Best Books for Babes Under Five

Four years and four months.  That's how far I am into this mom thing.  It's my dream job, really and truly.  Watching my kids learn and grow have been some of the best moments/days/years of my life.

One thing we do every single day is read.  I am a lover of books and  adore all kinds....beach-y novels, nonfiction, historical fiction.  But, there is a special place in my heart for children's books.  I started collecting them in college when I was an elementary education major and haven't stopped since.

As Luke has grown these past four years I have discovered books that 'stand the test of time', if you will.  Books that he loved when he was six months old and books he loves still today.  Books that are now held together by mere threads because they have been read over and over and carried around the house like baby's favorite blanket.

Today I am sharing my favorite books for babes under five.  These books can be read both to babies and older toddlers.  AND almost all of them can be read into the elementary years...I read a lot of these to my first graders and they still loved them at six and seven years old.

Eric Carle.  Almost every parent knows and loves this author and illustrator. My kids' favorite books from him are Brown Bear, Brown Bear (duh), The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and The Very Busy Spider.  All of these have been read to my babies and are still being read and reread by Luke (4) and Lily (2) today. The repetitive pattern in these books keeps babies' attention and allows older toddlers to 'read' or 'retell' these stories easily.

Dr. Suess is another well known author by both parents and teachers alike. Some of our favorites for children under five are The Best Nest and Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?.  Some of Dr. Seuss' books can be long and these few are doable for both super young readers and older babes.

The Little Blue Truck books by Alice Schertle are some of my new favorites. Trucks are a big hit in our house and the animals and rhyming pattern make these books so lovable.  Our favorite is the classic The Little Blue Truck, but we also read Little Blue Truck Leads the Way often.  There are also Christmas and Halloween books that make those holidays extra special.  

This next book I could read over and over again and never, ever get sick of it. The Magic Hat by Mem Fox is the sweetest story and keeps my kids' attention so well.  Like the other books I've mentioned, this book has a rhyming pattern and both my kids love guessing the animal character that comes on the next page. This might not be as well known as others, but it really is my favorite.  And the kids adore it, too!

While Thomas the Train books and Disney Cars books are fun for a season, these books are classics that I will keep in my home to save for my future grand-babies someday.  What are some of your favorite books to read to your babes?


Sunny Saturday

The weekend is here and that means my sweet family hanging together for a few days and uninterrupted time with my favorite human during nap time.  My mom is coming into town tomorrow and you better believe Kevin and I are heading out on the town for a date, maybe even possibly sans Jude.  I am having the hardest time deciding, it will probably be decided last minute.

This week was a quiet one and I needed it and loathed it all at the same time. We had some sweet visitors and made our maiden visit to the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha.  The rest of the week we were home eating and playing and laughing and crying and learning and trying to sleep.  Jude had a hard time with that last thing this week, so that made for some difficult moments, but he is still the sweetest little man and it's hard to believe I will ever ever ever be mad at him.

Since I was home most of the week, I spoiled myself with some flowers from Trader Joe's and they have me thinking spring is almost here.  And I am so ready.  These ranunculus flowers are just perfectly pretty and look like little handmade paper flowers.  I am so in love with them and am hoping I can pick up another bunch this weekend.

A friend from church has a growing business called The Written Tree and is selling prints and framed prints.  She is super talented and put out a bunch of prints for the Easter season.  I picked up this square framed print and I love the simplicity of it as well as the message.  I love reading/singing it every time I walk by, it's just lovely.

Mrs. Meyer's spring scents are out!  I am always a big peony fan, but the lilac this year is oh so yummy.  Lily loves washing her hands with it (because the bottle is purple) and I love the way it makes her hands smell.  It's a win-win.

Another thing that made my week sunnier this week was this chicken chili recipe from Shauna Niequist's Bread and Wine book.  The weather this week was somewhere in-between winter and spring, so I wanted to get a few more soups in before the grill is turned on every night.  This recipe is the epitome of simple and so so tasty with chips and cheese and avocado.

I hope you have a Sunny Saturday wherever you may be today!  I am loving a day at home with my people!


Nursery Love

In many families, the third child gets the short end of the birth order stick. The third child is the one who gets a half complete baby book or none at all, collects all the hand-me-downs, and probably gets talked into eating his sister's brussels sprouts when mom and dad aren't paying attention.  I was the firstborn, so I don't know much about any of that (other than I was the sister trying to pass along my brussels sprouts), but I do know now why the third child's young life might not be as documented or as excessively celebrated as the first child.  It's pure logistics.  Time.  Attention.  Hands.  There is only so much and so many.

This three kid gig is glorious, but my time is more divided than it has ever been before.  I am teaching letters and numbers, playing dress up, monitoring and participating in outside adventures, and nursing, changing, and sleeping a new babe.  In the midst of this, I have been attempting to get Jude's nursery (finally) complete and I am maybe done.  

