Books for Christmas

It is a Christmas tradition – the nieces and nephews each get a book from me for Christmas.  (Yes, they get a toy or two, as well.)  So what are we putting under the tree this year?  I tried to focus on stories that feature characters being brave, persevering, and learning gratitude.  And I tried to find some books that feature characters, locations and traditions that might be different from ours.  I have linked these images to Amazon so you can learn more about them, but – as always – I’d encourage you to support your local independent bookstore and buy there!  Here’s our list:

A mouse musters up the courage to ask a lion to teach him how to roar. By Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Jim Field Ages 3-5

A mouse musters up the courage to ask a lion to teach him how to roar.
By Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Jim Field
Ages 3-5

A tale about the power of stories and storytelling set in Morocco. By Evan Turk Ages 4-8

A tale about the power of stories and storytelling set in Morocco.
By Evan Turk
Ages 4-8

Winner of many awards, a book about thankfulness. By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson Ages 3-5

Winner of many awards, a book about thankfulness. Features people of all shapes, colors and abilities!
By Matt de la Pena, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Ages 3-5

Bedtime poem by Inuit throat-singer and author describes the gifts given to a new baby by Arctic animals. By Celina Kalluk Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis Ages 2-3

Bedtime poem by Inuit throat-singer and author describes the gifts given to a new baby by Arctic animals.
By Celina Kalluk, Illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis
Ages 2-3

A clever and lovely seek-and-find book By B.B. Cronin Ages 3-7

A clever and lovely (and detailed!) seek-and-find book
By B.B. Cronin
Ages 3-7

A book about imagination, frustration and problem solving. By Ashley Spires Ages 3-7

A book about imagination, frustration and problem solving.
By Ashley Spires
Ages 3-7

A silly, funny book in which a penguin tells the readers what his life is really like. By Jory John, Illustrated by Lane Smith Preschool - Grade 2

A silly, funny book in which a penguin tells readers what his life is really like.
By Jory John, Illustrated by Lane Smith
Ages 3-7

A beautiful, poetic story about a boy who sets off alone with only a few belongings to find a new homeland. By Rebecca Young Illustrated by Matt Ottley Ages 4-8

A beautiful, poetic story about a boy who sets off alone with only a few belongings to find a new homeland.
By Rebecca Young, Illustrated by Matt Ottley
Ages 4-8

A story about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and learns to play. By David Litchfield Preschool - Grade 2

A story about a bear who finds a piano in the woods and learns to play.
By David Litchfield
Ages 4-7

Happy shopping and reading!

Admissions of a Tired Mom

Croak?

Croak?

1. The other day, I actually thought that it might be nice to get sick. But only sick enough that I would feel justified in staying home and sleeping all day.

2. There is a dead frog in my car. Somewhere. Thankfully (?) it is flat and dried.

3. I sometimes feel bad about:
a. not reading The New Yorker;
b. not eating enough fish;
c. sometimes writing “congrats” instead of “congratulations,” because that’s just lazy.

4. I don’t watch much TV, except for Wild Kratts and Curious George, so I’m woefully behind in my knowledge of news and pop culture.  And I don’t really go anywhere interesting anymore.  This paired with my usual state of exhaustion means that I am, in fact, only able to talk about my children.  I do recognize how annoying this is.

5. My children think they have the power to change stoplights and songs on the radio using only their minds.  This is going to come back to bite me, I’m sure.

Pickle trying to exert mind control over his unsuspecting little sister.

Pickle trying to exert mind control over his unsuspecting little sister.

Look, book!

Allow me to state the obvious.  Reading is good.  For so many reasons. We read a lot in our house.  I hope that I can give my children the gift of books, and the love of reading.  I remember how important I felt when, each week during one summer, I walked to the library 1/4 mile from my house, and spent afternoons browsing the  young adult books in the library basement.  I still love to bury my nose in a book that smells like must, print, paper, and fingerprints of readers past.  That summer I read the Little House on the Prairie series, and I loved it.

While I’m positive Mr. Pickle will be a reader, Miss Plum?  Who knows.  Baby 2 gets fewer books, it is just the way it is (in my house, at least).  Fingers crossed we will be able to start a real bedtime book routine with her soon. (Actually, fingers crossed that she’ll start sleeping through the night sometime soon, sheesh, but that is a post for another day.)

