Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Kid Lit: Fall Picture books and board books

Charlotte is at that age (four and a half) where she is really starting to understand seasons and months of the year. She's very excited about fall and watching the leaves change, although she is also struggling with the end of summer (she had a twenty-minute meltdown when I told her I'd packed away her sundresses because she was so sad summer is over). I decided it would be fun and hopefully educational to celebrate the changing of seasons with some new autumn-themed books. I bought a few used on Amazon, and filled in with a few more from the library. Here are some of our favorite fall stories:

Picture Books

1. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves by Lucille Colandro
This book follows the pattern of the "Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" song, but in this story she eats a random assortment of fall-related items and sneezes out a scarecrow at the end. C thinks this story is hilarious and wants to hear it over and over.

2. Let it Fall by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
This sweet story highlights the best things about autumn, and also acknowledges some of the not-so-fun parts. It touches on the transition to winter too, which is helpful. There is a series of these, one for each season. We have summer (Let it Shine) and I am planning on getting Let is Snow and Let it Rain too.

3. Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
This is a poignant story about a little fox who is worried about his favorite tree when its leaves start falling. I love the illustrations, and I think the story does a great job of dealing with the sad feelings we have when a season is coming to an end (C has big feelings about everything, so I'm always looking for resources to help her deal with them).

4. It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
This cute story features the mouse from the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series, and celebrates painting pumpkins to show different emotions (happy, sad, scary, etc.). It's a nice, quick read for a young toddler/preschooler that my four year old still loves to hear.

5. The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen
This is book is not just about fall, but is instead kind of a seasons primer that shows what farm life is like during each month of the year. It's beautifully illustrated and gives a concrete description of work and play in connection to nature, something that we don't see very tangibly any more (at least not in my suburban neighborhood) but is very important to me for my children to learn about.

6. P is for Pumpkin by Kathy-jo Wargin
I adore this alphabet book that lists fall favorites from A to Z, but points out how each one is a gift from God. It's such a great, easy way to teach our children about how the Lord created the seasons and gives us every good thing.

Board Books

1. Baby at the Farm by Karen Katz
We love books by Karen Katz in our house. This isn't strictly a fall book, but it does talk about farm animals which always makes me think of fall. It's a touch and feel book, when I ask Tessa if she want to read a book this is always the one she brings me.

2. Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin by Tad Hills
Another simple story with pretty illustrations, this book is a quick enough read to keep my one year old's attention with short, repetitive sentences.

3. The Busy Little Squirrel by Nancy Tafuri
I love this sweet story about a squirrel who is too busy storing food for the winter to stop and play with all the other animals. The illustrations are precious.

Do you have any seasonal favorites you like to read with your kiddos? Is your toddler like mine, insisting on reading the same story over and over again until you don't even have to look at the words? ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Capsule Wardrobe: Part 2 - My Fall 2016 Wardrobe

As I said in part one of my capsule wardrobe post, I made my first capsule for winter 2016 using the clothes I already had in my closet. I didn't love everything in it, but it was good practice and helped me realize how few clothing pieces I really needed to feel like I had plenty of cute outfits to wear. Each season I've been tweaking the number of items/types of clothing, and it really just takes practice to figure out what works, what I still don't actually wear, and what I really feel great in.
For my fall capsule I narrowed it down to 33 items. This number doesn't include shoes or accessories. I also didn't count workout or lounge wear/pajamas. I also don't include my "foundation" pieces (bras, undies, camisoles, and leggings) since I would never wear those without something over them (I am firmly of the Jen Hatmaker school of thought when it comes to leggings as pants; not ok unless you are pregnant).
Short-sleeved tops: 8
Most of these came from LOFT or Thread Up. I realized when I was making my capsule that I needed to include more short-sleeved shirts than long-sleeved, thanks to the delightful Arkansas fall climate (50s-60s in the morning and evenings, 70-80s during the day). I went with half neutrals (gray and cream) and half colored. The floral yellow blouse is not something I ever would have tried on in a store, but when I was scrolling through Thread Up the print caught my eye. It was cheap enough to take a chance on so I did, and I love it! It's not a good idea to have a whole capsule full of trendier statement pieces like this since it makes mixing and matching more challenging, but I think it's important to have a few to make your wardrobe feel fresh and interesting.
Long-Sleeved Tops: 7
Again these are lighter weight to accommodate our warmer fall weather, and I stayed mostly neutral with a few pops of color/print. I find if I stay consistent even within my neutral pallet it's much easier to pull an outfit together quickly. LOFT, Thread Up, and Old Navy all provided a great selection of comfy but flattering basics to choose from. I'm so thankful that so many current styles are mom-body friendly - not skin tight, but not shapeless either (if you want to avoid looking frumpy it's important to avoid dressing in sack-like clothes, trust me on this one).
Bottoms: 6
Unsurprisingly, jeans make up the core of my pant collection. They are just so darn versatile, especially nowadays when they come in every wash and fit under the sun. I included two pair of crops for warmer days (I had no idea they would look so funny to photograph) along with my trusty dark skinnies and some distressed rockstar fit jeans from Old Navy. I love these black leggings from Thread Up because they are a little thicker than normal leggings and can almost work as pants (never fear, I always follow JH's guidelines and make sure my booty is covered). I don't know how much I'll wear the maxi skirt, but I included it just in case.
Dresses/Tunics: 5
The short dress/tunic trend is my favorite, and I hope it sticks around for a long, long time. I'm too tall to be able to wear the cute sundresses that show up every summer (I just can't pull off a thigh high mini) but put a pair of leggings and some riding boots with a thigh-skimming top and I am good to go. I tried not to go too crazy and buy all the tunics, but these two prints from Old Navy were just too cute to pass up. My favorite though is that white striped t-shirt dress that is absolutely the most comfortable thing I own. Lou and Gray for LOFT.

