Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Picture Book Favorites

Little did I know that as a mother I would fall so hard for picture books. I have started to find myself searching picture book lists/recommendations in my free time and putting picture books on hold on a weekly basis. Picture books have easily become one of my favorite things about motherhood. 

A few reasons I have fallen in love with picture books:

1. Intimate quiet time with my kid(s). I can only play pirates and dragons, or cars, or wrestle, or roll around in blankets and pillows for so long, but cuddling up and reading on the couch, I could do that for a long time. Plus, I just love watching the wheels in Shae's mind turn as he asks me questions or points things out in the pictures. (Reading with Belén is a bit less intimate and more like, me trying to pin her down and read a few pages quickly before she runs away with the book).

2. Books stimulate our imaginations during play time, walks, meal time, driving in the car, etc. We talk about eating "gruffalo crumble" and "roasted mom" and often have characters of books (or shows) eat with us. Whenever we go on walks, we find someone waiting on the bridge in the woods for us (last time it was Goldilocks and the time before that it was Hansel and Gretel).  We usually end up bringing them home with us and Shae continues to "play" with them the rest of the day.

3. There's just something about seeing Darin read a book to the kids that makes my heart skip a beat. Who knew that a man with a picture book and a kid or two on his lap was so attractive. 

4. It's like Christmas once a week when we bring home a big stack of library books. I am probably more excited than Shae to sit down and read the books for the first time and see what they are about and what the illustrations are like.

5. There's just so much to learn and discover!


Because I have become such a fan of book lists, I thought it was high time that I make a list of my own. (More than anything for me to remember what books I want to introduce Belén too in the coming year as she starts--hopefully--to sit through books better). Here's a list of some of our favorites over the past few months:

My favorites:

Journey, Aaron Becker

Falling for Rapunzel, Leah Wilcox

Tuesday, David Wiesner

It's A Tiger, David LaRochelle 
(The End is another good one from him)

Goodnight Already!, Jory John 
(Dying to read I love you already! but our library doesn't have it yet)

Bear Sees Colors, Karma Wilson
(My mother-in-law introduced us to these bear books and we really love all of them, but I especially like this one). 

Seven Silly Eaters, Mary Ann Hoberman

More Bears, Ken Nesbitt

No Sleep for the Sheep, Karen Beaumont 
(This is on my "to own" list. It's just SO fun to read out loud)

Bernice Gets Carried Away, Hannah E. Harrison

Z is for Moose, Kelly Bingham 
(This makes both mine and Shae's list. Probably our favorite alphabet book just because it is so much fun).

Down by the Station, Jennifer Riggs Vetter

The Farmer and the Clown, Marla Frazee

Shae's Favorites:
(Based mostly off of the frequency and how loud he yelled "Again!" after reading these books).

Leo, A Ghost Tale and Extra Yarn, Marc Barnett

Fraidyzoo, Thyra Heder

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, Audrey Wood

The Black Rabbit, Phillipa Leathers

The Very Little Cinderella, Teresa Heapy

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, Mo Willems

Even Monsters Need Haircuts, Matthew McElligott

The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy, Jacky Davis 
(also loves any of the Ladybug Girl books)

John, Paul, George, and Ben, Lane Smith

The Watermelon Seed and Number One Sam, Greg Pizolli

Flora and the Penguin, Molly Idle

Not a Stick and Not a Box, Antoinette Portis

Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, Alice Schertle

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

Little Pea, Amy Krouse

10 Minutes till Bedtime, Peggy Rathman

Where's Walrus? and Super Truck, Steven Savage

Mix It Up, Herve Tullet 
(Pretty mucah any Herve Tullet book)

McToad Mows Tiny Island, Tom Angleberger

Any Olivia books, Ian Falconer
(We discovered little 10 minute Olivia episodes on Youtube that we have been enjoying as well)

Any Llama Llama books, Anna Dewdney

Take Me Out to the Yakyu, Aaron Meshon

Little Critter Hansel and Gretel, Mercer Mayer

The Princess in Black, Shannon Hale
(We just discovered this series and love it! It's a perfect transitional book from picture books to young reader chapter books).

