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Archive for the ‘Reading Life’ Category

Hi friends – thanks for giving me a little time off and thanks for coming back.  I spent the last two weeks reflecting and focusing on family, and while I still don’t feel like I have words, I’m here.  Life is definitely not the same and will never be the same again, and we are all navigating a new reality without a beloved family member.  And that’s all I really want to say online, so please forgive me for any vagueness.

Anyway – I hope you all had lovely weekends.  We were busy, as usual.  On Saturday we drove down to Dominion Raceway so Steve could enjoy his 2017 Christmas present – the experience of driving three supercars (a Porsche, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini) around a racetrack.  We did this last July as well, but he only drove the Porsche then – this year, he got the premium package.  He loved every moment, of course – said the Ferrari was his favorite, but really every car was a total blast for him to drive.  I’m not a car person and I totally don’t get the fascination, but he loves this and I’m happy to gift him the experience.  Sunday was a hanging-out-at-home kind of day.  The kids and I tried to get some cleaning done; I felt like I was beating back the mess with a stick, but some progress was made and then immediately counteracted, which is how it always is.  Late in the afternoon we hosted some friends for a play date, then I spent the evening eating sesame tofu, chatting to my brother on the phone, and walking up and down the stairs for Nugget’s extended disco bedtime routine (Peanut falls asleep as soon as her head hits the pillow – just like Mom).  And now the sun’s rising on another week, and it’s time to get to work.

Reading.  After several weeks of not-quite-slumping, I feel like I finally got my reading groove back at the end of the week.  I’ve been reading both Howards End and North and South for a couple of weeks now, kind of bumping back and forth between the two and not really giving either my full attention.  I finally buckled down and tore through the last third of Howards End on Saturday.  On Sunday, on a whim, I picked up I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, which I waited patiently for on the library holds queue for months, and read it in a day.  It’s a slim volume and also completely absorbing – definitely going to be one of my top reads of the year.  Then it was back to North and South, which I am trying to read slowly so as to savor it – mission accomplished, I think.  Oh, and in the meantime, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading an essay or two from Slightly Foxed every night before bed, and I’m about halfway through volume five.  So – yes, definitely back in my reading groove; I have read some great stuff over the past week.

Listening.  Since I have been not-quite-slumping, I’m doing a lot of listening – lots of podcasts, as usual.  I finally broke into season two of Annotated, which I have been saving for a rainy day, and listened to the first episode on “Saving Shakespeare.”  It was just as good as the first season’s episodes, and I am greedily hoarding the rest of the season for the next time I need a pick-me-up.  Other than that – lots of bookish podcasts, as is my general tendency, with some parenting podcasts mixed in.

Watching.  For this category, I have very little to report.  Steve and I attempted to watch the first episode of the “new” (or new-to-us-Yanks) series of The Great British Baking Show, which just dropped on Netflix, but due to kiddo interference we were unsuccessful.  We’ll get back to it this week, I’m sure.

Moving.  Summer-style movement here.  Lots of kid-chasing, and a little bit of other stuff.  Some hiking – stay tuned for a recap on Friday.  Some lake swimming, and a tiny bit of kayaking.  We visited my folks for the Fourth of July weekend and spent a day at the lake.  I’d hoped to get in a good long paddle while there, but it was not to be.  Nugget cried if I got more than five feet from the dock without him, but it was impossible to paddle with him – you try paddling a single kayak with a three-year-old who insists on also wielding his own (adult-sized) paddle, and you’ll see what I mean.  And before I was able to get into a good groove, we got hit with a thunderstorm and had to rush off the lake.  I’m sad that I’ve barely paddled at all this summer, but the season’s young.

Blogging.  Catching up after this unanticipated break – if you check in with me on Wednesday, you’ll find June’s reading recap, and on Friday, I’ve got a hiking report to share – a good one, involving a waterfall in western Massachusetts.

