Girls Do Big Things Too: Part 1

Recently, I had one of those conversations that stopped me instantly. You know the kind. The kind where the words you are hearing require you to look up from your phone (yes, I do sometimes “listen” while looking at my phone…it’s just the sad truth), look away from the computer (again, yes), or look up from your book (don’t judge on this one, you know that it is completely justifiable to “listen” while reading…it is a finely honed art). The kind of conversation that starts off innocuous and routine, then as words sink in you realize this conversation has weight and depth. It will not be brushed aside or made to wait. It demands attention and now. And so you stop, you look up, you listen, and you hope to know how to answer.

Here is how this particular scenario unfolded:

During a conversation with her teacher, my ten-year-old daughter pointed out that in each of the stories they had read in class the female character’s role was to be rescued, usually by a prince and even once by a dragon.
Apparently, this led to a good conversation about book choice.
After she told me her story, she said, “I just wish we could read books where girls did big things too.”

At this point I would love to tell you that my first thoughts were of how proud I was of her for speaking up about what she noticed and how sad I was for her that this is the reality in literature. Unfortunately, my first, unspoken thoughts were entirely selfish, something along the lines of, “Your house is full of books about girls doing big things.” As a book blogger, I am absolutely providing my daughters with a plethora of books featuring girls doing big things, right?! I had an embarrassing moment of righteous indignation.

And then I looked up. I saw my ten-year-old daughter asking for books about girls doing big things in front of a bookshelf overflowing with books. I tamped down my heated defenses and paused. Thankfully, at this point a measure of common sense returned and I realized this moment was not about me, my pride, or my ability to provide the “right” books for my girls. This moment was about her. It was about her ability to voice her observations and ask that we do better. It was about giving her disappointment space to exist. It was about finding what she was looking for.

A few days before this conversation, a video by Rebel Girls went viral. In the must-see clip, a mother and daughter are searching their bookshelf looking for books with girls doing big things. After watching the video with my daughter, we decided to do a little experiment of our own.

Inspired by the video, we decided to take out every book on our bookshelves that featured a human female as the main character, who had speaking parts, and did something inspirational, exciting, or adventurous. For the purposes of this experiment, we did not include stories about animals, automatically excluding the likes of Charlotte (Charlotte’s Web), or stories where the female main character shares the lime light with her fellow male counterparts, automatically excluding the likes of Hermione (Harry Potter), Annie (Magic Tree House) and Susan and Lucy (The Chronicles of Narnia), among many beloved others. While these characters and stories are fantastic, necessary, and helpful, we were looking specifically for books where the girl is the sole protagonist.

Our findings were shocking. First, we learned that the kids have 799 books! (Maybe there is something to my husband’s argument that we have “enough” books…maybe.) Of those 799 books, there were only 26!!!!, yes 26, that fit our criteria. I expected the number to be low, but nowhere near that low. Even more troubling is that of those 26, only 7 of those books have a female protagonist of color. These are devastating numbers.

Here are the 26 we found:

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  1. My Name is not Isabella (Jennifer Fosberry)
  2. 11Experiments That Failed (Jenny Offill)
  3. Strega Nona (Tomie dePaolo)
  4. With the Might of Angels (Andrea Davis Pinkney)
  5. One Eye Laughing, the Other Eye Weeping (Barry Denenberg)
  6. Sondok (Sherri Holman)
  7. A Picture of Freedom (Patricia C McKissack)
  8. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (Avi)
  9. Dealing with Dragons (Patricia Wrede)
  10. Searching for Dragons (Patricia Wrede)
  11. Talking to Dragons (Patricia Wrede)
  12. Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)
  13. Caddie Woodlawn (Carol Ryrie Brink)
  14. A Little Princess (Francis Hodgson Burnett)
  15. Mouseford Academy: Lights, Camera, Action (Thea Stilton) We made one exception to the “human female” rule because my eight-year-old daughter wanted to add one of her favorites, and so a mouse is included.
  16. Ella Enchanted (Gail Carson Levine)
  17. Julie of the Wolves (Jean Craighead George)
  18. Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
  19. Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly)
  20. Women in Space (Carole S Briggs)
  21. Boo’s Dinosaur (Betsy Byars)
  22. Walk Two Moons (Sharon Creech)
  23. Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)
  24. Spy-in-Training (Bridget Wilder)
  25. Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O’Dell)
  26. *Not Pictured* –  The Paperbag Princess (Robert Munsch) This book was “unfindable” while we were counting and I am too lazy to retake the picture now that it has been found.

