Parenting, Reading

The Library Is For Everyone

It’s no secret that I love the public libraries in our area. Several times a week, I fight the urge to turn into the library entrance instead of drive the remaining 500 feet down the road to the grocery store. Sometimes, I do make a spur of the moment library trip. Because I’m young and spontaneous like that. Livin’ on the edge, you know. When I text “I’m not an addict, it’s cool…” to my husband, he knows I’m making a library detour.

But usually, the kids and I  just go once every week or two.  I’ll send Isaac (2) and Ella (4) to gather all the books that are due that week (yes, we always forget one or two) and then we take a couple of hours out of our day to choose new books, play in the kids’ area, grab a few carefully selected videos (Little Einsteins are our favorites!) and try to make it through the check out line without knocking over any book displays, or worse, elderly patrons.  Because even though I love the library and my kids love it, too, and have been in library behavior training their entire lives, we don’t quite have it down. Isaac doesn’t always stay next to me. Sometimes he talks too loud. Sometimes he runs before he remembers to walk. Sometimes Ella crosses her arms and glares when I won’t let her get the video she wants most. Sometimes they just want to play on those really tall stools by the science fiction shelves. “Isaac, ” I hiss too loudly, “get. down.” And then I start to feel guilty and self conscious. The check out librarians must hate us. Those elderly gentlemen who are always sitting next to the paperbacks reading political thrillers must hate us. The reference librarian….the tutor trying not to pull her hair out over middle school math…the guy writing a surefire bestseller next to the window on his laptop…they must really hate us.

But then, I remember: the library is for everyone.

Really, it is.

And when I stop caring so much about what other people must be thinking of me and my children and actually keep my head up, I realize that pretty much everyone is smiling at us. Smiling! Our favorite circulation librarians know that Ella loves Fancy Nancy and Isaac loves dragons and knights, and they complement the kids on their good taste. (They also know I’m good for a few dollars in late fees each month). The reference librarian smiles at us as we walk by her desk to those comfy, colorful arm chairs in the Young Adult section that my kids willingly sit still in while I get a book (please note: we go to the library before school gets out; I wouldn’t dare enter the teen lair otherwise). The guy with the laptop writing whatever he’s been writing for the last two years…he’s not smiling. But he’s not looking up, either, so maybe we’re not bothering him too much. The elderly gentlemen want to give the kids peppermints (no candy in the library!) and ask “can I take them home with me?” Hmm. No. But it’s really nice of you to ask.

I’m sure there are people who wish I wouldn’t bring my preschoolers to the library, or at least wish I wouldn’t let them out of the children section. The biggest library in our city keeps the children’s section in the basement…that kind of offends me. Because the more I take Ella and Isaac to the library, the more they learn about what I expect of them and how to meet those expectations.

All children have different personalities and I’m sure in certain situations the battle isn’t worth the effort. I understand that. I don’t take my kids shopping for other kids’ birthday parties if I can help it. I know they could learn valuable lessons about giving instead of getting, though I haven’t been brave enough to confront that lesson in Target. But maybe I should. Children need to practice the life skills we want them to have. That applies to so many areas of parenting little ones. It’s easier said than done, and much easier at home than in public. Still, what I am learning is that I don’t need to be bound by the fear that my kids won’t behave. It’s high time for them to learn how to behave. And besides that, pretty much everyone has children in their lives, or did at one time.  They’re probably not going to flip out when my child breaks the very large container of yogurt while trying to put it on the conveyor belt in the check out line at Aldi. That means I don’t need to flip out either.

Yesterday, when we walked into the doors of the library, Ella and Isaac picked out a book each, sat down at a table, and looked at the pictures while I walked over to the circulation desk to drop off our returns (the kids were in my sight the whole time, just so you know). When I got back to the table and sat down with the kids, an elderly lady approached us. She looked a little bit scowly, but what she said made my day. She gestured to the children and said, “They come in, they pick out a book, they sit down and read. They know just what to do. They amaze me!” I was tempted to say, “Thank you, but if you watch them for a few minutes, your opinion of them might change.” But I didn’t. I just said, “Thank you.” Why belittle the hard work we have all been putting in to behaving in public? The kids are learning and so am I. It’s not always perfect, but it’s worth the trouble to teach them how to behave in the places we want to go, whether that be the library, the restaurants without playgrounds, or big sister’s ballet recital. Deciding to throw fear of tantrums to the wind and go where we want to go has been a freeing and surprisingly pleasant experience, for the most part.

