September 23, 2016

Baby #4

When I was pregnant with Ella, I really had no preference for a boy or a girl.

I was delighted when she turned out to be a girl, and while lots of people make comments about wanting to have an oldest boy, I'm the oldest child in my family (a surprise to exactly zero people who have met me in person), and so an oldest daughter didn't seem at all strange to me.

I didn't think I had a preference with Ani, but the night before my ultrasound, as I was lying in bed, I suddenly realized how DESPERATELY I wanted another girl. It was such a happy moment the next morning when we found out that she was indeed a girl.

With Star, I was back to feeling like either a boy or a girl would be equally fun, although I was thrilled when we found out she was a girl too (I surprised myself by bursting into happy tears when the tech told me).

I knew with this baby, everyone would be making comments about FINALLY getting a boy, from the very get-go (and really, they started when I was pregnant with Star; people would find out we were having third girl and tell me we'd have to try at least once more for a boy).

But secretly, I was really hoping that a fourth baby would be a girl.

A friend of mine here has six boys and when I told her I was pregnant, she said, "At this point, I'd be really sad to give up my all-boy family card."

I knew EXACTLY what she meant.

Having all girls has become a big part of my parenting identity, and I'd be sad to give that up.

Plus, I've always loved the idea of a Little Women or Little House or All-of-a-Kind Family of my own.

On the other hand, a boy would be something new and different for our family, and I loved loved loved having two little brothers after the three of us girls when I was growing up.

And I watch my sisters with their little boys and know I'd love being a mom to a little guy too.

Last week, on my birthday, I had an early morning appointment that included an ultrasound. And a few minutes into it, the tech told me that our future looked like this:

Because of some early bleeding, I'd already had ultrasounds at 12 and 13 weeks with two different techs, both of whom independently said it looked like a girl to them, so I've suspected for many weeks that we were having a fourth girl.

But oh, it's nice to have it confirmed.

I just can hardly believe that, come the end of February, we'll have a little four-girl crew at our house.

Book from BabyLit

September 22, 2016

Rustic Apple Cake

this is the BEST fall treat packed with apples and just a hint of spice.

this is the BEST fall treat packed with apples and just a hint of spice.

On Tuesday afternoon, Ella wasn't feeling that great, so instead of heading to the library as usual, we stayed home.

It was overcast, and Ella set up shop at the dining room table with a new puzzle from my parents and a Ramona audiobook, and Ani sat on the countertop with me and helped peel apples for a cake.

Star's nap stretched out a little longer than normal, and while the cake baked, making the house smell amazing, we all worked together on the puzzle and listened to Ramona's antics (I LOVE Stockard Channing as the narrator of the whole Ramona series).

When the cake had come out and cooled a bit and Star had woken up, we ate warm slices of it on the back patio and the air smelled like the rain that would come in later that night.

Basically, it was my idea of a perfect September day.

This cake is one I've been making for several years, and I love that it's not overly sweet, and it's about half apples, half cake.

You can totally justify it for breakfast, or add some ice cream and caramel sauce for a dessert.

Either way, your house will smell ridiculously amazing.

this is the BEST fall treat packed with apples and just a hint of spice.

Rustic Apple Cake
(adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table)

Makes 1 8-inch round cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
4 apples of different varieties, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Grease an 8 inch round pan and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until foamy, then add the sugar and whisk until smooth. Add the molasses, water, and both extracts. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then half the melted butter, then the remaining flour and butter. Whisk until you have a smooth, thick batter.

Fold in the apples and pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula or spoon until it's fairly even.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the pan, wait until the cake is completely cooled.

Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or plain for breakfast.

this is the BEST fall treat packed with apples and just a hint of spice.

September 21, 2016

8 Picture Books for Crisp Fall Days

We are just hitting a magical stage where all three girls can sit through picture books at the same time (even a few weeks ago, Star was likely to flip out halfway through anything longer than a board book or try to rip the pages or just be so wiggly that it wasn't fun at all).

Plus, all the fall releases are pouring in, and I'm starting to feel more human again now that I'm firmly into the second trimester, and it's just been a delightful reading time at our house.

Here are a few books that have been on repeat in September:

Great new picture books to check out this fall - you and your kids will love these!

