You may be familiar with the Pinkalicious series by Victora Kann, but our favorite so far is this instalment called Silverlicious! This book has a subtle message about being kind and appreciative, or “sweet.” The catch phrase in this book is “Always be as sweet as your sweet tooth,” which I think is adorable. I love it! This is a funny, fast-paced tale about what happens after the little girl loses a tooth, which turns out to be her “sweet tooth.” So, the book provides opportunity to explain a funny idiom and celebrate the loss of a tooth! The illustrations are over the top with cute and festive details, full of whimsy and charm, as is the case with all the Pinkalicious books that I’ve seen. We enjoyed reading this over and over, all three of us (ages 32, 4, and 1.5)…up until we had to return it to the library. This is a good story for talking about character-building, imaginary characters, losing a tooth, and even brother-sister relationships. We highly recommend Silverlicious!
Pen Elaine and I have recently entered the wonderful world of CHAPTER BOOKS! It’s so wonderful and magical and sweet time of reading together through a lengthy story. Chapter books let us anticipate how a story unfolds over the course of a week or two and let us return to a cozy, old friend of a book each evening or afternoon. Also, they seem to be uniquely able to delve into higher level issues and thoughts, depending on the particular book, that can lead to more thoughtful discussions.
For our first chapter book, we actually happened across Nancy Clancy: Super Sleuth (by the always fancy O’Connor/Glasser team) at the library, and we breezed through this really fun book about a more mature Fancy Nancy who admires the classic Nancy Drew. I enjoyed the Nancy Drew references, and we both enjoyed the series of mysteries solved throughout the book. I hadn’t really considered before whether Pen Elaine was ready for chapter books, but this one showed me that she was definitely ready.
Next, for our first big-time chapter book, I pulled out my old copy of Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. We obviously loved this book of adventures that two ordinary girls make for themselves during the early 1900’s in Minnesota. Ms. Lovelace truly gets into the head of imaginative little girls and takes us back through their world of wonder and everyday triumphs and difficulties. While some chapters are a like a dream, others handle the more difficult and timeless challenges of a 6-year-old growing up at the turn of the century. We loved this so much that we read the next book in the series, Betsy-Tacy and Tib, immediately upon finishing this first installment.
Now, based on a recommendation by whatdowedoallday, we are reading My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. This is a fun adventure story where a young boy finds himself exploring a wild island full of talking animals, on a quest to find a dragon. Pen Elaine is totally hooked! We are enjoying this fantasy story of cleverly facing an assortment of challenges and creative characters.
This book is so sweet in an unexpected way. I have unintentionally become a big fan of Jane Yolen, and How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? is a delightful picture book written by her and Mark Teague. I discovered it at the library probably a year ago or more, but it is still on my love list for a mom of a toddler. Pen Elaine likes the funny scenarios that feature dinosaurs misbehaving, like a 2-year-old would. There’s a comedy of proportions since a dinosaur is very large to be acting like a toddler. Plus, Pen Elaine, as a 3-and-a-half-year-old, wanted me to read the scientific names of each featured dinosaur, written in small print on each page. The illustrations are completely captivating, for both of us.
The endearing part that makes me love this book, though, is that the authors somehow capture exactly the frustrations of parenting a “terrible two” while also pointing out the sweet vulnerability and moments to treasure and cuddle these pint-sized humans figuring out how to navigate the world and express their feelings. From being a messy eater, overflowing the bathroom sink, to tantrums and moodiness, this book reminds parents to focus on the other moments of unabashed affection, trying to be helpful, and those cute little faces. Reading this book encouraged me to have a little more patience and a little more perspective on handling and loving my toddler/preschooler. When I finish reading it, I have to steal snuggles from my little one every time.
No matter where you stand on the whole issue of feeding your just-about-1-year-old-kid french fries, that chubby little hand reaching out for a french fry from his big sister’s sweet little fingers just has to melt your heart…right? Everything in moderation. They were just so cute, I had to snap a photo – Pen Elaine happy to be sharing her treasure with a beloved little brother and Snuggly Man giddy with happiness and relief that she was giving him some of that french fry goodness. (Of course, he would have continued yelling at her until she chose to share food.)
