Children's Books, Everyday Life

Warm Reads for Winter Days

I heard on the radio yesterday that no one in the U.S. outside of cities in the northern mid-west (Chicago, Minneapolis, etc.) is allowed to complain about cold weather right now. Basically, if you don’t live in Chicago, you’re not that cold.

                    Dear Radio Station: I live in the deep South, and I’m cold.

I also heard it’s colder in most of the U.S. than it is in Alaska right now. Well. The Alaskans definitely got the better end of that climate change.

Today where I am, the temps aren’t expected to get above freezing; I am so thankful I have nowhere to go. I’m also thankful we did our library run earlier in the week and are well stocked with books to keep us entertained through the cold weekend.

Fritz and the Beautiful HorsesThere’s really nothing better to read on a cold winter’s day than a book by Jan Brett. Her Scandinavian-inspired illustrations contain furry animals and rosy-cheeked children and beautiful, warm-looking boots and skirts and mittens…ah. It’s almost enough to make you think you’re warm yourself. Our favorite right now is Fritz and The Beautiful HorsesWe read it for the first time this morning, and then both children asked, “Can we read it again?!” Fritz is a furry, short-legged pony who longs to be ridden by children. However, he has the misfortune of living near a walled city that is very proud of its beautiful horses, and only allows the most beautiful to come in. Fritz gets his chance to prove himself worthy, though, and shows the citizens that beauty isn’t the only thing of value in a horse. After the second reading, Isaac, aged 2, said longingly, “I would ride Fritz every day,” and Ella said, “Me, too!”

Cowboy Small (Lois Lenski Books)Another book we’re enjoying this week is Cowboy Small by Lois Lenski. Isaac has been asking over and over in the last week, “When I grow up, can I be a cowboy and ride a horse?” Any time your little boy asks to be a cowboy or pilot or sailor or fireman, it’s time to check out the Mr. Small books. Lenski takes readers through a day or two in the life of Mr. Small doing his work with her trademark illustrations and a few interesting details about whatever profession Mr. Small is working at in that particular book. The airplane one is a bit long for our attention span, and a little dated, but the other books are just right for a curious two-year-old boy. 

RoxaboxenFinally, we just discovered RoxaboxenYes, we live under a rock. This book is on everyone’s favorite children’s book list, but for some reason, I thought it was a poem book (which my kids are not fans of) so I never picked it up. But last week I said, “Everyone should like poetry!” and checked it out. As you probably already know, it is not at all a poetry book. Roxaboxen is an imaginative book about a group of children who make a barren hill across the street into their very own town. Roxaboxen brought me back to the days when my sister and I used to cut through the wisteria vines and thorns in our backyard woods to make “rooms” in our fort. Every kid needs a fort, even if it’s just in a closet of your city apartment. So if you’re looking for a great poetry book for kids, I can’t help you. But do read Roxaboxen, because it’s delightful. And make sure to check out other books illustrated by Barbara Cooney.

Kirsten's Surprise: A Christmas Story (American Girls: Kirsten, #3)For longer chapter books, we love to re-read chapters of Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie to make us appreciate our modern comforts and imagine what it’s like to be really cold. We haven’t made it to The Long Winter because I’m just not sure Ella can handle the…longness. I’m thinking Ella and I will read a Kirsten book from the American Girl series this afternoon for school. There’s more Scandinavian warmth to be had in Kirsten Learns A Lesson and Kirsten’s Surprise. I don’t know if I’m really on a Scandinavian kick, but I sure would like some lingonberry jam on crepes right now…

After you read some books with your kids, you need some music to get them (and you) dancing around and burning off energy/calories. We’ve been listening to the Frozen soundtrack in every waking moment for a week now. I took Ella (4) to see the movie on Sunday, and she had the whole soundtrack memorized by Wednesday. It was her first movie theater experience. We had to do a good bit of processing all the drama in the first few hours after the movie, because Ella is a very perceptive and emotionally sensitive 4-year-old (in the best possible way!), but then she decided she was a fan. Can I just say how thankful I am for a Disney Princess movie that features warm clothing? Now I can say, “Anna wears long sleeves!” when I’m trying to convince Ella to put a shirt on under her dress-up dresses. She even wears tights and boots! Awesome.

So that’s how we’re surviving the ice age/weekend. I hope you’re staying warm and reading lots of good books, too!


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.

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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