Continuing with our theme “all about me,” Mon Cœur (MC) and I have read quite a few books around the hand.  I had found a really cute craft where kids painted and “stamped” one hand and then their other hand was traced in sharpie and then filled in with pastel.  I loved the trio of hand themed books that we had picked out, because even though they all talked about hands, they were all so different! Below are snapshots of each book.

Hands and Hearts by Donna Jo Napoli 

With beautiful illustrations by Amy Bates, this book tells the story about a day at the beach with a mom and daughter.  Simple prose with a corresponding illustration of sign language is on each page. 

As we read the first time, I made the signs as I read the word.  The next time we read, I encouraged MC to try the signs with me.  The following time we read, I explained that some people can’t hear or speak (or both) and so instead of talking with their voices like we do, they use their hands.

Simple signs such as “hands,” “run,” “dance,” “sun,” and “sunset” are taught with illustrations.  It’s easy enough to try on the fly as you read the book, and even simpler to demonstrate to little listeners after a little practice, or after the third time reading!

Hands to Heart by Alex Bauermeister

This was another excellent book to read over and over again, and explore in many different ways.  It has amusing animal illustrations by Flora Waycott to accompany the text.  Turns out, this book is more yoga based, and the title comes from the yoga pose where you bring your hands to your heart. 

The words in the book are simple and explain various yoga poses that are good for relaxing and boosting one’s mood – the cow, cat and downward dog among others.  I love how it shows and tells you to do the poses, yet the author isn’t preoccupied with teaching the name of the pose.

We both take the time to explore the words, the pictures, and try the poses as we read along.  MC’s favorite?  The cobra snake!

Stretch your legs long behind you like a cobra snake!  Lift and lower your chest.  Cobra is sleeping – then awake.

from Hands to Heart

My Hand by Satoshi Kitamura

It’s a quick read, with funny pictures and a little cat.  Hands can push, pull, tickle, walk, wave, point…and sometimes…when it’s bored…Mon Cœur’s favorite…pick your nose!  We’ve been laughing through this dirty little habit for the past few months (just so I don’t yell!).   At first, my initial reaction was, “No!” and then I started asking, “Do you need a tissue?”  The answer was always, “No!” So now I just hand her a tissue when I see her reaching for her nose, and say, “Tissue!”

Do you have a favorite book on the subject of hands?

I am Small – a book for many conversations

We just read Qin Leng’s I am Small.  It’s the perfect picture book for us right now!

“My name is Mimi. I am very small. I might as well be called Mini.”

from I am Small

It’s a story about Mimi, the youngest (and smallest!) in a family of five.  She laments that she is the smallest one in the family, smaller than the family dog even.  

She can’t touch the floor when seated on the school bus, she can’t see all the desserts at the bakery, and the giant fish of the day looks ready to gobble her up.

A change in perspective

Her friends remind her though, that there are many benefits to her size: being the first in the lunch line and getting the biggest slice of cake, having all the best hiding spots for hide & go seek, and always being in the front row for class pictures.

It’s easy for us to list all the things that we can’t do, or that we don’t like about ourselves.  It’s always nice to have friends and family remind us of what we can do, and the advantages of those character or physical traits that we sometimes complain about.

A sweet twist at the end

The end of the book is the sweetest, and caught me by surprise.  I wasn’t very observant at the beginning…The father picks Mimi up from school one day and tells her there’s a surprise at home.  It turns out to be a newborn brother, someone smaller than Mimi.

She notices how small and brand-new he is, and then whispers encouraging words, perhaps for her, just as much as him.  “Just be patient.  One day you’ll be big, too!”

Mon Cœur (MC) and I enjoyed reading this book, not only for the surprise ending, but also to talk about what we loved the most about ourselves.  

MC shared she loves her sparkling blue eyes, her strong legs, and her pink fingernails!

How tall?

Afterwards, we took the opportunity to measure our heights on the wall – MC, Baby Boy, Chouchou and me.  MC’s height tree is in the hallway, and we pass by it several times a day, allowing for opportunities in conversation.  We talk about each person’s height, and we compare heights.We have enjoyed reading and rereading this book as there are so many different topics that we can touch on each time we read.

What book have you enjoyed recently with your toddler?

Four dragon themed books

Mon Cœur (MC) really has missed story time at the library, and although we can’t attend in person, at least our regional library is bringing it to us through Storytime @ Home.  Now that the library is open again, MC and I have been trying to make a weekly trip out there to check out books.  We get the added bonus of sometimes seeing our storyteller librarian, too!

