ashwagandha thyroid

June 2015

Our June:

One of our most beloved Boston events takes place each June at Government Center — the Scooper Bowl!

One of our most beloved Boston events takes place each June at Government Center — the Scooper Bowl!

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Ice cream hats FTW! Note my bulging 15-week baby bump (and Soren’s ice cream bump).

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Out of the 20-scoops we ate, our favorites this year were Ben & Jerry’s Save Our Swirled (and Tonight Dough is always a hit), Baskin-Robbins’ York Peppermint Pattie, and Yeungling’s Sea Salt Caramel Swirl. We were completely incapacitated by our sugar comas that night.

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Somehow, Soren still had it in him to plank it up on the Greenway.

 

Tim and Soren went for a Blue Hills hike one Saturday morning during my gym time.

Tim and Soren went for a Blue Hills hike one Saturday morning during my gym time.

My favorite picture, ever.

My favorite picture, ever.

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This is Soren’s prime spot for checking out the goings on at the park — baseball, soccer, cricket. He also notes whether our neighbor is sunbathing on his porch (“He’s nudie!”).

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Soren MUST be involved if we’re using the food processor. He insists on taking a “taste test” at every step of the pesto-making process and will let me know if it needs more salt, oil, garlic, etc. By the time we’re finished, he’s usually consumed four or five heaping spoonfuls.

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First summer trip to Butterhill. Here, Tim is teaching Soren all about disc golf while I read and watch from the giant and perfect porch.

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Soren was a pro potty learner (and I guess he wanted this horse to learn, too). We were really surprised at how easy and low stress the whole thing was. I know it’s different for every kid and every parent. but our secret to success was to wait until he wanted to do it, and then we let him take the lead. No staying home for three days straight, no pressure from us to ditch the diapers, no reading books or articles about how to potty train. A lovely process for us.

Soren latched on to this fishing pole and went in search of things to catch. He mostly ended up with pinecones.

Soren latched on to this fishing pole and went in search of things to catch in the back yard. He mostly ended up with pinecones.

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Bedhead at Polly’s Pancake Parlor.

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Always throwing rocks in rivers.

NATURE!

NATURE!

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This photo was taken moments before Soren lost his ability to pee standing up. I had to go badly enough (blame pregnancy) that I squatted in the woods. Soren saw this and has refused to go standing up ever since. This means we no longer have the convenience of peeing in our back yard, by a tree at the park, or in a parking lot when I don’t want to find a real restroom.

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17 weeks

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Same day, new spot, new clothes, no pants, and more rock-throwing.

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For a few days straight, Soren insisted on bringing this box on all our outings. It was his “sample cart,” from which he dispensed such delicacies as “mango and cream cheese” and pepperoni pizza. Signs we spend too much time at Costco and Trader Joe’s.

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Soren takes his strawberry picking very seriously. Only the ripest berries will do.

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“These are NOT ripe!” says the strawberry snob.

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On the way home from berry picking, Soren and I stopped at Dairy Joy for an impromptu burger and ice cream. I considered it research for this blog post I was working on.

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For weeks Soren anticipated the Boston Book Festival’s first annual Hubbub fest, which was like the BBF but just for kids. He knew Mo Willems would be there, and he was thrilled. HIs excitement was compounded by the fact that I decided to ditch the car and take public transit instead. This was our second MBTA bus ride ever.

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We got to Copley in just enough time to snag a decent spot in line, which meant we got pretty good seats for Mo Willems’ book reading and Q&A (there were a few hundred people there). We rushed to get in the book-signing line after, but it was clear it would take at least 30 minutes to get to the front. I tried to persuade Soren to ditch the line and go enjoy the rest of the festival, but he wouldn’t have it. I don’t know if our two seconds with Mo were worth it, but Soren was glad to get his copy of “Knuffle Bunny” signed and to tell Mo how much he loves “Time to Pee.” (Also, we confirmed that Mo does pronounce it “ka-nuffle.”)

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Thanks, photo guy, for the memorable shot.

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Next, we snuggled up in the reading tent.

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And lifted some weights. There were tons of really neat games and playthings on the lawn at Copley, but many of them involved my participation with Soren, so no pics. Tim got stuck doing cafeteria work at the temple that morning.

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As we were heading out Soren spotted the Roxy’s tent, so we snagged a grilled cheese sandwich. Lunch on the T was never so good.

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After a few years of partial gardening attempts (with mediocre attempts), we finally have thriving plants! Our basils are out of control (I’m actually harvesting the leaves correctly), our cilantro is not dead, and our parsley is always green and fragrant. Best of all, our tomato plant (in the back) is enormous and has dozens of little green guys growing and on the cusp of turning red.

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One Saturday afternoon it was a little too cool for the beach or pool, so we made our way to Drumlin Farm. On the tractor ride, Soren waved non-stop to every animal and person he could get his eyes on.

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Just like a goat.

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After the farm, we swung by Walden for a quick picnic dinner, then off to Kimball Farm for dessert. Sometimes I try to talk Tim out of ordering the large ice cream, but then we polish it off with no problem. Also on this visit, Soren learned he HATES port-a-potties. He had to go #2, so I took him over to the potty and showed him what it was all about. He took one look inside the toilet, took a few seconds to let the small wash over him, and screamed to get out of there. We did have the travel potty in the car, so Tim sprinted to grab it. Unfortunately, we were out of bags to place under the potty. Tim’s solution? An empty ice cream cup. TMI? It worked like a dream.

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Most of Boston’s splash parks and water features didn’t open until mid-June. Artesani opened earlier, so we made a few attempts there. Soren hated it. Too much chaos, too many unpredictable water sprays coming at his face. I was worried he’d never love splash parks again. Fortunately, he’s perfectly happy with the other parks (Joyce Park here).

May 2015

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Saturday morning nature walk for Tim and Soren.

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Our first shorts day of the year was May 5. Finally, real spring!

It’s a miracle — I only took one video in May. Soren has memorized the names of the 15 leaders of our church, and we think it’s pretty impressive.

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Tim’s parents came for a visit in early May, so we made our first trip of the year to Walden. Just as good as we remembered it.

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Another spring favorite — the Public Garden. This is the first year Soren has been into Make Way for Ducklings, so the Public Garden is talked about often at our house.

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And, of course, the swan boats.

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Soren thought the Boston Common carousel was just about the greatest thing he’d ever seen.

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April 2015

Where were we? Ah yes, at the beach! Let’s pick up where we left off at the end of March.

Tim arrived partway through the week — he couldn't stand to miss a beach trip. He and Soren enjoyed a sunrise yoga session one morning.

Tim arrived partway through the week — he couldn’t stand to miss a beach trip. He and Soren enjoyed a sunrise yoga session one morning.

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I LOVE when he puts his hands in his pockets.