While these 26 books are excellent, they are not enough. Thus, the upcoming Part 2.

I am on a mission to find more books of this nature. If you have books to add to the list, please let me know.

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Guest Blogger Review – Mercy (age 10): A Series of Unfortunate Events

In my opinion, A Series of Unfortunate Events is a really good series. Lemony Snicket did a very good job on these books. You may have heard of them. If you haven’t read the books, I recommend reading them.

The main characters are Violet, Klaus, Sunny, and Count Olaf. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are the Baudelaire siblings. Count Olaf is the villain in the books and is always chasing the siblings around in order to get their fortune. The question is, can the Baudelaire siblings use their special abilities to not get put into Count Olaf’s clutches?

Although all the books are good, there are a couple that seem to drag on; but you should stick with them because they play parts in some of the later books. Don’t stop because you think that the books get worse because the last four books are the best.

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My favorite books are books 10, 11, 12, and 13. Book 10 is called The Slippery Slope, book 11 is called The Grim Grotto, book 12 is called The Penultimate Peril and book 13 is called The End. I like book 10 because Sunny learns a new skill and passes out of babyhood. Also the Baudelaire siblings learn about a secret organization. I enjoyed book 11 because they meet a girl and her stepfather. They go into a grim grotto to find something and then they have to save Sunny. But I won’t tell you how because then I would spoil the suspense of it. So if you want to find out, you will have to read the series. Book 12 was good because they meet up with characters they met previously. They go to a hotel and have to solve problems for people at the hotel. Finally, book 13, my personal favorite, was a good book because they meet up with a friend from the hotel and have to solve problems on the island that they get ship wrecked on.

*Warning! Warning! Warning!* These stories are not as happy as other books and good things don’t happen as often as in some other books, but they are still really good. Therefore, I really suggest reading A Series of Unfortunate Events. They are amazing books, and very well written. Thank you, Lemony Snicket.

 

Audiobooks: Maybe There’s Something There

As I write this, my mind is spinning its proverbial wheels with all the things I have to do:

  1. Deal with overflowing piles of laundry in two different rooms.
  2. Put away two laundry baskets full of clean clothes.
  3. Wash sink full of dirty dishes.
  4. Wash dishwasher full of dirty dishes.
  5. Go to the store and get soap for the dishwasher so those dishes can get washed.
  6. Fill out jog-a-thon pledge forms times three for the school fundraiser.
  7. Have weekly meeting with the husband about how to navigate the families’ various and numerous activities for the coming week.
  8. Plan meals for the week based on: precisely zero edible things in the house, times any number of the six of us will actually be in the house at the same time, the surprise, random inedible items of the week.
  9. Finish this post.
  10. Plan multiple lessons for upcoming children’s programs.
  11. Navigate two highly sensitive school situations.
  12. Respond to five emails I have been putting off.

I will spare you the rest. Like you, my life seems to be a constant cycle of never having enough time to do the things I have to do, never mind getting to the things I want to do. I have found myself increasingly frustrated with the everyday life tasks getting in the way of “my time.” “My time” is also known as reading time, preferably in an atmosphere of total silence. You can see why there are multiple layers of frustration, since time and silence are as far from me as Hogwarts (the real one, not the Universal Studios variety).

It seems like an ineffective parenting strategy to find oneself constantly annoyed by the tasks of parenting. But try as I may, I cannot carve out enough of the time to read that keeps me sane. I have tried waking up early before everyone else is awake, but then I don’t want to put the book down when they all wake up. I have tried staying up late, but then I am exhausted when they all wake up. I have tried reading during the miniscule amount of time I set aside for exercise and immediately gained ten pounds.

