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Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby.  I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book.  Here are my reads for March, 2015

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel – WOW, I really loved this.  Station Eleven is a chilling, yet uplifting, dystopia telling the story of a small band of musicians and actors traveling between settlements of survivors after a massive flu pandemic has wiped out 99.99% of the world’s population.  The novel alternates between several points in time to tell the stories of a few different characters – famed actor Arthur Leander, who collapses and dies onstage during a performance of King Lear on the night the flu first hits North America; Jeevan Chaudhary, ex-paparazzo turned paramedic who tries to save Leander’s life, and Kirsten Raymonde, a child actress who witnesses Arthur’s death, survives the flu, and becomes part of the band of traveling performers trying to keep art and culture alive in the cruel post-flu world.  I don’t want to say much more about this one, because I don’t want to spoil anything.  It’s a chilling, outstanding, heartwarming book – highly recommended.

Miss Buncle’s Book (Miss Buncle #1), by D.E. Stevenson – Barbara Buncle needs money.  She can’t think of any other way to earn it, so she decides to write a book and try to have it published.  The trouble is, Miss Buncle isn’t particularly creative.  She’s fairly dull – believed stupid by her neighbors – and decidedly lacking in imagination.  So she writes a book based on her town, Silverstream, in which her friends and acquaintances are barely disguised.  Miss Buncle is delighted when the book is picked up for publication – she can finally get a new hat! – and shocked when it becomes a runaway bestseller.  But it doesn’t take long before the residents of Silverstream realize that they’ve been immortalized in fiction – some of them, to rather ill effect – and they’re determined to smoke out the anonymous author hiding in their midst.  This was a gentle, fun, whimsical read – perfect for the first days with a newborn.

Queen of Hearts (Her Royal Spyness #8), by Rhys Bowen – Lady Georgianna Rannoch, thirty-fifth in line to the throne of England, is off on her farthest-flung adventure yet when her mother, the famed actress and “bolter” Claire Daniels, invites her along as company on a journey to America.  Claire is headed for Reno to get a quickie divorce from her current husband so that she can marry her German paramour.  Having nothing better to do, Georgie delightedly tags along and finds herself mixed up in a mystifying jewel heist and the murder of a Hollywood producer.  Light, silly and fun, as always.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson – I’ve only read one of Larson’s books before this one (In the Garden of Beasts, which I really enjoyed) but I knew as soon as I read the description of this one that I was going to have to read it.  I’ve never known much about the Lusitania disaster, and Larson promised a bigger story than the one we learned in history class (Germany torpedoed it, and caused the U.S. to join World War I as a result).  I was fascinated by Larson’s narrative of the disaster, and I learned a ton.  (For example, the Lusitania alone didn’t really get the U.S. into the war – it took another two years of affronts to the U.S. neutrality policy before we joined in.)  It’s history, but not dry in the least – compulsively readable, fascinating, and addictive.  Recommended to history buffs and fans of narrative non-fiction.

The Railway Children, by E. Nesbit – I’d downloaded this sweet story of three children whose family has fallen on hard times, and their love of the railroad near their new home, months ago and had been reading it in five minute snatches ever since.  I should know better than to read that way, because I never enjoy the story as much as it deserves until I really sink into it, which I finally did this month.  Bobbie, Peter and Phil are charming companions, and their adventures playing near the railroad are sweet and a pleasure to read.  Now I’m looking forward to reading more of E. Nesbit’s work.

The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro – The new Ishiguro novel – his first in ten years! – is in some ways a departure from his previous work and in other ways, right in the same wheelhouse.  The Buried Giant follows the journey of a pair of elderly Britons, Axl and Beatrice, who are living in sixth-century Britain.  A supernatural mist clouds the land and robs its inhabitants of their memories, and Axl and Beatrice struggle to recall shared moments in their relationship as they travel to visit a son they barely remember.  Along the way their paths cross with several other travelers, all of whom have their own closely-guarded secrets.  I enjoyed The Buried Giant, and its themes of remembrance and forgetfulness (classic Ishiguro themes), although not as much as I enjoyed Never Let Me Go or especially The Remains of the Day (one of my all-time favorite books).  Still, I’d recommend it to Ishiguro fans or fans of the fantasy genre (which The Buried Giant is, nominally, although the fantasy elements of the story are not as important as the larger Ishiguro-esque themes).

