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!
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.
We are loving fall and all the Halloween, dress-up, outdoor festivals, and pumpkin activities that go along with it! October is a great month to have kids under 5! Pumpkin patch photos and choosing my baby’s costume is enough to make this the best season ever. seriously.
Recently, we watched the newest pbs kids special: “Curious George’s Boo Fest,” which includes a lot of talk about their Halloween festival, including games, costume contests, haunted “fish” house/tunnel, etc. Halloween movies for preschool and toddler-age kids are definitely my favorite, just the right amount of spooky for me.
Watching this show inspired Pen Elaine and I to make our own “fall festival” at home, starting with a “haunted tunnel” that was really just a blanket thrown over toddler sized chairs and table. Pen Elaine loves making tents and tunnels already, and tunnels are helpful for my little crawler (Snugly Man) to practice and develop his gross motor skills. The three of us crawled through it like a train, and Snugly Man returned to it periodically during the whole time it was set up. The tunnel was a definite hit at the festival!
Brainstorming carnival/festival games, I thought of the Ring Toss. So, I gathered some plus rings from a baby toy, and we tried tossing them onto a pumpkin stem. This proved rather difficult for both Pen Elaine and me, so we tried using little plastic bracelets, and while those were a little easier, we only played this game a few times and never returned to it. We did feel extremely accomplished and proud when we got a bracelet to land on the pumpkin. “Pumpkin toss” had a good run.
To make our festival complete, we obviously needed a sign, so we used a chalkboard for a cute, “scary face” photo op.
The absolute hit of our DIY festival was most definitely the “Ball Toss.” Using a doorway that led to a dead end hallway, I used masking tape to taped up some butcher/wrapping paper remnants that almost spanned those whole doorway after writing “Ball Toss.” Next, I cut out the middles of three paper plates and used duct tape to attach them to the bottom of the sign. For balls, we gathered up some little plastic “ball pit” balls and toy “coins” that could fit through the paper plate openings – “balls” that would not cause any injury if accidentally thrown at Snugly Man.
Actually making the balls go through the rings was only successful for Pen Elaine if she stood very close to the goals, but she also decided that simply throwing your ball well enough to make it roll all the way to the back of the hallway also made it a “winning” throw, so this game turned out to span skill levels. Placing the ball toss in front of a dead end ensured that balls did not go flying everywhere – they were contained. As with any game played with a preschooler, this was great practice for gross motor skills, taking turns, being a good sport and encourager, teamwork and cooperation, and following rules. Plus, it turned out that Pen Elaine and Snugly Man both loved hanging out in the hall behind the ball toss rings, catching balls and throwing them back, being in the middle of the action. Because of that, we kept the ball toss game up for over a week – making visitors come in through the garage door or duck underneath our sign, since we loved playing this so much. For a few days, it was a pre-bedtime ritual to come play ball toss, with both kids retrieving balls while my Honey and I honed our aiming skills. This game will definitely be a returning DIY festival tradition!
As you can imagine from the last pic, Snugly Man did eventually rip the bottom ring, leaving two behind.
I have not written a post in over a month because my computer screen was on the fritz for a while, we traveled for a week, the fall schedule got up and going, and, most of all, I have been working on living and “relaxing” in the everyday moments of being a mom with two littles. I self prescribed myself to soak up the fleeting phases of my children, trying to listen to God and see His beauty in the way He starts on people. To see and shape my daughter’s heart, I need to stop and listen to her words, and not feel hurried by the list of things to do or rushing her into clothes, the car, the next stop, etc. when I am focusing on her. Some days, she needs to be home with me, while baby brother is sleeping, and just play…or craft…or read…because she will only be 3 this one year.
It’s easier to remember the passing of time and phases when (1) another kid starts to kindergarten and all of a sudden, the first five years seem like the blink of an eye and the time has arrived for this child to stretch her wings, or (2) my baby starts crawling around the house and almost sleeping through the night and looking like a giant. I’m reminded to enjoy the little moments, like brushing my little girl’s hair for her, snuggling with a little mama’s boy who has a crazy, toothy grin, and not be weighed too heavily with the toddler-sized anger issues, the squashing baby brother like a puppy, the piles of laundry from wearing 5 different princess dresses in one day…because it’s actually the sweetest thing to watch a miniature human learn how to make kinder choices, to pray instead of hit, to explore what it means to be a girl in the world. Being their mother means everyday holds different joys, heartaches, challenges, and lessons that God is trying to teach me, and sometimes we both say the same things a hundred times before seeing any fruit.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12
But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, 11and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, 12so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.
