books + reading · parenting

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books List For Six-Months-Olds)

One day when Edgar was just a few months old, I looked up to find Tamara reading him Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning.

Now, when you’re reading to a very young baby, it’s more about the sound of your voice than the subject matter of the book. So Tamara and I took advantage of that stage and just read our own books out loud to Edgar until he was older.

However, I found that Man’s Search For Meaning – which is a beautiful and inspiring book about a man who survived the Holocaust – was a step too far. TOO INTENSE FOR A BABY. And, to keep that from happening to others, I decided to make a list of the books Edgar has loved the most throughout his first two years. Edgar has had specific favorites from the time he was four months old, so this list will be produced in segments according to age.

Recommended reading from 6-month-old Edgar:

Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden. Sweet, simple, and (spoiler alert) a little mirror in the back so our narcissistic babies can gurgle at themselves on the book’s last page.

Some Bugs by Angela Diterlizzi. Tamara is SO GOOD at wandering around bookstores and picking out children’s books. She found this one, which is really colorful, rhythmic, and sweet. When Edgar was crying in the car, I would read this book out loud (from memory, of course) to help him calm down.

The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin by Sonali Fry and Peter Rabbit’s Halloween by Beatrix Potter. I don’t know if this is a foreshadowing, but tiny baby Edgar loved Halloween. He was always drawn to books with pumpkins and Halloween costumes. Toddler Edgar is pretty skeptical of actual Halloween so far; he tends to look around at all the school-aged kids in costumes like WHAT IS THIS MADNESS.

Sherlock Holmes: A Sounds Primer by Jennifer Adams. It was easy to understand why Edgar loved this one – it was all spooky noises, and what babe doesn’t love that?

First Farm Words. Edgar loved books with really clear pictures labelled with their name. “Tractor. Corn. Farmer. Harvesting.” They are scintillating to read, let me tell you.

Today Is Monday by Eric Carle. Every year when my mom’s kindergarten class graduated, they would sing the song “Today Is Monday” at their celebration. I’d always sing this book to Edgar, and the singable books were big hits at this age.

Edgar hopes that you (and your baby) enjoy!

books + reading

Welcome, Little Free Library!

Last Christmas, Tamara gave me one of the sweetest gifts I’ve ever received:

YES! A little free library. Dreams do come true!

For those who don’t know, a little free library is a little mailbox-type construction that’s chock full of books that are free for the taking. You can take any book you like, and you can leave books, too. There are little free libraries all around the country, and I have always felt like a little jolt of delight whenever I’ve spotted one.  (Click here for a website with more info!)

Our farm is located right on the NCR Trail, so, while we live amongst hundreds of trees and lots of undeveloped land, we also have passersby coming through our property every day. So I decided it would be fun to have a little free library here at the farm, for visitors or neighbors on the trail to utilize. Tamara built it for me and presented it to me on Christmas morning; we just put it up a few weeks ago.

I wasn’t sure how successful my library would be. So I took a picture of it, filled with the books I’d placed carefully inside, so I’d be able to tell if it was being used.

IT IS!  Several of the original books are gone and there are new ones there, too!

SUCCESS! So fun. Hopefully there will be lots of library updates to come!

26239804_1560140260751349_2270942459896013939_n

blogging · books + reading · writing

Accidental Hiatus

After an impressive streak of biweekly blogging, I haven’t published any posts since July 1. (It’s July 6 now!) And even my July 1 post was a day late.

This was a completely accidental hiatus. A lot of different factors combined to get in the way of my writing routine these past two weeks:

-Waiting impatiently and anxiously to hear about a potential new job.

-Finding out that I GOT THE NEW JOB! And subsequently dealing with related tasks like resigning, fingerprinting, and planning my summer sabbatical.

-Participating in fun life events: weddings, birthdays, parties, visitors. All good things! But they disrupt my writing routine, for sure.

-Reading a great book called The Heart’s Invisible Furies. LOVING it so far!

-THE WORLD CUP! I didn’t follow the group stage as closely as I usually do, probably because my home team did not quality. (Sad face USMNT.) I miss soccer like crazy, and watching the World Cup is getting me excited to start following MLS and the USMNT and USWNT again.

This accidental hiatus brings up an important question that I am hoping to answer during my summer sabbatical: How do I maintain my writing routine despite any demands or distractions life tosses my way?

Sigh. That’s the big question, especially for a Rebel like me. How do I form and maintain habits? Even if I really want to form a habit, it’s hard for me to make it work consistently.

The best idea I have (I think) is my weekly planning date. I really want to sit down once a week and think about when I can write, and which writing I can work on at each time. Same for the other habits I want to maintain – running, meditation, yoga, meetings.

There will always be THINGS – things that stress me out, things that get in the way of my writing. I’m proud of myself for not throwing in the towel when I got a few days behind. My schedule might be a little off – but I’m here, and I’m writing, and that’s all I can do.

books + reading · podcasts · reading · snapshots

All The Things (April 2018)

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting and rethinking about the blog recently.  I have BIG plans in my head!

