Thursday, July 30, 2015

Look Who's Talking: 21 months old!

Woohoo! Forest is the big 2-1 today. Twenty-one months. Gosh I can’t believe it. And these guest posts are getting really hard to come up with these days! With Forest’s budding personality and exploding bank of vocabulary words, I almost feel like it’s harder to ‘get into his mind’ to come up with a narrative. I guess I feel like it’s hard to speak for him now that he can sort of speak for himself. I’m going to try to keep up with the guest posts through his second birthday though, but I'm having a much easier time writing up his monthly summaries (which will be up on the blog early next week). Here he is to give you the scoop. 
Hiya guys. Let’s get on with the show. 

1) When my mom turns the TV off. 
2) When my mom turns the iPad off. 
3) When my mom tells me I can’t use her phone to watch Baby Einstein. 
4) When my mom won’t let me look at the pictures on her camera. 
5) When my mom won’t let me play with her computer. 
6) Etc.   

1) Anything with a screen. 
Hence my displeasure about all the items on the aforementioned dislikes list. 
2) Art.  
This month I was introduced to paint for the first time and my love affair with the visual arts soared. My preferred medium is still chalk (and my preferred canvas is the Restoration Hardware coffee table in the living room) but I’ll make a masterpiece with whatever materials I have at my disposal. 

My favorite thing is when my mom or dad traces my hand and I get to color it in. 
I’m also working on my handwriting skills. 
My mom says I have a future in calligraphy. 

3) The zoo. My parents took me back to Happy Hollow Zoo last weekend and it was probably the best day of my life. I was star struck to see all my favorite animals in person. 
First we hit up the petting zoo to feed the goats (!) and then my luck continued when I also got to pet a horse (!), cow (!!)and sheep (!!!).  It was if Little Blue Truck came to life and I was in little boy heaven. Not to mention all the cool playgrounds and rides they have there. 

Add in cool animals like foxes, lemurs and anteaters and you’ve got yourself a bonafide toddler paradise. 
4) FaceTime. Anytime I see the iPad I start nagging my mom to put in a call to my Nana and Pops. And if they don’t answer I go into hysterics as my mom frantically dials everyone in her contact list to try to find a substitute FaceTime participant to placate me. I try to FaceTime with Nana and Pops at least once a week. My mom says I’m going to visit them in the flesh next week. Talk about being star struck! 

5) Checking the mail. It’s the high point of my day, especially when we have packages and double especially when those packages are for me! Thanks Nana Kay! 
6) Pancakes. Specifically the frozen blueberry ones with Elmo on the package. The best pancakes are microwavable, dontcha think? 

Alright guys, that's me. See you in a month when I'll be feeling 22 (Oh yea, go ahead and add T. Swift to my 'likes' list.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pinterest Project: Toddler Painting

Forest is big into art these days. It seems all he wants to do is draw with his color wonder markers or with his sidewalk chalk. 

Anytime he sees me writing with a pen he tries to snipe it, and marking things off my list at the grocery store results in a tantrum unless I fork over my pen and paper to the toddler tyrant in the cart. One medium we hadn’t tried yet was painting, and when I saw this cute idea on Pinterest I immediately wanted to try it with Forest. 
Since we hadn’t ever painted before, I needed to go out and buy supplies. It made me giddy and reminded me of my back-to-school shopping days. Is there anything more exhilarating than a brand new stack of school supplies? No. Just me? Ahem. 

For this particular project I needed (links included for your convenience)

1. Washable Paints in a variety of colors. I went with Crayola since Target was selling 10 2 oz colors for $5.

2. A small thin canvas. Target sells Crayola 2 packs for $5 but you can get them in bulk from other brands for less per unit.

I started out by forming Forest’s name in tape on the blank canvas. This was harder than it looked and took a few trial and error stabs before I got the scale and form right. I wouldn't advise tracing it in pencil because it'd be hard to get the markings off of the canvas.
The 's' was super hard!
If your kiddo has a very straight lined name with 3 letters ala Kye or Eli (Hey Tal and Abbi!), then this will be a piece of cake, but if you’ve got a Theodore or Harrison on your hands then you may want to build in some extra time for this portion of the project. (Or you could just do their first initial. Or just randomly tape lines across the canvas for more of a cubism effect.) Luckily Forest's name falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum so after 20 minutes, our canvas was primed and ready to go. 
I've never been so glad that we chose the spelling with one 'r' for Forest's name;)

It was a gorgeous day outside so I decided to help Forest channel his inner Monet and we painted outside. I spread out the plastic drop cloth and held it in place with the patio furniture. 

