Happy Birthday to me! (And a C.S. Lewis book)

So yesterday was my birthday – and it was an absolutely awesome day. I LOVE my birthday every year, but yesterday was definitely one of the best birthdays I’ve had. My husband and kids just pulled out all the stops. Honestly, it was less about the specifics of what they did and more about the amount of effort and love they put into everything: they baked me a cake (from scratch! and it was delicious!), made me homemade cards, Adam made me paella (yum!), and they *tried* to let me sleep in (A didn’t cooperate, but she’s a baby)… and my five-year-old (“H”) got me a gift:

Reflections on the Psalms by [Lewis, C. S.]

It was absolutely the most perfect, wonderful gift, and I sobbed when I opened it. The whole thing was her idea, and Adam made it happen. One night at dinner we were talking about my birthday and she jumped up and whispered in his ear that she wanted to get me a book for my birthday (all I knew was she wanted to get me a gift). So, he took her to Barnes and Noble. As he tells it, they wandered the entire store looking, when H happened upon the Christianity section. Now, she and I have read some of the Chronicles of Narnia together, and she knows I’ve read other C.S. Lewis books. So as soon as she saw C.S. Lewis, she knew that’s what she wanted to get me. She actually wanted to get me all the C.S. Lewis books, but Adam helped her pick just one. She even paid for it from her piggy bank, wrapped it herself, and kept it a secret until I opened it. So perfect.

One of my favorite things (obviously, right?) is reading, and it’s so special for me to share that love with my daughters. In July we started having H stay up later and she and I started reading chapter books together every night before bed. It has become part of my day that I really look forward to. In fact, the couple of times we’ve tried to punish her by saying, “no story at bedtime,” it has been more of a punishment for me. I really treasure that time, and I’ve told her that.

What moved me the most about this gift is that my daughter, not yet six years old, knows me. She didn’t just want to get me any gift – she chose the perfect gift. She was able to see me as my own person, outside of my role as mom, and she gave selflessly just to bring me joy. She smiled as she walked out of my bedroom yesterday and said, “So now you can read it to yourself at night.”

So now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read some Reflections on the Psalms.

Munchkin Monday: What I’ve been reading with my (almost) 5-year-old

Obviously, I love to read. I always have. I apparently taught myself to read at age 4, and my oldest daughter has done the same. People keep asking me, “How did you teach her to read?” and I wish I could say I taught her, but I didn’t, at least not really. Of course, I’ve encouraged her every step of the way. On her first birthday, she could recognize and say the letter “W” – but we didn’t push it on her! I distinctly remember my husband holding her in the hallway of our apartment on her first birthday and her pointing to each letter on his GW t-shirt and asking “what’s that?” So, he answered. And she learned “W.” We’d take her to the zoo and she was more interested in the signs than the animals. At age 2, we’d lay in bed with her each night and “talk about a letter,” meaning we’d say a letter and she would tell us words that started with that letter… Basically, she’s just always been interested and she’s super smart and a fast learner. Over the past 6 months or so, she has progressed from recognizing individual words to reading on her own.

So, now what do I offer her to read? About a month ago it became apparent that she could pick up any picture book we own and read it. So then what? I got her some books at a yard sale and she amazed  me by reading even the books marked as being at a second grade level. So then we went to the public library and got some more. She’s excited that there’s a whole new shelf from which she can pick out books to read, generally those marked “Early Readers.” Here’s a sampling of what she reads, on her own or aloud to her sister, or to us:

  • Fancy Nancy books, such as Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl (an I Can Read Level I book). These are fun because Nancy uses “fancy” words for things, introducing lots of new vocabulary.

Fancy Nancy and the Mean Girl (I Can Read Level 1) by [O'Connor, Jane]

  • Are You Still Mad? This is the second-grade-level book I mentioned above. The librarian tells me the reading levels are all assigned by the publishers and there’s lot of variation, so who knows whether this is true.

Are You Still Mad? (Reader's Digest) (All-Star Readers) by [Weiss, Ellen]

Then we have our read-aloud time, too. Of course, sometimes I read the above books to her, but she has really enjoyed me reading chapter books out loud to her. Our most recent read was an abridged version of The Wizard of Oz from the Great Illustrated Classics series (pictured below). We’ve also been reading some of the Magic Treehouse books (just yesterday we started Pirates Past Noon for the second time), and even The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (is this appropriate for a 5-year-old?)! I have to say, I am truly enjoying this! It’s a little hard, because my 2.5 year old is NOT into the chapter books, but I love when we can snuggle up on the couch and read together and talk about the story! Soooo fun 🙂

Product Details

I’m looking forward to many more years of this, with all of my kids!

What do you read with your kids? Do you have any suggestions of what to read (or NOT to read) with a curious 5-year-old?

Hooray for used book sales!

On Saturday afternoon I had the great privilege of stepping away by myself for an hour to go to Historic Vienna’s Annual Used Book Sale and shop. Adam, though recovering from the flu, graciously indulged my love of books and watched Cinderella with the girls so I could go ALONE (thank you, thank you, thank you!). The girls acted like I’d been gone for ages when I got home, which is crazy but also really endearing. Who doesn’t enjoy being greeted with kisses and hugs and a chorus of, “Mommy, we missed you!”?

So, the books! I didn’t think their selection of children’s books was as good this year as it was last year, but I did pick up a Berenstain Bears book on strangers and a retelling of the story of King Midas. The kids were happy with that! From the kids section I also got some books for when the kids get older. My oldest is almost 5(!!!!!) and she reads, so I figure (not unlike me) that she’ll be into reading chapter books in the next year or so…SO I decided to prepare for when she’s begging for more books and I picked up three of the books in the Little House on the Prairie series. We already have one of them, so that should keep her busy when she’s about 7, right? I read them all in second grade and I not-so-secretly hope she loves them as much as I did. I wanted to become President one day so I could take us all back to covered wagon times…so we could live just like Laura Ingalls Wilder. HA.

For myself, I got a couple of classics: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Adam thinks I’m nuts, and I might be…We’ll see. I don’t typically read classics but I think I want to. Hopefully I like them as much as I like the idea of liking them. I also got Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I tend not to pick up random fiction unless it’s been recommended to me or I’ve heard of it before, so I mostly just skimmed that section.

My REAL prize, though, which made the whole trip worth it (aside from the mere act of browsing through tons of old books) came from the “Grandma’s Attic” section of the sale, where they sell “old” or unique items: I got a complete boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis! For only $8 🙂 I’ve read two C.S. Lewis books in the last year, and LOVED them, and it made me want to reread The Lion, the Witch, and Wardrobe — but who can just stop there? I’m SO excited to read the whole set!

Adam thinks he’s never going to see me because I’m going to be too busy reading… it’s a slight exaggeration, I think, but I do hope to be reading a lot soon!  AND my local library has its used book sale this week! I’ll have to pop in there Friday while the kids are in school 🙂  Yay!