The Toddler’s Bookshelf.

I have extremely unique criteria for picture books that make it onto my toddler’s bookshelf.

The books need to have pretty pictures with plenty of opportunity for discussion. Sometimes we just want to look at the pictures and talk about the pictures so there needs to be something to talk about — colors to name, things to count, people to assign outlandish backstories.

The books need only a very small amount of words. If I open a book and see even one full paragraph, I won’t buy it. I don’t care if it will teach her how to speak French on a tightrope.

I know from experience that I will be reading these books over and over and over and over and if you are tired of reading the word over in this paragraph, just imagine how tired you will be of reading ALL THOSE WORDS a million times.

I am such a book nerd. Or a book lover. And definitely a book sucker. I buy a LOT of books for Babystar.

I used to read all the time and I suspect I will get to read big girl books again. Someday.

For now, I read and reread books with Babystar. Our recent top ten favorites are stacked (in no particular order) beside my bed for easy morning story times.

book on shelf

10. This book will not be fun. by Cirocco Dunlap and Olivier Tallec. There is absolutely nothing educational about this book. Don’t even buy it. I mean, I guess you could talk about all the fun pictures. But you could draw your own pictures. Or maybe you could just laugh with your toddler about the silly story. Nevermind, get a joke book instead. OBVIOUSLY KIDDING! This book is so silly. And I don’t know if you heard, but toddlers love things that are silly. I know. I just heard the news myself. ($10.99 at Costco.)

9. Green Lizards vs Red Rectangles by Steve Antony. We got this book when the baby was only six months old strictly for my amusement. And then I accidentally taught her about red and green and rectangles with this book. Whoops. The pictures are simple and fun, though there are some battle scenes. But remember, the battle is between cartoon lizards and rectangles. Actual rectangles. Smart rectangles. I still find this hilarious. (Bought during a trip to Grammy’s in Myrtle Beach.)

8. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. I love the Pigeon so much. My two older kids and I STILL like to read the pigeon books out loud to one another in bookstores. Still. They are 20 and 18 years old. I obviously had to add this book to the Toddler’s Bookshelf. She’s such a sweet little thing that she ALWAYS lets the pigeon drive the bus. And I always laugh. ($14.41 at Barnes and Noble.)

I want my hat back

7. I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. I ADORE this book. A Bear loses his hat and goes on a search to find it. The bear is very polite in his search. A fun unexpected outcome of reading this book five hundred times is that now Babystar sometimes says, “thank you anyway” and the random solemn politeness is adorable. But this book is SAVAGE AF. If you want to avoid all violence, skip the last page a la Phoebe’s mom in Friends. I won’t spoil the book. I would never spoil the ending for you. Don’t ask me anymore questions. Just kidding, Bear totally eats the Rabbit. But like, off camera. ($10.99 at Costco.)

Please Mr Panda book

6. Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony. We bought this book when Babystar was only a few weeks old because the black and white pictures in the book are apparently good for infants. I read it to her a million times, and now, she reads it to herself. Or her stuffed animals. Or her rocks. This book is all about a panda offering donuts to his animal friends and then changing his mind. Until finally, the lemur says ‘please’. And *spoiler alert* the lemur gets all the donuts. Basic but fun. And Mr. Panda’s got sass. (Posted about it in July 2015.)

5. Goose by Laura Wall. This book is about a little girl named Sophie and a goose. At a park. On a seesaw. Babystar has a sister named Sophie and she looooves to go to the park. And play on seesaws. Plus there is a little orange Tillie cat on many of the pages. This book is basically all of Babystar’s favorite things. We found this book at the library but quickly realized that we needed a copy at home. This is one of the toddler’s favorite books to read to her rocks. The words match the pictures and the story is easy to follow. (We have had this one for a few months.)

4. This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. Jon Klassen does not play. When a little fish steals a hat from a big fish, he tries to hide. But a crab rats him out and the Food Chain happens. Again, OFF CAMERA. But it is totally implied. So, you know, don’t steal. Good lesson. Ok, truthfully, we bought this book when Babystar was super little and I just wanted books that entertained ME since I was reading to her all the time. But now she totally understands. It’s fine. Right? (Posted about it in July 2015.)