In true third child style, Jude's nursery is complete a mere six weeks after he entered the world.  Compare that with Luke and Lily's rooms being done months before their arrivals.  I might have been a little more laid back this time around.

I am in love with the simplicity of Jude's room and savor the moments I get to rock and cuddle him there and give him all the attention I can (I'm trying to avoid him really feeling like a third child).

Here are some things that put the finishing touches on Jude's room this week:

My friend, Nicole, paints the most beautiful canvases and cards.  Her work is stunning and I love this super simple canvas she did for Jude's room.  She usually paints a border or background on her canvases, but I asked for something a little different and I love the way she created this piece. 

The next item is from another good friend, Paige, who sent the thoughtful blue card (pictured above) in the mail after Jude was born.  She is starting to take calligraphy classes and this is proof she has a knack for it.  This is up on Jude's shelf with his other special things.

When we were in the hospital having Jude, my sister-in-law did some cute art projects with the kids and the tractor got framed and I just know Jude will love it as he grows, especially since Luke will surely be teaching him all about things with wheels.

If there is an IKEA in a 60 mile radius, it's a sure thing I will make a trip. I am so in love with these white RIBBA frames (the large square ones pictured above).  I have four black frames in my living room and I have two white ones in Jude's room.  For less than $20 a frame, you can't really go wrong.  

Last, are the pictures I received in the mail from Mpix from Jude's newborn photo shoot.  Mpix is my go to print shop and I literally receive them in two days with regular shipping. 

I hope you have a Sunny Saturday wherever you may be today!  It has been beautiful these last few days and we are going to be outside as much as possible, soaking it up!


Jude's Newborn Photos

Photos of my family bring me so much joy.  We are lucky enough to have a photographer who captures our family so well.  Ashely Otte Photography is based in Council Bluffs, Iowa and Ashley is a pro when it comes to newborns and kids. And when I say she is a pro with kids, I mean she is the most patient person on the planet.  

Our little Jude was not the most cooperative little model, but somehow she persevered and managed to get some perfect shots of him all snuggled up and sweet.  I will treasure these photos for a long time to come.  Here are the highlights from our shoot.


An Unpredictable Sunny Saturday

Blue skies.  Sun shining.  Long adventures.  Finding feathers.  Wind blowing. Rain boots caked in mud.  That has been our March so far.  

March is a pretty great month.  It's the in-between for winter and spring and there could be snow or sun or it could be 20 degrees or 70 degrees.  It's unpredictable.  I am the kind of girl who likes the surprise of a beautiful day or a snowstorm. 

This week was my first week alone with my littles.  It was kind of like March, so unpredictable.  I had lots of 'I-got-this-three-kid-thing-high-five' moments and lots and lots of 'how-did-I-ever-think-I-could-do-this' moments.  Everyday was unpredictable, but, alas, we did survive and even thrive at some points in the week.

Today I'm sharing some things that made my week a wee bit sunnier in the midst of navigating this mom of three thing alone. 
First up is this book.  Love Does by Bob Goff is unexpected in the best way and so very entertaining.  Bob talks about faith through his quirky lens with each chapter narrating a short story.  Each time I get done reading, I inevitably tell Kevin exactly what I read, because it's just one of those books you have to tell someone about.  It's good, friends.

Last week I did some rearranging and picked up some things to get my home ready for spring.  I snuck away to Target alone over the weekend and picked up this round tray.  I have been looking for a round tray for awhile and love this one with a solid bottom to rest drinks on and a catch all for our books and coasters.  And it's kid-proof.  Duh.

Purging.  You might have heard the 40 bags in 40 days thing on Facebook?  I am so in with a good purge.  Although I won't be doing a bag a day because we are pretty 'minimalist' in our own way, I will be doing one area or one category a day.  I have already gone through my old receipt folder, Luke's clothes that no longer fit him, our toy closet (yikes), kitchen cabinets, and so much more. Purging just makes me happy.

Being a mom of a newborn I would be negligent if I didn't mention sleep.  Some nights this week I got a lot and others very little.  But, when I did get more than five hours of sleep I felt like a new woman, capable of absolutely anything.  Interesting how expectations and the 'normal' changes so quickly when you have a child.

Last, is this corned beef recipe.  Ugh.  I really really dislike corn beef. Why is it on your Sunny Saturday post you ask?  Because my amazing, adorable, will watch-the-kids-like-it's-his-job-so-I-can-go-to-Starbucks husband of mine loves it.  And if he loves it and it makes him happy, it makes me happy, too. I will be serving this up next Friday for Saint Patrick's Day and, fingers crossed, it will turn out and I will be the best wife in the world.  

That's a wrap!  I hope you have a Sunny Saturday wherever you may be today! P.S. Did I mention it could snow today?!  


