Things That Make My Life Better – Children’s Audio Books

This is the second post in my creatively named series, Things That Make My Life Better.  You can see the first post here.

So Texas is big.  It takes us 5 hours to get from our home in San Antonio to my parent’s home in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.  It takes 8 hours to visit the husband’s grandfather in the Texas Panhandle.  Thus we spend a decent amount of time in the car when we go to visit family.  We have a stylish minivan (snort) that has a built-in DVD player, but I started thinking it’d be nice to listen to something that we all enjoy and might even be a wee bit educational, not just hearing 5+ hours of various kid DVDs.  (but if you want me to recite the entire script of The Incredibles or Toy Story, I can.  Just saying…)

Enter children’s audio books.

Little did I know that I’d LOVE listening to kid’s audio books.  And so would my husband. And, perhaps most importantly, so did the kids.  I’ve found it helps for them to have something for them to do with their hands while they are listening, so the girl (age 8) typically does her rainbow loom (anyone want a bracelet?  they are in abundance over here) or some finger weaving with yarn and the boy (age 5) typically colors, draws or fiddles with some action figures.

We have gotten all our audio books from the library, but in perusing amazon it appears you can buy most of them.  I’ve included a few Amazon Affiliate links below.  But, really, get them from the library.

Here are the books we’ve listened to so far:

Roald Dahl books

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I somehow made it through childhood without reading any Roald Dahl books. My loss.  I have loved each of his books we’ve listened to and am looking forward to listening to Matilda and The Witches this summer.

The BFG – We loved the version narrated by Natasha Richardson.  It was our first Roald Dahl book and a great introduction to his fanciful worlds, his unapologetic way with mean characters and his tenderness for the underdog.  The dialogue is hilarious.

James and the Giant PeachWe listened to this book this past November while driving to the Texas Panhandle.  When we got there the kids were delighted to find snow on the ground (it’s novel to South Texas kids) and my son almost immediately made a giant peach and hollowed out a spot for James and all his insect friends.  Bizarrely charming story.

The Twits – This is just an hour, so it’s more of a long story than a novel.  Really unusual and very entertaining.  My kids laughed out loud several times.  Dahl is not afraid to create mean, unredeemable characters which is somewhat rare in most of the kid’s books I’ve read with them so far.

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryLike any kid of the 80s, I saw the Gene Wilder movie version more than once yet I never considered reading the book.  Mistake!  It’s whimsical, observant, biting at times and so very compelling.  We listened to the most recently released version which is narrated by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame.  He sounded like he was having a blast for the entire 3.5 hour reading.  His enthusiasm was catching and we’ve listened to this book more than once.

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Kate DiCamilla Books

Kate DiCamilla writes fantastic books that seamlessly weave magical realism into  sweet stories.  They are a little complicated for my 5 year old – he gets the overall plot but misses a lot of the nuanced dialogue and symbolism.  They make for great books for adults to listen to (or read) as the stories have a surprising depth and poignancy.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane -Both of my kids loved this one.  It’s a story of a toy rabbit (Edward Tulane) and his very long journey after being thrown into the ocean and separated from his devoted child owner.  The story spans many years, characters and social classes and I loved that his coming of age (if you will) takes decades.  There are some sad parts but it’s a sweet story of redemption.

The Magician’s Elephant – A fanciful, imaginative story with a lot of heart.  It bored my 5 year old and my 8 year old wasn’t as captured with it as she was with Edward Tulane, but my husband and I really liked it.  I’ll probably have them listen to it again in a few years.

Harry Potter

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If you read any of the 4 posts I wrote in 2013 (not really four, but I wasn’t exactly prolific) you probably noticed that I mentioned my kids loving the Harry Potter books in all of them.  We’ve read the first and second books (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) aloud to them.  And by ‘we’ I mean my husband.  I usually sat on the bed and listened or did the dishes downstairs.  The kids were immediately taken by the world of Harry Potter.   I decided to try the audio books after we’d read the books and it was instantly obvious why the reader, Jim Dale,  got an Grammy for his performance.  It’s captivating and perfect.  The first two books are 7.5- 8 hours long on CD.  My boy listened to the books at home for weeks on repeat while coloring and doing puzzles.

Beverly Cleary  books

Ramona The Pest – The audio book is narrated by Stockard Channing which is a treat for this ‘was once obsessed with Grease’ gal. The Ramona stories are timeless and haven’t we all felt like a Ramona at some point in our lives?

The Mouse and the Motorcycle – The kids loved this one.  I found the narration to be a bit whiney, but the kids didn’t seem to notice.

