books + reading

What We’re Reading Lately (Kids Edition)

One of the byproducts of the current civil rights movement happening in our country is a plethora of reading lists being shared on social media.

I love a good book list. My kids are 3 and 1, and we haven’t talked a lot about race yet in their lives. I typically use books as a strategy for talking with them about various topics; we read books about the dentist in the days and weeks before an upcoming appointment, we read books about holidays, and we read a ton of books about moving before Moving Day last year. Edgar, who is 3, loves to read books together, so it’s a great way to explore something new within the context of something comfortable and familiar.

Whenever I see a book list, whether it’s for kids or adults, I always make a bunch of library requests. I am an avid library requester, which is why, once curbside pick-up opened up last week, two librarians had to team up to carry the 35 books I had requested to my car. (This was an especially big load, as it also included books I had requested BEFORE the libraries closed due to COVID 19!)

The book lists I used as resources were a mix of books about racism, race, and civil rights, and books that simply feature people of color living their lives. I think that our “library” – I’m including books we own and books we frequently check out of the library – is pretty diverse. But I’m always looking for more suggestions, and I try to be intentional about seeking out books featuring people of color as main characters.

Here are some of the awesome books that we’ve discovered thanks to recent reading lists:

Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. This book is SO FREAKING CUTE. It’s great for both of my boys; I think it is probably intended for a younger audience, closer to Jonas’s age (he’s almost 2), but Edgar adores it. Sweet, simple story of a baby’s day; rhyming and rhythmic and soothing; and it features ALL the sweetest and most tantrummy aspects of baby/toddler life, so that’s enjoyable for all.

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima. Edgar loves this book. A little girl who loves to wear costumes (and has two dads, so bonus diversity!) goes on an adventure involving penguins and an orca. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE?

Saturday by Oge Mora. This one makes me cry. Sweet story of a girl and her mother spending Mom’s only day off going on fun adventures.

Juneteenth for Maizie by Floyd Cooper.  This is my favorite book about Juneteenth so far. It explains the holiday through a conversation between a young girl and her dad. Great for Edgar’s age – he’s almost 4.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi. This one we bought rather than borrowed. It’s adorable, and powerful. It really does feel like Kendi is attempting to capture the messages of his adult book, How To Be An Antiracist, in baby/toddler/preschooler language.

The Colors Of Us by Karen Katz. I really like this one, and I think the boys will enjoy it more once they stop asking for Harriet and Please Baby Please (see above) over and over again. It’s a good book for exploring differences in skin color in an understandable and kid-friendly way.

Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds. Wonderful book about different ways for children to use their voice to say something. It’s sweet and colorful, with a good rhythm to the text. It’s powerful, and the pictures are beautiful and enjoyable.

We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Jane Kates. This book features the Sesame Street characters and is a good intro into differences in facial features, hair color, and skin color. The message is: “We look different, but we’re also the same.” It’s a good intro book – to be followed later by a deeper explanation of race and racism later.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry. A story about a dad doing his daughter’s hair. So freaking sweet.

Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love. This book is about a little boy who wants to dress up like a mermaid. My FAVORITE thing about this book is that the story does not include any skepticism or negativity about the little boy wanting to dress up in lipstick, a flowery headdress, and jewelry; he simply likes what he likes, and his abuela supports him by finding him a necklace. My boys don’t really have any understanding (to my knowledge) of why a little boy wouldn’t wear lipstick or jewelry or dresses, so I appreciate a children’s book that celebrates different ways of being without highlighting how our society sometimes treats people who don’t meet societal expectations.

SO MANY GOOD BOOKS. Nothing I love more than sitting on the couch and starting to read a book, and then watching Edgar come sprinting toward me, dropping toys as he goes. Happy June 2020 – and, if you know a book I should request from the library to read with my kids, please share!

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goals

Wrapping Up June 2020

What a strange time we’re living in.

I don’t know about you, but anytime someone asks me How are you?, I feel like laughing. How am I? How are any of us? We’re fine, except for COVID and civil unrest and the glaring uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring.

That said, I’ve been happy with my June 2020 goals. I had three goals for this month:

  • Make a concrete and realistic plan for summer writing.
  • Set a goal – including word count – for summer writing.
  • Make a summer bucket list.

My bucket list is drafted, but not quite finished. Let’s be honest – it’s not as wild and crazy as I would have hoped. It’s simple, and sweet, and I’ll share it soon.