The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright, illustrated by Jim Field
The best part of this book, to be honest, is hearing Star ROOOOOAAAAAAAR as loudly as she can at the appropriate places in the book, but even if you don't have a curly-haired toddler who thinks she's the king of the jungle, it's still a delightful book about a little mouse who is so tiny that he spends his life getting overlooked, stepped on, and generally ignored. He'd like to be like the lion, who's always the center of attention. So he cooks up a plan to convince the lion to teach him to roar, with the hopes he won't get himself eaten in the process. The rhyming text is clever and catchy, and the illustrations are perfect, with several full-page spreads that really leap off the page, thanks to bright colors and lots of white space.

The Cookie Fiasco by Mo Willems and Dan Santat
I'm part of a paid ambassadorship for Mo Willems this year (you're probably thinking, "does Mo Willems really need any ambassadors?" and the same thought crossed my mind when they approached me back in the spring, but I wasn't about to say no), and this book is part of the new Elephant and Piggie Like Reading! series. In each title, written and illustrated by a different author, Elephant and Piggie (still done by Mo Willems) introduce the story and then make some brief hilarious commentary at the end of the book. They've picked some really high-profile authors and illustrators (Dan Santat won the Caldecott for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend last year) and it's a great way to introduce your Elephant and Piggie loving child to a whole new range of other great books. The other book in the series so far is We Are Growing, and we've read them both dozens of times in the last few weeks.

Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth
I've been hearing about Zen Shorts for nearly a decade (it snagged a Caldecott Honor), but for some reason, I was never as taken by it as others seem to be. But then I checked out Zen Ghosts when I was researching Halloween books, and this one delighted me. It's Halloween-based, but . . . only kind of (if that's not the kind of brilliant, clear description that's going to take me straight onto major award committees, I don't know what is). Anyway, definitely one to check out this fall, with the expectation that it's definitely a little on the leave-you-hanging side. Also, it might be time to go give Zen Shorts another try.

Water Is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin
I've read my share of water cycle books in my time, but this is one of the best. It's so simply explained in everyday terms and situations and the illustrations just blow me away. I took a photo of one page for Instagram, but it was seriously so hard to pick just ONE page.

Panda and Polar Bear by Matthew J. Baek
This was probably our most read library books this summer. When a polar bear cub tumbles down a cliff into some mud, he's discovered by a panda who thinks this black and white bear must be another panda. And the two of them become fast friends, until the panda asks about snow and the polar bear starts to feel terribly homesick, but doesn't know how he'll ever get home. It's so sweet and has a fun little twist of an ending.

Yaks yak : Animal Word Pairs by Linda Sue Park and Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Linda Sue Park's book Mung Mung has been a favorite with all three of our girls, who love the animal sounds in different languages, so when I saw this one, I knew it'd be an instant hit with Ella, who is just starting to understand puns and enjoy simple ones. Just from the title, you can guess how the book goes - apes ape, slugs slug, etc - and it's a fun introduction to the joys and quirks of the English language. And even if your child is too young to get the jokes, the illustrations are high-energy, and you'll get a little giggle out of the puns.

Return by Aaron Becker
I have loved this trilogy since the first one, Journey, came out more than three years ago (in fact, it's one of the few picture books that has ever gotten a dedicated post on my blog). I was so delighted to see the final book come out this summer and my girls and I spent ages poring over the details on each page. In this one, the same little girl is still looking for someone to play with her, and when her dad brushes her off, she heads to her room to enter her enchanted world, and he comes in and discovers the door to that magical land left open and follows her in. Where, of course, things immediately become fraught with danger.

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield
This is kind of like no other book I've ever seen. The illustrations are truly breathtaking and the story has a very mystical feel to it. A bear, wandering through the forest, happens on a piano. How it got there is never explained, but after making some ear-splitting screeches during early attempts, the bear learns to play and his bear friends quickly begin gathering to hear his performances. Eventually, however, the bear leaves the forest to pursue a piano career in the big city. Until the call of his old home draws him back to the forest and his friends. I may have possibly gotten a bit teary at the end of this one.

P.S. Looking for more picture book recommendations? Check out my previous book posts or follow along on Instagram where I share daily picture book recommendations!


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