Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Read-Aloud Book Review: Ling and Ting are Saving Our Lives

     Adora, Juno, and I love, love, LOVE to read! We spend a good amount of time reading every day, which I personally think is good for all of us. It gives Adora and Juno time to recharge, relax, and regain energy (so that they can return to being their energetic and effervescent selves for the rest of the afternoon), it allows us to learn new things and strengthen reading skills, it helps us connect out weekly themes with information and pictures (I often get books that relate to our themes), and it's a lovely time for us all to be together. I love reading, and I'm trying to pass some of that love onto them. Plus, I really, really enjoy reading out loud. And recently, the kidlets do, too! 

Our book pile. Featuring the boxed I have packed to take to uni, because I'm too lazy to crop them out. Maybe I like my pictures better raw? It's more authentic, probably. Don't judge.

     This has brought up one, little tiny issue: finding appropriate out-loud reading material for Juno. Adora always reads aloud to us from Junie B. Jones; she is amazing. She does hilarious voices for each of the characters and puts a ton of emotion into reading. You can really tell how much she loves to read! We love hearing her read, too.
 Juno, however, is a lot younger than Adora, and is less practiced at reading aloud. I love hearing her read stories, but Adora is generally not as patient with it as I am, which I understand (it's hard to be the oldest, and while she's generally very patient and understanding, this is one thing that she finds less easy to tolerate). As much as Juno longs to read us chapter books, it's a bit much for her (and a bit trying on Adora's patience), and picture books just aren't classy enough for her. We needed something in between, but I was having trouble finding that thing.

Enter Ling and Ting, my summer saviors.
Ling and Ting books are amazing, for these, and many more, reasons:
A. Ling and Ting books are short and aimed at younger children, but they are cute, and they are hilarious. The stories are at Juno's reading level, yet they easily capture Adora's attention (which isn't always easy to catch).
B. Ling and Ting books have chapters, which makes Juno feel super fancy (her basic reaction to seeing the chapters was, "Now that's classy, partner.") and accomplished, but the chapters are short, so she doesn't feel overwhelmed when attempting to finish one. Amazing. 
C. We need more diverse books in the world, and Ling and Ting are helping with that effort.w The protagonists are Chinese, and the book features stories in which they practice with chopsticks and make their own dumplings, amongst many other cool and interesting stories. I love reading books that features diverse characters with the girls, and they love these stories, so it's a win-win!
D. Grace Lin wrote the book, and she is a gift to this godforsaken world. All of her books and super diverse, super interesting, super well written, and super worth reading. 

To recap, pretty much every day, the girls and I would have a conversation along these lines:
Juno: "I want to read!"
Adora: "PLEASE don't let her read!"
And it was frustrating, because I wanted everyone to be happy, but there was no way for me to make it happen. Ling and Ting have completely eliminated this, and have SAVED OUR LIVES, I tell you. 
Also, this post is 100% not sponsored? I'm honestly just so hype about this book, man. 
What books are you and your kidlets enjoying this summer? Let me know in the comments! We could totally use recommendations.
Juno is reading and EVERYONE IS HAPPY (!!)
(Also, the lights are off. Like a movie theatre, obviously) 
PS: I was really tempted to add "by Fall Out Boy" to the end of this title, but I restrained myself.
PPS: If you didn't watch the Elmify video I linked to earlier, you're missing out, because she's amazing and a creative genius. 

Wordless Wednesday: England

I wanted to chronicle our summer through photos, but I'm off to a pretty lame start (which is to say, it's been three weeks and I haven't made any posts). But, NO MORE! I'm actually going to do this now.
We've been learning about England this week. See some of our activities here!

Juno painting her own teacup 

Adora's trifle -- yum!

Juno's trifle <3

Making our own tea blends -- complete with our own fancy tea boxes (thanks for making me look classy, Dollar Tree)

And now, a tea party! With trifle and our own special teacups

Making wire bases for flower crowns for Midsummer's Night; scroll down to see them completed 

Adding flowers

Making Fairie Circles

Flower crown in action during the building of the Fairie Circles

The fairies left us gifts!