That was a decent month of reading, if I say so myself!  Six books – less than I was doing in a month last year, but more than I’ve managed in any month since last October – and I enjoyed each one.  Dead Wake was probably the highlight; I couldn’t put it down.  Station Eleven was a close second.  But a little D.E. Stevenson, a little Georgie, and the new Ishiguro to round out the list make it a very good month indeed.  Here’s hoping the trend continues into April!

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Whew!  We just barely squeaked in a hike – walk, really – for March.  I’d hoped that we would fit in one final hike mid-month, before Nugget’s arrival, but it was not to be; the few days leading up to his birth were a whirlwind and there was just no way a hike was going to happen.  We’ve been hibernating for two and a half weeks now, but I was getting stir crazy and was itching to get out.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the temperatures were slightly less frigid than they have been, so we decided that we would make our March walk happen after all.  We kicked around a few possibilities and decided that we didn’t want to hit the trails as hard as usual this time, since we’d certainly be walking on ice and muck, and with a newbie that seemed like a bad idea.  So we decided to walk along the road at Como Lake Park in Lancaster, New York, and that was plenty for Nugget’s first outing.

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Como Lake Park is a small county park, but from what I saw on this walk I think we’re going to enjoy it.  There were several playgrounds and quite a few picnic shelters, and we encountered a good number of people out walking their dogs or just getting some fresh air, like us.

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We left the Deuter child carrier at home and Peanut did most of the walk under her own power.  Of course, that slowed us down a bit, but she was a good girl and didn’t get distracted, and we didn’t mind the more leisurely pace one bit.

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She did do a good portion of the hike in Daddy’s arms, too.

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As for Nugget, I’d planned to wear him in my Moby wrap and zip him into my coat, but at the last minute we decided to use the stroller instead.  I swear he’s in there under those blankets.

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See?

The stroller wasn’t exactly a hit.  Nugget cried the entire time we were walking.  I think the BOB might give too smooth of a ride for him!  Nugget likes to be bounced – just walking isn’t enough; there must be altitude changes built in.  I blame all the pregnant running.  Anyway, I’m still working out my plan for hiking with Nugget, but I think I’ll be wearing him more often than not – I expect he’ll prefer that arrangement.  Still, the BOB was a good option for this particular walk – the road was nice and smooth and stroller-friendly, and we didn’t have to worry about wrestling with babywearing devices on the very first outing as a family of four.  Plenty of time for that in the future.

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So there you have it – our “hike” for March.  Short and not strenuous at all, but it was perfect for this particular moment, given that I’m still recovering from childbirth (and not cleared for strenuous exercise, so a short and easy walk is about all I should be doing anyway) and that Nugget is still really brand new.  I’m counting it as a success that we got him bundled up and out in the air less than three weeks after his arrival!

Gear:

Hubby: Merrell hiking boots from several millennia ago – he’s in the market for a new pair.

Peanut: Sorel winter boots.

Me: Oboz Bridgewater BDry hiking boots; BOB Revolution SE stroller; Chicco KeyFit 30 car seat.

Anyone else getting out on the trails – or roads – this month?  What’s the over-under on when the temperatures will finally warm up?  I’m SO over this cold weather.

