Children's Books, Parenting, Reading, Reviews

Awesome Chapter Books for Young Children

We are hitting the short chapter books hard around here lately! It’s sometimes tricky to find chapter books suitable for very young children, but these I’m sharing today are perfect. I quite enjoyed them, too. If you’re looking for some quality literature to draw young children into chapter books, this list is for you.


I read Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry  to both Ella (7) and Isaac (5) and they loved it. Violet (2.5) also listened and laughed with us. I don’t know why I’ve never heard of this book before now? It is perfect for 4-7-year-olds. Gooney Bird Greene is an accomplished story teller, and her whole second-grade class, including the teacher, is enamored by her true stories. This book would pair wonderfully with a story-telling unit study if you’re a homeschooler. Or just read it for fun! Because it is seriously fun. It’s the first in a series of five books, and I just discovered the whole series is on CD at my library. Score! I plan to check that out and give my kids lots of fun listening time during the long, hot afternoons this summer.

I tried to read Pippi Longstocking to Ella when she was five and it was a major flop. I pulled it out again last month, though, and this time it has been a big hit with her and Isaac. Maybe Ella wasn’t ready for the absurdity of Pippi when she was younger (Ella’s a very literal person), but now the zaniness of this story completely entertains us all (yes, even Violet announced, “I love Pippi!” yesterday). I love all things Astrid Lindgren, so I can’t wait to read the next Pippi book!

Princess Cora and the Crocodile is a purely fun and silly chapter book we all enjoyed at bedtime last week. Though it has chapters, it’s truly just a long picture book, with illustrations on every page. Princess Cora is a little girl whose princessly life is extremely dull, until her fairy godmother sends her a pet crocodile who hilariously sets everything right. I’m guessing even reluctant chapter book readers/listeners will enjoy this book.

These next two books on our list are a bit more serious, but still great for young children. Isaac particularly liked The King’s Equal, a short fairy tale by Katherine Paterson about a haughty prince who can’t be crowned until he finds a wife who is his equal in every way. In six short chapters, kids (and grown ups) consider themes such as wisdom, kindness, industriousness, true beauty, and friendship. I’m so glad a good friend lent me this book!

The Light at Tern Rock is another tiny book with big themes we recently finished. It’s about a young boy named Ronnie and his aunt who agree to fill in for the lighthouse keeper for a few weeks right before Christmas. The days keep stretching on and the main characters have to learn to make the best with what they have, and to be gracious to those who treat them unfairly. It was so good, a great read for kids six and up.

I hope you find some gems for your family in this list! I’m on the hunt for more as we approach summer reading time. Eee! I love summer reading…

Happy reading!


Everyday Life, Parenting

There’s Ovaltine in My Pantry

There’s Ovaltine in my kitchen cabinet. That can only mean one thing. It means I’m waking up like this:

Ovaltine: Wake up PERKY in the Morning! ~ My husband definitely wants me to switch to Ovaltine if I can look and feel this great in the mornings!:

And this!

Sexy Ovaltine Original 1946 Vintage Print Ad w/ by VintageAdarama:

(That image actually scares me a little bit).

Or! It could mean one other thing. I’m pregnant. Twenty-four weeks pregnant, in fact, with our fourth child. We are thrilled! But you know what I’m discovering? When you’re pregnant with your second and especially your third or fourth (or beyond, I’m guessing), all those tips in the pregnancy books about how to take care of yourself just sound like mean jokes.

“Get plenty of sleep.”

“Exercise daily.”

“Eat lots of leafy vegetables that you have to wash and chop and then somehow keep down through nausea in the beginning and heartburn for the rest of the pregnancy, all while refereeing toddlers and preschoolers.”

Thanks for those tips, thanks a lot.

Image result for vivien leighYou want a really useful tip for your fourth pregnancy? Ovaltine. Okay, so yes, these ads probably aren’t founded on very scientific data and could be at fault for false advertising. I’m guessing “false advertisement” wasn’t a thing in 1950. But even though I still wake up looking like a druggy instead of Vivien Leigh, when I am pregnant, Ovaltine becomes a staple in our pantry. I drink it about every other night because, believe it or not, it cures my restless leg syndrome that only flares up when I’m pregnant. It really does. Maybe I’m actually treating myself with the proverbial sugar water, but if tastes like chocolate and has calcium in it? I don’t really mind that I’m psyching myself out.

