The Girl and the Bicycle

The Girl and the Bicycle 1
Oh, how we love Mark Pett’s The Girl and the Bicycle! It’s another wordless story, this time about working hard for what you want and about kindness. Our kid asks for this book over and over — what better recommendation could there be?

The girl in this story desperately wants the green bicycle she sees in the window. She does everything she can think of to earn money, and when the usual ideas don’t yield enough (lemonade stand, garage sale), she goes out to see if the neighbors will hire her to do chores. One does, and they develop a friendship. Finally, after months of hard work for her neighbor, the girl goes to buy the bike and — [SPOILER ALERT!] — it’s gone! She’s disappointed, but she decides to buy her brother a tricycle instead. On the way home — he’s pedaling ecstatically and she’s walking along behind him — her neighbor friend waves her over to give her a big surprise.

The Girl and the Bicycle 2
I found this book by way of Books That Heal Kids, which is a great blog to follow if you’re on the lookout for children’s books with good messages.

“And they opened the door with their magical keys and went through to see what adventure would befall them….”

One of the reasons I love books without words is that I get to make up sentences like that. And then I get to hear my kid saying them, too.

When I ordered Aaron Becker’s latest book, Quest, I hoped it would be as good as Journey (which was a Caldecott Honor Book). You guys, it’s even better. We’ve had it for a couple of weeks now, we’ve probably read it 100 times already, and I’m here to tell you that it’s even more fun to read the 100th time than it is the first few times. Gavin and I started out reading it differently, but our kid started filling in sound effects or phrases that the other parent usually included, and sometimes we’d hear each other read it, until our ways converged. We have the beginnings of a Way Our Family Reads Quest, but it’s still changing, and it probably always will be.

Quest fan art
We also now regularly make Quest fan art together. (“Quickly! I’ll draw scuba gear!” “I’ll draw a squid friend!”)

Adventure books!

“I’m tired of our books,” said Gavin. “We need more books about kids that go on adventures.”

Stack of books
So, we went to Vroman’s.

I Spy Fly Guy! Tyler Makes Spaghetti
I Spy Fly Guy! by Tedd Arnold and Tyler Makes Spaghetti! by Tyler Florence and Craig Frazier are easily my little guy’s favorites. Fly Guy is both cute and disgusting at the same time — a combination I never knew was possible. And Tyler is a little kid who gets to cook. Such power!

Aaron Becker’s Journey is my favorite. It’s like Harold and the Purple Crayon fan fiction. Really good fan fiction. Like rivaling the original in goodness fan fiction. And there are no words.

Rosie Revere, Engineer
Rosie Revere, Engineer (by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts) rhymes. Gavin tears up when he reads the end — especially, “Your brilliant first flop was a raging success!/ Come on, let’s get busy and on the next!/…Life may have its failures, but this was not it./The only true failure can come if you quit.” Typing those lines makes me a little teary, too.

And then there were a couple of books that didn’t work out… at least not yet.

Rockets and Spaceships
Even though my little one loves the space shuttle, he doesn’t want to hear this book. I’m not sure why.

On a Beam of Light
And he won’t listen to this one, either. “It’s too scary,” he says. Maybe next year.

Christmas past and Christmas future: Reviewing this year’s holiday to plan the next one

Christmas is a big deal around here. I’ve been mulling over what I liked about how we celebrated this year, and what I want to change. Here’s the breakdown:


Hygge: I learned about this Danish word — hygge — after Christmas was over and the tree was already down. But for me, I realized, hygge is the true meaning of Christmas. Not the Christian story — we are not Christian, and lighting up the dark around winter solstice, giving presents, and bringing green things inside predate Christianity. Hygge seems to mean coziness, comfort, the absence of anything grating, and quiet connection — whether with loved ones or with yourself — from what what I’ve been able to put together. Candles and fire and golden light show up a lot in hygge pinterest boards along with cable knit socks and winter foods and reading chairs. Here’s the board I made.