Completer pieces:
This catagory is such a game-changer when it comes to making as many outfits as possible out of your capsule basics. I think I first heard the term "completer" on What Not To Wear (one of my all-time favorite shows, although I never thought they made their $5,000 stretch very far). Stacey London loved a tailored jacket, but that's just not my style. I define a completer as anything you can layer over a basic top to change the look of an outfit. It includes sweaters and cardigans obvs, but also can be a button-down shirt, structured jacket, or those super fun, flowy kimonos that you are seeing everywhere these days (I bought mine off Amazon for $14 and get compliments every time I wear it).
Shoes and accessories
I don't include these in my official number, but they are both so important when it comes to changing up the look of your outfit. I tend to stick with neutral colors for shoes (gold, brown, and gray in this case) and use accessories to add pops of color. I got both of these scarves at LOFT, and they conveniently match almost every item in my wardrobe. The blue floral one was on sale for $6!!

So that's it, my entire selection of clothing that I will wear until December. I have a self-imposed buying freeze on clothing until then, which definitely helps the budget! In my next post I will show you some of the outfits I can make with a few of these key pieces and share some advice for how to make your own capsule wardrobe. Anyone else love a good completer piece or find a fun statement addition to their fall wardrobe? Any other What Not to Wear fans out there? 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Capsule Wardrobe: Part 1 - My story

Disclaimer: I am not a fashionista or a model. I'm just a regular-sized, thirty-something mama of two girls. It's way out of my comfort zone to offer fashion advice, so please don't think I'm trying to tell you what all hip mamas wear. I just want to share my story of how I am moving from insecure to confident in my own personal style. I'm definitely a work in progress.
Turns out I have a lot more boho in me than I thought