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Well, as of the drafting of this post there is still snow on my lawn, although the calendar claims that it’s spring.  We’re seeing the very beginnings of signs that the season is turning – a few doves and the occasional robin hopping around; rain instead of snow; mud puddles for splashing – but the temperatures are still mostly in the thirties.  I’ve had it!  It’s time for warmer days and spring rains and crocuses.  Well, all in good time, I suppose.  I’ll have a spring list up next week, but in the meantime, I need to close the book on winter.  This has sure been an eventful season!  We found time for plenty of fun during our last weeks as a family of three, and then the family grew with the arrival of our sweet boy on March 11th.  Nugget was nine days early (a far cry from almost nine weeks, like his sister!) so a few of our planned activities got scrapped, but for the very best of reasons.  Here’s the final tally:

  • Clean out and decorate Nugget’s nursery!  Some good progress made – hubby and I (but mostly hubby) cleared out the nursery to get it ready for paint and furniture.  We ordered furniture from Pottery Barn Kids (after an epic failure with Land of Nod) and hired the same guy who scraped our popcorn ceilings to paint Nugget’s room and install a new closet door.  The room is pretty close to done – I owe you all an update, and eventually a final nursery tour when I’ve put the finishing touches on it – and we’ve at least managed to get all of the essentials done so that Nugget can live in it while we finish the final decorating.  Stay tuned for updates coming soon.

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  • Build a snowman with Peanut.  Done – although not by me.  Nana and Peanut built Olaf out there while Nugget and I watched from the kitchen window.  They also built another snowman and a snow bunny in the front yard while I was at work a few days before Nugget was born (all three are gone now).  I wish I’d been able to play too, but at least Peanut got to build several snowmen.
  • Eat a lot of citrus.  Oh, I did this all right.  All the citrus.  I ate it all.
  • Knit a baby blanket for Nugget and a pair of cozy socks for me.
  • Cook up a freezer full of meals for the first few sleep-deprived newborn weeks.  Done – and yet not done.  I have a good stash in my freezer now, but I expect I’ll keep adding to it little by little, especially as I pull meals out over the next several weeks.  (I haven’t had to dip into the stash yet, as my mom has been staying with us and doing all the cooking, which is so wonderful.)  I’d like to stay in the habit of making deposits in the freezer, because I think they’ll be really handy when I go back to work.
  • Go cross-country skiing, pulling Peanut along on her red sled.
  • Buy, assemble, and organize shelves for Peanut’s playroom.

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  • Visit the Botanical Gardens so Peanut can hang with her besties in the koi pond.  We made it to the Botanical Gardens in February and it was just as warm and beautiful as I remembered from last winter.  We bought a membership, and I think we’ll be using it a bit more until the weather really warms up.
  • Bake an olive oil citrus cake.
  • Plan a garden to plant with Peanut this spring.  Garden planned!  I’ve decided to do planters on the pool deck rather than a big in-ground garden this year, and to buy plants when the weather is warmer rather than starting seeds.  In future years we’ll be more ambitious, but I’m trying to set myself up for success and give Peanut a good experience.  I’ve settled on herbs, tomatoes, beans and possibly peas.
  • Get my books unpacked, finally.  Done, thanks to my mom!  She finished pulling out all of my books and together we sorted them into categories, then she re-shelved them.  It’s so nice to be able to see all of my books on the shelves again (only six months after we moved!) and I’m feeling more inspired to read as a result.

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  • Take a winter hike at Knox Farm in East Aurora.  Done!  The weather finally warmed up enough for us to get outside for an hour or so, and we had a lovely morning breathing in the fresh air at Knox Farm.  Hubby rocked his Tubbs snowshoes (a Christmas gift) and loved having them.  I don’t have a pair, and I didn’t rent, so the hike was a bit more strenuous for me!  But I had a great time nonetheless.
  • Have a date night with hubby – we’re long overdue for one, and they’re going to be even harder to come by with two kids.  Done!  My parents kindly agreed to babysit over Christmas, and hubby and I had dinner out and caught the third Hobbit movie.  My mother-in-law offered to watch Peanut so we could escape one evening before Nugget arrived, and my mom made the same offer, but we didn’t make it out before his slightly early arrival – oh, well.  At least we got out once; that’s better than we usually do.

