Goldilocks, Harold, a Grouchy Ladybug and Sherlock Holmes: Read 365 Project

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Week 2, A Birthday on the Horizon

We’ve successfully completed Week 2 of our challenge.  That’s 14 out of 365 books. Wow, we have a long way to go! But, really, that’s refreshing. We have 351 more opportunities to spend a few minutes snuggled together, 351 more adventures we get to experience together, 351 more days left in this year of celebration and possibility and absolute heart-bursting obsession with learning and loving. And now, more than ever, with a second birthday on the horizon, these moments seem all the more important – all the more precious. The right books will help us create the moments we remember next year. I’m feeling optimistic and ridiculously interested in children’s books.

The books we’ve selected this week were, on a whole, very successful. We selected a mix of classics and more recently published books and added in a few books that we were recently gifted. Between you and me, selecting the books is becoming a favorite activity for me, especially when picking them out from the library. Really, it’s like shopping without the financial burden. But, that’s just between you and me. We also met a super sweet librarian who was ready to cheer us on. I can’t wait to visit her frequently so she and Vivi can have more chats about red sparkly shoes and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Our mutual favorite for Week 2 is The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwoodthe underdog that we have both grown to love. I was not optimistic about it as I couldn’t believe a book about quiet could be anything but boring. But, it turns out, it is delightfully adorable and gentle. It is a peaceful little book about different types of quiet. We read it in a quiet voice, whispering half of it, and singing little songs when the robin plays his flute. I owe today’s nap time to three readings of this book. By the third time, her eyes were heavy and she was ready to snuggle to sleep. Bless this book.

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Vivienne’s favorite is Horsefly and Honeybee by Randy Cecil. She’s been requesting it throughout the day and gets very concerned when the two bugs get in a fight and lose a wing. She learned to say “honeybee” and “fwack” (translation: frog, which sounds delightfully like a terribly bad curse word that starts with “f”).

My least favorite this week is The Grouchy Ladybug. Long story short, it makes me grouchy. Viv’s least favorite is Just a Rainy Day.

 

The Reviews


  1. Sherlock Holmes in the Hound of the Baskervilles,
    by Jennifer Adams, art by Alison Oliver
    Synopsis: A sounds primer narrating scenes from the classic Sherlock Holmes (Educational)
    Overall Rating: One of our favorites. So glad that we own it, because we’ve read it a bajillion times.
    – Mom’s Review:I love Baby Lit books because I get to engage my love of classic literature and pretend that my daughter loves it, too.  This one is great for reading aloud with all of the onomatopoeia and lots of hounds howling throughout.
    – Toddler’s Review: Mom thinks this book is going to get me to love the story of Sherlock Holmes, but it’s not. I love the sounds and silly spooky eyes and the hounds howling.
    Buy it Here Borrow It Here
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  3. Harold and the Purple Crayon, 
    by Crocket Johnson
    Synopsis: A classic story of a small boy who goes out on a walk and draws himself an adventure (Classic Children’s Book/Activity Based)
    Overall Rating: I am surprised by how much Viv likes this book! This is one of our inherited books from my parents’ house. I remember reading this very copy to my sisters.
    – Mom’s Review:I’m jaded by my found memories of reading this book, but I still love it. It’s full of adventure, self-reliance, imagination, and pies.
    – Toddler’s Review: I like to find the moon in every picture and how the boy has a big crayon. He is a big boy and makes a mowse (moose).

  4. Just a Rainy Day, 
    by Mercer Mayer
    Synopsis: It’s raining outside and Little Sister has to find ways to entertain herself indoors and avoid waking the baby. (Female Lead Character)
    Overall Rating: This Little Critter book is sweet, but Viv hasn’t requested this one again. She prefers Me Too and The New Potty (we read each of these multiple times a day right now)
    – Mom’s Review:As a mom, I love this book. I relate. I feel Mrs. Little Critter – sometimes you have to throw the towel in and give into the toddler’s demands.
    – Toddler’s Review: … we read this book? Can we read Me Too?