Next year I want to focus more on the general sense of coziness, connection, comfort and quiet than on the specific day we open presents. I love presents, but I don’t want Christmas to end as soon as we open them. Next year, I want to the decorations and the Santa mugs out longer and keep celebrating.

Giving: This year, our little one still seemed too young for it, but next year we’ll make things together for him to give to the important people in his life. For me, giving is one of the especially warm-feeling parts of Christmas, and I want him to experience it too — to not just see Christmas as a big intake day. Also, this year we gave to a couple of charities, but it was haphazard. Next year, I want to talk about them and pick them out as a family.

Christmas tree: Last year we ordered a tree online from Green Valley Christmas Trees, and the tree they sent was the freshest, most beautiful tree I’ve ever had. The only problem was that it came in a big cardboard box that was hard to get rid of. This year we went to a local lot. It was okay, but nowhere near as nice, and it didn’t last very long. Next year, it’s back to Green Valley and we’ll just deal with the box.

Decorating the tree: Gavin came up with the idea of making a red and green paper chain this year. We put up only fairly robust ornaments and plastic lights, and the tree was looking a little sparse. The chain filled it out and we figured if it tore we could just tape it back together.  We sang Christmas carols (badly) while we were making it and gave our little boy his own short chain to play with. He not only let us make the chain in peace, he also left the chain on the tree alone, so we never ended up needing to tape it back together.

Christmas lights in a ball: Wrangling the tree lights this year was a snap, because last year we rolled them up in a ball. Unrolling them was easy — much easier than in the past when I had carefully worked all the lights back into their original packaging.

Santa mugs 3

Santa mugs: We got these a few years ago at Pottery Barn (you can find actual vintage ones on Etsy, though, and see a bunch on Pinterest, too). We get them out with our December decorations, and usually we drink a lot of hot chocolate in them. This year we were craving lighter fare, so we drank mint tea in them almost every day. For my little boy, I poured a little tea in the bottom of his cup and then filled the rest up with cool water, so it was barely warm. He loved it.

Christmas cards: I love Paper Source‘s designs, especially the cards that say, “Merry/Happy Everything!” And one of my favorite Christmasy things to do is sit in a coffee shop addressing envelopes and thinking about all the people I like and love who I’m sending them to. This year I started a little late because we were traveling around and after Thanksgiving, so I still have some cards to send out (for New Year’s! Or maybe Valentine’s Day…) Next year, I’m starting earlier.

Santa photo: The Petersen Automotive Museum had an old red convertible you could pose inside with Santa this year. It was the best Santa photo (and Santa photo experience) we’ve had so far. One of us ran around the gift shop or museum with our son while the other stayed in line, and once we actually got in the car, our little boy was in heaven checking out the steering wheel and all the buttons. They took a bunch of pictures, and even though our two year old was focused on the car most of the time, they still managed to get a picture where we were all kind of smiling at the camera. For $25 they gave us a thumb drive of all the shots and a print out of the best one, plus free parking. 

Going out to see lights: We went out twice this year. We got a deal on Living Social for a 90 minute trolley tour of the Christmas lights on and around Naples Island in Long Beach.  They gave us candy canes and Santa hats and hot chocolate, and we rode around in an open trolley in our snow jackets. The tour included also a guided walk around Naples Island, and while we could have done that on our own for free, as part of the trolley tour it just seemed more special. Our two year old loved every part of the whole night from running around touching lights to drinking hot chocolate to getting two candy canes to RIDING IN AN ACTUAL TROLLEY!

Another night, we drove to Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo. El Segundo in general goes all out with Christmas deocrations, but in this cul-de-sac every house is covered in lights.  They shut down traffic and people walk up and down the street. A couple of houses have model trains running out on their lawns, and there’s a Santa you can visit, although my little one has only wanted to see him from a distance so far.

