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I’m starting to develop a twitch.

Until last weekend, it had been over a year since I’ve seen some of my books.  I packed them all – carefully, lovingly, slightly tearfully – into boxes back in January of 2016, as we prepared to move out of our house in Elma, New York, and into temporary living quarters a few towns away while we planned our bigger move back home to Washington, D.C.  Our new apartment was very small, and many of our possessions were headed for storage – including my books.  I set aside a small pile that I wanted to keep with me, and Steve – not realizing that they were intended to make the move to the new apartment – packed them too.  Oof.

I’d never lived in a place with no books before.  (The kids’ books were making the move to the apartment, but that’s not the same, as my lovely readers will surely understand.)  I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have at least one full bookshelf to call my own – in fact, I don’t think such a time existed; even in my board book days I always had lots.  Of course, it’s not like I was lacking reading material while my books were in storage – thanks to that miraculous little slab of plastic called a library card, I had access to almost any book I wanted.  The main central branch of the Buffalo library was only a short walk from my office, and I was already in the habit of strolling over there a few times every week to pick up and return books – so I simply continued on as if my own beloved books were not piled in a dark storage locker.  Thank goodness for the faithful little library card, right?  Virtually every book I read from January through July of last year was borrowed.

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Of course, I consoled myself by repeating over and over again the mantra that “it’s only six months.”  In six months, I hoped to be unpacking a new rental house in northern Virginia.  Naturally, the books wouldn’t be the first things out of their boxes.  I always get the kids settled in their rooms first.  And I have to unpack the kitchen so we have a way to cook.  But then – books!

I was reckoning without our movers.  Ohhhhhh, our movers.  Because the book boxes were marked “storage” – where they’d come from – the movers assumed that they were unimportant.  Into the basement they went.  And not just anywhere in the basement – into the darkest, most inaccessible corner, behind the boiler, with piles of furniture and paintings in front of them.  Do you know those Loony Tunes moments, when a cartoon character’s eyes bug out of his head?  That was what I looked like when I realized where my books had gone.  And they’re so in accessible that, while I’ve gotten to a few boxes – by climbing on top of things and basically diving into the corner – there are many that I simply can’t get until the basement is cleaned out – a daunting task that, between work pressures, travel, and the need to get the living spaces livable (and keep them that way)… just doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.

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Rest assured, I complained about this.  Steve would tell you that the complaining was constant, endless, and dramatic.  (MY BOOOOOOOOOKS!  I MISS THEM SO MUUUUUUUUUUUCH!)  Recently, he suggested that I have plenty of books and am, in fact, doing just fine.

Take a moment, if you need one.  I certainly did.

In a sense, he is right.  I do have plenty of books – a few months ago I unpacked about half of my collection, thanks to my willingness to climb over things and stick my hand into unfamiliar boxes.  And even if I read every book that is currently on my shelf, I would still have the library.  I have twelve books checked out right now – so many that I almost don’t have time to read my own books, because my well-documented library stack problems have followed me throughout my adult life.

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One of my New Year’s resolutions was to “trust in abundance.”  I wrote that I “hope to let go of the need to be fully-stocked and trust in the fact that I have everything I need, and access to even more.”  I was talking about my pantry and my closet, to be sure, but also about my bookshelves.  As it happens, I do have lots of books (even if many of them are squirreled away in a dark basement right now).  It would take me years to run out of reading material if I just read from my own (completely unpacked) shelves and never bought new books or borrowed from the library.  I’ve been trying to follow Project 24, Simon‘s goal to only buy 24 books in 2017 (a rate of two a month, which is my usual goal, only I am not allowing myself to utilize any of my exceptions) and I’ve been very disciplined about not buying books as a result.  And if I happen to fancy reading a book I don’t own, odds are that my library system will have a copy, or I can wait a few weeks until the month turns and I can buy it.  I As you all know, I just got my books unpacked, organized and shelved – hurray! – but even without my complete book collection neatly lined up on my shelves, it’s true that I’m not going to find myself with nothing to read.