  5. The Quiet Book, 
    by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Lewska
    Synopsis: A collection of all the different kinds of quiet that kids encounter throughout their day (Animals / Activity Based)
    Overall Rating: This is another book that has surprise me – the toddler loves it and it is such a peaceful bedtime book. This is one of the top books of the week.
    – Mom’s Review: Oh! These illustrations are adorable. The little moose that gets in trouble at the beginning is my favorite character. The art is modern but classic – I’d like to frame it to hang in Vivi’s room. There’s really no storyline, which was a bit frustrating at first, but now we read it as a collection of little moments, and it is incredibly sweet.
    – Toddler’s Review: Shhhhhh! The animals are really cute and there is a fish underwater and a mouse that has bandaids on his head. At the end, the bunny is sound asleep. I make Mama read this at least two times every night.
    Buy It Here Borrow It Here
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  1. Goldilocks and the Three Bears, 
    by Sarah Delmege, illustrated by Gavin Scott
    Synopsis: A true to classic telling of the curious girl who finds herself in the home of three very particular bears (Traditional Fairy Tale)
    Overall Rating: This is one of the top three for the week.
    – Mom’s Review: The artwork for this classic tale is adorable and I love that the story is simple and straightforward, perfect for introducing a two year old to the story.
    – Toddler’s Review: I can’t believe she breaks the chair and doesn’t fix it!
    Buy It Here Borrow it Here

  2. The Grouchy Ladybug, 
    by Eric Carle
    Synopsis: The story of a grumpy ladybug looking for a fight (Classic Children’s Book / Animals)
    Overall Rating: One of us loves this, the other one can’t stand it. It’s very appealing to the toddler set.
    – Mom’s Review: I can’t stand this book. Honestly, I can’t stand any Eric Carle books, probably because we read them a bajillion, kajillion times. This one is just as repetitive, just as hypnotic, just as booooooring as Brown Bear, Brown Bear. But, the toddler loves it.
    – Toddler’s Review: I love this book. That ladybug is grumpy and the whale is big and blue. Mom will only read it once, and then she hides it with the other books she doesn’t want to read.

  3. Horsefly and Honeybee, 
    by Randy Cecil
    Synopsis: When classic enemies Horsefly and Honeybee are thrown together in a dangerous situation, they discover that working together is key to escape (Relationships)
    Overall Rating: The absolute clear winner this week.
    – Mom’s Review: This is a simple story with big, bold illustrations and a really wonderful message about working together despite differences. I enjoy reading this book over and over and over.
    – Toddler’s Review: The honeybee lost her wing! Oh no! Whatgonnahawpen? (Translation: What’s gonna happen?)
    Buy it Here Borrow it Here
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This Week’s Recommendations:

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood
Horsefly and Honeybee by Randy Cecil
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Sarah Delmege

 

 

 

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A Year-Long Celebration of Words

Read 365 Challenge : A new book each day in 2017

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The end of 2016 felt like a whirlwind. The holidays, writing assignments, grad program applications, and travel had us all mixed up in activities. Despite the flurry, or maybe because of it, Vivi’s speech has taken off. She is putting together four and five word sentences, has a suspiciously diverse vocabulary, is apparently on a first name basis with Mama and Dada (she somehow picked up our real names), and is willing to tell anyone and everyone a story (usually involving how she fell and now has sparkly band-aids covering her arms and legs). I am in awe at how quickly this skill has developed; a year ago, she had just started saying “dada” and was barely saying “mama.” She must have a lot on her mind in order to be so focused on developing her language.

In honor of this wonderful and supernatural development of communication skills, I have decided to initiate the new year with a celebration of words.The plan is to read 365 books in as many days, ensuring that she (and me, of course) are exposed to a diverse spectrum of stories, characters, vocabulary, images and experiences. Plus, it ensures that we make our weekly trips to the library and we get to spend extra time snuggling and reading together. I hope that we will discover some new favorites to build up our home library and develop a comprehensive list of reading materials for toddlers. Each week, I will share our round up of books, provide a brief review of each, and discuss our favorites and least favorites.

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Our favorite book of the week called for a special breakfast celebration.

