For almost a year now I’ve been listening to Sarah Mackenzie’s Read-Aloud Revival podcast. Unsurprisingly, the focus on her podcast is about reading aloud to your children. She has insights and tips, as well as interviews with a variety of authors. Although reading to the girls comes fairly naturally to my husband and me, it’s inspired me to think about reading aloud as something we’ll do for the rest of our lives rather than just while the girls are little.
So when Sarah (she’s so perky and lovable on her podcast that I feel like we’re on a first-name basis) announced that she was releasing a book entitled The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections With Your Kids, I actually preordered it. Long story short: It was money well spent.
We all know that reading to our babies, toddlers, and young children is important. Even doctors remind us to read to them at well-child checks. But how important is it really? And why is it important? And do we really need to keep reading to children once they are able to read to themselves? Sarah tackles these questions in her book. She states,
Reading aloud with our kids is indeed the best use of our time and energy as parents. It’s more important than just about anything else we can do (28).
Throughout her book, she lauds the power of story to build our children’s character and expose them to the world around them. Likewise, she discusses how stories can create a bond between family members, creating references for inside jokes and experiences.
Additionally, Sarah advocates that reading aloud isn’t just so we can eventually teach our children how to read. Instead,
Even more important than teaching our kids the actual skill of reading is to cultivate a deep love of stories. After all, a child must love reading if he is to do it of his own volition throughout his life (70).
Her belief is that if you create a love a stories in children, a child will eventually learn how to read. That means that the struggling reader should be read to just as much–if not more–as a child who is reading at an “average” level.
The first part of the book emphasizes that reading aloud is important and that our duty as parents is to instill the love of reading into our children. Thankfully, Sarah doesn’t just beat us over the head with this goal without providing guidance on how to achieve it. The second half of the book gives tips and strategies on how to make read-aloud time meaningful. Likewise, she includes read-aloud book recommendations for all ages, even teenagers.
Many of her tips are very practical and she encourages us to make our goals small, because even small goals can bring about the love of reading. For example, she starts our read-aloud goal to be just 10 minutes a day because,
If I read for ten minutes every day, I’ll have read with my kids for sixty hours over the course of a year (109-110).
10 minutes seems too small to be a “real” goal, but sixty hours sure is an impressive amount of time. She goes on to explain that even if we read to our kids for 10 minutes every other day, that’s still 30 hours of read-aloud time. Sometimes it just takes someone to do the math to see how these small goals can make a big difference. Some of her additional insights include:
- How to create a book club culture at home
- What read aloud time will actually look like (and it’s not your children sitting quietly at your feet while you read).
- How to choose books for your kids
- How to ask questions that will create a bookish conversation with your kids
- Why audiobooks count as reading
After reading The Read-Aloud Family, I feel more motivated than ever to read to Babykins and Sweet Pea. Heck, I feel more motivated to read for my own personal pleasure! And now I have a book to back my belief that reading is more than just a skill, it’s a way of life.
Dear Sweet Pea,
You are 11 months old–almost not a baby anymore. Please get your act together and start sleeping longer than 2-hour stretches at night. Seriously, I’m tired. But I do love how happy you are to see me in the morning, despite the fact I was with you only 2 hours earlier–it does give my ego a boost.
I know you’ve been a little deprived of attention lately thanks to your sister’s clingy behavior, but you have got to stop standing right under my feet in the kitchen. Also, please stop yelling during quiet time because it wears on my nerves. Mommy needs quiet during quiet time. However, I do love how you’ve been walking around saying, “I love my mommy so, so much.” It’s adorable and please never stop doing it.
Please bring home chocolate.
Love, Your Wife
You are no longer “Creature #1” in the house. Please act accordingly. Isn’t enough that you won the battle to come into our bedroom? I suppose you make up for it by being cutely fuzzy.
In my more thankless moments, I long for a bigger house. Our family currently fits comfortably in our parsonage. Technically there are enough rooms for both girls to have their own bedroom, but I would rather keep the third bedroom as a guestroom (Sweet Pea’s impressive nighttime wailing may thwart this plan). We have a sizable kitchen and a spacious living room. Our basement is the same size as the upper floor and provides ample storage space as long as I am careful to pack against dampness.
Still, envy is a strong beast and I sometimes find myself thinking of the “if onlys”: If only we had another bedroom, if only we had an extra living space, if only the basement was drier and finished, etc.
I know contentment is found in what we have, not in getting what we want. Likewise, we have a more spacious house than many people would have had just 75 years ago (and Ma Ingalls would say, “Really, you’re complaining about your house? I lived in a cabin with a dirt floor for many years.”).
However, what actually drives my discontentment away is our reality: No matter how big our house is, we would all still wind up in one small area anyway. We could live in a freakin’ mansion and we would still be crowding each other in the kitchen or bumping into each other in one bathroom. More space would just mean there would be more options for where we could all get in each other’s way.
I was warned that life would seemingly go faster with two children. It’s true. Sweet Pea turned 6 months old at the end of May. How did half a year already pass?!
Babykins is turning 3 in a few months. She sleeps in a toddler bed and is quickly becoming potty trained. Sometimes I look at her and wonder when did she start becoming a little girl.
Sweet Pea is different than her sister. She is quick to laugh and quick to wail (I think she’s going to have what we might call a “strong personality”), and has a strong desire to not sleep in her bed at night. All babies grow quickly, but it’s still shocking to think that the chubby baby that is learning to sit and roll over had very little controlled movements 6 months ago.
It’s so hard to write about these days–the mundane triumphs, the trivial woes, and the never ending sleep deprivation. My daily grind can seem repetitious and dull to an outside observer (and sometimes it is to me!). However, I find more and more that there are moments in my days that amaze me.
