The other day while we were in Lawrence, KS, I made Dave take the kids and I to The Toy Store. My Mother in Law had told me about it before so I figured we HAD to stop if we were in town. It was an absolute dream, as I am a SUCKER for kids toys. There were three floors full of the prettiest toys I had ever seen (and some I had seen before online...). My arms filled up with goodies and just as I was spiraling out of control I reached the book section. I am a sucker for kids toys, but I am a maniac for kids books. Luckily Dave found me, rerouted me, and talked a little sense into me too. I avoided the books and narrowed my selection. But kids books, mmmm. I love a good story, beautiful, colorful, and carefully thought out illustrations, crisp pages, and hard covers. They make me swoon.
Luckily for me, Emmet loves to read too! We've been in a routine of reading two books before nap and two books at night without fail, everyday, for as long as I can remember. And it is almost always me, too. Dave has tried to tag in (and I have tried to tag out!) but Emmet insists on our beautiful little routine.
For awhile now we've been enjoying larger, hardback books with a little bit longer stories (don't get me started on paperback books or dust jackets. Not a fan). Occasionally books get a little too wordy for Emmet's current stage, so I paraphrase and it works just fine! We only have pictured and/or listed a few of our very favorites. We have a TON more. So much that we can't actually fit anymore in our current book storage! This will become a problem here soon.
When picking books each night I try to connect what I pick to something we talked about, heard, saw, or did that day OR something that will be coming up. I don't always manage to do it, and we don't have a book for everything so it isn't always possible. But it really noticeably helped Emmet build his vocabulary! I'd swear to it.
I opened a few for you to see inside below, because you can't judge a book entirely by it's cover... but you CAN judge a book by one of the best pages inside.
-We are Brothers, We are Friends - Alexandra Penfold - The cutest story about a boy and his baby brother, a gift from my MIL
-Home - Carson Ellis - Different homes, real and make believe, around the world
-a Greyhound, a Groundhog - Emily Jenkins - The CUTEST book about a greyhound and a groundhog meeting with ryhming words and homonyms.
-If you give a Moose a Muffin (& a pig a pancake) - Laura Numeroff - Two classics in a whole series. Emmet LOVES them right now.
-We are the Gardeners - Joanna Gaines and Kids - Very fitting for the boys' first year of gardening and sooo cute.
-Little Boy - Alison McGhee - Just a little cute book about boys (that isn't TOO gendered). There are a lot of things in it that remind me of Emmet and it makes me smile.
-Dragons Love Tacos - Adam Rubin - This one is HILARIOUS. Just trust me and get it.
-Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth - Oliver Jeffers - Oliver Jeffers is one of my favorite author/llustrators. I wish we owned every one of his books. This is a cute one that is both informative about the earth AND reads more like a story which I love for bedtime. Plus it touches on being kind, taking care of the earth, accepting/admiring people's differences. You know, just laying a foundation for being a good human being.
-Sleep Like a Tiger - Mary Logue - A cute book that shows how different animals like to sleep.
-Gaston - Kelly Dipucchio - Two puppies who get switched at birth.
-They All Saw a Cat - Brendan Wenzel - Probably my favorite illustrations right now. This book follows a cat, but shows it from the perspective of other animals and how they see/experience it. It is REALLY cool.
-Dear Boy - Paris Rosenthal and Jason Rosenthal - If you've talked to me about kids books recently, I've told you about this book. Another gift from my MIL, this book has lessons for little boys that are SO IMPORTANT.
(not pictured favorites)
-Corduroy - Don Freeman
- Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
-Harold and the Purple Crayon - Crockett Johnson
**In addition to the books above, Emmet and I have also started reading The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh! We just have a few of the stories (though he has getting more for Christmas) that we read a little chunk of instead of two books.**
Did I mention that we are in to kids books? Here is my SECOND roundup of kids books; Henry's Favorites! Henry is currently 17 months old and LOVES gardening, farm animals, & babies. I started regularly reading to him when he was about 6ish months old & sitting up, about the same time that we were starting sleep training/night routines. We started with really simple board books that were mostly black and white and had very few words. We've slowly added more and more detail in the pictures and more words and even some stories too! Right now our routine is to read two books everyday before bedtime and he absolutely loves it, and I love my snuggle time too.