Each week we will select 7 books, each with a particular theme or genre. I’m sure that as the challenge goes along, I will have to be flexible in this categorization, but for now we are selecting books according to the following criteria:

 

  • be a picture book
  • be of reasonable length
  • be in our local libraries or in the box of books I inherited from my mom this Christmas
  • be interesting to Vivi
  • be a book we have not already read

To ensure a variety each week, I want to be sure that the weekly selections fulfill at least five of the themes or subjects:

  • animals
  • female lead character
  • travel or special location
  • relationships (friends and family)
  • educational (shapes, letters, numbers, colors, etc)
  • seasonal or holiday
  • classic children’s book
  • food
  • activity based
  • traditional fairy tale
  • science
  • transportation
  • fantasy
  • Vivi’s choice

I’m sure that as we go along that I will have to create new categories, but for now, this has allowed us to get started.

And here they are, the first seven books of 2017!

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The Reviews 

1.
The Twelve Days of Christmas, illustrated by John O’Brien
Synopsis: A wacky interpretation of the classic holiday song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” (Seasonal / Holiday)
Overall Rating: One of our favorites for the week.
– Mom’s Review:  O’Brian’s illustrations create an interesting and hilarious interpretation of the lyrics. I like that they are a little dark and off-kilter.
– Toddler’s Review: This book is only acceptable if mom sings the lyrics. When she tries to read it normally, she is firmly rebuked.
Buy It Here Borrow It Here

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There are so many eggs! Vivi tries to count them all but can only make it to three. Classic two year old.

 

 

2.
Me Too, by Mercer Mayer
Synopsis: A brother’s struggle to include his baby sister in his activities (Relationships)
Overall Rating: One of our favorites for the week.
– Mom’s Review:  Who doesn’t love Mercer Mayer? The story is sweet, teaching patience, inclusion, and empathy. As always, the illustrations are perfectly dense, with lots of secondary characters, like froggies and mice, for little readers to find.
– Toddler’s Review: I call this book “Pee Too” and I’ve asked for it every night this week.
Buy It Here Borrow It Here

3.
The Jungle Book: An Animals Primer, by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Allison Oliver
Synopsis: An illustrated review of the characters from Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book  with excerpts from the original book. (Animals)
Overall Rating: An adorable book with captivating, fun illustrations, but not as engaging as others this week.
– Mom’s Review:  I love Baby Lit Books for their beautiful simplicity and unique interpretations of literary classics. If you are new to this series of books, The Jungle Book is a great place to start. Unlike some of the other books in the series, this does not require knowledge of the original to make it entertaining.
– Toddler’s Review: I like the animal sounds my mom does, especially the howling wolf and the hissing snake.
Buy It Here Borrow It Here

4.
Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Synopsis: Nancy is super fancy and wants to make her family fancy, too. (Female Character)
Overall Rating: We love Fancy Nancy  so much, she is coming home to live with us.
– Mom’s Review:  I am so glad Vivi insisted on this book at the library. Nancy isn’t just fancy, she’s sassy, imaginative, playful and fun! The illustrations are packed full of beautiful details (that’s fancy for pretty). I am looking forward to the rest of the books in this series!
– Toddler’s Review: Nancy wears bows and sparkles like my sparkly shoes. I have started to pretend I am fancy, too. Plus, her family is so much fun.
Buy It Here Borrow It Here

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So much fancy on one page.

5.
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper and Cristina Ong (Illustrator)
Synopsis: An abridged and re-illustrated version of the classic tale of the Little Blue Engine who pushes the limits of her abilities and overcomes a daunting challenge.  (Transportation)
Overall Rating: This doesn’t beat the original, but is a nice stand in when you have limited time to read.
– Mom’s Review:  The original version of this book is a classic, but that is long and tedious, which is fine when you have time and patience. This fun shaped board book gets to the point of the story and maintains the adorable stylized artwork. Let’s be real, you can’t beat the message of determination and the fact that the Little Blue Engine is a female. It’s real life, I tell you.
– Toddler’s Review: I call this book “I Can I Can,” which Mom thinks is cute. I like the elephant and the puppy in the pictures and making choo choo sounds. I get very concerned when the first engine brakes down. Sometimes, when she’s on top of things, Mom makes the book move like a train.
Buy It Here Borrow It Here

6.
Paris: A Book of Shapes by Ashley Evanson
Synopsis: A primer that introduces shapes and  the attractions of the City of Lights (Travel and Educational)
Overall Rating: A shapes primer that will meet the needs of a toddler’s ever advancing comprehension of shapes and colors.
– Mom’s Review:  This book can be frustrating for the adult reader. By the second and third reading, I start to lose interest in the shapes and start wishing I was in Paris with a box full of the cute macaroons from the rectangle page.
– Toddler’s Review: This is not one of my choices, Mom always makes us read it. I trace the shapes with my fingers and can (currently) find one or two of the shapes in the illustrations. My favorites are the circles and balloons at the beginning and when I close the book at the end. I tolerate this book.
Buy It Here Borrow It Here

