books + reading · snapshots

All The Things (September 2018)

Wow, wow, wow.

This month, the biggest THING is this: We have a new baby boy, a new adoptive child. He is sweet and wonderful and perfect and we are overjoyed.

We’ve been on the adoption wait list for a while, but we haven’t been waiting nearly as long as long as we waited for our oldest child, Edgar. So we were blown away when we got the call from the adoption agency and brought our new son home two days later.

So, there are things this month – but the biggest thing is the tiny baby boy asleep in my arms as I write this.  As for the other things –

Things I’ve Been Reading: The latest Cormoran Strike novel from Robert Galbraith, also known as the alias for J.K. Rowling. Also read this month: How To Be A Happier Parent, I’d Know You Anywhere, and Buddhism Is Not What You Think.

Things I’m Contemplating: How to read the books I want to have read. Like, I want to read books about adoption, mindfulness, and parenting – but they are often way less appealing to me than a good novel. I have no answers; it’s just something I’m thinking about.

Things I’ve Been Listening To: Lots of audiobooks! (Possible solution to the thing I’m contemplating?  We’ll see.)

Things I’m Enjoying; The sweet babyhood of our new baby boy.

Things I’m Struggling With: Making sure my two-year-old is getting all the love and attention and activity and care he needs at a chaotic and tiring family time.

Things I’m Watching: Way more TV than usual!  I started the month bingeing on reruns of The Office and Friends. Moved on to falling in love with This Is Us (always two years behind any pop culture craze) and keeping up to date on The Good Place (very much enjoyed the premiere episode of season 3).

I’m sure I’ll write more about our adoption journey at some point – but for now, these are the things.  14203324_1271024389583870_1636348107344372373_n

books + reading · parenting

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books List For 22-Months-Olds)

I love these books posts, but I am mostly writing this one today because there’s a lot going on and I want to keep the blog consistent! Keep it simple – that’s one of my mantras this week.

Edgar had a sleepover at his cousins’ house recently, and we sent some of his current favorite books with him as a comfort. I love that – the fact that books are a comfort. They certainly are for me. We had a last-minute overnight trip recently and I packed ten books. TEN! And I needed every single one of them.

Recommended reading from 22-month-old Edgar:

Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Edgar loves the silly monkeys who mimic the cap seller in this book. It’s a winner with me, too.

Hug Machine by Scott Campbell. Edgar loved this book, eventually, but it started out as an obsession of mine. I purchased it as a gift for many of the toddlers I know, and reading it is such fun. Plus you get to give lots of hugs while you tell the story!

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood. Oh, my goodness – cutest book ever! We first read this at Tamara’s parents’ house. This might be one of my absolute favorites. It has an adorable plot, but Edgar loved it even before he understood the plot. (Honestly? He still might not get it. Go read it – it’s kinda meta!)

Baby Present by Rachel Neumann. I can’t remember how we stumbled upon this book. It actually reads like a short meditation. The text starts like this: “Breathe in, baby. Breathe out. You are perfect just as you are, sitting in the here and now.” When I read it to Edgar, I feel like I am taking a moment for myself, a moment of meditation and quiet mind. Those moments are few and far between when you’re caught up in the chaos of parenting young children, so I have appreciated this book oh-so-much.

Bringing The Outside In by Mary McKenna Siddals. A nature lover’s dream book!  So sweet and lyrical. It follows a group of kids playing outside throughout the seasons, and uses rhyme and repetition beautifully.

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff. A classic! I love this book and its counterparts, If You Give A Pig A Pancake and If You Give A Moose A Muffin. 

Hairs by Sandra Cisneros. A children’s book by the author of The House On Mango Street! This is a beautiful and poetic book. I was actually surprised when Edgar started to love it so much! There are few trucks. The moon doesn’t make an appearance. For some reason, he just loved it.

Edgar and I hope you enjoy!

37706910_1886060941460338_8451385874813288448_n

books + reading · parenting

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books List For 18-Month-Olds)

Edgar’s new favorite thing to do at bedtime is ask about what he’s going to dream about that night.

I know. It’s too cute.

I’m not even sure how it started. But now, his routine is three books, a song, and his dream telling. Whenever I mention bedtime, he says “Dream!” Then we talk about what he’s going to dream about – usually something connected to his day – and then I lay him down to sleep.

These posts about Edgar’s books fall into a different category than most of my other blog posts. They are sort of becoming a scrapbook of little moments and memories from Edgar’s babyhood and toddlerhood, and I think blogs are great for that. They can be a way to capture these little magical moments in time. And for a non-scrapbooking mom like me, that is extremely valuable.

Recommended reading from 18-month-old Edgar:

Good Night Good Night Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker. Really, anything and everything trucks worked for 18-month-old Edgar.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems. HOW CUTE IS THIS BOOK? I love it. If we’re going to read a plot-based children’s book, I want the plot the be simple and sweet. This one is. Edgar loves it so much.