Not too shabby!  I didn’t get to the knitting or baking, and I didn’t manage to get new shelving for Peanut’s playroom (I’ve picked out shelves from IKEA but need to measure the space to figure out how many units I need) but I did just about everything else – sweet!  I feel really good about how much fun we were able to pack into Peanut’s final months as an only child.  While I know that we’ll have lots of fun as a family of four, and that she’s going to just love sharing life with her brother, it meant a lot to me that we were able to do so much with her during those last weeks before his birth.  And now, on to spring!

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

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Whoops!  I didn’t mean to go a week and a half without posting, but last thing I knew I was introducing Nugget to you all, and now here I am how many days later?  It’s been a whirlwind around here – of late night feedings and diaper changes, visitors come to snuggle the little guy, lots of lost sleep, and big adjustments for the whole family (but especially Peanut, whose world has been rocked in a major way).  And somewhere in there, my fourth Book Riot Quarterly box arrived.  Now that Book Riot has itself spilled the beans on what was in the box, here are my impressions.

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The theme of this box was “life and death.”  The box included:

  • Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande, a nonfiction bestseller.
  • Half-Resurrection Blues, by Daniel Jose Older, along with a bookmark drawn by the author
  • Library card notebook from Out of Print
  • Exclusive Liquid Courage “Books and Booze” flask

So, my thoughts on this one… pretty much the same as #BKR05 – it just didn’t do all that much for me.  Being Mortal doesn’t sound like my kind of reading.  I’m picky about my non-fiction and I don’t see myself devoting precious reading time to end-of-life stuff (at least, not at the moment, being as I’m all consumed with the beginning of someone’s life).  I may read Half-Resurrection Blues, as I did hear that it was good.  The notebook, I like, as I like pretty much everything from Out of Print.  (It’s not something I would have bought if left to my own devices, but I’m sure I’ll use it.)  I have no use for the flask.  I’m not a big drinker, and when I do drink an adult beverage, it’s not of the sort that comes out of a flask.  (Now, had the vessel been a wine glass…)  I’ll probably gift the flask to my whisky-drinking bookworm sister-in-law, so at least I know it’ll go to a good home.

As I mentioned when I reviewed my third Quarterly box, #BKR05, I’ve been considering dropping my subscription because I really haven’t gotten $50 worth of enjoyment out of any of the boxes.  I was reserving judgment until this box came – the subscription is for a minimum of four boxes and this was the fourth – but I was fairly sure this was an area where I could trim the budget, and I have.  Had #BKR06 completely blown me away, I’d have kept up the subscription, but I was a bit underwhelmed by this box in particular, so I did cancel my subscription.  I like the idea of getting a box of surprises every quarter, and perhaps in the future I’ll explore some of the other Quarterly curators and try out a different subscription, but right now, it’s not something I want to continue doing.  If my $50 per quarter bought me more than $50 of fun, I’d keep it up, but as it’s worked out, I’d rather save the $50.  So that’s it for my Quarterly box reviews, at least for the foreseeable future!

Do you subscribe to the Book Riot Quarterly boxes?  What did you think of #BKR06?

 

Boy Meets World

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Look who’s here!

Nugget officially put in his appearance on Wednesday, March 11, at 2:22 p.m.  That’s 38 weeks, 5 days pregnant – full term, basically – and I was happy with that.  He slept in my room with me and avoided any NICU time, which felt like a miracle after our experience with Peanut.  And since I know folks are wondering, Nugget is really…

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But, just like with Peanut, we’ll keep calling him Nugget on here.  He is, after all, still a little fella – 6 pounds, 9 ounces at birth, and 19.5 inches long.  Gigantic in comparison to Peanut, but still a little guy.

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I think he looks just like his dad.  They have the same almond-shaped eyes and the same mouth (which Peanut shares as well – I’m the odd one out) and while I know you can’t really tell this young, I think Nugget inherited Dad’s nose, too.  I love that hubby has a mini of his own, now, since I always get a kick out of hearing how much alike Peanut and I look.

