Seven Quick Takes: Siblings, Snow, and Books

1) It’s fun watching sibling relationships grow. Sometimes relationship “development” means the toddlers wind up banished, screeching and flailing, to separate timeouts for mauling each other. On other days we watch their imaginative play or hysterical laughter and see the potential for real friendship as they grow. The big kids adore their baby sister; the feeling is mutual. Jack makes a beeline for the baby when he gets up. Nobody is better at coaxing belly laughs out of Jenny than her big brother. [That’s a giant red loaner bag of maternity clothes in the back because in one week I went from “everything fits, won’t need bigger clothes for a while” to “all pants too small, all shirts too short.”]

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2) Unfortunately, our sweet brown-eyed son has accidentally developed the mouth of a sailor. Toddler pronunciation is adorable but, well…he conflates clock and lock. And he just can’t properly pronounce fork. Or stick. Or shirt. Or half a dozen other things… Basically, we live in a truck stop right now. He makes up for his endless stream of profanity via cuteness, though. From yesterday’s walk: “Garbage truck! I love you, garbage truck!” Yes, he’s definitely male.

3) We finally got a little dab of actual snow (vs. last week’s ice). Just in time, apparently. Next week’s forecast calls for 80 degrees (27 C). As usual, the South melted into a puddle of hysteria and the kids and I stayed home, played in the snow, and avoided the Southern drivers. Every single winter here when it drops to freezing our dear southern friends dash from building to building thinly dressed and complaining about the cold. Their excuse is that nobody bothers to buy warm clothing here because it’s so rarely cold. After four winters in this location I regret to inform them that it gets chilly here for a couple of months every winter. And one doesn’t have to spend that time curled in a ball of misery on top of the heat vents, even if the county does only own one snowplow.

So, beloved southern friends, here’s a very brief tutorial on dressing appropriately for your winter, based on six years of careful and highly scientific observation *cough* of southerners in their natural habitats. You can implement this bit by bit as the temperature drops. I know some folks here that would require all these layers once it hits 50 degrees, and Chicagoans who are still in flip-flops in a foot of snow, so the cutoff is arbitrary based on your personal comfort. The basic premise is that in winter, the first goal of your attire is to layer and stay warm, not look cute.  A) Ditch your sweet little thin ankle socks (or *shudder* adorable sock-less flats). Put on a pair of long thick socks, preferably knee-length vs. shin-length, preferably wool or ski-sock material. Smartwool socks are great and machine washable and can always be found on clearance sale at this time of year. One pair will last you through a lifetime of southern winters. Around the house, add some slippers. Outside wear your sneakers, hiking boots, or even rain boots or muck boots. B) Wear a long camisole or close-fitting shirt tucked into your pants to create a warm inner layer that traps your body heat and prevents cold air seeping in between the cracks in your clothes. C) Put on a long-sleeved overlayer shirt or sweater. I usually wear an undershirt, long-sleeved shirt, and fleece or sweater around the house and keep the heat set low. Unless your underlayer is high-necked, avoid low V-necked sweaters. I can’t tell you how often my coworkers in Texas wailed about the cold as the wind whistled down the fronts of their lacy-knit low-necked cotton sweaters (with no underlayers), while stating in confusion “but I’m wearing a sweater! I AM dressed warmly! And I’m still cold!” D) If you are still cold, wear a pair of close-fitting long-john (long underwear) pants under your jeans and long socks. You can get them for $3 at Walmart and they’ll probably last you for the remainder of your southern winters. However, if properly layered, you’ll most likely be too hot with them indoors and might want to save them for walks or playing in the once-a-year snow. E) Hats, scarves, and gloves are for warmth first, cuteness second. My friends here all wear loosely crocheted fashion hats and gloves and filmy style scarves as they shiver. Instead, for the same price invest in a closely knit hat or warm fleece, preferably with a double layer around the earband. Winter scarves are for blocking wind and cold around your neck, not elegant draping to accentuate your neckline. F) Everyone wears a hoodie or one of those thin waist-length fake wool fashion coats open wide at the collar here in winter. No. They don’t insulate, and they don’t block wind. I’ve seen many name brand parkas for $5 in the thrift stores here for truly bitter cold. Otherwise, to go outside, put on a warm layer or two (wool sweater, fleece, hoodie), then top it with the most wind-proof thing you own – your raincoat, a windbreaker, your spring trench coat… If you’re cold or it’s windy, zip it up to your neck.

Snow pants and snow boots are generally not worth the investment here for the once-a-year snow. The Man and I only keep ours for trips to see family up north. We don’t even own a snow shovel because it’s always melted off the driveway within a day for all four years we’ve spent in this house. No need to layer up as much as Annie here unless you’re planning on rolling in the snow. She, however, loved it and grinned ear to ear the whole time we were outside.

