31 May 2019

Reading with a Toddler


For me, books have been a lifelong love, so, it's no surprise that I've been having daily storytime with Cyrus since back in the days when he wasn't yet able to roll over and escape. Pretty normal for any book lover.

Now that he's older, we've adapted and established more routines and he's developed his own fondness for certain books in our collection.

Book Storage: I store his books on a shelf in the spare bedroom that Angel and I use as office space. Cyrus has two shelves on an Ikea bookshelf that are devoted to his books. Most of the time, I keep the office door closed, but when we go in, I let him choose books off of his shelf to read. I keep the board books in the front of the shelf and the paper books in the back, because he can't reach that far back and I want to keep the paper books out of his reach for now. He has learned that these two shelves are for him, and does a good job of staying away from all the rest of the shelves that hold grown-up books.

Language: We have a mix of English, Spanish, and bilingual books. Some of our Spanish books are translations of classic English kids' books, but we also have a few original Spanish storybooks. This has been my major request if any relatives have asked if they can send Cyrus anything--we can't buy Spanish language books in any bookstore here, and online ordering isn't worth the complications that ensue, so the entirety of our Spanish book stash is from America. This is really great, especially for me, with working on his language exposure. Angel speaks more in Spanish with Cyrus, but it doesn't come naturally to me to do narration or random chatting in Spanish (those darn verbs requiring conjugation!), but I can read well in Spanish, so I read aloud. Most of our book collection is courtesy of Cyrus's two sets of grandparents, his aunts, and my aunts. Thanks, family!

Morning Storytime: This is an example of the books we read for morning storytime one day this week. Usually he wants to read books nearly as soon as he wakes up, and then later in the morning we'll read the afternoon, more, and in the evening before bed. So, the books better be good and keep Mom interested! This particular morning we read:
There's a Wocket in My Pocket! three times. Only in the past month or so has Cyrus been more interested in books that are a little longer than simple board books, and I've been introducing more Dr. Seuss books and slightly longer stories. 
First Bible Basics three times. This is one of a series of books, I only have two out of the series, though. Cyrus really enjoys both, and sits through them well.
Eres mi Mama? one time. Don't worry, we definitely read this at least four more times throughout the day. He loves this book, and since he's been better able to sit and listen to longer stories, I've also gotten out the full-length bilingual version that I also have in our collection.
Goodnight Moon one time. This is another one we read often. All of our bilingual books, I read in Spanish, just because Spanish is definitely the language we have less exposure to, so I need to maximize his opportunities to hear it. So this one is always Buenas Noches, Luna for us.

Behavior for Storytime: For actual storytime, I do require Cyrus to sit next to me while he listens, and I've been impressed with how his ability to sit and focus on the story has grown with time. For times when I just want to read something aloud in the background, and I know it's not really a story that he can follow yet, I let him play and I just sit on the couch and read. I have the Storybook Bible in both English and Spanish and it's above his level for now, but I'll read it aloud to us as a family some evenings. I do allow Cyrus to look at board books by himself and we work on learning to turn the pages gently and treat books carefully. He is not yet allowed to page through the paper books on his own--when you have to source your books from the USA, can't take too many risks with baby fingers. ;)

Learning Developments: As far as how Cyrus's experience with books is impacting his language development...I'd say at this point, who even knows? He doesn't talk. However, some of the biggest and clearest milestones he has has with his speaking or showing comprehension of words have come while reading books. He waves goodbye at characters who are saying goodbye. I once found him looking at a book all alone, doing a fake whimpering sort of cry, and then noticed that the characters on the page were crying. I think I laughed so hard that he now "fake cries" every time we get to that page. He tries to say "Moo" when reading books that have cows, tries to say "blue" on the blue page in our books about colors (it sounds like "blulululululu" and cracks me up). So it's very early days yet to see language progress with him, but I look forward to the future!

What are your favorite books for babies and toddlers? I have really enjoyed the "Cozy Classics" series of board books and will buy a few more if I can ever find their "Pride and Prejudice" or "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" or "Les Miserables" and the "Baby Believer" series is a new favorite. Of course, Dr. Seuss is pretty high up there as well. 
26 May 2019

Puppy Encounter at the Beach

I'm not a dog person.

There are plenty of people in this world who love dogs, so I feel no guilt about my lack of a preference for dogs. My view of dogs might better be described as a mild fear--particularly of large, loud dogs. Small dogs, not so much, but I'd still just as soon they keep to their own space and I'll keep to mine.

Cyrus, on the other hand, is at a stage where he is intrigued by any and all animals, and the sight of someone else's dog usually means we have to restrain Cyrus as he has not yet learned that not everything that moves and breathes is a friend (he has also tried vainly to befriend birds at the park).

We took Cyrus to the beach this weekend, which ended up being a bit of an unexpected adventure, in which a puppy decided to befriend me--even though I did absolutely nothing to encourage it.

A couple showed up shortly after we arrived with two puppies that weren't on leashes--at least I think they were puppies, not grown dogs, both because they were both really small, and because they didn't seem to have learned much about listening to their owners yet. That's okay, my human "puppy" is a whole year old and also doesn't quite understand the full meaning of "Come!" The black puppy, in particular, decided to become my little beach buddy, and sat next to me on my blanket for much of the evening, in spite of repeated attempts by its owners to lure it away to play in the water and sand.

Here I'm telling it, "Go to your family!"