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Nugget is still brand new and has been sleeping most of the days away (the better to party all night, Mom and Dad!) but every so often I get a look at his bright eyes and they melt my heart each time.  He fits right into our family and we are already head over heels in love with him.

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And now to begin the rest of the story… after some more snuggles with my new little love.

 

the fringe hours

There aren’t enough hours in the day.  If I had time, I’d… How often have you heard those words?  How often have you spoken them yourself?  I know that I am guilty of complaining about lack of time far more often than I’d like, and I’m sure everyone around me is tired of hearing it from me.  But the fact is, though, that I’m living (as we all are) in a 24-7 society, that I’m constantly on the go, and that I’m holding down not one, but two full-time jobs (one as a lawyer, one as a mom).  I’m willing to bet that most of my friends who are reading this post get that.

We spend our days rushing from place to place and task to task.  A typical day for me involves getting up before the sun, spending an hour or more on coaxing Peanut to eat breakfast (she’s not a great eater and is rarely hungry in the morning, and we’re devoting substantial amounts of time and energy to getting her to gain weight upon the recommendation of her pediatrician), getting me ready for work, and getting Peanut ready for school.  Then it’s commute time; I’m either driving straight to the office or making a detour to drop Peanut off at school, depending on whether it’s hubby’s turn or my turn to do morning transportation.  Once I get to the office, it’s a mad rush throughout the day, ticking items off my to-do list (which never seems to grow any shorter).  I usually work through lunch, and often I have lunches with colleagues, either as part of firm associate bonding initiatives or as meetings.  If I’m lucky, I can grab twenty minutes to myself to read while I eat.  If I’m really lucky, I get to enjoy a nice long girlfriends’ lunch with Zan.  Then it’s back to the grind for the afternoon, until it’s time to either pick up Peanut (a dash to get to her school during a short window – I can’t really leave the office before 5:00 in good conscience, but I must be at Peanut’s school by her 5:30 pickup time – that usually leaves me cursing at red lights, jaywalkers and slow-moving traffic, all of which seem to conspire to make me late for pickup) or head home.  If it’s hubby’s pickup day, I linger in the office a bit longer, trying to cross a few more things off the list (still no shorter) before I head home to start dinner.  (It feels like luxury to cook dinner without Peanut underfoot, so I try to beat them home and at least get started if possible.)  Then it’s another long slog of trying to coax Peanut to eat a full meal, and we usually go through at least three time-outs for throwing food.  Then bath – it’s usually about 7:30 at this point, maybe later – and the teeth-brushing-story-reading bedtime routine.  Hubby and I negotiate with Peanut and try to convince her to stay in bed (ah, the joys of the big girl bed) and I may tiptoe out at some point, to finish cleaning the kitchen while hubby continues to preside over bedtime.  (Hubby usually makes a good start on the kitchen while I bathe Peanut, and often has the dishwasher loaded and running before he comes upstairs, which is incredibly helpful.)  I’ll pick up toys, perhaps turn over laundry, check emails one more time, and crash.

Those days leave me exhausted.  And when I read the question Jessica N. Turner (wife, mom of three, blogger, speaker, and full-time marketing professional; the woman wears some hats, yo) poses in the beginning of The Fringe Hours – how often do you fall into bed at the end of the day and realize you did nothing for you? – I found myself cringing.  The answer, for me, is: far more often than I’d like.  In The Fringe Hours, Jessica encourages all women (young professionals, wives, moms, empty nesters, whatever their roles) to make time for themselves every day.  Jessica’s theory is that when we consciously make space for our own happiness, we are better in all of our roles.  We can better serve our spouses, kids, families, communities, and colleagues if we aren’t constantly putting our own happiness and fulfillment on the back burner.