I LOVE when he puts his hands in his pockets.

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Clothing comes off, piece by piece, after being knocked by a baby wave.

Clothing comes off, piece by piece, after being knocked by a baby wave.

Beach time is way more fun when Tim's around — he and Soren play in the sand, I read.

Beach time is way more fun when Tim’s around — he and Soren play in the sand, I read.

A rare moment of peace for these two — they're sharing the machines!

A rare moment of peace for these two — they’re sharing the machines!

Cool kid with his new dollar store sunglasses.

Cool kid with his new dollar store sunglasses.

When we come to the beach during the summer I'm never interested in outings that don't involve sitting by the ocean. But during the spring, when it's just too chilly to stay on the sand all day, adventures around town become more appealing. On this afternoon we ran around the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

When we come to the beach during the summer I’m never interested in outings that don’t involve sitting by the ocean. But during the spring, when it’s just too chilly to stay on the sand all day, adventures around town become more appealing. On this afternoon we ran around the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

And then we stumbled upon the Buxton Woods Trail, a great little loop that brought us sightings of deer, snakes, and pelicans.

And then we stumbled upon the Buxton Woods Trail, a great little loop that brought us sightings of deer, snakes, and pelicans.

A cute singing moment at the beach house with my boy.

Beach Easter was a little different. We didn't have an Easter basket with us, but we found an egg hunt down the road. Like last year, Soren was a little slow about the whole thing.

Beach Easter was a little different. We didn’t have an Easter basket with us, but we found an egg hunt down the road. Like last year, Soren was a little slow about the whole thing.

Unlike last year, he actually asked to try the candy inside the eggs.

Unlike last year, he actually asked to try the candy inside the eggs.

His first piece of junk candy — ever! I think it was a mini Snickers.

His first piece of junk candy — ever! I think it was a mini Snickers.

Then back to Virginia, with an Easter Sunday jump on Reagan's trampoline.

Then back to Virginia, with an Easter Sunday jump on Reagan’s trampoline.

The back of Pappy's truck is grandson heaven.

The back of Pappy’s truck is grandson heaven.

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Soren rode one of Mackenzie's new horses. "How do I make it go?" he asked.

Soren rode one of Mackenzie’s new horses. “How do I make it go?” he asked.

We love the Dulles airport for the bonus train ride we get to take — it's Soren's dream come true to ride a plane and a train in one day.

We love the Dulles airport for the bonus train ride we get to take — it’s Soren’s dream come true to ride a plane and a train in one day.

Soren is wild about Thai food. I'm surprised we had enough Dok Bua leftovers for two containers!

Soren is wild about Thai food. I’m surprised we had enough Dok Bua leftovers for two containers!

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After a winter's break, Soren is back on his bike and is slightly more interested than he was last fall.

After a winter’s break, Soren is back on his bike and is slightly more interested than he was last fall.

The next day we took a trip to Drumlin Farm with friends. And it was seriously one of the highlights of my life. We walked into the sheep barn just as this mama was preparing to give birth to the token white lamb. We stayed and watched the whole thing play out, including waiting for the baby to take its first wobbly steps and make its first attempts at nursing. All the kids were bored out of their minds by the time the second lamb was born, but none of the moms was ready to leave the scene. I had actual tears in my eyes — the miracle of life!

The next day we took a trip to Drumlin Farm with friends. And it was seriously one of the highlights of my life. We walked into the sheep barn just as this mama was preparing to give birth to the token white lamb. We stayed and watched the whole thing play out, including waiting for the baby to take its first wobbly steps and make its first attempts at nursing. All the kids were bored out of their minds by the time the second lamb was born, but none of the moms was ready to leave the scene. I had actual tears in my eyes — the miracle of life!

The second birth was a bit anticlimactic, but of course I had to video it.

We returned to our favorite "digger" park one Saturday in April, unsure of what conditions would be like after that doozy of a winter. Good news — everything is still intact.

We returned to our favorite “digger” park one Saturday in April, unsure of what conditions would be like after that doozy of a winter. Good news — everything is still intact.

This might be the cutest rendition of “I’m a Nut” I’ve ever heard. If you can’t quite understand his speech, here are the lyrics. “I’m a little acorn round, sitting on the cold hard ground. Everybody steps on me, that is why I’m cracked, you see. I’m a nut. I’m a nut. I’m a nut, I’m a nut, I’m a nut.”

Thanks to a fortuitous seating arrangement at Trident Cafe, I got to have a lovely chat with Gabrielle Blair, aka Design Mom, ahead of her Boston talk and book signing. She's a delight.

Thanks to a fortuitous seating arrangement at Trident, I got to have a lovely chat with Gabrielle Blair, aka Design Mom, ahead of her Boston talk and book signing. She’s a delight.

I keep wondering when his love affair with machines will fade. No time soon, apparently.

I keep wondering when his love affair with machines will fade. No time soon, apparently.

Tim ran a half marathon one Saturday while Soren and I grocery shopped and lounged in the sun. Soren jumped in at the finish line.

Tim ran a half marathon one Saturday while Soren and I grocery shopped and lounged in the sun. Soren jumped in at the finish line.

Evening train ride with Tim during mama's workout.

Evening train ride with Tim during mama’s workout.

 

Book Report: 2014 Whitney Awards Historical Finalists

I’m kind of fanatical about having purpose and structure in my reading. I can’t just pick a book off a shelf and go for it. I even have a hard time reading from recommendations. Ten years ago I started making my way through the list of Pulitzer Prize winners for fiction, and I rarely departed from my agenda. When I was pregnant, I switched over to a near-exclusive focus on pregnancy and childbirth books. But post-Soren, I’ve been in a reading funk. Many of the Pulitzers are just too heavy for my frazzled mom brain. Parenting books are OK here and there, but you just can’t do too many of those in succession. So I welcomed the invitation from my Segullah cohorts to read through the five Whitney Awards finalists in the historical category and then cast my vote.

Here are my brief reviews of those five novels, ordered alphabetically by author.

Softly Falling, by Carla Kelly (Sweetwater Books, an imprint of Cedar Fort Media and Publishing)

softly falling by Carla KellyThe intriguing Lily Carteret is transplanted from her privileged life in England to the rough Wyoming Territory, only to learn that her alcoholic father has gambled away his cattle ranch. As Lily adjusts to the harsh conditions of her new home, she’s befriended by a number of charming characters — especially Jack, the handsome but illiterate cowboy who quickly falls for Lily. The bulk of the story takes place during a very long, grim winter (known a century ago as “the big die-off”), where Jack, Lily, and the others on the ranch work tirelessly to save the cattle and themselves.