So take your kids to the library. Or wherever it is you want to go (within reason). And I’ll smile at you if you smile at me. It may not be a peaceful trip the first time, or even the tenth time, but the more we choose to  train our children in what we want them to know, the better off we’ll all be.

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Everyday Life, Parenting

5 Things I Learned From Homeschooling That Didn’t Come From Books

I mentioned a week ago that I’m starting some official pre-schooling at home with my four-year-old, Ella. What I didn’t mention is that I am a 2nd generation home-schooling mother. In other words, I was homeschooled and I am now homeschooling [insert your own joke about jean jumpers here]. I am so grateful for the education my mom and dad gave me. The parts I have found the most valuable, however, didn’t come from books. Yes, I do have a love for reading. But the most valuable things I learned from my parents were lessons learned alongside the books. Parents have a huge impact on children, no matter what kind of school work they do. Whether you’re homeschooling or traditionally schooling your kids, here are some lessons every kid needs to know.

1. Learning happens everywhere.

People started asking me when I was going to start Ella in school when she was as young as two-year-olds. I always wanted to say, “I already have,” but I knew that they were asking about formal school work. We’re doing a simple work book right now, but before, we just learned as we played. Ella learned her numbers, letters, colors, all the preschool stuff without ever doing an official preschool curriculum. Children simply love to learn.

2. Younger children are precious friends.

I was totally unaware that “big kids” didn’t like to play with little kids until I was about eight and my friend from down the road came over and made a huge deal of playing without my younger sister. My sister and I are almost four years apart, but we played everything together. The idea that older children aren’t cool if they play with younger children makes me sad. I am glad my mom made it clear that siblings are the most valuable friends, and I’m hoping to instill that truth in my children as they grow.

3. Hard work is important in whatever you do.

Good grades are a nice outcome of hard work. But so is building character. I want my kids to know that I am proud of their hard work more than their results. My parents reinforced this in our home. I was an overachiever, so the grades were usually good. But when they weren’t…when I bombed that 6th grade math test and had a mini identity crisis…my mom made sure I knew that the worth was in the work, not the grades. That has proven true in school work and in all other areas of my life. I started two of my jobs with no experience in the field I was working in, and I had a lot to learn. I wasn’t great at it at first, but my employers saw my hard work and gave me a chance to get things right. I can see my kids hearing this a lot as they grow up: the worth is in the way you work.

 

4. Opportunities are boundless.

I loved how my parents would tailor our schooling to what we really liked to do. P.E. classes were actually gymnastics classes. Music classes varied from piano lessons to choir. And if we showed interest in something, we were encouraged to do more with it. My dad encouraged me to make hanging baskets of pansies and sell them. My mom gave me scraps to sew. At age 16, I got a job teaching gymnastics. There are all kinds of opportunities for your kids to do what they love, if they have some encouragement from you to think that way about their skills and passions.

5. All children learn differently.

I know I’m going to have to learn this for myself with my own children. Still, watching how my mom approached teaching each of us differently has been invaluable in how I approach working with my own children and others’ children, too.

Here’s to another school year starting. Wherever you send your children, we all need to remind ourselves that the most important lessons don’t have much to do with books.

Nonfiction, Parenting, Reading, Reviews

The Artist’s Daughter

If you’re a part of a Mother of Preschoolers (MOPS) group, chances are good you’ll be hearing about The Artist’s Daughter in the coming months. I am helping to start a MOPS group this Fall and so I had the privilege of reading the copy that came with our coordinator’s welcome package. I thought it was a great book, and I can’t wait to discuss it this spring with our MOPS group. (MOPS Plug: If you’re in South Carolina and interested in a MOPS group, let me know!)