A few months ago, while ironing (yes, I begrudgingly iron) I was feeling especially hard done by, because I COULD BE READING! The thought occurred to me that instead of listening to Hamilton for the 82 millionth time (here’s to 82 million more times), I could be listening to a book. Wait, what?! Listen to a book. But that thought was immediately dismissed because listening to books is not reading them and I read books. Everyone knows you read with your eyes not your ears.

And here is where I admit a far amount of book snobbery on my part. I have long-held the belief that audiobooks are not *real* books. To my way of thinking, their sole purpose is to replace movies during road trips. I have stood firmly on the soap box called “paper-in-hand.”

But when that fleeting audiobook thought entered my mind I started thinking about all the hours I spend during the day with at least one ear bud in my ear. (Because if I can’t read, I have to listen to music…my music. This is to stay sane and, let’s be honest, drown out the incessant fighting, complaining, and whining. Again, perhaps not the most effective parenting strategy, but something has to give and it is better for all of us if that thing is not my mind.) I slowly came to the realization that if I listened to books during all those times when I was listening to music, I could actually start to make small amounts of progress on my “to be read” list. Hmmmmm…

And so for the first time ever, I find myself looking up books on Overdrive and intentionally checking for the headphone icon as opposed to pompously filtering that icon out of my sight. I am beginning to have hope that maybe, just maybe, there is way to make progress on this never-ending list of things to do while also getting the chance to cross some books off my list. In my imagination, this possibility gives way to a mother of a bright and bubbly disposition and a family seamlessly gliding from one thing to the next with nary a bump in the road.

It really could be that simple, right?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here Be Dragons

Dragons are among the coolest probably-fictional creatures ever created. The fire-breathing, the flying, the caves, the tumultuous relationships with humans, the treasure; it is all together captivating.

For a time, dragons were the gold standard in fantasy fiction. The folk-lore surrounding dragons is arguably greater than any other probably-fictional character. J.R.R. Tolkien, the “father of modern fantasy” once said that he “desired dragons with a profound desire.” It showed in his writing. His writing was and is positively infectious. It would be impossible to count the books written with dragons before or since.

While some have said that the “overabundance” (as if there could be) of dragons in the genre has turned them into a cliché, I say if there is a shred of truth to this accusation it is only that humans have become cliché in their portrayal of these majestic creatures. For on their own, dragons and their stories are limitless in their diversity, versatility, and creativity. From Puff the Magic Dragon, to Smaug; Elliot to Drogon; Toothless to Temeraire; Falkor to St. George’s dragon; the range of characters represented is anything but predictable and tired.

If you have been wondering how to introduce your children or students to the wide-eyed thrill of dragon-lore, then you have come to the right place. There are books for every age.

Board Books:

That’s Not My Dragon (Fiona Watt) – This book is the perfect baby shower or bringing-baby-home gift. It is guaranteed to please children and parents alike.

Picture Books:

The Paper Bag Princess (Robert Munsch) – The classic tale told in this brilliant book was genre shifting upon its release. It was among the first stories told, and arguably the most famous, about a princess not only saving herself but rescuing a wayward prince in the process. It belongs in every classroom and in every home.

The Egg (M.P. Robertson) – This is the first book in an excellent series of picture books about a boy named George and a dragon he raises. The other books that follow are: The Secret Dragon Rescue and The Dragon Snatcher. I highly recommend these books.

Dragons Loves Tacos (Adam Rubin) – Dragons Loves Tacos has been a hit with children and adults for the past five years. It is hilarious, creative, and combines two of the best things our world has to offer…dragons and tacos!

When a Dragon Moves In (Jodie Moore) – My younger two children love this book. I cannot tell you how many times we have checked it out. They are freshly excited each time. It is a funny story of imagination and the typical familial response to such imagination.

Puff the Magic Dragon (Peter Yarrow) – We all know the song by Peter, Paul, and Mary. Now your children can look at fantastic illustrations while you sing. I dare you to try to read the book rather than sing it. I am convinced it is impossible.