It’s not a new idea.  I’ve heard “you’ll be a better mommy if you take time for you” plenty of times, from plenty of sources.  (I hear it a lot from my husband, who is wonderful and supportive – I’m lucky.)  But Jessica approaches the idea from a fresh perspective.  She spends the early part of this slim but wonderful book addressing the obstacles that prevent women from taking time for their own pursuits – guilt and comparison being big ones (and both definitely apply to me).  She then moves on to advice on how to identify both what your passions are and where you might find your own fringe hours – those little pockets of time in your day that you can reserve for you.  And finally, she expands on her theme with advice on how to create those hours.  The book is packed full of good tips and advice, and there are writing exercises scattered throughout (I did a few, but decided to leave the rest for a re-read after I’d let the book sink in a bit and applied some of the advice).

The Fringe Hours is a lovely, encouraging book, and some of Jessica’s advice really resonated as advice I could at least try to implement in my own life.  For example:

  • Fringe hours don’t have to be hours.  I’m not currently at a place in life where I often have a solid block of an hour or more to do something just for me.  (Although I will need to find those blocks, eventually, when I start marathon training this spring.)  But fringe hours can come in small pockets, too – five minutes reading in the car while you wait for school pickup; ten minutes to write a card to a friend while pasta boils.  I often let those pockets slip by and I can do better about utilizing them.
  • Beware time wasters.  I fritter away far too many of my precious fringe hours (or minutes) on social media.  I like Instagram a lot, but I don’t need to be all caught up on Facebook.  I am working hard on forcing myself to stop scrolling through updates and just read the most recent.
  • Accept help when it’s offered, and consider paying for it.  If one of the grandparents offers to watch Peanut so hubby and I can escape for a date, I do try to take them up on that (although it can be hard for us to tear ourselves away from her).  And I’m lucky in that my husband helps out a lot with child care and household duties – he recognizes that we both work outside the home, and we’re both tired, and he puts in his fair share on the tasks that keep our family running.  But one thing I’m considering as a result of Jessica’s advice is paying for help more.  Of course we pay for the regular child care that allows us to work, but I’m talking about more than that.  We’ve talked about finding a trustworthy teenager to do some babysitting; that may take a backseat while Nugget is tiny.  But hubby has occasionally floated the idea of a cleaning service.  I’ve always rejected the idea, but lately I’ve been thinking about it.  Would it be so awful to have someone in to help with tasks like vacuuming, cleaning baseboards, scrubbing bathrooms?  It could certainly free up time – especially with (soon) two kids in the house.  I haven’t taken the plunge, but I’m thinking about it.
  • Make solo hobbies into family hobbies if they fit.  I’ve written about this before, and hiking is my big example.  Hiking was never a solo hobby for me – I would be nervous about venturing out truly alone – but hubby and I used to hike regularly as a couple and we’ve involved Peanut in our hikes since she was very small.  It’s a different experience to hike with a young child, but it’s just as fun.

Of course, it’s one book and while many parts of it spoke to me, there were certainly aspects that are not relevant to me right now, or pieces of advice that just won’t work in my life.  (It’s not one-size-fits-all, you know.)  In my case:

  • Jessica says that friends often ask her how she manages to “do it all” and still have time for herself, but she doesn’t do it all.  There’s unfolded laundry in baskets in her hallway, and dust on her mantle.  She prioritizes her own happiness.  Well, that’s great advice… but there’s unfolded laundry in my baskets, too, and dust on my mantle, and I still often can’t find the time for me.  I agree that it never hurt anyone to neglect those tasks on occasion… but I neglect them routinely and am still overloaded with responsibilities.
  • Jessica also encourages women to jettison extra responsibilities – even ones that are “good” things in and of themselves; they can become overwhelming if you do too much.  She gives, as an example, a stressful time in which she tried to participate in both a book club and a community group, and she realized that she couldn’t do both and had to drop one.  While I think it’s great to know your limits, I’ve already quit every “extracurricular activity” in my life.  I withdrew from literacy tutor volunteering (it was a good time for me to take a step back; my student was dropped from the program for no-showing too many sessions and we were beginning a long, stressful housing hunt).  And my Stroller Strides classes (one of my favorite parts of the week) sadly ended when our instructor’s three year franchise agreement expired.  I currently have no evening or weekend “responsibilities” yet – again – I still struggle to find the time.
  • Get up early… yeah, right.  Jessica shares an example of finding a big stretch of time in her day by waking up an hour or more before the rest of the house.  I would love to do that.  I used to get up early and get in a workout, and I always felt better and was more productive when I had that time for me.  But I’m pregnant and exhausted, and we’re still in a bedsharing phase with Peanut, and she can’t be left to loll about in the big bed alone (hubby usually gets up early to work before the day gets started) – she could fall out.  So carving out morning fringe hours is not possible right now.