There is breathtaking beauty in seeing my girls grow. I cannot orchestrate these times that dazzle, so it is a privilege to observe them. For example, I get to hear Sweet Pea’s delighted giggles as she watches her sister frolic around her, I can watch as Babykins unabashedly runs about in a rainstorm. I am the audience for Babykins’s yells of, “Momma! Watch me, Momma!” and the receiver of Sweet Pea’s nuzzles. Like I said, so many little moments of immense joy.
This isn’t the life I wished for growing up, but I suppose this just shows that it can be wonderful that our wishes don’t always come true.
Sweet Pea is now just over 3 weeks old. People have asked if she is a good baby. I’m always thrown by this question since babies aren’t intentionally good or bad (well, besides that whole original sin thing). The only proper answer to this question is, “Yes”, because how can I say my baby is bad?
But truthfully, our first baby wasn’t a good baby. She was fussy. I’m quite skilled with the Moby wrap because I bounced her to sleep in it almost every night from 6 weeks old to about 4 months. She and I had difficulty nursing and she gained weight slowly. Almost every outing ending with her red-faced and screaming. No, Babykins wasn’t an easy infant. But that’s okay because she grew out of it and is now a spunky 2-year-old. It was just hard to see her potential through the screams.
I don’t know if Sweet Pea will be as difficult as her sister, it’s still too early to tell. But I can tell that some things will be easier just because I have experience. I know that sometimes she will sleep and sometimes she won’t. Sometimes she’ll even sleep where she’s supposed to (this isn’t one of those moments since she is currently in the Moby wrap). But I know she’ll grow out of whatever odd sleep habit she develops. She’s also a better nurser. There’s no nipple shield to finagle this time and she’ll nurse in public without making a scene. If she was our first, I would say she’s a fairly easy baby.
But she’s not our first, we still have our lively Babykins to contend with. So when Sweet Pea decides not to sleep from 12 a.m.-3 a.m., it’s hard to fight back some of the postpartum hysteria because Babykins will still be up at her usual time in the morning. Sweet Pea may nurse much better, but she’s still unpredictable in when she’ll want to eat. And those 45 minute newborn nursing sessions are a bit tricky when an antsy Babykins decides that she wants a space on Mommy’s lap as well. Then there’s the whole thing that the people around here still want to eat and have clean clothes. And these factors is what makes the second baby hard.
But in my clearer-thinking moments, I look forward to spring when Sweet Pea is a little older, the weather is
a little much warmer, and I’m a little less hormonal. Experience tells me that life won’t always feel this chaotic (or at least the chaos will become our new normal).
Sweet Pea was born earlier this week on Monday, November 21, weighing 6 lbs 1 oz (the exact same birth weight as her sister), measuring 19 inches, and perfectly healthy. We left the hospital on Wednesday and were able to celebrate Thanksgiving at home as a family. Babykins loves her baby sister–our current challenge is making sure she doesn’t smother Sweet Pea with her love. We thank God for her safe delivery and we look forward to her baptism next Sunday.
Miles Driven: 1500
Nights Gone: 8
States Crossed: 4.5 (Half of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan)
Beds Slept In: 4
This year for our summer family vacation, we drove to Ohio to visit my grandmother, aunt, and uncle on my dad’s side for a few days. We then drove to Michigan to spend the weekend with some of my family members on my mom’s side. Babykins hadn’t meet many of these family members before, but overall she handled the unfamiliar surroundings and faces very well (except for the fact she still hates long car rides).
While it was nice to get out of town for a bit and the visit to my grandmother was long overdue, we’re still happy to be home.
From what I understand, it’s fairly common for parents expecting their second child to have some worries about how their oldest child will react to a new sibling. My husband and I have had the same concerns about Babykins. After all, she will be just over 2 years old when Sweet Pea arrives–there really isn’t a way to talk to her about her new little brother or sister. I realize that we aren’t the first family to have kids close in age and we’ll find a way to make it work, but doubt still lingers.
However, I have moments of hope that Babykins will easily slip into her role of big sister. Recently she has started to play with her baby doll more. She can be very sweet with Dolly–she rocks Dolly, pats Dolly, pushes Dolly in a stroller, and (attempts to) swaddle Dolly.
“Ah,” I think to myself during these moments, “Babykins is naturally so caring. She’s so sweet! Maybe we won’t have many issues with her adjusting to the new baby.”
Of course, these moments are usually followed with scenarios like this:
And, with the promise of food, Babykins’s “natural” care promptly disappears and Dolly is left abandoned on the floor.
Conclusion: There’s a reason why toddlers aren’t in charge of another human life.
My husband asked for ice cream instead of cake for his birthday last week. Since I’m a birthday purist, I couldn’t stand the thought of not having cake for a birthday. Ice cream cake was the obvious solution for this dilemma. However, buying ice cream cake is expensive, so I went in search of a simple ice cream cake recipe.
Guess what? I found one! Betty Crocker’s Brownie Ice Cream Cake was exactly what I was looking for: simple and delicious! Because the brownies have to cool and the ice cream has to set, it does take some planning ahead to make the cake (I made it the day before my husband’s birthday). However, actual hands-on time isn’t any longer than it takes to whip up a box of brownies and throw some ice cream on it. My husband also loves caramel, so I used caramel sauce instead of hot fudge sauce.
Mmmmm. . . ice cream cake.
Since Thanksgiving is one of the few major holidays that my husband doesn’t have a church service (our church has a Thanksgiving Eve service), we traveled to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. These trips are always a bit of a whirlwind since we try to see both of my siblings/spouses, one of my husband’s sisters and her husband who lives about 20 minutes from my parents, and some of my friends from high school. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to see so many people, but my introverted side is always ready for another break when we get home. Consequently, tonight is another short post.