The school year is coming, and while I don’t feel too excited about returning to work, I am happy about the mission I’m going to accomplish on my commute.
There hasn’t been much time this summer for listening to audiobooks. My Audible library is chock full of books, mostly nonfiction, that I want to listen to. These books are mostly informative rather than entertaining; if I’m reading a great novel, I like to read a paper copy. But a book about parenting, adoption, or meditation? With books like that, it’s easier for me to listen than to read a hard copy, especially now that I have young kids and limited time for reading.
I don’t love commuting, but I like thinking of it as a time when I can accomplish something like this – educating myself on topics I want to learn about, like parenting, adoption, race, meditation, recovery, mindfulness, and writing.
Additionally, I recently spoke with someone about nonfiction books, and she has been busily plugging through a lot of great and informative reads. A big difference for her and me is that she focuses on one book at a time. I have so much trouble doing that, when it comes to nonfiction books! I get distracted reading or listening about one topic for an extended period of time.
But I’m going to give it a try. When the school year starts, I am going to listen to one audiobook at a time. My commute is a total of about 45 minutes each day, and these books range in length from 3 hours to 10 hours or more. That means I could listen to a short book in just 2 days and a longer one might take two weeks or more.
This is my list; it’s in the order I expect to follow, but I’ll keep that pretty flexible. Lately, the universe sort of tells me what book I need to prioritize. Edgar has a tantrum and I reach for a parenting book; I start to feel distracted and unfocused and I open a book about mindfulness. So we’ll see! I’ll check back in on this project with an update in a few months. Stay tuned.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, Dr. Laura Markham.
Refuge Recovery, Noah Levine.
How To Raise An Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims.
How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, Joanna Faber and Julie King.
Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, Dr. Laura Markham.
Drop The Rock, Bill P., Todd W., & Sara S.
The Gift Of Failure, Jessica Lahey.
Siblings Without Rivalry, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
Word By Word, Anne Lamott.
Aware, Daniel J. Siegel.
Get Out Of Your Mind & Into Your Life, Spencer Smith and Steven C. Hayes.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig.
Meditation Now Or Never, Steve Hagen.
Start Here Now, Susan Piver.
I’m Chocolate, You’re Vanilla, Marguerite A. Wright.
No Drama Discipline, Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.
I’ve been reading this wonderful book, The Mindful Kind, for the last few months. It is delightful, and it really has me thinking about how to incorporate mindfulness into my life on a daily basis, as well as how to cultivate a regular mindfulness practice.
It’s always been a challenge for me to maintain a regular mindfulness practice. (For me, this would be 5 to 15 minutes of mindful breathing or mindfulness meditation when I wake up in the morning.) In fact, figuring out a way to get back into a regular meditation/mindfulness practice is one of the things on my to-do list for after Jonas starts sleeping through the night!
The author of The Mindful Kind is an Australian writer named Rachael Kable and she is just delightful. I’ve been listening to her podcast (which goes by the same name as the book) on and off for years, and she likes to explore how to utilize mindfulness in lots of different circumstances. For example, she writes about using mindfulness for commuting, for dealing with stress, and for effective communication with friends and family. I’ve spent time over the past few months perusing her website as well, which has lots of tips and tricks for incorporating mindfulness into your life. (You can learn all about Rachael Kable and her work here!)
My biggest takeaways from The Mindful Kind were things I already knew – I want to be mindful and intentional about my parenting, my social media use, pretty much about everything I do! For that reason, I wasn’t sure if I’d be that into this book; I thought it might be more of the same old stuff I’ve read in other mindfulness books. But I love Kable’s writing and her way of thinking about the challenges of everyday life and ways mindfulness can help us to thrive.
Every few months, I experience a dilemma that disturbs my peace of mind. It is one of the First Worldiest of my First World Problems; it’s something that really could not matter less, and yet I feel mild distress until the dilemma is resolved.
Picture it: me, sitting on the floor of my living room, with a stack of between 3 and 12 books in front of me, trying to answer a simple question –
What book should I read next?
