No doubt about it - we are in the midst of a reading crisis! Daily headlines remind us of our obsessive anxiety over reading scores and assessments. In all these alarming messages, one word is nowhere to be seen: LOVE! There! I've said it!

A movie and a sleepover. It didn't sound too difficult. Especially the sleeping part. For four years, my only adult time with Connor and Evan's parents came in the form of beers and games after the boys were put to bed. "Keep them happy, keep them busy, keep them alive," was my mantra for their first overnight stay at my house.

First Steps: Supplies

Hosting two 4-year-old boys required purchasing some supplies and hiding others. In preparation for my evening with the twins, I stocked up on snacks (red licorice) and entertainment (the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory). And then I hid things. Things that I don't remember seeing in any of the homes of my friends with children. I hid candles and lighters, glass ornaments and family heirlooms. I stored tiny things, expensive things and sharp things.

And then I got to the kitchen sink. Right there, three feet from the ground, was a treasure chest of cleaning chemicals. Powders, bleach and even sprays meant distinctly for killing. How do parents of small children keep their houses clean while keeping their children alive? I decided to trust that Connor and Evan had been trained not to drink wasp spray and kept it all as-is, with hope in my heart.

The Movie

"They won't sit through a full movie," Sarah warned when I told her about my purchase. I decided to try it anyway. This whimsical film with beautiful scenes of candy was sure to draw their attention. Their attention and their terror, it turns out. While Evan cozied up to me on the couch, Connor loudly voiced his opinion - especially in the psychedelic tunnel scene - that he did not like this movie. (Surprising, given his father's fondness for Phish and the Dead.)

I sent the movie home with the boys, to commemorate their first full-length feature film. The Veruca Salt song-tantrum remains a favorite scene.

Bedtime, Step One

I set up a makeshift bed for them in the finished basement of my split level, just steps from my room and the bathroom. When they're at home, bedtime is predictable. They talk to one another for a bit, then fall asleep. I expected something similar. My lack of a night light (they use a Lite-Brite at home) proved to be an issue for Connor, who protested less than a minute after I turned off the light.

The Solution

The relocation process happened quickly, as I could think of no other option. They slept on the floor at the end of my bed, in the one room I didn't childproof. Note the "they." They slept, I did not. Every snort, cough, yawn made me think something bad was happening. And, like a neurotic parent of a newborn, when I couldn't hear them at all, I was convinced of the worst. The 6:30 a.m. wake-up was a tough one and, hours after they left, Aunt Jill took a rare midday nap.

Lesson Learned

Exposing children to Gene Wilder's disturbing and somewhat psychopathic portrayal of Willy Wonka? This calls for a night light.

- Jill Moorhead doesn't have children, but borrows her friends' kids with a dual purpose: to actually see her friends, and to find ways to spoil their offspring. She writes about food in Columbus Crave and Columbus Monthly, as well as at itinerantfoodies.com.