Friday, June 28, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Literary Tourism

For those of you who don't know me in real life, one semi-interesting fact about me is that although I grew up in Downers Grove, Illinois, my parents currently reside in Adrian, Michigan, as they have since I was in college.  Therefore, when I "go home" for the holidays, I am returning to a town where I have never actually lived.

Adrian is a small town, and although it is not without its charms (and two colleges!), it would not be considered a popular tourist destination.  Which is of exactly zero importance to Elijah.  Between my parents' two dogs, their big backyard, and ample floor space for running in circles, my little man is more than content to hang around the house while we are there.  Sometimes it is nice to get out, though, and with the thermometer topping 90 degrees these days, indoor destinations are best.

Fortunately for us, there is one place that Elijah is always happy to visit: the local library.  In this case, the Lenawee County Library, to be exact.  In less than a week, we have been twice.  Once, to check out some books for the week (Henry and Mudge is the current favorite series), and the following day to check out story time.

As a bonus (as though shelves full of books weren't enough!), this library had a whole rack of puppets plus a rack of puzzles.  Elijah made his first attempts at puzzles that didn't have a hole for each individual piece, and although the duck one pictured above was a bit too challenging, there were some vehicle ones as well that were more his speed.

I love the idea of becoming library tourists, wandering the stacks here, there, and everywhere as we travel as a family in the coming years.  Perhaps I am being too idealistic, and the day will come soon when spending an afternoon at the library won't be my children's idea of a good time.  Until then, though, if it's vacation, and it's too hot, too rainy, or just time to get out of the house, you'll know where to find us.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sink bath at Mamo and Papa's

Teeniness (teeny-ness?) has its advantages.  At eight months, Isabel is now tipping the scales at a whopping 14 pounds.  Luckily for her, that means she is just the right size for the sink at my parents' house.  Already a bath lover, she reveled in a tub that was just exactly her size.


Looks like this might have to be a daily occurrence, huh Iz?

Friday, June 21, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.


Hello, dear readers!  For the next 2.5 weeks, the family and I will be journeying around the country visiting grandparents, eating delicious food and generally having a good time.  While I have high hopes to keep blogging from the road, sometimes that just doesn't happen.  So...if you are wondering where I am, the answer is either Adrian, Michigan; Peoria, Illinois; or somewheres in between.  See you soon!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Month of Books: Hannah Coulter

Recently, on the New York Times Book Review podcast, I heard a veteran book reviewer tell the host that these day, at least half of the books he reads, he has read before.  This puzzled me.  This man has access to the latest and greatest of the book world, yet he chooses to spend a large portion of his time rereading old books.  Then I read Hannah Coulter, and I understood.  Whereas when I read The Art of Fielding, I mourned the coming conclusion of the story even as it had just begun, in the case of Hannah Coulter, I had the urge to start again at the beginning as soon as I finished.

The book is the life story of the title character, Hannah Coulter, of the Port William membership, a fictional community created by author Wendell Berry. He has written many novels and stories about this community, many of which I have read, but this is thus far my very favorite.  Hannah's story is ordinary in the truest sense, and all the more extraordinary for its smallness.  I am a city girl, raised in the suburbs, yet this book made me yearn for life in the country, or perhaps in a country that no longer exists.  From war and death to parenthood and love, almost every important literary theme is touched upon in this book.  Had I read it with a pencil in hand, I would have found myself underlining most of the words.

As I have reflected upon my favorite books this month, some of which I haven't sat down with since childhood, I have realized that many of them bear rereading.  In the case of Hannah Coulter, it was just a few months ago that I read it for the first time, and already I want to read it again, and again.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

An Ode to the Doctor of Math

Though it happens to me nearly every day, I never know exactly when one will strike.  The grocery store?  The park?  Lying awake in bed at night?  I speak, of course, of the dreaded Math Attack.

 Most recently, I was standing at the counter at Wendy's, waiting on some cheese fries, when I noticed the automatic change dispenser.  Specifically, I noticed that there were three towers of pennies, but only two of each other coin denominations.  My mind started whirring: Why were there more sections for pennies?  Is it because the pennies are thicker?  No, that's not right, nickels are thickest.  If you get change back, are you more likely to get pennies than anything else?  What is the greatest number of pennies you can get back in a single transaction?  Why I am I thinking about this?
My food arrived, and my questions went unanswered, except the last one.  I know what, or rather who, is responsible for my constant compulsion to see the world through a math-tinted lens.  That would be the Doctor of Math, otherwise known as my father. 