7.
If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond
Synopsis: In the spirit of the other If You Give a… books, don’t give that pig a pancake because it’s probably going to lead to a whole mess. (Food and Animals).
Overall Rating: This is, far and away, the winner of this week’s popularity contest!
– Mom’s Review:  A total winner. That pig is stinking cute and I love that it’s a little girl who gives her a pancake. They dance, make a mess, build a house and eat. Sounds like a typical day with a toddler. We even made a special blue pancake breakfast to celebrate a morning reading (and photo shoot) of this book.
– Toddler’s Review: Pig pancake is a fun book! I love the tap dancing and the pictures and the mail. It’s fun to  make pig noises and tell the girl, “no, no, no” at the beginning. You’re not supposed to give pigs pancakes.
Buy It Here Borrow It Here

 

The Conclusion

FAVORITES:
 * Give a Pig a Pancake
* Fancy Nancy
The Twelve Days of Christmas
*We can’t wait to add these books to our home library!

LEAST FAVORITES:
Paris: A Book of Shapes
The Little Engine That Could

Self-Portaiting 

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So, I’ve set out on a journey I didn’t really intend to take, and it all started with a picture. I was lucky enough to be selected as part of a group of real-women journalists to write for The Village Magazine, and the first assignment was to be an exploration of what makes us unique. I was confident about what I would focus on in the essay, but I also needed to include images to accompany the writing. This was a challenge. I felt, in the very heels of my soul, that the images needed to be self-portraits. And there was a surprising amount of weight in the responsibility. So, naturally, I dragged my feet around the task. I made endless lists of preparations. I’d need a haircut, maybe highlights to cover those new greys. I’d curl, contour, blush, rouge, smudge, and conceal this face. I’d wear black, ‘cause, well, duh, it’s who I am and it’s the most flattering shade of all the shades. All black everything, all the time.  The whole outfit would have to be new so the blacks were not faded and they all match. And, thus, the list of tasks grew and grew and grew. And the deadline crept closer and closer. Instead of actually doing any of the items on my list, I took a cue from my toddler and peacefully resisted by throwing myself face-down on the ground. I really was dreading every bit of this self-portraiting.

When faced with a looming deadline, I’d normally buckle down and procrastinate until the night before and then sheer adrenaline and fear of failure would take me through a productive night into a sleepy-eyed, draggy morning. Since I’m not a photographer, I knew this normal level of super procrastination wouldn’t work because I just didn’t know what in the heck I was doing; surely the process of editing (learning Photoshop was on the list of tasks to accomplish) would take longer than a night. So I set up a test run three days before the deadline. I wanted to make sure I could use the camera, that the light was decent, that I could run from the camera to my place in front of the lens before the shutter clicked at me, and that I had some idea of flattering poses. After rigging up my Canon camera on a mini tripod balanced on a laundry basket stacked on top of a toy box, I pushed the shutter button and started the timer. I ran to the bed, where I had determined we had the best natural light, and jumped up there with the baby. The camera ticked down and click, click, clicked my first ever portrait. It was a test portrait, so my bare face, my leggings, mom bun, and flannel shirt didn’t matter.

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I dragged my feet back to the camera and hit the review button. I was sure everything about the picture would be awful. The ten images that came up were a little blurry, but I didn’t hate them. I like them, a lot. They were life; they were easy and real and a fair representation of the authentic me. So, I re-balanced the camera on its wobbly perch, hit the button again and sprinted to the bed. My 21 month old squealed at my antics and we tickled each other. The laughter was real, the smiles were real, our wild hair and stupid outfits were real. This was healing and revealing and addicting.