In the spirit of trusting in abundance, I’m also making a concerted effort to purge some books from my shelves – if I have duplicates, for instance, or if I’m not likely to want to read the book again.  I know my limits, and there’s no way I will be able to pull off a true purge in which I take several boxes of books to Goodwill.  But a book here and a book there, tossed atop the stoller and walked to the library donation box – I can do that.  A bookstagrammer I follow mentioned that she has a policy of only keeping a book on her shelves if she gave it three or more stars – books she didn’t like, or that were only okay, have no place in her limited shelf space.  Inspired by that, I recently grabbed two Ian McEwan books (part of my “letting go” this year has involved coming to terms with the fact that, other than Atonement, I’m just not a huge fan of McEwan – and that’s okay!) and a duplicate copy of Barchester Towers – and off they went to the library, to make someone else happy.

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I’m getting to a point in my life as a reader and human where I want to live in smaller spaces and be surrounded only by things that are actually special.  I’m trying to pare down and curate my life in many respects.  (How many small frying pans do I really need?)  On my bookshelves, that looks like keeping books that I have really loved (four and five-star books on Goodreads, for instance), books that I can honestly see myself re-reading, books that are particularly beautiful, and books that I want to be part of my permanent collection even if I’m not likely to re-read them.  (Although that last category shouldn’t really encompass very many books.)  It looks like jettisoning books that I didn’t love and won’t re-read, and most duplicate copies (with rare exceptions for duplicates in which both copies are beautiful and/or sentimental favorites – for instance, I have four copies of Little Women and will keep them all, thankyouverymuch, because they’re all beautiful, three are part of sets, and one I’ve owned since childhood).

The true challenge with this book-curating project is going to come when it’s time to pare down the kids’ shelves – for instance, when Peanut starts reading longer chapter books and isn’t asking for picture book storytime every night.  There are a few books that I thought were junk and that I couldn’t stand reading over and over again; those I’ll have no trouble tossing in the recycle bin (they’re not in good enough shape to donate).  But how will I be able to part with the kids’ books that are beautifully illustrated, or that I have sweet memories of reading aloud with my arms wrapped around one or both babies?  I know I’ll never be able to get rid of Time of Wonder or the Paddington or Fancy Nancy books, or my favorite Dr. Seuss books, or Nugget’s Richard Scarry collection, or the gardening themed stories that Peanut and I read as we plan our container garden, or… well, I have years before I have to worry about this, so I’ll just table it for now.  And keep accumulating books, because that’s what I do.

Do you try to curate your bookshelves?

Emily of New Moon opened with its heroine having her life pulled up by the roots – and Emily Starr is a particularly rooted character, one who forms deep attachments to both the people she lives with or near, but also to the places she lives.  When the trilogy begins, young Emily loses her beloved Father, and then her beloved home, in the span of just a few weeks.  Suddenly orphaned, she is sent to live with her Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura, and Cousin Jimmy at New Moon Farm – a place she’s never heard of, let alone seen.

Eventually Emily’s grief at her father’s death loses some of its sharp edge, life holds some interest again (or tang, as Emily might say) and she begins to fall in love with New Moon.  She makes friends – wild Ilse Burnley, sweet Teddy Kent, and ambitious Perry Miller (oh, and that old creeper Dean Priest).  She finds true sympathy in Cousin Jimmy and steadfast love in all the older residents of New Moon, and she begins to make the region of Blair Water her new home, granting picturesque names – just as her literary sister Anne would – to the landmarks around the farm.

Emily Climbs sees Emily on the move again, this time to attend Shrewsbury High School and board with her horrid (well, maybe…) Aunt Ruth.  Unlike her first move, this time, Emily does truly want to go.  She desperately craves an education, which she hopes will equip her for her life’s goal of climbing “the Alpine Path” and writing at its summit “a woman’s humble name.”  And her friends are going – Ilse, Teddy and Perry have all found their ways of getting to Shrewsbury High School.  Aunt Elizabeth, who initially refuses Emily’s plea, eventually relents (after extracting a promise from Emily that she will not write any fiction during her three years in Shrewsbury) and Emily is off.  But Emily discovers that even a move you wanted can mean homesickness.

“This room is unfriendly–it doesn’t want me–I can never feel at home here,” said Emily.

She was horribly homesick.  She wanted the New Moon candle-lights shining out on the birch trees–the scent of hop-vines in the dew–her purring pussy cats–her own dear room, full of dreams–the silences and shadows of the old garden–the grand anthems of wind and billow in the gulf–the sonorous old music she missed so much in this inland silence.  She missed even the little graveyard where slept the New Moon dead.