More than just sharing french fries, I love watching this relationship blossom and grow, from my front row seat. Pen Elaine has always loved Snuggly Man, from the moment she knew about him and then met him, she has showered him with plenty of hands-on affection. We have early photos of her adoring gaze at his tiny, sleeping face as she holds him, propped up with pillows. She instantly embraced him as one of our family. When she worked tirelessly to set up our empty danactive smoothie containers for “bowling,” she accepted the price of playing with a crawling, little brother.
Over the past year or so, however, that love has deepened, faced with challenges of course, but now, I think she loves him not just because he is her cute baby brother, but she also loves him because she enjoys him as a person, not just a baby to hold. Her affection for him has grown into a friendship of mutual adoration. This really hit me the other morning, when the three of us were having a plastic tea party. Snuggly Man had managed to confiscate all three toy stir-spoons, one in each hand and one in his mouth. He was very happy with this accomplishment and was making happy little noises through his full mouth. When Pen Elaine noticed and realized his antics, she started laughing hysterically, giggling and making sure that I was witnessing the spectacle as well. It was the cutest thing, and of course, Snuggly Man’s pleasure at the setup increased tenfold with an appreciative audience. They were having this magic moment of sharing life.
This young sibling relationship, that I’m privileged to observe, paints a picture of free, unearned love and affection, with no strings attached. Snuggly Man adores Pen Elaine, always watching her and wanting to copy her antics. This is despite the fact that Pen Elaine has taken to tucking a bathrobe belt into the back of Snuggly Man’s shirt, so that it serves as a leash and makes him her puppy. Likewise, Pen Elaine wants Snuggly Man to be her playmate, so she tries to “lure” him into her room by showing him toys that he’ll want to play with; she wants him to be where she is, even when she has to take a bathroom break. It doesn’t matter that while he is in her room, he may try to rip any books left on the floor or spread all the play kitchen toys across the floor…This observation reminds me of the Charles Dickens quote:
“It is no small thing, when they, who are so fresh from God, love us. ”
This imperfect love has somehow been pointing me back to God’s perfect love. Their generously given love reminds me of the completely free gift of God’s grace. So often, I rationalize and overthink and secretly try to earn God’s love, forgetting that I am completely incapable of earning God’s favor because it has been freely given. I recently listened to Christine Hoover speak on this topic, and I was reminded how Jesus Christ took care of it all. What a relief.
1It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
2Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
Galatians 2:16 & 20-21
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified…“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
This delightful sibling relationship is echoed in the book Princess Penelope Takes Charge, by Todd Mack, and insightfully illustrated by Julia Gran. This sibling pair has a it more of a roller coater ride of affection at the star, but they come to appreciate each other as they grow and develop. This is a really fun read that we highly recommend, particularly for when a new baby is expected!!
The Secret Remedy Book by Karin Cates (illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin) was a little treasure we found at the library recently. I may have loved it even more than Pen Elaine, but the feelings were mutual. This is the story of a young girl who finally gets to go stay at her aunt’s house, all by herself, but when she finds herself feeling a little homesick, her aunt rescues the situation with a mysterious book from the attic that gives the steps to curing any woes. The book takes them on a mini, everyday-sort-of adventure that ends in sleepy, happy dreams.
I felt like we were taken back to simpler times, and I was reminded that in childhood, the little things can be the most meaningful. The illustrations are intricate and tell a story all their own. We made the book come alive one afternoon, during Snuggly Man’s naptime, and followed all the steps to complete the “secret remedy.” Luckily, we had juice in the house that day (or at least some apple cider), and we found a seed to plant out in the yard – Pen covered it with a leaf to keep it safe. We highly recommend this book for making memories, or if you are getting ready to send a kid off to camp or grandma’s house for the first or second time. This is a great book for talking through feelings and dreams and everyday goals. I already want to check this book out from the library again!
Pen Elaine loves helping in the kitchen – we put on our aprons and pull a chair up to the counter for her to stand on, and I try teaching her that a good cook does not lick her fingers or the bowl when preparing food that everyone will eat…So, I had saved a super cute idea from Family Fun August 2014 about making crescent rolls into octopi. We had recently read a Christmas gift from Aunt Jenny, Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear (illustrated by Julie Morstad) that makes you want to cook with your cute kid, and Pen Elaine had been into “Octonauts,” in which one of the main characters is some sort of octopus. So, the timing was perfect for trying this simple “recipe.”