The Artist's DaughterThe Artist’s Daughter is a memoir by Alexandra Kuykendall. Here’s the description from Goodreads.com:

“When Alexandra Kuykendall became a mother it was the beginning of a soul-searching journey that took her into her past and made her question everything she’d experienced–and a lot of what she hadn’t. The only daughter of a single, world-traveling mother and an absent artist father, Alexandra shares her unique quest to answer universal questions: Am I lovable? Am I loved? Am I loving?

In short, moving episodes, Alexandra transports readers into a life that included a childhood in Europe, a spiritual conversion marked more by questions than answers, a courtship in the midst of a call to be with troubled teens, marriage and motherhood–and always, always, the question of identity. Through her personal journey, women will discover their own path to understanding the shape of their lives and a deeper sense of God’s intimate presence within it.”

I was surprised at what a page turner this book turned out to be for me. Kuykendall writes with such honesty and infuses a desire to change and help others change in her writing. I related to her as a person, even though her family situation is nothing like mine. The importance of accepting yourself, embracing your identity, and relying on God in parenting is a key component to the memoir. Kuykendall also writes about how important her support system (a MOPS group) is to her parenting journey. I don’t want to say too much because I hope you’ll read this one for yourself! If you liked Jeanette Walls’s memoirs The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses, you’ll like this one, too. It doesn’t contain the stunning situations or details Walls’s memoirs include, but it is a well-written memoir about a daughter coming to terms with a parent as she becomes a parent herself.

 

Children's Books, Everyday Life, Parenting, Reading, Reviews

August Reading, Part 1

This is a two-part post because it’s looking like I’ll have to do two August reading posts. August has yielded a bumper crop of good books so far.

I’ll post full reviews of the books I’ve read in the next few days.

Read:

Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood, #1)Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, but with many additions and twists. I fully enjoyed how Marillier made the fairy tale into a completely developed plot full of lifelike characters, but kept the fanciful and enchanted feel of the story. There is so much more to this story than the original fairy tale. The princesses in the real story are middle class merchant daughters in this story, and there are only five of them. The enchanted place they go to is actually a parallel world. The secrets to their futures is entrenched in one tragic day from the past. The book takes readers into Transylvania of long ago, before Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Marillier uses original folklore and Romanian language to enhance her tale. It’s got a lot going for it! This book is a gem of a novel masquerading as a run of the mill Young Adult book. I’d give it 4.5 stars and recommend it for anyone who likes a fun and imaginative tale.

 

IslandersI finally finished Islanders by Helen Hull this month! There are many themes one could discuss in Islanders; it’s kind of Edith Wharton meets Laura Ingalls meets Kate Chopin. I think I liked it. It certainly is the handiwork of a great author, whose characters are complex and honestly portrayed, so much so that one can’t actually love them whole-heartedly. The book was a survey of womanhood in the 1850s-1920s, told through the life of Ellen Dacey. The major theme is isolation and dependence. I didn’t like it as much as Heat Lightning, but I did enjoy its perspective. More to come in the full review!

 

The Weird SistersMy favorite book of the month was The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. I picked up this book off a random “to be shelved” cart near the children’s section at 2nd & Charles. While my children perused the Thomas and Friends and Curious George selection, I read the first chapter, and then reserved it at the library on my iPhone. It is a quirky story of three sisters. Their father is a somewhat eccentric Shakespeare professor at Barnwell College in Ohio. The sisters are different, but so very alike. The references to the reading culture of the entire family and the insights into a family of three girls sometimes made me smile. I am one of three sisters, and there are definitely similarities between the sisters in this book and my own sisters and I (however, my sisters are way more awesome than the younger two sisters in this book). If you are a hardcore Shakespeare scholar, you probably won’t like this book, but if you are a casual fan of Shakespeare and family life novels, you’ll like this one.

The nonfiction hanging out on my nightstand this month is Francis Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality. I am a painfully slow biography reader, but I thank my book group leader for picking out this book. It has challenged me, for sure.

And…drumroll…I started pre-K homeschooling with my 4-year-old, Ella, this week. We are doing some basic letter sounds and writing, and reading a book together.photo.JPG

Right now we’re reading The Boxcar Children. Any suggestions for chapter books for a little girl with a sharp mind and sensitive heart? I’d love to hear them!

What are you reading this month?