“I’m not going to cry.”  Emily clenched her hands.  “Aunt Ruth will laugh at me.  There’s nothing in this room I can ever love.  Is there anything out of it?”

She pushed up the window.  It looked south into the fir grove and its balsam blew into her like a caress.  To the left there was an opening in the trees like a green, arched window, and one saw an enchanting little moonlit landscape through it.  And it would let in the splendour of sunset.  To the right was a view of the hillside along which West Shrewsbury struggled: the hill was dotted with lights in the autumn dusk, and had a fairy-like loveliness.  Somewhere near by there was a drowsy twittering, as of little, sleepy birds swinging on a shadowy bough.

“Oh, this is beautiful,” breathed Emily, bending out to drink in the balsam-scented air.  “Father told me once that one could find something beautiful to love everywhere.  I’ll love this.”

I’ll love this.  Emily forms one of her deep connections to the fir grove, which she names the “Land of Uprightness,” and where she goes to walk, study, dream and write for the next three years.  (Aunt Ruth cannot understand this at all, and is convinced that Emily must be up to something devious.)

I’ll love this.  Like Emily, I have moved a fair amount.  Some of the moves – like my most recent move home to northern Virginia – have been joyously welcomed.  Others, like our purchase of a house in Elma, New York, back in 2014, brought a sense of relief and hopefulness.  Still others, like the original move to Buffalo – I was dragged kicking and screaming, more or less.  But everywhere I’ve lived, starting from when I first read Emily Climbs and took Douglas Starr’s advice into my heart just as his daughter did – my first order of business has been to find something to love, and then to exhale and say, just as Emily did, I’ll love this.

I have loved outdoor places – like the windswept vista, above, that was the view from my living room in Elma.  Or the little, fussy, landscaped garden behind my rental house in Buffalo.  I’d have preferred a small yard – there was no green space appropriate for Peanut to play in, so we had to walk to a nearby park to get her antsies out – but I spent many an evening sitting on the back porch, sipping tea and watching the shadows play in the corners of that pocket-sized garden.

I have loved indoor places – the white built-in bookshelves in Buffalo, which I filled with all my friends… the dreamy kitchens in Mount Vernon and in Elma, where I cooked and baked to my heart’s content… the nursery corners in multiple houses in multiple states, where I rocked my babies to sleep more times than I can count.

Only once did I never find anything to love – unless you count the aforementioned rocking chair corner.  From January to July of 2016, we lived in a non-descript townhouse in an apartment complex in Williamsville, while we worked out the details, planned and carried out our move back to northern Virginia.  I couldn’t love anything there – not the miniscule kitchen, not the strange floor plan, not the way our furniture jutted out at odd angles all over the apartment, not the early-90s fixtures, not the bland view from the back deck.  It was the first place I’d ever lived where I was unable to find anything about which to say I’ll love this.  Still I had dreams of making the place a home, filling it with laughter and memories during the short time we lived there – but in the end, it was just a waypoint.  Even with the great relief that I felt to leave the place for the last time, I turned on my way out the door and said a silent thank you to the apartment for sheltering my family and keeping the rain off our heads while we figured out what our future held.

Now I’m in another rental, but one that couldn’t be more different.  This place, too, is just a waypoint – although we will stop here longer, a few years at least – before we move (what I hope will be) one final time, to our forever house.  But there is so much I can love here.  I love the little white flowers that I saw peeking up at me from the slope of our tiny front lawn just this week…  I love the breezy white kitchen, where I pack lunches, scramble eggs, make tea, jump out of the path of a careening giraffe scooter… I love the little corner in the living room, where I have set up my console table and arranged my favorite family photos in a grid on the wall above… I love our alley, and I love wondering about the lives being lived behind each of the friendly lighted windows… I love the twinkling lights in the trees, which I can just see over the top of a row of houses.  I’m not sure that Emily would feel quite at home in my urban environment, but I do know that she would find things to love about this house.

I’ll love this.  There are many scenes in the Emily trilogy, which made great impressions on me as a child – but none quite as much as Emily’s first disappointed look around her room in Shrewsbury, her squaring her shoulders, turning to the window and saying those three words in Emily Climbs.  If you were to ask me, as a young reader, to describe one scene from the Emily books – the one scene that was most memorable, most important – I’d have described that, and I’d have quoted you Emily’s decision that “I’ll love this.”  I had no idea how important those three small words would be over the years – how important they still are – but even as a young reader who had never moved (when I first read Emily Climbs, I was still living in the charming little house my parents owned when I was born) something in my heart extended to Emily in that scene, more than any other, and said, “Oh, yes, I recognize you.  I also need something to love.”