Of course Forest was way more enamored with the drop cloth covering the patio than he was with the canvas with his name on it, but once I brought the paint out he instinctively knew what to do. 
I am *slightly* OCD so I only brought out one color at a time and let him smear that color wherever he wanted on the canvas and then tried to let it dry before moving on to a different color. This kept the painting from turning into a swampy brown mess and also helped me to reinforce the names of colors while he was painting. 
Forest is a funny guy. If you ask him what any letter is he will answer ‘A’. If you ask him how many of something there is he will answer ‘2’. If you ask him what color something is, he will answer ‘red’, but that’s the extent of his color knowledge. Well, while painting he was able to correctly identify green, orange and purple because they were the only color in his dish at any given time, which I think helped the idea stick a bit more. 

Of course, when it came time to switch colors and I’d ask which color he wanted he would exclaim ‘RED!’ as he grabbed the blue/green/yellow/etc. Obviously, we need some more work on the color spectrum.  

He worked diligently on the painting for about 20 minutes before getting bored (or maybe he got fed up with his slightly hovering/uptight/OCD momma, saying- 'hey Forest, this corner of the canvas hardly has any paint, why don't you paint some there...') at which point he started building paint container towers. He is ever our little engineer. 

With some encouragement he finally completed his canvas and we let it dry while we cleaned up a bit. 

I was very happy with how washable the Crayola paints were, especially since Forest decided to paint our patio furniture blue. 

Once it was dry, we had fun pulling off all the tape and I explained that it spelled out his name and went over all the letters. 

Now it’s on display in our kitchen and he will point to it and say ‘art’ or 'painting'. 
It was totally messy but so much fun, and full of great teachable moments. I’m glad that now we have plenty of paint supplies on hand for the next time that inspiration strikes. 

Do you have any crafting ideas that would be great for a toddler?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Reading Recommendations

We are halfway through the year and I am 75% done with my reading goal of finishing 40 books in 2015. When I first set this goal, I honestly thought I was being quite ambitious. I mean, 3ish books a month is a lot and I have a pretty needy and superbly energetic toddler on my hands. But somehow I am managing to read more than ever. A lot of my friends ask me where I find the time and to me it’s more about making the time vs finding the time. Just like any hobby, it’s something that restores me, so I find myself carving out time to make it happen. 

Any free moment I have, I’m pulling my latest novel out and reading a few pages. When Forest was an itty baby, I would read on my kindle while he had monster breast-feeding sessions. I’d bring my book along for strolls and as soon as he fell asleep in the stroller, I’d pull off in a sunny spot and read until he woke up from his nap. When he outgrew those pauses in everyday life, I started reading during his more formal naptimes. When he was on his two nap schedule, I would do all of my household chores during nap one, while nap two was reserved for teatime and book reading. Sigh, I miss those two nap days!

 Now he only takes a single nap and it’s about the length of only one of his naps in the good old days, so with barely over an hour to work with, my naptime reading fests have become a thing of the past. Now I mostly read before bed and also at the gym while I use the elliptical machine, that way I can kill two birds with one stone. 

Anyhoos, that was a crazy pointless tangent, but all of this is just to say that its been a while since I did book recommendations on the blog so I figured it was past due. Let’s do this! (I have linked each title with the info page on Amazon for your convenience  in case you want to read the descriptions or buy a copy.)

This is my favorite kind of novel. It’s beautifully written, kind of sleepy and slow, not driven by plot but rather by character development. This book in particular follows two seemingly unconnected characters: one an agoraphobic morbidly obese ex-professor and the other a high-school baseball star with a tumultuous home life. Nothing much happens but the insight into both characters as their lives merge is really beautiful to follow. 

