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?




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.)




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.


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.



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).





Fall Wardrobe: Toddler Edition.

September was the kind of hot that made me doubt Fall even existed. October gave us a few less-than-scalding days, but it was still too warm for a jacket. Or socks. FINALLY, now that is is freaking November, cooler weather has descended upon the us here in the DC area. Praise be. Hallelujah. Amen. Blessings to the Horae. All of it.

Babystar is super lucky; she has a Grammy that loves to shop. And by that I mean that WE are all very lucky that Grammy loves to shop, because we get surprise boxes of clothes throughout the year. Last month we received a box full of 3T leggings and a few other random outfits.

Fun fact: Grammy (aka my MIL) has started removing all of the tags before mailing so that I cannot exchange anything. And almost everything she sends is pink. Or flowery. Or pink and flowery. Grammy is also on board with the star theme so we get a lot of star prints too. I love it. I really do love it. But the tag thing is hilarious.

So obviously, Babystar is SET on leggings this fall. In fact, the leggings drawer literally overfloweth. AND YET I BOUGHT TWO MORE PAIRS OF LEGGINGS ANYWAY. Partially to balance the pink and partially because Target was having a sale on Cat and Jack but mostly because LOOK HOW SWEET. ($3.75 each! Cat and Jack was 25% off of already stupidly low prices. COME. ON.)

Cat and Jack leggings

We also bought a few long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts that should last the season. (Maybe. I do love a good sale. And I kind of hate laundry.)


Clockwise from the rocket ship: $5.99, $8.99, $4.50, $5.99, $5.99, $3.75, $5.99. Everything was 25% off except the Ghostbusters tee. But obviously we had to buy the Ghostbusters tee. With tax, everything was $51.62.

I will probably buy her a coat or something this winter. (Probably this one.) If my lovely MIL doesn’t send a box of various coats in various lengths and various weights and various fabrics first. (I love it. I hope that is coming through. I really do love her thoughtfulness, and she waited a long freaking time for a grandchild.)

Unrelated (always related): I have been encouraging the toddler to choose her own clothes. That is my version. Her version might be different and include the phrase “I do what I want.” But the end result is that I have learned a fashion secret. Nobody but NOBODY can mix patterns like a Toddler.