Kelly’s characters and historical details were the highlights of the book for me. The drama of the terrible winter provided constant tension, but the pacing of the story was incredibly slow. It was a long, long winter, and the reader definitely feels this (for better or for worse — and for me it was for worse). The action was also very sluggish, but with just enough blips of excitement to keep me going. The dialogue between the protagonists felt contrived, at times, but the characters overall were engaging and pleasant to follow.

Eve: In the Beginning, by H.B. Moore (Mirror Press)

Eve in the Beginning by H.B. Moore

This fictionalization of the story of Adam and Eve dives into the struggles of our first mother, first in the seemingly perfect Garden of Eden and then in the harsh and pain-filled real world. The tale includes the basic stages we’re familiar with from the Bible — Eve partakes, Adam joins her, and they are cast out of the Garden. But Moore throws in a number of possible scenarios that I found to be very thought provoking, like a tragic miscarriage, incredibly challenging weather and living conditions, and problems between Adam and Eve as they attempt to become united in marriage.

I really liked the voice of Eve — she was curious and inquisitive, yet largely faithful amidst her trials. Adam, though much more rigid in his obedience, was not self-righteous in his devotion to Elohim, and I appreciated the way he cared for his wife even when he didn’t agree with her. Lucifer was present throughout the book and was as eerie as one would expect, providing constant confusion and manipulation. I was surprised (as were Adam and Eve) by the overwhelming silence of Elohim — I kept waiting for him to come to the rescue and make it evident that He was mindful of them. But, such is life. The story was well crafted and really nicely written, though there were a few moments that felt redundant as Adam and Eve blundered along, trying to find their way.

An Ocean atween Us, by Angela Morrison (self published)

An Ocean atween Us by Angela Morrison

The first book in a new series, “An Ocean atween Us” tells of 19th century Scottish coal pits, young love and heartbreak, physical hardships, and family bonds that are put to the test. Will Glover leaves the love of his life and begrudgingly joins his family in a grueling journey across the ocean for a new start that is every bit as disappointing as he expects it to be. The new opportunity in North America is filled with hardship for the entire family, and it is ultimately left to Will to care for the family and bring himself out of his estrangement from happiness.

In her author’s note, Morrison said she spent more than a decade researching her family’s Scottish history for this novel, including trips to coal mines in three countries. Her desire for authenticity is readily apparent — the book’s narration uses a flavor of the Scots language  (which, for some readers, will be a little too authentic, as the brogue at times feels distracting), and the historical details were on point. I loved this story’s strong family bonds and the importance of home, which remained constant despite the protagonist’s choice to wallow far too long in his self-inflicted pain. Though Will’s pining after his first love grows old quickly, the book’s overall narrative is skillfully crafted and consistently engaging.

Deadly Alliance, by A.L. Sowards (Covenant Communications)

Deadly Alliance by A.L. Sowards“Deadly Alliance” is the final book in a trilogy, though it works just as well as a stand-alone novel (which is how I read it — I actually had no idea there were two other books). Like “An Ocean atween Us,” it was abundantly clear that Sowards had done her due diligence on the time and place she wrote about — World War II in Italy and Yugoslavia. The novel follows Peter Eddy and his commando team as they drop behind enemy lines, unaware that they’ve been deployed on a suicide mission. Meanwhile, Peter’s girlfriend Genevieve, an OSS spy, finds herself battling new enemies as well. With heart-pounding plot twists and turns aplenty, Peter, Genevieve, and their various comrades experience plenty of action, with true-to-the-era violence and death.

Deadly Alliance” drew me in quickly and kept me hooked right through the last page (although the far-fetched finale disappointed me a little). The history was, at times, hard to follow, but it didn’t detract from my interest in the book. The characters were well drawn and appealing — or hateful, in the case of the enemies who played significant roles. I appreciated the believable dialogue and the relationships that felt so genuine. Overall, this book was my favorite in the category — strongest writing, most intricate plot, realistic narrative, and great characters.

Gone for a Soldier, by Marsha Ward (WestWard Books)

Gone for a Soldier

Part war story, part love story, “Gone for a Soldier” features a range of characters (11 members of the Owen family, plus a few love interests and fellow soldiers), with each chapter rotating between different characters’ perspectives. Rulon Owens, the central figure, moves quickly to enlist in the war after Virginia secedes from the Union — but not before asking for the hand of his love, Mary Hillbrands. Off at war, Rulon sees and feels it all — his tent-mate threatens him regularly, he aches to be with his new wife and their new son, and he struggles physically through battles with the impossible-to-defeat Union army. At home, Mary faces her own battle for independence from parents who disapprove of her marriage.

Like a few others in this category, this novel was rich in historical details and authentic in its language, relationships, and descriptions of day-to-day living. The narrative became increasingly realistic as well-loved characters faced death and debilitating injuries, leaving relationships and situations unresolved, which was surely the case during the Civil War as lives were cut short or changed dramatically. I enjoyed the flow from chapter to chapter with the focus on different characters and different storylines, and at times I found myself growing anxious to get back to Mary’s situation or Ben’s adventure to learn what would come next. “Gone for a Soldier” kept me engrossed and tugged at my emotions more than a time or two — which doesn’t happen easily.

March 2015

Our March was an exciting one…

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Soren and I have worked the gym into our morning routine once or twice a week now that he magically enjoys the gym child care. On this sunny day we felt like we’d earned ourselves a little treat at the Paris Creperie. Soren had no idea what was coming.

But he knew it was a treat and he knew it involved chocolate.

But he knew it was a treat and he knew it involved chocolate.

When they asked for my name at the counter, I didn't know it was to monogram my crepe! That's new.

When they asked for my name at the counter, I didn’t know it was to monogram my crepe! That’s new.

Heaven.

Heaven.

We practically licked the plate.

We practically licked the plate.

A few documentations of afternoon playtime:

My favorite part in this one is the way he says, “Not really” (around 0:18).

Getting to the temple as it opens is always a good start to the day. Brightest blue skies ever at 6:45 a.m.!

Getting to the temple as it opens is always a good start to the day. Brightest blue skies ever at 6:45 a.m.!

Soren is wild about grapefruits. Great-grandma and great-grandpa Hepp have sent us a couple boxes of their amazing Arizona-grown fruit. We're spoiled!

Soren is wild about grapefruits. Great-grandma and great-grandpa Hepp have sent us a couple boxes of their amazing Arizona-grown fruit. We’re spoiled!

And then we made our annual pilgrimage to Texas! For being an early bird, this one doesn't look too lively at 6 a.m. at the airport.

And then we made our annual pilgrimage to Texas! For being an early bird, this one doesn’t look too lively at 6 a.m. at the airport.

He loves nothing more than to talk about and watch airport trucks.

He loves nothing more than to talk about and watch airport trucks.

We LOVE Austin. So much to do there! We had lots of fun exploring Zilker Park and the trail along the river. I accompanied Soren and Isaac on a nice train ride around the park.