Here are Henry's (and mine too!) current favorites:
-P is for Peter an ABC book
-Global Baby Boys - Maya Ajmera
-Everything is Mama & Your Baby's First word will be Dada- Jimmy Fallon
-Everywhere Babies - Susan Meyers
-Big Red Barn - Margaret Wise Brown
-Little Owl’s Night - Divya Srinivasan
-Little Blue Truck - Alice Schertle
-So Many Stars - Andy Warhol
-123’s - Charley Harper
-Look Look - Peter Linenthal
-Peek-a Who? - Nina Laden
-Pat the Bunny
-Shapes - Xavier Deneux
We've been itching all summer to get out to visit Elderslie Farm to pick blackberries and check out their new creamery! We went out shortly after Emmet was born (when he was only a few months old) and then again that next summer, when he was about Henry's age. Both times were SO fun for me, but I've been so curious to see it from the new perspective of Emmet's little pre-school age AND to get my little berry loving boy, Henry, out to eat some blackberries right off the bramble.
This week we took my (adorable) mother in law out for a morning adventure in the blackberry brambles. The weather was absolutely amazing for picking and spending time out in the sun. It was a little chilly when we first arrived and it did heat up, but never to an uncomfortable level, thanks Kansas!
One of my favorite parts about Elderslie is how picturesque it is. Every single piece of that precious little farm is carefully considered. From colors, to wood, to the things the employees wear, to how things are placed and planted. EVERYTHING. It is all gorgeous. And of course I also love how it caters to so many different age levels. There is an experience there for everyone.
We arrived shortly before our check in time and were able hop right on the berry ferry (yes that is what they call it!). Emmet was equal parts thrilled about riding on the back of a tractor (it was a gator with a trailer, but to him it was all a tractor) and also a little bit scared of it when off of it.
They take you on a a ride down a country road to their brambles in a separate field and off with a bucket they send you to pick your berries. We spread out on our own row and picked as many blackberries as we could fit in our buckets, with Henry toppling the bucket over every minute or so trying so desperately to join in. I think Henry licked just about every berry in our bucket by the time we actually filled it up. Boogers and all. If we offer you a berry dessert in the next few weeks, do not accept it. You have been warned.
Emmet's favorite part about berry picking was running up and down the rows of brambles with nana in his little blue rain boots. I think he could have done that all day if we hadn't ushered him back to wait for the berry ferry. It was pretty cute to watch! I was getting a little tired of fighting over the bucket with Henry though...
Just off of the berry ferry they have their little barn with all of their baby goats. At first, Emmet was pretty convinced that they were cows, as he has never encountered a goat before (to his memory, he has been in this spot before and seen these goats, he just doesn't remember it!). He kept wanting them to moo! The boys had so much fun picking grass and feeding it to them. Henry, as little as he is, was much braver about it than I thought he'd be! The only thing that could entice them to move away from them was the promise of breakfast, as they were very hungry!
Their little Bramble Cafe is one of the cutest spots to eat at that I have ever seen. The raw wood, the twinkly lights, the dishes, the pastries, all of it is just soo pretty and so delicious too! I enjoyed a cup of coffee from Reverie, a Wichita coffee roaster, and then Henry, Terri, and I split a savory quiche, tart, and scone. Emmet had a sprinkle cookie, because he's picky.
Mostly we sat in the chaos of sitting down to eat with children, but I've learned to just embrace the stage we are in and roll with it. Sippy cups being thrown, food everywhere, Henry constantly trying to escape his high chair, both of them crawling around the floor, giggling. And somehow it was still pretty enjoyable. Plus, Henry thought the lights were pretty amazing.
Once we were thoroughly coated in blackberry juice and sugar, we went over to play in their little play area. The have a simple little wooden structure with swings and a xylophone and then rows and rows of hay bales for the kids to run on. And that is all they needed. They could climb, make music, swing, explore. Emmet was in his heaven. He'd get to a big gap in the hay and say, "mama, I need help!" And I would run over and help him maneuver from one bale to the next. He thought it was great.
Because we needed one more excuse to eat something sugary, we decided to stop by and check out their new creamery. On one end they have their larger milking goats, in the middle (in a separate room) they have tables to sit at with windows so you can actually watch them milk the goats, and then on the far end they have a little a counter to buy fresh goat cheeses and freshly made gelato. And I know I'm beginning to sound like a broken record was so good.
and last but not least, the only way to convince a one and a three year old to actually leave such a beautiful, kid heavenly space, is to promise them more goats on the way.
Thanks for doing what you do, Elderslie! You are such a fun summertime treat!
We've been playing in Emmet's kitchen a little bit more lately! In retrospect, 2 years old may have been a little young to introduce the kitchen, at least for Emmet. He wasn't quite into creative play yet. I mean he would, but not super extensively and not really on his own. But, oh boy have we been seeing it a lot lately! And so now I'm super pumped about it again and making more things to go with it (because I looooove cleaning them up).
