On my Parenting Bookshelf

These are my favorite books on pregnancy, babyhood, and parenting.

Mindful Birthing, Nancy Bardacke

So this is not exactly on parenting, but the mindfulness techniques for coping with pain in labor are just as relevant when coping with anger and frustration during challenging times with a toddler. I am rereading this as we get ready to welcome our second baby (in about 28 days!!) and once again finding it so helpful.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Mark Weissbluth

This is the classic on sleep training. If you’re wary of sleep training, you’ll probably avoid this book. If you’re looking for a science/evidence based look at children’s sleep needs at each stage of development, along with clear suggestions for helping children develop good sleep habits, you will welcome this book. I’ve fallen into each category at different times in my parenting journey thus far. This book helped my family establish regular sleeping patterns after our daughter’s 4-month sleep regression. It saved my mental health at a time when it was really suffering, and I have since referred to it as she has moved through subsequent sleep changes, whether it’s dropping a nap, moving to a toddler bed, or adjusting bedtime as she gets older.

Oh Crap! Potty Training, Jamie Glowacki

Loved this book. The author has a great sense of humor, which you really need when you start helping your kid learn how to use the toilet. We followed a sort of relaxed form of elimination communication with Sky starting at about 3 months, and that helped her get familiar with the potty early on, as well as helped me learn to “read” her signals. But in terms of long-term independence and toilet learning, none of the EC books were nearly as helpful and straightforward as this one. This book kind of breaks down the process into simple, manageable steps and helps you trouble-shoot.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, Laura Markham

We are just starting this book, in tandem with an online parenting course at Aha! Parenting, and so far I really love it. It’s easy to talk about not yelling, but it’s a whole other thing to actually be able to commit to growing as a parent and human being in the way you need to in order to change a habit. I like how this book focuses on how to manage your emotions as a parent, so you can teach your kid to skillfully manage their own emotions. It’s so so hard, and I really, really want to do the best I can for Sky.

Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense, Ellyn Satter

This is a really long book about something as (seemingly?) simple as eating, but it was well worth the read for me. The gist is this: my job as a parent is to prepare and serve appropriate foods at appropriate times, and it’s my child’s job to decide if and how much she will eat. Period. Really simple, right? But tough in practice, especially when you’re worried about your kid’s developing preferences and habits. I like this author’s gentle, warm approach and learned a lot from her experience as a nutritionist and counselor.

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, Janet Lansbury

So good. I wrote about this earlier this year, but it bears a repeat mention because she is just so helpful. A friend recommended the RIE approach to me even before Sky was born, and Lansbury makes it pretty accessible. I also liked her earlier book, Elevating Childcare. Ultimately I’ve found the RIE approach a little more sensible than Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, which was a good starting point but left a lot of gaps and confusion for me.

Buddhism for Mothers, Sarah Napthali

Another supportive book for parents in learning to use mindfulness to parent calmly and lovingly. I also liked her follow-up book, Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children, and her book for couples. Napthali has a great sense of humor and an easy-going, clear way of explaining the nuances of Buddhism, woven into stories from her own and other mothers’ lives about putting philosophy into practice in the trenches of motherhood.

Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as Spiritual Discipline, Catherine McNiel

Last but definitely not least. This book was such a huge gift this year. McNiel brings a Christian lens to the interlocking circles of mindfulness, spiritual growth, and mothering. Reading it felt like drinking a big glass of fresh cold water. I’ve just been longing for good writing that situates motherhood as holy, fertile ground for spiritual growth within the Christian tradition, and this book does that so well. It’s both practical and lyrical; down-to-earth and inspirational.

 

 

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Seven series: Clothing

**This is the second in a series of posts on experimenting with reducing consumption, based on a modified version of Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven. Check out my original post on the challenge for more info.** 

The clothing challenge asks us to consider wearing the same seven items of clothing for one month, or in my case, two weeks. (Note: This doesn’t include underwear or footwear!) I’m in maternity clothes right now, trying to get by on the clothes I wore last pregnancy. I haven’t wanted to buy many more pieces at halfway through my pregnancy. Fortunately, I’ve had two close friends give me their maternity clothes after giving birth to second babies recently, and that has been so helpful.