Elephant and Piggie Books, Mo Willems
(Favorites thus far being: I Will Surprise my Friend and Today I Will Fly)
(I read a few of these to Shae about a year ago and he just wasn't in to them, but now he LOVES them, like laughs out loud loves them).

The Wearable Book series, Donald Lemke
(Beard book, Mask book, Hat book)


Belén’s favorites:
(purely based off of her being able to sit through it, period).

Mini Myth series, Joan Holub
(Shae LOVES these books too)

Red, Blue, Peek-a-boo, George Birkett
(felt flaps, I love you)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Bill Martin

The Babies on the Bus, Karen Katz

Peek-a-Who?, Nina Laden

Spot books, Eric Hill

Barnyard Dance and Snuggle Puppy, Sandra Boynton

Shae just finished reading his 1000th book for the "1000 books before Kindergarten" program. It was so fun to track each page of 100 books. He loved turning in his paper every few weeks and getting a prize ducky and a book at the end. Now time to do it with Belén!

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Friday was a good day. Darin had an article he wrote posted in the Washington Post, he found out that he received the FLAS scholarship (which means that he won't have to TA next year to secure funding. Yay!), and we left for Chicago. We took this itty bitty plane to Newark. I've decided little planes are loud and scary. Not my favorite. The flight from Newark to Chicago was MUCH nicer.

I spaced taking a picture of the hotel (The Palmer House Hilton--where the conference was held), but this is a picture I snapped of the lobby. It was unlike any other hotel I've ever been in before. Massive, fancy, and suuuuper slow elevators. I just read that it is the nations oldest hotel in continual operation and one of the world's last remaining Grand Hotels (told you Darin! I felt like I was in el Gran Hotel!) 

We got settled in, Darin did some conference stuff and I did some shopping, then, we went to Giordono's for some stuffed pizza which did not disappoint. 

Darin snuck away from the conference scene for lunch on Saturday so that we could go explore the city a bit. The hotel was in the PERFECT location. There were restaurants and stores all around and it was just a few blocks away from Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. I totally fell in love with the city feel. All the people walking to and fro, the trains zooming past, the escalators in all the stores. While we were eating lunch we tried to guess if the people walking past were tourists or living in Chicago. 

After walking around a bit Darin went back to the hotel for another panel and I walked to the Field Museum. It was quite the walk there and back but like I said, I fell in love with the city, so walking was nice (my sore feet may have said differently). 

I got in to the museum free with our Ithaca Science Center pass. After I gave the lady my card she was like, "You can see everything except the exhibits." I was like, "Soooo, what can I do?" She said again, "Everything except the exhibits." She finally clarified that she meant the "special" exhibits that you had to pay extra for, it was quite a funny exchange. 

It was nice to walk around the museum sans kids and actually be able to go at my own pace. There was an Ancient Americas exhibit which was really interesting to me after taking a history of Latin America class at BYU. 

Learning about these Tsavo Lions was also really interesting. 

I took tons of pictures of animals to show Shae when I got back. He would have loved their Animals of Asia exhibit. 

That night we went out to eat with Darin's awesome mentors for some Thai food and then crashed after a long day. 

While Darin presented on Sunday morning, I took the train to an elementary school for a nice little Sacrament Meeting in the auditorium of the school. As much as I missed those kiddos of mine, it was really nice to take the sacrament/listen to the speakers in peace. I just stayed for the first hour and then got back to the hotel just as Darin's panel was ending. We met up and booked it out of there to catch our flight. 

From what I heard after the conference, it sounds like Darin did great (I have no doubt that he did). It was cool to hear people talking to him afterwards and hear them say things like, "You're a FIRST year PhD student? First years don't come to this conference." I loved meeting Darin's mentor/boss from Michigan. He was just SO nice. Darin has been blessed with such great mentors who have given him so many great opportunities. We are both extremely grateful for them and the wonderful opportunities that they continually provide him.