I'm laughing in all these pictures...largely because Angel was laughing at me because of the sheer coincidence of this puppy picking out the one person on the beach who is probably least in love with its adorable self to befriend. Or not a coincidence? I've heard that dogs can sense when people are scared of them.

Cyrus was more active in trying to pet the dogs and play with them and they were quite friendly. I was a little nervous because he hasn't fully learned how to be gentle with animals, only pet on their backs, etc, and puppies can be unpredictable, but all three were very happy together.

The puppies' owners kept taking photos of Cyrus with their dogs, haha, and at some point, pretty much gave up on playing with their dogs at the beach because these two were not at all keen on leaving Cyrus or me.

Even by the end of our evening, when Cyrus finally got interested in a new activity, namely, attempting to single-handedly demolish a sandbank, there's still a puppy wandering in the background.

A fun and unexpected evening at the beach!

P.S. Cyrus has had a variety of adventures with strangers over the past few days! A group celebrating a birthday next to us at a restaurant gave him birthday cake and a birthday balloon. Angel took Cyrus out for a walk and the apartment complex's security guard wanted to hold him and asked why he had a bloody lip (The real question is when does Cyrus NOT have a bloody lip. They seem to be an occupational hazard for toddlers living in an environment build out of tile). Babies make friends so easily, don't they?
15 May 2019

Letters to Everything

Dear Green Apples,
Thank you for keeping me alive. Against all odds and all normal advice for good things to eat while nausea reigns supreme, you are the only food that remains consistently edible. Thanks for that. Consistency is much appreciated. Although, I'm not sure if a diet primarily composed of green apples is what those who study nutrition would call "balanced," but this is not the time to quibble over such small details.

This was 12 weeks.

Dear Summer Break,
I am very excited for your imminent approach. This is a first for our family--Angel is off of work for a whole six weeks! And we are all looking forward to the time together and the work we can get done together during that time. Maybe not everyone in the world can quickly renounce their chosen career and become a teacher instead, because that might not work out for the world, economically, but you really can't beat the job when it comes to time off!

Dear Apartment Building,
Whose idea was it to build all of the apartments with kitchens that vent into the communal hallway? I mean, it's been relatively fine for years, but all the cooking smells of all of our neighbors waft into my own kitchen as early as 6:30 in the morning, and braving a walk down the hallway as any mealtime approaches is like unto taking my life into my hands--chicken curry, stir-fried seafood, roasted chilies--I don't care what it is, I just can't bear to smell it. However, I have always thus far made it INTO my apartment again before vomiting so that's still a win.

Dear Jeopardy,
Maybe other people in the world think other shows are far cooler, but I'm not sure there's much better than the sheer innocent fun of watching this show some evening and trying to answer the questions faster than the participants. Also, I love the look of awe Angel gives me when I get an especially obscure question right. And it was so fun the time that Angel said, in response to the "Final Jeopardy" clue, "Oh, it's the guy who wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray." and I was like "Oscar Wilde? No, I don't think so." And then none of the Jeopardy contestants got the answer right...and the answer turned out to be Oscar Wilde???!!! How did the man who has never willingly read a work of poetry or fiction get this answer right?

Dear Cyrus,
You are so ridiculously fun. There are so many countless moments I want to memorize, and I know I'm going to forget anyway. The way you "dance" as soon as you hear any music, even if the "music" is just me humming some sort of invented beat. The time I heard you suddenly start whimpering, a sort of "fake cry," while you were looking at a book, and I found out that you were looking at a page that showed a sad little boy on it. You were fake crying in solidarity. You now do that every time we read the book and it's the funniest thing. You have so many things to learn! I love how adventurous you are and that you always want to go somewhere and do something. I love that you try to put my shoes on my feet when you are ready to go somewhere. I imagine many fun travels with you in the future! You got the "Let's go!" gene from your mama.

Dear Mother's Day,
With all celebratory things, we tend to either go really big, or be really chill. This was one of the chill ones. We thought about going out to eat together, but braving the weekend crowds in this city? No, thank you. So we ate random leftovers at home. Angel brought me flowers from market and my sisters gave me a gift and a young man from our neighborhood brought me a second bouquet. How sweet! After church, Angel took an afternoon nap and then went to play basketball with the Sunday basketball crew. But the very best part of Mother's Day was this photo, the result of a photo op in the church nursery. It really needs to be printed out and framed. Even since ultrasound days, when I said, "Wow, that is one grumpy-looking baby!", this has been Cyrus's "resting face." This photo makes me laugh every time I see it.

Dear Date Night,
I think since late March we've been saying, "We really should have an actual date sometime soon." But then I was supposed to be resting with my feet up, and have usually felt too horrible to go anywhere even if it was allowed (I have no desire to vomit in public when I could vomit at home, thank you), and Cyrus really is a fun person to hang out with and our babysitters have a busy schedule of their own...Maybe this weekend will work out.  Or next week. I joked with Angel that last week's OB appointment where Cyrus cried when they did the ultrasound was kind of like a date...because at least we drove in the car together and went somewhere. Everyone says you "need" dates....I'm not sure that's true as I tend to be strict with what I consider needs...all I know is that I do "want" them and it's okay to want something and to be patient till the opportune moment arrives. I know lots of couples don't go on dates at all...but I also know us, and that we've always loved making the most of the chance to go out and do something fun together when we have the opportunity. I've also learned that date night pre-baby and date night post-baby is a totally different thing. Perhaps that's a blog post all of it's own.

Thanks for the tag, Callie!