Here’s what I ended up with for those two weeks:

  1. Gray leggings
  2. Maternity jeans Gray maxi skirt
  3. White long-sleeved maternity t-shirt
  4. White maternity sweater
  5. Denim maternity tunic
  6. Short-sleeved green polka dot maternity shirt
  7. Olive green water-resistant jacket

Day 1

We just got back from a long trip to see family, so it seems like everything is in the wash. I wear the clothes I slept in: a white maternity shirt and gray yoga leggings. Guess these are two of my items. Add an olive green water resistant coat, since the rain has officially returned. Later, Sky pees on my shirt right before we leave for story time at the library, so I swap it for a white maternity sweater. Four items: check. I think I’ll add my one pair of maternity jeans and two lightweight shirts to round out the collection. Now what am I going to sleep in tonight? I also find myself thiiiis close to buying an orange maternity t-shirt to make a baby bump pumpkin Halloween costume for myself– then remember I’m not buying clothes the next two weeks. But there’s only one left on Amazon! And it could take a few weeks to ship! And why are there no orange maternity t-shirts anywhere else online?? I can see how the justifications start. I walk away from the computer and decide I can make a ghost face just as easily on my white T, with some adhesive black felt.

Day 2

I caved (already!) and put on pajamas this morning. Jen somehow slept in her clothes during this challenge, but I think I’m going to allow myself a pair of jammies that don’t count toward the seven items. Getting dressed this morning was so easy. I put on my jeans and the green maternity shirt, threw on my boots and jacket and we were out the door to preschool. I’m definitely going to have to wash my leggings and hang them dry today.

Day 6

Today I spritzed my leggings with my DIY all-purpose kitchen cleaner (dish soap, water, rubbing alcohol, lemon essential oil) and headed to yoga class. Gross? Probably. I don’t think anyone cared. I’m going to wash my seven items today. I’ve got three social events coming up this week and I’ll be wearing the same jeans, one of three shirts, and my gray boots to each one. Getting dressed: done.

Now I see why people do capsule wardrobes. I’ve never felt like I had it together enough to adopt that practice. I like lots of different colors, and mostly shop at thrift stores, so it’s hard to make a shopping list and go out to get missing pieces in specific colors or fabrics. Plus, my body shape has changed so much in the last 3-4 years as I’ve gone through illness, pregnancy, nursing/postpartum, post-baby weight loss, pregnancy, miscarriage, and pregnancy again. Whew. It makes my head spin a little. BUT. I think I can make this happen on my own terms. I’m starting to see which of my remaining clothes I could pull into this 7 item rotation for flexibility and simplicity. I have two other pairs of gray/black maternity leggings, and that alone will be a help.

In general, though, I really like not having to think about what to put on in the morning. It is freeing up a lot of time and headspace, both very useful as I try to keep up with my toddler and new work responsibilities.

Day 8

I hate pants. Specifically maternity pants. They never stay on my hips, and I’m constantly yanking them up. After a morning of this, I give up and swap my thrifted full-panel jeans out for my gray maxi skirt. It’s completely “cheating,” but I don’t care. I never want to wear these pants again. Maybe that’s one outcome of this challenge for me: wearing my clothes often enough to see which ones really don’t fit me. The white maternity shirt is also too small for me. Out it goes.

Day 10

Feeling kind of ho-hum about this challenge. Now that I have the gray skirt in the mix, I really don’t mind rotating back and forth between the skirt and leggings. It will be nice to have more options in a few days, but I can’t say that I feel particularly bothered by wearing the same thing over and over again.

Day 12

Spoke too soon? The nonprofit I write for held a fundraiser this evening, and my husband and I went as a date night. I wore my one maternity work outfit– a pair of black pants and a loose floral top, neither on the list of seven. Guess I’m losing steam…

Day 14

Finally done! Though not exactly life-changing, this challenge did force me to recognize what I’m most comfortable in at this stage of pregnancy: leggings and a tunic, or a skirt and maternity T. And to realize I just have a couple of long shirts to wear with the many pairs of leggings I have. So, ironically, my first step after this challenge is over will be to actually buy 2-3 longish maternity tops or tunics. I can’t really justify the small laundry loads just to get more use out of a few pieces of clothing, especially when life with a toddler is so messy.

 

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Fall Reading with my Toddler

It’s time once again for a book roundup. Here’s what Sky and I have been reading this fall.