Instead of squeezing in a kitchen task while Pen Elaine takes a million years to eat a meal…I’m trying to use that time for question games and talking about situations or feelings or God’s Word.
“Olaf” pancakes are constantly requested, but all she really wants is whip cream.
Rather than getting caught up with the getting there or the end result or the destinations, I’m trying to dilly-dally on the way, so that I can enjoy the pace of a curious toddler. The wonder of a butterfly, birds eating from our bird feeder, picking a flower for me from our flower beds, all awaken the depth and beauty inside a little girl’s soul, in a way that is unique to this special time of being 3.
Here is Pen re-enacting a book we read, but most of the time, I read through a book and then check it off my mental list then onto the next item, instead of discussing thoughts more or acting the story out, so that I can find out how the book is touching my child’s soul.
We got excited about our one strawberry harvested – Pen Elaine tasted the fruit of our scarce labor – we would probably have grown more fruit if I had taken more time out with her to care for that plant! Thankfully, her preschool heart was content with just the one.
I’ve been reminded to recognize the still or routine moments – riding in the car, eating a meal together, shopping at the grocery store, giving a bath, bedtime reading – are all opportunities for teaching, talking about Jesus, reciting Bible verses, asking questions and developing a close relationship as family.
Instead of squeezing everything I can possibly get accomplished into the day, I need to just imagine the fun things to play with my kids in the next moment, while they are still young and hanging on my every word.
Here is Pen Elaine after her first taste of salsa! She wanted to like it, I think, to be just like her daddy. She recently asked him if she was beautiful in her blue dress that she chose to wear, since his favorite color is blue. For learning to take place, kids need safety and love needs to be met first, and that can’t be accomplished in the hurried moments between activities or while I’m simultaneously looking at a screen.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
While everyday moments are easy to wish away, God is reminding me that His ways are higher than our ways and only He can see the future and know how the pieces fit together. Since my life is so small on the line of eternity, I need to accept and relish in the details of this life God has given me. The season when the ducks are waiting at the neighborhood pond and my kids are excited about feeding them is a special gift of time before the seasons change.
This is Pen Elaine while watching the beginning of “High School Musical” for the very first time. I secretly love those movies and own all three, which is saying something in this day when we don’t own very many movies since they are available to stream so easily. I remember when a friend who started having kids about the same time told me that her cutie pie loved watching the Disney channel movies, and I looked forward to how fun it would be when I got to watch the HSM with my own little one. So, we watched maybe the first 15 minutes together one day for a special lunch picnic treat but have yet to watch the rest. We have been catching up on some classic kid/Disney movies this summer, with the less structured days and the fact that she no longer naps, and I have finally accepted and resigned myself to that fact.
No longer having nap time means no longer having time to myself during the day, and that has been a big adjustment for me. It may have been a difficult transition for me because it happened simultaneously with the adjustment from 1 to 2 kids or maybe because it happened simultaneously with my postpartum hormones still getting themselves in order, but ultimately, I think it required a “transition” for my heart. Nap time had become “me time” that I felt entitled to having for myself. When kids are little or preverbal or have one or two nap times, it makes sense to separate kid time and adult time, and when I wanted to complete tasks or projects, I entertained my little one in one way while I “entertained” myself in a separate way. Here’s my #TBT photo of Pen Elaine hanging out in the exersaucer while I was working on some sort of craft project. She was having beneficial, independent play time while I was having beneficial, independent craft time. Nap time was also an opportunity for mutually beneficial time of separate activities that brought us each joy in our own ways. So, the end of nap time marked a rite of passage for both of us, mother and daughter, because it marked the end of having so much time for separate interests and marked the beginning of my daughter blossoming into a tiny person who could share in my joys instead of simply being entertained by something else while I completed them.
Now, I am learning to not simply see giving up nap time as giving up “me” time but now it’s an opportunity for “us” time, just my daughter and me. We get to share our joys, and I get to cultivate a little person to appreciate some of the beauty in life that I appreciate. Sometimes, that means completing an exercise tape together. If there’s a craft project that I’ve been wanting to work on, then we figure out a way to work on it together…or at least have two versions of the same basic activity.