Crescent roll Octopus:
1. Pull apart a triangle from crescent roll package
2.Taking the shortest side of the triangle, cut 7 slits about 1-2 inches long with kitchen shears or a knife (I used a plastic knife with success)
3. Place cut triangle onto baking sheet to separate and “stage” each “leg” of the octopus
4. Roll down and shape “head” to look more rounded
5. Add eyes – we used mini chocolate chips (Pen Elaine was solely i charge of this step)
6. Bake according to package instructions
They seem wobbly and delicate when shaping the dough into octopus shapes, but they come out of the oven sturdy and stiff and delicious! These were simple and yet so, so much fun. Plus, when Pen Elaine was staging some of the octopus and their tentacles, she told me how certain ones were family members, etc…and then, she made two octopus who were side-by-side to “hold hands” and said they were my Honey and me when we were getting married! It was the sweetest thing…all thanks to those little octopus crescent rolls 🙂
This year, I have a 3-and-a-half-year-old who makes all the preparations for Christmas even more meaningful and all the preparation even more gratifying than before because she has grown in understanding and in the ability to ANTICIPATE! It is so fun!
Like last year, I planned our daily advent activities ahead of time, as inspired by the amazing Kim, and wrapped a “present” that coordinated with each day. This year, we are also going through a book, The ADVENTure of Christmas: Finding Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions, by Lisa Whelchel, that succinctly explains the origin of some traditions and symbols of Christmas, along with some quick discussion questions and activity ideas. I learned that “advent” means “to come” in reference to Jesus coming down to earth; thus advent is a time to prepare for His coming. I love planning the days ahead of time and wrapping the gifts beforehand because it makes the whole advent time a fun celebration for me, too! There’s no brainstorming, decision-making, or scrambling and throwing stuff together the night before, making for a more peaceful season. I love it! I also mark on my calendar when her last day of various classes occur, to remind me to bring teacher gifts, and I even put making Christmas cookies for teachers, neighbors, etc. on the calendar so I don’t forget. Plus, I like getting some presents wrapped before Thanksgiving anyway (really, I’d love having them all bought and wrapped), so wrapping a bunch of presents right before Thanksgiving really gets me in the holiday, festive, family spirit…and gives me an excuse to start listening to Christmas music!
Plus, Pen Elaine absolutely LOVES opening a present each morning, and since we’ve already forgotten once to put out the gift the night before, I know that she has reached the age to remember on her own! The night before the first of December, she sweetly requested to “pleeeease tell me what’s in the present?” So far, she has opened our advent calendars (day 1: setup advent calendars), a plastic nativity set and nativity books (day 2: play and talk about nativity story), the three wise men that are part of our other nativity set (plus I threw in some Xmas window decals for Pen Elaine to put where she chose, day 3: talk about wise men’s gifts and Matthew 25:40-go through our toys, books, and clothes to give our own gifts to the less fortunate), and a dress & gloves (that we already owned, day 4: church event for Christmastime)…I scattered some extra Christmas decorations or fun kid-friendly ones along with the advent activity items throughout the presents for added fun factor. For example, my Uncle Christ gave us this set of Disney characters that sing Christmas carols, so on a day when I was just wrapping up a container of salt to make salt dough ornaments, I also wrapped up a caroling Donald duck to make the present more exciting 🙂 Turning decorations and advent calendars into presents to open throughout the month made them much more epic.
This year, she is also opening a door a day in a cardboard advent calendar that I bought after Christmas last year on super sale…which includes chocolate pieces, but the label says that it’s good until March of next year, so far so good!
The one advent calendar that has grown with her since she could walk, is our “love came down” felt pocket calendar, where you simply move a little heart from one pocket to the next. To make it more complicated, last year, I added prophecy verses paired with new testament verses about the different roles and characteristics of Jesus. These are cooler for my Honey and me than Pen Elaine, at this point, but it is neat to see how so many things were prophesied about Jesus’s life so many years before He was born. When our kids get older, talking about these along with the Dead Sea Scrolls will be impactful, I think.