We LOVE Austin. So much to do there! We had lots of fun exploring Zilker Park and the trail along the river. I accompanied Soren and Isaac on a nice train ride around the park.

My heart.

My heart.

During the long Boston winter Soren forgot how to play on playgrounds. He was the most awkward kid in Austin. And he asked me multiple times, "Where's their snow?"

During the long Boston winter Soren forgot how to play on playgrounds. He was the most awkward kid in Austin. And he asked me multiple times, “Where’s their snow?”

Digging was no problem, though. He was probably pretending it was a snow shovel.

Digging was no problem, though. He was probably pretending it was a snow shovel.

First ice cream cone at age 2.5.

First ice cream cone at age 2.5.

Another day, another nature walk.

Another day, another nature walk.

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Springtime has brought back Soren’s affection for rocks.

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Page drove up from San Antonio to play for the day and chauffeur us back to her house. The Austin Nature and Science Center was SO great.

Page drove up from San Antonio to play for the day and chauffeur us back to her house. The Austin Nature and Science Center was SO great.

Just digging for dinosaur bones.

Just digging for dinosaur bones.

BFFs

BFFs

The AC in Page's van wasn't quite working, and the drive was a HOT one. Page gave the kids permission to remove their clothes. Soren passed out from heat stroke. Not really, but his nap was super sweaty.

The AC in Page’s van wasn’t quite working, and the drive was a HOT one. Page gave the kids permission to remove their clothes. Soren passed out from heat stroke. Not really, but his nap was super sweaty.

You know it's a good nap when the paci falls out.

You know it’s a good nap when the paci falls out.

More nature exploration, this time in San Antonio.

More nature exploration, this time in San Antonio.

Cousins

Cousins

These two didn't spend much time together, but they did meet for snack time one day. "You have yogurt on your face!"

These two didn’t spend much time interacting, but they did meet for snack time one day. “You have yogurt on your face!”

Faye makes getting up from naps extra fun.

Faye makes getting up from naps extra fun.

Ev is a great worker man companion.

Ev is a great worker man companion.

Backyards are the only thing that get me close to nostalgia for suburban life. I'm trying to convince Tim to let me get a trampoline for our driveway in Boston.

Backyards are the only thing that get me close to nostalgia for suburban life. I’m trying to convince Tim to let me get a trampoline for our driveway in Boston.

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Oopsies

Oopsies

Sometimes life is too short to pull up your pants.

Sometimes life is too short to pull up your pants.

Our flight home, with a layover, was MUCH more enjoyable than the five-hour nonstop. I even got some reading time while Soren napped on my lap. But the highlight of all highlights was the surprise we found at the back of the plane. PENGUINS. Actual penguins were on our flight. They were en route to Philadelphia from the San Antonio Sea World, and they absolutely made my day.

Our flight home, with a layover, was MUCH more enjoyable than the five-hour nonstop. I even got some reading time while Soren napped on my lap. But the highlight of all highlights was the surprise we found at the back of the plane. PENGUINS. Actual penguins were on our flight. They were en route to Philadelphia from the San Antonio Sea World, and they absolutely made my day.

What good is a layover if you can't enjoy a $7 slice of pizza while you wait?

What good is a layover if you can’t enjoy a $7 slice of pizza while you wait?

Then back to Boston and back to coat weather. I had to video the way Soren removes his coat, because it’s one of those cute things you just don’t want to forget and you know it probably won’t happen again next winter. He unzips the coat, spins around until it falls off, and then promptly picks it up and hands it to me. Of course he doesn’t do it quite right in this video, but you get the idea.

We paid a visit to the Mallard family one Saturday afternoon. Soren didn't mind ruining other people's photos while he played duck, duck, goose.

We paid a visit to the Mallard family one Saturday afternoon. Soren didn’t mind ruining other people’s photos while he played duck, duck, goose.

At the end of March Soren and I took off again, this time for Virginia and North Carolina.

We arrived at the Outer Banks on a chilly Sunday afternoon, but that didn't stop us from saying a quick hello to our beach.

We arrived at the Outer Banks on a chilly Sunday afternoon, but that didn’t stop us from saying a quick hello to our beach.

Monday wasn't much better. Kinda rainy, kinda cold, and really windy.

Monday wasn’t much better. Kinda rainy, kinda cold, and really windy.

Back at the beach house, Soren made my day when he spied this bag of cheetos and asked if he could have a carrot. I didn't catch the question on video, but I got his reaction when he took a bite.

Back at the beach house, Soren made my day when he spied this bag of cheese puffs and asked if he could have a carrot. I didn’t catch the question on video, but I got his reaction when he took a bite.

And then, it was April! Guess I’ll have to finish those beach pictures later.

February 2015

If I had to sum up the month of February in one word, it would be SNOW. We’ve had a grand time breaking weather records like crazy. We’re not sure if we’ll know what to do with ourselves once spring arrives — we can’t really remember what grass looks like!

(With no pictures to be found on my real camera, our February update is essentially a compilation of my Instagram and YouTube uploads.)

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Despite what you see here, Soren doesn’t actually mind the snow and cold. In our family we don’t believe in “snow days.” No matter the forecast, we attempt to go about our business. I abide by the philosophy that snowstorms are the best times to go out, because the roads are mostly free of cars and because we avoid cabin fever. On this particular day, the second big snowstorm of the year was in full force. No travel or parking bans had been put in place yet, so we made our way out to the gym. While I worked out I watched plow after plow drive by my car, quickly building up a wall of snow between me and the street. By the time we got out to the car, there were at least four inches on the car itself. I eventually got us back on the road, and we slipped and slid all the way home (getting stuck no fewer than four times). By the time we got to our driveway, about eight inches of fresh snow were blocking my way. I parked the car in the middle of the street and started shoveling frantically, but to no avail. The five-foot walls of snow on either side of the driveway made it impossible for me to enter the narrow path. I eventually found a place to park on the street, thanks to some stranger who had shoveled out a spot without leaving a space saver. Soren thought the whole thing was pretty exciting until I tried to take a picture of him on our porch.

It was a little easier to get around the next day. Back in business.

It was a little easier to get around the next day. Back in business.

Sometimes toy tools are the only thing that can fix a "broken" scooter.

Sometimes toy tools are the only thing that can fix a “broken” scooter.

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Another day, another snow storm. Soren asked to shovel, so I obliged.

Another day, another snow storm. Soren asked to shovel, so I obliged.

Taking a stroll around the block.

Taking a stroll around the block.

Hot chocolate date with my love.

Hot chocolate date with my love.

That afternoon, Tim quit work early to build Soren a snow cave.

That afternoon, Tim quit work early to build Soren a snow cave.

Then we walked to the "park," which is now a field of snow four feet deep.

Then we walked to the “park,” which is now a field of snow four feet deep (Soren isn’t all the way down to the ground here).

