd be, but we were all ready for some air conditioning by the time we got back home! Just as we were starting, two women approached us and asked where the trail went. I told her that they would only reach the neighborhood in the direction they were going. That ended up being fine because they were looking for the main road in our subdivision. Little did they know they picked the worst person to ask for directions! LOL Thankfully I walk that trail at least once a day, so that probably worked out ok for them :) I do realize this last conversation makes total sense because why wouldn't you ask someone else walking where the trail goes? Since it followed my other encounters, however, it just seemed odd too!

I have to admit I have given a lot more unsolicited advice since I became a mom! I find myself offering my two cents in the baby arena. To be honest, you really don't know how experienced the employees at BuyBuyBaby or Babies R Us with the different products. There are so many choices now, it's a little overwhelming! I specifically remember helping a new grandma at BuyBuyBaby as she and her son-in-law were sent to buy more nursing tools for her daughter and her days old grandson! She was obviously confused about everything, so I jumped in and shared with her what I had learned. I had been browsing the bibs and she was kind of talking to herself and her son-in-law behind me, so it's not like I was horribly butting in! I think she appreciated it :) I have never been asked for advice as often as the last couple of days!

WOW Toys!

Jackson got two really neat toys for Christmas from his California Becker cousins that we had never seen before! I consider that a pretty significant feat since I research everything to death, and consider myself pretty familiar with the mainstream stuff. Anyways, Jackson got two WOW Toys: Harvey Harvester and Motor Boat Murray.

Motor Boat Murray joined the bath time crew early on.
To be honest, however, Harvey Harvester has been hanging out in my Tub O' Extra Toys in our laundry room. Jackson definitely could have played with him earlier, but I thought I'd wait until he would really enjoy loading the bales of hay and then making the harvester go so the bales fell out! I was right! I just put it out last week when I switched toys, and Jackson LOVES his "new" toy!

These two toys are the only experience I have with WOW toys, but I'm dying to try out some more! WOW is a UK based company, but you can definitely shop online! The neat thing about the WOW toys is they don't take batteries! Yes, you read that right: NO BATTERIES! WOO HOO!!! We actually have been pretty lucky with Jackson's toys and none of them seem to eat batteries, but it's still really nice to not worry about it! Check out WOW Toys website for all of the toy choices (there are tons) and more info about the company, if you are interested!

For more Things I Love Thursday, visit The Diaper Diaries :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day 2010

We were ready for celebrate Father's Day as soon as Josh woke up! There were presents, coffee, and his favorite breakfast burritos from Anita's!

Jackson did a good job throwing away all of the wrapping paper! He decided to help Josh open his last present: a new Cubs shirt! That was from me. Jackson gave Josh "Fred and Ted Go Camping." Paxton gave Josh a Big Herm's gift card (THE most amazing hot dog place EVER!). My parents gave Josh a super sweet book called "My Father Knows the Names of Things." I also made Josh's favorite oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies the other day as an early present :)

You can't really see it, but Jackson's outfit said Dad's Silly Monkey! That seems very fitting these days... ;)

We bought Jackson a bubble mower, and we broke it in yesterday :)

After naptime for Jackson, we headed over to the pool. It was SO hot, and the pool felt wonderful! Josh and I had a great time relaxing in the cool water, but Jackson was pretty fussy the whole time :( We aren't really sure why--he has seemed on the tired side in general lately...

After the pool, Jackson had dinner and a bath. He and Josh were really enjoying Josh's new book, but then I couldn't resist going to get the camera and screwed up the sweet pose! Shoot! Use your imagination :) On the other hand, Josh was proud because the distraction getting Jackson's attention was golf... ;)

Once Jackson was in bed, I made a special Father's Day dinner for Josh: The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Parmigiana! I have been wanting to make this for a while, and I finally had a good opportunity! It was pretty easy, it just took longer than I had expected. It was really yummy! The final event of the evening was Blizzards for dessert :)

Josh's relaxation continues today with golf and grilled steaks and corn on the cob for dinner!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy 2nd Father's Day!!!