One thing I am always rethinking is how to do snapshots – brief mini-posts that are more like a “here’s a bunch of stuff I either like or don’t like or just want to blab about.”

For now, this is what I’ve got: a monthly report of all the things. By which I mean, all the things I’m reading, listening to – or whatever else is relevant.

Things I’m Reading: Behold The Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue. Only a few chapters in. So good so far! Also I have 58 items checked out at the library, which is sort of out of control but also I needed them all.

Things I’m Listening To: You guys – my podcast diet is HUGE right now.

A while ago, I reached out to my social media community and got a bunch of recommendations for non-news non-politics podcasts. One of the best recommendations I got was for The Girl Next Door, a podcast that’s basically two next-door neighbors chatting about life, marriage, parenting, self-care, personality, self-reflection – a smorgasboard of my favorite topics.  I absolutely love it. And, I realized, this kind of podcast is my jam – two smart and insightful females talking about how they live and love and parent and create.

Well, it turns out that there are other podcasts that follow this same format. I have fallen into a rabbit hole of friendly podcasts focused on parenting, minimalism, and work-life balance. It is unending, and awesome. But also overwhelming.

I’ve decided to zero in on The Mom Hour now that I’ve finished listening to The Girl Next Door archives. I’ll report back!

Things I’m Working On: Publishing two blog posts a week, which I’ve never attempted before. I think it’s doable. We’ll see!

Image result for drink the coffee do the things

balance · books + reading · meditation · mindfulness · parenting · reading · writing

Slow Jams Syllabus #mind

There is a group of books that I keep checking out of the library, over and over again, without ever reading the book.

There’s a similar pile of books on the top shelf of my bedroom bookshelf, and a third group stacked on my bedside table.

These are books about interesting subjects, many of which are highly recommended by friends and the reading community at large.

But I haven’t been able to read them cover to cover.

Nor have I been able to simply move on, which I often do. I long ago resolved to never finish a book that I wasn’t enjoying. I used to feel compulsive about finishing books, even when I lost interest after only a few chapters. Now, I don’ worry about that at all. There are too many good books out there! There is no time to waste reading books that don’t capture me completely.

Yet – I still keep checking these same books out of the library. And I refuse to donate the pile of books in my bedroom to Ukazoo, my favorite used bookstore. I pick them up occasionally – I read a few chapters – and then I ultimately move on to another book.

What gives? And what do I do?

After considering this issue, I noticed that many of these books fit into categories; they are books about writing, parenting, and mindfulness. These are possibly the three subjects I care most about in my life currently.

So why don’t I read these books?

I think part of the reason why is that I don’t have as much reading time as I used to now that I’m a parent. And, related – I absolutely love reading fiction. I will always choose a compelling novel over a non-fiction book, every single time.

But – I still WANT to read these books! They’re on my list because I believe that they’re going to help my grow in my knowledge and my skills in some way. They’re on my list because I want to be a better writer, a more intentional parent, and a more successful meditation practitioner.

So this is what I’ve decided: I’m going to create a Slow Jams Syllabus. (I call these books Slow Jams, because I enjoy them, but don’t plow through them the way I did with all 13 of Louise Penny’s mystery novels.) It’ll be a syllabus, like in college – a list of required reading that I am requiring for myself.

I’m going to give myself a tentative “deadline” for completing the syllabus, although there is NO CHANCE I will stick to this goal if I start a book and find that it’s not as good as I thought it was. This is really all about ME – what I want to do and to learn, how I want to grow. So there’s no need to stick with it if it’s not working for me.

However – having a deadline will help me to be realistic about the not gonna happen factor. If I haven’t read one of these books by the end of 2019 – then it’s probably just not for me, and should be replaced by a title from the wait list. (Oh, yes – there is a wait list. SEE BELOW.)

Syllabus listed below. Happy reading!

Kerriann’s Slow Jams Syllabus (semi-required reading, to be read by January 2020)

No Drama Discipline, Daniel J. Siegel

Parenting From The Inside Out, Daniel J. Siegel

The Soul Of Discipline, Kim John Payne

Story Craft, Jack Hart

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, New York Writers Workshop

Writing To Change The World, Mary Pipher

Meditation Now Or Never, Steve Hagen

Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott

The Wait List

Happiness Is An Inside Job, Sylvia Boorstein

Buddhism Is Not What You Think, Steve Hagen

MBSR Every Day, Elisha Goldstein

Start Here Now, Susan Piver

The Happiest Kids In The World, Rina Mae Acosta

The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer

Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett

The White Album, Joan Didion

Bark, Lorrie Moore

Wherever You Go There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn

books + reading · reading

Accidental Accomplishments #mind #body

It’s snowing in Maryland! The office is closed and I am holed up at home with a fire roaring and Teddy napping. I’m taking advantage of the unexpected playtime by listening to The Girl Next Door (my new favorite podcast!), writing, and reflecting on a few random things.