So, while Ovaltine isn’t giving me one red cent for saying this, Ovaltine is my only true pregnancy tip for the world in a fourth pregnancy. Oh, and maybe some water with lemon. But Ovaltine tastes way better.


I’m Living A Fairy Tale (And It’s Not Sleeping Beauty)

IMG_6256No one told me The Frog Prince was actually about motherhood. It turns out, it pretty much sums up my life right now.

Dear mothers, this is what a true fairy tale life is like.


They will eat off your plate.


They will sleep on your pillow.


Then they even drive our cars.


Luckily, these babes are much cuter than even the cutest frogs. And when you kiss them, they don’t transform into grown princes or princesses right away. It takes a little while, and thank goodness for that. We’ll get our pillows back someday, but not too soon, please not too soon.


Everyday Life, Parenting

Babies And Technology – My Favorite Blogs and Podcasts

Every time I have added a baby to my life, I have also added a new technology to save my sanity. You may be thinking of baby monitors or food grinders, which are good for maintaining sanity in our work loads, but there’s another kind of sanity that needs maintaining underneath all the ins and outs of caring 24/7 for a baby. I’m talking about brains here, folks. There is nothing I hate more than the term “mommy brain” (okay, yes there is, things like terrorism I hate more, but let’s go with it as a figure of speech). Sure, moms have a lot to think about and keep track of, but the idea that we get dumber as we have children is so insulting and wrong and we actually embrace it is an idea. Why do we do that to ourselves? Granted, we do have to face the fact that lots of mothering, especially with newborns, is monotonous. I think that’s why I felt a need for something to change up my routine and add a way for my brain to be active while also nurturing the new life I was responsible for.  Maybe that’s why every time I added a baby, I found myself adding a new technology, as well.


With my first child, I discovered the blog world. People were writing blogs about everything and I never knew it before 2009! My favorite blogs at the time were ones that made me laugh or that were sympathetic to the new mother plight. Here are the ones that are still my favorites:

Memories on Clover Lane – I respect this blogger’s opinions on raising children so much! And we have similar tastes in books…

Modern Mrs. Darcy – Anne is a way more sophisticated book blogger than I’ll ever be!

Wenzel Photography – I love her photos. Especially since sometimes my kids show up in them, and almost always my nieces and nephews. #familyperks

Shauna Niequist – Her writing is so vivid and convincing, she makes me imagine I could actually be a “foodie” or “a creative” or all kinds of other crazy things that I’m not. =) No, I’ll never be a foodie, but one of her books really changed my perspective on life.

The Big Mama Blog – I find I have less and less in common with her, but she still makes me laugh.


When my second-born was a few weeks old, we moved what felt like a long way away from any library. It was a temporary move, but I still thought it was pretty thoughtful that my husband decided it would be a good time for me to get an e-reader. He presented me with a Nook, and I honestly thought “He doesn’t even know me. I am a BOOK lover! How can he think I’d like one of these things?” But oh, how well he really does know me. Because suddenly, with a few clicks, I had a new book at my finger tips.. I didn’t have to drive 45 minutes to the library and I didn’t have to take my little children anywhere! What’s more, I could hold that book in one hand while holding a baby in the other, and I could read it in the dark, all night long if need be! Yes, yes, I still prefer paper books, but I am a fan of the e-reader. I now use a Kindle because the books are usually a bit more affordable and it’s easier to borrow books through my library’s website.


The birth of my third child found me in way over my head. I had a five-year-old who was a wonderful big sister, very thoughtful and good at taking care of others. She was also precocious, and her highest love language has always been quality time, so it’s easy for me to feel like I can’t give her the attention her intellect and heart need from me. Then there was my then three-year-old, a delightful boy and brimming over with raw, unending energy. I had no idea to harness it into anything good in his life. And then there was this baby who was so different than my other two. She cried. A lot. I needed help. I needed constant wisdom drumming into my head. By chance one day, I saw a friend post on Facebook that she loved to listen to podcasts while she went on walks. I checked out a few she recommended, and I kid you not when I say they have been a game changer in my mothering. The perspective they offer on all kinds of issues is invaluable. I realize that the podcast genre is wide and there are all kinds of topics – I’ve even listened to some of them – but what I come back to in this stage of my life are these blogs that speak to the struggles and joys of life in the trenches as a mom:

God Centered Mom – Heather is raising four boys and the questions she asks her guests are exactly the kind of questions I have in my mothering journey.