Not sweating small household tasks, and getting rid of excess outside activity, are two of Jessica’s major pieces of advice, and she returns to them multiple times.  And I think there are many women who need to take that advice.  But for me, neither would help me to free up any fringe hours to speak of.  I could, perhaps, ignore the kitchen or leave the toys scattered around after bedtime… but that’s not easy for me to do.  And I have no more outside the home activities to jettison.  Someday, when the kids are older, I may be able to put ore of these pieces of advice into practice.  But right now, those aren’t tips that are going to free up any fringe hours for me (although I think they would for a lot of women).

I really enjoyed The Fringe Hours.  It was a wonderful, encouraging book and gave me plenty to think about.  I’ve already started practicing some of Jessica’s insightful suggestions.  Namely:

  • I’m trying to be more disciplined about carving out at least half an hour in the middle of the day to spend on myself.  Sometimes that means going for a walk if the weather is decent; other times it means reading over lunch.  I’ve read quite a bit more as a result.  It doesn’t happen every day, but I’m working on it.
  • I’m also trying to be better about not wasting time on social media.  I’m usually caught up on Instagram, because that’s faster for me and I enjoy it more.  But if I miss a few tweets or Facebook posts, it’s not the end of the world.
  • I’m working on accepting help when it’s offered – and asking for it when it’s needed.  I’ve never been great at this, but I’m doing my best.
  • I’m trying to identify my passions.  Jessica discusses at length the need for women to identify those things they are passionate about, and spend their fringe hours on those activities.  I have always loved to read, even though I’ve been lacking in attention recently.  And I’m looking forward to being cleared to run again.  Fringe hours are useless if you don’t spend them on your priority activities.

Finding my fringe hours, and figuring out how best to utilize them to make myself happy, is definitely not an easy thing to do.  It’s an ongoing process.  My goal each day is to take at least a few minutes to spend on my own personal fulfillment – I’m still falling short, some days, but I’ve been doing better since I made it a conscious practice.  The biggest challenge has been resisting the time-wasters, but even that is getting easier.  I’m so glad I read this book.  It couldn’t have come at a better time for me… and while I don’t expect to have large blocks of “me time” anytime soon, with Jessica’s encouragement I’m starting to see that the little pockets of time can add up, and the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Have you read The Fringe Hours yet?  What resonated most with you? 

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With Nugget’s impending arrival creeping up on me, I’ve been reading even more parenting articles than usual.  (This whole thing about parents having CPS called on them for giving their kids a little bit of independence makes my blood boil.)  Some of the articles I’m reading are more of your run-of-the-mill “advice for new moms” – not that I consider myself a “new mom” at this point.  But a refresher never hurt, right?

A few weeks ago a friend posted an article on Facebook sharing some of that “advice” for those in the new mommy trenches.  I can’t even find the article anymore.  Most of it was pretty standard stuff.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Don’t freak out about every moment being fleeting; read a magazine article if you want.  Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for your parenting choices.  But there was one piece of advice that made me do a double take… and then see red.

The article advised that moms DON’T read to their babies and young children.

Wait… WHAT?  I fired off a comment, something along the lines of “Mostly great advice, but I have to disagree with the part about not reading to them.  The American Academy of Pediatrics’ official recommendation is to read to even the youngest children every day, to promote literacy and bonding.”