Sky, 2 years old

If You Listen, Charlotte Zolotow

I chose this book the way I usually do when in the library with Sky: hastily, based on the amount of text on each page and the quality of the illustrations, while simultaneously making sure Sky puts books back before she takes more from the shelves. I was thinking about how much I’d like for Sky to listen to me, i.e., do what I say, and hoping this book was about being still and paying attention.

It’s actually a beautiful, moving book about grief and loss. Though the book doesn’t explicitly discuss death, it describes a mother’s response to her daughter’s question: “How can I feel someone’s love when they’re far away?” When I realized what the book was about, I was hesitant to read it to Sky. But she chose it from the book basket every time we sat down to read, and listened attentively to the words. “She miss her Daddy?” she would ask me, pointing to the little girl in the story. It’s amazing how much kids can pick up on, even when they’re this small.

Puddle, Hyewon Yum. So, I love everything we’ve read by this author/illustrator. The Twins’ Blanket, which I found at the library’s Title Wave used bookstore, quickly became one of Sky’s all-time favorites, something we’ve kept on the shelf in our living room since she was about 16 months. As I’ve discovered favorite authors in my own reading, I’ve naturally requested and read as many of their books as I could find in our library’s collection. I don’t know why it’s only just now occurring to me that I can do that for Sky, too.

Puddle is a cute little story about a mom and a little boy stuck inside on a rainy day. The little boy is complaining about the rain, and the mom invites him to come draw with her. Together, they draw scenes of what it might be like to take a walk in the rain, taking turns “splashing” each other in the imaginary puddles with colored-pencil rain. Eventually, the pictures convince the little boy that taking a real puddle walk might be okay. Sky loves puddles, and puddle walks, and colored pencils, so needless to say, this was a big hit.

Blueberries for Sal (Audiobook), Robert McCloskey

I’ve been reading up on homeschooling options for Sky (see my book picks below), following a really informative education overview on the Coffee + Crumbs Podcast (“Mama’s Getting Schooled,” September 19, 2017). I’m investigating the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, and one thing that struck me is the level of reading material many Charlotte Mason homeschool parents choose for their children.

One mom wrote about playing audiobooks for her children as a way to give herself a break during a hands-on school day. I decided to try this one out, and I was really surprised by how much Sky responded to it. It’s wordier and slower than many of the books we read, and the pictures are simple– but she really loved listening to the tape and turning the pages on cue. We listened to it quite a bit as the weather turned rainy. I like how an audiobook is not quite a book, and not quite a tape. As a reading experience, it’s somewhere between watching an episode of Daniel Tiger and a cozy read with mom on the couch– I get a bit of a break to relax and listen with her, but we’re not dipping into our daily screen time allotment.

Frog and Toad are Friends, Arnold Lobel

In the same vein, I checked out this old favorite even though it’s geared much older kids than Sky. She always seems to gravitate toward the “I Can Read” bookshelf at the library, so I let her pick one out from the Frog & Toad series and carry it to the checkout herself. She felt very proud of herself, and again I’ve been surprised by her focus when we read these. We even brought it along to urgent care one weekend when her persistent cough got scary-worse and our doctor’s office was closed. She sat still through two or three “chapters,” though she definitely liked the one about Toad’s bathing suit the best.

 

My Body! What I Say Goes, Jayneen Sanders

I follow “A Mighty Girl” on Facebook and I always love their topical roundups on teaching kids about tough subjects like racism, war, and personal boundaries. Sky has been asking me lots of questions about my body and hers as the baby grows and my stomach gets rounder. I wanted to find something to read with her to help explain private parts, and how to trust your feelings when someone is asking you to do something with your body that you don’t want to do– even giving hugs to a new grown-up friend of mommy or daddy’s. Especially in light of sexual assault awareness month and the #metoo campaign, I want to start talking with her about her right to her own body in regular, daily conversations, and so far this book is helping us do that.

Books! Books! Storytime Singalong Vol. 1, Emily Arrow

Okay, this was a CD we checked out from the library, not a book, but since it’s about books and since I have listened to it by myself in the car when Sky was home with her daddy, I figured it was worth including here. Kids’ music you actually like to listen to?! Sort of a rare gem. My favorite tracks are “The Dot Song,” about making your mark as an artist and making it “matter,” and “Are We There, Yeti?” a funny song about whining in the car. It makes Sky laugh. (I mean really, how cute is this lady?)

