Some of Our Favorite Picture Books Featuring Animals

Our kids are fascinated by a number of topics, but one of their favorites is animals. They don’t have any one particular animal that they’re interested in, but they seem to be just generally curious. Panda is at the age where he loves making animal sounds and even though he can’t say “lion,” “monkey,” or “cow,” he will call out “rahr,” “oh oh ah ah,” and “moo,” when he sees pictures of the animals.

Here are some of our favorite picture books (and a few board books) featuring animals:


Stripes the Tiger – Lion thinks this book is hilarious; Panda roars throughout the entire book.


Animals – Gorgeous book! I want to frame the pages.

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Parenting Each Child Differently

Before I had kids, I thought I would treat them equally. I wanted to be fair. I wanted them to feel love equally.

Shortly before giving birth to Panda, I read Siblings Without Rivalry (Mrs. High Heels has a great review of the book here) and one point really stuck with me: “To be loved equally . . . is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely — for one’s own special self — is to be loved as much as we need to be loved.” I didn’t fully understand its meaning, though, until I had two children to raise, each with their unique personalities and needs.


Best friends and brothers, but oh so different!

Today, I realize that parenting goes much more smoothly and (I think) each child feels he is getting what he needs when I treat them as individuals rather than being concerned with complete equity. Here are some examples of how I parent each child differently that seems to work for our kids, at least at this stage:

– Tantrums: Completely ignoring the start of a tantrum didn’t work with Lion and inevitably would escalate into a full-on meltdown almost instantly. Lion seems to be more sensitive and us not paying attention to him would just send him spiraling. While we don’t want to reward tantrums, we feel like we can sometimes keep them from escalating by engaging with him, even if it’s just asking whether he needs a minute to be upset (and then giving him some space). Panda recently started throwing tantrums, but they almost immediately go into meltdown mode. Now, if I ignored Lion’s meltdowns at this age, he would scream and cry for an hour or more; we actually timed his meltdowns. Hence, why we tried so hard to avoid them. When I tell Panda he can’t have a particular snack or object at that moment, he throws himself on the floor and shrieks (much louder than any toddler should have the lung capacity for, I might add). And then within five minutes, he’s completely over it and has moved on. Ignoring Panda’s tantrums seem to work quite well.

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Cooking in the Summer Heat: 4 Methods + 8 Recipes

Ugh, summer heat. Sweat. Sticky. HOT! If you can’t tell, I don’t take the heat very well. I grew up in San Diego and it’s like anything under 65 is cold and anything over 78 is too hot. Now, I live in the Pacific Northwest and I’ve adapted a bit to the rainy, cold season. The summers are pretty awesome, but we always seem to get a few days were the heat is too much. And since we only have a few days of it every year, nobody invests in air conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE summer, but those super hot days can be rough.

It’s on those hot-hot days where cooking seems like a terrible idea, but dinner must be served. You want to serve healthy meals to your family without having to get take-out and spending a pretty penny. What’s a girl to do?

So in anticipation of those hot days, I came up with four different ways to make dinner without turning on the oven and heating up the whole house. Better yet, I’ve got some tasty recipes to go with it. I hope you are inspired to keep on keeping on in the summer heat.

1. Grill

In my mind grilling is synonymous with summer. Living in the Pacific Northwest really makes you appreciate the sun (although, we’re heat wusses). Standing in the rain trying to grill is just not what I call fun. So when the sun comes out, the grill is uncovered and put to action. We bought a new grill this season and I love it. It’s an awesome gas grill, so it’s quick to heat up and get dinner rolling.

Spinach Goat Cheese Turkey Burgers (with a kick) – Burgers are always a win on the grill, but I prefer turkey burgers. This is  thee  turkey burger recipe I use most often for turkey burger days. I often just use fresh spinach instead of the frozen, but both work great. Also, get the Tony Chachere’s as it really makes a big difference on these burgers. There is a little kick, but nothing to be worried about – this being said by a gal that can’t take much heat.

turkey burger

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Summer Car Stash

Summer is my ultimate paradise. Growing up in Northern California, we had two seasons: winter- wet and rainy, November through March; summer – hot hot hot, April through October. I now live in a place with seasons that have made summer its regular 3-month affair and it makes me go a little nuts trying to cram everything in. Our summers are jam packed with soaking up water action and sunshine as much as possible. After having a second baby I was shocked at how much I was carrying to and from the car every time we left, and that car seat weighs a ton! I began leaving things in the car little by little until we became a traveling suitcase. I quickly realized we needed to get organized and now have our car ready, no schlepping required!

snack bag

Snack bag: dried fruit, nuts, crackers, Pirate’s Booty, $5, at least 2 water bottles.

