Tag Archives: 2 years old

Look What Arrived!

I took the moon for a walk

We just got a whole box of books from Barefoot Books! This was my prize for winning a contest at Mothering.com for a post I wrote for World Breastfeeding Week. You can read the post here, if you like: On Motherhood.

I Took the Moon for a Walk has to be my favorite book from this collection. We read it quite frequently and it is perfect for a bedtime book. I enjoy the rhyme and rhythm of it, which I don’t often say because sometimes I feel like the rhyming in children’s books is kind of overwhelming. Usually, it’s fine and sometimes it’s fun, but I don’t generally fall into the camp of “I love this poem!” But I am making an exception here. I also like that the story shows a child exploring the world at night without being scared or monitored by his parents. It was the kind of thing I always wanted to do when I was a kid – and something I did do a lot when I was older.

I’ve raved before about Barefoot Books because their website features free podcasts of children’s audio books. I highly recommend these if a.) you are tired of reading to your kids (it is ok to admit that it happens), b.) your child keeps asking for the same story on repeat, c.) you need something to listen to on a roadtrip. When Finn was quite young, maybe 2 years old, we found he enjoyed listening to audiobooks once he already knew the story. Our favorite was The Gingerbread Man. I told him a simple version of it, then we listened to it together for a few minutes, and before long he was requesting it after naptime.

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Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope

Usually, I put up reviews for books that are kind of old news. This is because they come from the library because the library is free. But today’s review is for a book that is not out yet. Something new! Exciting!

cowboy boydCowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope is from Lisa Moser, the same author who wrote Railroad Hank. We read Railroad Hank a few months ago and loved it. It had a lot going for it, as it was about a train, but even so it is a charming book that is fun to read aloud. We would say the line “Railroad Hank rubbed his chin” very slowly and rub our own chins at the same time. Finn thought this was hilarious. Cowboy Boyd and Mighty Calliope has a similar feel. Even the illustrations seem related, though they are by a different illustrator.

Synopsis: Cowboy Boyd is a cowboy who rides a rhino instead of a horse. Calliope has trouble doing a lot of the ranching tasks and the other cowboys aren’t sure she will work out, but Cowboy Boyd believes in her. And when it’s time to soothe the cattle after a bad storm, Calliope comes through and saves the day in her own particular Calliope way.

Cowboy Boyd is a fun story. Finn asked to read it over and over again, which is always the sign of a winner. I liked Calliope as a character and would like to see her have more adventures in other books. But I think I liked Railroad Hank better over all.

This book will be available at the end of August.


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Choo-Choo Bob’s

Sometimes, when my mom friends talk about what we need, the discussion ends up like this: we need a place we can take our kids that is inside with a lot of air conditioning, or outside with lots of shade and completely fenced in (none of this “there’s a fence around part of the playground” nonsense); it needs to be free or almost-free, with coffee and wifi available, and it needs to be extremely welcoming of children with a playground to play on or something for them to do — a place where moms can go and sit down and relax for a minute and maybe connect with a friend or find a kindred spirit. Sometimes the bouncy house places seem like they would work, because they are inside and you can basically stay there all day if you want … but I personally can’t take much more than an hour of the whining fans. They tend to be noisy enough that you can’t really carry on a conversation with anyone while you are there. We’ve tried the children’s museum, but that is too much on the bonkers side of things. Too many things to look at and do, too many cubby-holes for kids to disappear in, and not what you would call relaxing. Or, let’s face it, free.

Well, mamas, listen up because I found The place while we were on vacation. It just lacks a coffee machine, but we could fix that.

It is called Choo-Choo Bob’s, and yes, I realize it only exists in Minnesota — but I bet we could franchise this thing.

Choo Choo Bob’s is a train store. It’s the best train store. The best store, period? Maybe.

In the front windows are two large model train set-ups that feature Thomas the Tank Engine. So, I’m sure if you have a train enthusiast in your family, this would win them over immediately. The genius part: they put benches behind these model trains, so you can just sit there and watch them for as long as you want. And if you are me, you can set down your stupid diaper bag and chill out while your children are fascinated for minutes and minutes.


I iz mesmerized by the choo choo

Behind the benches are aisles of toy trains to buy. Some of them are the old-school model trains, some are the expensive Thomas-brand trains, but there is also a great mix of other train toys and wooden tracks that are less expensive. There is even a piece-by-piece section. I saw it and for a moment, I thought I heard choirs of angels singing. We got some new bridge pieces without having to buy a set! Also for sale were books and engineer hats and other wooden toys. In the middle was a giant bargain bin where we found Thomas’s friend Den at 50% off.