This post is my contribution to Naomi‘s #ReadingEmily readalong.  For more thoughts on Emily Climbs, check out the #ReadingEmily hashtag on Twitter.

Hellooooooooooo, Monday!  It’s going to be a busy week around here (what else is new?) so I’m trying to psych myself up for it.  I have five days’ worth of work to do and only three days in which to do it, because I’ve got a client visit on Monday and a very brief business trip on Thursday.  Part of me wishes I could fast-forward to next weekend, when I will hopefully be hiking at the National Arboretum and picking up the plants for Peanut’s and my container garden.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves… there are five days to power through before then.

We had a pretty productive weekend, and you can see the results above!  I had big plans to get lots done around the house – grocery shopping, food prep, and then a marathon cleaning-out of the bedroom, which is the only room that is not completely unpacked at this point.  But I switched gears on Saturday morning when Steve decided (after seven months of my constant pestering) to clear a path to MY BOOKS and bring them up from the basement.  (Before you get all up in arms, yes, I am sure I could have made that happen for myself if I wanted to badly enough, and no I do not need a man to do anything for me.  But it turned out my books were not where I thought they were – well, some of them were, and those, I had already brought upstairs and shelved myself – and it took him less than an hour, when all was said and done, while it would have taken me the better part of a day or even longer.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it.)  Anyway, with that kind husbandly act, my weekend agenda veered away from cleaning out the bedroom, and straight to organizing and shelving my entire collection of books.  WAHOO!  It did take all weekend, since I had to squeeze the bookshelf project in between regular weekend chores, kid-wrangling, afternoon walks, and a run into the city to pick up my laptop (which I’d forgotten in my office, and which I needed to take to my client visit today).  But the time was totally worth it, and I’m completely enamored of the final result.  And as I said to Steve – there’s even room for more books.  (He rolled his eyes hard at that.)

  

Reading.  Sort of a slow reading week.  Metro woes continue, so my commute reading is a bit curtailed.  I finished Princess Elizabeth’s Spy on Monday – I love this series! How had I never gotten around to Maggie Hope before? – and then spent a few days picking at Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead.  It’s incredibly well-written (of course) and very funny and engaging, but I was just not in the right frame of mind, so after several evenings of mindlessly scrolling through my phone, I admitted that I just didn’t want to read it at the moment, and back to the library it went.  I expect I’ll check it out again later in the year, and read it then.  Book abandonment issues accepted, I turned to the book I really wanted to read – Emily Climbs, for part two of Naomi’s Reading Emily event.  (Blog post coming on Wednesday!)  I finished Emily Climbs on Sunday night and was as delighted with it as ever.  (I think it’s my favorite of the series.  Shhhhh, don’t tell Emily of New Moon or Emily’s Quest that I said that.)  Finally, I grabbed – and have just started – A Gentleman in Moscow, which is due back to the library on Wednesday, so I’d better get cracking.

Watching.  We’re almost caught up with Rock the Park now!  Just a few episodes to go.  I hear that Jack and Colton’s Great Falls episode recently aired, so I’m insisting we power through to get to it!  But we’ve only got a couple more days before we’ll be watching in real time, so we’ve started discussing what we’re going to watch next.  There’s another national parks show that looks like fun, but I think first we’re going to return to, and finish, Grantchester.

Listening.  You guys!  Exciting news!  I finished Middlemarch – all 35-plus hours of it!  A couple of 90-minute drives last week (two client visits – I feel like I’ve been out of the office more than I’ve been in) helped immensely.  I really, really enjoyed the audio production.  Juliet Stevenson’s narration is fabulous, and she brings George Eliot’s rich world to life like no other narrator likely could.  I loved reading the print version, and I’m sure I will return to that format, but the audio was such a joy.  And now I’m back to podcasts for a little while, but I’ve somehow managed to stay on top of my podcatcher, so I only have a few.  My client visits this week will yield me a clean podcatcher, no doubt, so I’ll have to decide what audiobook to “pick up” next.  I’m thinking of the Rachel McAdams narration of Anne of Green Gables, which I have in my Audible library…

Making.  Bookshelves.  Stocked.  With.  Books.  I actually spent a lot of time trying out different arrangements until I hit on something that was pleasing to the eye and showed off my books to their best advantage, since they deserve no less after patiently waiting for over a year in boxes.  I’m still so delighted with the final product, I can’t stop staring at my shelves.