I’ve talked before about how I’m figuring out the best possible routines for us at home and for MC to learn at home. I’ve decided that if all else fails, I can’t go wrong checking out a handful of good children’s literature based around the same theme.  Studies show that it takes 17 (seventeen!!) encounters to learn a new word. Experiencing these words in different books, in meaningful contexts provides opportunities to solidify the meaning of the word. MC loves to read, it’s a great way for us to spend time together, and by sticking with one theme, she is repeatedly exposed to the same or similar vocabulary.  

As I am focused on building a bilingual environment, too, it’s helpful to approach themes and curate book selections in both French and English. This allows us to build awareness of cognates and create meaning and relationships between languages. To read more about vocabulary instruction, check out this Reading Rockets article.

RELATED: How I create a themed learning unit for my toddler, in six steps.

We recently checked out some books with dragon/castle/knight themes to read at home.  We were inspired to explore dragons based on the short story and sticker competition in MC’s August Toupie Magazine.

RELATED: Read more about Toupie Magazine and our international correspondence here.

We had checked out about fifteen or so books around the theme, and after reading through all of them over the course of two weeks, we found four winners.

The Dragon Tamers by James Russell

Why we loved this book: [Spoiler alert:] MC loves this book because “the dragon came home with the boys.”

I loved the illustrations by Link Choi – they are beautiful and simple, with plenty of information to sit and discuss the pictures with MC.

There is a fun rhyming scheme (ABCB) throughout the whole book and it incorporates robust vocabulary (words like forbidden, treasure, scorched, filthy).  It’s a great adventure story with humor that can be appreciated by parent and child alike. 

This book is part of a series, so we are looking forward to reading more of these as they become available at the library.

The Dragon’s Toothache by Annie Besant

Why we loved this book:  MC said, hands down, “The rooster.”  I would like to clarify – yes there is a rooster in this book, and yet the 2nd through 10th times reading this book she argued with me that it was a chicken and I should not call it a rooster.  Exasperated, I finally pointed to the word, spelled it, and read it to her saying, “Mommy’s not making this up – she’s reading what the words say in the book!”

The story encourages problem solving and persevering, and it’s a simple enough story that MC could retell it using the images.  There was one particular page [pictured below] where she was able to use the images as well as her memory to “read” the page to me.

Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori

Why we loved this book:  “I liked the penguin,” MC told me.

This is a story within a story, with a message of love and the lesson that, “Sometimes things happen for a reason.” I tell myself that all the time.  It’s a story of penguins and dragons, of ice and fire, scales and feathers, and fitting in, standing out, and making the most of what you’ve got.

This was one of our favorites to read and reread. It’s about a brave dragon, a courageous penguin, and relationships that are built along the way.

Be a Good Dragon by Kurt Cyrus

Why we loved this book: “The snot.” That was MC’s reason, not mine.  Gahhh! Toddlers…

It’s a story about a sick dragon learning social courtesies (cover that sneeze!) and self care (drink plenty of fluids “abracadabrew” and get plenty of rest).  Both are timely lessons to reinforce.

I love how the poor little sick dragon talks throughout the book – it helps bring the story to another level – “Bake be all bedder!” “I’b sick! I’b sick! Oh, Baba!” I really enjoyed reading these parts, and since we read it over and over I was able to practice and get better reading these parts!

What themes have you enjoyed reading with your children recently?


Big sister conversations

The other night during our bedtime routine, Mon Cœur (MC) really surprised me with an out of the blue statement. 

“I don’t want a baby,” she whined to me.  

I was caught off guard, and felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.  I certainly was feeling anxieties myself, about a successful end of pregnancy, a smooth delivery and bringing Baby Boy home to be with us.  I wasn’t sure what brought this on or how to address it.  

I summoned her out of her bed, to the rocking chair where I was so we could chat and cuddle.  As she made her way to me in the glow of her nightlight, I thought about how I should respond.

I said, “What do you mean?”

“I don’t want the baby in your tummy.”

“You mean Baby Brother?”


“Why don’t you want Baby Brother?”

“Because he will eat all my pompoms and planets!”

“Mommy will not let him eat your pompoms! Or planets! You know how Mommy is!”

Feeling Mad

I was at a loss – I didn’t know what to say, as she had never mentioned anything like this before.  We had just read Way Past Mad by Hallee Adelman, where a younger brother messes up everything for an older sister.  I wondered if that could be why she suddenly felt the way she did.

“What about the book we read today?  Way Past Mad? Are you worried Baby Brother will mess everything up?”


“Well, you know sometimes things will happen and we’ll all make messes, but we will work through it.  We will figure it out together.”