It is an utterly unimportant question. It doesn’t matter at all. And yet – it’s a decision I have to make, and I often feel slightly off-kilter until it’s made.
This dilemma highlights a fact about me, something that I am guessing is not true for everyone. The fact is that I am always, always reading a book. I might set the book down to take care of children, to go to work, to operate heavy machinery – but on every single day of my life, there is a book somewhere, in my bag, on my nightstand, in my car, with a page dogeared because I am in the middle of reading it. If I finish a book, I immediately select a new book to read. Sometimes I read the book slowly, somethings quickly. But there is always a book.
The role that reading plays in my life is huge. Reading is my hobby, my joy, my coping skill, my graduate school, and the books I’ve read throughout my life have really made me the person I am today.
So when there ISN’T a book I’m currently reading – a situation that usually only lasts for a few moments or hours – I feel like something is really wrong.
Usually, the main book I am reading or about to read is a novel. I am a fiction girl. I love getting lost in a mysterious or suspenseful work of fiction. I read mostly contemporary fiction, and I often get recommendations from an awesome book-obsessed Facebook group that is amazingly called We Like Big Books and We Cannot Lie.
The dilemma is this: if I don’t have a novel that I am ready to read next (which happens occasionally), then I usually pick up a nonfiction book. I’m not a big reader of nonfiction, but there are 10 categories on nonfiction books currently on my bookshelf. Those books are there because I sincerely want to learn about these various topics.
HOWEVER. It’s really hard for me to commit to sitting down and read an entire book, cover to cover, on parenting or mindfulness or writing. My favorite way to read is one book at a time; I’d rather choose one book and read it from beginning to end than be reading two or more books at a time. But it’s hard for me to do that with nonfiction. Those books don’t tend to be as gripping to me, and now that I’m a parent, I don’t zoom through a book in two days. So I get a little antsy sticking with one nonfiction topic for a week or longer.
I also struggle with the challenge of wanting to have read a book. Like, No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel is on my list. I’ve read about 25% of the book, and it’s wonderful. But I can’t say that, at the end of a long day of work and parenting, I want to read that book. I just want the knowledge in that book to be surgically implanted in my head, really. (Is that possible? Please message me if you know of any free and painless knowledge implantation surgeries I should pursue.)
It’s a constant question I ask myself – how do I make myself read the books I want to read for the knowledge rather than for the entertainment value? I am always appreciative of a writer who can impart knowledge and be entertaining, but in my opinion, this is a rare talent.
I’m not going to answer that question today. I am going to list the ten categories of nonfiction books that are on my Goodreads “OMG What To Read” shelf as well as on my actual TBR (To Be Read) bookshelf:
Writing: There are several books on my shelves (at all times) related to the craft of writing. They are mostly books that I’d love to read to improve my writing ability or learn more about how to write or the creative process.
Mindfulness/Meditation: I love (in theory) reading books about how to incorporate mindfulness into my life. I also have a long-standing goal of maintaining a regular mindfulness or meditation practice.
Sobriety: It’s always helpful for my sobriety to read AA literature or books about addiction and recovery. These are sometimes daily devotionals (a reading for every day of the calendar year) or a book devoted to a specific topic, like emotional sobriety or character defects.
Parenting: SO. MANY. PARENTING. BOOKS. The books on my shelf recently are mostly related to discipline – how to teach wild and crazy toddlers to be functional human beings. It’s a topic of high importance at the moment.
Race: This is a recent addition to my list of categories. I have several books on my list about race in America that I’d love to read – How To Be Black by Baratunde Thurston is at the top of my list. This is an ongoing interest of mine, but I’ve gotten increasingly interested in this topic due to current events and becoming a transracial adoptive parent.
Spirituality: An ongoing interest of mine. The Untethered Soul and Traveling Mercies are both on my OMG What To Read list at the moment.
Self-Help: This category often overlaps with spirituality or sobriety. But currently, the self-help books on my To Be Read list are focused on healthy eating; I’ve noticed that I (still) don’t have the healthiest relationship with food and eating, and there are several books on my TBR list focused on that issue.