One of my favorite things so far in 2018 has been a new Facebook group I’m in called We Like Big Books and We Cannot Lie! It was started by a hilarious and wonderful friend of my sister, and it’s basically a big group of people who love books and reading and love talking about books and reading. I’ve gotten a ton of great recommendations for books I wouldn’t have even heard of.

As a result, I have read 26 books in 2018 so far. For me, THIS IS A LOT! (Now, two of            these were super-short books, and three were skimmed toward the end.  But the                other 21 were 100% legit!)

Reading a lot of books is not really a goal of mine, so this sort of happened by accident. But I think it helps that I’ve had an amazing group of people making recommendations and encouraging me to read outside my comfort zone.

One of my other unplanned accomplishments in 2018 so far is this: I have given up caffeine.

GASP.

I didn’t really plan on tackling this, but Tee decided to switch to decaf coffee to help with sleep, and I decided to join her. It was a tiny bit about solidarity and supporting Tee, but my decision to give it up was mostly because it gets uncomfortable being ‘addicted’ to a substance, even if that substance is caffeine. When I’d get stressed, I’d immediately reach for a diet Coke or a coffee. It got expensive and annoying; I don’t want to have to reach for something external to deal with internal anxiety or stress.

Additionally, I frequently had to reach for Tylenol PM to aid my sleep, if I drank too much caffeine during the day. Last night as I was falling asleep, I realized that it was several days since I’d had to reach for a sleep aid to help myself. I’ve been sleeping more deeply and waking up more easily.  It’s wonderful.

books + reading · reading

Inspired & Encouraged #ThankYouLouisePenny #mind #spirit

During the fall of 2017, Hillary Rodham Clinton was interviewed on my favorite podcast, Call Your Girlfriend.  She was featured on a bunch of podcasts right around that time; it was soon after her book, What Happened, was released.  It was bittersweet, listening to these interviews; HRC may be a complicated and flawed individual (aren’t we all?), but there’s no doubt in my mind that she would be a more competent leader than our current president.

However – that’s not why I’m mentioning HRC today.  The real reason she’s on my mind is that, in that September 2017 interview on CYG, she became one of my Reliable Book Recommenders.

I’ve blogged about this previously, but to restate: not everyone in your life is a Reliable Book Recommender.  I have amazing friends – best friends – who are readers, and have a lot in common with me, and yet are UNRELIABLE Book Recommenders.  Our taste in books just does not match up.

During the CYG interview, HRC mentioned being a fan of the Elena Ferrante novels, which I loooooved.  Moments later, she mentioned a different writer, someone I’d never heard of before: Louise Penny, a Canadian author who (according to HRC) had famously authored the Chief Inspector Gamache murder mystery series.

Now, since HRC had endorsed the Ferrante novels, I knew we had at least some overlap in our reading tastes.  And I adore mystery novels – well-written ones, that is.  So I requested Louise Penny’s first novel, Still Life, from the Baltimore County Public Library.

Image result for louise penny still life

It’s five months later, and I recently finished the 13th book in the series.  OH MY GOSH I LOVE THESE BOOKS SO MUCH. Each book contains a murder mystery, but there’s a group of characters – Chief Inspector Gamache and his family, his second-in-command Jean Guy Beauvoir; and a small circle of friends who live in a quaint village in the Quebec countryside called Three Pines – that are present throughout the series.  The murder mystery is usually interesting and compelling, but I find that I’m more intrigued by the staple characters than I am by the mystery Gamache is solving. Each character has a compelling back story, personality, and personal journey, and I really love spending time in Three Pines. When I finished Book 13, I was worried that it might be the last in the series; luckily, I started following Louise Penny on Facebook, and learned that Book 14 should be released sometime during 2018!

One of the reasons I have Louise Penny’s books on my mind is that I learned a little about her story.  She started writing full-time in her late thirties, and her first novel was published in her forties. I find this an inspiring, not depressing, timeline.  And, as I’m thinking more and more about working on a longer piece of fiction writing, I am very much in need of inspiring timelines!

As I sped through the Louise Penny books, I realized that if I want to write what I myself love, then I should write a series of mystery novels. I actually realized this as I was contemplating how sad I’d be if Book 13 were the last book in the series; I had the thought that if I really wanted another mystery series PRONTO, then I should write it myself. I’ve been giving it a try, but the idea of writing a good mystery is really intimidating! I mean, how do you come up with something that’s so clever that you can confound and perplex your readers? How do you DO that?! It seems even more egotistical than regular fiction writing. (My Inner Critic voice often says snarky things to me like, “Who the hell would want to read anything YOU wrote?”)

One of the things I am most excited about is that idea of creating a cast of characters that I can revisit again and again throughout a series. It means I don’t have to resolve everything in one book.  I think that will also help with my instinct to tie everything up with a bow at the end of a story or novel; if I know I’m writing a series, it can be more of a slow burn.

SO EXCITED. SO INSPIRED. SO ENCOURAGED.

18881917_1453112811399041_513769807426278089_n