Great books to read. This month, I’ve read White Fragility, Eight Perfect Murders,The Holdout, and Darling Rose Gold – all fantastic reads.
Spring! We’ve been going outside barefoot and in sweatshirts and it’s glorious.
Rainy days. On the sunny and beautiful days, I am either gloriously happy and grateful – or, if I’m having an off day, I end up getting an attack of the “shoulds.” I should be outdoors all day. I should take the boys for a hike. Lately, when there’s a rainy day, it gives me the freedom to curl up with the two boys and watch a movie without the sunny day outside lookin’ in my window and just judging me.
Ebooks. What would I do right now, with the library closed, without ebooks?! There were so many books that I had requested through the library months ago – physical copies of books – that I now can’t get access to. Luckily, I’ve been requesting copies of ebooks and miraculously getting the books pretty quickly. So grateful to be able to read the latest books published!
These boys. It’s a crazy time, and things are hectic. But if there had to be a freaking global pandemic, I’m grateful that a side effect of it is a lot of extra time with my boys while they’re oh-so-little.
I am all the things – grateful, stressed, worried, scared, happy, peaceful, content. And it’s all okay. And whatever you’re feeling? That’s okay too. Cheers to May and to a beautiful June coming our way later this week!
When I’m writing for the blog, I try to stay a little ahead of myself. It’s the 17th of May as I write this, and my posts for May 19th and May 23rd are already written and ready to publish. Ideally, I’d be way more ahead of schedule than this! I love it when the next six posts are ready to publish. But it is what it is for the moment.
It’s always interesting to be writing posts ahead of time, because by the time they’re published, often things have changed. Sometimes I write a post about feeling overwhelmed or in a funk, and then by the time it’s published, I’m like, “Huh. That was a hard time, but right now things are easy-peezy-lemon-squeezy.”
This is on my mind today because it’s a Sunday, and yesterday my post about Sunday Morning Writing was published. It was published yesterday, but I wrote that post exactly two weeks ago, which was the LAST time that Tamara took the boys for a Sunday morning hike so that I could have some time to write.
She did that again today. She’s pretty awesome, and I’m very grateful.
Man – this writing thing has been hard lately. When schools first closed, it was like an extended spring break for two weeks. I wasn’t working from home yet, and Tamara hadn’t started her new jobs yet working for two local organic farmers. It was blissful. So much family time, so much time to write, and so little stress.
Currently I am struggling to meet the demands of my job while caring for the boys every day, and I haven’t been very disciplined about my writing. I’m not trying to beat myself up, and I’m not even that upset with myself. This is a difficult time, and “I can’t motivate to write my novel during my free time” is about the first worldiest and most privileged of all the first world/privileged problems I can think of. It’s no big deal. There are more important things in life, and there have been other things on my mind and filling my free time, which I’m sure I’ll write about at some point.
This morning, after Tamara left with the boys, I re-read my Sunday Morning Writing post from two weeks ago. The plan I wrote for myself that day involved early morning writing (4 a.m. every day) on whatever I felt like writing, and then weekend nap times for the novel, including a word count. That hasn’t happened. The early mornings are really tough for me right now, because (imagine this) it’s been really difficult to drag myself out of bed when my alarms starts beeping at 4 a.m. For the weekend naptimes, sometimes a really good novel or a need to tidy the house for my own serenity interferes. In fact, novels have been to blame for my struggle to wake early, too; I’ve had several great reads in a row (Eight Perfect Murders, The Holdout, Darling Rose Gold, A Good Marriage, Magpie Murders, The Glass Hotel) and sometimes a mix of too much caffeine and my need to know what’s going to happen next in the book means I stay up way too late and then 4 a.m. arrives much too quickly after bedtime.
There’s no need to change my plan. It’s a good plan – just a difficult time of life. I’ll keep trying to wake up early, to focus on fiction writing during weekend naptime, to keep my writing practice and goals at the forefront. I’ll plan for summertime writing, which is only a few weeks away. And I’ll maintain a balance for myself – self-care, self-discipline, and acceptance of this crazy time of life.
It has been interesting to observe the differences in my boys when it comes to books.
Edgar loved books from a pretty young age. His two favorites while he was first crawling were The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin and Five Little Pumpkins, which was just hilarious because why all the pumpkins?! He was content, at nine months of age, to curl up in my lap and listen to a story.
Jonas has been different. A big reason for that is his status as Kid # 2. We haven’t had the same capacity to cuddle up with Jonas and a book as frequently while managing life with two young kids. A possible second reason is his early mobility. At nine months old, when Edgar was all snuggly with a book, Jonas was walking. He didn’t have time for books! He had to run after his brother and see what else his little body was capable of doing.
By the time Jonas was about 15 months old, however, his enjoyment of sitting with a mom and listening to a book had grown. Now he definitely loves it. Sometimes, he just loves to sit and look at one of his books. In fact, I’ll come over and try to read it to him, and he’ll push my hand away. Then he’ll go get a different book and bring it to me – so that I can read THAT book, to myself, and leave him alone to examine the pages of Curious George Visits The Chocolate Factory.