Loving.  Thank you to those who left such kind comments on this post.  I promise to respond to them all in short order.  This blog has brought some wonderful, loving people into my life and I am so grateful for that.  The network of friends that I have, both online and off, brings joy into almost every day and is playing a huge role in getting me through the current sad season.  Love you all.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Heyyyyyy.  I’m not ready for it to be Monday.  I feel like life has been insanely hectic since January and I keep waiting for it to slow down and it just – doesn’t.  This weekend we got a thank you note from Peanut’s lead teacher, expressing appreciation for the class gift.  While I think it’s so sweet that she takes the time to write to every child – it made me feel terrible, because I never managed to get teacher gifts at the end of the school year.  I didn’t flake – that was on my list to do.  I just… didn’t get to it.  Basically, I’ve been in survival mode for six months now and I’m just tired.  Anyway.  Enough complaining.  The weekend was mostly pretty low-key.  I don’t even remember what we did on Saturday morning, other than walk to the bookstore to pick up birthday gifts for a party we had that afternoon – a double birthday party for a little girl in Peanut’s class, and her brother, who will be in Nugget’s class.  The kids had a good time running around and playing with other people’s toys while Steve and I hung out in the yard, drank “Yoda-ritas” and caught up with the other parents.  On Sunday, we wanted to get some trail time in so we headed out for a short hike at Theodore Roosevelt Island – which was fun, but insanely muddy.  We had to hose off – literally, using the garden hose – before anyone could go into the house.  We spent the rest of Sunday chilling at home.  Nugget and I napped in the afternoon, then we had dinner and a family movie (Moana – never get tired of that one) on the couch.  Finished off the weekend in the usual way, with a book and early to bed.  And now – another week dawns.

 

Reading.  Bit of a slow reading week.  It was another long one, with a couple of late nights that left me so mentally wiped out that all I was good for was scrolling mindlessly through my phone – not that that’s such a comforting activity; Twitter is a scary place these days.  Anyway, I finished up Scenes of Clerical Life, so I can now say I’ve read more George Eliot than just Middlemarch.  Then spent several days over Anatomy of a Miracle, which was fine but just not what I was craving at the moment – library deadlines dictated that reading choice, which is usually not a recipe for the best time ever.  I’m almost done with it now and not sure what I’ll pick up next.  I’m in the mood for another classic, but I also have a book club book to get to.

Watching.  Nothing, unless you count the kids’ movie night.  I do love Moana.  But it would be nice to have a grownup show to watch, too.  We’re still between shows, which is fine since I have no time these days anyway.

Listening.  Kind of bouncing all over the place.  Some podcasts – I’ve been working through back episodes of The Mom Hour and Sorta Awesome.  And some music – Decemberists, Offa Rex and Forlorn Strangers, so the usual company.  I might do an audiobook soon – my book club book, maybe, since I can’t seem to get it any other way without spending money.

Making.  I have homemade soup in the fridge, for the first time in a long while!  Sort of a fridge smorgasbord – black and white beans, rice, kale, mushrooms, leftover sauce from an Indian food night (don’t judge) and veggie broth.  Yum.

Blogging.  I told you all about our weekend at Cornell, but there was more to the trip than just Ithaca, because we also folded in a trip to see family (including my brother and sister-in-law) on the way back.  So I’m sharing some pictures of that on Wednesday, and the June hike – also from that part of the NY swing – on Friday.  Lots of happy memories – I relived them all as I typed up my recaps and it was such a lovely few days.  I’m missing Dan and Danielle already.

Loving.  Bear with me, because I have two ear-related things to share with you.  Weird, I know.  First, I got Bluetooth earbuds!  I’d been wanting a pair, but was having a hard time finding something that didn’t seem outrageously expensive – until I found these from Reveal Shop.  They’re made of sustainable rosewood, Reveal plants a tree for each item sold, and the design is super cool (I’m a big of a dork about good design).  I was going to tell you that I liked the sound quality, the magnetic on-off, the design and the price point – $29 on Amazon – but didn’t love the fit, until it occurred to me to swap out the medium rings for the itty-bitty ones.  Much better!  I’d say I’m still getting used to the fit – but I am liking these earbuds so much.  The other ear thing I wanted to share is that I finally got in the habit of wearing those little clear plastic earring backers on my dangly earrings.  I could never quite figure them out before, but I made myself play with them until it was second nature and now – I haven’t lost an earring since.  What took me so long?  I have a thing for funky earrings – I’ve got a pretty decent collection – and it used to make me so sad when I’d reach up and a favorite earring would be gone.  No more!

