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!!
Pen Elaine recently had to have major dental work. She is missing a lot of enamel, and we have been watching one of her molars slowly wear away…truly. So, it was no surprise when the dentist told us that she needed 8 caps – one on each molar, to save them from causing major pain and disappearing before she gets her 12-year replacement molars. (Her dentist is my childhood dentist, so I trusted his judgment, too!) Anyhow, putting 8 caps on a three-year-old means putting them under general anesthesia for the 1.5 hour procedure…which sounded scary to me. However, we prayed for peace and asked our friends to pray for a smooth procedure and God’s protection for our sweet little girl.
That was how we prepared ourselves, but I knew I needed to prepare Pen Elaine somehow. She was not scared about the dentist; we go to this amazing kids’ dentist that was fun and relaxing for her first checkup. We played dentist at home and read the Bernstein Bears’ book about going to the dentist, and she actually had a super time and was excited to go back.
However, I knew this next appointment would be completely different, with a very weird experience of going under and coming out of anesthesia. Well, it was God’s gift of grace that we were reading in one of Pen’s favorite books – Richard Scarry’s Favorite Storybook Ever – and one of the short stories, that I’ve read about a hundred times but had not thought of its application, is about a little bunny getting her tonsils out. The little bunny is taken to the hospital and put to sleep to get her tonsils out! When she wakes up, her tonsils are gone…and then she gets to eat ice cream! Could I have thought of a better way to sell Pen Elaine on the fun of “going to sleep” to get caps put on her teeth? We were able to talk about the upcoming dental procedure in a safe, non-scary way. She would be going to sleep like the little bunny and actually had some fun things to look forward to – meaning that we better have pink ice cream waiting at home when she woke up!
Praise the Lord – the procedure went as quickly and smoothly as possible. Pen woke up quickly, ready to eat lunch and have pink ice cream…mouth full of “bling.”
If you haven’t heard of Mo Willems, go to the library and check out all the books you can find by him. His books are funny and charming and fun for the whole family. We read “Cat the Cat” books when Pen Elaine was just 1, then we moved up to “Pigeon books,” followed closely by “Elephant and Piggy books.” Then, a mom whose kids I used to babysit recommended his “Knuffle bunny” books, of which I had never heard. So, when I spotted one at the library, we read Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity before realizing we were reading the second book in a trilogy. This series has super fun illustrations that are drawn animations on top of actual photographs, a fun effect that feels real and yet approachable for preschoolers.
However, the real treasure is reading through all three books and finding the author’s note to his daughter at the end. These hilarious tales (seriously, Pen Elaine guffaws at moments in all three books…each time we read them) end in such a heartwarming way that I actually had tears in my eyes…maybe I was just hormonal, but it chokes me up a little each time. I love the progression of this trilogy as Trixie “grows up” from toddlerhood to elementary school. They also illustrate the special bond of fathers and daughters, and the lengths that dads will go for their little girls. Furthermore, it subtly reminds kids to think of others. Please go read these with your kiddos!
We have been discovering a plethora of delightful books this summer! Some books are favorites of Pen Elaine’s while others become favorites of mine, so we can practice showing consideration for the other by reading the ones we know the other prefers, or sometimes we make a deal where I can read the one Pen Elaine really wants and then she’ll let me read the one that I really want, and vice versa.
Oftentimes, we win the other one over to loving our personal favorite…and oftentimes I’ve read a book I’m on the fence about so many times that I try to hide it on the far end of the bookshelf…
Anyhow, we both loved
Before I Was Your Mother by Kathyn Lasky and illustrated by LeUyen Pham
This is a very sweetly told story, first person, about remembering childhood while comparing it to her present state of motherhood and the inevitable changes it brings to a woman’s life. The memories are charming and colorful, and the end of the book warmed my heart every time, often to little happy tears…maybe I am just soft, but I highly recommend this lovely book. It reminded me of the beautiful blessings that God has given me and the love I get to pass in to my children.
Reading together is a great way to open up opportunities for discussion, even with a 3-year-old! Books open her mind to new possibilities and exploring the unknown. When we read together, we both think of questions that we’d like to ask each other. Pen Elaine is very inquisitive, and most all toddlers and preschoolers go through a very long “why” phase of wanting to understand how the world works. Reading a variety of books together helps encourage and develop curiosity and creativity and school preparedness. Reading together, just like eating dinner together as a family, is a way to promote success in school, teaching your child that they are loved and valued by the time you give to them, time where they can listen and also be heard. Reading is a time to snuggle and have safe touch, important for all areas of development in a young individual.