That's a trash can.

That’s a trash can.

Home, sweet home.

Home, sweet home.

We borrowed a friend's baby for a trip to Wegman's one morning. Two kids is so easy.

We borrowed a friend’s baby for a trip to Wegman’s one morning. Two kids is so easy. When it’s for one hour.

You know how with toddlers, sometimes you do something once and then it becomes a thing? A thing you have to do EVERY TIME or the world is not right? One day, after a bath, Soren wanted to snuggle in his towel, so we grabbed a couple books off his shelf and read. Now, that's the routine. Bath, then books while cuddling.

You know how with toddlers, sometimes you do something once and then it becomes a thing? A thing you have to do EVERY TIME or the world is not right? One day, after a bath, Soren wanted to snuggle in his towel, so we grabbed a couple books off his shelf and read. Now, that’s the routine. Bath, then books and cuddles.

For our family's Valentine's Day love dinner we enjoyed stuffed flank steak (Tim), mushroom risotto (me), and roasted asparagus (both of us). For dessert, lots of chocolatey goodness from Tatte.

For our family’s Valentine’s Day love dinner we enjoyed stuffed flank steak (Tim), mushroom risotto (me), and roasted asparagus (both of us). For dessert, lots of chocolatey goodness from Tatte.

Icicles can be both beautiful and terrifying. This one hung from our neighbor's roof for a solid month before falling recently. The picture doesn't do it justice, but it was about 10 feet long!

Icicles can be both beautiful and terrifying. This one hung from our neighbor’s roof for a solid month before falling recently. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but it was about 10 feet long!

I cannot count how many times Tim brought an icicle into the house during the month of February.

I cannot count how many times Tim brought an icicle into the house during the month of February.

Just the right height.

Just the right height.

My parents came to town to get in on the snow action, so Tim and I took advantage of their babysitting services. Single-digit temps never stopped me from going out for ice cream.

My parents came to town to get in on the snow action, so Tim and I took advantage of their babysitting services. Single-digit temps have never stopped me from going out for ice cream.

We paid a visit to Taza for some of our favorite chocolates in the world. I'm really proud that Soren still doesn't know what candy is, but he's wild about dark chocolate.

We paid a visit to Taza for some of our favorite chocolates in the world. I’m really proud that Soren still doesn’t know what candy is, but he’s wild about dark chocolate.

Sunday morning snow hike. This is one of the many snow farms nearby, and Soren can't get enough of the action (dump trucks and loaders are involved).

Sunday morning snow hike. This is one of the many snow farms nearby, and Soren can’t get enough of the action (dump trucks and loaders are involved).

I'd love to know how this duck made it up there.

I’d love to know how this duck made it up there.

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My mom set Soren up with a box lid of rice while she was in town (it quickly became a “construction site”), and he’s been playing with it for three weeks straight.

This video shows another well-loved toy. (Visit the Whoville Creations Etsy shop to see more fun block puzzles. Tim’s aunt is the genius behind the shop.)

 

He's back at it with his box of rice. Nothing super significant about this picture or this moment, but Soren had me laughing my head off all day and I wanted to remember a piece of our day. We had just returned from Wegman's for a grocery and dinner date, and while driving we stopped at a red light next to a car with super loud music. Soren explained to me, "That car's music is bumpin'." A few minutes later, I said something about how the traffic was bad and I had chosen a bad route. Soren asked, "Was that dumb?" Next, we were discussing a nearby construction site and Soren let me know, "You can just call it a site." And he said it as if he had some insider knowledge on construction lingo.

Back at it with the box of rice. There isn’t anything super significant about this picture or this moment, but Soren and I had had some great conversations right around then, and I wanted to remember a piece of our day. We had just returned from Wegman’s for a grocery and dinner date, and while driving we stopped at a red light next to a car with super loud music. Soren explained to me, “That car’s music is bumpin’.” A few minutes later, I said something about how the traffic was bad and I had chosen a bad route. Soren asked, “Was that dumb?” Next, we were discussing a nearby construction site and Soren let me know, “You can just call it a site.” And he said it as if he had some insider knowledge on construction lingo. He’s awesome.

The Indecisive Vaccinator

Where do I fall in the great vaccine debate? Smack dab in the middle.
At two years old, this kid is partially vaccinated and perfectly healthy.

At two years old, this kid is partially vaccinated and perfectly healthy.

I pass by our pediatrician’s office building a few times a week, and every time I have the exact same thought: “I should call right now and schedule an immunization appointment for Soren. Or… maybe I’ll do it tomorrow.”

At two and a half years old, my son should have received about 27 shots. Instead, his shot record booklet is collecting dust on some corner of my desk. He’s received a couple of DTaP doses, a Hib shot or two. The PCV13 seemed like a mostly good idea. But polio? Nah. Who even gets polio in the United States? And the rotavirus vax? No thanks — babies can get rotavirus even if they’ve received the vaccine. And I know the autism/MMR theory has been debunked, but that one still gives me the heeby jeebies. Isn’t it still a little unnerving that the connection between autism and vaccines is still believed so strongly by many intelligent people?

During my 39.5 weeks of pregnancy, I pored over the literature. I was meticulous about what I put in my own body, avoiding even Tylenol when the crazy hormonal headaches hit. I abandoned my face wash to prevent salicylic acid from touching my skin. I birthed my sweet baby without medications or interventions, then breastfed him for more than two years. I used coconut oil when his bum got rashy (which didn’t happen much, thanks to cloth diapers) and slathered him with a super safe but ridiculously priced sunscreen on our beach days. When he hit six months and seemed ready for solid food, you better believe his first bites of roasted broccoli were organic.

So being skeptical about vaccines was a no-brainer for me. I mean, is it really a good idea to inject an hours-old baby with aluminum and formaldehyde for a disease (hepatitis B) that’s transmitted through sexual contact? Is it wise to blindly vaccinate when our country’s recent history includes things like the swine flu fiasco and a flu vaccine that is merely 23% effective?

We decided to embark on a delayed vaccination schedule for Soren, focusing on the immunizations that bring the greatest benefits; we also decided to allow just one shot at a time, and never any of the whopper combo vaccines. (This has made for some interesting discussions with the pediatrician. When he walks into the room his first words are, “OK, let’s negotiate. Five shots today.” I respond with a firm, “one.” He comes down to three, I hold fast at one, and eventually he surrenders to the mother’s wishes.)

At two months old, Soren should've received five shots. But we weren't ready. When I drilled the pediatrician on the necessity of the hep B shot at birth, his answer was, "Does he have a girlfriend?" That's my kind of pediatrician.

At two months old, Soren should’ve received five shots. But we weren’t ready. When I drilled the pediatrician on the necessity of the hep B shot at birth, his answer was, “Does he have a girlfriend?” That’s my kind of pediatrician.