Gingerbread house 1

Gingerbread house: Last year we assembled one of the Trader Joe’s gingerbread houses. It was…tricky. This year, we got a pre-assembled one from Whole Foods, along with a tin of candy and some pre-made icing. Much better. I just wished I had picked up a little extra candy. Next time, I think we’ll go with another preassembled house, but we might also decorate ginger bread men that we can eat right away.


This year after we took the tree down, we all sat around the table and broke up the gingerbread house and ate it. It was disgusting, but fun. And as my little one pointed out, the candy part was good.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners: We ordered a beef tenderloin and a goose from Heritage Foods USA. Gavin made the tenderloin on Christmas Eve, and it was amazing. Delicious and juicy and tender. We’ll definitely get another one next year. It was also easy to make and didn’t need to cook forever, which helps make the night more fun.

The goose, on the other hand, took a lot of time to prepare and to cook. I think the recipe I used–Roast Goose with Caramelized Apples–was a good one, but I may not be that into goose. I loved the caramelized apple part of the recipe, though, and I don’t think they need to be made with goose fat to be good. I might try making them in the place of cranberry sauce, and using butter and oil for the fat next time. I also made potatoes roasted in goose fat, and again, I don’t think the fat needs to be from a goose for these to be good. You want to make sure you like raw garlic if you’re going to try these, though.

The next day, I made Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon to put on my left-over goose sandwiches. It was good, but not the ultimate cranberry sauce. I’m marking down Cranberry Sauce with Port and Tangerine to try next year.

Harry and David’s pears: Someone gave us these a few years ago, and we’ve ordered them every year since. They’re the best pears I’ve ever had, and they’re a special food I can look forward to around Christmas time that makes me feel good instead of kind of sick. I’m trying to ease up on holiday sugar consumption — it doesn’t make me feel that good in the end, although I do enjoy the occasional homemade Christmas cookie, I’m working on tilting the balance so that sugar is a once or twice a holiday season treat instead of a constant overload.

Christmas books: This year the books we read together over and over were Deck the Halls illustrated by Veronica Vasylenko, You Are My Miracle by Maryann Cusimano Love and illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa, and Richard Scarry’s Best Christmas Book Ever!

Slightly less repeated, but also loved were The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg and Peter Spier’s Christmas.

A couple of my favorites that I think my little one might like better next year are Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry and Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Barry Root.

Christmas movies: The movies we liked watching together the best this year were The BIG Christmas Tree and Arthur’s Perfect Christmas.

Robot stocking Christmas tree stocking

Advent calendar and stockings: This year we used the advent calendar as a decoration, and we skipped stockings altogether. Filling both (or either) up gets expensive, and if I just stick candy or chocolate in them, it ends up being a lot of sugar. I used to sew new decorations on our stockings every year, and I miss doing that. Maybe at some point in the future, I’ll have a little more free time before Christmas and I’ll figure out what to put in the stockings that won’t break the bank.

Getting away: A couple of different friends in my Facebook feed took trips to the mountains after Christmas and played in the snow. It looked so cozy and like so much fun. I’d like to work that into our Christmas traditions.

Magda Pecsenye’s Christmased workbook: I didn’t buy it this year, but it looked so good and so helpful. I want to work through it next year. In the meantime, I’ve signed up for her emails to help me think a little more about what I want for next year’s Christmas.

Favorite picture books for Halloween

Over the years (it’s been two years — that counts as years doesn’t it?), I’ve amassed quite a collection of Halloween books. I love cute Halloween, and there are a LOT of picture books out there that fit this description. Here’s what we’ve found so far. I love them all.

Just Say Boo! My First Halloween

Just Say Boo! – When you see something scary on Halloween, what do you say? BOO! I like this message, and I love the pictures of a classic suburban neighborhood all decked out for Halloween, and a dad dressed up as an astronaut with a glass helmet walking his kids through the neighborhood while they trick-or-treat. (At a distance, of course — you only see him in a few pictures.)

My First Halloween – The best how-we-celebrate-Halloween in a nutshell book I know. The pictures in this book inspire my Halloween planning more than anything else, including Pinterest.