 

Melissa, 30 something

Saints for All Occasions, J. Courtney Sullivan

I put this on my TBR list early this summer when it was mentioned ever-so-briefly in an NPR interview as the “sleeper” novel of the year (or something like that.) I wrote the title down on a receipt in the sticky center consul of my car before running into Dollar Tree. I carried that receipt around in my pocket and then wallet for a while until I remembered to place a hold on it at the library, and then it took about three months to rise up the impressive wait list– I guess others heard the same interview clip. ANYway, point being: this book was well worth the wait. I finished it in a few days and even now, the characters are still fresh in my mind and I kind of miss them. (I can only say that about one other novel, The Brothers Karamazov, which I used to read every summer, pre-kids.) I liked it so much I checked out and devoured her earlier novel The Engagements, which is a linked novel about the evolution of the ad campaign for diamond engagement rings. Educational and thought-provoking and very entertaining. Excited to read through her backlist.

Reading People: How Seeing People Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, Ann Bogel

This one was mentioned on a blog I follow, and sounded right up my alley. It’s a survey of personality types through various popular methods: Meyers Briggs, Enneagram, Strengthsfinder, and the like. I’ve always known and struggled with the fact that I’m an introvert, and earlier this year as I was preparing to launch my freelance grant-writing business, I took an official Meyers-Briggs test to confirm it. I came out pretty solidly INFJ, and reading through the author’s description in Reading People only reaffirmed it. Ann Bogel’s description of the spectrum of introversion and extroversion also helped me see how my nature is something I can work with, rather than something to hide or feel ashamed of. I was also interested in the chapter on Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) and Highly Sensitive Children (HSCs), something I hadn’t heard of. I saw myself pretty clearly in the HSP camp, and there were several parts of the descriptor for HSCs that struck me as fitting for Sky, too– though I’d say it’s still too early to know for sure, since 2-year-olds in general can be pretty sensitive people. I appreciate how Bogel presents each method using stories and examples from her own life, and then offers resources for learning more. This was an engaging read for a subject that could easily become overwhelming or dull.

Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, David Rock

Not sure what it says about my brain right now that this took me FOREVER to read, and that I didn’t quite finish it before it was really overdue at the library. Sigh. Nevertheless, I did glean some strategies for working more efficiently by understanding a teeny bit of neuroscience, and so I’m including it in this list as a worthy read. Returning to work, even the moderate 5 hours a week I’m doing right now, has brought up a lot of old baggage and anxiety for me. I’ve noticed myself struggling with some powerful feelings of unworthiness, even though I know intellectually that my academic training and years of experience in education and writing have prepared me for exactly this kind of work. David Rock’s book helped me look at the triggers that might send me down this anxiety spiral. Like Bogel, he uses stories to illustrate concepts. Each chapter starts with a work scenario that did not go so well, unpacks the neuroscience behind it, then recasts the same scenario using simple, alternative strategies. Some of them will be familiar (take a walk or do the dishes to clear your mind, schedule prioritizing tasks first-thing) and others might surprise you.

The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling, Rachel Gathercole

This is the first book I picked up on homeschooling because it focuses on what is apparently THE question homeschoolers hear from the curious and the skeptical: “Yeah, but how will your kid get any social time?” I’ll place myself firmly in the curious camp, because I know a handful of families who homeschool and what they do seems pretty creative, varied, challenging, and FUN. Nevertheless, I’ve often wondered how homeschooling might impact a child’s social development, because the only experience I know first-hand has been “traditional” public schooling– something that’s really not so traditional at all, as it turns out. This book is somewhat academic in style. It parses out each element of the “socializing” question through definitions, studies, and lengthy excerpts from interviews with homeschooling children and parents. But it’s definitely approachable and readable, and it really challenged my preconceptions about how normal public schooling really is– and if we should use it as a healthy standard when it comes to raising well-adjusted kids.

The Homegrown Preschooler: Teaching your Kids in the Places They Live, Kathy Lee and Lesli Richards

This book is inspiring and fun to read, with lots of color photos and activity ideas for teaching preschoolers at home. In tandem with the more scholarly style of the book above, it’s getting me pretty excited about planning a homeschool curricula for Sky when she turns three next summer. There’s also a helpful website, The Homegrown Preschooler, with more articles, ideas, and resources for homeschooling the littlest learners.