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According to the writer, it’s pointless.  Babies are lumps that aren’t listening to you read, and are only laying still in your arms while you read aloud because they’re immobile and have no choice.  And toddlers are running, screaming maniacs that don’t listen to anything you say or read.  (Well, sometimes that can be true.)  The article’s writer said she gave up when she realized she was sitting in a chair reading aloud to herself while her kids ran shouting up and down the hall outside their rooms.

Well… I mean, kids are all different.  Some kids have more of a tolerance for longer stories than others do.  I’ve certainly done my share of bedtime stories in which I know Peanut isn’t listening to a word I say.  Instead, she’s wiggling, head-butting me (ouch), trying to slap the book away or reciting another story as loud as she can while I read Sweet Dreams, Maisy.  But those are the exception, and I still read through them because it’s important.

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Back in the summer of 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement saying that it was the responsibility of pediatric care providers to encourage parents to read to their children from the very beginning of life:

Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime. Pediatric providers have a unique opportunity to encourage parents to engage in this important and enjoyable activity with their children beginning in infancy.

A news article about the statement further explained:

Children who are read to during infancy and preschool years have better language skills when they start school and are more interested in reading, according to research highlighted in the statement. In addition, parents who spend time reading to their children create nurturing relationships, which is important for a child’s cognitive, language and social-emotional development.

One of the things I like best about Peanut’s pediatrician is that they have taken this message completely to heart, and they make it a priority to encourage parents to read to children of all ages.  Every time Peanut attends a well child visit, her pediatrician gifts her with a book.  (Sometimes she even gets one on a sick visit, which takes some of the sting out of that experience for her.)  Some of her books from the doctor have become her favorite books.

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Don’t get me wrong – like I said above, all kids are different.  I happened to get one who will sit quietly in a lap indefinitely if stories are on offer.  (At a parent-teacher conference recently, Peanut’s teacher told us that Peanut would sit in the book corner all day long if they let her; they have to encourage her to put the books down and engage with the other kids.  Color me not surprised.)  And by no means am I trying to imply that Peanut is perfect – like I said, I’ve been head-butted a few times during bedtime stories.  She doesn’t always have the patience for a long book – but we put the book down and either read or do something else when she’s not feeling it, and more often than not she’s the one chasing after me with a book, shouting “Mommy wanna wead dis!  Mommy wanna wead dis!  PLEASE!”

Even when Peanut was a tiny baby, I read to her every day, and I think it mattered.  I know that she didn’t understand what I was talking about when she snuggled in my arms, two months old, as I read Fairacre novels to her aloud during my maternity leave.  But she felt the cuddles and she heard my voice, and I believe that those hours were a foundation on which I built a habit of reading to her that is serving us well now.  And even if I’m wrong about that, our marathon Fairacre-reading sessions when Peanut was two months old are some of my most cherished memories from that time.  (We also read board books and Dr. Seuss and Madeline and more.  Not just Fairacre.  Swear.)

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I was debating whether I even wanted to write about this, because it seemed so obvious to me – and I think it will be equally obvious to most of my blog friends – that reading to children, even babies, is not wasted time.  It’s a special bonding experience, it’s the foundation for a lifetime of literacy, and it’s doctor-recommended.  Still, it’s something I’m thinking about.

Nugget is going to be a different kid than Peanut.  He may not have her patience for books (or “book ‘ems” as she used to call them – goodness, I miss that).  I hope he does; I hope he loves reading just as much as his sister.  But maybe something else will touch his baby heart more.  Or maybe he’ll be wilder as a toddler and I’ll have to chase him down in order to read to him.  You know what?  If that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do.  We’ll try different books.  We’ll try shorter books, if we need to.  (Maybe we won’t need to!  But I do think that Peanut is pretty unusual in her willingness to sit through tomes like The Lorax or One Morning in Maine.)  But we will read together.  Every.  Single.  Day.  No matter what.  And I refuse to believe that it could ever be pointless.  Even when he’s a newborn lump.  Even when he’s a wild toddler.  Reading to children is never pointless.

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever heard/read?

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