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.

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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.

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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!

 

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!

mindfulness · parenting

Surprises

So many things have surprised me about becoming a parent.

I was genuinely surprised by how much it affected my life at work. I’ve felt very discontent with jobs since Teddy came home, and I know becoming a parent has to do with that. Suddenly, my time at work was also time away from my kid. The stakes got a lot higher, and it became harder to find the kind of work that is engaging and satisfying to me.

I was surprised by how much it energized me in my quest to become a writer. I’ve decided that the reason for this is pretty simple: I want to show my kids what it looks like to believe in yourself and work hard to make your dreams come true.

I’ve been surprised at how hard it is for me to be away from Teddy. It’s getting a little easier as he gets older, but I really feel the happiest and the calmest when I’m with him.

And, finally (for now) – I’ve been surprised at the ways it’s helped me with mindfulness.

I love mindfulness. I recommend mindfulness to others. I utilize mindfulness in my psychotherapy work.

But in my down time? My ability to be mindful varies. I’ve always been a “do your homework while watching TV” kind of person. I listen to podcasts while doing laundry. I listen to music while I’m running. I listen to audiobooks in the car. I rarely do one thing at a time, fully, even though that is almost always my goal.

And then, there’s my 22-month-old son. We spend our weekends wandering around the farm. We visit the lawn mower, the creek, the tractor, the ‘slide’ (a bit of concrete that slants downward toward more concrete), and the chickens. He doesn’t need any distractions, anything to accompany our meandering. He’s completely present.

At least once during the walk, Teddy will stop everything he’s doing, point up at the sky, and say something that sounds like “PLUUUHN!”

Because, of course, a plane is flying overhead. He never misses it. I would never notice it – I’m usually too caught up in my own thoughts, or listening to a podcast so can’t hear it. But Teddy hears it. He’s tuned in.

When we have moments like this, it reminds me that I want to be tuned in, too.  I want to have awareness of the world around me, not just the thoughts inside my head.

I’ve found that I still do a lot of multi-tasking as a parent. I listen to podcasts while we’re meandering around the farm, or I listen to an audiobook while we’re doing dishes together. (Sorry – I meant while I do the dishes and Edgar dumps cups of water on his head.)

But there are moments when parenthood has brought me fully into the present. Like when I’m reading to Edgar, and we’re cuddled up together and I’m completely tuned in to what we’re doing. We have some great books we’ve read together that are actually meant to teach kids about mindfulness. My two current favorites are Baby Present by Rachel Neumann and I Am Peace by Susan Verde.

Those moments are magic.

I have a feeling that multi-tasking while parenting is going to get increasingly difficult as Edgar gets older, and I’m glad. I want to be as present as I can be – as a parent, and in my life overall.

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image from elephantjournal.com
parenting

Mom’s So-Called Social Life

The thing is – socializing as a parent is HARD.

One of my current goals is to build up my community – to feel more connected to my neighborhood and to the people around me.  I’m an introvert and a homebody, so building my community without becoming completely exhausted is a challenge.

It’s going pretty well. I’ve been maintaining a decent balance of time at home and time socializing with others. One of my mini-resolutions has been to accept as many invitations as I can. (I have a tendency to decline invitations to hang out and then whine about not having any friends, which is ridiculous.)

HOWEVER –

Trying to be social while also being a parent is tricky.

There are a few different reasons why this is tricky, in my life.

The first is that I’m a working parent. I’ve found it extremely difficult to be a working parent, which was a genuine surprise to me after Teddy came home. I’ve always worked, and our family’s plan was always for me to continue working. But once Teddy was here, I found it really hard to be away from him, and I found myself wishing for more flexibility with my employment.

The end result of this is that it’s extremely difficult for me to spend any time away from Teddy when I’m not working. Meeting a friend for coffee? Sounds awesome – and I bring Teddy along. That way, I get my friend time, which I love, and I don’t sacrifice time with my kid. It’s not perfect, but it works for me. This was a pretty good deal when Teddy was a baby who slept all or most of the time and was confined to his car seat or someone’s arms the rest of the time.

Now – I have a toddler. Once I started socializing with my son THE TODDLER – it was a totally different story. A few months ago, I had a brunch date with my friends, with Teddy along.  It was disaster. I tried hard to focus on my friends, on catching up, on listening to their stories – all while Teddy fidgeted and stood up and fell down and just existed as a toddler in the world. He required attention – attention I couldn’t give to socializing. I simply could not stay present and focused with other adults – half of my brain power is always focused on what Teddy’s doing and what he needs.

Simply the logistics of socializing as a parent can be difficult, too. I’ve always taken pride in being pretty easy-going and flexible when it comes to planning. “I’ll be at the coffee shop all day,” I’d tell someone. “Just stop by whenever and we’ll catch up.” No timeline – no big deal.

But now? Sometimes, I want to meet a friend for coffee. And it HAS TO BE exactly at 10 a.m. Because of naps, and food, and car rides, and crankiness. And, as much as I want to be flexible – I find that I have to be honest about what will work for me and for Teddy. (Because when I try to adjust things, brunch is DISASTER.)

I have ventured out, on a handful of occasions, without Teddy. I am careful about when I do this – for example, NOT on Sunday night when I’m already cranky about the work week starting on Monday.  Once I went out to meet up with friends at around 7ish, right before Teddy’s bedtime – Tee took care of bedtime and I didn’t miss too much of my Mommy-Teddy time. That worked.