When I quit teaching to stay at home with my girls, my wardrobe suffered a kind of identity crisis. Finding a "mom style" and adapting to my post-baby body made it hard to find clothing I truly loved and felt good in. My closet became a jumble of leftover pieces from my teaching career, clearance finds I bought out of necessity when nothing fit, and jeans from pre-pregnancy to post-pregnancy sizes. I even had several maternity pieces that I had just never gotten rid of.
Fast-forward to January 2016. I had been on the Trim Healthy Mama plan for several months and had made some great progress, though I wasn't quite where I wanted to be. I had been hearing about the "capsule wardrobe" concept for a while, and I decided this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. Since I wasn't quite at my final goal size I didn't want to buy anything new, so I just went with what I had.
Sorry for the poor photo-quality, but our bathroom is the only room with a full-length mirror
I loosely followed the guidelines from this blog, beginning with taking everything out of my closet and donating or selling anything that didn't fit anymore. I packed all the summer clothes in a plastic bin (mostly shorts and tank tops) and then checked again to make sure I really loved (or at least sort of liked) everything I had left. I think it came out to thirty-eight pieces (not including workout gear and lounge-wear). Those are the pieces I wore for the next three months. I was worried I would get sick of the clothes and be tempted to buy some new things just to change it up, but I really didn't. In fact I feel like I wore more of the pieces simply because I could see what I had rather than just reaching for the same three shirts. It was fun to mix and match and find accessories to freshen up the outfits.
I promise these boots don't look mustard-colored in person
Once the weather started warming up and I was pretty much at my goal weight, I decided (with my husband's blessing) it was time for a serious wardrobe upgrade. My old pattern would have been to hit all my favorite stores, buying anything from the sale rack that caught my eye (often in multiple colors) and ending up with an assortment of clothing but no real outfits. Then I would proceed to wear the same three shirts over and over until I got sick of them and went to get something new. Rinse, repeat. I knew this wasn't a very practical or responsible approach to clothes shopping, so with a little capsule building experience under my belt (no pun intended) I carefully made a plan and shopping list before I hit any stores.
This time I really was starting from scratch, since I had almost nothing left that fit. I started by defining my style and thinking about how I spend my time. Since I'm a stay-at-home-mama my clothes need to be practical, comfortable, and easy to care for, but also make me feel pretty and confident in my role as a "professional mom." ;)
I love how the right shoe and accessories can dress the same top up or down
Next I searched Pinterest for outfits that fit my style/activities, and wrote down the common pieces (dark skinny jeans, distressed straight jeans, charcoal gray top, boho white blouse, etc.) Once I had my shopping list I decided on the stores I wanted to visit. I started at LOFT which was perfect. Their collections are well-curated and I am definitely in their target demographic. :) I found most of my staple pieces there, and thanks to some serious sales I managed to spend less than I had planned. I found a couple more items at Old Navy to finish off my list, and I was set.
It took me less than two minutes to pull together each one of these outfits
I repeated this method for summer and now fall, and I think I'm getting better at it every time. So far I'm loving my fall clothes, but realizing I should have included more short-sleeved shirts and cardigans for layering. I guess I forgot that autumn weather in NWA is cool in the mornings and evenings but still warms up into the high seventies and eighties by the afternoon.
Did you notice I'm wearing the same skinny jeans in every outfit?
So there is definitely a learning curve, but overall this intentional wardrobe planning thing really fits my personality, and I'm loving it. Next post I will (hopefully) share my fall 2016 wardrobe, if I can ever finish editing all the photos. :) Any capsule wardrobe enthusiasts out there? Tell me how you do it and what you love about it!  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fall Playlist: Music to set the mood for all your favorite autumn activities

I don't know about you, but my taste in music tends to change a bit along with the transition to a new season. Winter needs a background of pretty, classical music and slow, contemplative songs to set the mood for curling up with a book under a blanket. Spring sends me searching for cheerful tunes bubbling with lyrics about new life, hope, and change. Summer's soundtrack is a mix of peppy dance music and classic ballads to play on the boom box while lounging by the pool. Now that fall has officially arrived, and it should be set to folksy tunes with lots of fiddle solos. Autumn makes me think both of wandering adventures and longing for home (apparently I turn into a bit of a hobbit this season) and I choose my music accordingly. Obviously music preference is super subjective and individual, but in case you happen to agree with my sensibilities I decided to share my fall playlist with you here.