I took over two hundred pictures. Each burst of images was a new experiment in expressing who I am through action, not posing. It was liberating and explorative and the most glorious unconscious act of feminism. The images are precious in their imperfection. And I was surprised that I didn’t disdain my body like I do when I look in the mirror or try to button fresh-out-of-the-drier jeans. I wasn’t critical, AT ALL, of my crooked face and uneven eyes. I didn’t see the extra bumps and valleys of my midsection or my overly-full thighs. I saw ME and, for the first time, I saw me as mama. I saw the way my daughter looks at me when I don’t see and the way I look at her when she’s talking. I saw how my hands, so strong, clutch her little bottom while she’s on my hip. I saw strength and pride, too, in the corners of my eyes. I saw contentment and happiness in my lips and the crease at the sides of my nose. I saw what my baby’s fingers look like when they’re tracing my jawline so I will turn and look at her. I saw her eyes light up as I read to her. I saw all the hard nights and fun days we’ve spent together and the energy, energy, energy and focus and attention we’ve lavished onto each other. I saw the miracle of my body and its ability to create this little morsel of sparky life and fire and love. Finally. I saw a verification of my position as a mother that I didn’t know I needed. This is the mama that others see. This is the mama that my daughter sees. She’s real and she’s living it. It’s a strange relief to finally meet her, to meet me. I feel powerful and righteous and so much more self-assured. How did I not know that this was me? What else am I missing? I’ve taken several more self-portraits since then and each is as revealing as the first.


blpg-2I’d like to advocate, gently but insistently, that you find a moment to take your own self-portrait. Go beyond the selfie. Separate yourself from the camera, use a timer so you can become the subject. Don’t worry about the quality. Capture yourself in the midst of life. I’m certainly not a photographer, but I managed. You can, too. Sure, you could have someone take it for you, but I think we can’t help but act in front of others, even our partners and friends. Take your own portrait and then look at it with a liberated heart. Who do you see that you didn’t know was there? You owe it to yourself to savor your being and appreciate all the nuances that make you spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Selflessness, Anyway? 


I’m not very good at being selfless, it’s a struggle that I face everyday as a parent. Sometimes it feels like a fight to give up what I need in exchange for what the baby needs. It’s getting easier, but I still struggle. Then, there’s part of me that wonders, how selfless should I really be in order to be an effective parent? To be a good parent? To be an excellent parent? What is the real ratio of selflessness to effectiveness? On days when I feel that I’ve failed because I was selfish I think of the days when I felt depleted because I gave it my all and I feel guilt either way. Why must it all end in guilt? 


But it doesn’t, really, always end in guilty feelings. Most days, I make it through without worrying about being selfless or even a good parent. Most days, I just AM. I don’t think about the metaphysical battle of parenting. I don’t worry about being a good parent. I don’t concern myself with analyzing the level of selflessness I’m exhibiting to my daughter. I just live and play and work and focus on things outside of my struggle to parent. And magically, by being myself, I become better. I’m more present and more happy. 


This realization helped me discover that forcing myself to be a selfless caregiver is ridiculous and actually shifts my focus away from the act of mothering. The paradigm of self analysis, especially in terms of selflessness, causes me to focus more on myself than on my baby, making things worse. Worrying about the quality of my focus on the baby, was, in fact, taking my focus further from the baby and placing it back on me. That’s not what I want. The solution to break the paradigm is to damn it all and become more selfish. 


I was feeling that I was losing myself, trying to recreate my whole being in the idealized image of a selfless, domestic, mothering goddess and the struggle to do so was injuring my actual self confidence and confusing my parenting. In order to reconnect with my authentic self, I turned to my pre-baby, pre-adult stress,  passions – reading, writing, music. These are things that I was fanatic about in college, before the realities of adult life set in. I wanted to be an English professor. I wanted to travel abroad reading, researching, teaching. I wanted that romanticized, academic life. The realities of the dwindling field of education crushed my dreams when it came to graduate and make life decisions. I chose a different path, like so many do, based on realities. I am glad I made these choices, although the passion for books has never left my heart. Now, faced with this crisis of self, I am embarking on the ultimate adventure of wild self-care. Returning to graduate academic work will be challenging, mentally and organizationally, but I hope by committing to something with which I  so firmly self identify, I will be able to become a more authentic parent. I want to be more confident in my self and less concerned with how well I am performing based on some socially mandated behavior. This month I start by taking a class, then the PhD applications are due in December and hopefully in the spring I will have a more permanent plan for future studies. Just applying is a rush and a reingagement of mental faculties I thought I had lost many years ago. 