Inspired to Action – Kat is full of practical wisdom and so are her guests

Read Aloud Revival – This podcast centers on the topic of reading aloud to your kids – what to read, when to read, how it looks in different families…it’s just a fun book gab, really.

Sally Clarkson – Sally Clarkson is the mentor I don’t personally know. I love her book Mission of Motherhood and her podcast reminds me of the big picture and the ultimate goals I have for my children.

I don’t know where I’m going to turn for brain food if we add another child. Video games? Netflix? Just kidding. Still, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was looking for brain food each time I was in the very demanding but very basic phase of newborn mothering. Mothers need brain food! We are not dummies! [Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now]. I’d love to know if any moms out there felt similar needs when they’re babies were little. And I’d love to know if you have any favorite podcasts or blogs I should check out!

Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books, Parenting, Three Book Thursday

Cookies and Books: Nurturing Yourself and Your Children At The Same Time

girlreadingjwsmithAfternoons are hard. Everyone is tired, and trying their best to transition from morning to evening, from resting to ramping up their energy again, or in my case, from folding clothes quietly to cooking dinner with three kids underfoot. I’ll be honest: some (many) days when the kids get up from their afternoon quiet time, they get to watch TV. I try to keep it to every other day, but it’s kind of a seasonal thing. In the summer it’s less, in the winter, it’s more. But some days, the attitudes are especially shoddy, making me more aware of my children’s need for time with me. And I feel that tug: how do I give these children anything when at this point in the day, I’m running on empty?

The answer? Cookies and books.

One of my favorite book mom mentors, Sally Clarkson, often says it’s important to bring your children into the activities that you enjoy and that feed your soul. I love that concept – we as moms can be nurtured and nurturing at the same time.  Sometimes I remember that, and sometimes I have the wisdom and energy to do things a little differently in the transition hours, more commonly (and accurately) called “the witching hours.” I lay out some real plates and glasses on the table, get some cookies from the freezer and stick them in the microwave (or graham crackers if the baking hasn’t happened in a while!), and pour milk in fancy glasses. Then I go to the kids’ room a few minutes before their quiet time timer dings, and whisper, “Come to the kitchen!” Sometimes we have a IMG_4547little bit of hot herbal tea with honey instead of milk and cookies. Sometimes we’re finishing up some lemonade or cake from a family birthday party. Whatever the food is, along with it is always a book. This time is for a book I choose that I know will feed their minds. Their small hands are busy with their cookies, but their minds are taking it all in. When we come together at the table, all of the bickering, busyness, and mess of the day is suspended for a few minutes. I love these times at the table. They bring the things I like doing – reading books, eating cookies, and spending happy time with my children – all together. We all get what we need, and it’s always worth the few extra dishes or the lost productivity because the children feel loved and cared for and able to cope with the rest of the day, and so do I. I wish I did this cookies and books time every day! That’s not a reality right now. But I cherish the times when we’re able to set everything else aside and pick up a book, a cup, a story, an idea, a love of learning, and a love for each other.

Not everyone likes books and cookies (okay, everyone probably likes cookies). Maybe you love to run. Maybe you like scrapbooking, cooking, walking, or maybe what you love above all else is window shopping. My kids and I sometimes make up silly stories together. Whatever it is you like to do, maybe try doing it with your children? It gets really hard to do the things you love as your children take more of your time, but it helps you all to speak the same language later in life if you share what you love now. Your favorite activity won’t be the same when you bring your children into it with you, but it will be better than nothing! Choose your Cookies and Books – whatever you like to do together- and make it happen once in a while! You’ll be glad you did.