In a world of math-haters, I am an anomaly, and my dad is almost entirely to blame.  The man does math problems for fun.  He recently stopped a game of Farkle to compute the odds of failing to score any points on the first roll (very, very low, in case you are wondering).  I am an honorary member of his college's math club, whose t-shirt reads  i2- Keepin' it real.  Don't get it?  Don't worry.  You are surely not alone.  I hear that other people call their dads to rehash the latest sport scores.  I call mine because I learned a new way to do long division. (I'm telling you, the partial quotients method is where it's at.)

The challenge for me now is to figure out how to pass on this love of all things mathematical to my own kids.  Sure, they are a bit young, and my son's favorite number is currently eleventeen, but he has a favorite book, so why not a favorite polygon?  (I myself am partial to the rhombus.)  Fortunately for my children, their Papa will be more than happy to initiate them into the numerical world.  It won't be long before they, too, will fall prey to the joy that is a Math Attack. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Month of Books: The Phantom Tollboth

There are books out there, really good books, that I have read and thought, "I could do that." It's not that I actually could write a book like that. (I am pretty sure that writing a book is on the list of Most Difficult Things, up near climbing Mt. Everest and licking your own elbow.)  It's just that the author has done something so natural, it is like a cleansing exhale.   Some authors just have a way of making the craft of storytelling look easy, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Then, there are books that I have read and thought, "This author is of a completely different species than myself.  If I wished to write a book like this, I would not even know where to begin." The Time Traveler's Wife is such a book.  And so is one of my lifelong favorites, The Phantom Tollbooth.

The Phantom Tollbooth is the story of a boy, Milo, who is bored.  No matter where he is, he wishes he was somewhere else.  Then, one day, he finds a cardboard tollbooth in his room, assembles it, drives through it, and enters another world entirely.  The plot is classic fairly tale: stubborn kings, lost princesses, a trusty sidekick.  Upon that classic tale, however, is layer upon beautiful layer of wordplay, extended metaphor and some truly original characters.

In one scene, Milo encounters the king's cabinet, a group of silly men who insist on listing every synonym for words spoken by the others.   When Milo questions this practice, one of the men replies that, "We're not interested in making sense; its not our job."  Sounds like a fairly accurate description of a politician to me.  When Milo departs from the cabinet's company, exhausted, his trusty Watchdog observes that words are only confusing when, "you use a lot to say a little".

This book was first published in 1961.  I probably read it for the first time sometime around 1993.  And now, in 2013, it still seems as wise and prescient as it ever did.  Which may be the very definition of a good book. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Month of Books: The Art of Fielding

What would he say to her, if he was going to speak truly?  He didn't know.  Talking was like throwing a baseball.  You couldn't plan it out beforehand.  You just had to let go and see what happened.  You had to throw out words without knowing whether anyone would catch them — you had to throw out words you knew no one would catch.  You had to send your words out where they weren't yours anymore.  It felt better to talk with a ball in your hand, it felt better to let the ball do the talking.  But the world, the nonbaseball world, the world of love and sex and jobs and friends, was made of words. - The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Fifty pages into The Art of Fielding, I was already feeling sad that the book would end.  Fortunately, at that point I still had 450 pages left to read.  The size of the book, and its readability despite that size, are fitting for a book that is both about the narrow topic of baseball and the wider themes of friendship, perfection, and what it means to grow up.

There are books that I love for their settings: the way the author constructs a world either familiar or brand new through imagery so vivid that it becomes hard to recall whether my memories of place are real or imagined.  For other favorite books, it is the plot that keeps my turning pages late into the night.  The Art of Fielding, though, was all about the characters.

It is the story of Henry Scrimshander, shortstop extraordinaire for the Westish Harpooners, a Division III team from rural Wisconsin.  It is also the story of his friend and mentor, Mike Schwartz and his roommate Owen Dunne.  The president of the college and the president's daughter also play significant roles.  Although I have yet to dabble in fiction writing, I imagine that the most difficult part for me would be crafting believable characters that were something more than a thinly disguised iteration of myself.  In this book, each character is fully formed with a voice that is immediately recognizable.  I finished the book feeling like I knew these people, despite the fact that they existed only on the page.

This was the perfect book to kick off a summer of reading, despite its hefty size.  By the five-hundredth page, my arms may have been a little tired from holding the book aloft, but I was still sad to say goodbye to the memorable cast of characters that made The Art of Fielding great.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Month of Books: The Quiltmaker's Journey

Sometimes, it is hard to choose a favorite.  I like many flavors of ice cream, every season of the year and both of my children.  When it comes to books, though, there is just one winner (and another very, very close second, but I'll get to that later this week).  That winner is The Quiltmaker's Journey.  In fact, it has taken me close to two years of blogging to even write about this book because nothing that I can say here will express how I feel about this book.  As I write that, it sounds ridiculously melodramatic, and ridiculous melodrama is something I try to avoid here on this blog if not in real life, but it's true, so I'll leave it.