All The World by Liz Garton Scanlon. Tamara is really good at finding awesome children’s books by just browsing around a bookstore. She found this one at Main Street Books in Davidson, NC. We didn’t buy it there, just glanced through it and then requested it from the library, then bought it online later when we realized how much we loved it. (Now that I’m reflecting, I really wished we’d bought it at Main Street Books!)

Corduroy by Don Freeman. This was one of the first plot-based books that Edgar liked. I loved it at this age because it had a plot, but wasn’t really long and verbose, so it suited his attention span well.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Edgar’s favorite part – and mine – is when the show drops on Peter’s head, PLOP!

From Head To Toe by Eric Carle. It is so cute how much Edgar likes this book. It prompts kids, asking them to raise their shoulders, bend their neck, kick their legs, stomp their feet. I only wish I liked it, even a little bit. To this day, I will agree to read this book exactly one time before referring Edgar to his other mother for a second or third or twentieth reading.

Edgar and I hope you enjoy!  🙂

 

 

 

books + reading · mindfulness

Happiness Is An Inside Job

This summer, I crossed a few books off of my Slow Jams Syllabus. This was a list of books that were in my To Be Read pile for a long while. They survived many episodes of thinning out my book pile, and I can be pretty ruthless about getting rid of books that I know I’m not going to read. The thing was that I knew I wanted to read these books someday.

I set an intention of making these Slow Jams a priority during my Summer Sabbatical. I mostly accomplished this by downloading the books via Audible and listening to them during my many road trips. I often listen to podcasts (or, let’s be honest, toddler jams) on road trips, but I realized that one of the books – Happiness Is An Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein – was only six hours long, audiobook-style. That’s one round trip to my mom’s house in New York. I’ve crossed only two books off of the list so far, but I’m planning to use my commute to work on many of the others.

Here are my takeaways from Happiness Is An Inside Job:

-This book is based largely on the Buddhist concepts of Wise Mind, Wise Effort, and Wise Concentration. I’ve really enjoyed reading more about Buddhism; one of my favorite books of all time is Buddhism Plain And Simple, by Steve Hagen. I’m going to read another book by Hagen to follow this one up since I am back in this groove.

-Radical acceptance. The idea of saying, “This isn’t what I wanted, but it’s what I got.”

-Boorstein writes about signs that people have attained some enlightenment. One of the things she talks about is the difference between people who say, “A terrible thing happened. Why me?”, and the people who say, “A terrible thing happened.Why not me? These things happen.”

-That lofty word, equanimity. The definition, according to my internet search, is “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation.” There’s not supposed to be a goal when it comes to Buddhism and meditation, I don’t think – I think you’re just supposed to be, and accept your circumstances. But if the stillness, the meditation, and the acceptance bring equanimity – well, that sounds pretty great.

This wasn’t my favorite book – I enjoyed one of Boorstein’s other books, It’s Easier Than You Think, much more. But it was a good read for me in this moment, when I am setting the intention of being more present. (More on that to come.)

37488543_1434860386615128_7548563515603156992_n

 

books + reading · parenting

Edgar’s Faves (Best Books List For 12-Month-Olds)

Edgar loves books. This morning, as soon as I’d lifted him from his crib and set him on the floor of his bedroom, he wandered over to the pile of books on his nightstand. He selected A Traffic Jam Of Trucks (a long-time favorite), and asked “Read?” in his tiny toddler voice. Then he plopped down in my lap and we read the book together.

It doesn’t surprise me much that Edgar loves to read. I think kids often end up loving what their parents love, and I am definitely a reader. Tamara is, too, though she has a lot less time to read during the farming season. (Which is about 75% of the calendar year, at least!)

Sometimes, Edgar will occupy himself, playing with cars or a guitar or his dollhouse, and I’ll be able to steal some time reading a novel on the couch nearby. And sometimes – THIS IS MY FAVORITE – Edgar will bring two children’s books over to me, and he’ll hand one to me and then sit down to look at the other one all by himself. Once I have him trained to bring me a novel instead of Corduroy, we will be all set.

Here are some of Edgar’s favorites from when he was around a year old. Enjoy!

Recommended reading from 12-month-old Edgar:

Quick As A Cricket by Audrey Wood. I first read this book at Tamara’s parents’ home in North Carolina. I think of children’s books as either lyrical or plot-based. This one is lyrical and is so sweet and lullaby-ish.

City Block by Christopher Franceschelli. This is a fold-out book about New York, featuring lots of transportation (an Edgar fave) and lots of city sights (a Kerriann fave).

Cars And Trucks From A To Z by Richard Scarry. This tiny book full of cars and trucks (duh) and is really cute.

Mr. Brown Can Moo, How About You? by Dr. Seuss. We first heard about this book from a friend, and Tamara loved it. It’s super fun.

Where Is The Green Sheep? by Mem Fox. I really like Mem Fox’s books a lot. We’ve read a bunch and they have all been well-received by Edgar.