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Hello Monday, and hello new week – I guess.  This is the first week I’ll be putting in a full five days in the past three weeks and I can already feel that it’s gonna be a doozy.  The week before last, as you already know, I was out of the office for a few days attending my college reunion (plus one extra day in Richmond getting sworn into the Virginia Bar), and then last week, we spent the early part of the week still in New York – adding a few days onto our trip so that we could build in a little time with family, particularly with my brother and sister-in-law who were visiting from Colorado, and with my grandmother who recently had a stroke (but is miraculously much better).  The middle part of the week was full of travel, then I was running around and Steve was on a business trip on Thursday and Friday.  All that’s to say – we spent this weekend trying to be as low-key as possible, but I still don’t feel recovered and ready to jump back in the rat race.  Anywho.  Happy Father’s Day to the dads!  After all the travel and craziness of the past few weeks, Steve wanted a laid-back, relaxed weekend, so that’s what he got.  The only activity on the calendar for the weekend was Peanut’s camp orientation on Saturday afternoon.  Steve took her and they had a great time; I stayed home to officiate naptime and do some work.  On Sunday, we let Steve sleep in as long as he wanted; when he came downstairs the kids greeted him with sand art plaques they had made in camp last week, and I greeted him with “beer snob” glasses and fun new coasters.  He was pleased with all of his gifts!  We spent the morning relaxing at home as it got hotter and hotter outside – I did more work while the kiddos napped – and then Nugget woke up and wanted to go to the pool, which is open for the season, yahoo!  Peanut was still sacked out and Steve was in the middle of a game with friends, so Nugget and I snuck off for some water fun and we had the best time.  I’ll be clinging to those memories of splashing with my little dude as I plod through the week, I’m sure.

Reading.  Not much to report this week.  I wasn’t able to finish my re-read of The Turner House before book club (thanks, travel!) but still could partake in the discussion since I remembered it well from when I read it a couple of years ago.  And then it was back to Scenes of Clerical Life.  I’m nearly done now, after putting in quality time with the last of the three novellas on Sunday evening after the kiddos finally fell asleep.  Not sure what I’ll read next.  I am finding my bookish thoughts being pulled in all sorts of directions these days.  I do have a library book out with a hard deadline, so maybe that.

Watching.  Nothing noteworthy to report here.  We’re between shows at the moment, so we’re just meandering through re-runs of old favorites Parks and Recreation and The Crown and trying to stay decently up-to-date on Rock the Park.  But nothing jumps to mind as being especially interesting or new to share.

Listening.  Lots of podcasts.  I took a break from listening to much of anything on our travels, since the kids aren’t really podcast fans.  But now that we’re back, I’m almost caught up on Those Park Guys Podcast and I’m staying pretty updated on my book podcasts, too.  My brother told me about a podcast called Dirtbag Diaries that sounds great, so I may check that out (as if my Audible account wasn’t neglected enough as it is).

Blogging.  More Ithaca for you this week!  On Wednesday I have mini-recaps of three hikes from Reunion weekend comin’ atcha, and on Friday, Part II of the Reunion recap itself, since the first part was getting so absurdly long I had to break it up.  Yay, Cornell!

Loving.  Sibling time!  I’m still on a high from seeing my brother and sis-in-law last week.  Living so far apart is hard, and any time we get to spend together is such a special treat.  My heart felt like it was going to explode watching them with their niece and nephew – they love those kids so much, and I know they would give anything to see them more.  We had the best time sailing and hiking together on Monday and Tuesday, and then on Tuesday night Danielle and I stayed up until 2:00 a.m. (who even am I?) sipping wine and talking.  We are lucky enough to see a fair amount of my parents even though they are seven hours away – they make a huge effort to visit as much as they can – but Dan and Danielle have lives in Colorado, and we have lives in Virginia, that we can’t just take breaks from the way those lucky retired folks can.  So we make the most of the time we do have together.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Hello, friends!  I am simultaneously happy and sad today – happy because I had such a wonderful weekend, and sad because it’s over.  This past weekend was my fifteenth (gasp!) college reunion, so Steve and the kids and I drove up to Ithaca, New York for four days of memories, seeing old friends, eating at our favorite spots and brainwashing the kids into wanting to go to Cornell just like Mommy and Daddy.  We rolled into town on Thursday afternoon and had a jam-packed agenda of fun for the next few days – including three hikes, three visits to the Cornell Dairy (all the ice cream!), wandering around campus, visiting my old sorority, and attending receptions and talks for my major and two Class of 2003 dinners – every moment was a joy, and I just wish that we were still there!  Lots more photos and stories coming later this week, that’s a promise.  The only thing that was a bit of a bummer about the weekend was that I had a hard time disconnecting from work, especially on Thursday and Friday.  I had a few work fires to put out, and even between emergencies, I just felt tied to my email all weekend, which is a lame way of spending an event that I look forward to for five years (at least – I actually missed my tenth, so I’ve been anticipating this reunion since 2008).  But I can’t complain, because I was in a beautiful place that I love so much, sharing it with my family – what’s not to love about that?