Here are a few of his faves:
Where Is Baby’s Valentine? This one is part of a series; it’s a lift-the-flap book by Karen Katz. The BEST part is when Baby opens a cupboard and her Valentine’s not there, but there’s a jar of cookies. The reason it’s the best is that this is when Jonas pretends to take the cookies out of the book and feed them to me, Tamara, Edgar, himself, and whoever else is in the room (or on video chat) at the moment. It’s one of his favorite bits.
Baby Present by Rachel Neumann. I love this book, Edgar loved it, and Jonas loves it. It’s basically a mini meditation. “Breathe in, baby. Breathe out. You are perfect just as you are, sitting in the here and now. The past is gone; it was pretty short to begin with. The future is tricky, and a long way off. Right now is just right.” ETC. Each page has an ADORABLE baby photo on it, and it’s just the sweetest. It’s also the perfect calm down book for Mommy when she could use a meditation break and can’t take one!
Doggies by Sandra Boynton. I mean – I hate this book, but I get it. It’s all about counting and doggie sounds. Love the counting – hate having to read all the different kinds of barking. I delegate this to Tamara whenever I can.
Big Board First 100 Words by Roger Priddy. Jonas loves this large, bright, and shiny book of first words with clear and simple photos. Edgar loved them when he was little too.
Time For Bed by Mem Fox.
Frosty The Snowman. If the book is basically song lyrics on paper, I sing it as I read it, and Jonas loves this one. Definitely one of the first books he’d listen to in its entirety. And yes, we’re still reading it on an 80 degree day in May, for sure.
King Jack and the Dragon by Peter Bentley & Helen Oxenbury. OMG – this one’s the cutest. A hit with grown-ups, almost-four-year-olds, and toddlers. My highest recommendation.
It’s been a long time since I wrote about Edgar and Jonas’s favorite books. My last post was over a year ago in January 2019. Edgar was about two and a half years old, and Jonas was four months old.
It took a while for Jonas to love it, but now both of my boys love to curl up with books. They like different books, of course, so if we’re in the same room Tamara and I have to whisper so the storyline of Where Is Baby’s Valentine? doesn’t become entangled with Curious George Rides A Bike.
Edgar will come listen to any book you start to read, and I love that. One way to get him to come running across the house is to just start reading the first page of a book, especially a book he knows.
Here are some of his current faves:
EVERYTHING CURIOUS GEORGE. Curious George Goes To A Costume Party. Curious George Goes Fishing. Curious George and the Dump Truck. Or, “Regular Curious George,” which is what Edgar calls the original story of how George comes from the jungle to live in the same city as his friend, the man with the yellow hat. (I find this problematic, but we read the books anyway.) Edgar loves them all. A bonus is that, when things get quiet, Edgar sometimes start reciting the exact words to Curious George Rides A Bike or Curious George Flies A Kite to himself and it’s amazing.
What Do People Do All Day?, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, and others by Richard Scarry. Edgar loves these books, and I love them, too. They are huge and colorful and have so much happening – and yet, I don’t find them overwhelming at all, and there’s always something to look at and talk about on every page. We like Richard Scarry’s smaller books, too – A Day At The Fire Station is a hit.
Trucktown Race From A to Z. Such a random book. So problematic, plot-wise. But Edgar loves it. What can you do?
Everything Berenstain Bears! Particularly When I Grow Up and Dinosaur Dig. Edgar seems to really enjoy a series lately.
Everything Winnie The Pooh and Cars. Thanks to COVID, we’ve had this one book – Cars 5-Minute Racing Stories, which is BASICALLY fan fiction about what Lightning McQueen and his friends do between movies – for at least three months at this point. Currently taking a break from it for the parents’ sake, but Edgar would read it All. Day. Every. Day.
Froggy Gets Dressed and others by Jonathan London. These books came from my mom’s extensive collection of children’s books from her career as a kindergarten teacher.
The Blue Ribbon Day by Katie Couric. This book was gifted to me during senior year of high school from my friend Melissa; I was a huge fan of children’s books AND Katie Couric. Edgar loves it. I love it, too. I really like books that tell a story and have a rhyme scheme – they’re interesting when I’m paying attention and I can be soothed by the rhythmic flow when I’m zoning out. (Just me? Sometimes I read an entire book and realize I haven’t been paying attention – like highway hypnosis for parents.)
Where Are You, Little Green Dragon? by Klaus Baumgart. This is a short, simple, and sweet book that’s just silly and fun. I won’t spoil it by sharing the plot.
Dazzle The Dinosaur by Marcus Pfister. This book may have come from my mom’s collection as well. It’s super fun – just a little dinosaur adventure story. A couple of scary dinosaurs included but they don’t seem to have bothered Edgar at all.
I am hoping to get back into the routine of posting our faves every few months. It’s a great way to capture this moment in our reading life. If it’s helpful to you, too, then that’s doubly wonderful! Happy reading.
One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, Tamara took the boys for a hike by the river so that I could get some writing done.
