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.
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!
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.
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!
If you have been aware of children’s books for any length of time, you have probably seen or read a “Little Critter” book by Mercer Mayer. These were around back when I was a kid, collecting Berenstain Bear books. So, when I saw it at the library, I thought this one would be cute, per usual, and applicable to Pen Elaine, since she has a 7-month-old little brother right now…but nothing extra special, just classic. Well, it was classic Little Critter, but it was so surprisingly touching and sweet. I recommend this to anyone with a baby boy in the house, for older brothers or sisters! We have read a lot of sibling books lately, and this is most definitely one of my favorites. Little Critter describes all the fun that he and his brother will have, with a few tell-tale pictures of real life (fighting over a toy or having a hint of jealousy), in the midst of his idealistic scenarios of being best buds, on the same team, helping and playing with each other. This story has all the fun of every Little Critter book with extra sentiment and a “surprise” at the end. This is a great bedtime book and appropriate for the youngest listeners while still meaningful for moms and dads.
Pen Elaine is 3-year-old now, which sounds old in my world. She is understanding much more than I realize every day, growing and developing into her own person. She is constantly building and forming a representation of herself and her world. She loves to reenact stories, which means that she is internalizing them, and I know that the books we read are directly impacting her opinions of what is good and acceptable in her own and others’ behavior and ideas. There are plenty of negative influences that I can’t stop from her world, but those will not be nearly so powerful or impacting if I am choosing to fill her up with lots of positive ideas from books that will encourage and speak life to her soul. Reading together and filling her bookshelf with stories of good and lovely ideas are important tools for her to have as she is shaping her worldview. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8 NIV