Jude Jeffrey: 1 month

Our Jude was one month this past Saturday on March 4.  As all of you know, the days are long, but the years are short.  Time is flying with this one and we are trying to soak up every moment with our newest member.

This is all about our Jude during his first month of life:
  • Jude loves being held.  His most favorite place to be is in our arms. 
  • He is a big fan of bath time.  We don't give him baths very often, but when we do he is the happiest babe.
  • Jude is taking around 4-5 naps a day.  We just started putting him into his crib for day time naps and I am a bit sad about not holding him through them all.
  • Eating is one of Jude's strengths.  He eats 6-8 times a day with one of those feedings being a bottle from Dad right before bed.
  • Bedtime is around 10:00 each night and Jude sleeps in the rock n' play beside our bed.  His first stretch of sleep is around five to six hours and then three hours.  The six hours of sleep in a row is healthy for everyone.
  • A pacifier is Jude's best friend.  If he isn't eating, he prefers the pacifier in his mouth at all times.
  • Jude recently discovered the fan in our living room.  Both Luke and Lily and every other baby that has been in our living room has had mad love for the fan.
  • Car rides are one of Jude's favorite things.  Some of his longest stretches of daytime sleep have been in his car seat.
  • Jude had his first family tractor ride a few weeks back and Luke and Lily thought it was the coolest thing, while Jude slept through most of it.

We are so in love with Jude and enjoy watching him grow and Luke and Lily love on him everyday.

P.S. Blurry pictures are our new normal.  


Three Ways to Grow Patience

Alone with three children all day is not something I would think of as truly difficult...ten years ago.  When I dreamt of staying at home with my future children at age 23, I thought I would bake chocolate chip cookies while they played in their rooms, we would practice manners around a quiet and calm dinner table, and we would sit and read books on the couch for hours on end, laughing and having the best time.  Well, I do make cookies and we do practice manners and read loads and loads of books, but it doesn't quite look like what I imagined in my head at 23.  It's more messy, dirty, crazy, and loud than my naive self thought it would be.  

This week is my first week home alone with all three of my babies.  And now I would most definitely describe this job as 'difficult', in the absolute best, life giving (and, let's be honest, sometimes life draining) way.  It is my most favorite job I have ever had and I love it, but this week has taught me something.

I am going to have to grow some patience.

Like literally, grow it.  I currently don't have enough to navigate Luke and Lily arguing over the Star Wars book while nursing Jude, Lily refusing to eat anything at lunch, and putting in Jude's pacifier 38 times in 10 minutes while trying to get lunch on the table.  I just don't have enough, friends.

This week I tried a few things to grow my patience so I am not constantly using the verbiage 'NO', 'Don't do that', 'Don't touch that', or my polite 'Please stop that' a thousand times all day long.  I came up with three strategies to grow my patience with my three babes at home.  (I am going to be coming back to read this post daily for awhile...)

Close My Eyes

This seems silly and maybe won't work for everyone.  I know some people say to count to ten when dealing with a tough situation and I will utilize it as well, but closing my eyes to what I am seeing in front of me helps to respond with a clean and clear mind.  When little footsteps come racing down the hall calling out 'she won't get out of my room' for the tenth time in ten minutes, I close my eyes, clear my mind, and try and respond with love and empathy and not with the anger and frustration I would like to respond with.

Take A Break

I have realized it is okay to close the bathroom door and not have my kids in there with me all. the. time.  You mommas out there know what I'm talking about.  Since having children, 90% of the time I spend in my bathroom is not alone.  Privacy and taking a minute to breathe is healthy and so necessary when raising littles.  

I have also discovered driving into Starbucks while Kevin watches the kids for a few hours is so life giving and necessary for my sanity.  I need to refill my tank so I can fill the tanks of my littles and my husband all day everyday. You need to be filled to fill others my friends.

Be Ready

Setting myself up for success all day long is vital for me to have a good day and not be impatient with my babes.  For me, this means getting up a bit earlier to shower before they get up, making my bed, and doing a quick devotion or getting a few things checked off my to-do list for the day.  Guys, this is not easy.  There are days I want to push snooze over and over and over again. And sometimes I do.  But, I have found my day goes much smoother and I have much more patience to give if I am ready for those three babes when they decide to open their beautiful blue eyes in the morning.  What are some things you want done before your babies get up in the morning?

This mom gig is hard.  It's feedings at three in the morning, wiping bottoms, cleaning up a kitchen table three times a day.  It's navigating sibling disputes and wondering why your most favorite blanket is the one that always gets a nose wiped on it.  #gross  

But, with a little bit of courage and perseverance and a whole lot of patience, I know that my 23 year old self would be pretty darn proud of my 33 year old self.  Even with the messy floors, the dirty fingerprints on the windows, and the sweet babies racing down the hallway yelling for me to chase them.  Yes, I think she would be pretty proud indeed. 