I’ve been writing in bits and pieces, and it’s frustrating and difficult. It’s so hard to move forward with a project. In my fantasies, I live in a cabin in the mountains, and I spend all day every day thinking about whatever novel or short story I am currently writing, with interludes of family time and service work.
But in my real life? I have a full-time job that requires my energy and focus throughout the week, and it’s hard to maintain any momentum when it comes to my fiction projects.
I told Tamara that I felt like I need a huge chunk of time – hours, not minutes – to recharge my writing battery and to reorganize my writing projects. And she made it happen for me without thinking twice. I am often amazed at how supportive Tamara is of this little side hustle of mine that is really just for me. I have hopes and dreams, for sure, of generating income and publishing work, but right now? My writing time has zero concrete outcome other than the preservation of my sanity. I truly hope that the end of my story is: She wrote without publication or income for years and then finally made her writing dream a reality. But I don’t think Tamara minds if that’s not the outcome; she’s just supportive. I’m so grateful for that kind of unconditional support.
It’s amazing how much easier it is to really sink into my writing when I have hours instead of minutes to write. It even allows me to daydream – to take a minute away from the computer to actually think about what I’m trying to do, or to think about what I’m trying to think about. I can take BREAKS. That’s the kind of writing time I love – a chunk of time so long that I actually require little breaks to grab coffee and stretch my legs.
I spent that long Sunday morning, while Tamara took the boys hiking, reorganizing my list of writing projects; looking through drafted blog posts and updating my editorial calendar; and making a writing schedule so that I could maintain focus on my writing projects.
This is what I came up with:
Every day, I wake up at 4 and I write until the boys wake up. This can be whatever kind of writing – fiction, blogging, journaling. It can even be time devoted to organizing my writing life, via my editorial calendar or an outline for a novel or story. If I’m willing to wake up at 4, I will write whatever I have the energy and creativity to write, with no restrictions.
On weekends, the boys’ nap time is my writing time. Not only that – there will be a word count goal for that writing time. I’m going to start with 500 words until I get a groove going, but I hope to up it quickly.
I wish there was more time; I hope that there will be more time! But this is my minimum, for now. So grateful for a long Sunday morning to try to wrap my head and my heart around my writing life.
For the past few days, I’ve been having a lot of fun exploring activity ideas for my days with the boys.
Once you start looking around for ideas to teach or entertain your toddler and preschooler, it is an endless rabbit hole. There are so many amazing parent bloggers out there, with great ideas for activities. It’s incredibly helpful. I am a fun and silly parent, but ideas for crafts or sensory activities don’t come to me automatically. And I definitely benefit from the pro tips these bloggers provide. Many of them are current or former teachers, and have pro tips about how to set up these activities so that your kids are engaged and your house doesn’t get destroyed – both good things.
These are some of the activities we’ve tried out so far:
Frozen toys. (I can’t remember where I got this from, but I basically just froze some of their toys in a block of ice. They had fun trying to break them out – for a short while. I think this activity will be more fun and science-y when they’re older.)
Mixing play-dough with ANYTHING else. Play-dough and trucks. Play-dough and spaghetti. Play-dough and cups. Anything to mix it up and inspire creative play.
My favorite website so far has been Busy Toddler – such a great resource with so many fun ideas, and really easy to read and follow.
It’s been challenging, not being able to go out and about with the kids. They are pretty easy-going and have been fairly content, but I can tell there are times when they’re bored or feeling uninspired by the same old toys and activities. For them and for me, it’s been fun to break out a new and unexpected activity; they try out new things, they experiment, they figure out new and creative ways to play. It’s been really fun to find creative ideas for experiments and sensory play. Hoping to add to this list throughout the spring and summer.
We’ve all been told this, right? Especially parents or caregivers or professional helpers. It’s related to the airplane safety guidelines that flight attendants announce at the beginning of every flight
When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others. Why? Because if you run out of oxygen yourself, you won’t be able to help anyone else with their oxygen mask.
It’s a simple metaphor. It’s powerful, and it’s true. But how often do we take the time to think about exactly WHAT our oxygen is? What are the things that we need to do to keep ourselves safe, strong, and breathing so that we can give our best service to the people around us?
I decided to think about this in my quest for everyday self-care. I am not great at self-care, which is one of the reasons why I write about it constantly. And I am ESPECIALLY not good at everyday self-care – just the little things we do (or don’t do) on regular days to keep ourselves healthy and well. Like NOT eating bedtime candy. Or drinking water so I don’t get dehydrated. (Note: getting up to grab a drink of water right now!)
If I’m going to give myself oxygen first, I have to know what I need. And the same is true for all of us. I sat down one day last week and I scribbled these words on a piece of paper: Writing. Sleep. Healthy food + diet. Reading. Conversations with friends. Meetings. Time to putter around. Running. Time outdoors + nature. Adventures. Doing something new. Travel.
I am pretty good at making time for things I need to do for self-care. But we can’t make time to give ourselves oxygen unless we know what we need. What’s your oxygen?