I love you Stinky Face

3. I Love You, Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore. This book was a ‘welcome to the world’ gift from big sister to Babystar. I have been reading it to her since she was born, and she still asks for it all the time. There are about a million ‘I Love You’ books for kids, but this one stands out for its sweet silliness. Would you still love the baby if baby was a swamp monster? Or an alien from Mars?

They All Saw a Cat

2. They All Saw a Cat by Brenden Wenzel. This is the prettiest picture book on the shelf. The story is simple and wonderful. It is a story of a cat ‘walking through the world’ and the pictures show how other creatures in the world view the cat. Some of the pictures are thought-provoking, like the mouse seeing the cat as a terrifying monster. Some of the pictures are pseudo-scientific, like the bee seeing the cat in millions of of tiny circles. This  one might be Babystar’s MOST favorite book. She asks for it all the time, and has memorized this one almost verbatim. ($10.99 at Costco.)

1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Classic af. I know all the words by heart, STILL, from reading this book to my son in the Nineties. Obvious choice. ($15.16 at Barnes and Noble.)

What is your favorite bedtime story?

RAISING BABYSTAR: $22,811.93

 

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Dinosaur Land.

You know that Salvador Dalí painting with the melting clocks?

Dinosaur Land in The Middle of Nowhere, Virginia is exactly like that. But with dinosaurs. Non-melting dinosaurs.

This place is amazing. I am a HUGE FAN. But it is clearly not, like, a research institution. Drive eighty miles east to the Smithsonian for that kind of dinosaur experience. Dinosaur Land’s target audience is obviously children. Or maybe Collectors of Odd Experiences. The dinosaurs are made of fiberglass that looks like paper maché. There are even little dinosaur families with dinosaur babies. But then there are BATTLE SCENES and dinosaurs eating other dinosaurs. WHAT. WHY.

Babystar said that one of the dinosaurs was sleeping. I went along with her version of events.

This place is an hour and a half away from D.C. in decent SAHM traffic. It is definitely worth a visit if you live within two hours of Dinosaur Land, because you won’t find many other places like this in your life. Admission is $5 for ages 2-10 and $6 for ages 11 and up. (I paid $22 for two adults and two toddlers. Then my friend bought the girls dinosaurs on the way out.)

Side note: my most favorite non-child-related SAHM perk is the LACK OF RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. Highly recommend. Four stars.

Dinosaur Land is NOT worth a visit if you are simply visiting Washington D.C. for the monuments and museums. Dinosaur Land is a novel roadside attraction. Imagine that you live in the country and the old dude on the corner has a bunch of dinosaur statues in his backyard. Dinosaur Land is exactly like that. And approximately that size.

Oh, plus there is a giant King Kong and you can climb in his hand for a picture. And there is a giant shark that you can play in. BUT DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING ELSE.

If you do make the trek, take a friend. The drive is long and it helps if you can sing along to some 90s music on the way.

Also, take a picnic lunch even though you may NOT eat in Dinosaur Land. (Dinosaur Land is really big on rules.) Head west on Route 277 and there is a really cool park about five minutes away. Sherando Park has about a million picnic tables including a few shorty tables that are perfect for toddlers. There is a small playground that is toddler appropriate (but doesn’t have the baby swings). And just a short walk across the gravel road, there is a really cool FREAKING GIANT play structure that will give parents of toddlers a mini heart attack. But it DOES have baby swings. It also has a smaller toddler size play structure but why would any self-respecting two-year-old want to play on that when they can climb to the top of the world and almost fall but not fall and — oh, sorry. Everything’s ok.

Sherando Playground

Adults: make the climb and slide down the highest slide at Sherando Park. It is NO JOKE. Do it. You’re welcome.

We stopped at an adorable farmer’s stand on the way home and I bought a giant cookie for Babystar and a tomato that she poked her thumb into because toddlers love experiments. And a soda. ($4.25.)

RAISING BABYSTAR: $22,749.39

 

 

Mega Blok Party.

Babystar’s favorite game lately is called BUILD A TOWER SO TALL TO THE SKY.

block tower

I have to use all caps so you can understand how to correctly pronounce the title of this game.