Here are some of the books that Mr. Pickle has loved in his first 2.5 years:

Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin
Some nice repetition, a funny story, and the word “ultimatum” – I’ve read this book at least 150 times.

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever
I remember this book from when I was little! There is so much to talk about on each page. And Kenny Bear eats a remarkable amount of food for breakfast. Honorable mention: Richard Scarry’s Cars Trucks and Things That Go.

Good Night New Hampshire by Adam Gamble and Anne Rosen
We like these. My husband was on some sort of kick and bought 14 different books in the “Good Night Our World” series. They are quick reads, show kids different landmarks in different cities/places and since they’re board books, they’re good for little hands that like to crinkle and rip.

A Potty for Me! by Karen Katz
When my son first started considering potty-training, he liked this book a lot. He especially liked the part where the mom says, “That’s okay!” I think the book has annoying rhymes (together/water, etc) but was a nice little book on the subject.

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld
I love this book and so does my little boy. The rhymes and rhythm are lovely. It has all of the heavy machinery Pickle loves. I consider it a must-have, and will likely be giving it as a gift this Christmas to a few under-twos.

Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall
I adore this book. It is my favorite. The illustrations by Barbara Cooney are so lovely. The story is poetry (not surprising given that the author is a poet who was the American Poet Laureate in 2006) and it is local. For several months we read this book at least once a night. And we always made sure to kiss each other on the nose.

Angelo by David Macaulay
My son recently discovered this book – a signed copy was given to him as a gift. It is way over his head, it is long and is sad, but he likes trying to figure it out. He enjoys hearing about Angelo helping Sylvia. I suspect we’ll be reading this one for years.

What Pete Ate from A – Z by Maira Kalman
This book is quirky, funny, and full of weird characters. It is actually fun to read. I have given this book as a gift before, and it has been well-received. I’m glad my son likes this book because I don’t mind reading it every night.

So tell me, what are some of your favorites?

Enjoyment for All!

Things my 2.25 year old currently enjoys:

  • Standing in the breezeway and knocking on the door to come inside.  I yell “Who is it?” repeatedly.  He keeps knocking.  This can last 10 minutes.
  • “Hiding.”  To him, this means putting a blanket on his head and yelling, “Mama!” I am required to respond, “Oh no! Where did Pickle go?” for 6 minutes before he takes the blanket off of his head and I act surprised.  Repeat this fourteen times.
  • Offering to share food by tilting his little head to the side, raising his voice an octave and saying something like, “Mama want big bite?”  It is really cute, but I think I’m on to him.  He usually offers things like broccoli, and never offers things like cheese or cookies.
  • Taking off his pants.
  • Pretending I am murdering him when I tell him that unfortunately, he must wear pants outside of the house.
  • Being “right back.”  I’m not sure why he goes, or where, but he indeed comes right back.
  • The “Maybe Song”.  He has inherited his father’s pop music gene, and actually requests Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” Kill me now.
  • Yelling at the cat.
  • Pushing his sister around… literally.

Things my 0.5 year old currently enjoys:

  • Food.  Any.  But only if it is eaten with a spoon, or sucked out of one of those mesh things.  She grumbles her enjoyment.  Bottles?  Meh.
  • Bouncing in her Jumperoo (which is strange, because while she is completely capable of bearing weight on her legs, she believes it is not important to do so at any other time).
  • Exploring all her mysterious diaper-covered parts when said diaper is removed.  Kiddos took their first double tubby the other night, and lo and behold, the supposed-to-be-sweet video I have of them splishing and splashing also involves a heavy dose of self-exploration (and my laughter).
  • Drooling.
  • Attempting to understand the strange and occasionally dangerous creature that is her brother.
  • Yelling – not crying, but yelling – like an angry, toothless, little old lady the few minutes before bedtime.
  • Her duck.  A flat little two-sided crunchy toy.  It is all fabric, no stuffing, no bells and whistles and is about 4 inches in diameter.  It is her very best friend in the world.  And it always smells like spit.