This is our smaller bag I keep full of goodies that will keep us going throughout the day and won’t be hugely affected by the suns rays heating up my car. In other words, when I buy Pirate’s Booty, I buy two bags, one for the house, one for the car. I also keep some small bills, just in case we run into a snow cone shack. I don’t want to run things in and out of the car, which is why I aim for two water bottles. Inevitably, they will get left in the car, leaving us with hot water, but with multiple bottles, at least one should come inside to be filled and placed in the freezer ready for the next day’s adventures and cooling the hot water left inside. The key for this bag is to be smaller than the next, making it easy to toss in the other bag when activities are combined.

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Raising Toddlers Close in Age

“Don’t forget that your older child is still quite young. Don’t expect them to act older than their age.”

I replay this advice in my head often these days as a stay-at-home parent of two young children. I first heard it last year in a two-year-olds parenting class when the discussion was surrounding sibling relationships. It really hit home for me because I sometimes expect Crumb to share better, listen more, sit still longer, cry less, and a ton of other things just because he is slightly older than Chip. Since then I’ve made a conscious effort to evaluate before disciplining and to be extra aware of my boys’ ages.

Chip is almost 16 months old and Crumb is a month away from turning 3 and recently I’ve finally felt that hazy baby fog lift. Crumb and Chip are 19.5 months apart and while I do think there are a ton of benefits to that age gap (just like Mrs. Dolphin!), I also find it pretty exhausting and somewhat daunting.  Thankfully, I’ve come up with a few things that make my life a tad bit easier.

  • Naps at the same time as soon as possible and for as long as possible. I’ve had my boys take afternoon naps at the same time since Chip was 6 months old mostly because our family thrives on routine and consistency. It’s also been such a restorative break for me that I will be bummed when it’s over, although I’ll probably institute a quiet time for when they stop napping.
  • Buy two of the exact same toy when it is something small or something they use a lot. For instance, when my mom buys all of her grandsons a car, she now buys the exact same car, color, size, everything because there is too much disagreement and fighting if she doesn’t. I had to purchase another toy lawn mower recently because both Crumb and Chip LOVE to push things around our yard and I know they’ll use them for many summers to come.

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On not enjoying every moment

Over the past month, the twinblings hit their one-year birthday and with that milestone came a lot of press for the Starfish clan. We did a follow-up article with Cosmopolitan’s online magazine, and we did a story with NBC’s Today webpage. It was generally a lot of fun to share our update and story again, most importantly because we hope that it helps to diminish some of the stigma associated with infertility and surrogacy.

As we were interviewed by the writers of these stories, I found it interesting that both of them asked me if I have ever felt pressure to enjoy every minute of parenting because of all of the difficulty and time that it took me to finally become a mom. I suppose that is a natural question to ask me, or really any parent who struggled with infertility and/or experienced a substantial delay between the time they wanted to become a parent and the time that it actually happened. After all, if you spend so much time building up parenting expectations, will the reality of it feel like a letdown once it actually happens? Or, when you realize that you in fact cannot be a perfect parent despite all of your planning to be pretty darn close, will you feel like a failure?

I spent about three years in infertility and I made it a priority to see a therapist who specialized in the area throughout those years. My therapist rarely talked to me about life after infertility because I was in need of so much help getting through my time in infertility, but she did gently bring it up to me a couple of times.

I think the most helpful thing about the therapist that I saw was that she had been through the wringer of infertility herself, and eventually she came out the other side. She understood the whole process, from start to finish. And she defeated infertility, and she became a mom after a hard-fought process and plenty of heartbreak.

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20 Week Pregnancy Update and Gender Reveal

2017-06-14 11.47.15

Now that I’m starting to show, we’ve been making an effort to talk to Max about having a sibling and what it means to be a big brother. I still don’t think he has grasped the idea but occasionally he will surprise us and say, “I’ll share my trains with baby.” Before we found out the gender, he even told us that if it’s a baby boy he wants to name him NASA, and if it’s a girl he wants to name her Mater (from Cars). Fortunately for Max, since we have no other names in mind, his picks are at the top of the list.

At the last minute Mr. Ice Cream ended up having a work related trip so I went to the ultrasound by myself. We agreed that the ultrasound technician would write the gender in an envelope, seal it and Mr. Ice Cream and I would open it together. I’m pretty sure that Mr. Ice Cream was only 50% certain that I didn’t peek. Between you and me, I really really wanted to, but I promise I did not. We actually waited 2 days before opening the envelope. Strangely we were both extremely eager yet nervous to find out. Without knowing, we could still entertain the idea of having another little boy or having a little girl. We decided not to have a big gender reveal Skype call with our families; instead we showed Max how to recognize “boy” or “girl,” then we let him open the envelope and tell us what it said. As Max’s parents, we obviously think he is a genius, but deep inside I knew that whatever he said only had a 50/50 chance of being correct. He said “girl”…

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