 

Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend, Kim Frederickson

Another read inspired by one of my favorite podcasts, my friend Sarah’s Beautiful Brave. I wrote a post earlier this year about having trouble finding ANY books on self-compassion in the Christian tradition. At least two other writers must have been thinking the same thing, because two awesome books on the topic came out in 2017: Catherine McNiel’s Long Days of Small Things, and this book. Anyone who’s read Brene Brown’s work on shame understands the importance of recognizing the impact of negative self-talk– and yet the actual practice of working with what Frederickson calls the “inner critic” can be mysterious, even frustrating. I’ve read a lot about self-compassion and I STILL have trouble actually doing the simple mindfulness exercises well-known writers like Kristen Neff and Tara Brach describe. I loved McNiel’s and Frederickson’s books for that reason: they show you how you can practice mindfulness and self-compassion as a mother of small children. I like Frederickson’s no-nonsense style and the simple, doable exercises she describes. Excited to read her parenting-themed sequel, Give Your Kids a Break, next.

I also think I’m going to be ready for a thick stack of novels after this fall’s heavy non-fiction list.

What are your favorite reads from this fall? What novels should I check out as we head into winter?

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Jen Hatmaker’s Seven and how I’m adapting it pre-baby

On vacation in August, I picked up a copy of Jen Hatmaker’s 2012 book Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess at a used bookstore. It grabbed my attention and kept me interested over the course of plane rides, nap times, and the few hours before sleep after Sky was in bed. I finished it just before we touched down again in Portland, and as I often feel after we’ve been away for several days, I had a new perspective on our life at home.

I decided to wage my own “experimental mutiny against excess.”

This book is about how Hatmaker spent ten months reforming her consumption habits in seven areas: food, clothing, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress. For 30 days, she developed new habits for each of these focus areas, then spent a few weeks reflecting and integrating what she learned before moving on to 30 days in the next focus area. The number 7, both because of its sacred significance and as an organizing principle, factored into each of the seven months.

For example, in the first month, she ate only seven simple food items, meal after meal, day after day: sweet potatoes, spinach, bread, avocado, eggs, apples, and chicken. In the second month, she wore the same seven articles of clothing on rotation for 30 days. And in the third month, she and her family gave up seven forms of media. You get the picture.

The purpose in all of this was to dramatically reduce the extra noise in her life so that she and her family could better focus on Christ.

I was really captivated by this idea because it reminded me of similar challenges I’ve set for myself over the years, with one crucial difference. This challenge is about creating room for a deeper purpose, for a relationship with God that is uncluttered by the many comforts and distractions of modern life that can make us believe we are in control, when we’re not; that we’re self-sufficient, when we’re not; and that perfection is possible– when it’s definitely, definitely not.

But so many of the challenges I’ve set for myself over the years have been mostly about all of those things, especially perfection. I wasn’t consciously and deliberately setting out to be perfect. But the frustration I felt when I ‘failed’ at my challenges showed me that I had pretty high expectations.

Most recently, it was the Kon Mari craze that caught my interest and sent me running for my towel drawers to see if I could fold them as beautifully as Marie Kondo. While the lean, minimalist Japanese style of decluttering did teach me a few things about what’s really important to me, it didn’t address the hungers at the center of my life that slowly, inexorably began to draw more stuff back into my life, our home, our kitchen drawers.

I liked Hatmaker’s hands-off approach to this whole thing. Ultimately, she’s not laying out a list of proven rules or strategies. Instead, she’s telling the story of how God used these ten months to teach her about parts of her soul that still need shaping and shaking up. And she’s inviting the reader to make the challenge work for them, prayerfully, so that God can work in the reader’s life in a way that speaks uniquely to their own weaknesses, hungers, and needs.

Because we’re getting ready to meet the newest member of our family in January, I don’t really have ten months to move through the seven areas. Baby will be here in about four months, and I know better than to extend an experiment requiring focus and reflection into the unknown, but certainly chaotic, postpartum period.

So I’m roughly halving it, going through the seven “stations” in a little over two weeks each, with a couple days in between to reflect and regroup.

And because I’m pregnant while running after our two-year-old, I’m adjusting the specifics to meet our needs and limitations.