Here are the books I’ve chosen for our Cookies and Books Time this week:

Rachel and Obadiah – We loved Obadiah the Bold, so we had to track down other books by Brinton Turkle about Obadiah. However, this one was more about Rachel. Where Obadiah was great for a little brother, Rachel and Obadiah is great for a little sister who feels the need for some appreciation. The illustrations are so lovely, and it’s fun to read the Quaker wording. Isaac was not as big a fan of it because the girl is the winner in the end, but Ella liked it a lot.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald PartridgeWilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge – Mem Fox is an famous children’s author with whom I am sadly unfamiliar. I enjoyed my first experience of her books this week! This book made me want to cry a little, because my kids have a great, great aunt who is exactly the age of the woman in the book. Wilfrid, the little boy, thoughtfully gathers all the things he thinks will help her find her memories again, and the result is very touching. That was my take on it, anyway! When I got done reading it to Isaac and Ella, Ella’s response was, “Well. That was a weird book.” So maybe don’t expect your kids to love it. But it’s a sweet book that could aid in discussion about elderly family members whose memories aren’t what they used to be. The illustrations by Julie Vivas keep things lighthearted and fun.

What books are you reading with kiddos this week?

Everyday Life, Parenting

Loving The Littles Who Persecute Us

I wrote this as a devotional for the leaders meeting of my MOPS group last week. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind a lot in the last month. I’m sharing it on the blog today in hopes that we can all find some encouragement to keep on loving when we don’t know how. 

A few weeks ago, I was reading in Romans, trying for the 40-billionth time to get into my head how to extend love and grace to others, specifically….my own children. Maybe you’re thinking love and grace shouldn’t that difficult to give our kids, but sometimes, it is. I’d been through a trying week and I was feeling particularly resentful about my day-to-day life. There were some moments of joy and pure love for my children, yes, but there were more moments clouded with dark thoughts about how I’m wasting any talents I have, or feeling used and unappreciated, or just desperately wanting five minutes without being yelled for. I didn’t like feeling so oppressed by my everyday reality. So I was in Romans on that rare early morning that I actually made it out of bed before the kids got up, seeking some hope and some help, when I came upon these verses:

Romans 12: 13-14 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice Hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

My official Boiled Egg Peeler

It hit me, hard: I was feeling persecuted by my children. Their constant neediness wasn’t their fault, they’re still so little after all, but I was feeling persecuted by it, and the resentment was like my own form of cursing them – rolled eyes at their whining, pursed lips at their calling me for one more drink of water at bed time, or straight out anger at misbehavior when I had “just had enough.”

Do you ever feel persecuted by your children? Whether they mean to or not, they can put us parents through the wringer some days! We can walk around feeling persecuted by these human beings only three feet tall, or less, sometimes only 22 inches tall (when will she stop crying all day and all night so I can get some sleep!?!)  I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling persecuted by my children, I don’t usually respond with a heart of blessing. After reading these verses and realizing where my spirit was, I sure wanted to respond better! The word “curse” is the opposite of “bless,” and if I’m not blessing my children in my heart and in my attitude, what exactly am I doing? I think we all want to bless our children every minute of every day.

But how?

This is how we can bless people, even our children:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” v.

Well. I could start with being empathetic with my children. They need me to pay attention to their feelings, instead of brushing them aside as childish or inconvenient. I could continue by pursuing peace in my household – what a blessing it is when a mom is a force for peace in her home, in her marriage, in all of her relationships! And I could IMG_4446embrace the fact that these “people of low position” in my house, these powerless, small people I am entrusted with, who are not beneath me in any way besides physical stature. I need to stop being conceited about how I might be “wasting my intellect” or spending all my time in the mundane actions of life, but realize that this is a work of blessing and of loving the way God wants me to love.

Could these verses in Romans be a new mothering template? Be welcoming and serving to our needy children. Bless them when we feel persecuted by them. Empathize with them. Be at peace with them. Realize that they are equals with us in the family of God, and it is our honor to communicate to them how precious they are in His sight, and in ours.

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Everyday Life, Parenting

May The Sum Equal Love

If a six-year-younger version of me walked into my house right now, with her firstborn so new and rosy in her arms and her eyes bright with ideas about the future, there are so many ways she wouldn’t recognize herself in the Here-and-Now-Me. The younger me wouldn’t understand the mess. She wouldn’t believe my voice could elevate that quickly to angry tones over seemingly silly offenses (“I told you not to growl at your baby sister!”). She wouldn’t understand the exhaustion pouring from my posture as my very frame slumps over the dishes in the sink. She wouldn’t get why I have to remind my kids every single morning to brush their teeth. (Really?)

