To Fathers That Read

My father was many things. He was witty, hilarious, kind, sarcastic, affectionate, and sacrificial, just to name a few. He was also very selective and precise. He stood at a noticeable 6ft 6in and always moved with the careful precision of someone too big for the world around him. This hyper awareness seemed to trickle down into everything he did. He spoke with a slow, exacting pace, choosing each word carefully before speaking it out loud. He read directions thoroughly and completely before proceeding with any task. He took great joy in finding the shortest route on any given path, allowing him to make up the time his “relaxed” walking pace lost him. He was selective and precise in nearly every part of his life, except his reading.

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My father reading.

I do not have very many memories of my dad reading out loud to me, but I have innumerable memories of seeing him read. When I picture him now, often he is lying on his stomach with a huge orange pillow under his chest and a book on the floor in front of him. My father read all the time. He would read anything, from Asterix comics to Robert Ludlum to Tom Clancy to Louis L’Amour to John Grisham. Then in his 40s, he decided that he was reading too much fiction. He made a precise decision (of course he did) to start using his reading time for non-fiction almost exclusively. His one exception to this self-imposed rule was listening to fiction audiobooks while driving. I cannot count the number of things I wish I could still talk to my dad about, but this decision is very high on that list.

He set an example of reading for joy, rest, and recovery. Not coincidentally, all the things I now associate with reading. But he was not the only one to instill a love of reading in me. Some of my favorite reading memories as a child are with his father, my grandfather. For two years of elementary school, my family lived in the same neighborhood as my grandparents. My sister and I would sometimes spend the night at their house on the weekend. We would play endless games of Monopoly and Careers with my grandfather while my grandmother made us orange sherbet. These nights always ended with him sitting down beside our sleeping bags and reading to us. I still hear Heidi with his voice. The joy of reading was embedded deep within me.

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My grandfather reading to me.

Now I get to watch my husband, and his father, read to my kids. My husband is excellent at reading aloud. He does all the voices, he dramatizes, he lets the kids climb all over him, and they love it. He will change the words while he’s reading to make up silly things, always relishing in the guaranteed collective groans of “Daaaaaaad.” He says lines from their favorite books at all the appropriate times. Anytime someone is embarrassed he will tell them they are “looking more red in the face than green” (Froggy). Whenever someone cheekily replies, “We’ll see about that,” he adds “said Portly” (Hipponotamus). The groans and laughs that follow diffuse the situation (partially). Watching them, I cannot help but feel an overwhelming happiness that they are getting to make those same precious memories with their own dad as I did with mine.

And so to you, fathers and grandfathers who read, I see you.

I see you, boa wrapped around your neck, pretending you are at yet another tea party while reading Fancy Nancy.

I see you answering unanswerable questions like, “How did the man with the yellow hat get his name?”

I see you creatively reading with dramatic inflection and doing sound effects over groans of “Oh Dad” which are secretly internal squeals of joy.

I see you, weary and burdened, gathering your kids close to read I’m Stinky for the one hundredth time.

Your children will remember these moments all their lives and will, one day, thank you. For now they will go on unrelentingly shouting “one more, just one more, pleeeeassse.” The joy of reading, and of your presence, will be deeply embedded in them.

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Year One!

I cannot tell you the date this occurred, but I can pinpoint the exact moment two years ago when I suddenly looked at myself and realized, “I’m back.” After nearly 8 consecutive years of being pregnant and nursing, I was finally feeling like “myself” again. The pregnancy brain, the newborn haze, and the zombie mom effect had lifted. I could think beyond how many weeks I had left until this baby was finally born, or when the baby last ate, or when nap time would come, or when I would ever, ever sleep again. “I” was back. The question was, what did that mean?

At my stage of life, I have found that much of life revolves around things outside myself: investment in the relationship with my husband, the needs of my children, the demands of a job (even if it is a non-paying job), the involvement in my community. I began to equivocate my identity with those roles and responsibilities, and rightly so. But I am not the sum of only those parts, there are others often left forgotten. I started to remember this part of me that belonged outside those categories. Writing, even “just” about books, has connected me back to that part, long dormant and waiting.

Recognizing that, I had an idea. An idea so preposterous that for almost a year it was just a figment of my wild imagination. Slowly, very silently, this idea for a blog began to germinate. Each thought of “just do it” would be met with 1,081 variations of “but the world is already over saturated with blogs,” “there are other people significantly more qualified, more well read, better writers,” “there is nothing new you can add,” on and on and on. And while these rationalizations were true to some extent, I still found myself creating a whole section of my Google Keep app specifically for blog ideas. This progressed to tentatively speaking out loud to my family and one friend about “my imaginary blog.” I can tell you now that my imaginary blog was perfect, an instant viral hit.

