What We’re Reading, Watching, Listening and Playing

With summer vacation around the corner and more free time for kids, I thought I would share what my kids (ages 5 and 7) are currently reading, watching, listening and playing!

There are no places to purchase any type of media locally, but we take advantage of technology subscribing to online services like Amazon, Spotify, and Netflix. We use Amazon Freetime (unlimited kids’ subscription service with age appropriate books, movies, tv shows, and apps for $2.99/month), Kindle Unlimited (borrow up to 10 books/audiobooks at a time for $9.99/month), and we regularly purchase Kindle books. While we do read regular books daily and the kids still love being read to, they also have their own Kindles which has really increased the amount of time they spend reading independently each day!


Both kids are huge fans of the graphic novel genre, and they both loved Dog Man equally, rereading it over and over again. Two more books are scheduled for release later this year and they can’t wait!



Kubo and the Two Strings – This beautifully animated movie set in feudal Japan tells the story of a one-eyed boy named Kubo who plays a magical two-string shamisen that lets him fly and bring origami figures to life. The story is a bit complicated and sad, but my kids were immediately taken with it and have already viewed it multiple times. Adults are just as sure to enjoy this critically acclaimed stop motion film that has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for several Oscars. It can currently be streamed on Netflix.

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7 Easy Ways to Add Extra Flavor to Meals

I love cooking and try hard to make a home-cooked dinner for the Dolphin family every night. After we had kids, I tried to scale back some of my more elaborate dinners and started relying on meals that I could make quickly or throw into the slow cooker/pressure cooker before going to work. As I’ve also made a bigger emphasis on healthy eating and we’ve been moving toward a more pescatarian/vegetarian diet, sometimes I feel like I rely a lot on the same dishes and use fresh garlic and onions, salt and pepper and olive oil as my standard seasonings. In order to keep things from feeling a little stale, here are some of the easy ways I add an extra oomph of flavor to dishes.

Nutritional yeast – I’ve been making an effort to incorporate vegetarian and vegan meals into our rotation and one of the best vegan secrets I came across was nutritional yeast. It’s often used in vegan cheese sauces because of its umami flavor profile, but I’ve been throwing it into just about anything that needs a little extra something. It’s great in a bowl of lentils, mashed in with some potatoes, mixed into soup, or sprinkled on snacks like popcorn.

Miso – I always have miso around in our fridge and love making a huge pot of miso soup on Sunday so that I can have a little for breakfast throughout the week. But miso has so many more uses than the traditional miso soup and also has that perfect umami quality. I use it to make an easy marinade with some broth or soy sauce and water, throw it into the slow cooker with chicken or pan fry some fish after marinating. It’s great as an addition to roasted vegetables or mixed in with mashed potatoes. It dresses up a vinaigrette or a stir fry. Throw it into a sauce in lieu of salt or soy sauce for that salty flavor with some extra depth. I stock three or four different types of miso at any given time (miso paste has a really long shelf life) so I can choose how salty or savory I want the flavor to be.

Anchovies – Okay, I admit it. I love all umami type flavorings. Things that are salty and savory and add a lot of depth of flavor. I know a lot of people don’t like anchovies (I’m not one of them and will eat them plain on some toast), but even if you think you don’t like them, if you chop them up and throw them into the sauce they don’t taste fishy at all. They will melt into your tomato sauce leaving a wonderful flavor and no one will know that anchovies are in it. You can finely chop it and add to salad dressings, even outside of the classic Caesar salad.

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Preparing for Baby #2

Living in a house with a whole other family with kids means that I have very few things I need to buy. We have a 3 year old, 2 year old, a 6 month old and the baby will be here in a couple months! So when I got asked if I wanted a baby sprinkle, I said, “honestly, that’s so sweet of you to offer but I don’t need anything!” Here are my staple items that I’ve locked down and am planning to use:

1.) Baby onesies: I know better now than to get cute clothes for a baby age 0-1. They grow so fast and they almost spend their entire days changing in and out of onesies. If I did get hand-me-down clothes, I simply asked for plain onesies or for clothes in sizes over 12 months. (H&M and Carters brands are my favorite.)


2.) Rock ‘N Play: Baby Pencil used this for all of his naps until he was 5 months old, so I’m pretty sure we will be using this to keep the baby propped up after feedings. It’s so easy to fold up and travel with as well. The only thing about this is that the backing is fuzzy so it can get a little hot. Luckily, I finally live in a house with central AC so hopefully it won’t be a huge issue!

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Summer Reading Activities for School Age Kids

After BeBe’s first year of elementary school, I’m loving the relaxed summer schedule. But, I want to prevent the summer slide. This is when kids lose literacy skills during the summer because they don’t have a chance to practice their academic skills. With that in mind, and because we love books, I wanted to do something fun for our summer reading. Here’s the what we are enjoying:

Library Summer Reading Program:

At the beginning of summer, our library held a fun outdoor event with bubbles and popsicles, and handed out summer reading boards to kids. The board is based loosely on the game Bingo. It has thirty squares, and each one has an activity listed. Many of the squares are “Read for 20 minutes,” and there are spattering of fun activities like, “Read in a fort,” “Read outside,” “Make a craft,” “Go for a nature walk.” The idea is to avoid screen time, read, and just have fun.