What is selflessness, anyway? Is it the same as vanity? Either way, I’m discovering that it’s powerful to have a little of both. I want my daughter see me hold power, look into the light of difficult and endless possibilities, and embrace the faceted woman I am and the one I can become tomorrow. Besides all that, I’m pretty sure the sleepless nights, limitless kisses, thousands of diaper changes, and unending loads of laundry and sinks full of dishes add up to a pretty damn effective, good, excellent and selfless mama. Classes start Wednesday, but I’ve already felt a change. 

Keep your expectations out of our bedroom

Baby Bee has been sleeping. She sleeps at night, for naps, in the car. It’s a mini miracle. She’s never been a good sleeper, and some magic struck at 18 months old. Suddenly she’s not as restless, she’ll fall asleep in my arms without nursing, and she stays asleep when I move her. What is this witchcraft? Now that I am getting a solid uninterrupted slice of sleep at night, I feel like I have overcome the most daunting parenting challenge I’ve yet faced. Looking back, I know that I’ve been tired and overwhelmed, but I didn’t realize until now, when I’ve had a chance to reflect, that I was also feeling like a failure. Somehow, deep in the recesses of my subconscious, I thought that successful parenting was equivalent to a baby who slept through the night. I read too much, believed too much, and ignored too much of my own intuition.  When I was pregnant, a respectable parent with whom I worked suggested that I read Baby Wise. He bragged that their ten week old had been sleeping through the night for weeks. And I wanted that, too. The perfect baby, hitting milestones, sleeping obediently, eating veggies, learning multiple languages, getting a full ride scholarship to an Ivy League, attending medical school and earning a Nobel Prize for a cancer treatment, becoming US President, and then taking care of me in my old age as I fade into the most glorious sunset. Without a hitch. So I read the book and, despite my gut instincts, after several glitches, rolled merrily into parenthood. 

And my baby didn’t sleep. At all. Ever. For months and months we were up all night and catnapped all day. I tried to let her cry, and, after hours and hours, it was a no go. I was a mess. She was a mess. So I let her sleep with me. And we slept, a little. Then the next night, she snuggled close and we got three hours of sleep before she woke up. Soon, I realized this was the way for us and snuggled into a strong cosleeping situation. My beloved approved and he loved that we were so close. So we all snuggled in and held on.

I grew accustomed to nights made up of hours broken by her demand to nurse and it became second nature to fall back asleep with her firmly latched. I grew accustomed to the hazy mindset of continual sleep deprivation which haunts many, many, parents. Sleeping was no longer a fight, but it still wasn’t quality or quantity. Then, one night, 18 months into our cosleeping arrangement, I decided to make the ultimate self care decision to start night weaning. There was so much I wanted to accomplish, but I couldn’t because I was always so exhausted. Reading, my favorite pastime and my profession, had become impossible because of my fatigue. So, with much self-conflict, I cut her off, and, after three nights of fights and fits, she settled herself to sleep, restlessly. I have since slept hours at a time, only waking once or twice a night to pat her back or hum her to sleep. 


And since then, things have only improved. I’ve slowly returned to myself and she’s blossomed into a smart, energetic, hungry toddler. And I don’t regret the time we spent fitfully sleeping am nursing together in our family bed. I don’t regret the time I spent waiting for her to sleep and the energy I spent bouncing her endlessly to sleep. I don’t regret giving myself to her, at all hours, and I don’t regret having a baby who didn’t sleep. I do regret worrying that we weren’t doing it right, that we didn’t fit the mold, that cry-it-out didn’t work for us. I do regret letting peoples’ expectations secretly guide my expectations of her and that I felt that the baby was even a little bit of a failure. No one was judging us outright, it was all deeply embedded in me, influenced by what I read and what I heard. I promise to parent with my gut and my heart and to ignore those voices, those slighly insinuated expectations, and to raise you up in response to your needs according to our faith and our love. 

To all those parents who are struggling with sleep issues, I stand with you. You’re doing it right, however you choose. All the cliches apply: follow your instincts, embrace the challenge and know that it will get easier at some point. In the meantime, it is HARD and sometimes it downright STINKS and it’s OK to say that you’re struggling. I was struggling and I still struggle some nights. There is solidarity in choosing you’re own right way. 