The Spooky Old Tree Bears in the Night Pumpkins

The Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree – Three little bears sneak into a haunted tree! My kid loves the rhythm and repetition, and he was fascinated for months by just the right level of scariness in this.

Bears in the Night – Little bears sneak out of bed to find out what is making that strange noise up on Spook Hill. A compelling read!

Pumpkins – The book we read before we go to the pumpkin patch. Gorgeous photos showing where pumpkins come from, how they grow, and where they end up.

Creepy Carrots A Very Brave Witch Frankenstein

Creepy Carrots! – A rabbit is haunted by carrots that no one else can see. Is it all in his imagination, or is there something else going on? In a surprising twist, this book has a happy ending for everyone — the creepy carrots and the rabbit.

A Very Brave Witch – Did you know that witches are afraid of humans? One brave little witch decides to overcome the fear and learn more.

Frankenstein – A monster-themed parody of Madeleine.

Usborne Spooky sticker book Ghosts in the House! Arthur's Halloween

Spooky Sticker Book – Okay, this is not actually a book. It’s a sticker book. But I love it. Sometimes my little boy helps me stick the stickers on the pages. Sometimes I do it myself.

Ghosts in the House! – When this little witch moves into a new house and find it full of ghosts, she throws them in the washing machine, hangs them out to dry on the clothesline and then puts them to good use.

Arthur’s Halloween – Arthur is afraid of everything Halloween-related until he has to rescue DW from a witch! He finds his courage and discovers that the witch is just a friendly old lady who needs a little help with the upkeep on her haunted-looking house.

Monster Needs a Costume AlphaOops! H is for Halloween

Monster Needs a Costume – Monster has a lot of ideas about what he wants to be for Halloween. Finally, he settles on something completely original. My son loves the rhymes in this book.

AlphaOops: H Is for Halloween – Oh how I love this book! It’s my favorite ABC book in the world. The letters are putting on a Halloween show, and they get all mixed up. This is about as cute as cute Halloween can get.

Excuse Me... Are You a Witch? Halloween ABC Night of the Gargoyles

Excuse Me Are You a Witch? – A lonely little black cat who spends a lot of time at the library reads that witches like black cats, so he goes in search of one.

Halloween ABC – Trick or treating, ABC-style.

Night of the Gargoyles – Gargoyles come to life at night and frolic in the city! It’s not Halloween related, but it’s a little eery and the text is beautiful.

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever – Two mice love and nurture the same pumpkin and figure out how to share it so that they both get what they want.

Duck & Goose Find a Pumpkin – Duck and Goose are pretty silly guys. They look in all the wrong places for a pumpkin until a friend helps them out.

Max's Halloween Max and Ruby: Happy Halloween Max and Ruby: Spooky Bunny Tales

Max’s Halloween, Happy Halloween!, and Spooky Bunny Tales – We loooooove Max and Ruby. This brother and sister are always tugging back and forth about how things should be and working through their small scale conflicts with kindness and a sense of humor. I love how gentle these are and I love little brother Max’s determination and belief in himself.

Where is Baby's Pumpkin? What Am I? Halloween

Where Is Baby’s Pumpkin? and What am I? Halloween – We are also big fans of lift-the-flap books. These two walk little kids through cute versions of Halloween symbols and characters.

I Love Fall!

I Love Fall! – This cute touch and feel book isn’t about Halloween, but it does have pumpkins in it, and it feels right to get it out when pumpkins start showing up in the stores.

Bats at the Beach Bats at the Library

Bats at the Beach and Bats at the Library – These books aren’t specifically about Halloween, either. They’re just about bats. But what bats! They do all the things that people do, but at night time and in upside down funny bat ways.

Miss Spider's Tea Party

Miss Spider’s Tea Party – Again, this isn’t a Halloween book — it’s a book about a spider. But when big furry spiders start showing up all over people’s houses in our neighborhood, I like to have this story about a friendly, dainty vegetarian spider who throws elaborate tea parties kicking around.

