Everyday Reading - Fun Modern Motherhood with a Practical Spin

January 29, 2015

How to Introduce Your Preschooler to Audiobooks

Practical tips for teaching your child to listen to audiobooks (plus suggestions of what books to start with!)

While I'm writing this post, I can see Ella through the video monitor, coloring and listening to yet another installment of the Boxcar Children. The day we finish up the last of the audiobooks available for Boxcar children will be a really sad day for all of us.

Some days, she asks to do an EXTRA hour of quiet time so she can keep listening (I . . . rarely turn her down).

She started listening to audiobooks last year when it was apparent that naps were a thing of the past and that quiet time was going to be daily, not a few times a week interspersed with naps.

Originally, we picked out those picture book and CD combos that most libraries have. Over the last few years, she'd listen to them in the car while we ran errands and then last year they started making an appearance during quiet time.

Then, in the summer, she listened to The Cinnamon Bear approximately ten million times at my parents house (it's an old radio Christmas series that my sisters and I loved as kids) and Scripture Scouts, and also I picked up a demo CD at ALA of the new audio recordings of all the Roald Dahl books. We eventually had to cut them off at bedtime because she'd lie awake in bed for HOURS listening instead of actually going to sleep.

In the fall, when we were driving all over Europe with Bart's parents, I started downloading chapter books for her from the library onto my iPhone or iPad (instructions on how to do that here) and since then she's been hooked.

Every day, she does one hour of regular quiet time and then she can spend the second hour listening to her audiobook on the iPad (someone asked how I made sure she didn't play on the iPad during quiet time; I caught her twice playing while she listened and warned her that if it happened again, she'd lose her audiobook privileges. She's never done it again).

Anyway, if you're interested in having your child listen to audiobooks, whether for quiet time or in the car, here are a few suggestions.

  1. Start with books they know. Listening to audiobooks is a skill. I can listen to practically anything now, but it took me years to work up to that - at first, I could basically only manage the fluffiest of chick lit or short middle grade novels. Little kids tend to adapt faster because they are used to having books read aloud to them, but I find that it helps them to make the transition if you start with things they are familiar with so they can get used to a different reader and the whole routine of listening to a book (for instance, most picture books have that "ding" on every page to let them know to turn the page). 
  2. As they move on to longer books, give them an overview of the story beforehand. Talk about who the main characters are, what the basic premise is, and things they might want to look for in the story. When you're just moving into chapter book territory, it can be trickier to follow along than when you have a picture book with illustrations to guide the way. 
  3. Have them do something with their hands. My mom read aloud to us every night until I was in high school, and most of the time my sisters and I would braid each others hair, do our nails or crochet. It's much easier for most people to listen if their hands are busy. Coloring, stickers, or legos/blocks are great options.
  4. Let them quit if they don't like a book. Ella quite liked the first couple of Katie Kazoo books, but then on the third one, she was listening while we were driving to Warwick and we noticed she started skipping ahead. When we asked her about it, she said "it's too scary for me that she's going to turn into a baby." So we just returned that audiobook and picked something else instead. No reason to force her to listen to something she wasn't enjoying when there are so many other options out there. 
  5. Get them a decent pair of headphones. And by this I basically mean not earbuds. And also, I should take my own advice and get her a pair. She generally doesn't need them, but occasionally on a plane or when we're out in public or on a family road trip where we don't necessarily all want to listen to 5 straight hours of Boxcar mysteries, it would be really helpful for her to be able to use them. I've heard great things about the Kidz Gear brand from several people and the reviews are really good. 

And a few suggestions, if you're looking for somewhere to start with chapter books:

  1. Anything Roald Dahl. Bart read Matilda aloud to Ella and I did The BFG with her while we were in London, but she also loved the audio versions of Fantastic Mr. Fox and George's Marvelous Medicine. She's also been begging me to read her The Witches (after hearing the first chapter on the demo CD), but. . . that book freaked me out as a child and I couldn't even finish it, and I also would like her to continue sleeping in her own bed, so that won't be happening. 
  2. Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary. This was the first audiobook of any significant length that she really loved. In fact, she listened to it twice through right in a row (these were some LONG days in the car). 
  3. The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne. She really enjoyed a few of these, but she lost interest after maybe three or four. She just didn't have enough contextual knowledge to really understand most of them. 
  4. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald. We'd read these books before, but she loved the audio versions and listened to them all right before she got hooked on . . . 
  5. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Have I mentioned this twelve times already? She is seriously in love with them and hasn't listened to anything else in the last 4 months. 

Any other questions or suggestions? I'm happy to try to answer and I'd be thrilled for any more audio titles your children have loved.

P.S. If you're looking for audiobook recommendations for older kids and adults, here are my 25 favorites.

January 27, 2015

Chicken, Bacon and Barbecue Grilled Pizza

Super delicious Chicken, Bacon and Barbecue Grilled Pizza (plus how to grill a pizza!)

For the last couple of years, I've been hearing about how awesome it is to grill pizza.

But. . . we don't own a grill.

Fortunately, we have the Lawlers around, who not only have a grill, but are total foodies (is it any wonder we like them?), so over the weekend we invited ourselves over to try our hands at grilled pizza.