But we never exactly put our proposed vaccination “schedule” on paper. And as overwhelmed new parents often experience, our best-laid plans quickly went awry. The result was a vaccination here and a vaccination there, mostly when we happened to be visiting the doctor for a well check-up anyway, and mostly when I’d taken time to research the particular shot right before the appointment. Not exactly a solid method.

Sometimes I blame my busy schedule for preventing me from finding ample time to study the issue out and really determine which side I’m on. But the truth is that I simply can’t decide. I’m not an anti-vaxxer. But I’m not fully on board with the whole thing. I like the idea of everyone vaccinating for the good of the community. But I’m also selfish. I want to believe the research. But when there aren’t any solid studies on long-term side effects, how can I?

So where do I fall in the great vaccine debate? I’m on both sides and I’m on neither side. I’m smack dab in the middle.

I’m certain I’ll never feel that vaccinations are free of risks. I realize they’re probably safe. The benefits of vaccinating my child most likely outweigh the costs. But it’s very possible I’ll remain on the fence forever. So what’s an indecisive mom to do? For now, I’ll continue to follow my instincts, vaccinating occasionally and somewhat haphazardly. Am I wrong? Some doctors would say so. The most passionate anti-vaxxers might disagree with me.

But being on this middle ground has shown me that all of us have the same goal — to keep our children healthy and safe from disease. The way we each go about it, however, is quite different. It’s all part of the great experiment we call parenting. And aren’t we all just giving it our best shot?

Book Report: Trucks, Trains, and Other Things That Go

With literally hundreds of books to choose from at the library each week, you’d think it would be a cinch to bring home a stack of winners for a 2-year-old. Unfortunately, you really can’t judge a book by its cover. Or its title. Or its illustrations.

But after two years of scouring our library’s “transportation” section, I think we’ve nailed down the top 10 children’s books (and authors!) that feature trucks, machines, trains, buses, planes, and the ever-popular pickle car. Here are our greatest “things that go” picture book hits.

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Roadwork

1. Roadwork by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Low

“Load the dirt. Load the dirt. Scoop and swing and drop. Slam it down into the truck. Bump! Whump! Whop!” This rhyming, rhythmic read-aloud lays out every step of the construction process with simple language and vibrant art. We also love the final page of the book, which details the much-loved construction equipment (and clues parents in to the real names of the machines).

Other favorites by Sally Sutton: Demolition and Construction (which are equally adored at our house, as both follow the poetic pattern found in “Roadwork”).

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Machines Go to Work

2. Machines Go to Work by William Low

Low has pioneered the use of digital painting in children’s books, and there’s something wonderfully mesmerizing about his realistic illustrations. The fun in this book is the surprising twists that come when little fingers lift the gatefolds, morphing borderless two-page spreads into three-page murals. Questions are asked, and then each machine’s true intention is revealed in the answer. When the firetruck comes roaring to the scene of an emergency, are the trees on fire? No! A kitten is stuck, waiting to be rescued.

If you read the book with slightly older children, show them this neat YouTube clip of the artist at work. He’s a fascinating guy (a native New Yorker who was born in the back of a cab), and I never would’ve imagined the book’s illustrations could have started out as scribbles on a computer screen.

Other favorites by William Low: Machines Go to Work in the City

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Red Car Red Bus

3. Red Car, Red Bus by Susan Steggall

This picture book is both simple and brimming with clever details. The text and accompanying vehicles offer basic lessons in patterns and sequencing, so even a two-year-old can “read” the story. The illustrations are the real focal point, though — each page is filled with collages made from textured and torn paper (some handmade, some manufactured), and the amusing background storylines entice us into opening this book again and again.

Other favorites by Susan Steggall:  The Diggers Are Coming

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Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

4. Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry

Goldbug. Pickle car. Broom-o-cycle. Bananamobile. Need I say more? When a children’s book stays in print for 40+ years, you know it’s a winner. And I love any book that can absorb a two-year-old without adult involvement.

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Little Blue Truck

5. Little Blue Truck by Alice Shertle, illustrated by Jill McElmurry

Little Blue and his devoted barnyard posse won our hearts the first time we opened the book. The first few pages of the story introduce each animal and offer a chance to practice all those fun farm sounds (baa, moo, oink, croak) — perfect for the pre-verbal and just-talking stages. The plot thickens when a pompous dump truck finds himself sunk deep in the mud, and Little Blue demonstrates that “a lot depends on a helping hand from a few good friends.” This heartwarming tale never gets old (and it doesn’t hurt that it’s only a few dollars on Amazon — definitely one to own).

Other favorites by Alice Shertle: Little Blue Truck Leads the Way

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Fire Engine Man

6. Fire Engine Man by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha

I’ll be honest — the first few times I read this book with Soren, I was like, “What’s the big deal? I could’ve written that.” Sentences like “I like to squirt down fires” and “I love fire engines” didn’t immediately enchant me. But Soren was obsessed. And I guess it makes sense: The main character, a child, takes on the role of a real-life firefighter, driving a fire truck, sleeping at the fire station, and fighting fires. Every little kid’s dream, right? So now I’ve come around to really enjoy this and the authors’ other similar books, loving that they spark my little one’s imagination.

Other favorites by Zimmerman and Clemesha: Train Man, Digger Man, and Trashy Town

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I Am a Backhoe

7. I Am a Backhoe, by Anna Grossnickle Hines

This quick read was big at our house well before Soren turned one, so it’s got staying power. The book’s little protagonist pretends to be a backhoe, a crane truck, a roller, a bulldozer, and then a dump truck, with illustrations of the bright, massive machines shown behind him. I love the way this book encourages pretend play — “I dig my hand into the sand, my scooper hand. Dig. Dig. Dig. Lift, turn, tip. I am… a backhoe.”

Other favorites by Anna Grossnickle Hines (how about that name?): I Am a Tyrannosaurus

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20 Big Trucks

8. 20 Big Trucks in the Middle of the Street by Mark Lee, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

If I could design the perfect day for my machine-loving man-child, it would mimic the scenario that plays out in “20 Big Trucks.” After an ice-cream truck breaks down in the middle of the street, a host of other exciting vehicles — a crane truck, moving vans, a cement mixer, a truck carrying squealing pigs — creates a giant traffic jam around the block. This counting book is a fun read aloud with its cheerful rhymes and detailed illustrations, and it doesn’t hurt that the yellow-helmeted youngster featured on every page saves the day in the end.

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Things That Go

9. The Big Book of Things that Go by DK Publishing

Every home library needs a few good DK books. I picked this one up at a thrift store for a dollar or two, and it’s received a lot of love over the last couple of years. Name any vehicle — camper van, tanker truck, breakdown train — and you’re sure to find its photograph on the pages of this book. I’ve loved learning the proper names for different machines (and boats and trains) so I don’t have to refer to everything as a “digger.” This is another no-parents-needed book —  it’s always a bonus when your toddler is able to happily “read” to himself!