Dear Josh,

Happy second Father's Day!!! Little did we know when we picked our wedding date that it would be so close to Father's Day. Our wedding anniversary was definitely the most important family celebration day for a few years. Now that we have Jackson, we have two important family celebration days within a week of each other! Almost six years ago, I married my best friend. I also knew that he would make an incredible day.

Well, here we are, over a year and a half into this parenthood thing, and I am proved right! You can tell what a wonderful father you are by looking at Jackson. His face lights up whenever he sees you or I tell him we are going to see you soon or you will be home soon! He LOVES spending time with you! You pour all of your energy into your son and it shows since you are often out of breath after playing hard with him for a little while! You are definitely the rough-housing parent and Jackson knows it! He also loves you for it!

The behind-the-scenes work you do as a father is also very special to Jackson and me. You work incredibly hard at your job in order to provide for us. As a father, it is important to you for Jackson to have as much time with us as possible. Luckily, I have been able to stay home with him to reach that goal. While you sometimes have to work late or pull out your laptop once you get home, we never forget that you are working extra hard for US. There is nothing more important to you than your family, and we love that about you! It makes you an even better husband and father because you work so hard.

I think I will always reminisce about the same few things on each Father's Day to come. I will always remember the night we found out we were pregnant. I will always remember getting to hear Jackson's heart beat together for the first time (you even re-lived the "Friends" episode where Rachel has an ultrasound and cries because she can't see the baby and thinks she is going to be a bad mom). I will always remember the day Jackson was born and how you had a permanent smile on your face that got bigger each time you looked at him. You certainly are the best father and husband Jackson and I could ask for! Thanks for being you :)


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bug Goes Grunt, Grunt!

I actually didn't switch toys right at the beginning of the month this time... I figure I'll switch them twice, total, in the next three months. I didn't get to it right away, and we will be traveling for some of this time. So, that's that! I've loved watching how Jackson uses the "new" toys this time around! He actually is interested in putting the little animals in their riding spots on his big car carrying truck! He was also really excited to see his pig flashlight again :) He has been able to make a pig grunting sound for a while, and we re-discovered the hilarity of it tonight! At the end of this video, he makes one of my favorite faces! It is a newer one, and he knows he's adorable/hilarious when he makes it! Here comes trouble, methinks... :)

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Books, Part 1

I LOVE giving books as presents at showers, for new babies, for birthdays, pretty much for any occasion! In fact, in order to help curb the cost of our rising Verizon Fios bill, I am going to try to cut down on my little habit of buying books when we are at Borders for Story Time on Mondays... That will be a hard one! One of these days I should post a picture of all of Jackson's books... What a good thing to spend money on, though! It could be worse, right?

Anyways, I try to give books as gifts that are out of the mainstream. There is definitely a list of books that every kid has/should have. I'm going to start with some more "fun" ones this week and then do a list of the lovey dovey ones next week :)

I Know a Rhino, by Charles Fuge, was recommended by a good friend I used to work with at Barnes and Noble (Yup! I worked there even before I was 16--they would pay me in books! My mom worked there and my brother and I LOVED accompanying her to work on our days off of school so we could just sit and read all day!) This is such a sweet book personifying stuffed animals. That also speaks to me very personally since my stuffed animals were most definitely "real" :)

Baby Colors, by Rachel Hale, is one of Jackson's favorites! In fact, it was one of the books that he favored early on. We lost our first copy on a plane ride, but Mimi replaced it :) Thank goodness for Mimi! Obviously colors are the focus of this book. There are cute rhymes to accompany each color, as well as a cute baby! The babies differ in gender and race, which I LOVE! Jackson had a crush on the baby that models for purple :)

Zip, Hop, Pop was just a cute book I picked up as a gift for a friend. I also got a copy for Jackson. Both boys LOVE it! It was one of the earliest books they sat still to read and actually seemed to absorb! Plus, have you met a baby/toddler that doesn't love Elmo?

Peek-a-Who, by Nina Laden, is becoming more mainstream, I think, but it is fantastic! It is a smaller board book--perfect for little hands. This book was a mainstay on our changing table for a while. It kept Jackson plenty distracted! Jackson LOVES playing Peek-a-Boo, so this book is perfect. He loves turning the pages and checking out what is peeking through next.