Other books we’ve listened to:

Stuart Little by EB White – A strange story.  It was the first time I read this book and I had no idea it was so straightforwardly odd.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum- We listened to the version read by Brooke Shields.  Keeping with the theme of ‘all the books I missed out on when I was a kid,’ it was my first time to read this book.  It’s very different from the movie and I was surprised all the deeper undertones and themes in the book.  This is another one I’ll want the kids to listen to when they are older.  They enjoyed the book but trying to explain it to them when they had just seen Oz The Great and Powerful was a bit challenging.

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American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osbourne – Fantastic and very energetic narration.  The kids got really into it and have been talking about some of the characters for the last few weeks.   John Henry was their favorite.

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Peter Pan by J.M Barrie (narrated by Jim Dale) – We are apparently Jim Dale audio book groupies (he read the Harry Potter books too).  We are on the final CD of this book now (it’s about 5 hours); the boy and I listen to it when we are in the car together.  It’s my first time with the non-Disney version of Peter Pan and the story is much more intricate and detailed than I expected.  Also quite British.  Actually, looking over my list, we apparently quite fancy books set in England.  All the Roald Dahl books, Harry Potter, The Magician’s Elephant and Peter Pan all take place across the pond.  So very cultured we are.  {snort}.  Much of this books goes over my boy’s head, but I am enjoying it.  I’m thinking it’s probably most appreciated by 3-7 graders who can pick up the nuances of the story.

Your turn – any audio book fans out there?  Any recommendations?

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Things That Make My Life Better – My Favorite Teas

My commitment to both blogging and reading blogs has changed quite a bit in the last year. When I started blogging I was a new stay-home mom, my kids were 2 and 4, and we spent a lot of time at home. We were also new to San Antonio and didn’t know too many people. Blogging provided me an outlet to share, connect and learn. It gave me a hobby and provided a nice break from stacking blocks, doing laundry and potty training.

Now, about 4 years later, life has {obviously} changed. My kids only get more active and we aren’t home too much. With kindergarten on the horizon for my youngest, I’m pondering going back to work or maybe going back to school (eek!). We have a great group of friends here and I cherish face-to-face friendships, play dates, meals and connections.

I also got jaded with several of the blogs I once enjoyed reading. While I’m all for optimism (even if I’m not the most optimistic person around), I’m not for sugar coating, bragging and misrepresentation. Thus I cut my blog reading way down (and hid several folks on Facebook) and voila, I felt better. The whole line about ‘comparing your behind the scenes reel with someone’s highlight reel’ was very true for me and I needed to step away and focus on my {really pretty nice}  life that’s happening right in front of me. And not share every minute of it. I still take a lot of pictures but they go to the family photo books, not facebook or the blog. It feels good. I capture my #blessed/lovemylife/sohappy moments in my head or say them out loud to my kids/husband. They are the ones who need to know when I appreciate, cherish or extra adore them – not the world wide web.

With all that said…..

One thing I do appreciate about blogs is the peak into other’s lives and the sharing of what works (and what doesn’t) in that blogger’s life.  {ps – I’ve updated my Links page with the blogs that I still frequent} I get a lot of ideas and inspiration from blogs and I have added many tricks to my parenting repertoire, many recipes to my binders and sweated through a few blogger workouts.

I thought that I’d share some of the things that I love and am starting a new series called Things That Make My Life Better. I’ve already written a few posts and they aren’t all food. I’d LOVE if those 3 of you that are still reading (hi!) would add your favorites in the comments section.

I’m kicking off the series with my favorite {bagged} teas.

I drink a lot of hot tea. All the time. I pretty much always have a cup going. I use each tea bag twice and drink out of a 16oz cup, so I’m drinking pretty watered down tea which would certainly horrify any proper tea expert.

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My Favorite Bagged Teas

  1. Yogi Egyptian Licorice Mint – If you go to an Aveda salon or store, this tea tastes just like the tea they serve.  It’s minty, almost sweet and has an awesome licorice flavor.
  2. Numi Chinese Breakfast – My go-to black tea.  Slightly aromatic and more complex that an regular black tea.
  3. Good Earth Super Green Tea – Great orange notes and really good hot or iced.
  4. Allegro Thirst Tamer – My kid’s favorite tea.  Caffeine free and a dreamsicle like flavor.  They like it with a little honey.
  5. Guayaki Yerba Matte – My favorite Matte brand.
  6. Central Market Organics Green Jasmine – This.  This is my daily tea – each and every morning I start my day with this tea. It’s light, doesn’t upset my empty stomach and I just really love jasmine.
  7. Numi Chocolate Pu-erh – A new discovery and it’s a great afternoon pick-me up.  Very subtle chocolate flavor and good with a little almond milk stirred into the hot tea.
  8. Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat – It’s a little like the licorice mint tea in flavor and it works wonders on a sore throat.
  9. Pukka Three Ginger – If you like ginger, this tea delivers in a big way.  Spicy and healing.

Your turn – What’s your favorite tea??