Blogging.  Bookish week around here!  On Wednesday, as I teased above, I’ll have my March post on Emily Climbs, for the Emily readalong.  And on Friday, some thoughts about living without my books for more than a year, about shelf purges, and about curating my library to be exactly what I want.  I can’t promise coherent thought on that one, but there are lots of pretty library pictures in it.

Loving.  I’m a broken record, but the bookshelves have been the theme of the weekend.  I am loving, loving, being reunited with my books.  It really is like seeing old friends, who I’d missed so very much, show me their shining faces again.  Steve thinks I’m crazy, and it’s very possible that I am, but there’s nothing like a tidy bookshelf with all your favorites lined up just so.  It lifts a girl’s spirits like nothing else.

Asking.  What are you reading/making/watching/loving this week?

The Spring List 2017

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and happy spring to all!  It’s definitely in the air.  I always have mixed feelings about spring – as Kelly from Sorta Awesome says, it’s my fourth favorite season.  I adore the exuberant bursting into bloom, and the return of warmer weather, and the promise of summer just ahead.  I could, however, do without the allergies and the mud.  But we take the good with the bad and the bad with the good, so in that spirit, here’s my list of spring things to do:

  • Take the kids to see the cherry blossoms in bloom by the Potomac.
  • Plant a container garden with Peanut.  (I want to grow tomatoes, herbs and salad greens.  She wants to grow roses.  We’ll probably grow both.)
  • Get our back patio set up and start grilling and eating outdoors regularly.
  • Re-read Anne of Green Gables (my beautiful new Folio Society edition!).
  • Take at least one adults-only hike – either the Billy Goat Trail in Maryland, or possibly an Adirondack hike?
  • Spring cleaning!  Get the house in order and feeling fresh.
  • Do another Whole 30 (I’ve already started this).
  • Go rock-climbing.
  • Finally unpack and organize my books.
  • Take a weekend getaway somewhere – Chincoteague, maybe?  Or Annapolis?  Or Little Washington again?

What’s on your spring agenda?

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Happy spring!  I can’t believe this winter is over – it was a short and mild one.  We only had one dusting of snow here in northern Virginia – the couple of times that we actually saw snow, we had to travel to New York for it.  There was that crazy weekend when the temperatures almost hit eighty degrees, and the flowering trees had started to burst into bloom by mid-February.  (Note to self: buy Claritin early and often this year.)  I’ll feel guilty about climate change if they’re all like this, but after three really miserable, frigid winters in Buffalo, this nice mild one felt amazing.  (My sister-in-law’s boyfriend told me recently that they had a mild winter in Buffalo, too, this year.  I have no doubt that if we had stayed there, the winter would have been just as ridiculously horrible as the past three years have been, so clearly the mild weather was because we moved.  You’re welcome, Buffalo!)  Anyway, before we move on to spring, I have to close out the season by going through my winter to-do list and checking off the few items we actually completed.