Everyday Life, Parenting

I’m Upbeat

For better or worse, I tend to put a lot of thought into words. Even though two words can mean the exact same thing, I’ll weigh the options. Here’s an example: take the words “grumpy” and “irritable.” If I say, “I’m grumpy today,” I have said that I am in an unpleasant mood but it will pass and don’t take me too seriously. But if I say, “I’m irritable,” I convey that I am an easily angered person on a regular basis or I have some kind of condition, like a chemical imbalance or PMS. Words can technically mean the same thing but feel very different. And I get really stuck on them. If you give me a blank piece of paper and a pen and tell me to sit still for twenty minutes, you won’t find me doodling. When I was in elementary and middle school, my friends were professionals at doodles and bubble letters….and I was good at making word collages.

“Give me a topic, any topic, and I can make you a word collage!” Okay, I never said that. But I sure did think it.

Because I’m one of those people that thinks a bit too hard on words, I come across some words that rub me the wrong way. For example, I used to have major trouble with the word “upbeat.” When I heard it, I always thought of someone who ignores deeper issues, who acts like everything is okay no matter what, and who wears a kind of fake smile.  I thought of someone who frowns a bit when someone in a group stirs up a discussion and says, “We try to keep things upbeat here.”

Until recently, I’ve been pretty unkind in my thoughts towards “upbeat.”

Then something changed. It happened in January, that hallowed month of new beginnings. I was rethinking the way my days went, and one of the things I started realizing was that words I had always liked, such as “melancholy” and “pensive” and “soulful” were not really fitting me anymore. The thing is, you can’t really wake up each morning and expect to mother two happy children if you think of yourself as “soulful.” You have to think more along the lines of “optimistic” and “cheerful” if you expect cheerful children. I knew I was going to have to start identifying with different words. I may naturally be a more quietly active, contemplative person, but it was time to think of myself as more. It was time to start realizing I had become, and needed to keep becoming, a person who was more than those words I formerly used to define myself.

Like it or not, everyone knows that moms set the tone. I’ve known this since I was a little girl. Remember how everything felt off kilter when your mom needed a sick day or you could tell she was preoccupied with some inner worry? I remember that very well. I saw it in my own daughter’s eyes last week when her eyes filled with tears after I told her I didn’t feel like dancing with her right then because I had a stomach ache. It’s a minor illness to me, but it’s worrisome and tragic to her. And mothers seek to avert all tragedies, real or merely perceived.

January was when I started getting out of bed, facing the rainy winter day, and giving myself a mental pep talk. I would remind myself that every day is a gift, even January days, that my children would remember the feel of the days more than the things we did. I would try to remind myself of my bigger goals, like how I want them to be able to make believe and play with whatever was at hand. And I wanted to keep the TV off as much as possible. In these pep talks, I found myself speaking new words into my identity. “You are fun,” I’d say to myself. “You are full of grace and joy.” “You are giving and forgiving and open minded. You are not afraid of messes.” “You are magnanimous.” (Ha).

But none of these new, lofty words stuck like the dreaded “upbeat.” I started finding myself saying it all the time, kind of like a mantra. Upbeat. You are upbeat. I would remind myself of that when we ran out of milk and diapers again and had to go to the store,  as I bundled up the kids and herded them into the car: “just stay upbeat!” At first, I wanted to slap my forehead every time my inner consciousness told me to be upbeat. Then, I realized the word wasn’t going away. It had stuck as one of the key new words in my new mental word collage of who I am.

The great thing about word collages is that you can always add another word. I can add new ideas and character qualities without erasing who I am deep down inside. I’ll probably always be a person who is capable of living inside of herself for long stretches of time and not speaking a word for hours on end. I’ll always love a quiet walk on a lonely country road or an uninterrupted hour to read. But I like to think I’m expanding at the same time. I can enjoy running in a sprinkler outside. I can hide in a blanket fort with kids and tell stories. I can make the Lego men talk about the awesome trucks my son builds for them. I can make my kids giggle and shout with laughter during a pillow fight. I am becoming more playful, more energetic. More upbeat. It’s not always easy, but I hope to keep making progress on my mental word collage as I open myself up to claiming not only the identity I was born with but also the identity I was created to adopt. I’m sure there are plenty of other character qualities I need to adopt into my identity, but for now, I’m happy to be upbeat.