 

Reading.  Rather a slow reading week, because I spent most of last week preparing to be out of town, juggling a personal project that I am working hard on, and then actually heading up to Ithaca for reunion.  But I’m about two-thirds of the way through Scenes of Clerical Life and still really enjoying it, and at the same time, re-reading The Turner House for my book club (which meets on Wednesday night, so I’ve got to get cracking – I’m only about 20% through the book as of right now).  I’ve got a few more library books out, so they’ll probably be next on deck.

Watching.  Lots of watching, and all great!  I watched my kids experience lots of first at Cornell – first sight of the clock tower, first bite of Cornell Dairy ice cream, first visit to the Alpha Phi house, first time running around on the Arts Quad, first Collegetown Bagels run… And I watched the Big Red Marching Band serenade our class on our final dinner by the lake (although their choice of spirit song was maybe a bit misplaced for the fifteenth reunion – there were a lot of kids in our tent, and a lot of parents singing “We’re gonna beat the… hockey… outta you!  Fork ’em up, fork ’em up, go CU!”)

Listening.  Other than the aforementioned Big Red Marching Band serenade, my biggest listening day last week was Wednesday, when I drove to Richmond and back to NoVA in the same day for my Virginia Bar swearing-in: yay!  With more than four hours alone in the car, I made good progress on podcasts – mostly Those Park Guys Podcast.  I’d been saving up episodes, so I enjoyed several hours with Jack and Colton on my drive.

Blogging.  Hikes 11-20 coming to you on Wednesday, and then a travel recap on Friday – stay tuned!

Laughing.  During the “State of the ILR School” talk by the dean of my undergrad college, the dean mentioned that a group of about 24 students took over his office with a list of demands.  While I love that the students in my major still feel so passionately about their activism, we did get a good laugh afterwards – Steve mentioned that he had never heard of students taking over their dean’s office, and I told him that it was a quintessentially ILR thing to do and almost a rite of passage for my major.  Go Big Red!

Loving.  So much this week!  I loved visiting all of my old favorite Cornell spots and seeing so many beloved faces this week.  (In a class of 3,000, I knew a disproportionately high number of reunion attendees – my major, which was very small, and my sorority turned out in high numbers.)  Loved wandering around my sorority house, checking out the old pictures from my time there and giving the password to enter the secret sisters-only room.  Loved Collegetown Bagels every morning and Cornell Dairy Bar every afternoon, and yummy tacos and barbeque with my classmates in the evenings.  Loved hearing about the direction my major program is taking over the next few years at the “State of the ILR School.”  Loved watching my kids run around on the grass outside the ILR School while Steve and I chatted with a dear friend from our college days.  Loved watching the sun set over Beebe Lake as we took our class picture and gave goodbye hugs that will have to last five years for many of us.

Asking.  What are you reading this week?

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Random thoughts about books and reading…

Peanut is officially an emergent reader!  This confirmation is courtesy of her report card.  I knew this already, but it’s nice to have it professionally confirmed.  I’m still not doing much actual reading skills development with her at home, because I don’t want to squash her budding love of books by making reading feel like work.  I see my role as more of the cheerleader and book-pusher.  I read stories out loud, congratulate her when she sounds out a word or figures something out from context clues, and act generally enthusiastic about books (which is easy to do).  Her teachers agree that this is the right approach.