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Who Made This Cake

10. Who Made This Cake by Chihiro Nakagawa, illustrated by Junji Koyose

Who made this cake? I’ll tell you who. It’s a bunch of miniature construction workers operating big machines. Front-end loaders scoop up flour and sugar, excavators outfitted with whisks beat the eggs, and a helicopter delivers the finishing touches. Totally bizarre. But really fun.

January 2015

I’m not a resolution-maker, but there is something magical about the newness of January. I love a fresh start. We drove back to Boston from Virginia on the first day of the new year, which gave us plenty of time to talk about our plans and hopes and dreams for 2015.

Soren had to be Adriel's doctor one last time before leaving Grandmama and Pappy's house.

Soren had to be Adriel’s doctor one last time before leaving Grandmama and Pappy’s house.

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Checking the heartbeat via the mouth. Very effective.

Although I don’t have any photos to illustrate this, I must document the saddest part of our January. Soren decided to call it quits with the breastmilk. My 29-month-old darling no longer needs me. It had been a gradual process, so the first day of no nursing didn’t seem very out of the ordinary. But the idea was a little bit heartbreaking. I guess it’s time to have another baby.

Soren's sleep habits still get out of whack once every few weeks. Every so often, he'll wake up early from his nap, crying his lights out. If I bring him into my bed quickly enough, he'll fall back asleep snuggled up next to me. And then I try to put my to-do list out of my head and enjoy the moment.

Soren’s sleep habits still get out of whack once every few weeks. Every so often, he’ll wake up early from his nap, crying his lights out. If I bring him into my bed quickly enough, he’ll fall back asleep snuggled up next to me. And then I try to put my to-do list out of my head and enjoy the moment.

My heart melts a little bit when Soren plays both creatively and independently. This one was, "Mama, comeeyah [come here]. They're watchin' traffic."

My heart melts a little bit when Soren plays both creatively and independently. This one was, “Mama, comeeyah [come here]. They’re watchin’ traffic.”

We decided this year to have a family theme each month, with applicable goals and activities to work on throughout the month. January’s theme became “Get Stuff Done,” and the idea was to take care of all the unfinished projects we’d begun in 2014. One such project (of about 30) was to take family pictures and send out some very late New Year’s cards. Since we’re dumb, we didn’t take advantage of December’s pleasant weather for photo taking. Instead, we ventured out on January 10, the first day we had nothing else on the calendar. It was about 15 degrees out. And WINDY. And there was snow on the ground. So basically a really bad day to try to take pictures outside. We dragged a friend along who is not a photographer, handed her our camera set to automatic, and we took some pictures.

They mostly looked like this.

They mostly looked like this.

And then we would jump in the warm car and scan through the photos and realize we all looked frozen and stupid, so we'd drive to another Cambridge spot and try again. Tim and Soren would stay in the car while Rachael and I would scout out a spot that didn't look like ugly winter. How about a random stone wall at the divinity school?

And then we would jump in the warm car and scan through the photos and realize we all looked frozen and stupid, so we’d drive to another Cambridge spot and try again. Tim and Soren would stay in the car while Rachael and I would scout out a spot that didn’t look like ugly winter. How about a random stone wall at the divinity school?

They mostly looked like this.

Finally, we told Soren we’d get hot chocolate after if we could just take a few more photos. I’m pretty sure he’s crying out, “HOT CHOCOLATE” here.

This was literally the only photo out of about 100 that worked. Soren's not looking so hot, but we all have our eyes open and that's good enough for me.

This was literally the only photo out of about 100 that worked. Soren’s not looking so hot, but we all have our eyes open and that’s good enough for me. Now that it’s early February I think I’ll mail out our cards. Want one? Send me your address.

Sometimes we just take selfies.

Sometimes we just take selfies.

Tim's grandparents sent us a few packages filled with fresh Arizona citrus. When we found the boxes on the doorstep, Soren told me, "I'll carry them cause Mama's too heavy." Ooooookay.

Tim’s grandparents sent us a few packages filled with fresh Arizona citrus. When we found the boxes on the doorstep, Soren told me, “I’ll carry them cause Mama’s too heavy.” Ooooookay.

Just a regular day at playgroup, building the "longest train in the world."

Just a regular day at playgroup, building the “longest train in the world.” The best is when you watch Soren attach magnetic train cars together and you hear him talking about “positives and negatives” under his breath.

Tim's parents flew in for MLK day weekend, so we paid a visit to the Museum of Science together. Soren explored a spaceship.

Tim’s parents flew in for MLK day weekend, so we paid a visit to the Museum of Science together. Soren explored a spaceship.

I let Soren sit in the dinosaur's footprint before I saw the sign. Promise.

I let Soren sit in the dinosaur’s footprint before I saw the sign.

The next weekend we got our first real snow storm of the winter. Half a foot fell pretty quickly, so we went out first thing to play.

The next weekend we got our first real snowstorm of the winter. Half a foot fell pretty quickly, so we went out first thing to play.

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I ditched the sledding party early to go shovel the driveway, and this snowman disaster happened in my absence.

I ditched the sledding party early to go shovel the driveway, and this snowman disaster happened in my absence. Not sure why they selected a spot under some heavy tree cover.

Saturday, January 24 was officially the best night of my life. I saw Garth Brooks in the flesh.

Saturday, January 24 was officially the best night of my life. I saw Garth Brooks in the flesh.

"Better than our wedding night?" Tim asked hesitantly. Sorry.

“Better than our wedding night?” Tim asked hesitantly. Sorry. It’s Garth.

A few days later we got another dusting of snow, adding two feet to what was already on the ground. Tim had shoveling duty this time.

A few days later we got another dusting of snow, adding two feet to what was already on the ground. Tim had shoveling duty this time. Sometimes we wonder why we were so desperate for a driveway when we moved in?

The blizzard was a little bizarre since it was incredibly windy. In some spots, there were four feet of snow, and in others there was no accumulation.

The blizzard was a little bizarre since it was incredibly windy. In some spots, there were four feet of snow, in others there was no accumulation. Exhibit A.

Everyone was Instagramming and Facebooking about their awesome snow day fun, but it turns out snow days are hard work when you're cooped up with a two-year-old. So... we took down our Christmas tree. January 27. Is that a record?

Everyone was Instagramming and Facebooking about their awesome snow day fun, but it turns out snow days are hard work when you’re cooped up with a two-year-old. So… we took down our Christmas tree. January 27. Is that a record?

I refused to stay indoors the next day. Out we went.

The day after the blizzard was sunny and just warm enough to melt some of the snow. I refused to stay indoors again. Out we went.

