3×6 : A Home Library Challenge

We have a lot of books.

Let me repeat that:  We have a LOT of BOOKS.

I don’t feel bad about this, but I do remember growing up and my book collection fit into a little shelf (one of the reasons we have a LOT of BOOKS is that my little shelf + my husbands little shelf + Henry’s little shelf ends up with a lot of books…. and there are still books at my in-laws), so I thought I’d challenge myself to come up with a list of books that you could fit on a “little shelf” during those baby/toddler/preschool years that would still amount to a good home library.

I know not everyone has lots of free money to spend on books (I’m sure you use the library to your best advantage – we’ve been very lucky with a quality consignment store down the roads where we can pick up most of our library for $1 each) and we don’t always have friends or family who gift books (and let’s not shame – toys are fun and clothes are necessary).

If a child only received one book for their birthday, Christmas and Easter (or however you round out your seasonal/religious celebrations)each year from Birth to their 5th year this is what an ideal little shelf would look like to me:

**note:  The actual books shown below are not the only book to fill a category I’ve listed.  I’ve taken some of our family favorites to illustrate a point.  It’s okay if you don’t like Llama, Llama – find your own favorite rhyming book to fill that slot, etc. **

Year 0:
(Birth + Very First Holidays)

An ABC book, a Collection of Mother Goose or other Nursery Rhymes, a Nice Bedtime Book

Year 1:
An “Interactive” Book, A Good Book With Rhyme, A Favorite Classic.

Year 2:
A Book of Bible Stories, A Silly Favorite, A Family Favorite

Year 3:
A Book of Poems, A Collection of Fairy Tales, A Book of Faith

Year 4:
A Collection of Virtues, A Collection of Fables, A Collection of Animal Stories

Year 5:
Stories From Another Culture, A Classic Collection, Some Silly Poetry

And there you have it – a small home library, 18 books in all,  that grows with a child and that feels quite big.

A few extra “good to have” books during the early years.
A Touch/Feel Book, First Words, A Book About the Seasons, A Favorite Holiday Book, a Children’s Encyclopedia


Good Gifts for Good Kids – Four Year Old Edition

I have to admit that while I don’t love wading through ridiculous amounts of toys in my house (we do try to keep things contained and give away what we don’t use) I do love finding just the right thing to give as a gift for the holidays.  The trick this year is that we already have a lot of good stuff – we don’t need “toy of the year” or just any old thing coming into our house this year (or any year) so when relatives start asking for Christmas/Birthday (his is February so it’s basically right around the corner) I try to get intentional about it.  I always try to keep the actual “toys” in the list to a minimum, but there’s plenty out there that’s just as good as a regular ol’ toy.

I thought I’d share a few of our favorite things; a combination of our favorite things from this last year and things that are actually on his list this year.  While these are items I’d welcome for our four-year-old boy, it’s a pretty gender neutral list: Plenty for Boys and Girls.

**note: my “four-year-old” is an almost five-year-old, so some of these items were chosen in mind for a kid whose birthday follows the holidays pretty quickly, so not everything might not be right for a younger four-year-old.  =)

These are our favorite magazines for preschoolers.  These become our cartrip books and when they’ve been used and torn to shred they’re easy to say good-bye too.  I recommend keeping an eye on Zulily for their magazine deals – we get Ladybug and Click for about $19 each a year through their sales.
Board games are always good alternatives to “toy of the year”.  These items really last for years.

Outdoor Toys:
We love getting outdoor things for gifts.  They’re items that get well used, but don’t take up space in my living room.

Toys that are good for enabling play, but not limiting it.  Also science kits tend to get “used up” so they don’t have lots of parts you need to keep in the end.

The most toy-like things on the list.  These toys have multiple uses and endless possibilities.

Pretend Play:

Dress Up:
Melissa and Doug takes the cake here for gender neutral dress up options – though it is the perfect time of year to hit up Goodwill and sales racks for costumes.
This post contain Amazon Affiliate and Zulily Affiliate Links.  If you make a purchase through these links I get a small kickback.

My Superpower

My friend Mandi (who blogs at A Blog About Miscarriage, and is expecting a baby in next few weeks – pray for her!) shared this article about the developing idea of microchimerism – the idea that fetal cells stay in the mother’s body, travel through the body and aid the mother throughout her life.

When we had our first two losses, they were anembryonic pregnancies, I came across the whisper of this idea and am so happy to see it developing in the scientific world.  I came across an article that just briefly mentioned that anembryonic pregnancies are basically reabsorbed into the mother’s body.  It brought me a lot of comfort – my little babies are actually still with me, at a tiny, microscopic cellular level.  If you shifted through me bit by bit you’d find pieces of them.