Completed flower crowns

We love to read! 
I'm feeling lazy and I don't want to get my camera card and add what we did today, so there's what we have so far this week! We're having lots of fun exploring England, and we loved celebrating Midsummer's Night. What have you all been up to this summer? 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A Letter to the Mama Whom I Will Become

Welcome to the June 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Talking to Yourself
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written letters to themselves. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I love kids, but I'm not a mother yet.
 I write this blog as an AP nanny/baby sitter, but I don't yet have kids of my own. However, I excitedly anticipate the day when I will raise my own kids, and in honour of that, I wrote a letter to the mother that I will one day become.
Also, I pulled out the embarrassing middle school photos on this post. FOR YOU GUYS.
Hey you,
Wow! You made it! You're a mother.
Take a moment to just think about that.
Hold your baby in your arms. Breathe in their smell, hug them to yourself. You're here, you did it, you're a mama, and this is your baby.

Think back in time.
Remember when you were in middle school, absentmindedly daydreaming, picturing what it would be like when you could finally become a mother. You chose embarrassing names for your hypothetical children, designations that you've long forgotten. You imagined what they would look like, you pictured the kind of house in which you might live, the home that you would create with them. You dreamt of speaking to them in Japanese (some things never change) and caring for their needs.
Middle school Erin and baby 
Middle school Erin with a kiddo (and VERY pronounced braces) 

Recall as a high schooler, practicing with your ring sling, learning how to tie on your baby wrap, reading countless articles about babywearing, and pining over gorgeous rainbow wraps. You learned these skills for then, for nannying and baby sitting and caring for your friend's offspring, but as you did so, you couldn't help but imagine the future, when your carriers will hold your own babies, when you will hold your own close to your heart.
The first picture I have of myself babywearing. We've come a long way. 
Beginning at a young age, while out in public, you always notice babies. "Aw, look at the baby!" and "Check out that sweet carrier" (you're like a babywearing radar) are familiar comments from you. One day, you're at the beach with your mother, and you pass by a woman with her baby snugly cuddled in a wrap. Your mother turns to you and comments, "I know you were totally digging that lady's cool baby carrier." You were. A few days later, she comments to you, "I always notice when people are using baby carrier now, because of you!"
As a high schooler, one day, you're walking with your best friend, and you walk past a woman holding a smiling and cooing baby. After you pass her, your friend turns to you and comments, "You wanted to steal that baby, didn't you?" She knows you all too well. Later, she messages you, asking what your favourite animal is. Seconds later, she clarifies, "Other than baby humans, of course."

You do the same thing while you're living in Japan; you're always pointing out cute babies, especially if their parents are babywearing. And in Japan, their parents are ALWAYS babywearing. You do this so often that one day, your host grandmother teaches you a special word: おんぶ を します (onbu o shimasu) -- to wear one's baby on one's back.
Erin in Japan. Not pictured: any form of babywearing, or anything relevant to this blog post. I just really love talking about Japan, to be honest. 

Remember picturing yourself wearing your own kids, cosleeping, breastfeeding, caring for them. Think back to reading countless articles about homebirth and cosleeping, to learning about breastfeeding and natural living, to practicing babywearing. You have spent years and years caring for other people's children, and you have looked forward to this moment for a long time. And you made it! You did it. You're holding your own baby in your arms.
                   Here are some things that I want you to know and remember:
     Your baby is yours, and you get to make decisions for them. What your Mother in law, Grandmother, Aunts, Uncles, childhood friends, or old classmates from high school think is not important. It's not their baby, it's your baby. As Steve Harvey once said, "Get your own baby. This ain't your baby." Be confident in your decisions, and in what works for you. And be your child's advocate. Fight for what is best for them. What people think about you is not important -- protecting your child and securing what is best and safest for them is.
     Motherhood is not perfect. You will be tired. You will want a break. You may be desperate for a minuet--a second, even! -- to yourself. You will be irritated sometimes. You might feel unsupported. These feelings are normal. You're not"doing it wrong". But when you are frustrated, tired, touched out, when everything seems wrong, remember back. Think about when you babywore, read, and dreamt of the future. Think about how much you've longed for this. Think about how special your kiddo is, how lucky you are to have them. Remember that these moments, even the tiring ones, are special.
     Don't be afraid to take pictures, to write, to save mementos. Capture the memories however you can. Take pictures of yourself babywearing, of partners and friends babywearing (can you tell I'm already excited at the prospect of babywearing photos?), of special moments. Of tiny toes and sleepy smiles, of your baby in special places and experiencing new things. You'll be glad that you did.
   You can do this. You are a good mother. You are patient, you are very loving, you are kind, you are giving, and you care about kids so, so much. But you're a worrier, and you're a perfectionist, and unfortunately, those two things, when mixed together, create a bitter cocktail of unnecessary regret and frustration that I feel that you might be drinking often as a new mother. You will worry that you are not enough. You might worry that you are too easily frustrated, that you are not loving in the way that your child needs you to be, that you are not adequate. But remember these things:
You are an amazing mother. An AMAZING mother!
You are perfect for your baby. You are just what they need. You are the right person to be their mother. They are lucky to have you, and you them.
You are loving. You are so, so very loving! Your child will be showered with all the love that they need and more. No need to worry.
You are such a patient person. You are usually calm in the face of chaos. It's normal to be annoyed sometimes, but even in the face of irritation, you generally stay calm and collected. Your child will thank you for this.
You are accepting and understanding. You love people for who they are. Your child will benefit from this.
You are constantly thinking about the best way to support and care for children. You care so, so very much about them.
You have so much of yourself to give to your kids. You are enough. You will always be enough.
                                          Keep calm and carry on, mama. You've got this.
                                    I'm so excited and happy for you. See you in the future, mama Erin.
I wanted to add more of my babywearing practice pictures (from practicing with dolls, ect, to learn how to wrap correctly), because I just have SO. MANY. And why not, right? So, here they are:
Me wearing a buffalo. For your viewing pleasure.