What are your favorite Halloween picture books? I’m always looking for more…

The Read-Aloud Handbook

Read-Aloud Handbook 6
The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition by Jim Trelease

I read The Read-Aloud Handbook when my son was a baby, and it made a big difference in how I approached reading with him. First of all, we dove right in with reading board and cloth books, even though he didn’t understand them. I liked them, and he liked sitting on my lap, looking at and touching things. We’d snuggle up multiple times a day and pass some of our slow-moving time reading through stacks of chunky books. I got him involved in turning the pages by wiggling them until he grabbed them. Eventually he started turning them on his own. Now, in his twos, we still read board books, but we also read longer paper picture books, too. He’ll sit still for stacks of them, asking for them one after the other.

Trelease says as boys get older, it’s easy for reading to start to seem like a “girl” thing.  Sometimes moms and teachers are surprised when the boys in their lives don’t love the same books they used to when they were little girls, and it can be hard to be accepting of gross-out books or comic books or magazines. Still, letting boys read the books they’re interested in is key. Trelease also says boys respond particularly well to meter and rhyme — not something I remember being drawn to in kids’ books, myself.

On my own, I probably would not have gone this direction, but now when we see rhyming books about construction vehicles or rockets, we snap them up. My son loves them. I also look for all the books I can find on the topics he’s interested in, rhyming or not. (We have quite a construction vehicle book collection.) And if he seems especially interested in a book when we’re in a bookstore — even if it looks a little boring to me — we get it.

I buy books I like, too, though, and I also buy stretch books — books about holidays or important people or subjects I want to explore together. We look at them together at his pace about five times over the course of a week or two, and we stop when he wants to move on. He usually gets into them, and starts asking for them on his own.

Read-Aloud Handbook 2

At the end of The Read-Aloud Handbook, you’ll find a long, long list (maybe a third of the book long) of highly recommended books for kids at different ages and with different interests.

Note: I’m linking to the Seventh Edition, but the copy I have — which is in the pictures above — is the Sixth Edition.

We don’t read books before bed (if I can help it)

Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic’s I’m Tired of Reading Out Loud to My Son, O.K.? surprised me. I get that people have different taste, but reading reading picture books with my kid is one of my favorite things to do. Dreading it seems… hard to understand.

But then I realized Lucianovic is talking about reading before bed. Yeah, I don’t like that either.

I’ve only parented one toddler, so I don’t know if what works for us would work for everyone, but around here we read during the day. We get out our books when we need some sync-up time — when I want to snuggle up with my son and calm him down, or when he seems to want my attention in general. If we have a big day planned, I try to read with him for about twenty minutes after breakfast, after he’s dressed, and before we head out the door. It’s a good way to feel connected after nudging him through the morning and before we get in the car and start driving. Sometimes we’ll read after nap time before Gavin gets home from work.

By bedtime, though, I’m exhausted. What energy I have left is for helping him toward sleep as smoothly as possible. I can’t spend it making hippo voices or being excited about…well, pretty much anything.

Daytime. That’s the time to read books.

And we only read books we both like. That’s what works for us — so far, at least.

Berries, belly buttons, and beach escapades: A summer book list your toddler will love

When I think of summer, I think of reading. I think of checking out stacks of books from the library and laying around for hours devouring them. My toddler isn’t quite old enough for that yet, but what we can do is fill our book basket up with stories about this special time of year and snuggle up to read them together. Here’s what’s in our next-to-the-rocking-chair stack right now:

We read Bruce Degen’s crazy, fantastical Jamberry all year long, but I especially like to pull it out in late spring and keep reading it through the summer while berries are in season. It rhymes, but it’s more like a frenzied chant than a poem. It takes you through a flurry of over-the-top berry-themed spring and summer action from capsizing boats spraying blueberries everywhere to firework berry explosions in the sky. All the vehicles and berries flying all over the place got my little one’s attention early on. These days his favorite part is the afterword on the last page where Degen describes berry picking as a child and with his family now that he’s grown up. We used to try to skip this part by pretending to read nonsense syllables, but now he’s on to us and wants hear the whole thing.