  • Get in a winter hike or two when the weather is mild enough for the kiddos in their backpacks.  Done!  As part of our twelve months’ hiking project, we made it to Great Falls in January, and to Lake Accotink in February.
  • Whittle down my library stack.  Hahahahahahahaha.  No.  I did not do this.
  • Drink lots of tea!  Done!  I always do.  This year I’ve discovered that several of my co-workers are also tea people, and we have been sharing amongst our desk stashes and chatting about favorite producers – such fun.
  • Finish unpacking the bedroom and dining room, and once there are no boxes left in the living spaces, start tackling the basement.  I did get the dining room unpacked, but the bedroom is still tragic.  Every weekend I say that I’m going to tackle the bedroom, and every weekend I end up at the computer, working, instead.  But I’ve set a firm deadline.  We have a houseguest coming in a couple of months, and this is someone who is going to expect a tour of every inch of the house.  So the bedroom has to be whipped into shape before then.
  • Spend some time in Barchester – both Trollope’s and Thirkell’s versions.  Calling this partially done, because I did read Thirkell’s Pomfret Towers last month.  When the library stack is more manageable, Barchester Towers is calling my name.
  • Run the Pacers First Down 5K and Combine (preferably trained).  I wasn’t trained, but I did run it on Superbowl Sunday – and my mom ran, too!  That was a lot of fun – although it would have been more fun if I had been better prepared.  This is a lesson I keep learning the hard way.  When’s it going to stick?
  • Finish my 2016 family yearbook and order it when there’s a 50% off sale, then get started on other family yearbooks.  Done!  I completed the 2016 yearbook and then spent a few weeks making a family yearbook covering the years 2005-07 (our first two years of marriage).  I was able to order both at 50% off – woohoo!  I love having these yearbooks to flip through; my stack of Shutterfly books is really growing, but they’re so worth the time and expense in making them, and the space they take up.  They’re absolutely priceless to me.
  • Plan and book summer 2017 travel.  Haven’t quite accomplished this yet.  We have decided on our destinations and picked dates, but we haven’t booked tickets or lodging, nor have we planned out the smaller components of the trip (booking excursions for one trip; purchasing our equipment (!!!) for another).  We have a couple of family vacation-planning meetings on the agenda for the next few weeks, and I’m hoping that we will get everything booked soon.
  • Light candles often.  Not often enough.
  • Take the kids to Wegmans Wonderplace at the American History Museum.  Didn’t do this.  I was saving it for a nasty, cold weekend day – and we haven’t had many of those.  Weekends have seen us hitting the trails or the zoo, or going out of town, instead.  Perhaps this spring if we have a rainy Saturday to kill, we can make this happen.

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Well, looking over that list, I didn’t get much done.  Other than the hikes and the one race I had on the calendar, most of that list is sadly lacking in strikethroughs.  That’s mostly a testament to how busy this winter was.  In February, I could barely keep my head above water at work, and we had houseguests and spent a weekend traveling out of town.  March is another busy one.  I had Nugget’s birthday party to plan and throw (last weekend), and coming up I have a meeting with Peanut’s school about next year, a few big projects coming down the pipeline at work, the bedroom to unpack, and all the regular business of life.  Every season is a “busy season” right now… but I’m treading water and somehow getting though (I think, most days).  On Friday, I’ll have my spring list – I don’t expect to actually accomplish any more of it than I did with the winter list, but hey, hope springs eternal.

Did you make a winter to-do list?  How’d you do?

 

Happy new week, friends!  Finally, I had a weekend in which I did NO work – although that doesn’t mean that we relaxed.  (Relax – what’s that?)  Saturday was Nugget’s second birthday, so the day was completely given over to celebrating – with playground fun in the morning, then party prep errands in the afternoon, and finally a pizza dinner in which the birthday boy had Mommy and Daddy all to himself on Saturday night.  Peanut was invited to a movie night and pajama party at a friend’s house, so we packed her off with her little backpack and took the little dude out for an evening of fun all by himself.  He definitely enjoyed having the undivided attention of two parents, but he did ask where Peanut was a few times.  (I don’t think Peanut missed us at all.)  Sunday was Nugget’s birthday party, which we held at a local recreation center’s soft playroom.  It was a blast and Nugget loved running around with his friends.  I think the little guy felt very loved and celebrated all weekend.  We sure are happy we have him!

Reading.  Last week was surprisingly productive on the reading front.  D.C. is in the midst of a looooooooong effort to refurbish the Metro tracks (and hopefully make the trains a lot safer) and this month, as a result, trains are single-tracking in the corridor where I happen to live.  The result has been infrequent and very crowded trains.  I only read if I can get a seat – holding those big library hardcovers in one hand while hanging on for dear life with the other is just not easy.  I can usually get a seat, but last week the trains were so crowded that I found myself standing most days.  Since so much of my reading time is crammed into commutes, I was pretty surprised to see that I actually finished three books and started another even despite the commuting woes.  Hidden Figures was the highlight of the week – now I can’t wait to see the movie.  I also finished The Hopefuls, which I liked pretty well (even if I wanted to smack 75% of the principal cast by the end of the book) and American Born Chinese, which was also good.  Now I’m about a third of the way through Princess Elizabeth’s Spy – such fun.  It’s all about staying on top of the library stack!