Food: I’m thankful to be able to eat normal food again, and I also need additional calories starting now to keep up with baby’s growth, so I won’t be restricting my diet to seven items. I like this idea for a future fast, because I know the value of traditional fasting, but for now I thought I’d use this time to create a sustainable, simplified meal routine for our family. Hopefully one that honors our bodies and gives us breathing room for rest, prayer, and each other. My seven goals are:

  • 7 simple meals repeated each week
  • Groceries < $100/wk
  • No eating out
  • Focus on whole foods
  • Make from scratch when possible to reduce packaging
  • Feed others/potluck and share
  • Donate to a food bank

Clothing: I’m entering the cold season and thankfully have winter maternity clothes from my first pregnancy, so that already creates a pretty limited wardrobe. I’m not sure yet how to use the time meaningfully, but I think I’d like to learn about current clothing needs at local women’s organizations, and do a little reading about “ethical fashion.”

The last few categories I’ll keep pretty similar to the book, with a few modifications for our family:

Possessions

  • Give away 7 items each day
  • Source meaningful recipients, not Goodwill
  • Reduce and donate Sky’s toys
  • Go through all closets and backyard shed
  • Read about the psychology of consumption, the buy-purge-buy cycle

Media:  We will be fasting from:

  • iPad/TV
  • Facebook/Instagram
  • Phone apps
  • Radio
  • Texting (necessities only)
  • Internet (work only)

Waste

  • Conserve energy and water
  • Buy food from local vendors
  • Make or thrift other necessities
  • Walk when possible, link trips, and skip trips
  • No plastic baggies: buy reusable ones from Earthwise, find a set of reusable bulk bags I like, and bring grocery and produce bags.
  • Reduce packaging: make yogurt, peanut butter, hummus, granola and bars, and bread
  • Install bidet with baskets of flannel wipes

Spending only at these 7 places:

  • Fred Meyer gas
  • Online bill pay
  • Preschool tuition
  • Savings
  • Donations
  • Fred Meyer
  • Goodwill
  • Read God’s Economy by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Stress

  • Reading and using the 7 sacred pauses. One of these is the midnight prayer, which I’m nervous about. But by the end of pregnancy I’m pretty sure I’ll be up then anyway. 😉

I want to keep a semi-daily log of how things go, and I’ll probably post these sporadically as I go along. A lot of them I will likely set to post after the baby is born, so there will be something on the blog when I have no time for anything but nursing, diapering, playing with Sky, and (maybe?) sleeping. I’m excited to see how God uses this experiment to reshape my thoughts and habits.

Have you read and tried Seven? How did the experiment change you?

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Summer Reading with my Toddler

I love our county library system.

Last summer when Sky was one, we participated in the summer reading program. My little reader and I picked up a stack of books every week after story time, took them home, and read them until we had memorized them. Then we traded them the following week for a new stack.

I’m a big fan of relying on the library system to feed my little one’s voracious appetite for books, while keeping a small stash of favorites at home. Her interests change so quickly, and she likes to read a book over and over again until suddenly, she decides she’s had her fill and won’t pick it up again.

We are diligently crossing off boxes on the little summer reading game board, turning it in every two weeks for a prize and eventually that coveted summer reading T-shirt. (Insider tip: toward fall, you can pick one up for 50 cents at the Title Wave bookstore.)

Meanwhile, I’m making it a personal challenge to cross out as many squares as I can on the adult summer reading Bingo board. Just for fun.

Here are our favorite books so far:

Sky, 2 years old

 

The mixed-up truck/ Steven Savage
A cement truck is new on the job, and he keeps mixing up the wrong stuff! In the end, all of the trucks take a bubble bath and go to sleep. The bubble bath was Sky’s favorite part.

One gorilla : a counting book/ Anthony Browne.
Really beautiful illustrations of ALL kinds of primates, finishing with a group shot of a diverse mix of humans– We’re all one family. I was shocked when Sky began naming the species she saw: “That’s a MANdril. Those are baBOONs.” We both learned a lot. Plus, this book is oversized, and she loves “big, big books.”

Piggies/ Don & Audrey Wood.
Do you love King Bidgood and the Napping House? Here are more of those arrestingly odd and sweet illustrations, plus a story about the different sized fingers on our hands, and, if you’re as lucky as we were, an accompanying CD with truly weird songs about the “piggies.” Sky loved this book best of all.

Walter’s wonderful web / Tim Hopgood.
This book teaches shapes through the story of a little spider who try-tried again. It features a repeating narrative– “‘Whoosh!’ went the wind” and  “Walter sighed”– and Sky loved helping to tell those parts of the story. It has also come in handy as the early fall spiders start making their webs across our front door step. Despite my best efforts, Sky is already scared of spiders. I tell her the spider is just like Walter and his wonderful web. It kind of helps.