Whether we mean to or not, we all enter into parenthood with ideals of who we will be. Some of them aren’t even fully formed in our brains before our hands are clenched tight around them. They can range from “I’ll be the fun mom who plans great birthday parties” to “I’ll be the intentional dad who plans one-on-one time for each child once a week.” Sometimes our ideals are so abstract like, “My kids are just going to love talking to me one day!” Then we get into the thick of raising human beings, and it’s at that point we step back and think, “this is not the person I was planning to be!” That’s when we realize how much we had our hearts set on a specific version of ourselves, and how far we are from hitting that mark.

But maybe we are better than the person we planned to be?

Yes, my six-year-younger-self would probably walk into my house today and see too much stress, too much mess, a mom with un-washed hair and an overflowing laundry closet. After that, though. After that, she might see a mom spreading peanut butter on apples for her older kids with a perfectly happy, mostly clean toddler on her hip and think, “huh, that should be hard but she makes it look easy.” Maybe that younger me IMG_20150916_190051413would see a mom who knows what kind of music to put on to get her kids out of a slump and into a dance party on the living room floor. Maybe she’d see a woman who keeps on going on four-hundred-and-one nights of severely interrupted sleep. She might see this girl trying to be a wise, adult mother who will still lie flat down on the floor next to a mopey six-year-old in a desperate attempt to show her, “I am with you in this day. Let’s make it better.” Maybe she’d see a mom who makes sloppy cakes with her kids? Maybe she’d see a mom who tears up when her 4-year-old son puts his arms around his older sister and says with wonder and kindness, “You looks so pretty today.” Maybe she’d forgive me for yelling sometimes. Maybe.

My children are still so young, just 6, 4, and 1, but already I can see the harsh difference between the mom I thought I’d be and the mom I am now. Sometimes I don’t like what I see. And sometimes, I really do. Here’s what I know now: mothering is not a minute to minute equation, balancing the bad ones and the good ones and striving to make sure all the bad moments are cancelled out. Parenting is the sum of all the moments. There is no erasing the bad moments. And there are some pretty bad ones! I know now, I make big mistakes regularly and I can neither deny them nor hide them from my kids. But praise God, there are so many good moments as well. The hope I have replaced my ideals with is this: that the sum of my moments will add up to love in my children’s hearts. I hope and pray that I will play enough games with them, make them do the hard stuff to build their character consistently enough, hug them enough, stretch out beside them in their beds at bedtime and hold them close so many nights, look into their eyes and really hear them so many times….that I will do all these things enough so that when they are grown, all the time we had together in their childhoods will scream and ooze warmth and safety, acceptance and care, affection and security that lasts and leads them ever onward to the Parent whose love is all they need.

May the sum of my moments equal love.

Everyday Life, Parenting

The Debris Of The Day

It’s 4:00 o’clock. The time when monsters come out.

Not really. But 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon is not the happiest time in my day. Rest time is over, the littlest one is done with her nap, and the dinner prep and clean up looms ahead. 4:00 o’clock should be the time when you sigh and tell yourself “Almost done.” But that’s just not true. Ever heard of “the witching hours?” Whether you like the term or not (and I try not to think too hard about it), there’s just no denying that when I  stand at the end of my time on earth and add up all my hours, late afternoons will undoubtedly be the doldrums of life.

Take today for instance. It was our second day of homeschooling in 1st grade, and it went ten times better than the first. Both the first grader and the preschooler were fascinated by the diagram of the inner ear we studied (is there anything more fulfilling than fascinated students? I think not). The complaining over writing vocab words went from 15 minutes to 5 minutes. And math (math!) was a cinch. Not to mention we read all kinds of books. It was nearly a per2015-06-23 08.21.16fect homeschool day. On top of that, I washed three loads of laundry, cleaned two bathrooms, vacuumed a room, kept up with a one-year-old, and stayed on top of the dishes. So maybe I’m crazy, but I really did think that when I surveyed the house and the children around me at 4:00 p.m. on such a smooth, wonderful day, my eyes would not be met with the molten lava of meltdowns and toys explosions. Yet there it sure was. A few words popped into my head when I looked around me at 4:00 o’clock today, and I found them strangely comforting. I took it all in and took a deep breath. “This is not my fault,” I whispered to myself in a soothing voice. “This is just The Debris of the Day.”