I love Spotify, and we actually pay for the premium subscription so that we can listen to our playlists in order commercial free, but the free version is fine too. In case you don't have access to Spotify, here are the songs and artists listed in the order they are found on my playlist:
  • Something Wild - Lindsey Stirling
  • My Roving Heart - All Sons and Daughters
  • Ho Hey - The Lumineers
  • Your Hands - JJ Heller
  • Autumn Leaves - Ed Sheeran
  • Where Do We Go - Lindsey Stirling
  • Beyond the Blue - Josh Garrels
  • What I Wouldn't Do - A Fine Frenzy
  • Run Free - Jon Foreman
  • Wolf - Tailor
  • Kickin' da Leaves - Judah & the Lion
  • Shadows - Au Revoir Simone
  • Second Best - Joshua Calhoun
  • Campus - Vampire Weekend
  • Free - Dara Maclean
  • Jesus Set Me Free - Ben Calhoun
  • Rangers - A Fine Frenzy
  • Wayward and Torn - Gungor
  • Mountain Sound - Of Monsters and Men
  • You Are My Vision - Rend Collective
  • Warpath - Ingrid Michaelson
  • Soar - Meredith Andrews
  • Into the Wild - Lewis Watson
  • Autumn (Act 5) - Josh Abbott Band
  • Gather the Owls - Martin Simpson
  • Great is Thy Faithfulness - The Classic City Collective
  • River Lea - Adele
  • Reckless Forgiver - Jars of Clay
  • Barton Hollow - The Civil Wars
  • Wayfaring Stranger - Jack White
  • Ghost - Ingrid Michaelson
  • Live and Die - The Avett Brothers
  • Sparrows - Jason Gray
  • Make This Leap - The Hunts
  • From the Woods - James Vincent McMorrow
I spent way to much time compiling this list, but it's so nice to have a go-to playlist to call up for a drive to the pumpkin patch, or while folding stacks of sweaters, baking pumpkin spice muffins, curling up with a spooky mystery, or raking leaves (just kidding, we don't have any trees, but that sounds more autumnal than scooping dog poop). These songs are a mix of "secular" and "Christian," but I think each one has spiritual truth to share. I've recently re-discovered how much music affects our mood, so I try hard to steer away from songs that are too dark or directly opposed to my spiritual beliefs. On the other hand, a fall playlist without some Fine Frenzy or Lindsey Stirling would just be incomplete. :)
Do you have seasonal music favorites? Any autumn tunes that I forgot (or don't know about)? Please let me know!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I'm Loving...September 2016 Edition

It's no secret that the best way to cultivate joy is to think about the simple gifts that make our lives happy. Once a month I'm going to take a few minutes to think about the things I'm loving, write them down, and share them with you. I'd love for you to do the same!

1. Beautiful Fall Weather (finally!)
My last post was all about how I am longing for fall to begin (among other things) and just like that it's here! We've had a string of cooler days and I am absolutely loving it! Leaves are starting to change, pumpkin patches are opening, and playing in the backyard in the afternoons is absolutely delightful. It's been such fun to pull on a cardigan in the morning or my jean jacket for our evening walk. I think I've worn my new riding boots every day this week! Which brings me to me to the next item on the list...

2. My fall uniform
I take my inspiration from my 4 year old's wardrobe. She dresses better than I do. I paid her twenty-seven cents to be my model for this pic. She's saving up for a trip to Disney World. 
Since I'm a stay at home mom and my days mostly consist of playtime, reading books, and domestic chores, I keep my clothes pretty casual. My summer uniform was a pair of shorts and t-shirt or tank top layered over a camisole. I dressed it up or down with jewelry and shoes, but that's pretty much what I wore every single day. With the busier fall season comes a few more reasons to "dress up," like community group, my morning Bible study, and MOPS meetings. But I still wanted my clothes to be super comfy and practical, so I could go from a park play date to a mom's night out and not even have to change (my version of "day to night" dressing). The solution? Pair a short dress or tunic with leggings or skinny jeans and a pair of boots, booties, or cute flats. Boom. Done. Apparently my favorite clothing retailers caught on to this easy yet classy clothing trend, because tunics and long shirts are everywhere this fall! I found my favorite pieces at Old Navy and LOFT. I'll share them with you if I ever find time to write my capsule wardrobe post...(it's really hard to figure out how/when to photograph every item of clothing I own.)

3. Podcasts
I'm probably late to the game with this one, but I am absolutely loving podcasts right now. When I am cooking dinner, washing dishes, folding laundry, or out and about in the car it's so nice to have some fun, meaningful conversation going on in my earbuds. I really should do a round-up of my favorite programs, but at the top of my list would be Sorta Awesome (hosted by Megan Tietz), Read Aloud Revival (hosted by Sarah Mackenzie), and The Simple Show (hosted by Tsh Oxenrider). I'm subscribed to all my favorites so when a new show airs it automatically shows up in the podcast app on my phone (I just use the default iPhone app, but I'm sure there are some good alternatives). Of course I love listening to music too, but there's something about a funny, informative, or challenging podcast that just makes chore time fly by. In fact I'm even sort of looking forward to scrubbing out my tub! ;)

4. Autumn meal planning
I posted here about how I organizing my weekly meal planning, but I just tweaked my dinner list for the new season. I dropped some of the more "summery" meals (grilled burgers, salads, etc.) and swapped in my favorite soup and stew recipes. I now have three crock-pot meals planned every week, which makes dinner prep so much easier! With busier evenings it's so nice to have dinner done early in the day (I usually start it during nap time and leave my slow cooker on high for the rest of the afternoon.) Yesterday I made a tomato sausage bisque that was absolutely delicious!