Why your toddler will love it: Boats! Trains! Fireworks! Hot air balloons! Big messes! Boisterous, rollicking rhymes. And descriptions of delicious sounding pies and jams at the very end.

Why you’ll love it: Nostalgia (or fauxstalgia) for summers spent romping around outside in freedom and the smell of berry pie being baked by someone else.

Let It Shine
Maryanne Cocca-Leffler takes you on an all-around tour of summer fun in Let It Shine, from swimming and making sandcastles, to playing baseball and watching fireworks. Unlike lots of other children’s book authors, Cocca-Leffler also covers some of the downsides of summer (one picture shows a kid trying to shake the sand out of his swim trunks while holding a dripping half-eaten popsicle).

Why your toddler will love it: Lots of pictures of things he can map to his own experiences; great rhymes.

Why you’ll love it: If you’re looking for a book to walk your kid through what makes summer special, this is it.

Bats at the Beach
A colony of bats flies to the shore after dark carrying picnic baskets, tote bags and a banjo in Brian Lies’s Bats at the Beach. They set up tiny drink umbrellas in the sand for shade, rub on “moon-tan lotion,” and set to work building sand caves (with little sandy stalactites) or sailing in styrofoam ice cream bowls and nachos boxes. At the very end of the book, you’ll find three terrific verses of a “Bat Hymn” that can be sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Why your toddler will love it: Everything is all mixed up. Night is day, down is up. Those bats are standing upside down on the CEILING! Those marshmallows have BUG LEGS sticking out of them!

Why you’ll love it: Who doesn’t like bats acting like tiny people?

Belly Button Book
In Sandra Boynton’s Belly Button Book, hippos get very excited about beach weather because they love to show off their belly buttons.

Why your toddler will love it: Belly buttons.

Why you’ll love it: It’s a joyful, body-positive reminder that being out in the sun just feels good (kind of like the picture book version of How to get that bikini body you all crave).

Harry by the Sea
In Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham’s Harry by the Sea, a wave dumps seaweed on Harry the dog, and everyone thinks he’s a sea monster, until a hot dog man unwittingly helps to set things right.

Why your toddler will love it: Harry experiences things toddlers worry about — he gets lost and found — in a funny, action-packed, but gentle and reassuring way.

Why you’ll love it: A whimsical story with great illustrations that have held up over 50+ years. For people like me who remember reading this as a kid, it’s doubly fun: I enjoy my kid’s enjoyment of it, and reading it brings back memories of my parents reading it out loud to me.

Fourth of July books with a bang

One of my favorite ways to build up anticipation for the holidays is to get a bunch of books and read them for weeks in advance. Then we read them for weeks after — or, well, maybe sporadically all year long — to process the holidays and remember them and look forward to them coming back again.

So of course we’ve been getting ready for the Fourth of July this year by reading books. Here are our two favorites:

Hats Off for the Fourth of July
Hats off for the Fourth of July by Harriet Ziefert, illustrated by Gustaf Miller

A small town parade marches through the pages of Hats off for the Fourth of July. I love the rhythm and repetition — this book just feels good to read. My son especially loves the cowboy page (“Yee Haw!” he says if I don’t read it fast enough), and the motorcycle page which he also recites. (“Music and vroom! Music and vroom. The motorcycles need plenty of room.”)  We checked it out from the library to get ready for our own local Fourth of July parade, and I’m starting to think we might want to order our own copy.

Happy 4th of July Jenny Sweeney
Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney! by Leslie Kimmelman, Illustrated by Nancy Cote

In Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney!, Jenny chases her dog Rags through their small town, trying to get him bathed and beribboned as the whole town gets ready for the Fourth of July. We see people hanging flags, a firefighter washing his truck, a family celebrating having just become citizens, an older veteran getting dressed in his uniform, the mayor writing her speech, a family outside grilling, band members practicing their instruments, and finally the big parade, which Jenny and a clean Rags help lead. And after dark, everyone watches fireworks over the town lake. We like to look for Rags on every page — he’s always up to something.