I have a request, Folio Society.  The summer collection was announced and, true to recent form for their new releases, doesn’t contain much that immediately tempts me.  I’ll probably pick up Three Men on the Bummel, because I do want that one.  But the collection also includes The South Polar Times, a bound facsimile collection of all the magazines from Scott’s expedition, and I kinda want it, since I have the Folio edition of Scott’s journals – bought on a whim during the New Year’s Sale.  At $150 for The South Polar Times, I’ll wait for that one to hit the sale in a few years before I snatch it up.  But if we’re publishing facsimile collections of vintage magazines, Folio Society, can I make a request?  Punch, please!  (I do have the two-volume Picks of Punch, but I really want huge facsimiles.)  At least the editions from the 1920s – pleeeeeeeeeeease?  A. A. Milne poems and essays, witty cartoons, vintage advertisements – I can see it now.  Let’s make it happen!

I had a horrifying revelation.  You know that feeling when you realize that you are the same age as a character that used to seem old to you?  (I was floored the day I realized I was the same age as Lorelai Gilmore in the first season of Gilmore Girls – and that was a few years ago now.)  Recently I discovered: I am the same age as the aged and decrepit Colonel Brandon.  I fully expect to burst into tears the next time I am re-reading Sense and Sensibility and Marianne begins one of her “ewww, Colonel Brandon is so OLD and gross!” diatribes.  (Granted, he is too old for Marianne.  But being the same age as the creaky Colonel, I can say that we hardly have one foot in the grave, Marianne.)

Oh come on, now, PBS.  So who else is watching The Great American Read on PBS?  I watched the first episode and really enjoyed it.  But I have a quibble – I went online and took the “How Many Have You Read?” quiz and scored 43 out of 100, which I think is respectable, especially considering some of the selections – like 50 Shades of Grey – I’m just never going to read.  But my results said “You’ve got some reading to do…” and “We want you to read!”  HELLO, PBS, I do read.  I read approximately 100 books per year – not as much as some, but more than many.  I don’t consider myself well-read, although I am trying to be (and maybe there is a longer blog post in here about what “well-read” even is) but it kind of burns that PBS thinks I don’t read enough.

Bookworm Mom Problems?  I tweeted this a few weeks ago, but it’s still true: you know you’re a bookworm mom when Doc McStuffins and the crew are singing “Time for your checkup!” and you hear “Time for your Chekhov!”  (Or is Disney Junior finally making a production of The Cherry Orchard?)

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Well, here we go ’round the mulberry bush – again.  It’s Monday.  Who else is not ready?  We had a really nice weekend – the perfect combination of low-key hanging out time and a fun adventure, but it was just too short.  Even though last week was a short workweek, I ended it really exhausted.  I was sick with a head cold and stomach upset, which happened to hit on the day I had an Important Meeting, I was swamped with work, and I was working late and stressing out most nights.  So the two lovely days this weekend were much needed, but I could use another one.  Fortunately, the week ahead is going to be a fun one for me – but more on that another time.  Anyway!  On Saturday, we had plans to hang out with Zan after her hair appointment.  So the kids and I spent the morning chilling on the patio – gardening, FaceTiming Nana to wish her a happy birthday, kicking the soccer ball around, reading (me) and digging in the sandbox (them) while we waited for her to arrive.  Once she got to the house we all walked over to the playground together, and then while the kids had lunch I drove her home, then stopped by my office, which I sort of regretted, because it’s right near the Caps’ rink and the whole neighborhood was swarming with people getting hype for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals – #ALLCAPS – so finding parking was an almost impossible task.  I considered giving it up and just going home, but there were some notes in my office that I really needed.  On Sunday, we had an extra special adventure planned – a trip to the National Aquarium in Baltimore.  My high school BFF bought us gift tickets for Christmas and we had been saving the trip for a rainy day, which Sunday really, really, really was.  (We couldn’t figure out how to redeem the gift tickets until after we had thrown up our hands and purchased some, so we will be going back – no complaints here!)  The aquarium was a lot of fun.  They had a huge coral reef right in the middle, which was gorgeous.  And there were puffins, lots of turtles and rays, and a bunch of sharks.  The kids had the best time and we are already plotting our return trip.  We were home by lunch and the rest of Sunday was chill – I worked (using the notes that I had to fight all that traffic to get on Saturday) and read, Steve played a game with friends, Peanut practiced her writing, and Nugget took a lovely snooze.  And now it’s time to do it all again – but lucky me, I have a few days out of the office this week, including a trip to Richmond on Wednesday to be officially sworn into the Virginia Bar – wahoo!  Wish me luck.