We believe that when people die and are made holy they become saints (not angels).  We venerate the earthly relics of saints as a reminder of their models of holiness.  The actual bodies of these people are a particularly strong type of relic.

So if my children, who never had the chance to know or choose sin, died and went to Heaven that the remains of their bodies would be relics.  If I carry those relics within me, I am a reliquary – a vessel that holds some sacred.

I see the fun pictures and meme’s a lot.  “Breastfeeding is my Superpower.”  “Making Babies is my Superpower”.

Perhaps this is a gift that God gives to mother’s who loose their babies too soon; who loose babies without much proof of their existence.  Mother’s who are often the only ones who know or remember.  God, the great scientist that he his, designed a way to bless those bodies that seem so broken and so powerless.  He makes us walking vessels of holy relics.  He gives the chance to bring the relics of beautiful little saints into our church, the playground, and the workplace every day.  He uses us to bring a little more Grace into the world – a Grace that is not brought out only on special occasions or kept behind glass.  It is a Grace that can hold your hand, cry with you and laugh with you.

My superpower might not be managing a gaggle of children, budgeting for a large family or anything else my friends with more children do.  My superpower might be something quieter, but oh so powerful.

Around the House in Books

Life is busy – preschool, work, crafting, teaching, traveling and so much more.  I’ve been feeling a big draw to “do” during this season of life, hence teaching R.E. and trying to get my ducks in a row to do a little volunteering at a local pro-life center if I can.  Combine that with the full time job, the full time vocation and the (I wish) full time making on the sidelines I’m afraid I’m a bit quiet on this end of things.

One of the biggest things that has started to happen, and I say this with a lots of hesitation is the raw beginnings of my son reading!!!  I finally gave in last month and started allowing more “educational” games in the home and at his grandparent’s and I have to say it was the best idea I ever begrudgingly made.  Sitting down and having “lessons” about letters and phonics just doesn’t fit our relationship, but sitting next to him and helping him with phonics games and telling him how to spell words on his fake computer has spurred his own interest in reading in a way I couldn’t inspire thru more traditional means.

So we’ve been using Starfall just about every day – typically while I’m making dinner and it was definitely worth the yearly fee (plus my parents can access all the features on their computer and Ipad for him).  He’s also been just getting into our next level of Bob Books now that he’s understanding phonics more and more.  We use the box collections that I found at Costco a while back instead of tiny books you can get at the library.  We still pull out of Pre-Reader box every now and then too.

This little game is proving well worth the investment too.  And it’s provided a lot of laughes because H. usually skips “15” when counting and I feel like a character in a Monty Python sketch….. 
“…. thirteen, fourteen, sixteen….”
Finding books to read at night is still proving a little difficult after the success of reading “The Hobbit”, but right now we’re reading this version of “Peter Pan”, with illustrations done by one of my favorite illustrators
The biggest challenge is finding books with appropriate stories for his age, still have a good amount of illustration, but with longer length and higher word count.  We tried out “The Tale of Desperaux” a few weeks ago, and honestly I was so disappointed by the book and we didn’t finish it.  It was much darker than I expected and the language was choppy and distracting.  So I’m planning to raid the myth and fairy tales section of my library this weekend (and maybe a nice big book post to come!), though we’ve plowed through three Usborne collections of Fairy Tales in the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been hearing good things about Lamplighter books, does anyone have an opinion about them?
This came into our possession this week, but we’ve agreed that Harry Potter isn’t for a couple years yet as a read aloud, but it’s so pretty!
I’m at a bit of a loss for books for myself right now and have just been rereading my favorites – I’m in need of suggestions of some good, escapist (nothing too heavy right now) fiction and I love a good series, though not ridiculously long (3-4 books is my limit to a series honestly unless you’re Harry Potter).  So I’m searching for some recommendations for myself and any good, illustrated versions of longer books for the kiddo!

Defeated, Rinse, Repeat

We just got back from a quickly little vacation up north, and while I was expecting to get back tired I wasn’t expecting to get back this defeated.  I didn’t expect to be fought by a suddenly stubborn four-year-old every step of this trip, for the whining, for the tantrums, for the complete lack of grace on my side.  I wasn’t expecting the reminders that the older generations don’t assume the best (or the worst) about small families.  I wasn’t expecting the old feels of inadequacy that comes from being an only child trying to parent with no background knowledge to resurface.  I wasn’t expecting the feelings that it’s my inadequacy as a parent that’s the real reason we haven’t had anymore.  I wasn’t expecting the first thing to see when reconnecting online was a reminder that *everyone* else is pregnant right now and announcing their April/May babies and mine is already dead.

I feel completely defeated by this weekend.  On the outside; if I just scrape off the frosting and don’t look at the cake underneath it was fine.  We had some enjoyable times and good moments, but I go to bed tonight just undone by it all.

Defeat,  Rinse.  Repeat.