Things my 34.5 year old husband currently enjoys:

  • Waging an all-out war with crabgrass.  This includes borrowing, and breaking the neighbor’s rototiller. Oops.
  • Cake.  I suspect that even if I do another one of these lists next year, cake will still be on the list.
  • Pop music.
  • Leaving glassware on every flat surface in our house. (Just put the damn thing in the sink!)
  • Playing with the kids.
  • Asking me when we should have a third.  (AHHH!)
  • Dinner, the rare and elusive dinner!!!  He enjoys this because I never make this.  But I did make him a cake, so I should get a pass for at least a few weeks, right?
  • Buying cars, sight unseen, via the interweb.  Word to the wise: if you are going to do this, don’t forget to ask about weird smells.
  • Wearing things that used to be called shoes, but now have to be called something else, something like “footwear that used to resemble a shoe but now causes you to walk around with half of your foot actually touching the ground”.

Dressed for Success.

“Never make yourself uglier than you are.”

Oh, Grandma Hazel, you really had a way with words. I suspect what you were trying to say (to my mother, who still recounts this quote 20 years after your death) is that you’ve got to work with what you’ve got, highlight your best features, and as my friend Dr. Scottie would say, “Shake what your mama gave you!”

But babies, kiddos, Mr. Pickle, Miss Plum, you are unfortunately at the mercy of your parents and their tastes for several years.  That means Mr. Pickle, thanks to your dad, you will forever wear t-shirts emblazoned with the names of colleges and universities your parents and relatives did not attend.  Your father will also occasionally dress you in stripes and plaids at the same time without mom noticing until we’re already at school.  Miss Plum, this means you will forever be without socks, because, excepting a few lovely pairs, your mom is pretty much anti-sock.  And you will be forced to endure too many outfits with strawberries on them, because, well, your mom doesn’t quite know why she loves these so much, she just does.

I can’t promise you’ll be the best dressed, but I can promise you that I will try not to put you in outfits that will make people laugh at you unkindly, pull their children away from you (or me) in fear and embarrassment, and/or make people question my sanity and fitness to parent.

Outfits like these

… and these are the tame ones (all from Cafepress).  Goodness, some of the onesies featured in this Huffington slideshow are so incredibly tasteless they make me blush. I am always amazed by the things other people think are funny.

So Plum and Pickle, I promise I will try to always remember that you are your own (little) people, and not simply extensions of me, or the way I want others to see me.

Love,

Mom

Where’s the Good Stuff?

Where’s the good stuff? What IS the good stuff?

I’ll be the first to tell you that I am happy, and grateful for my blessed life. I am. But in the last few weeks, with my return to work, and conversations with other moms, I’ve been pondering motherhood, the challenges, and the triumphs. A lot of moms I know have felt particularly challenged as of late. I’ve heard stories of frazzled nerves, endless second-guessing, exhaustion, work-life balance problems, losing oneself to this kiddo-endeavor, and attempting to find oneself after such a loss.

Recently, while discussing our new babies, my sister said, “I love her, but when will I like her?”

Nail. On. Head.

Kids are a lot of work. And they aren’t really all that fun, especially at the beginning. So why do we do this? And does it ever get easier? Will I ever feel like I’m doing more than just getting by?

I have been pondering those dark mommy days, and what we can turn to in the tough times to get us through (besides wine, “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and crying, that is). Are there tangible returns to mommyhood besides someone to care for us in old age (because they have to, right?)? Some days, a smile from a new little human is enough. But, and I know this is mommy-heresy to say this, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I just don’t want to do it. Any of it. But I guess that’s the point after all…

My kiddos are here to make me a better person. The potholes in my character – the good personality traits that I am missing, or that have been worn away – my kiddos are there to help me learn to patch them.

  • Three days of two-year-old tantrums? Time for me to work on kindness and patience (and homicidal tendencies.  I joke, I joke).
  • Mr. Pickle wants my hard-earned last cookie? Let’s work on generosity.
  • Plum needs some new clothes, but I’ve been wearing the same two ratty old bras for the last 3 years? Plum’s needs trump; I’m working on selflessness.
  • Kiddos are running me ragged and I’m at my wit’s end? I need to work on balance and asking for help.

Some days I want to stomp my foot like an impetuous toddler and whine that I just don’t want to. I don’t want the self-improvement, the mirror held up to my behaviors. I don’t want to participate in this kiddo-led quest for mommy betterment. But I try to remind myself, that in my little corner of the world, we are working very hard to help make good, kind human beings. I’m starting from scratch with my little doodlebugs, and my doodlebugs are working on the betterment of their imperfect-but-working-on-it, 34-year-old Mom and Dad.