I swear, I'm happy. 
So happy! Because I finally figured out FWCC with my water wrap

DIY ring sling means hands free! 

Why yes, I DO have the same expression in all of my babywearing pictures.
.....I have dozens of reference pictures like this. I'll spare you from having to see all of them.
Also, just for fun, more pictures of middle school Erin (I keep finding them):
I look thrilled
I had the "I'm hands free and babywearing" pose down before I even knew what babywearing was (Does it concern anyone else that I look exactly the same in this picture taken six years ago as I do in the pictures that I took, like, last week? Is this why I'm always getting mistaken for a 7'th grader?) 

*** Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting! Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Dear Me. — Meegs at A New Day writes to her decade-younger self offering a good reminder of how far she's come, and she addresses some fears she wishes future her could assuage.
  • Reflecting on Motherhood with Parental Intelligence: A Letter to Myself — Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. at Parental Intelligence writes about raising her two loving, empathic sons with Parental Intelligence and finding they have become industrious, accomplished young men with warm social relationships.
  • A Letter to MyselfThe Barefoot Mama writes to herself in the moments around the birth of her daughter.
  • A Letter to Myself — Holly at Leaves of Lavender offers a missive to herself in the past... three years in the past, to be precise, when her little one was only four months old.
  • Dear me: Nothing will go the way you've planned — Lauren at Hobo Mama gets real with her just-starting-parenting self and tells it to her straight.
  • A Letter to the Mama Whom I Will Become — Erin from And Now, for Something Completely Different writes a letter to the Mama whom she will one day be, filled with musings on the past, present, and future.
  • Dear Me of 7 Years Ago — Lactating Girl at The Adventures of Lactating Girl writes to her pre-baby self telling her about the whirlwind she's about to enter called parenting.
  • Talking to My 18 Year Old SelfHannahandHorn talks to herself as she is just entering college.
  • Dear highly sensitive soulMarija Smits tells a younger version of herself that motherhood will bring unexpected benefits - one of them being the realization that she is a highly sensitive person.
  • Talking to myself: Dear Pre StoneageparentStoneageparent enlightens her pre-pregnant self about the amazing transformations life has in store for her after having two children
  • Dear Me: I love you. — Dionna at Code Name: Mama wrote herself a few little reminders to help her be at peace with who she is in the moment. That may give her the greatest chance of being at peace in the future, too.
  • My best advice to the new mama I was 8 years ago — Tat at Mum in Search shares the one thing she wishes she'd figured out earlier in a letter to her 8-years-ago self (that's when her first baby was 6 moths old).
  • A Letter to Myself — Bibi at The Conscious Doer sends a letter back in time eight years to her darkest moment post partum.
  • To me, with love — Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama makes peace with her past and projects what a future her will need to hear.
  • To Myself on the Last Day — Rachael at The Variegated Life tells her panicked last-day-before-motherhood self not to worry.

