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the crib sheet

Little House in the Big, Advanced City

Brooke Nalle

Like most of you, reading before bed is an important part of our sleep routines. I have been reading to my children since they were born; well I like to think that but honestly there were some gaps.  Some nights, bedtime just has to happen a lot faster; other nights a game or some other project takes precedence.  When I was in my first trimesters, I would pass out while reading and have to give up mid book due to nausea.  All in all though, we do a pretty good job reading to our children.  

We had to wait about 20 months for Clara because she was always chewing on books or pushing the book away eager to watch her brother instead.  Loewy was ready for books early on like her brother.  Books have for the most part been a peaceful facet of our routine.  We of course went through the arguments about how many and which ones and at other times had to hide certain books due to scary content or images.  You honestly never know what is going to freak a child out until it is too late.  

My husband and I also like and have patience for different books.  Over the summer, Graham and Alistair read Call of the Wild, and now Alistair is convinced that Santa will bring him his very own Buck.  I just couldn't get into it, preferring Ramona - an oeuvre that Graham couldn't really embrace.  You see, it evens out.

However we have finally found a book that is magical and a series that should prove to be just the thing for our little reader, Clara.  Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder is the perfect mixture of story and information to appease us all.  Alistair, now reading on his own, fades in and out, listening sometimes.  Laura Ingalls Wilder's book is perfect because it reaches every reader in this family.  I loved these books as a girl, and now as a grown up have learned so much.  Below is a list of the skills I have recently acquired thanks to reading this book to Clara before bed, and of course being a sleep dork I especially enjoyed 19th century family sleep culture:

Thanks to Little House in the Big Woods, I now know how to:

1. Feel safe in my bed even though there are wolves outside, or in my case annoying, tick infested, suburban deer.

2. Butcher a pig, make a ball for my children with the bladder, and offer my favorite child the pig's tail.

3.  Stock a larder and pantry for winter.

4.  Escape a panther.

5. Make bullets.

6. Make cheese, candy, and more cheese.

7. Line dance.

8. Make a cameo pin out of wax.

9. Deal with multiple bee stings on a young child.

As for 19th Century, family sleep culture.  Here is what worked for them, maybe we can make it work for us in the 21st century:

1.  Make your house very cold, using just a dying fire and its embers to warm your room(s).  It helps if your house is a cabin with a sleeping loft.

2. Have your dog, sleeping by the dying fire, to protect you from the wild animals outside.

3.  Did I mention the two 19th c. ways to keep your 19th c. children sleeping in their beds? very, very cold floors, a very, very cold trip to parents bed and the threat of wild animals.

4. When you attend a party be it a 19th c. maple sugaring party or a 21st. c. office party, bring all your babies, swaddle them tight, and then place them all in one bed together, to fall asleep while the fiddle plays.

5.  Speaking of fiddles, have one member of your family play a fiddle to help your children fall asleep.  It works like a charm for Laura and her sisters.

Stay tuned for future posts, as I promise to try to connect the dots between old-fashioned sleep and today's sleep culture.  Laura and her family have a lot to teach us beyond making our own butter.