So. Trains to look at, benches to sit on, toys to buy ON SALE. What more could anyone want? Well, just take yourself all the way to the back of the store and you will find the jackpot. In front of two party rooms where you can, yes, have probably the best birthday party a 3 or 4 year old could imagine, are 8(!) train tables. And benches, so the grownups can park themselves for a while. If the model trains occupied my children for minutes upon minutes, the train tables took up all the rest of the time we had, and Finn was dragged from this store very much against his will.


Someone with a brilliant brain made these train tables. Because they are all the same. Well, there were two wooden trainscapes set up, and there were four tables of each one. This meant no fighting for the “good” one. On the day we went, there were three or four other families there, which meant plenty of train table for everyone. Even my little niece who was hardly a year old had fun pulling up on the tables and zooming an engine around. On a shelf near the tables was a little box for donations. You could leave some change if you came to play and didn’t want to buy anything — again, a sign that someone gave this place a lot of thought.


When it was time to go, Finn was not interested. Sometimes, when you have a young child, this is the dilemma: if you go somewhere awesome and have a great time, going home often means A Crazy Meltdown. Well, here again Choo Choo Bob’s has it going on, because it is next door to an ice cream shop and a short drive away from the Amtrak station. If you need something else awesome to do, you have some options. We chose both ice cream and a trip to the Amtrak station, it being vacation and all. The drive there involved lots of railroad crossings, lots of boxcar sightings, and even a beautiful streamlined train sitting at the station. Who gave us directions on how to find the station? Why the guy at Choo Choo Bob’s, of course.


We got yelled at for climbing on this train right after we took this picture. Ah, vacation!


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Non-Train Books That Have Trains, Too

I get sick of reading books about trains. Every time we go to the library, Finn says he is going to find a train book.  There are only so many of them, you see, and we often go home with one we have read before.  It’s all fine, of course, but sometimes you want to read a book about something else. Anything else. Please, God, a non-train book for a tired mommy?

Here is a list of books that are not about trains. But, if you need to sell it to a kid who wants only trains, they all have a train somewhere inside.  My mom likes to say, “Let’s compromise! That way no one is happy!” But, look, here’s a compromise that actually does make everyone happy.  See how that works? It’s called magic.

What Do People Do All Day

1. Find yourself a Richard Scarry book. Trains galore! And also many other things to keep you from going train-crazy. Check them out here and here.

mr brown2. Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Suess. Cuz choo-choo rhymes with moo.

3. Green Eggs and Ham, also by Dr. Suess. Would you could you on a train? Would you could you in the rain? Bonus points: train goes through a tunnel.

two at the zoo

4. Two at the Zoo by Danna Smith and Valerie Petrone. Zoo train!

knuffle bunny free5. Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems. I once complained that Knuffle Bunny didn’t have a train in it. Oh, but wait.

animalia6. Animalia by Graeme Base. Check the L page for a Locomotive.

alexander7. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz. “I had to wear my railroad train pajamas. I hate my railroad train pajamas.” (Also there’s a toy train on the floor of his bedroom.)


8. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. As you can see from the cover, there’s a … thing … on some train tracks.

(If you spot a train in a non-train book, please let me know in the comments. I feel like we own about twelve more than I have listed, but my brain is starting to hurt.)

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Clean Up and Declutter

The last time my older son was away for a visit with grandma and grandpa, we lived it up like people with no children. We drove all over town with our few-months-old baby, eating at new restaurants we wanted to try, sitting in traffic, drinking fancy beers at fancy places. The baby was a good sport about the whole thing. And we relished those “easy” days of only having one child to take care of.

Well, we dropped the 2 year old off at grandma and grandpa’s house again this week. But instead of using the time to catch up on all the social stuff we’ve been missing, I’m using it to clean the house.  I know, b-o-r-i-n-g. I’m trying to free the house of clutter, which is probably impossible with young children. I mean … they just collect so much stuff.  Finn might find a marble or a rock outside and suddenly it’s a treasure he needs to have on hand at all times. Friends call up and ask if we want some of their old hand-me-downs and I say yes because I think it’s going to be shoes or something and it turns out to be three giant trucks that are too awesome for us to turn away. And then there is the art that comes home from school — the sweet little projects he makes with his friends. It all piles up and I feel so guilty throwing any of it away.