Does a Cow Say Boo? and Eyes,
Nose, Fingers, and Toes,

both by
Judy Hindley, are great additions to the animal sounds and body parts categories! They both go a little more in depth than the traditional books. Plus there are really cute pictures--Jackson LOVES hearing these stories and practicing his animal sounds and body parts :)

Check out more book fun at Feed Me Books Friday hosted by The Adventure of Motherhood!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summer Days

The other morning, Jackson emptied out the book bin and put a few toys from each "category" in. He then took the bin over to the futon and lifted it up by Pax. It was as if he was saying, "Here are some of my favorite things, in case you feel like playing!" So cute :)

The boys had such a good time initiating the pool into our routine (hopefully!)! The water was a little cooler than I was expecting after being in the sun all afternoon, but they got right in and didn't even flinch! Jackson started using a shovel right away to splash and James just checked things out. Once he figured out he could walk across the pool, the smile broke out big time! He had a good time fishing the weighted sticks off of the bottom of the pool. He also was way more interested in soaking himself than Jackson was! He used the shovel to fling water in the air (and on Jackson and me). Then he used the watering can to get even wetter!

As predicted Jackson became more interested in climbing in and out, in and out, in and out of the pool! He also wanted to play with this little gator car that rolls. He didn't quite get that he could roll it on the bottom of the pool... He got out and played with it on the deck for a little while. Then he made a fun game for himself: he filled the watering can in the pool, took it over to Pax's bowl, filled the bowl, dumped out the bowl, went back to the pool to repeat!

Neither Jackson nor James had any trouble coming in when it was time to be finished. I definitely see us making good use of the pool during our summer days!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Trader Joe's Groupie

I absolutely LOVE Trader Joe's! I strive to one day do all of my grocery shopping there, but at this point, I have a very definite list of things I ONLY go to TJ's for. I plan to share those things with you in this post :)

The first thing that really drew me in was Trader Ming's's Orange Chicken. They were giving out samples (yes, the daily samples are a wonderful perk), and Josh and I were immediately hooked! This stuff is super yummy and super easy. Those are both requirements in my meal-planning! I bake the frozen goods and toss it on to some rice. We get a whole dinner for $4 + rice!

I have branched out on our Orange Chicken nights and now make Trader Ming's Chicken Shu-Mai as an accompaniment. I think I like these more than Josh, but they are so good! I think I even like them better the day after...
When Jackson began eating yogurt, I winced at the price of YoBaby, and was thrilled when I found Trader Joe's Fruit and Cream yogurts! They have the same high fat value that is important at this point, and are cheaper :)
Jackson goes back and forth about his love of Trader Joe's Dried Fruit Strips. These are so easy to just keep in my bag for a simple snack on the go. When he loves them, he might eat two at a time!
A friend gave me a bottle of red wine and said that it went great with dark chocolate. YUM! I was debating what kind of dark chocolate to get while I was browsing TJ's one day. This bag of dark chocolate covered pretzels looked yummy, so I gave them a try. Well, they were delicious with the wine...and with pretty much everything else during the day :)

The next two things on my list to purchase are Joe's Diner's Mac 'n' Cheese and Thai Joe's Coconut Curry Chicken Stix. The mac 'n' cheese was a sample last week and was delicious! The coconut curry stix just sound yummy!

I always go to Trader Joe's for my wine and flower needs :) I don't think I've ever tried a bottle of wine over $5 and they have all been yummy! The flowers are always gorgeous and you can usually get a bunch of seasonal flowers for $4 or $5!

I have tried out several other products including lunch meat, produce, milk, cereal, and baked goods. There is always something yummy in the baked good section! I buy their frozen berries in the winter--great for defrosting and feeding to Jackson, or for making smoothies with. The only thing I wish was better was their baking section. There aren't very many options for baking mixes. I feel like that would open a whole new world!

The employees at TJ's really add to the great atmosphere. They are all genuinely friendly and have great opinions to offer about their products. The Trader Joe's ad is called The Fearless Flyer. It is a great booklet with lots of details about new and featured products. You can sign up here to have it delivered via snail-mail or e-mail :)

For more Things I Love Thursday, check out The Diaper Diaries :)