Like this post? You may also like Your Kids Have a Crush on You and Saturyet.

Everyday Life, Parenting, Reading, Reviews

Saturyet

Hello! Welcome to Saturyet. I know you thought today was Friday. Friday has been cancelled. Now we’re in the magical in between day when it’s definitely not Friday but Saturday is yet to come. On Saturyet, oil changes do not take all morning. On Saturyet, diapers do not leak at 10:00 a.m. and end what was supposed to be a full day of errands. Or at least if they do, on Saturyet, mothers remember to replenish the emergency set of clothing that should be in the diaper bag. Children play nicely together with little to no assistance from their overly busy mother. They do not beg for a mile when they’re given an inch. On Saturyet, the cupboards can be bare of anything that actually constitutes “dinner” and nobody feels like she has to rush to the grocery store. Aldi doesn’t exist when it’s Saturyet. Saturyet is for staying in bed when you feel under the weather. Or for skipping town on a day trip to the beach when the sky clears after a week of rain. Saturyet is a break from the existence that starts to feel so petty and mundane, it becomes bone crushing.

If only Saturyet existed. A break from reality. But this is reality, and in reality Saturyet’s name is Denial. Bummer. I liked Saturyet better.

Are you wondering if I am dealing with depression? I don’t think I am. From what I can tell, most mothers and pretty much every person has days when so many little things go wrong in a single day that it just seems like the day should be scrapped. There have been no real tragedies, but the day just doesn’t seem redeemable. You’ve snapped at your kids a few too many times. You’ve forgotten a few too many important details. You can’t unfurrow your brow.

Okay, maybe that’s just me. But if you are a mom and you’ve ever felt that way, I have some books you should read.

The one that most recently rocked my socks off is Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to BreatheClarkson. Sarah Mae is a mother of young children and Sally Clarkson is her wise mentor. I really liked the blended perspective of someone who is in the midst of mothering small ones and someone who has four children who are nearly grown. So many times parenting books don’t seem to really “get it.” They’re too removed from the fray. Or maybe they just can’t be honest. But Sarah Mae is definitely honest. She banishes pride and shares weaknesses because she wants to truly encourage, not just exhort. She wants moms to know they’re not alone in their struggles. I, for one, really appreciate her honesty. And I appreciate her wisdom to know that things are hard but it’s all worth it and there’s a way to do your best. Your best is worth fighting for and pursuing. One of the greatest things about this book is that Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson talk about the importance of being an individual as you are a mother and sharing your own delights and passions with your children. Parenting gurus always say that no two children are alike, but they don’t often say that no two parents are alike. If you put a completely unique child (or three) together with a completely unique parent or two, you’re going to get a combination that requires figuring out every time. Probably multiple times. So I appreciate Sarah Mae’s and Clarkson’s position that parents should come at parenting with the decision to do their very best while at the same time acknowledging their passions and quirks as part of who they are as a parent and not part of who they were before becoming a parent. And that’s just a tiny bit of the book. It’s great.

Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the TrenchesWhen my daughter was about two years old, several of my friends said I absolutely had to read Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic. I’m so glad I have such bossy friends. Just kidding. They weren’t bossy. And I really did love the book. It is made up of “vignettes” or small snippets of mothering days and weeks and years. Jankovic writes with humor, and we all know that humor is a must when it comes to parenting. She also is very perceptive, and seems to look through some of the issues that come up with children and see the underlying problem. I would approach some things as “just a phase,” but she sees it as an opportunity to build character and guide towards lasting salvation. All the while, she keeps it light and readable. The sequel, Fit to Burst, is more of the same delightful stuff. They’re both tiny books, ones that didn’t actually take me that long to read.

The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for EternityI found Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood to be really helpful in that she is good at laying out a sort of road map for her mothering journey. Clarkson is big into planning and setting aside time to write goals down. Her form of mothering is very intentional and focused on the actual people and not the methods. And it was encouraging to see how much she could accomplish through setting concrete priorities. I have read three books by Clarkson now, and this is my favorite one of hers so far.

Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every TurnAnd if you’re looking for a book to just lighten your mood, you should read Sparkly Green Earrings by Melanie Shankle. I laughed my way through it in two days. There are some teary moments thrown in there, too. It’s almost like a gift to read a book that combines funny with thoughtful and doesn’t tear anybody down while doing it. Funny in our culture is so often delivered in the form of ridicule. This book is funny and encouraging.

Mitten Strings for God: Reflections  for Mothers in a HurryAnd here’s a book with a horrible title: Mitten Strings for God. Oh my. It makes you think you’re going to read a bunch of little daily quotes, ala Chicken Soup for the Freezing Soul. I never would have picked this book up, but a blogger who’s mothering style I really appreciate (Sarah from memoriesoncloverlane.com) repeatedly mentions in, so I decided it was worth a try. And it was! It was about quieting down our busyness and to do lists and focusing more on being present for our children. Katrina Kenison writes as someone who hasn’t forgotten what childhood is like. She recommends things like making sure your children have a secret place. Doesn’t that sound delightful? It’s a peaceful but inspiring book to reflect on.

What’s on your list of favorite mom books?

Children's Books, Everyday Life, Parenting, Reading

Books for Little Boys

I am from an all girl family. I have two younger sisters, but no brothers. When we found out our first child was a girl, I was excited and, to be honest, rather relieved. Because what would I do with a boy? Being a mom to a little girl came pretty naturally. But then…oh, but then…I was about 85% sure about two months into my second pregnancy that I was having a boy. There were none of those signs you hear about like carrying the baby lower or higher or being sicker than last time or anything at all. The pregnancies were pretty much the same (speaking of weird signs, that one about heartburn being related to babies  who have lots of hair? It’s bogus. Both my babies had dark, thick, brown hair, and I had no heartburn whatsoever. I just had to let all two of you who care know that.).  But I was pretty sure I was having a boy. When the ultrasound confirmed it, I was very excited, but I was also a little apprehensive. How do I raise a little boy? And what’s even more daunting, what do I read to a little boy?

Just kidding, there are many parts of parenting a boy that make me feel more nervous than what books to read him. But it is something I had to figure out! So I thought I’d share what I’ve discovered so far as I read books to my son, Isaac, and watch his love of reading grow.

As a side note, my daughter really enjoys most of these books, too. Little girls like trucks! It was a revelation to me.

Farmer John's TractorI’ll be honest, I may love Farmer John’s Tractor by Sally Sutton more than my children do. It gives me a nostalgic feeling, and I don’t know why because it’s based in New Zealand and I have definitely never been there. Maybe it’s from watching all of those All Creatures Great and Small episodes with my parents when I was little that are set on Yorkshire sheep farms. Whatever the reason for my nostalgia, my kids really do love it, too. Read it on a rainy day and let your kids go out and splash in puddles on their bikes afterwards.

My Truck is Stuck!My friend recommended My Truck is Stuck to me because her two-year-old boy loved it (thanks, Jessica!). I don’t think I would have picked it up otherwise because I always gravitate more to books about people than animals (“How sad!,” some of you are thinking. It’s not a conscious decision, it’s just how I judge book covers, for some reason), but she was right, Isaac definitely loved it. In fact, we often say, “Can’t go! my truck is stuck!” when we’re playing with trucks. It’s a fun book.

Little Blue TruckWe read this book all the time. It’s one of those books that we got from the library and then bought as soon as we saw it in a store. Not only is the book beautiful and the story fun, but it teaches a great lesson about being kind to people (or trucks?) who haven’t been kind to you. It’s a keeper. The sequel, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, has not been quite such a hit with our son, but we’ve only read it once since we got it from the library on Monday, so it may become a late blooming favorite. We’ll see.

Going to the Zoo with Lily and MiloBoth my children love the Lily and Milo books by Pauline Oud. They are fun because the illustrations give you a chance to be observant. Milo does some pretty funny things while Lily isn’t watching, like collecting friends at the zoo instead of paying any attention to the zoo animals. My daughter thinks they’re great and Isaac laughs out loud at them. He’s a laugher (no lie, he started laughing at 5 weeks and hasn’t stopped since), so maybe your kids won’t find them quite so amusing as he does, but they will probably like them. I sure do. =)

Roadwork!Roadwork is another one by Sally Sutton that Isaac loves. It kind of makes me sad because I have to admit, I verge on the tree hugger side of things (understatement), so seeing that beautiful pasture they start out on becoming a lovely highway isn’t so fun for me. But the project progression is pretty fascinating, especially to my little boy. We have gotten it from the library so many times, we really just need to buy it. But then I would be stuck reading it multiple times a day without the excuse that “we had to take it back to the library.”