My goal for summer writing, currently, is to write 500 words every day during the boys’ nap. I actually think I’ll raise that word goal eventually, but for right now, it feels good – I hit the mark with relative ease and I can even get it done on days when there are a lot of other things on my list of things to do. If I keep to 500 words a day, that means a total of 30,000 words for the summer.

Now, I would really like to finish a draft of the main novel I am writing this summer – but I’ve been skipping around a little and working on other fiction projects. So I’d say my summer writing goals are:

-Write fiction (500 words) every day.

-Finish a draft of my primary novel, word count irrelevant. (I imagine it will be about 50,000 words.)

I really liked using the mid month check-in to keep my monthly goal(s) front and center, and I’ll try that again for July.

Cheers to a summer that is cozy, pleasant, productive, and progressive. I’ll be phone banking (or something similar) for the Democrats for the 2020 election – I’ll be working with a social justice group (more on that at some point) – I’ll be reading and learning – and I’ll be writing my little heart out. Happy July, everyone!

flower in black background
Photo by Jeremias Müller on Pexels.com

 

gratitude

5 Things I’m Grateful For (June 2020)

So much to be grateful for.

  1. So grateful to be done (for now?) with working from home while parenting. It was a ton of multi-tasking, which wasn’t good for me. My phone was always in my hand because of work. So then, even when I wasn’t working, I’d find myself getting the boys busy with an activity and then scrolling social media or texting. For the summer, I’m going to make a concerted effort to keep my phone in another room (or inside the house while we play outside) so that I am not constantly checking it out of habit.
  2. After George Floyd was murdered, a friend of mine shared info on Facebook about SURJ. It’s a group called Standing Up For Racial Justice that works to undermine white supremacy and to work toward racial justice through community organizing, mobilizing, and education. I’ve attended a few meetings and am exploring ways I can contribute and learn and be involved. I’m grateful to have found the group; it’s helping me to feel more engaged and knowledgeable, and it’s been a way to “do something” at an incredibly important moment in our country’s racial history.
  3. The library! Baltimore County Public Library is now offering curbside pick-up. Edgar, Jonas, and I drive to the parking lot, call the library, and a librarian brings our books out to our car. Which leads to the extremely awkward issue of me having to apologize because someone other than me has to carry the 35 library books I requested out to my car. After months of reading ebooks, it feels so good to have a hard copy of a novel in my hands.
  4. Edgar has developed this sweet habit. Several times each day, he’ll just randomly look at me, smile, and say, “I love you, Mommy.” It melts my heart. Sometimes he’ll take it further, grab my arm, and hug it and say, “I LOVE THIS ARM SO MUCH.” Which is just as sweet in its delivery but also hilarious.
  5. My boys and books. If you sit on my living room couch and start reading a book, particularly if it’s a book he knows and loves, Edgar will come running from wherever he is in the house to curl up next to you and listen. It is lovely. And Jonas, who was not always eager to sit and listen to a book when he was a baby, will now sit through stories that are meant for kids his big brother’s age. Jonas’s current fave is Do Not Bring Your Dragon To The Library by Julie Glassman, which is great because I love it, too, and therefore don’t mind reading it six times in a row.

It does feel odd, to publish a gratitude list right now. I’m angry about a lot of things. I sometimes get annoyed when I see any content or post right now that’s not related to the civil rights movement currently happening in our country.

But I’m also very aware that practicing gratitude helps me to sustain the energy and clarity that I need to be useful, to the movement, to my family, and to myself.

So I’ll be grateful – and I’ll keep learning, working, and fighting. Happy June.

nature field flowers summer
Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com
goals

Checking In (Summertime Planning)

For every month of 2020, I have started off with a bright-eyed post about my goals for the month. Every month, there has been a theme and a plan and a list of all the things I’m going to do in the area identified – like Creativity, or Health, or Mindfulness.

And every month, I forget about the theme and the goals until I start writing the first post of the month for the following month.

This is simply not my strength. I love setting goals, but then I get caught up in day-to-day life and I forget what the heck they are.

I actually ended up reaching out to Kelsey of my favorite podcast, The Girl Next Door, to ask for advice. She writes a monthly goals post on her blog and I was curious about how she keeps the goals at the forefront. She made a suggestion – to do a mid-month check-in post on the blog to see how I’m progressing toward my goals. I loved this idea, and I’m going to give it a try. I have a vague memory of attempting this in the past; I can’t remember if it was successful or not. (Probably better if I don’t remember.)