Humor: I have a bunch of memoirs and books of essays written by funny people on my shelf. These are technically nonfiction, but for me they would serve as a mental break rather than an educational resource.
Adoption: I definitely want to learn as much as I can about issues related to adoption. I want to be an informed and aware adoptive parent for my boys.
Transracial Adoption: Ditto to above. I want to educate myself about transracial adoption so that I can be the best parent possible to my kids.
This time around, it took me over a week of skimming various books to decide that I wanted to focus on two: This Is Where I Leave You, a novel by Jonathan Tropper, and The Mindful Kind, a book on mindfulness by Rachael Kable. I feel so much better having made that choice.
It also has occurred to me that maybe I don’t need to have a book I’m in the middle of at every second of my life. But I decided to ignore that thought and enjoy being lost in these two books until my next what to read dilemma arises. Stay tuned!
This morning, I spent 45 minutes on Goodreads, and it wasn’t until I was done that I felt like all was right with the world. Like I could move on with my day in peace.
I often have mornings like this – when I can’t decide which book I want to read next. At the end of my Goodreads session, I had identified 40 books that were vying for “Next Book To Read” in my life currently. FORTY!
It was too much.
So I retreated, and I embraced the joy of rereading for the moment. I rediscovered two of my all-time favorite books – Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed. These women are incredible. They’re my role models. Their writing lives cause me to become envious and inspired; my hope is that I linger on the latter.
It’s been challenging to find time for blogging recently. For the next month, in addition to working and mommying, I am college-ing for the first time in 8 years. My job requires my to take one grad school course; I’m taking it online, and it started on March 25th and runs until May 18th. The timing is unfortunate – job + infant + toddler + beginning of farming season + limited amount of time for self-care is about to get smaller = blech.
But, it is what it is.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why it feels hard to find a book to devour at the moment. Every book requires too much focus and energy. Maybe I only have enough energy right now to cozy up with two old favorites that I’ve read a dozen times. And it helps that these two rereads are delightful and inspiring and hopeful in a way that I find unattainable as a tired chubby mama with limited time to exercise, write, or just be.
So I’ll allow myself to delight in the comfort of books that are old friends, and I’ll allow myself to publish a brief blog post that is more of a mind wandering than a profound essay examining life intelligently.
Sometimes, I’ll be sitting on the couch, and Edgar will pick up a book and bring it over to me. “Read,” he’ll say.
So I open the book and wait for him to climb on the couch to snuggle beside me. But then, he walks back over to his bookshelf, and he selects another book. Then he sits down, opens that book, and begins to look through it. Because the first book he brought me – that was for ME to read.
Does he want me to practice reading Go Dog Go so my articulation improves? Does he want me to work on my animal sounds for Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You? I have no idea. I like to think that Edgar has internalized a family trait: In our family, our books are comforts, coping strategies, stress relievers, and pure joy providers.
Here are some of the books that have been giving two-year-old Edgar comfort and joy
Recommended reading from two-year-old Edgar:
Special Delivery by Philip C. Stead. Just a sweet and silky book about a little girl traveling to visit her great-aunt Josephine to bring her an elephant.
The Napping House by Audrey Wood. This book has a repetitive text that builds as the story progresses. It’s one of the first longer stories Edgar liked.
All Eyes On The Pond by Michael J. Rosen. Love this book. Each page focuses on a different creature in the pond, showing the world from their viewpoint and then zooming out to see the big picture. Very sweet and nature-y.
Trucks Goby Steve Light. I mean – basically a bunch of drawings of trucks with awesome sound effects. Amazing.
Sheep In A Shop by Nancy Shaw. We’re still loving Nancy Shaw’s sheep series! This one Edgar loves mostly because there’s a train in the shop. And then the sheep get all goofy, and the caboose falls over. It’s pretty awesome if you’re a two-year-old.
I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt. This book is so stinking cute. A mom putting her child to bed, and the kid asking lots of “what if” questions – like, what if I were a one-eyed monster, would you still love me then? (Spoiler alert – she will. Mom always will.)
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.
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.