5. Our new pediatric dentist
Ok this is a strange one, but hear me out. Charlotte has a lot of anxiety when it comes to doctors. She doesn't like to be poked and prodded (who does) and getting her to open her mouth wide enough for me to check the back of her throat is almost impossible. (I also can't get her to figure out how to blow her nose, but that's another issue). Anyway, last year I took her with me to my dentist appointment, and then had her teeth checked afterwards. It was a disaster. She barely let them brush her teeth with a regular toothbrush. This year I decided we needed to try a pediatric dentist with all the bells and whistles. When we drove by a new office that had a fake tractor and farm animals outside C was so excited and kept asking "Can we go there?" I pounced on her enthusiasm and made her an appointment. The office was absolutely adorable, decorated to look like a silly farm with statues of animals, books, video games, even a movie room! Honestly it was like something from Disneyland. C was so thrilled at the decorations she had no anxiety when they called us back. She let them check and clean her teeth, do a fluoride treatment, and even take x-rays! (Of course the TV in the ceiling was a helpful distraction). She still talks about her "fun dentist" all the time, and keeps asking when we can go back! I wish I was as eager to visit my dentist! :)

What are you loving this month? I'd love to know! :)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mama Musings: How do I stay present and joyful when I am longing for change?

I'm so ready for fall. Crisp, cold, cozy sweater, boot wearing fall. Unfortunately, around here at least, the weather refuses to cooperate. The extended forecast continues to tease, promising lower temps, but so far we are still averaging in the high eighties. My long-sleeve tops hang in my closet unworn, and I've yet to even take my brand new riding boots out of their box. I'm tired of my jean shorts and tank tops, but when I try wearing jeans I sweat right through them. Ugh. I suppose this wish for change isn't uncommon. I feel the same tug every March too, when winter has completely worn out its welcome but spring drags its feet. Is it God-given, this desire for change, for something new? Or is it my spirit of discontentment showing its ugly head here in the waiting?
This tension extends beyond the changing seasons. There are several changes looming on the horizon for our little family. Charlotte has one more year before school begins. Tessa is gaining more words and is right on the cusp of talking in sentences. We are seriously considering buying a bigger house. But although all of these anticipated changes are still in the future, for some reason knowing they are getting closer makes it harder for me to hang on to my contentment in the here and now. I'm constantly running a pro and con list through my mind of which schooling option would be best for Charlotte. I get frustrated when Tessa can't tell me what she wants and I have to guess (it doesn't help that her inability to communicate causes many a tantrum). I find myself scrolling through the new house listings on Zillow, even though I know we aren't planning on starting our house hunt until next spring.
So how do I fight this creeping discontentment? How do I live in this moment fully and joyfully, waiting patiently for the change that is coming without wishing away my current circumstances? It's not possible, not within my limited ability. But I have the Holy Spirit living inside of me. According to God's Word this kind of contentment is not only possible, but is God's will for my life. But how? I don't have any fool-proof, three-step method for conquering discontentment. But I know the fight is intertwined with my struggle to daily die to my own will so that I can live for Christ instead. I have found a couple things that help. They aren't earth-shattering, in fact they are so well-worn bits of advice they are almost cliches. But that doesn't make them less true.
First, I must practice gratitude. When I find my heart longing for something new and different, be it a new shirt or a new house, it's helpful to instead think about what I love about my wardrobe or the house we live in right now. When I wish Tessa could use her words to tell me what she wants, I can be so thankful for the cuddles and kisses she uses to show her love for me. When I'm agonizing over which choice would be best for kindergarten (public school, private, homeschool??) I can be thankful for the wonderful options and freedom to choose, and that we don't have to make the decision yet!
It sounds so simple, but it's not always easy. I don't always have a good attitude when I list my blessings. In fact I'm usually down-right huffy about it. But God commands me to be grateful, (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and when I obey this command I can feel my attitude shift. Not right away, but slowly I feel my fists unclench and my heart soften as I seek to follow God's plans rather than try to forge my own path.
Second, I turn on some Jesus music. Listening to Psalms being sung and old hymns put to new rhythms redirects my thoughts and lifts my eyes from my own dissatisfaction back to the Source of full, abundant life. Music affects our home in profound ways. Charlotte prefers fast songs with a clear beat that she can dance to, and Tessa perks up and claps her hands as soon as she hears a beautiful melody. I can feel my shoulders relax and my spirits lift as I sing along with my favorite soulful ballads. I've found I can lighten the mood in our home just by turning on my favorite worship playlist on Spotify.
Such small, simple practices, but they can work a big change in the position of my heart. How about you? Are you struggling with contentment? Do you have any tried and true ways you foster peace and joy in the waiting time? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Kid Lit: Longer Read Alouds for Preschoolers

