Silver Lining

February 21, 2017

an afternoon at the train park

When our friends invited us to spend an afternoon with them at the train park last week, we jumped at the chance. Sam's in the middle of the job search for after graduation (I can't believe we're almost to the end of grad school!) and the hunt just might kill him. You guys, he is so stressed out, and feels so much pressure to find the perfect job. We really needed a few hours to just be together and have fun as a family.

We first became friends with the Cooks in college, and we LOVE that they are in the Phoenix area too. The total opposite side of the huge Phoenix metropolis, but hey. It was so fun to spend two hours catching up and chatting about babies and life. Well, mostly we wrangled my fussy pre-bedtime children, but you know, it's nice to wrangle children together while sneaking in snippets of conversation at the same time. :)

We went to the McCormick-Stillman train park in Scottsdale and it was so much fun. I still can't get over the entire building full of working model trains. There's also a fun merry-go-round. And Claire is still talking about the train ride we went on (only $2!). All in all, such a fun place to spend an afternoon (and it's practically deserted if you go on a weekday).

^^ Sometimes I forget how big cactuses/cacti really are. Then I see pictures of them that are easily 20 feet tall. It was almost to the top of that tree in the background.
After the train ride and model trail museum, we had a picnic dinner at the huge playground and picnic area right next to the train tracks. We played until the sun went down and the twins were thaaaat close to a total breakdown. Then we got to enjoy a nice drive home with sleepy silent babies in the back. Thanks again for the invitation, Ryan and Carly! It was such a fun afternoon.

February 17, 2017

favorite rhyming board books (that you won't get sick of)

Today I'm back to talk about children's books again! Specifically, rhyming board books for pre-readers.

Why are rhyming books so great for babies and toddlers? A few reasons. First of all, young children really respond to rhythm. They're more likely to be engaged, involved and interested when there's a strong rhythm. Secondly, rhymes are fantastic in developing phonological awareness and language structures (a.k.a. it helps kids understand that syllables make up words, and words make up the English language). Third, rhyming/ rhythmic books are great for memorization, an intermediary step to reading. All in all, they're fantastic. And fun too!

But don't some rhyming books just drive you crazy? If the rhythm isn't great, or if you can tell it's a forced rhyme, it's hard to keep reading. And it's a law of nature that your child will fall in love with the one board book you hate the most, and request it millions of times per day.

Confession: The rhyming book I can't stand is Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? I get that it's a great book. It has rhyme, it has rhythm, it teaches colors, it teaches animals... But something that that book makes my eye start to twitch just thinking about that darn purple cat and blue horse and goldfish.

The solution? Get some of these rhyming books now and save them for your child's next birthday / holiday / potty training reward. They're short, they're fun, and they won't make you lose your mind when you have to read them 10 times in one morning. And if you have Amazon Prime like me you can stock up now (these are all under $6 currently) and get them at your door in two days. Here are our favorites:

Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! by Sandra Boynton
I can't say how much I LOVE Sandra Boynton and her board books. If you pick only one rhyming board book author to have in your home, pick her. This book is fun and funny and teaches opposites through fun rhymes. Our other two rhyming favorites are Barnyard Dance and Pajama Time.

There's a Wocket in my Pocket by Dr Seuss

This one's on sale for only $3.50 right now. It's such a fun way to introduce rhyming with nonsense words. It's definitely a most-requested book at our house! (But did Dr Seuss have to pick a title that prompts so many inappropriate subtitle ideas? haha) We also love Mr Brown Can Moo. Can You?

Silly Sally by Audrey Wood
This book has a fantastic rhythm and the rhymes never feel forced or manipulated the fit the structure of the book. And I die over toddlers trying to pronounce the title when they can't say their r's correctly ("Si-yee sa-yee"). Older children have fun looking closely to spot what's coming next.


Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden

This series is great for very young children because it's short, there are very few words, and the pictures and colors are eye-catching. Each page has a cut-out so you can guess what's next (shown is Peek a Moo with a cow on the next page). It's fun and engaging, and makes you wonder why you weren't the one who thought of the idea and is now making millions off this simple, easy and fun rhyming series. Love the mirror on the last page too.

5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

I almost left this one off the list because it's very repetitive and some may get sick of it. For me, the fun illustrations make up for the repetition. We had a play date last week at our house and both kids' moms said their children were obsessed with this book too. Also, it's one of the books my 2.5-year-old can read all by herself (meaning she has the whole thing memorized and will read it aloud to herself). Funny little last page too.

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw

The rhyming structure and words are fairly brilliant in this fun one. This book is requested allllll day long at my house. Sheep Out to Eat is fun too, and I've heard the other ones in this series are good, but this is the only one we own and between the relentlessly good rhyming and the fun illustrations, it's already a classic.


What are your favorite rhyming board books?
I'm always in the market for new recommendations!

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February 15, 2017

Arizona desert in the spring

Last week my mother-in-law was in town for a few days, and you better believe we took advantage of the free babysitting. Her main goal was to sit at our house and hold the babies she rarely gets to see, and our main goal was to get out without holding any babies like we so rarely get to do, so it worked out quite nicely. Claire loved the visit and was especially excited about her "special bed!" which is a blow-up mattress on the floor of our walk-in closet where she sleeps when we have company. Ah to be two years old and excited about sleeping on the floor of a closet.

On Saturday morning we all went for a little walk in the desert. (Remember when we discovered this desert just a few blocks from our house? Posts here and here.) I think I need to plan a hike in the desert for our next date night, because I've been getting frustrated that we don't get very far with three young kids in tow. Even so, the tiny amount of desert we encountered was gorgeous.

The walk to and from was the best part for Claire - empty roads waiting to be run on, flowers waiting to be picked, and plenty of adults available to swing her around.

We're just reaching the time of year where the Sonoran desert blooms, and I honestly think it's so magical. Almost every small bush we encountered had flowers and new growth peeking out at the ends, and there is a tiny layer of something that looks like bright green grass covering the ground. 

Lincoln was a very very sad baby and spent the entire (short) hike cuddled up grabbing a handful of dad's shirt.
This was when Claire decided it was time to stop and play with the rocks on the trail, and we all indulged her for a few minutes as other groups walked around us.

Now we're thinking about date night this week without a free babysitter. And we can't find a good excuse to make treats if we're just going to be sitting around by ourselves eating them. It's no fun. Somebody else better come visit quickly. 
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