 The Snow Child
This was another one right up my alley. It’s the quietly sad tale of a childless couple who move to the frontiers of Alaska to escape the grief of their infertility. One day they build a child out of snow and the next day spot a young girl running through the forest. This lovely novel plays with magical realism in a simple and wonderful way, and I just absolutely loved it to pieces.   

3) The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. 
 The Marriage Plot
I was reluctant to read this follow up from the Middlesex author simply because of the mixed reviews on goodreads. It was repeatedly referred to as ‘pretentious’ which is always a major turn off for me. And while I agree, I think the pretentiousness was an intentional and ironic literary tool, so I still managed to enjoy it. This book follows a love triangle through college and the few years following but also deals with topics of religion and mental health in a relatable and thought-provoking way. It’s wordy and I could see it not floating everyone’s boat, but I think it’s worth the read. 

4) The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. 
 The Girl on the Train
Not my usual cup of tea, but an interesting thriller about a commuter who notices some clues about a missing person whose home she passes daily on the train. 

This in an epic tale spanning several generations within a family said to have a curse upon them. It’s beautifully dark, sort of in the southern gothic genre, with a little folk tale thrown in. It took a while for me to warm up to it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it in the end. 

6) Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett. 
 Truth and Beauty
This is by the same author of one my recent favorites, State of Wonder, but this is a nonfiction retelling of her relationship with fellow author Lucy Grealy. Grealy lost part of her face to childhood cancer and had many reconstructive surgeries trying to rebuild her jawline and went on to suffer from bouts of depression and low self esteem as a result. I found the book interesting, but have heard that Grealy’s perspective is much different, as told in her book, Autobiography of a Face. It’s on my ‘to-read’ list. 

Something I found striking (and a bit off point) in this book was the description of Aberdeen, Scotland. It was solely described as an ugly, depressing city and as someone who lived there for 2 years, I just found it amazing how two people could view a city so differently. But since it’s grey and dreary most of the year, I can definitely understand how someone with a depressed state of mind could become even more so in The Granite City. I just found myself getting a little bit in a huff whenever it was being bashed in the book, since it's a city that holds a big part of my heart and one I never saw as anything but charming and beautiful. 

This is the only book I’ve given 5 stars to in quite a while. It’s just that good. The writing is perfection and I love me a good historical novel. This one takes place in Jim Crow Era Mississippi and follows a white farming family and their black share croppers. It’s a horrific subject matter but poignantly told. 

 Still Alice
This one had been on my ‘to-read’ list for a while. It’s the story of a Harvard psychology professor who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzhiemer’s and it follows her quick deterioration from the disease. It’s really terrifying and certainly gave me even more empathy for anyone facing a dementia diagnosis. I thought it was a brilliant angle and subject matter but couldn’t help but feel like it could have been more powerfully written.

 The Matchmaker
This one is pure chick lit and my first ever Elin Hilderbrand novel. I was a little resistant but since it was my book club’s pick this month I had no choice. And surprisingly, I really enjoyed it! It was very nicely written and the characters, though a bit one-dimensional, were relatable. It was a tad sappy and romantic for my tastes, and I have a feeling that her novels probably all follow a similar formula, but I could see taking a break from my usual heavy reading and tossing another Hilderbrand into the lineup from time to time. 

 Every Last One
Shockingly this was my first Quindlen too. I really liked her writing style. The plot follows the mom of 3 as tragedy strikes her seemingly perfect life. The author really captured the complexity of grief and I felt like the wind was knocked out of me several times while reading this. I'll share one particularly lovely quote: 
"Ruby loved to tell me things I didn't know, and that afternoon as we sipped lemonade and scuffed our bare feet through the shaggy grass, she had told me about the butterfly effect, how that the beating of their wings in Mexico could cause a breeze in our backyard.

'That's kind of terrifying,' I replied. But even as I spoke I realized that that was what we all had to believe from the moment we had children. The breast-fed baby became the confident adult. The toddler who listened to a bedtime story went on to a doctorate. We flapped our wings in our kitchen and a wind blew through their futures."

Just shatteringly beautiful and spot on.

Alright, that’s about all I have for you today. Currently I’m reading The Pact by Jodi Piccoult and have The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll on my list to read next. What are you reading (or wanting to read) these days?