I have a confession to make. I don't always like playing with my kids. Whew, I said it. I'm not very good at pretending to be princesses, or playing dollies, or hide and seek. The thought of sitting through a game of Candy Land makes me cringe. But you know what I do love? Reading aloud. So I decided that I am going to give myself grace, play to my strengths, and give my girls my time and attention by reading to them. Fortunately both girls absolutely love books (nature or nurture? I don't know, but I'm going with it). My one year old is happy hearing the same dozen board books over and over (and over), but while my four year old still loves picture books she is ready for something a bit longer, with a little more character development and plot. In my former life as a literacy/reading teacher I learned how important reading aloud is to developing comprehension skills and a love for reading. Most children's listening comprehension is much higher than we think, and I know my daughter is very capable of listening to a chapter book and remembering what happened. We started reading chapter books together a few months ago, and we both absolutely love it.  This is how we spend our Mama/Charlotte time in the afternoons while Tessa is napping. It's a tradition that I'm hoping to stick with for as long as my girls are still living at home.
Anyway, if you are looking for some good stories to help transition your read-alouds from picture books to chapter books, here's a list of some of our favorites so far. I asked Charlotte for her input, and these are the ones she mentioned.

Mr. Pudgins by Ruth Carlsen
This story is a zanier, male version of Mary Poppins. Johnny, Peter, and Jane love it when Mr. Pudgins comes to babysit for them, because just about anything can happen. From soda pop gushing out of the faucets, to a circus put on by the local pets, to a trip around the neighborhood in a floating bathtub, their magical, ridiculous adventures are a delight. Each chapter is its own mini-adventure, which makes it ideal for young children because you don't have to remember a long complicated plot to understand the story. We've already read this book several times.

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
I gave Charlotte the first two Ramona books for her fourth birthday. She loves all the silly trouble Ramona gets herself into, and I love how wonderfully Beverly Cleary writes. She somehow knows what is going on inside kids' heads and what makes them behave the way they do which is usually totally incomprehensible to adults. Ramona the Pest is the story of Ramona starting kindergarten, which was a fun way to prepare C for starting school next year. It's also interesting to note the differences between now and the 1960's when these books were written. Ramona and her friend Howie walk to school by themselves, rain or shine, and cross the street with the help of their neighbor Henry Huggins, a middle-schooler who is also the crossing guard.

Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin
Thelma, James, Roger, and Harriet are stray kittens living behind a dumpster in an alley, struggling to find enough food and stay out of the jaws of the local gang of mutts. They are ordinary except for one thing. They have wings. Their mother decides that it's not safe for them to stay in the city, and she sends them off to make their way in the world. There are several books in this series and they are all short (less than fifty pages) and illustrated, which makes them the perfect transition from picture books to chapter books. Charlotte's imagination gets fired up by these stories, and now she loves to pretend her stuffed animals have wings.

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindren
These stories of red-haired, freckle-faced, incredibly strong Pippi Longstocking who lives alone with her horse and her monkey are ridiculous, and Charlotte loves them. Pippi foils robberies, rescues children from a burning building, treats all the kids in the village to pounds and pounds of candy, and has all sorts of adventures with her neighbors, Tommy and Annika. These stories are also told in episodes, and are so crazy we both spend the whole time laughing out loud.

Martin's Mice by Dick King-Smith
Martin is a farm cat with a problem. He doesn't like the taste of mice. Instead of hunting them, he decided to keep them as pets. Of course he has to keep this unusual hobby a secret from his mother and siblings, which gets rather complicated for this tenderhearted feline. This story is set on a farm with talking barnyard animals as the characters, and reads as easily as a picture book. It's silly and sweet, and has some very interesting lessons about how we should treat one another.

 If you would like more info on the topic of reading aloud with your preschooler, the Read Aloud Revival blog and podcast is a fantastic resource. I'm always on the lookout for more easy chapter books that both Charlotte and I would enjoy, so if you have any recommendations please share!