While it was really hard to leave the kids, I'm so glad that I got to tag along with Darin on this trip. It was super quick and Darin and I didn't get to spend as much time together as an ideal "weekend away" would have allowed, but it was still incredibly nice to spend more than the usual amount of time together and focus on him and me and our marriage. It was actually really nice to have some alone time as well. I don't get much of that and I'm realizing just how precious that time can be. Time for me to recharge my mama battery, to think and ponder about my little family and set goals about how I can be better for them, and also to think about me and what my needs are. Very emotionally healthy trip overall :).

Big thanks to my mom and dad for being rock stars and watching the babes for us. Seriously, you guys are awesome. (I taught Joy School Monday morning and the kids just LOVED my dad. We played duck duck goose and the kids would only choose him. One of the moms even texted me later and said her son couldn't stop talking about how cool Shae's grandpa was). 

Saturday, April 9, 2016


The kids have been enjoying each others beds more than their own.
 I don't really mind, besides the fact that she stands there hollering for me to help her down instead of just falling off onto all the pillows on the ground.

Belén has started folding her arms and bowing her head for prayers and I am obsessed with it! If I don't say a prayer before breakfast or lunch, she will stop eating all of a sudden and fold her arms. I just can't get enough.

 He is still lovin' that spray bottle out on the balcony. (Until it froze over the weekend because he left it outside. He wasn't too happy about that).

 Shae...I mean, Shwank. He came home from the dentist with me the other day. We haven't seen Shae since.

 Daddy and Shae getting our Conference Brunch ready. They made this Oatmeal Bake. It may look simple, but it was dang good, and lasted a few days so we had breakfast all ready for us. I can't wait to make it again.

 This little Spider-Man hand motion. I think it means she is done eating, but then, she does it all the time now. Usually with both hands. 

Baby girl on Opening Day after the nice April snowstorm that blew through after a couple glorious weeks in the 50s. 

 Darin put together a little Opening Day party with some other baseball lovers in our branch. Our branch president and his wife are just awesome and have an awesome house (sooo much bigger than any of our little apartments) and are awesome enough to let us use it from time to time. So much awesomeness.

 We hooked the kids up with some TV action of their own so that we could fully enjoy some adult company. It worked wonders...for all except Belén of course who made sure we chased her up and down the stairs every 2 minutes. 

On a walk to Target a couple weeks back, he brought the spray bottle to ward off any evil monsters we might come in contact with. We did find "Little Red Riding Hood" on the little bridge we crossed and he grabbed her and put her in the stroller. We took her to Target with us so that no Lions, Tiger, Bears, or Wolves would get her. Love his little imagination. We found Hansel & Gretel on the last walk we went on. He always "brings them home" with us and talks to them in his room for the rest of the afternoon.

This little miss actually helps me unload the dishes now. She pulls something out and hands it right to me. I just love my little dish partner so much (even when she licks the spoon or plate before handing it to me).

Baby goats at the Science Center! Shae wanted nothing to do with them and Belén wanted everything to do with them. 
These aprons. Can't get enough. 

Shae has such a short attention span when playing with toys, but he actually sat (and with a little help from me) played with these blocks for quite some time without the slightest sign of an urge to knock it all down until it was completely built. 

This girl and her Tabby. 

Last time we walked to the Post Office it was a little chilly outside so the kids brought their blankets. Shae thought it was the coolest to put it in the boxes and pretend he was receiving mail. 

Every. Single. Day. with this kid. He's been really into playing dead and pretending he is a sack of potatoes lately. 

She figured out how to climb into the rocking chair this week and could not be more pleased with herself. Sometimes when I peek in the room she is just chilling in the chair, or on Shae's bed, just sitting there. 

This one almost brought me to mama happy tears. We were out playing at our little pond with chalk. I was helping Belén walk around when Shae runs over to me and says, "Look mom! I write my name!" And sure enough...

This was one of those total-high-being-a-mom-is-so-great-and-awesome-and-fulfilling moments. 

We haven't seen much of Darin over the past month with his conference prep and school and what not. I've had some hard times with the lack of his wonderful presence in my life, and so have the kids, but looking through all these pictures with these great kids of mine makes me realize that we don't need daddy around to be happy  how blessed I am to have these great kids keeping me company each day (even with the semi-disobedient-i'm-not-listening-no! phase that Shae is currently going through). 

Life is pretty dang good.