As a children's picture book, it has it all: gorgeous, detailed,, endlessly interesting illustrations, a story that is classic without being stale, a message worth passing on.  Oh, and if you get this for someone as a gift, be sure to opt for the hardcover edition, as the dust jacket has beautiful map of the book's setting on the inside.

I keep restarting this last paragraph, trying to explain why even now, as an adult, I continue to love this book as much as, if not more than, I did when I discovered it ten years ago.  And I keep deleting my reflections because they cheesify what this book is really about, which is basically everything that I aspire to be and do with my life.  So, I will not reflect any further.  Instead, I will tell you to go out and read this book.  Get it from the library.  Borrow my copy.  Whatever.  Then, come over for tea and we can discuss it.  Or we can just sit in silence and be glad that it exists.

Friday, June 7, 2013

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Thank you to Amanda Soule of Soule Mama for the words and inspiration.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Month of Books: The Secret Garden

I have seen the movie A League of Their Own at least fifty times.  On Sunday nights during my growing-up years, my dad would make a homemade pizza, and our traditionally around-the-table daily family meal would migrate into the living room for Movie Night.   Sometimes we would rent the latest blockbuster, sometimes we would finally give in to my mom's requests for a "classic", but more often than not, we would turn to a beloved favorite.  As a result, there are a handful of movies that I can recite from memory.  A League Their Own, Top Gun, When Harry Met Sally: these were the soundtrack of my childhood Sunday nights.

On the other hand, I rarely reread books.  It is significant, then, that from the ages of 8-16, no matter what else was stacked on my nightstand,The Secret Gardenwould be somewhere near the top.  To this day, I can close my eyes and picture Mary Lennox creaking open the garden door into a newfound world.  It is the story of one girl's transformation from an unpleasant, ugly creature into a girl filled with joy and life.  It is a testament to the restorative power of nature, something I have experienced in my own life.  It is a tale of friendship, and of the joy of creating something with your own two hands that wasn't there before.  I couldn't find a copy of the book around the house as I was writing this, so I googled some quotations from the book, and each one was both familiar and newly revelatory.  Twenty years after I first encountered this gem of a book, I can still smell the flowers, and the pages, of The Secret Garden.

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I am going to bed

Lately, I have been getting around six hours of sleep a night, broken into hour or two hour long stretches.  This simply will not do.  So, despite my preference for staying up late so that I can do something during the day without my children, I am just going to have to give in and go to bed after Isabel's first night feeding.  Enjoy the picture of Elijah cooking some corn, and hopefully, tomorrow, I will write about books.  Goodnight.

Monday, June 3, 2013

June is here!

That's right friends.  It was 90 degrees and humid here in DC today - it's summer.  And it will be until mid-October, so get out your muscle tees and one piece jumper-bloomers (modeled so well by my children in the photo above.) 

As you may recall, in April I blogged from A to Z, and in May I e-coursed through Connecting Families through Creative Play.  I am sure you been waiting with baited breath to here what June's theme will be.  Well, wait no more.  The theme is...books!

Sorry, was that anti-climactic?  Well, too bad, because I've been wanting to write about some of my all-time favorite books* for awhile now, and the time has come. Kids' books, grown-up books, in-between books - any and all qualify.  I also plan to test out the whole Amazon affiliate link situation, which basically means that if you click on a book title I recommend and buy it, I get, like, two cents on the dollar.  By which I mean to say, only buy it if you were going to anyway, not because you want to help me get rich.  For that, checks can be sent directly to my house.

Oh, and in case you only read my blog to see cute pictures of my children, fear not.  You are not alone, I am sure, and I will also be taking an online digital photography class this month.  If any of those pics perchance to turn out, I'll post them, too.  So.  Books.  Pictures.  June.  Yep.  See you tomorrow!

Oh, and all you lurkers out there who never comment - tell me your favorite book so I can add it to my ever-growing pile of books-to-be-read.

*FYI: Even though I love it, I am not going to write about the Bible, for several reasons.  1) Lots of people way smarter than me have been writing about it for millenia and I can't imagine there's much more to say, at least by me. 2) Being that it is the revealed Word of God, calling it one of my favorite books seems a bit, well, reductive. 3)There are 73 books in the Bible, but only 30 days in June.  Too bad.  I do love those epistles, though.  Paul sometimes feels like the wise older brother I never had.  But I digress.