Then exactly one year ago, I realized it was better to be imperfect and real than perfect and imaginary. Putting the proverbial cart well before the horse, I blundered blindly forward. With reckless impulsiveness, born out of a fear that if I did not act now I would never act at all, Well Worn Pages came into real life existence. And I couldn’t be happier. It is, because I am, still quite imperfect but it is real. On an almost daily basis, I learn more about what I am doing and how I want to do it. Anyone would tell you these are all things you should know before you start, but I have never been one for rules.

As I look back on a humbling, exciting, daunting, and fulfilling year, I am grateful. Grateful for new opportunities, the chance to connect with new people, and for the chance to show myself that I can not only have an idea, but follow through with that idea as well. I am grateful for people who read what I write with gracious eyes and embrace the imperfect “realness” of Well Worn Pages.

While reflecting on this first year of blogging, I went back and read through some of the most read posts. So consider this the highlight reel. In my mind, I imagine slow motion montages, inspirational music, and the inevitable, building slow clap. In reality, this is my Kindergarten graduation. But just like your 5 or 6 year-old, I am smiling from ear to ear. Here they are, the 5 most read blog posts of my first year:

  1. Representation Matters (and its counterpart Representation Matters: Redux)
  2. It’s A List!
  3. Best Family Read Alouds
  4. Girls Can Do Big Things Too: Part 1 (and Part 2)
  5. To Mothers That Read

My kids ask me why I have this blog. My answer is because I want to. It is something that gives me joy. At first I felt like I needed to explain more or be more specific or even rationalize my use of time. But then I realized I am happy for them to see me creating something, to see me producing something, to see me enjoy something even if it does not contribute financially. It may not seem brave or important to them now, but I hope one day when they are adults giving the majority of their time to other people that they will remember it is okay to spend time doing something they love, that brings them joy.

May you find the something you love, that brings you joy. (If books are among those things, I hear there’s a relatively new blog out there with just the list you need!)

Summer Reading List: Preschool Edition

Just like that, May is gone. June finally arrived and all is well in the world. (Except that some things are exactly the same, like getting woken up at 4:30 AM by the recent Kindergarten graduate because her finger stings.) In a stroke of genius, my girls’ school scheduled their last day of school today. June could not be off to a better start. A few short hours from now, my kids will all be out of school. We can catch our collective breath and rest.

My son, the one child not even in school yet, may be the most excited about school getting out. He has been home alone with me all year and he is beyond ready for his sisters to be back home. He has visions of playing Candyland and being read to all day dancing in his head. During this last week of school, he has sat through three end of the year parties, one school performance, and one Kindergarten graduation. At each event, he brings his little bag full of books and patiently starts to read.

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It goes like this: tap book on me, tap book on me harder, tap book on me even harder, include “read to me, Mom,” repeat only louder, and louder still. I *calmly* say, “You need to read to yourself right now.” A child at the end of the school party interrupts, “Mrs. Peterson, can you start the game.” My son, ignoring that interruption, says, “I don’t know how to read.” I hurriedly say, “Just look at the pictures, you have this book memorized anyway.” Then, apologetically, start whichever game I am stationed at for that moment.  My son looks at one page and then begins the process over again. If all of that can be considered “patiently starting to read” then yeah, we’ve got that down.

All of this to say, while the older kids have dreams of the books they want to read over the summer, the youngest one does too. And so here are 11 books for your preschooler to look forward to this summer.

  1. Dragons Love Tacos 2 (Adam Rubin)
  2. The Day The Crayons Came Home (Drew Daywalt)
  3. Tap the Magic Tree (Christie Matheson)
  4. Animals By The Numbers (Steve Jenkins)
  5. Dino-Swimming (Lisa Wheeler)
  6. Ada Twist, Scientist (Andrea Beaty)
  7. The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors (Drew Daywalt)
  8. Ladybug Girl’s Day Out with Grandpa (David Soman)
  9. No Matter What (Debi Gliori)
  10. How to Raise A Mom (Jean Reagan)
  11. Hattie and Hudson (Chris Van Dusen)

You can find other lists of picture books here:

Happy Summer! May your preschooler handle their “read to me” demands with patience and calmness. (Hey, it’s summer now, a person can dream!)