Super delicious Chicken, Bacon and Barbecue Grilled Pizza (plus how to grill a pizza!)

Also, when we arrived and discovered that not only did they have the grill hot and ready to go, but also a big tray of homemade guacamole and chips to eat while we did the grilling? We knew we'd picked the right friends.

Super delicious Chicken, Bacon and Barbecue Grilled Pizza (plus how to grill a pizza!)

The weather has been going nuts right now. It'll be beautiful and sixty degrees one day, then rain like mad the next two days.

But we aren't the kind to let a little weather get in the way of a good dinner, and happily, the skies were clear when we went over to the Lawlers, although it was fairly chilly. The girls played outside for all of five minutes before they relocated inside to the playroom.

We have this nifty Evergriller Grill 'N' Flip Mitt, though, that's designed to protect your hands from both the heat of the grill and cold weather. There is a little insert at the top that makes it easy to hold your grilling tools without having to take your hand out of the glove. And when I say "your," I obviously mean "Bart" because I let him do all the grilling.

Super delicious Chicken, Bacon and Barbecue Grilled Pizza (plus how to grill a pizza!)

We used one of the new Kraft Barbecue Sauces (they just released a newly revamped line of sauces with no high-fructose corn syrup, which delighted me because I really try to avoid HFCS but I also have zero interest in making my own barbecue sauce. No thank you). We are big barbecue sauce fans in our house (especially Bart), and the sweet honey has been a particular hit.

This was both a new recipe and a new technique, so that was a little nerve-wracking to try out with four other adults and six little girls as an audience, but it came out perfectly and tasted fantastic. Win.

Especially when followed by ice cream sundaes with homemade fudge sauce. Now you want to be friends with the Lawlers too.

Super delicious Chicken, Bacon and Barbecue Grilled Pizza (plus how to grill a pizza!)

Chicken, Bacon and Barbecue Grilled Pizza

Makes 1 14-inch pizza

Pizza dough (I use this recipe and you would not believe what good press I got for making my own pizza crust. If only they knew how easy it is)
Sheet of parchment paper
1/4 - 1/3 cups of Kraft Barbecue Sauce (depending on how saucy you like your pizza. We always go for more rather than less)
1 1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
1 chicken breast, baked or grilled, and thinly sliced
Half an onion, thickly sliced and grilled
1-2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan cheese, optional


The thing about grilling pizza is that you don't put the toppings on until the pizza is on the grill, so you want everything ready to go before you put that crust on.

Get your grill going - you're aiming for around 500 degrees.

Roll the crust out as thinly as you can on the sheet of parchment paper.

When the grill is hot, put the crust on the grill facedown (so the parchment paper is on top). Let it cook for about two minutes, then carefully flip it over so the parchment paper is on the bottom and the crust is on the top.

Working quickly, spread the barbecue sauce over the crust, then sprinkle the mozzarella cheese evenly over the crust. Top with the sliced chicken, sprinkle on the bacon bits and onion rings, then scatter the spinach over the top. If you'd like, grate the Parmesan cheese over the top.

Close the lid of the grill and let it cook for about 4-6 minutes, until the bottom of the crust is crispy and the cheese is starting to bubble.

With grilling tongs, carefully slide the pizza onto a cutting board or cookie sheet. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then slice and serve.

For more barbecue recipes, check out Kraft's recipe section.

Super delicious Chicken, Bacon and Barbecue Grilled Pizza (plus how to grill a pizza!)

P.S. If you want a chance to win an Evergriller Grill ‘N’ Flip Mitt plus a year’s supply of Kraft Barbecue Sauce, visit GrillinFools.com by January 30 to enter.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and provided product samples by Kraft Foods, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

January 26, 2015

37 Weeks



Over the weekend, I hit the 37 week mark.

It's pretty much blowing my mind that this baby will be here in a few weeks (and I'm trying not to freak out that we still haven't picked a name).

The last week and a half has been kind of a mad rush of doctors appointments to get me all caught up. I went in for my first visit here and got all sorts of blood draws, swabs, and shots (when they call that Rhogam shot a "peanut butter shot" they aren't kidding. My hip hurt for four days).

The next day, I went in for a glucose test and, for the first time in three pregnancies, failed it. And I didn't just barely fail it. I failed it big time, apparently (anything over 140 means you have to retest and I was a 181. If you are over 200, you skip the second test and get a ticket straight to gestational diabetes).

Happily, when I went in for the three-hour version of the test last week, I passed without incident. And spent the whole time feeling really glad I took a friend up on her offer to watch my girls.

I'm at that point where I sort of forget I'm close to having a baby. I feel like I've been pregnant forever, and I feel pretty good (and then I'll try to hop up on the counter to get something off a high shelf and can hardly do it, thanks to an extra 25 pounds I keep forgetting I'm carrying around).

We're slowly getting settled into our new house (look for many posts about the new house over the next few months), and I'm hoping to get a lot of things settled before this baby arrives.

Also, after two week-late deliveries, I don't have any expectations of an on-time baby. Frankly, if this baby does come on her own, it's going to blow my mind.

And, I've heard rumors that there is no nursery at this hospital to send your baby to overnight and. . . .what's the point of the hospital if you can't have at least two good nights of sleep before they send you home? I need to look into this immediately.

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