The Knight and The Dragon (Tomie dePaola) – This is an excellent book for those children who are not yet reading. The story is cute and clever, but it is the illustrations that make the book. Tomie dePaola does not disappoint.

Early Chapter Books:

My Father’s Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett) – The Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon can now be read altogether in the same book. I recently read this to my younger kids, who loved the story and would beg me to read more. When I was reading to them, I would look up to find the older two suddenly close by and paying full attention. This is an American classic for a reason.

The Snow Dragon (Marti Dumas) – This is a fantastic story that combines the reality of moving and finding a new home with the magical, in the form of a dragon. As you may already know, I am a very big fan of Marti Dumas’ writing and this is yet another example of why.

Middle Grades:

The Dragon in the Sock Drawer (Kate Kilmo) – This is the first book in a six book series called the Dragon Keepers. It is a great book for your second or third grade reader. The books are suspenseful and entertaining, but not scary or dark. These would also make very good read alouds for kids of different age ranges.

How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell) – The How to Train Your Dragon twelve book series has inspired multiple movies and TV spinoffs and for good reason. These books are so fun. They combine adventure, hijinks, dragons, humor, friendship, and life lessons.

A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Keeping of Humans (Laurence Yep) – Who knew dragons were so funny?! This perspective changing book gives literal voice to a frustrated dragon trying to figure out how to care for its pet human. My daughter laughed out loud through most of this book.

The Last Dragon Chronicles (Chris D’Lacey) – This wildly popular series starts off a bit slow on the dragon front. The first book, The Fire Within, spends a lot of time on a squirrel. Be patient, dragons are coming. This is a good series for your young advanced reader.

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia Wrede) – A princess voluntarily choosing to go live with dragons, while turning away every prince who attempts to “rescue” her, what could be better? This series is an absolute must read.

Dragon Slippers (Jessica Day George) – This three book series follows Creel, a misunderstood, underappreciated teenage girl, who finds her confidence in the company of some misunderstood dragons. This unlikely heroine makes for a surprisingly relatable fantasy. There are moments of mild, innocent flirting throughout the story. While it is innocuous enough, it is probably better suited for older elementary school age kids. I would not recommend this series for kids “reading up.”

The Neverending Story (Michael Ende) – I will be honest, it was not until embarrassingly late in life that I knew there was a book behind the movie. The movie is perfection and may be the only example of a movie that outshines the book. But the book deserves its due as well. Ende introduced many of us of a certain generation (ahem) to our favorite childhood dragon, Falkor. And for that gift, we owe him a great deal of gratitude. Read the book and then, by all means and with no delay…watch the movie!

Wings of Fire series (Tui T. Sutherland) – These books are fascinating. They are narrated by dragons and are almost exclusively about dragons. All the elements of world building and fantasy fiction are present, just with dragons as the main (and, for the most part, only) characters. My guess is your kids will fly (pun intended) through them.

Young Adult:

The Inheritance Cycle series (Christopher Paolini) – This series has won the hearts of many readers. If you are looking for dragons, adventure, and fantasy, you will find those here. There is a major romance that runs through the series, just by way of forewarning.

The Hero and The Crown (Robin McKinley) – I actually enjoyed this Newberry Medal winning story a great deal. I have a great appreciation for a hard-done-by female protagonist who can kick some dragon tail. However, the innuendo is strong throughout the book, to the point where I am not sure what age to recommend this for. It is not so obvious that it should only be for high school, but it is prevalent enough that it may not be great for some junior highers. I suggest parents and teachers read this one first. You will enjoy the read and then you can determine your comfort level for your children.

Now, go slay your dragons, or befriend them…whichever suits your fancy.

 

Fantasy Fiction for Kids

You would not know it from looking at the list of books I have read mostly recently, but the fantasy genre is my favorite. I am thoroughly intrigued by the world building, the scope of the stories, and the depth of the characters. The creativity involved in writing fantasy fiction is fascinating and enviable.