We have a mix of felt/wood foods that are either handmade or purchased. Generally my rule is, if I can make them with the supplies I have on hand or for super cheap I'll make them OR if I can BUY them for super cheap (or if they come in a set with something else) or I can't make them, then I'll buy them. Things also to consider, do you really need them? But that isn't a fun question. And also, which is the absolute cutest version of this item? That is a fun question.
For this round I made snow peas (with stems because I might make Henry a felt garden for Christmas- don't tell him), oranges, mushrooms, and cherries. Some of these have smaller parts, which can be choking hazards. We just keep our kitchen/foods in the main living space and never bring them into their room (so they can't be alone with them at nap time). And then typically I monitor kitchen play.
We also upgraded to these cute little wooden berry baskets, rather than our teal paper baskets, because the old ones were ripping.
Before I begin, Let's just all ignore the huge shiner on Henry's head in all of these photos. Because good lord that kid can, and will, get on to everything these days. He's a handful and I love him.
The other morning while I made my morning coffee, Emmet sat at the dining room table and played with his cars and chatted quietly. But not just normal car play. After about half of my cup of coffee, when I finally become a coherent human being, I listened in. He was naming them and they were going to the garden. He'd line them all up, open and close the doors, and narrate the whole thing.
Of course, rather than just say "aw, cute, he's doing imaginative play!" I jumped into action and thought of every single thing we could be doing, and one of the first things I thought of was puppets! Because this mama has been dreaming of the imaginative play stage for some time now, and I am here. for. it. I loaded the boys up in the car and drove down to et cetera shop to find some secondhand felt and embroidery floss. I managed to find exactly what I needed for just under $5. Score.
That night I sat on the couch with a needle and thread, a cold beer, and a movie on and reflected on my late 20s vs early 20s. In my early 20s on a Saturday night I might have been off to a party (at the creek or at 1 of 2 off campus houses, probably) and staying up until the wee hours of the morning. In my late 20s, 8:00pm is "nighttime" and I sit at home and sew puppets. and I love it.
These puppets were so easy to make. A warning, I am not a perfectionist. So if you are... I'm sorry. The pattern/ instructions are mostly just suggestions. You can really change the shape, etc as much as you want to make them yours!
DIY Puppet Pattern (download below and print)
9x12 inch felt sheets - Mine were secondhand, but these are great natural colors, you'll need 2-3 sheets per color for each puppet
Click BELOW to download
Step One: Cut out all of your pieces!
I was too excited about sewing on the faces (and it was night time - a rockin' Saturday night if you ask me!), that I totally forgot to take a picture of all of the pieces cut out. But basically, you'll download the attached pattern and cut out two of the "body" pieces, a front and a back. They are designed to fit a women's small hand. IF you need one smaller or larger I basically put my hand down on paper with my three fingers together at the top and pink and thumb stretched out. I then traced around the outside, factoring in seam allowance and the round shape of the head.
Then cut out two pieces for each ear. I did one in felt and one in a fun fabric, but you could totally just do one piece of felt and totally be fine. You can/should also experiment with different sizes and shapes for different animals! I'm attaching the shapes/sizes I used for the above animals for you to use if you'd like.
You'll only need to cut out one piece of each snout that you'd like. If you aren't a huge fan of hand stitching, I'd recommend avoiding animals with snouts! Or just leaving them off?
Step two: Sew your ears. (If you are choosing to do just one layer of felt, you can skip this step)
One ear at a time, places the two right sides together and sew around the outside leaving the bottom open. I left about 1/4 inch seam allowance. Trim off any seam allowance on the curves and turn and press inside out. Repeat on the second ear.
Step Three - Hand stitch the faces
Before sewing the two sides together, take a minute to sew on each face with embroidery thread. Make it yours or copy mine, anything is totally fine. I recommend leaving any knots on the backside.
For the eyes, I tied a triple knot with room on each side, then threaded both ends to the back and tied them.
For the snouts, if you are doing them, stitch the nose and mouths on before attaching, then hold in place and hand stitch around the outside. I added stuffing when there was just enough room for me to poke some in and then finished stitching.
Step Four - Assemble your puppet
Lay the two body pieces right sides together and tuck in your ears. Make sure that the right sides of your ears are on the right side of the face (see photo). Pro trick (lol), fold the sides of the ears in for a little added whimsy.
Once it is ready, sew around the outside leaving a 5/8 seam allowance from one side to the other, leaving the bottom open. I recommend backstitching the bottom quite a few times.
Step Five - Finish!
Trim off any excess seam allowance on the curves to prevent bunching (careful not to do too much!). Then turn inside out and gently press flat with your hand.
If desired, stick a small handful of stuffing up into the head to help it keep its shape.