The Debris of the Day is one of my formerly unnamed triggers in the late afternoon that leads to irritability and a sense of exhaustion. The Debris of the Day makes me feel like all my work is for naught. Today, however, when I named it, I realized none of that is true. We live here. It’s a fact of the homeschooling or stay-at-home-mom life (and probably many other lifestyles I haven’t experienced!) that junk will surround you when you feel like the day should be winding down. The kids will be whining because they’re tired and maybe a little bored because you told them “no TV” (good for you!) and they want attention but you’ve got other things on your mind at this point. The glass doors will be smeared. The bathroom will have toothpaste stuck to the sink (and mirror? how the heck…). There will still be dishes (a few or a few meals worth!) in the sink because we have eaten here today. Books will be scattered hither and yon. All this is true for me, in one way or another every single day, but today I came to realize that The Debris of the Day is not a failure. It is just what a day brings right now in my house.

And it’s okay.

Deep breath. Say it with me. It is okay. Maybe we can call the kids, put on some music 2015-06-07 08.51.07(and a smile even?), and clean some stuff up. Maybe we can just send the kids outside and leave it be for a while during the dinner hours. However we handle this, we can decide that it’s perfectly normal and it’s okay for now.

And maybe tomorrow I’ll try not to think of it as debris. Debris makes it sound like a storm blew through, which is accurate enough some days, but not the most pleasant image in the world. Tomorrow, I might get all sappy and think of this crazy mess of emotions and stuff as The Proof of Life, or even The Proof of Life Abundant…or maybe not. One mental step at a time. Right now, I may not be too thrilled with the debris, but I can tell myself it’s not a failure in my motherhood, and it’s all going to be okay.

Everyday Life, Parenting

Let Her Make Cake

I am really bad at making cakes.

When Ella was  turning two, I made the mistake of asking her what kind of birthday cake she wanted. “Orange and purple,” she replied. Well, those colors are pretty unpopular in our Gamecock loving, Clemson Tiger hating family. But I tried to leave the college sports rivalries aside, and envisioned this purple round layer cake with a white icing flower on top and an orange center. Kind of cheating, but there was orange in it! I failed to remember one important thing that you may recall…oh yeah, I’m not so good at making cakes. About three hours before party time, that cute daisy cake had fallen apart in three pieces on its serving plate. It was not salvageable (believe me, I tried. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken a picture for this awesomely comforting website). On to cake number two of the day! There was no time for cuteness. This rectangle sheet cake with chocolate icing with badly written purple and orange letters would have to do.

Spring and Isaac 059

Told ya. I’m bad at cakes.

That was not the first or last time I made two cakes for one birthday party. In fact, I now always keep a backup box of cake mix on hand. So it seemed like a cruel joke when about a year and a half later, Ella developed a fascination with cake decorating video tutorials. Thanks to Youtube’s suggested videos on the side of a Sleeping Beauty sing-along-song, we ended  up watching princess cake tutorials just for the fun of it. The ghost of bad cakes past was out to get me. “Mommy, can I watch some cake videos?” became a daily request. You know when your child watches cake decorating tutorials in her spare time, she is not going to be too thrilled by by a repeat of the cake above. I respect her innate desire for beauty in culinary art (and I kind of love the kid), so together we concocted this for her fourth birthday.


Despite appearances, those turrets did manage to keep from sliding off into oblivion until after the candles were blown out.  Whew.

Then I found salvation in cupcakesIMG_1952(but no improvement in photography).

A month ago I would have said, “Looks like Ella’s cake decorating phase is over.” And I would have only been a tiny bit sentimental about it.

But a few weeks ago, it was Isaac’s fourth birthday. I had planned to make him something pretty classic and simple. I mean, you can’t get much simpler than this Robin Hood cake I served at his last birthday party:

Isaac Birthday 019

Face palm.

(Hey, there aren’t too many ideas floating around on Pinterest for Robin Hood cakes, okay?)

Cupcakes. Cupcakes are good for fourth birthdays.