A new bedtime routine

I thought some more and realized that perhaps she is figuring out new changes in our routines. Chouchou has begun taking over the bedtime routine, so we can all get used to it before Baby Boy comes home.  I need to practice letting go, so that Chouchou can step in, and MC needs to get used to this change.  

So I asked her, “Is this because Daddy put you to bed last night?”


“Well, we all need to practice a new routine for when Baby Brother gets here.  I can’t always put you to bed.  I wish I could! Sometimes Daddy will have to help. Okay?”


“Mommy and Daddy won’t be able to help you all the time like we do now.  You’re a big girl though, you can help us with Baby Brother and we will also make sure to spend special time with just you, too.”

Ending on a positive note

“I’m so excited that you’ll have a Baby Brother – do you know why?”


“Because you are an excellent tree climber.  When he’s big enough you can teach him how to climb!  And when we go out to Millie’s garden, you can teach him the names of all the different flowers, because you know absolutely all of them.  And you are an excellent reader – you can read books to him, too!”

“Yeah!” she agreed and climbed back into bed.

Whew.  We are counting down the weeks, anticipating the best, trying to prepare our family for a new addition, and doing our best to not let our fears of worst case scenario cloud the view.

Measuring up: 28 weeks

This week is the 28th week of pregnancy for us, and that means just 10 more weeks to go. We’ve been counting down for a while, however, now that we’re about to hit single digits, and we can feel the finish line in sight…it’s become really real for us.

If this is the first time you’re reading, you may be wondering why just 10 weeks? That’s only 38 weeks and not the full 40 weeks. Check out our backstory here.

28 weeks: Which fruit or veggie this week?

It may feel like I’m carrying around a baby watermelon, but that’s not this week’s veggie!

Recently I discussed the apps that I was using to track this pregnancy, and depending on which app I reference, Baby Boy is either a large bok choy (14.75″) or as large as a head of lettuce (romaine, perhaps?) and approximately 2.25 pounds. It’s not a watermelon, but it’s still sizable.

This morning, Mon Cœur (MC) happened to be right beside me when I was checking the app for this week’s updates. So, I read all the little snippets of the growth milestones for this week, and she watched the What to Expect video for the week. Then I shared Baby Boy’s approximate size.

Of course, as a three year old, telling her 15 inches doesn’t really explain much, so we got out a measuring tape so I could show her. She loves the measuring tape – we’ve been using it a lot recently around the house for various projects, and she always has to help, so she was eager to hold the tape measure and help size things up.

After she saw the tape measure, I realized this was an opportunity to make things really tangible to her, and find objects in the house that were comparable in size. We decided to look through her stuffed animals and measure them to try to find an approximate size match. We went through bunnies, bears, baby dolls, and unicorns looking for a match. This was a great exercise for her to compare size, and for us to make her baby brother’s current size real.

Hopeful…and anxious

“I want to see him now!” MC said after we were finished measuring.

“Me too, baby, but he’s not ready to meet us yet. We’ll see him very soon. Ten more weeks.” I said.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but as we enter our “home stretch” of the pregnancy, the anxiety has amped up again. I start feeling hopeful, like things will definitely turn out this time, then I remember that I just have to wait because nothing is guaranteed, and I’m not in control.

I cringe inside every time that I allude to the fact that Baby Boy will be here soon. I used to say similar things to MC about Millie being here soon, and then we had to explain that she wasn’t coming home. I want to say this time will be different, although I won’t know until I have safely delivered him and we are all home as a family.

This pregnancy, MC has been a lot more “hands-on.” She will literally come up and put her hands on my belly and enthusiastically say, “Baby Brother is moving!” She will talk to him, give him hugs, kisses, and her favorite, raspberries. She will tell me how much she loves him and can’t wait to meet him.

She also asks about Millie more frequently, “Where is she?, Can I call her?, Can I visit her?”

“She’s in heaven. You can’t call her, but if you want to talk to her, you can. I’m sorry, we can’t visit heaven.”

Chouchou and I are both feeling these contradictory feelings of optimism and angst as we approach these last few weeks. I’ve been cleaning and organizing, we’ve been discussing our plans and our fears. We are preparing for the best, and remaining all to aware of the worst-case scenario. To an extent, I see these same conflicting emotions in MC, too.

Early next week will mark the beginning of the 29th week and we’ll have some reassurance at another prenatal, too. As we are biding our time, waiting for the arrival of Baby Boy at the end of October, I will continue to make his weekly milestones and measurements as concrete as I can for MC, as she along with the rest of our family and friends are excitedly and anxiously awaiting his delivery.