Here is what is hitting the garbage this week:

race track 1 This is a pool noodle race track, which is all over Pinterest. It is supposed to look like this:

race track 3Mine kept falling apart no matter what I did and I found the baby chewing on the toothpicks a few times. Bye-bye!

Another: this bag of ponies.

bag of poniesI’m hoping I can re-home these instead of throwing them away. These were mine when I was a kid and I had such hopes that my kids would love ponies like I did. I guess I thought it would make it easier to relate to them, instead of me having to learn all about what they love. You can guess how that worked out — ask me any question about steam engines, I dare you. It wouldn’t be so bad if they just … passed over the ponies … or didn’t like them as I had. But my children are actively icked out by the feel of pony hair. Finn gets the “throw up” look on his face when he accidentally encounters one. I want to just leave these on the curb to become someone else’s problem, but I believe Salty and Quarterback may be worth some money. Sigh. I guess now I get to stare at them for the next six months while I try to muster the energy for e-bay.

Here’s another toy I feel sad that we do not like to play with:

tinker toysGiant tinker toys. I feel like maybe we just need to be older, but so far these have poked everyone in at least one eye every time I bring them out. Bye bye.

I’m also getting rid of Finn’s beloved Valentine’s box he made at school. Oh, the mom guilt over this one. It’s a shoe box he decorated, full of tiny slips of paper from his friends. It has been hanging around for months. But he still likes to sit with it and take out all his notes and talk about which one of his friends gave it to him. It is so sweet it is killing me to throw it away. I am really hoping he doesn’t notice it’s gone.

Here’s to a cleaner, tidier house. For a few days, anyway, until we have his birthday party …

race track 2


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Moral Dilemma

We have hit a rough patch with books. The baby is going godzilla on them. Often, before I even realize he’s got one in his hands, I hear that horrible sound of ripping paper.

Here is my question: when he’s ripped a library book, what should I do?

I have been taping everything together as best as I can and returning the books without saying anything. Do I need to pay for these? Should I trust that the library will charge me when its appropriate?


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On Pancakes and Sick Kids

When you are stuck in the house all day with a sick child, as I was on Thursday, you could do a lot worse than …


… make a whole bunch of pancakes.  Here’s why:

1. Kids can help make them.

2. If you can’t flip a pancake one-handed while carrying a grumpy child at the beginning of the endeavor, you will have plenty of chances to practice. And once you get it down, you will rightly feel like you have superpowers.

3. You can eat a pancake one-handed while walking around the house, while carrying a sick kid, while doing all the other hundreds of things you have to do when someone doesn’t feel good. Remembering to eat sometimes falls off the list, at least for me.

4. You can make bland ones that will feel ok on a yucky tummy.

5. You can make healthy ones. I made these “carrot cake” ones.

6. You can make peanut butter and jelly ones. It is really easy. Take a regular recipe for pancakes, even a box of mix, and add peanut butter chips. Serve with jelly instead of syrup. DONE.

6. They are cheap.

7. You can freeze them and eat them for days.

8. You can eat them for any meal or every meal.

9. Anyone can eat them, from babies on up.

10. Some children (even my children?) can be a little patient while you work, knowing that you are churning out another good thing to eat every 3-4 minutes.

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PPBF: The Flying Dragon Room

It’s Friday, which means it is time for a Perfect Picture Book.  This week, it’s The Flying Dragon Room by Audrey Wood and Mark Teague. Audrey Wood wrote The Napping House and King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, among other, and Mark Teague illustrates the How Do Dinosaurs … books. A pretty good pedigree for a picture book, right?

flying dragon room

  • Published by Blue Sky Press, 1996
  • Fiction, for ages 4-8 (so says The Internet; my almost-three-year-old thinks it’s swell).
  • Topics: imagination, tools, building
  • Opening: “It all happened because of the Flying Dragon Room, or so they say, though Patrick didn’t know it at first.”

A handy-woman named Mrs. Jenkins lets Patrick borrow her tools and he uses them to create a fantastical world in what appears to be the cellar of his parents’ house. He takes everyone on a tour and each room is more marvelous than the last, including the Small Creature Garden and the Bubble Room.

I’m beginning to understand that I like illustrations that feel “special” when I read a picture book. And the pictures in this book are very special — the rooms are loaded with details and invite some extra imagination work. There is no explanation in the text for what everything does or is supposed to do or why it’s there.  If you want to pour over the images, you can come up with all kinds of stuff on your own.