Listening.  I have a personal victory to report – I’m down to less than seven hours to go in Middlemarch on audio!  Since the audiobook was over 35 hours long, this is a BIG deal.  Thanks to crowded Metro trains for all the progress – thanks to seats being scarcer, I’ve been reading less and listening more.  I can report that both Rosamund and Mr. Casaubon are just as infuriating and insufferable on audio as they are in print.  I know you were wondering.

Watching.  Other than cartoons, we haven’t watched much of anything.  I’ve embarked on a campaign to convince Steve that we need to watch the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries.  We’ll see how that goes.  But in the meantime, for next week at least, I’m looking forward to more Rock the Park.

Making.  A birthday party for Nugget!  The theme, naturally, was fire trucks – so I made lots of fire-themed snacks and little placards to go with them.  We had “fruit flames” (pineapple and strawberry kebabs), “veggie flames” (little shots of red, orange and yellow peppers in ranch dressing), “fire hoses” (twizzlers), and “matchsticks” (marshmallow lollies with red sprinkles) – plus sandwich platters and a fire truck cake.  I loved putting together a fire truck party, and the guest of honor had a blast – which is what counts, of course.

Blogging.  It’s all about wrapping up winter (even though we’re supposed to get six inches of snow – what?!?!) so on Wednesday I’ll share the final tally of my winter list, and on Friday we’re moving on to the spring list.

Loving.  Good old Pinterest – I have to give them a shout this week.  I got so many comments and compliments on the fire truck snacks and the punny little chalkboards I made to explain what they were and how they tied into the theme – and while I wish I could take credit for all of that creativity, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due.  God bless Pinterest, and God bless all those moms who have thrown “fire truck birthday parties” before me and pinned their visions!

Asking.  What are you reading/watching/making/loving?

Look Who’s Two!

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Dear little puppy, tomorrow you will be TWO years old!  I can hardly believe it.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were placed into my arms for the first time?

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But it really has been two years and you’re getting to be such a big boy.  You are into absolutely everything and you like to do most things for yourself.  You want to feed yourself, climb up into chairs on your own, get books off your shelf for me to read (and sometimes for you to “read”) and do anything you can think of to bug your sister.  But you still come running to Mom for a few things – mostly to “fix” your trucks and trains (read: turn on sirens, reattach train cars, open doors, and act as general toy mechanic) and for hugs and snuggles when you bump or bruise – which is far more often than your sister, because you’re on the go constantly.

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Your love of fire trucks is still going strong.  Most days when I come to get you out of your crib, you tell me you dreamed of fire trucks.  (Other common dreams are of your beloved nanny “Telly,” and of “Mommy driving baby excavator” – the baby excavator in question being a piece of road work equipment that has been parked outside of our house for the past few weeks.  The other day we saw a man operating it and you almost hyperventilated, you were so excited.)  You can identify different sirens, and if we hear an emergency vehicle coming down the road, you know instantly whether it’s a fire truck or an ambulance.  You also love ambulances, and construction vehicles, especially excavators and – to a lesser extent – bulldozers.

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So you really love living in Alexandria, because there are vehicles everywhere.  We are regular visitors to the fire station nearest our house, and to another one that is about a fifteen minute walk away – and you can tell the difference between the stations and their trucks.  If Engine 205 comes down the road, you tell us it’s 205 – and the same for 201.  Both trucks have become your friends, and you’ve gotten several personal tours of the fire station, because Telly (whose real name is Kelly, but you can’t quite make the C/K/G sounds yet) knows what you love, too.  One of your favorite things to do is to walk down by the water and see 201’s fire boat.  You’re insanely sharp-eyed and if you shout out a vehicle, you’re never wrong.  Many, many times we’ve heard you call “Mini Cooper,” and sure enough, you saw one coming from two blocks away.  We’ve learned not to doubt you.  If you tell us a vehicle is somewhere in the vicinity, it always is.

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You love to play outside and would live outdoors if I let you.  Over the summer, we discovered that the beach is your happy place and we couldn’t keep you out of the water, little Pisces.  You love hiking, too, and will happily point out doggies and kiss my head from your perch in the child carrier backpack.  You’re going to have such a fun summer exploring the lakes and beaches near us this year.  But really, as long as you’re outdoors, you’re happy, and we’re regular visitors to our parks, playgrounds and sandboxes to give you that fresh air fix that you need.