I’m hopeful that as time progresses, it will get a little easier for me to socialize without Teddy.  I’m not sure if my reluctance to be away from him is typical or not; maybe it’s something other working moms feel, too. Someday, hopefully, the math of my work life will change – shorter hours and more time at home.

And then, maybe it will get easier to allow myself time with friends sans kids. Because it’s refreshing to have that – a time when I can completely focus on others and myself, without having to ensure the safety and well-being of a dependent little person.

But also? I’m trying my best not to feel bad about not wanting to be away from my kid. We get so many freaking messages from the world. We are often told what we need. I personally am often told that I *need* time away from Teddy. And maybe I do. But I should get to determine that for myself, thankyouverymuch.

There are so many obstacles – finding a go-to babysitter (still working on that), and just plain finding mutually free time to connect with a friend in our always-busy culture.  But I’m working on it, and like everything else in my life, the key is BABY STEPS.

AND becoming more comfortable being the hostess.  Because then your friends come to you, and your son can run and play in his most comfortable environment.  WIN-WIN.

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parenting

Mom Goals

I am definitely a resolution maker, an intention setter. I like to look at my life, evaluate, and make goals for how I want to do things differently.

Most of the time, these are personal goals. However, since becoming a parent in July 2016, I’ve been thinking about different kinds of resolutions – things I want to do because I want them for my children and my family.

These resolutions – maybe they should be called Mom Goals – will benefit everyone in my family, including me. But they didn’t really occur to me before becoming a parent. Or maybe I wasn’t able to follow through on them without a larger purpose being involved.

Anyway, this is my number one Mom Goal – giving warm greetings and farewells.

Tee and I are pretty good at doing this with each other, but I am not always the best at these in social settings. I have a tendency toward Irish good-byes. I have no idea why they’re called Irish good-byes, but an Irish good-bye is when you just sort of disappear from a party without saying good-bye to anyone there.

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And, I mean, really – saying good-bye to EVERYONE at a party can take an extra hour and a lot of energy. However, I really want to foster warm and loving transitions for Teddy and any future kids. I want them to give hugs and kisses, if they feel like it, and at the minimum I want to walk them through the motions of saying hello and good-bye.

Sometimes as an adult, I meet people who just seem to radiate warmth and sunshine. They’re aggressively friendly without being overbearing. I love these people. I am not one of them, and I probably never will be, and that is okay. But I do want to give my kids the gift of regular rituals of hellos and good-byes. For Teddy right now, it involves blowing kisses, giving hugs, or an awkward wave, depending on his comfort level.

This is not something that comes naturally to me. But when I stop to think about it, my family has always had good-bye rituals with each other. When one of us was piling in the car to drive away on a trip, we’d stand in the driveway or on the front stoop and wave as they pulled away. I did this with my dad as he got in his car to drive back up the East Coast after visiting me at an Extended Stay America in Miami. I stood by the front door of the hotel, waited patiently as he got situated, and I waved until he drove around the side of the building and out of my sight. I’m so glad I did that. It was the last time I saw my dad. He died less than six weeks later.

The ways that we say hello and good-bye are so important. It’s why we always want to visit new babies, even though a lot of us think new babies are funny-looking and boring.  (Just me?) We want to greet them – we want to welcome them warmly into the world, and we want to welcome their parents into their new role.

So, when we have guests who are packing up to leave our house, I gently scoop Teddy up and he, Tee, and I walk our guests to the door and give them good-bye hugs. And if we’re at a party, even when I really want to scoot out the door unnoticed, I show Teddy how to say thanks and we blow good-bye kisses. He knows the routine now, and he gets a kick out of the reaction he gets from others when he says “Mwah!”

Anyway – good-bye, readers! So nice to see you.  Mwah!

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parenting · podcasts

So Many Podcasts

So I’ve been busily and happily listening to podcasts lately. This is interfering with my reading game somewhat, but c’est la vie – four years’ worth of archive episodes of The Girl Next Door weren’t going to listen to themselves.

Now that I’m done with the GND archives, I’ve moved on to some other podcasts, and the category I’m most into right now is parenting podcasts – more specifically, podcasts that talk about parenting but also talk about how to do other things (creative projects, working, self-care) while also parenting.

I’ve been doing some soul-searching about what I want to do next, career-wise, and I’m really interested in hearing how other people have developed their freelance careers or monetized their side hustles – WHILE PARENTING. Because that part is key; I have career goals, but my number one goal is being a present and peaceful parent.

I’m also motivated to listen to podcasts and audiobooks on parenting toddlers; Teddy is starting to have some tantrums, and any and all tips from podcasts and books have been welcome.  I’m really interested in behavior management and parenting theories, but the thing is – during the adoption wait, I couldn’t really consume parenting books. It was too hard. I was thinking about the adoption all the time, and trying to distract myself from the difficulty of the wait. Reading a book about parenting would have been a constant reminder that I was oh-so-ready for something that was not yet happening for me.

I’m playing catch-up now, and podcasts are a little easier for me to digest than reading entire parenting books. I love reading fiction so much that I rarely want to take a break from it to read nonfiction. Listening to nonfiction audiobooks and podcasts is preferable for me.

My new favorite podcast is The Mom Hour – just two moms talking about all things parenting and otherwise. Super fun.  Happy listening!