For whatever reason, I was not exposed to much fantasy fiction growing up. It was not until my early 20’s when J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time entered my life, that I discovered the genre that would take my appreciation for the written word from “I like you a lot” to “You are my soul mate, never leave my side.” Since my first encounters with the worlds of Hogwarts and the Westlands, I have spent countless hours lost in Westeros (George R.R. Martin’s Songs of Fire and Ice),  the Four Corners of Civilization (Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles), and the Underdark of Faerun (R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf Trilogy), among many others. Not all of those lost hours have been while reading, I have to admit. Fantasy fiction has a way of captivating your attention. Excellent fantasy fiction can hold that attention long after the book has been put down.

I remember many school days when this escape and distraction would have been very helpful. This, coupled with the fact that my oldest daughter seems to have inherited my inclination towards the fantasy genre, got me thinking about what fantasy fiction books there are available for kids.

You should be forewarned, Harry Potter will not be included in this list. The reason being that it goes without saying (or writing) that the Harry Potter books should be read. We all know this. What we need to know is what else there is after those phenomenal seven books have stolen our hearts.

Traditional Fantasy:

The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster) – This fantastic piece of literature is the perfect introduction into fantasy fiction. The jokes may go over the younger kids’ heads the first time around but that just makes it an ideal re-read for them. Whether they get it fully or not, you will laugh out loud in every chapter.

The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis) – These books need no introduction. While The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe gets all the attention, make sure your children read them all. They are all excellent.

The Wingfeather Saga (Andrew Peterson) – Don’t let the titles deter you from these books. It took me a long time to get over the title On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness before finally letting my oldest daughter read the book. She could not put it down and has thoroughly enjoyed the series.

The Ranger’s Apprentice  (John Flanagan) – I’ll be perfectly honest, I read these books because I heard them mentioned in passing and wanted to see if they would be good for my kids and then I never put them down. These books have all the elements of good fantasy fiction. There are moments of flirtation and the beginnings of boy/girl relationships, but it is all very innocent and not a main story line. Fair warning for your young advanced readers.

The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) – If you have been reading this blog or following along on social media, then you already know my feelings about this particular book. However, like it or not, it is a British classic and a remarkable (yes, I said it) example of fantasy writing.

The Chronicles of Prydain (Lloyd Alexander) – I have not read these books yet, but they have been highly recommended to me over and over again by people whose opinions I trust with my reading list. This series is next on my list to read.

 

Animal Fantasy

The Green Ember (S.D. Smith) – The Green Ember, its sequel Ember Falls, and its prequel The Black Star of Kingston are very entertaining books that follow the lives of a few very brave rabbits. These books make excellent read alouds.

Gregor the Overlander (Suzanne Collins) – Suzanne Collins’ (of Hunger Games fame) Underland Chronicles is an example of the fact that fantasy does not need to be watered down when written for children. This series is a must read.

Warriors (Erin Hunter) – If you have been in a place where books of any kind are collected in any number, then you have seen a Warriors book. They are the ones with the cats on the cover. Yes, those ones. There seem to be an unlimited number of them. Here’s the deal, I have never read them (because I am completely guilty of judging books by their cover in this case). But every single elementary school age girl I know has read them and loved them. That is good enough to get my recommendation.

Guardians of Ga’Hoole (Kathryn Lasky) – At the risk of sounding negligent…this is another series highly recommended that, you guessed it, I have not read. Don’t worry I promise to not make a habit of recommending books I haven’t read. These owls have inspired many conversations I have been a part of and I look forward to being able to add my two cents soon.

Redwall (Brian Jacques) –

It was the start of the Summer of the Late Rose. Mossflower country shimmered gently in a peaceful haze, bathing delicately at each dew-laden dawn, blossoming through high sunny noontides, languishing in each crimson-tinted twilight that heralded the soft darkness of June nights.

And that is just the prologue. This is a master’s class is writing. You will never regret reading these books or having your children read them.

Maybe you noticed that a staple of the fantasy genre is missing from this list, never fear, the dragons have not been forgotten. Dragons are coming soon!

Children’s Books for Black History Month

Marcus Garvey once said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”

It could be said that the more painful the history, the more vital the knowledge of it so there can be no chance of ignorant repetition. The national history of the United States is undoubtedly painful. With this in mind, education is paramount.