She has been playing this game with her very light foam blocks or her square wooden alphabet blocks with varying degrees of success.

But now we have over 500 Fisher Price Mega Bloks. ($63.56 with tax.)

This happened slowly. I innocently bought the 120-piece Treehouse Playdate pack of Mega Bloks for $14.99 from Costco one day. ($15.89 with tax.)

We came home and opened the box and built the tallest tower ever. It was taller than Babystar!!

I did some googling and realized that 120 blocks for $15 was a really good deal. The basic 80-piece pack is anywhere from $20 to $26 depending where you look. Unless you want the pink 80-piece set, which is mysteriously $14.99. I have found the exception to the Pink Tax. (Well, Mega Bloks and car insurance.)

I picked up another set the next time I was at Costco.

We really like the Mega Bloks. They are perfect for my toddler. They are basically Legos-in-Training. I know, I know, I totally love Duplos. But Duplos need a lot of snapping and pulling apart. The Mega Bloks just sort of sit on top of one another. And the protruding parts that fit inside the bottoms of the blocks are nice and big. This means they do not topple easily. Which is GREAT for my easily frustrated, poor-impulse-control-having, two year old ToddlerMonster when she is trying to build her TOWER SO TALL TO THE SKY.

(The set comes with stickers to make some of the blocks look like leaves or branches or whatever, but we threw those away. I personally think that stickers on blocks limit imagination, but you do you, boo.)

During a recent toy purge, I gave away the small set of Green Toys blocks that she had and never played with, along with a ton of other infant toys. This left an entire ottoman downstairs empty for Mega Bloks.

So I totally bought two more boxes of blocks. Fun fact: only three boxes will fit in the ottoman so one is still unopened just WAITING for one of her friends to have a birthday party. Or for us to get bigger ottomans, whichever happens first.

RAISING BABYSTAR: $22,723.14

Monday’s Mama is Fetch AF.

This Monday I am pleased to introduce Mary Catherine Awesome. She totally made those corn muffins like forty-seven seconds before that picture was taken but her food is so delicious that it disappears like she’s baking at Hogwarts. Mary Catherine is basically June Cleaver. Except PG-13.

Mary Catherine

This actual human woman cooks an actual edible dinner for her family of five every night. She sews things. She has eternal patience with her three children. She makes sourdough bread from scratch. She is always laughing and kind to everyone. Thank heaven her house isn’t spotless, or we wouldn’t be able to be friends. Perfection can be SO annoying.

You all read that, right? SHE FREAKING SEWS.

So. We are friends IRL but Mary Catherine is also a blogging newbie. She’s a super great writer so go check her out over at bingewatchinglife.blog. Although, she’s also crazy. She started the blog to chronicle her COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS decision to stop eating sugar. And to stop drinking booze. AT THE SAME TIME. I told her not to do it but she apparently just found out sugar was bad for her. Or something.

I’m kidding. Mary Catherine is once again being a badass while I’m bribing Babystar with our new game M&M Manicure in which I give her a chocolate candy for every fingernail she lets me trim. Mom of the Year over here, y’all.

Mary Catherine was awesome enough to answer some of my questions.

1. Wait, so Regina George was named after your high school? OMG WHAT?! Why??

Totally. OK, so I heard it as a rumor and it may be an urban legend, but I did go to Regina Dominican, an all-girls high school (or as they are called now, a college preparatory school for young women) near the north shore of Chicago–and I’m proud to be a Regina girl! It was SO much fun. But apparently Tina Fey didn’t find Regina girls fun? I think she thought they were bitches. Again, that’s what I’ve heard.