Once your kiddo completes 20 out of the 30 squares on the sheet, they earn a prize packet. The packet has coupons for a free ice cream cone, free pass to a museum, free pass to skating, and a free book. BeBe finished her first board and loved it! She’s working on her second board for the summer. Most libraries and schools have a summer reading program, but you can also DIY.

Mom and Me Book Club:

I love to read, and this year BeBe has become interested in the books I chose, asking tons of questions.  So we created our own little book club by finding books on the same topic, just adult and kid versions.  I read the biography, Einstein, by Walter Isaacson, (which I recommend). And she found a few children’s books about Einstein like, I am Albert Einstein, by Brad Meltzer, which she loved. Then we talk about the same stories in our books together. It’s been a fun way for us both to learn. And bonus, I don’t have to stop every minute to answer her question, “Whatcha readin’?”

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Highlights of a First Birthday Party

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the details and decoration of our girls’ first birthday party. I really liked how things turned out, but honestly I could have just set up some folding chairs and thrown a handful of confetti in the air and been just as happy because the real highlight of their party were all of the people who came out to celebrate Lilly and Audrey!

The grandmothers with the birthday girls.
The grandmothers with the birthday girls.

With the girls born five weeks apart with one birthday at the start of May and one at the start of June, I selected Memorial Day weekend for the party. I wasn’t sure how this was going to impact our guest list – would local folks traveling out of town for the long weekend outweigh the family and friends who used the party as an excuse to travel to Chicago for the holiday? In the end, I was delighted that nearly everyone we invited came out to celebrate and we had approximately 50 people join us (including about a dozen children and babies).

There were many special visitors at the party. The girls’ grandparents, aunts and uncles traveled in from all over the country. I struggle often with the fact that we don’t have family in Chicago with us, but I was enormously touched that everyone went out of their way to travel here and celebrate the girls. The best part of having the party over a holiday weekend was that we had plenty of opportunity to extend the fun and we did group dinners each night and brunch the morning after the party. Even my extended family who couldn’t make the trip took time out of their weekend to get together and film a video of themselves singing “Happy Birthday” to the girls.

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Link Roundup – June 16, 2017

Hope you have a great Father’s Day this weekend!

Here are some parenting links from around the web we thought you’d find interesting!



Should Parents Worry About Dry Drowning? An ER Doc Weighs In via Real Simple

Overweight pregnancy increases risk of birth defects, study says via CNN

Want to Get Pregnant? Go See Your Dentist via Fit Pregnancy

Mom Is Warning Parents About These Rare Lyme Disease Symptoms via Good Housekeeping

Lead Detected In Baby Food Samples. Pediatricians Say There’s No Safe Level via NPR

Is Zika Dangerous For Kids? It Probably Depends On The Age via NPR

Facts Alone Won’t Convince People To Vaccinate Their Kids via Five Thirty Eight


How to Raise a Reader via New York Times

A Favorite Subject Returns to Schools: Recess via Wall Street Journal

9 amazing preschool shows developed by early learning experts via Salon


Stop Making Everything Perfect For Your Kid via Medium

I moved my kids out of America. It was the best parenting decision I’ve ever made. via The Week

Confessions of a Part-Time Mom: Divorce and shared custody suits me, and it suits my kids, too. via Slate

What happens when parents loosen up a bit? Look to the Dutch. Free-range kids are a reality in the Netherlands. To one American, that means freedom for parents as well. via Boston Globe

Knowing When to Quit via New York Times

The World Is Our Neighborhood: Digital Nomad Parenting via Huffington Post

10 Things My Mom Told Me as a Kid That Give Me Confidence as an Adult via Parent.co

In the Absence of the Village, Mothers Struggle Most via Revolution from Home

Eating Out with My Toddler Has Been an Unexpected Joy of Motherhood (Seriously!) via The Kitchn

A lazy summer for teenagers: Why aren’t more of them working? via Washington Post


Sibling Spacing: Thoughts on the 18 Month Age Gap

As we consider whether to add a third child to our family, a big consideration that has come up is when to have the baby. While some of the considerations are financial or career-related, we also have considered what sibling spacing would be ideal. I think it’s fair to say that we found the 18-month age gap to be perfect for us and for the individual personalities of our kids.

I’ve read up quite a bit on the pros and cons of different sibling spacing, including effects on children as well as maternal health. Although much of the research and anecdotal evidence seems to favor a three-year age gap over any other, Mr. Dolphin and I were really hoping for Irish twins. We ended up with the two boys being 18-months apart and I was prepared for life with two-under-two to be really difficult. We were pleasantly surprised and in all honesty found life easier after Panda joined our family. To be fair, our situation may be difficult to replicate because Panda was the world’s easiest baby who slept non-stop for the first two months of his life and rarely cried. Additionally, Lion was a very needy baby, but when Panda came along, seemed to have some of his needs fulfilled simply by virtue of having (and being) a brother.


They LOVE dressing alike, it’s not us encouraging it, I swear!

As the kids grow a little older, I am even more in love with the 18-month age gap, though I see positives in a larger gap, as well (which is good since, if we do have a third, the age gap is likely to be more like three years between our two younger ones). Here are our pros and cons for an 18-month gap.

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