Reading Makes You Feel Good by Todd Parr. ALL TODD PARR BOOKS. I have no idea why kids love them so much. Edgar has loved every single one. Maybe the bright colors? Maybe the simple words? In this particular book, there’s a page with a bookmobile on it, so Edgar would eagerly turn the pages until we arrived at the bus of books, the ultimate payoff.

35221957_10156482918639732_1878208521598664704_n

books + reading · writing

Incredible Plot Twists

I’m so grateful to have time to write, but I’m now learning what it means to be stuck on a plot point. I love the characters I’ve created, but I’m interested in developing more unique story lines and plots for my short stories and for my novels.

This got me thinking about novels I’ve read, particularly about books that either had an ingenious plot (Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is one example) or books that had an incredible plot twist (a la Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn). I started looking through my Goodreads “Read” list, trying to remember books with plots that really surprised or compelled me. I was able to remember a few, but not many. After I read a book, especially after some time has passed, I am rarely able to recall the plot in detail. I usually have a general feeling of “I loved that book!” or “That book was pretty good.” But, remembering specific plot points or twists? That is a challenge.

28471641_1875308215820887_2958631914551902208_n

I decided to do some crowdsourcing so that I could get a list of books to either read or study, examining the plot twists and turns of each book and trying to understand the different methods authors use to surprise their readers. This is especially important to me because I am interested in writing mysteries, where my goal is not only to entertain readers, but also to mislead them, to trick them, to do some literary magic that makes them say “Whaaaaaat?” out loud – which I do frequently when an author has genuinely surprised me.

I’m a member of a really fun Facebook group that talks about all things books, so I wrote a post asking for recommendations of books with interesting plots or crazy plot twists, and I got a fantastic list.

The biggest commonalty I noticed among all the books with intriguing plot twists or unique storylines was an unreliable narrator. Sometimes it was a character who had dementia or was hallucinating; sometimes it was someone uninformed; often it was a character who was a liar. It was helpful to notice this commonality; it’s a tool I can try to use in my mystery writing.

There were other things I noticed – authors who seemed to ask intriguing “What if?” questions, such as “What if humans were cloned for the purpose of donating organs?” And then letting their plot roll out from there. I love this. Of course, as soon as I started trying to think of “What if?” questions, I couldn’t think of any. I’m hoping some will come to me in moments of daydreaming.

In case others are interested, here is my list of books with great plots and twists. The books I personally recommend are in bold. Enjoy!

The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, Kim Edwards

Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

One Of Us Is Lying, Karen M. McManus

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Dead Letters, Caite Dolan-Leach

The Mysterious Benedict Society, Trenton Lee Stewart

36350577_1743739315661164_7934805822838669312_n

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Piccoult

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield 

Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough

The Storyteller, Jodi Piccoult

The Good Girl, Mary Kubica

Triptych, Karin Slaughter

Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill

Case Histories, Kate Atkinson

Atonement, Ian McEwan

Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver

 

 

books + reading · parenting

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

The most mindful moments of my day are the times when I am reading to Edgar. He will find one of his favorite books and he’ll bring it over to me and Tamara, and he’ll ask, “Read?” in his tiny, adorable toddler voice.

Today I’m thinking about the books he loved most when he was nine months old. Edgar’s love of trucks and buses started at around this time, so pretty much any book with a vehicle in it was a winner for him.

Recommended reading from 9-month-old Teddy:

Subway by Christoph Niemann. I loved this one because it was all about a family exploring the New York City subway system; Edgar loved it because there’s a bus on page seven. So this one was always a win-win.

Mommy, Mama, and Me by Leslea Newman. Tamara gave me this book for Christmas eighteen months before Edgar came home. When he started to request it, my heart melted.

A Traffic Jam Of Trucks. This kid loves trucks.

26814574_2034916353457085_8558536736237742488_n

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.  Edgar loved this book because of the big yellow dump truck, basically the antagonist of the story. However, it is super-cute – a combo of rhythmic and lullabyish but with some semblance of a plot.

Sheep In A Jeep by Nancy Shaw. This may be my overtired mom taste talking, but I really like all of Nancy Shaw’s sheep books. The sheep go to a shop – they go out to eat – they go for a hike. They’re everywhere! In this book, they ride in a jeep (no surprise why this is an Edgar favorite) and it crashes in the mud (ALSO AN EDGAR FAVORITE).

What Will I Be? by Dawn Allette. Tamara bought this book at a little shop in Hampden before there was an Edgar. It’s so cute – just a little girl daydreaming about what job she’ll have someday. It’s lyrical and colorful and fun. Edgar loves.

Happy Adoption Day by John McCutcheon. On the day Edgar’s adoption was finalized, we bought him this book at Barnes and Noble.  It’s based an a folk song by the same author.  The day he started asking to read it regularly, my heart melted and I was so grateful – for him, for his adoption, and for the world of books that helps us to give language to everything our kids experience.

Edgar hopes that you (and your little one) enjoy!