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You’re crazy smart. You can count to 10 (!) and sing the entire alphabet and an alarming number of “Hamiltunes.” You are also incredibly well-spoken, and everyone who hears you is amazed at how clearly you talk and how large your vocabulary is.  We certainly try to talk and read to you as much as we can, and I’m sure you’re getting a lot of your funny expressions from your sister.  The other day, you told us a long story about construction vehicles in which every sentence was prefaced with, “When I was a little baby, I saw…”  It made us laugh because you still are such a baby – but I know you don’t think you are!  Other funny things you say include…

  • “I’m a sweet boy.”  You learned this from your nanny, who is as wild about you as you are about her, and who sometimes feeds your ego as a result.
  • “Wanna listen Hamiltunes!”  You mostly mean “My Shot” by this, but we try to explain that “Hamiltunes” means any song from Hamilton so maybe you could throw your sister a bone and let her listen to “Wait For It” every so often?
  • “I like your hair!”  Or shirt, or shoes, or pants.  You’re definitely not stingy with compliments.  Once, on a visit from your grandparents, you greeted them at their car with “Hi, Grandad!  I like your shoes!”
  • “You love me?”  Sometimes you like to get reassurances that Mommy and Daddy, your sister, and your nanny love you.  We all do.
  • “Uppy Mommy HUG!”  Your way of asking to be picked up is irresistible, and I suspect you know this.
  • “SHARE, Em’ly, SHARE!”  I don’t know where you learned this, but “SHARE” evidently means “Hands off my stuff.”
  • “I love you, Mommy!  I love you SO much!”  The feeling is mutual, little guy.

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Sometimes we do have to come indoors, and when we do your favorite hobby is jumping in your crib and singing “My Shot” from Hamilton, although the only line you know is “Frow my shot! Shot!”  When you’re not rocking out in your crib, you love to be read to – Richard Scarry is your absolute favorite (you carry a copy of Cars and Trucks and Things That Go all around the house, which is hilarious because that book is almost as big as you are).  But you also love any book from the Good Night Our World series (Good Night Beach and Good Night Washington D.C. are your favorites – no surprise there), and like your sister you’re a fan of Margaret Wise Brown and Dr. Seuss.  Another favorite: Usborne’s Look Inside an Airport – you like to look at the pictures and tell me which of the little people at the airport is Nana; that one time we picked her up from a flight made a huge impression on you.

You also enjoy watching TV over your sister’s shoulder (we’ve pretty much given up trying to keep you away from screens) and you regularly shout out your show requests.  Like your sister, you enjoy Curious George, Doc McStuffins and Sofia the First.  You also just started watching the movie Finding Dory and you’re pretty obsessed.  Other than reading, watching TV and jumping on the furniture, your favorite indoor thing to do is to make “toffee” (coffee) with Daddy every morning.  You like to take deep whiffs of the ground coffee and to choose the filter (which you call the “filter basket”).  Many mornings, you start clamoring “Daddy may toffee!  Daddy may toffee!” as soon as you come into the kitchen.  Future barista?

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Hey, there’s your sister!  You think she’s pretty great.  (You’re right – she is.)  You’re constantly trailing after her or squeezing into chairs next to her.  She loves you, too, and she’s immensely proud to introduce you to her friends and classmates.  Of course, sometimes you drive her nuts.  Whether you’re stealing food off her plate, messing up her dollhouse, or grabbing her pink stroller and careening down the hall to set up a spectacular crash – you can definitely be a little brother.  But no one can stay mad at your adorable little face.

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At the end of the day, while you’re crazy about your sis, you’re very much a mama’s boy.  When I walk through the door after a long day at work, nothing lifts my spirits like hearing your loving little voice shout adorably, “THERE she is!”  You leap into my arms and cover my face with sloppy kisses and barely leave my side all evening, every evening – and I love every second of it.  The feeling is mutual, by the way – I am wildly, madly, ecstatically in love with you too.

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You’re turning into such a big boy.  I love watching your little adventures every day – seeing you zoom down slides and dig in sandboxes, carry Elmo in the crook of your arm, crash your trucks, splash in the tub and charm the entire world.  But when we turn out the light and start singing your bedtime song (you usually request “I Love the Mountains,” which surprises no one), you still like to cozy up and lay with your head on my arm as if you were a newborn.  No matter what you say, you’re still a baby and you’ll always be my baby.

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Happy, happy, happy birthday, little fella.  Here’s to a year of more adventures, more doggies, more splashes and more trucks.