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4) Once Jenny woke from her nap and started crying on the monitor I had to bring the kids in from the snow. We spent much of the rest of our morning curled up on the couch reading A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. It’s the perfect chapter book to engage toddlers as they play nearby. There’s a small line drawing on almost every page, so it holds a nice mid-point between familiar picture books and longer text-heavy kids’ novels. The text also varies frequently between songs and poems, conversations, and description so there are lots of opportunities to vary your voice and engage small kids’ interest. Ours are especially enamored because the classic 1970s Winnie the Pooh movie is the one movie they’re allowed to watch (it’s the gentlest and slowest-paced movie we could find). They’ve seen it half a dozen times in the last six months and are familiar with the characters and basic story. Actually, the book is pretty fun to read as a parent, too. My mother read us countless books when we were kids, but somehow we missed this one. I’m having fun discovering it now. The language is creative and the British humor always leaves me chuckling even though it goes over the kids’ heads. For example, after Pooh’s attempt to reach the bees’ honey by hanging onto a balloon fails, he asks Christopher Robin to shoot the balloon with his cork gun to bring Pooh back to earth:

‘….you aimed very carefully at the balloon, and fired.

Ow!” said Pooh.

“Did I miss?” you asked.

“You didn’t exactly miss,” said Pooh, “but you missed the balloon.” ‘

Or, when Pooh and Piglet are tracking an unknown set of animals through the snow (with some concern that they might be “Hostile Animals”):

‘And still the tracks went on in front of them… Suddenly Winnie-the-Pooh stopped and pointed excitedly in front of him. “Look!”

“What?” said Piglet, with a jump. And then, to show that he hadn’t been frightened, he jumped up and down once or twice in an exercising sort of way.’

5) I owe Rosie many thanks for suggesting this music cube on her blog a year or so ago. It is Annie’s favorite toy. She will play with it for up to an hour experimenting with instrument combinations, listening to the music, and getting up to dance. We’re not big fans of noise-making electronic toys, but this one’s a winner.

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6) On the grown-up front, The Man just finished re-reading Anna Karenina. I’m inching through Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom (it’s hard to hold thick books one-handed whilte feeding the baby).

7) The baby just woke up crowing up for her morning bottle, and The Man and the twins are stirring so it’s time for this late quick takes to go up. Enjoy your weekend!

For more Seven Quick Takes please visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

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10 thoughts on “Seven Quick Takes: Siblings, Snow, and Books

  1. I love, love, love reading Milne aloud to my babies, too. It’s cozy-feeling!
    And I know what you mean about the unintentional profanity. Our high school basketball team is the Falcons…my oldest couldn’t pronounce “falcon” correctly for the longest time…at every game she would try to scream “GO FALCONS” constantly, but it sounded like a VERY different word!

    • Ha! Glad to know my kids aren’t the only ones shocking the community. The worst was when we had a team of three or four speech therapists and county administrators all over at the same time to evaluate our daughter. My son walked in during a silent moment, stopped in the middle of the room, dropped what sounded very clearly like a cuss word, then moved on while the silence deepened and everyone looked accusingly at me. My husband and I do not swear at all, but I had a hard time convincing them that it was a) not a swear word but a mispronunciation, and b) not from us. My bright red face really did not help my cause.

      I’m on the lookout for a nice set of Milne hardcovers at a good price. I have a feeling we’ll reread them many times!

    • I feel bad for laughing (and try not to show it because then he catches on and deliberately repeats it), but it just sounds so ridiculous coming from his sweet little face.

  2. I love Winnie the Pooh as a first read aloud book for the exact same reasons 🙂 Having board books with the classic Pooh illustrations helps with the toddlers too, because they’re already familiar with the characters and enamored of them!

    And the toddler pronunciation cracks me up – Cecilia used to call trucks “fwucks” but often without the “w” and it was all I could do not to laugh!

    • Yeah, I read them Little House in the Big Woods before this because the Little House books and the Chronicles of Narnia were the first books I remembered my Mom reading out loud to me when I was two. However, the twins only engaged sporadically for that one. Pooh, they’re obsessed and keep begging me to read more. It’s hard to think of any similar chapter books with this particular blend of pictures, text, voices, songs, etc… Good thing there are four Pooh books?

      • Have you read the Little House picture books with them? My twins ADORE those and were a little more interested in the Little House series because of those, I think. But honestly? Not interested enough for me to try to get everyone quiet enough to read to all of them! We do our “big” read alouds when the twins are napping!

      • I haven’t tried the picture books, but should. I’ve definitely seen them and thought they looked interesting. At this point, I don’t make the twins sit still for chapter books. We cuddle on the couch for picture books, but they’re free to roam/play with blocks/etc. if I’m reading a chapter book. Once we got bigger my Mom often had us fold the laundry while she read out loud…conniving women, mothers :).

  3. I haven’t started my kids on Milne yet – probably should, I seem to remember my Dad reading Winnie the Pooh to me when I was about Ginger’s age (we have the BBC recordings and the kids have listened to them in the car – Alan Bennett narrates – LOVE! but I haven’t actually used them as a read aloud). Ginger and I have been reading Little House in the Big Woods together. The Mrs Pepperpot stories and some of Astrid LIndgren books were also a hit with her.

    When I was in primary school (year 1 and 2) our headmaster used to come down from the high school (it was a k-12 school) and read Winnie the Pooh to us (years 1 -7, so 5-12 year olds) in assembly. He used to have some of the characters hidden up the sleeves of his academic gown and they would ‘pop’ out while he was reading.

    • Ooh, we’ll have to check for the BBC recordings. It’s hard to find good listening for the car that’s appropriate for young kids but doesn’t drive parents crazy. Right now I can still listen to my grown-up recorded books, but their days are numbered as the kids become more aware. Mrs Pepperpot is a new name to me, too.

      What a fun headmaster you had!

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