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Schools were canceled, so we were expecting to fight for parking and dino-viewing space at Harvard's Museum of Natural History. Turns out we were the only ones who made it outside. We had the place to ourselves and had the time of our lives.

Schools were canceled, so we were expecting to fight for parking and dino-viewing space at Harvard’s Museum of Natural History. Turns out we were the only ones who made it outside. We had the place to ourselves and had the time of our lives.

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That day was also my six-year Bosto-versary. Pizza was the obvious choice. (The green eggs and ham pizza from Proper Slice is a weird winner for us. Pesto, mozz, prosciutto, red bliss potatoes, perfectly cooked eggs. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.) Celebrating a Bosto-versary in the middle of a blizzard is very fitting. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

Part of our monthly family theme includes a song and a scripture that we sing/read each morning. We’ve been using this scripture study method for a few months, and Soren largely ignores the scripture reading part, opting to play while Tim and I say the scripture. On the last day of the month, I told him I’d give him a chocolate chip if he’d say the scripture with us. Turns out the little stinker had the whole thing memorized all along. His voice is pretty quiet in the video, and he’s really hard to understand, but here’s the text of Doctrine & Covenants 58:27 if you want to try to catch what he’s saying: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” This kid kills me.

A Few of My Favorite Things: Mom Edition

Sometimes, when you really love something, you just need to spread the news. So let me tell you about a few of my favorite things right now.

IKEA Patrull Bathtub MatBeing a bit of a helicopter parent, I rarely leave the room when Soren is bathing. To put my mind at ease that he wouldn’t slip and fall to his death, I bought a set of non-slip shower treads at Home Depot. And I hated them. Half of them peeled off within the first few days, and the entire attempt was worthless since the circles covered such a tiny portion of the tub floor.

And then, while browsing at IKEA, I stumbled upon the cutest bathtub mat I’d ever beheld. And it was only $5. And Soren and I both love it. It nearly covers the entire length and width of the tub, and the plentiful suction cups on the bottom make it easy to securely attach it and then pull the whole thing up after each bath. The handy holes are perfect for hanging the mat to dry (although good luck finding a suction hook that will both stick to shower tile and hold up the alligator). Best of all, you can throw the mat in the washing machine to keep it as clean and fresh as the day you bought it. (Don’t live near an IKEA? Amazon sells the matfor around $10, which is double the IKEA price but still a pretty great deal.)

IKEA Patrull alligator bath mat
Electrolux (by Sanitaire) Canister VacuumThe fact that I can call a vacuum a “favorite thing” is practically a miracle. See, I hate cleaning. I enjoy a tidy, well organized home, but I simply hate cleaning it. When Tim and I first got married and realized there were no more roommates to clean the floors, we figured we better purchase a vacuum for all 550 square feet of our apartment. We picked up a cheap Hoover stick vac and figured we were set. It wasn’t quite the worst vacuum in the world, but it was really only good for super light use. Once we upgraded to a two-bedroom apartment and got a few floor rugs, I knew it was time for something more serious. I’d been admiring the Dysons at Costco for years, but didn’t think now  was the time to spend $400 on a vacuum. So I went with a $100 Hoover upright, and after using it once I wanted to kill myself. It was colossal, really awkward to maneuver, and it consistently shot dust and dirt out the back.

For my next attempt at purchasing a vacuum, I read review after review online and felt more confused than ever. So I got smart. I went to an actual vacuum store. And I don’t know why anyone would do it any other way. Those people are geniuses! They advised me based on the size of my house, the types of rugs I have, and what style of vacuum I might like to use. They knew I was lusting after a Dyson (and they did have plenty of them in their store), but they also knew it wasn’t the best choice. Bless them. They set me up with an Electrolux canister vac, and I’ve been in heaven ever since.

Elextrolux by Sanitaire Canister Vacuum

3 Sprouts Storage BinWe hit a breaking point with the toys a few months ago. Most of Soren’s playthings had a home in some way or another, but the Duplos were a little out of control. Surprisingly, IKEA had nothing to offer me. I had resigned myself to the notion that we’d be swimming in Duplos forever when I saw a delightful storage bin at a friend’s apartment. It seemed perfectly crafted, really sturdy, and it was large. I was certain it was a fancy-pants baby boutique item way out of my price range, so I was amazed to find it on Amazon for just $20. Best of all, you can choose from a dozen different animals. When I asked Soren which he wanted, his initial choice was a pink elephant. Is it wrong that I went with my top pick instead? The same brand has other really tempting toy chests and laundry bins and wall organizers. And I better stop there before I fall for any more of them.

3 Sprouts Fox Storage Toy Bin

Acure Organics Shampoo. I am generally the last person anyone would want to look to for advice on anything hair or beauty related. The extent of my makeup routine is mascara once or twice a week. I’ve used my blow dryer about three times in the last three years. BUT, I’ve learned a thing or two while switching to more natural products in my bathroom over the past few years.

For nearly a year I did the “no ‘poo” method, using baking soda for shampoo and apple cider vinegar for conditioner. And I really loved it. But I started reading about how the combination of BS and ACV can potentially damage the hair or mess with the pH or something. And I got scared. So then I tested another DIY shampoo — coconut milk and aloe vera juice. And I looked like a walking oil slick. No go. Next, I moved on to Honest’s shampoo and body wash combo. I liked it. The scent was nice, it lathered fairly well (for a natural shampoo), and I appreciated the convenience of using one bottle to wash my hair and my body (and Soren’s). But when the last bottle was almost empty, I wondered if I should switch things up and see if I could love another shampoo more. I polled a group of friends, and the answer was nearly unanimous: Acure. With Acure, it was love at first wash. The scent is kind of powerful but really incredible — I actually look forward to my two hair-washing days each week because I’m so crazy about the smell. It lathers way better than Honest’s shampoo. And my hair is a little less frizzy than it once was. Try it.

Acure Shampoo

Onaroo Alarm ClockWho drops $40 on a clock for a one-year-old? I’ll tell you who — it’s the very same mom who needed a breathing monitor, a video monitor, a lifetime supply of glow-in-the-dark pacifiers,  and a $150 sleep consultation to get her kid (and herself) to sleep through the night. But seriously, this clock saved our sanity when Soren was nearly two and waking up for the day at 4:45 a.m. Every day. We’d tried absolutely everything, and his early rising was all but killing us. Enter the toddler clock. Using Troublesome Tots’ article as our how-to, we introduced the clock and haven’t looked back. And now we all get out of bed at 6:30 a.m. each day and we feel like a million bucks! He often wakes around 5:45 or 6 a.m., but he stays quiet and laying down until the clock’s green light tells him it’s morning. I’m so glad we introduced it before Soren turned two, because I think his habit of waiting for the green light will be super useful when (if?) we eventually move him to a toddler bed.

Onaroo American Innovative Alarm Clock