For next year I have my eye on picture books of patriotic songs: America the Beautiful, another America the Beautiful, and My Country ‘Tis of Thee. I also liked the look of The Star-Spangled Banner, which is beautifully illustrated with scenes from the Revolutionary War, but we might wait until our kid is out of the toddler/preschool years for that one.



Popsicles 1
Paletas de fresa (or strawberry ice pops) in the back row and paletas de yogurt con moras (yogurt ice pops with berries) in front.

Paletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas FrescasPaletas: Authentic Recipes for Mexican Ice Pops, Shaved Ice & Aguas Frescas by Fany Gerson

When I was a kid and it was really hot out and our legs were sticking to the car seats, sometimes for a special treat we stopped at the nearest drive-in dairy for big sticks or orange creamsicles. Mostly we ate popsicles at home, though. It seemed like we always had popsicles in the freezer in the summer, and for while we experimented with making our own. We poured whatever fruit juice we had in the fridge into molds and later we flopped around the house sucking on them. Sometimes we just used water. The texture never felt like store-bought popsicles — orange juice froze funny with big flat crystals, other juices felt kind of granular, and the icicles (water popsicles) came out hard, like ice. But I like the memory of wondering what they’d be like and experimenting, and then eating them slowly while reading a book, trying to decide if I liked them or not during the long, boring afternoons.

When I grew up, I didn’t think much about the holidays and changing seasons until I became a mom. Suddenly, they seemed important. Rhythmic, seasonal sense memories seemed like a key part of kid life, and it felt like it was largely up to me to make them happen. For summer, I was going to make popsicles. Last year I ordered a couple of popsicle recipe books and looked at the pictures and fantasized. This year, I got out the blender.

I started with a book that had pictures of healthy kids eating fruit-studded popsicles out in nature. Right away I realized I should have been reading the recipes instead of looking at the pictures when I picked this book out, because it called for ingredients like wheat germ, quinoa, and flax seed. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any fond memories of flax seed, let alone fond summer popsicle memories. I tried the most innocuous-looking recipe in the book: yogurt, strawberries, lemon juice and honey. When I gave one of the popsicles to my son, he rejected it and he has refused to try any round, drinking glass-shaped popsicle I’ve offered him ever since. I get where he’s coming from. They tasted like so-so smoothies, and they felt grainy.

Gavin thought getting the texture right might take sugar, so I gave away the first book (along with the bag of wheat germ I bought in an initial wave of optimism) and turned to Paletas by Fany Gerson. Most of her popsicle recipes involve simple syrup, which seemed like a good sign — and it was.

We tried paletas de fresa (or strawberry ice pops) and paletas de yogurt con moras (yogurt ice pops with berries) first. The strawberry ice pops tasted almost like homemade strawberry jam and they felt soft and smooth and right. I have fantasies of eating homemade strawberry popsicles with abandon, but the amount of sugar in these made them feel like eat-with-restraint dessert popsicles. Not exactly what I was looking for, but delicious.

The yogurt pops on the other hand were… less successful. Gerson suggests blackberries but says you can use any berry. I went with blueberries and left them whole. I knew in my head that when you freeze things they don’t taste as sweet, but it sunk in for me in a way I’ll remember as I was biting through those hard, tart little berries. I loved the yogurt base made with lemon simple syrup and honey, though, so I’m going to try them again, but next time I’ll blend whatever berries I’m using with powdered sugar (one of Gerson’s alternate suggestions) before stirring them into the yogurt.

This morning, we picked up strawberries and avocados at the farmers’ market.  I want to cut the sugar the strawberry ice pops in half to see how the texture comes out, retry the yogurt pops with blended strawberries, and then I’m going to make paletas de aguacate (avocado ice pops).