  

Reading.  Bit of a slow week.  I was dividing my reading time between fun (Scenes of Clerical Life, by George Eliot – I’ve read Middlemarch twice but never attempted anything else of hers) and educational (The Explosive Child – always looking to add to my parenting skills toolbox).  I’m also continuing my journey through the back issues of Slightly Foxed and enjoying myself immensely.  Issue four (winter 2004) features some great essays, including Penelope Lively on Arctic nature writing, so obviously a winner.

Watching.  The best thing I watched was Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals – we are #ALLCAPS in this house!  (Sorry, Adam.)  There were some great goals and saves – it was a fun watch.  For some reason (as I told Zan) I thought that the series was over and I’d missed the chance to watch any games, so I was very happy to find that’s not the case.  While my first allegiance is to the Sabres, of course, they’re a bunch of sad sacks lately and the Capitals have been my second-favorite (i.e. root-for-them-against-everyone-but-the-Sabres) team since I first moved here in 2003, so this is all very exciting.

Listening.  Lots of podcasts this week.  I tend to swing back and forth between book podcasts and parenting podcasts, and this week was more on the parenting end of the spectrum.  I listened to Crunchy Cocktail Hour on “what kind of a crunchy mom are you?” (scrunchy-leaning-crunchy, for anyone who is curious) and “healthy home remedies” (ordered activated charcoal off Amazon before the episode was even over), and The Mom Hour on kids’ summer clothes and gear (y’all, I feel so seen and I also need one of those mesh bags).

Laughing.  Kids say the darndest things.  This weekend, Nugget licked my face – yeah, he’s a face-licker, we’re working on it – and then said “My tongue is pretty funny, don’t ya think, Mom?”  Also, he learned to make flatulence noises with his mouth.  (I try not to be gender normative, but he is ALL boy.)

Blogging.  I have a bookish week coming up for you – jumping on the “blog name in books” bandwagon on Wednesday, and a new edition of Lit Bits on Friday.  Check back with me then!

Loving.  We have the best neighbors.  We live in a row house and on one side we have a sweet elderly lady, and on the other side, a couple that the kids are absolutely obsessed with – especially the wife.  They are always watching out the window for her and shouting when they see her.  The neighbors love the kids too and tolerate them playing on their patio and wandering in and out of their house – and they even went out and bought flowers to plant in our yard with the kids.  I have been ridiculously lucky with neighbors for pretty much all of my adult life, but our current neighbors are particularly sweet.

Asking.  How was your weekend?  What are you reading this week?

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Peanut has always been a book person, but lately – now that she is an emergent reader herself – she has shown a lot of interest in my bookshelves and the books that I have collected on them.  She knows that she’ll be able to read them all someday, and she’s very excited about the prospect of mowing through Mommy’s library.  She still has a lot to learn about book-collecting, though.

Recently I was reading Brensham Village, the second in the Brensham trilogy of memoirs by John Moore.  Slightly Foxed publishes all three (as of June 1, when they will release the third and final installment) in lovely limited editions, and Brensham Village is bound in a particularly beautiful shade of blue, with sunshine yellow endpapers.  It’s a delight to hold and read, but I noticed that something had happened to the spine of my edition, and this hilarious conversation resulted…

Peanut: I like your little book, Mommy!

Me: Thank you! I like it too.

Peanut: Why are you scraping it?

Me: Well, there’s glitter on the spine. I must have put it down in one of your art projects.

Peanut: So? Glitter is good.

Me: Yes, but I don’t want it to be on my book.

Peanut: WHY NOT?!

Me: Because it doesn’t belong on my book. It’s not supposed to be there.

Peanut: Yeah, but it’s better with the glitter.

How can I argue with that?

(For those who are freaking out right now, I did get the glitter off.  There’s a small spot on the top corner of the spine, but I think I’m the only one who would notice it.  I learned my lesson about not putting my books down on the kitchen counter, too.  Peanut, of course, is incredibly disappointed that I scraped the glitter off of the book and has given me up as a hopeless case.)

Do you think glitter makes everything – even book spines – better?

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