So that’s what this is – my mid-month check-in on my June 2020 goal.

For June 2020, my goal is to plan for summertime. Tamara will be working Monday through Friday, so the times I will have available to write are early mornings, naptimes, and whatever other chunks of time I can schedule out with her.

Here’s my plan:

  • Wake up early every morning to write. This can be free writing – journaling, blogging, fiction, any kind of writing that feels right that day.
  • Every day, from 1 – 3 p.m., is Nap Time/Writing Time. No exceptions. Daily word count will be 500 starting yesterday (June 22); I’ll change it if that ends up being too small of a goal.
  • Every weekend, find at least one other block of writing time. Maybe it’s an extra hour attached to nap time, or a whole morning when Tamara takes the boys for a hike.

I’m writing this on June 21, and my mind and my living space are pretty nicely set up for an organized writing summer. Hoping to start things off strong this week and move forward prolifically.

My other June goal was to make a summer bucket list, and as of this moment, it is meh. The COVID stuff is incredibly challenging and confusing, and I don’t know what we can do or when we can do it. But, as I check in – I have started a bucket list and I’m hoping to add to it with Tamara this week.

I like this new check-in idea, and I’m hoping it’s helpful. I am so grateful to be done with the multi-tasking madness that was the COVID-19 closure, and I’m so happy to be spending  their weird and unique summer with my two rascal boys. Happy summertime!

wood light vacation picnic
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
books + reading

The Books I Need To Read

I’ve written many times about my struggle to read certain books. They are typically nonfiction, and they are sometimes books I want to have read but don’t necessarily look forward to reading, the way I look forward to curling up with the latest Louise Penny mystery novel.

Now, when it comes to fiction, I do not read books that I don’t want to read. A long, long time ago, I used to make myself finish books no matter what. These days, I will abandon a book if I lose interest, even if I am several hundred pages in or just a few chapters from the end. Life is too short to waste time on books that I’m not enjoying.

But these other books – these nonfiction books on adoption, transracial adoption, race, parenting, and writing – are different. I want to read these books because I want to be a better parent, a better writer, and a better human being.

The biggest challenge I have related to this task – reading nonfiction books to educate myself – is this: reading is my inhale – my stress relief – my recreation – my joy. I love reading, and I mostly love reading fiction. I have limited time to read – kids, job, house get in the way – and so when I get the time, I want to dive into an escapist novel, NOT an educational resource.

I have found a few strategies that have helped me to read these books:

  1. Listen to the audiobook. This helps – listening to the book as I empty the dishwasher. It doesn’t take away from my fiction reading time, and while I prefer a paperback to an audiobook, it’s less important to me when it’s a nonfiction book.
  2. Get a recommendation. If someone can vouch for the book, it helps me. I had White Fragility on my to-read list for months. Then a friend mentioned it to me, and I asked him to tell me a little bit about it. (I don’t have the same detest for spoilers when it comes to nonfiction books!) With a little more info and a recommendation from a friend, it was easier for me to dive in and keep going with it. I ended up loving the book and would recommend it to anyone.
  3. Read a page a day. Just keep on creeping through the book slowly. Some of the books I want to read are written in a very academic tone, and I am finding that
  4. Get freaking motivated. 

For # 4 – allow me to explain.

I started this post a few months ago. As I type today, it’s June 3, 2020, and there are uprisings across our country related to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. I have never been more motivated to better myself as a human being and as a parent. The connection between the books I want to read and the reasons why I want to read them has never been clearer.

Currently my social media feed is jam-packed with information about books, videos, articles, podcasts, TV, and movies that are recommended to White people so that they can learn what they need to learn to be actively antiracist. My copy of Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi arrives today, and I’ll be reading that book together with a friend. I’m participating in a book club discussing White Fragility so I’ll be gradually re-reading that book at all. The next two books on my list after Stamped are How To Be An Antiracist, also by Ibram X. Kendi, and In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption by Rhonda M. Roorda.

I honestly don’t think I can plan past those books at this moment. Are there other books I want to read related to writing, parenting, race, transracial adoption, and adoption? Yes. But right now, I am taking every single thing in life one day at a time, including this. When I finish these books, I’ll evaluate the other books that I need to read. I’m grateful to writers who are helping me to learn and to grow so that I can be the parent I need to be for my kids and the human being I need to be for the world.

Image taken from Jane Mount’s idealbookshelf.com