Monday, June 1, 2015

May 2015: Ben Likes His Eat-N-Parks Nice and Dirty, and Other Atrocities

I was watching a movie with JC, Dres, and Syd today, and at one point, JC turned to me and said, "Are you having a hard time not talking during this?"
And then, she let me talk to her during the movie, because she understands my need to talk at all times. She's the real MVP.
This is honestly the best coming out video I've ever seen. Holy cow.
So, apparently Ben had a dream that Mikayla came over to our house, and she stole his iPod and went and hid in his room and wouldn't come out. He was super mad, and kept demanding that she give it back, but she wouldn't, and the door would only open a sliver of the way, so finally, he stuck his middle finger through the door and said, "Hey Mikayla, I bet you can't guess which finger this is!"
.............Which is my new favourite story of all time.
Sometimes I'm like, "Why was I so obsessed with This Is Gospel a few months ago...?"
And then I listen to it, and I'm like, "IF YOU LOVE ME LET ME GOOOOO"
It's kind of amazing.
I went to Arisa's house today and tried to log into her laptop with my password, as if it would work. It was honestly just muscle memory, like, I didn't even think about it...which is kind of sad.
Watching Eurovision with Johanna! She's awesome, I'm so glad that we get to watch it together! Technology is honestly so cool.
And by watching Eurovision, I kind of mean talking about how hot Loik is. He's basically amazing.
This is honestly so cool, though! We're both watching it from different countries, and they messaging one another about everything that happens. And neither of us is in Europe.
Technology is honestly so amazing.
Ben: "I don't like this Eat 'N Park. It's too clean. I like my Eat 'N Parks nice and dirty."
Today, I was with Ben in a store, and Thanks for the Memories came on, so, I sang the entire song (read: screamed the song in his face) and jumped around, as one does. He was not amused.
...This is why people won't take me in public anymore.
(There are already two posts too many about emo music in this blog post. I need to get it together).
(I've already failed at my goal)
This babywearing Dad and his adorable baby...they just slay me. Oh, my word. My heart.
Ben, Harley, and I went shopping at the Asian market today, and it was really, really special and cool. It almost felt a little bit surreal, like, "Wow, am I actually here shopping for ramen with Harley? Deja vu." It was just weird and cool to be doing that again, like we used to. Except now, instead of being three little kids, dashing down the isles in search of the perfect flavour of ramen, yelling to one another excitedly about the discovery of another pack of Pocky, and searching the shelves for a cool pair of chopsticks, we walk the isles and gaze at the items, we three. We three: One in a Hank Green shirt, insisting on reading all of the packaging and announcing what all of the items are, excitedly squealing at certain vegetables or fruits and announcing, "I used to eat this all of the time in Japan." One nine months pregnant, choosing her favourite ramen and wondering if they have anything here that she can save for her precious baby, so excitedly anticipated and adored. One ambling about with his skater's gait (I'm not sure how he even manages to walk like a skater. He's got talent), cracking jokes and making references to his favourites Vines, insisting on buying Sriracha, even though we both know he'll never eat it. It was so striking to see the contrast. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I've been reading A LOT of Hobo Mama recently! Here's a quote that I particularly enjoyed:
"I've been thinking a lot about grace lately, and receiving things I don't need or deserve. It started with Sam, because he's been expounding on it to me, in his mini-sermon way. Normally I think sermons are boring and day dream through them, but for some reason Sam's always resonate with me, and I start seeing the world through his eyes and go, 'Yes! It's true!'" -- Lauren Wayne, On Grace and Freebies 
Today, JC came over, and she was talking about the characters that she creates, and was making up hypothetical stories for them, and she kept mentioning babywearing, and talking about her characters babywearing, and BE STILL MY HEART, it just made me so, so very happy. I love babywearing. And JC. And/both.
I got to meet baby Dominic today! He is so, so precious<3 I am so excited for Harley. He is an angel baby <3 I feel so lucky to be Dominic's Auntie.
Baby Dominic,
I love you!
I am so lucky to be your Auntie.
I will always be there for you.
I want you to have an amazing life.
You can do this!
You are going to be an amazing Mummy.
You are caring and sweet.
Dominic is finally here!
I am so very happy for, and proud of, you.