The Bravest KnightThe Bravest Knight is an awesome book for boys. I really do want my son to think about being brave and chivalrous and all that. This story kind of puts a funny twist on the knight idea, though. My son is always laughing at the cat in the book. I think he may be a little young to really appreciate the story, but he sure does love it.

I’ve only scratched the surface of books I’ve discovered that my little boy loves. And I’m still discovering more. I may have to write a part two very soon. Please let me know which books the little boys you know love, too!

Related Posts: 

The Library is For Everyone

31 Days of Picture Books

Your Kids Have A Crush On You

Everyday Life, Parenting, Reading, Reviews

Camping With Kids

My family and I spent this past weekend camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had a great time splashing in cold mountain streams, hiking on little trails near our campsite, taking long walks to the bath house, and sleeping on our sleeping bags side by side in our tent. I didn’t carry my camera with me much, but I did take lots of mental pictures that I hope to carry always: three tired heads sleeping on their pillows in the early dawn light; my son cuddled in a hammock with an uncle or aunt (my kids have lots of great uncles and aunts); the warmth of campfire reflecting on happy, tired faces; and my four-year-old, usually very girly daughter in her pink jeans, pink shoes, and pink shirt intently learning to swing a baseball bat. Turns out she’s pretty coordinated and is crazy about baseball now, thanks to some really thoughtful friends who brought a new toy for our children. My son kind of tries to hit the ball with a golf-like swing, but he’ll get it right someday. Or maybe he’ll just stick to golf.

Image
The kids and I enjoying the icy cold stream near our campsite.

We had a lot of fun even if we didn’t sit around the campfire relaxing nearly as much as we used to before we had children. I always take lots of books with me when I go to the mountains. I took three books with me on this trip, but I only read a quarter of one. But here’s what I did read quite a lot of before we left:

The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature
The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids

Laugh if you will. I am the type of person who always find a book to read on whatever topic I feel unprepared for. Childbirth? Read at least five different books on it. Parenting? Still reading books, and I’ve lost count on how many I’ve read so far. Preparing for job interviews? Two books (they didn’t help much). Cooking for children? Three books. You see? I buy into the theory that knowledge is power. So, yes, I read a book on how to camp with kids. And it was fairly helpful. I probably would have thought of a lot of the tips without reading that book (for instance, keep your children away from open fires), but there were some helpful hints. One of the ideas was to take some monster truck toys with you so your children can make trails at the campsite or on hikes. That idea was genius. I will probably read The Guide again when my children are older and I can do more of the games and activities suggested in the book. It’s a great book if you’re like me, and need a book to prepare you for life’s major hurdles, such as camping with children in the mountains.

We also love the book We’re Going to the Mountains by Steve Kemp. My husband and I bought it on a trip to Ashevillle, NC when our daughter was just a baby. Both of our children love that it’s a poem with pictures. It’s so lyrical, it’s one of those books that’s easy to memorize after you’ve read it a few times. We recited bits of it several times throughout our trip. I like how it sets some expectations for small children of what people usually do when they go to the mountains. The illustrations are gorgeous, too. I’ve only seen it sold at Mast General Stores, or Amazon, but if you’re going to camp with children, I highly recommend getting a copy somehow.

And Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a fun one to read in the mountains. It kind of takes the fear out of the fact that there may be bears around. This is my favorite version of the story because it’s the one my family had when I was little. My parents now have it in their living room for the grandkids to read when they come over, and I still think that this version has the cutest Baby Bear ever. Jan Brett has done a version that is breathtaking visually, but may be a bit too wordy for very young readers/listeners.

So that’s what I learned about camping with children. What books and ideas have been your favorite when camping with kids? We had a great time and plan to go again, so bring on all the suggestions you can think of!

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