But the plan was changed by something seemingly unrelated. My relationship with Ella was struggling. In the past few months, I had noted a resentfulness in her attitude towards me. I saw her happy face change to a frown when I started speaking to her. She didn’t seek me out to play or read or do much of anything. There had been too many times in the last year that I had said “no.” In my floundering and fragile mothering philosophy, it’s important for me to say, “go find something to do” a healthy amount of the time. At age six, I want my children to play well, to imagine big, to read some books on their own, and blossom into independent people. But I also want to still be friends. It’s hard to balance out being in authority and being friends, and I was doing a poor job of it.The day before Isaac’s birthday party, the tension was pretty high and it was killing me. So I did something crazy. I opened up my laptop and said, “Hey Ella, let’s find a good cake to make for Isaac’s birthday.” She oohed and aahed over car cakes, airplane cakes, even a dragon cake. (Help.)

But thanks to the mostly doable videos from Howdini and Liv Hansen, we settled on a modified rocket cake. Modified, because we can’t just do anything easy, can we? It had to be a fighter jet, didn’t it? (just roll with it).


Two trips to the store and 24 hours later, the cake was done. It was far from perfect, but it was so much more to me than flour and icing. It was hours of planning together and shopping together. It was thinking about what her brother would like most. It was a six-year-old who is dearly loved spinning cake fantasies into something real on a platter in our kitchen and laughing and smiling with her mother. It was her brother’s face that said, “wow” when it was done and how loved he felt. And it was a start to this mom remembering to say “yes” to things that build relationships and feed souls.

It didn’t have to be a cake, but it had to be something to show Ella that I wanted to spend time with her and to build her up.

(And let’s be honest, it was also a hope that when Ella’s ten, she’ll be the master cake maker around here and I’ll get to hang up the cake making apron. Life skills, right? Can I count this as a school day? Just kidding. )

This summer has been a quiet time for this old blog, but it’s been full of cake making and soul filling here on the other side of the screen. I miss the writing, but summer is such a perfect time to replenish our children as we let them delight in their passions and whims. Isaac builds airplanes and cars and creates worlds for them. Ella asks to turn the hall into an art gallery and is eagerly awaiting the day when we will paint her playhouse. Last week she made a closet for her doll’s clothes out of a cardboard box and an old golf club. It’s this stuff of making and playing that tells me it’s going to be a great summer, not the vacations or trips to the water parks and the zoo.

And when things start to get a little strained or boring? We’ll make a cake.

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Children's Books, Friday Favorites - Children's Books, Parenting

The Girl Who Would Not Brush Her Hair: Friday Favorites, Ed. 10

Oh, I’ve been looking for this book for a long time. Since the beginning of time, or at least the beginning of hair brushes, mother’s have fought the battle of hair brushing with their small daughters. I sympathize with both parties. It’s amazing how one run through with a brush can get rid of one tangle and create ten more. But it’s also amazing how sensitive a little kid’s head can be. Sometimes I have flashbacks of the tough mother love described in Snow Flower and The Secret Fan when I’m telling Ella she needs toughen up about the whole hair brushing thing.  I salute mothers who cut their daughters’ hair short. Regrettably, something indefinable holds me back from giving my five-year-old’s long, honey-colored locks the chop, but it probably goes back to how Disney princesses have ruined my generation’s beliefs about beauty. But that’s not what this post is about! It’s about the book I’ve finally found to end all our hair brushing woes!

The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her HairThe Girl Who Wouldn’t Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer is an imaginative account of what would really happen to a little girl who decided to not brush hair. It involves a horde of mice taking up residence on top of her head. If you’re thinking “Great, that’s not realistic enough to be useful in my battle for hair brushing,” you’re probably right…but the pictures are the convincing part of the book! The girl is happy and bright at the beginning of the book, but as her hair gets messier and so does she, she looks tireder and sadder. At the end of the book, (picture book spoiler alert!), when the girl decides to evict the mice and brush her hair after a nice, hot bath, she looks refreshed and pleased with life. Her braided pony tails become the envy of her disheveled classmates, and the mice probably went off to live in the room of The Girl Who Would Not Clean Off Her Bed. That girl was my sister twenty years ago, and I distinctly remember my mom telling her a mouse could be living at the end of her bed and she would never know it.  Oh, I can see a whole series coming out of this. The Boy Who Would Not Wash His Face, The Girl Who Would Not Change Her Dress…endless possibilities.

But the proof is in the pudding. The day after reading this book, my daughter asked for braided pigtails. Success! Mothers of daughters, dash out and get a copy of this book right now.

More of our favorite children’s books of the week can be found here. Happy Friday!