Another thing that makes this particular book stand out is Mrs. Jenkins. She is old(er), with a crazy white hairdo, and she is a handy-person hired to paint a house. You don’t see that many older women in children’s books, unless they are grandmas (at least, this is my experience; feel free to tell me what books I’ve missed). But besides all that, she is such a cheerleader for the kid Patrick. It’s obvious to me, as a grown up, that Patrick has taken her tools and imagined a world of extraordinary possibilities, but Mrs. Jenkins takes it all very seriously. And so does the book. There is no indication whatsoever that anything is made-up or make-believe. Which won me over completely.


  • The obvious activity is to hand a kid some tools, real or play, and tell them to build you something. At our house, this results in more “fixing” existing stuff rather than building completely new anything, but I take what I can get.
  • Create simple “fairy” doors and hide them around your house or yard. Talk about who might live there or what crazy things might be in the tiny room on the other side. I’ve seen very adorable and expensive fairy houses and doors you can get for the yard, but these are just paper ones you can make and decorate yourself. Brilliant.
  • Here is a site with ideas for how to get started with imaginative play. I like the idea of leaving a “scene” out for a day or two, so kids can come back to it later (this was my M.O. as a kid).

Perfect Picture Book Friday is hosted by Susanna Lenard Hill.  Check out this list of all the Perfect Picture Books. It’s the most comprehensive list I’ve ever seen.


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Large Form Peek-a-Boo

The boys made up their own game the other day. It involved Finn crawling around a laundry basket of clothes and then jumping up, yelling “Peek a Boo!” The baby found this hilarious.

large form peekaboo1

Finn hiding

It was almost impossible to get an action shot that wasn’t blurry. They move too fast.

large form peekaboo2

and jumping out

The key to making this game work was twofold. One, you couldn’t “see” through the basket. Two, the baby couldn’t get up there to turn it into a game of chase. Games of chase keep ending in kicking and yelling and freaking out, as it means someone might touch someone else, OMG!

As hard as it is taking care of both of them all the time, this was worth it. Every once in a while, they find a way to entertain themselves.

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Books We Are Reading This Week

I am trying to cut our library trips down to once a week. It’s been harder than I thought.  Finn’s school is within walking distance of a library and he used to go to school on a schedule that coincided with one of the days the library was closed. So he would ask to go to the library after school and much of the time, I would tell him that the library was closed that day. We have since switched schedules and now the library is open every day when I pick him up. It is really hard to tell a kid you can’t take him to the library. I have extreme guilt over this.

One thing we are going to try for the summer is to read some “classic” children’s books that we haven’t done yet.  Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar have been staples, but it’s time for us to visit with some of the others that end up on “best” lists for kids.  The nice thing about looking for “old” books is that they are often at the library. Another goal of mine for the summer is to read some books with Finn that are specifically marketed to girls.  Princess books, pink books, you probably know what I’m talking about. If I had a daughter, I would be reading her books about boys, so I figure it’s only fair that my boys get a healthy dose of what “girls” are up to, at least in storybook land. I would really like to figure out how to circumvent this whole “stuff that is marketed to boys” v. “stuff that is marketed to girls,” but I am having a hard time figuring it out, since — at least in books — there is inevitably going to be one main character who is inevitably going to be a boy OR a girl. But, baby steps: first read some “girl” books, then have more thoughts later.

Here’s is what we are reading this week:

curious george

1. Curious George, the original by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey. Finn adores this story, even though he often comments on how sad it is. It is a little sad, because it shows how George was captured by the man in the yellow hat and taken away from the jungle. But it’s not as sad as the original Babar, which made me want to cry (maybe I was just having a bad day; maybe it was because someone had crossed out every instance of “hunter” in the book and written “poacher” over it).

round trip2. Round Trip by Ann Jonas. Fascinating book. It does include a train on one page and a subway on another; we keep getting hung up on those pages.

piggy pie3. Piggy Pie Po by Audrey and Don Wood. Super cute and fun to read!

king bidgood4. King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub also by Audrey and Don Wood. I went on a little Audrey and Don Wood kick, which is a wonderful thing about exploring the bookshelves instead of always ordering up what we want from a website. This book is hilarious and fun to look at.

5. train tripTrain Trip by Deanna Caswell and Dan Andreasen. What is a trip to the library without finding a train book? This one is a quick read and has pretty good pictures.

This post is part of the Kid Lit Blog Hop this week. Click on over to it and see what children’s books other people are reading.


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