 

There’s No Such Thing as Little/ LeUyen Pham
Here’s one of those books I would not have guessed would be such a hit– but it was. Easily her first choice book the week we picked this up, every time we sat down to read. This book has sweet circle cutouts that reveal the ways in which something that may appear little– a tree, a fish, a candle flame– can actually turn out to be more meaningful and significant than you think. Just like your little one. (aww…)

Melissa, 30 something 🙂

These are some of my own favorites, along with the adult summer reading Bingo game prompts that inspired them.

Request a recommendation from My Librarian.
Reinventing American health care : how the Affordable Care Act will improve our terribly complex, blatantly unjust, outrageously expensive, grossly inefficient, error prone system / Ezekiel J. Emanuel.
This one took me forever to finish, and I’m more than a little late to the game in reading it, as you can see by the subtitle’s hopeful future tense. I requested suggestions from the library’s (awesome, free, online) My Librarian service. I wanted a few recent titles that would help me understand the appalling state of health care in the U.S., as the current “administration” gets ready to dismantle the few pieces of it that actually function. Next on the list is Elisabeth Rosenthal’s 2017 An American Sickness, but there’s such a lengthy list of holds placed on this one I figured I’d start in the past and work my way (queasily) forward.

Read a book with a single word as its title./Read a book you’ve always wanted to read.
March : a novel / Geraldine Brooks.
Little Women was a favorite for me growing up, and Brooks’ spinoff book, detailing the March girls’ father’s Civil War service, has been on my reading list for years. This was a suspenseful and emotional read. Not for the faint of heart– and ordinarily I’d count myself among that group– it’s more than a little gory in some chapters, but then, it’s a novel set in the Civil War. It’s hard to go back to Alcott’s flowery prose after reading March.

 

 

Read a book with a map on the endpapers.
A midwife’s tale : the life of Martha Ballard, based on her diary, 1785-1812 / Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
This won the Pulitzer in 1991, and it’s a meticulous contextualization of one of the oldest intact diaries we have in the United States– the story of a seemingly tireless woman who delivered over 800 babies in a small Maine town in the 18th century. (!!) I was fascinated by the details of Martha’s day-to-day life. Things that must have seemed so mundane for her– riding sidesaddle to attend midnight births, planting hundreds of beans in her “garden,” pulling candles and weaving flax, administering herbal medicine to her neighbors– filled me with admiration and curiosity. It was interesting to read the terse, factual diary entries that begin each chapter, and then to see how Ulrich, a gifted writer and history scholar, unpacked and set everything into context in terms of familiar U.S. historical events and feminism.

 

Read a biography of someone you admire.
Becoming Maria : love and chaos in the South Bronx / Sonia Manzano.
I happened to catch an NPR interview with Manzano in 2016, just after this memoir was released. Manzano had a 44 year run as Maria on Sesame Street, and in the past six months as I’ve introduced my toddler to the likes of Big Bird and Elmo, let’s just say she has become a very, very familiar face in our house. It was interesting to read about her tumultuous but colorful childhood in the Bronx.

 

 

Read a mystery
Big little lies/ Liane Moriarty.
I’m not sure this technically counts as a mystery, since I had watched the addictive HBO mini-series first, and already knew whodunnit. Still, the book added depth and nuance to the TV version, and it was interesting to see what had been changed/omitted on screen. For instance, the book is set in the author’s native Sydney, Australia– not a fictitious California coastal town as filmed in Big Sur. I read it in less than three days, so make sure you’ve got some downtime available when you pick this up. **Also, trigger warning: both the book and the series contain graphic imagery/language about abuse.**

 

Read a book that teaches you something.
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame/ Janet Lansbury.
Strangely, this book was nowhere to be found in the library catalog, and neither were there any other titles by Lansbury. I picked it up online and hope to buy an additional copy to donate to the library. It has smoothed out so many edges in my days with Sky. Though bringing this level of awareness and intention to my parenting takes more energy, it saves so much time and heartache, for both of us, in the long run.

 

I can’t recommend this enough for any parent of a spirited toddler– and show me a toddler who isn’t spirited.

Certainly not this one. 🙂

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