Simple Spring Things

Another week goes by and our Jude is another week older.  He is four weeks old today.  Say what?!  Yes, I know, pure madness.

This was my mom's last week here.  She took off this morning and won't be back until the end of March.  Pray for me, will you?  #homealonewiththreelittles

Today, I'm sharing some home things that ARE NOT baby related!  It has been feeling a lot like spring the last couple weeks and I am itching to update my home with some simple, spring things.  I am not one to completely change decor with the seasons, but I like to switch out plants, pillow cases, and pictures in frames. Add in some rearranging and shopping my home to mix things up and it always puts me in a good mood.

Succulents.  Everyone loves them and so do I.  I am a sucker for a green, easy to manage succulent in a cute container.  I popped into Hutch last Sunday when Kevin and I were on a date with Jude and picked up these two planters with succulents ready to go.  I am pretty in love with them.

I am really loving white right now, especially with spring around the corner. White frames, vessels and bowls or trays really brighten up spaces, especially when working with dark cabinets and shelves.  I started 'collecting' (I use that term loosely because I try not to collect anything) white home-y things about two years ago and I love how they look in my home filled with lots of wood tones.  These floating shelves in my kitchen needed an update and I used what I had lying around the house to update them for the spring.  Sometimes I tend to spread things I like around the house, but I have found that placing 'like things' or in this case 'white vessels' in the same place makes more of an impact.  Two of the vases are from Target, the pot is from Home Depot, the other vase I picked up at Junkstock and the bird is from a small boutique.

Oils came into my life a few months ago.  A MOPS friend sells Young Living and I ordered a few to try out with this diffuser.  Diffusing has been my thing lately.  Lemon is my favorite to diffuse during the day and lavender at night. Jude sleeps beside me in a rock 'n play, so I haven't been diffusing lavender lately, but I will start once he moves over to his own room.  Does anyone have any favorite oils out there?

We are spending today home as a family of five for the first time since Jude arrived.  We are going to have as lazy of a morning one can have with three kids, put together puzzles and get some fresh air, and ribs are on the menu for tonight.  Have a Sunny Saturday everyone!


Loving Your Spouse and Your Newborn

The newborn phase is dreamy.  For example, there are the sweet grunts and squeaks, the tiny toes and fingers, and let's not forget the tiny clothes adorning the tiny bodies.  The little yawns and the way newborns are all curled up in an itty bitty ball is pure perfection.  The newborn phase is also like walking around in a dream most days because of total, utter exhaustion.  Let's be real, having a newborn is glorious, but also extremely tiring.  There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture tactic.

In this dreamy foggy season of newborn-ness, it is so easy for me to forget about my spouse, the one who helped me create this tiny human.  I am tired, pretty much all day and all night.  Throw in the fact that I have a hard time napping, and I'm pretty much a walking time bomb with hardly anything left to give to my better half.  

I remember this newborn time with my other two and how Kevin and I only talked if we had to and it was usually about sleep or poop (or lack of) or sleep. About a month ago, right before Jude came into this world, I turned to Kevin in bed and said, 'I promise this time will be different and I will make time for you, even when I'm exhausted.'  He smiled, patted me on the back (with a knowing smile on his face), and said 'okay'.

Well, folks, I have, more than once, regretted that statement.  Deep down in my heart, I want to be connected to my spouse and make time for him in this season.  I want to have a conversation with him that doesn't involve the word 'poop'.  I want to love him the way I have loved him for the past nine and some change years.  But, my body rejects these thoughts.  My body tells me I'm tired, I'm exhausted, I'm spent.  My body tells me to coast, to get through today, that brighter days are coming when I will have more time and energy to give to Kevin.  

My body is not wrong, but my heart isn't either.  This time has been a bit different.  Partly because we have an extra set of hands in the house with my mom being here and partly because we have experience with this newborn thing and partly because we are being intentional this time around. 

Kevin and I have gone on a few dates, toting Jude along.  We have looked each other in the eyes and had a conversation, a real, actual conversation that doesn't involve the word 'poop'.  (Although we have had plenty of conversations about poop as well.) We have turned the t.v. off and decided to tune into each other.  We have made the time for one another and still loved and doted on and enjoyed our sweet baby Jude.  It has taken effort, the kind that makes you rethink it a hundred times before you really, truly, actually make the effort. 

The statement 'this time will be different' was made at a time when I wasn't exhausted and I could see and think clearly.  And now I'm exhausted and am clearly in a fog and that is exactly why I made the statement when I did.  But, I'm so incredibly happy I said those words because it has challenged me (and Kevin) and has kept us close during this season of sleepless nights and newborn cuddles.  

This newborn phase doesn't last forever and it will be over before I know it. Taking a few minutes here or there to connect with Kevin with intentionality has been oh so worth it and has allowed our marriage to be a priority during these dreamy days. 

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