2. Ok, but like for real, HOW do you make sourdough bread from a starter?*

sourdough starter

This is a boring answer. Put starter in a bowl with flour, water or milk, and some honey or sugar. Hold your breath. And set out overnight. Next morning, add some salt and baking soda. Stir down with more flour until the batter forms a dough. Pretend you are making coffee so you can knead the sticky dough without “helpers.” Stretch and fold, stretch and fold, standing on one foot, for about ten minutes. Reluctantly let three-year-old in kitchen and have him wash his hands. (Later you will learn this was a decoy for the five-year-old who was stealing them raw dough to eat.) Roll into a rectangle. (The dough, not the child.) Fold into thirds and tuck the ends under. Set in a greased loaf pan. Slash the middle, just to let it know who’s boss. Set in a warm oven to rise for about two hours. Then, without moving the loaf, turn the oven on to 350 and bake for about 45 to 55 minutes. That’s basically how I do it, and it’s different every time. I started baking bread when I was in fourth grade and my mother abandoned me– I mean, got a part-time job and I had afternoons home alone. Using the oven, of course.

3. What is your favorite family holiday tradition? What is something that everyone else does but you skip?

Gosh, my favorite family holiday tradition? That’s really hard for me– I’m very much a traditionalist, so holding on to traditions until they are way past dead is like my life’s work. I love them ALL. But, for brevity, I love having an Advent wreath on our dinner table and singing “O Come O Come Emmanuel” as we light the candle every night until Christmas Eve. Everyone else seems to be really into Elf on the Shelf right now. I don’t get that. It’s way cheaper (and more effective, I find) to remind your kids that elves are visible to grown-ups only and are watching them. And every time they start to step out of line from Thanksgiving onward you get to spin your head around super fast and yell, “Was that an elf?!!” It’s part of the reward of parenting, isn’t it?

4. It’s the PTA Bakesale. Handmade, store-bought, or nope?

I think you know the answer to this one. I am a creature prone entirely to stupid flights of culinary heroism and terrible vanity. I will bend over backwards to make something spectacular from scratch, just to hear the chewers sing my praises. Once for a bake sale in high school I made authentic Shaker sugar cookies from an antique Shaker cookbook. But first, I made the butter.

Y’all. She MADE the butter.

*I totally slipped in this question because I was hoping she would ACTUALLY WRITE DOWN instructions for me but nope. What the hell is ‘some flour’? Is that metric??

 

Social Butterfly. And Literal Butterflies.

I am a Textbook Introvert. Two year old Babystar is EXTROVERT AF. Every morning when we wake up, she asks me where we are going and who we are going to see.

This kid is going places. Literally.

We recently went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The museum is free but we paid $4.60 for street parking and $11 to go into the Butterfly Pavilion. The Butterfly Pavilion is a small humid room full of flowers and fruit and butterflies. The butterflies fly freely and one landed on my arm. This happened several weeks ago and Babystar is STILL talking about it!

 

 

 

Any time that any thing is on any person’s arm, Babystar is all LOOK JUST LIKE THE BLUE BUTTERFLY (pronounced fufferfy) ON MAMA’S ARM HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

AHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAAH.

It’s really funny, y’all.

Babystar also really liked the ‘big elephant‘ in the Rotunda, but who doesn’t love Henry? She was fascinated with the large blue whale statue that hangs from the ceiling, but she said it was ‘too scary’. Also, now she asks me all the time if a whale is coming to bite her. So. Um. Maybe it was too scary.

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History has a cool little hands-on children’s room that I didn’t even know was there. Maybe it’s new? Maybe I just never had a toddler when I was there? It is full of cool science-y things that would really appeal to all ages of children. Some kids were doing puzzles. Some kids were checking out slides on a microscope. Babystar played with magnets for an hour. She would have stayed all day but the time on our parking meter expired.

 

 

We plan to go back soon either via metro or parking garage. Street parking is maximum two hours and that was definitely not enough time.

I try to take Babystar on new adventures often, now that she has developed some long term memory. But still we also go the same places over and over. I don’t have time or space in my life to post everything individually, and much of it would be boring and repetitive.

Recently, we have hit up a few old favorites. We have been to Busy Bees four times recently. The first three visits were $15/pop but yesterday I got smart and bought a $36 three-pack. So the next two visits are already paid, and I saved a few bucks. We have gone to Rise and Rhyme at Busboys and Poets twice at $5/visit. Plus we have to count the sweet potato pancake breakfast we always share that is AMAZING and rounds up to $20 with tip. We went to the airport to watch the planes take off twice ($18 total for parking). We went to a friends birthday party and brought a gift and card ($21.98).

RAISING BABYSTAR: $22,659.58