My Honey has been embracing this rite of passage in our daughter in his own way. Pen Elaine went through a phase of waking up extra early, so we tried using a toddler clock that lit up an “awake” bunny picture when it was “morning time” and appropriate for getting up, trying to enforce a minimum wake-up time. This worked for a while, but then she started waking up early again and wanting to come see what Daddy was up to in the morning. My Honey would be up getting his coffee going and preparing for some personal Bible reading and devotional. Instead of continuing to enforce and try to “train” Pen Elaine to stay in her room, during the time when he typically has some quiet time reading the Bible on his own (while letting me have some quiet space for my own meditation on Scripture in the morning…unless I was up with Snuggly Man too much in the night and fell back asleep…), he started having “quiet time” WITH Pen Elaine. He embraced this fleeting phase and included her in his joy of spending early morning time with the Lord, making it a teachable moment. She gets some dry cereal while he drinks some coffee, and they read out of the Jesus Storybook Bible together. Jesus said, “but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14 ESV), so reading a kids’ version of God’s Word seems appropriate, and my Honey found plenty of truth to stir personal reflection and prayer.
Including Pen Elaine in some gardening endeavors sometimes translates into rose petals being pulled off the plant and scattered around and in the bird bath, but she was sure the birds would enjoy the beauty of the scene while bathing in or drinking the water.
I am one of those people who always has 20 projects in the back of my mind that I plan to complete, plus 20 more sewing projects that I would love to start or finish. Giving up naptimes felt like giving up all my sewing projects, but after reading Desperate, I realized that it was important to continue in life-giving activities, which for me, includes creating things, so I decided Pen Elaine and I must sew together! So, my first project was a “Frozen princess” tutu/dress for Pen Elaine, which she helped with a bit and then I started her on her own project while I finished some of the machine sewing without her “help.”
Most recently, I realized I had given up any time of playing the old piano that takes up valuable space in our house. Instead of only playing the assortment of kid instruments we have in a music basket (that inspires Pen Elaine to form a band), sharing the joy I find in playing the piano led to an interpretative dance performance by Pen Elaine, for which she found an enthusiastically appreciative audience in Snuggly Man.
I think one of the underlying issues is that I’m learning to share my whole life with my kids, not just the areas that I choose to let them see. The truth is, they see the effects of whatever I hide from them, like using my free time to watch tv instead of using it for true refreshment from Scripture or prayer or personal reflection or making creative plans. Instead of being under the illusion of holding my cards close to my chest, God is using this transition to air out parts of me that had grown lazy or selfish or shallow and show me the path to freedom in total surrender to His plan for my life and my family. Now, Pen Elaine and I have this fleeting season of finding afternoon refreshment together, which looks different on different days, but it’s always the most fun when we are sharing our joys.
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.
We recently checked out the old classic Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina; I remember seeing this book on Reading Rainbow as a kid, and my Honey says it was one of his favorites. This is a funny tale that is quaintly dated, since it is about a “traveling/walking” hat salesman! We checked out the book on cd version and listened to the story being told, but where the real fun began was when we started acting out the story as we listened. Pen Elaine loved being the monkeys best, making me the hat salesman who falls asleep and gets all his caps stolen. We got to practice our imitation and how the characters in the story handle frustration and anger. Below, Pen Elaine is being the sleepy salesman (Snuggly Man soaking up our play in the background) while I sneak a photo and pretend to steal her caps before hiding up in “the tree” (on the bed) behind her. I think we re-lived and listened to this book about 5 to 10 times in this one sitting before I was really ready for a new activity…probably making dinner.
Reading comprehension is a very important skill, so practicing ways of helping the message and events of a story to “sink in” prepares children for school success and all those standardized tests that will one day come to haunt their educational journey, ha! Furthermore, acting out stories or just the beginning of an event can open up a world into the heart of a child. Children act out their fears, joys, and representations of family, friends, etc., through dramatic play. The characters in her play will face and handle what is on Pen Elaine’s mind and heart…and often get into trouble for the same behaviors that Pen Elaine is struggling with at the time. Talking through these little dramas in the safe setting of dramatic play is a fun way to reach your child’s heart.