Small and Fierce and Knocking


Today we took the puppy to the vet and we had to wait outside in the humid summer morning air. I didn’t bring the stroller so you had to stand with me outside until they opened. There were other dogs on leashes, big and small, and cats in crates. You were so excited for a few minutes, especially about the cats. You meowed at the cats and tried to pet the dogs. Then you discovered the glass door to the clinic. Knock, knock, knock. The people inside smiled, but left it locked. You stood there, your breath on the glass, watching the people inside. Knock knocking to have them let you in. Small and fierce. And eventually they did let you in, and then you asked me to pick you up so you could see the world from up high. Close to my heart. 


Small and fierce. You love to knock on doors and some you’re tall enough to open for yourself and some you’re not. Those doors that are out of reach sometimes open for you and you carefully step over the threshold with a hand out for support. Never lose the courage to knock. Never lose the courage to reach up for that door knob on your tippy toes with your dimples and fingers stretched and stretched, even if you’re not sure you can reach that knob. When you can’t reach, I hope you knock again. Knock and ask for help, reach out for support, stretch toward someone taller. You are brave and loud and determined. I will always open the doors when you knock, knock, knock. The world is made of doors, some tall, some small, some glass and some not, some locked, some wide open, some hanging off the hinges, some false. I want to see you knock on any door that beckons, don’t hesitate to press your face against the glass. When you know where you want to go, go. When you’re not sure, lean forward, pick a door, knock, and just go. Have faith in yourself, faith in me, and faith that your prayers will be answered. That knock knocking is music to my ears. 

Heirloom Shoes for My Toddler


This is about more than shoes. Clothes, jewelry, shoes, bags are all just trimmings that can help a woman say something. Hats off to women (and men) who are good at communicating this way; I’ve never really gotten the hang of it, although I’ve been caught up in the heated rush of a new handbag launch from Marc Jacobs. I would have killed for a Classic Q. I have middle high-end dreams, not luxury high-end dreams. I’m practical, after all. Now, looking back ten years, I am so glad that I didn’t waste the money, and I’m sad I wasted the energy pining. That bag would have made me FEEL like a million bucks. Hell, it would still make me feel like rockstar. That handbag meant a lot because I thought that it spoke to who I was trying to portray. The way that bag made me feel and how I thought it would change people’s perception of me is fascinating. How can an inanimate object illicit such emotion and be embibed with so much cultural and personal significance? Now, I’ve passed my emotional investment into my daughter’s clothing. But I feel differently about them. Her clothes and shoes are infused with memories, precious, precious, golden memories. And her clothes and shoes are precious, now, too. And knowing this makes me feel a deep, historical connection with these smaller inanimate objects. 


These shoes are full of memories and age and tippy tapping, spinning magic. Heirlooms are hand-me-downs transformed by love for the ones who wore them first and the one who wears them now from the one who packed them away, protected them and remembered to bring them out again. Thank you, Nana. Your love is unstoppable and we lived it today by running all around Home Depot. My brother wore these shoes when he was a baby, almost 30 years ago. My mom wrapped them up and put them away, thinking about her children’s children. I can’t even stand the amount of love that it takes to perform little acts of motherhood like this.  Now that I’m a parent, all of these things my own mom did out of love for me and my sibling fill me with belly warmth. I’m excited to pass along this tradition to my own children. 


My husband didn’t have parents who memorialized his childhood. He told me the other day that he was happy I was keeping a scrapbook and journaling for our baby. He said he thinks it’s really special. And it IS really special. It’s a sneaky tradition that isn’t really a tradition until you’re a parent, until you want to create that warm, golden heirloom feeling for your own babies. Now, I’m looking forward to thirty years down the road when I can pull out all of the sweet memories I’ve packed away and share them with my grown up babies. Heirlooms are a connection to our future and an index to the past. 

And my siblings and I get to share in these traditions, together, weaving our futures and our families together through this special sort of communication. My brother and my sisters and me, raising a little village, passing our memory-laden baby items back and forth, creating a special kind of communication and triggering the sharing of stories and memories. A village, strengthened by the traditions of our parents. Across miles and miles of physical distance, we are creating a meta-family that will raise up our children with love and history rooted in joyful memories. All this because of a pair of scuffed up, well-loved, timeless-because-we-say, tippy tappy shoes.