We frequently use #NeverForget to deepen our roots with the knowledge of painful history, as in the case of the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, and 9/11 and with good reason. We need to extend that same urgency of remembrance to the slave trade, the institution of slavery and the Jim Crow era. We must never forget. We must learn from our historical mistakes. These remembrances should be at the forefront of our collective consciousness as we seek to reconcile the sins of the past with the dreams of the future.

For the dreams of the future to reach actualization, we need to teach our children about the strength, the courage, and the struggle of the people that made up the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements. We have much to learn from their stories and their individual and collective examples.

  1. Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Slaves Took on the World by Kathy Lowinger
  2. Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson
  3. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
  4. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
  5. With the Might of Angels: The Diary of Dawnie Rae Johnson, Hadley, Virginia, 1954 by Andrea Davis Pinkney
  6. 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R Smith Jr
  7. Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
  8. Heart and Soul: The Story Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
  9. March: Book One, Two, and Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
  10. Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford

But there is much more to Black History Month. All too often we never get past the stories from slavery, the Jim Crow era, and the Civil Rights Movement. These understandably get the bulk of our historical attention, but it leaves us with an incomplete view. That complete view includes generations of seldom mentioned inventions, contributions, and discoveries made by African Americans. We must reclaim these histories and remember their names. Here is an excellent list to help us bring their names to the forefront of United States’ history.

We must never forget what was. We must reclaim what was left out. And we must remember that representation matters, not only historically, but also in our everyday life.

 

Books of the Week: 2nd Edition

Here’s the deal. My February so far has been absolute insanity, I’m talking about you-can’t-even-remember-your-name-at-the-end-of-the-day kind of insanity. But the last four days, oh my goodness, the last four days, I don’t even have words for the last four days. Except I do…

The Highlight Reel (which in many places will also be The Blooper Reel):

Thursday:

  • Husband turns 40! Yay, except he teaches (as a college professor) on and off from 9 am to 10 pm.
  • Walk a total of 4 miles back and forth to the girls’ school.
  • Out of boredom (HA!), decide to make chicken pot pie from scratch (the husband’s favorite and it is his birthday after all). Does not go as planned aesthetically, see patchwork, holey pie crust, but is done…2 hours early (oops!). Cold chicken pot pie is everyone’s favorite, right?!
  • Get all the kids in bed by myself at a responsible hour, only to realize not one of them finished their homework.
  • Tried to read books for future blog post…pretty sure I fell asleep at 8:30.

Friday:

  • Goal of the day: finally celebrate 40.
  • But first, get the girls to school.
  • Get ready to take a friend who is new to the country shopping for a Valentine’s Day present for her husband. This reminds me I still haven’t given her the Christmas present I got her (oops).
  • Get out Christmas present.
  • 15 minutes before leaving, the three-year-old decides to find something behind our university classroom sized white board only to realize he can’t hold it up so he moves (thankfully for him) and the full weight of the white board falls on my bare foot.
  • @*#%&!!!!!!
  • Quite sure my foot is broken, I still have to take my friend shopping, it means a great deal to her to do this. So try to get foot in shoe, @*#%&!!!!!! And we’re out the door.
  • Get lost going to a house I know how to get to.
  • Finally get to house and realize I forgot her gift…again.
  • It is now 10:30 am, I have to pick up 2 of my daughters for dentist appointments at 12:30 pm. No problem.
  • At 12:45 pm pick up daughters for dentist.
  • Appointments last 2 minutes.
  • Cruelly take the daughters back to school for a half an hour, because MY FOOT!
  • Call all doctors’ offices I can think of, no one has any available appointments.
  • Pick up girls from school and realize I have to wait for husband to get home before going to Urgent Care so he can drive me home if foot is broken.
  • Remember that goal of the day, this is decidedly NOT it.
  • All drive to Urgent Care 30 minutes away. Turns out that is only a Pediatric Urgent Care, who knew?!
  • Drive to second Urgent Care “just around the corner.”
  • Another 30 minutes later walk into a standing room only facility with an “oh I think it will only be an 1 1/2 to 2 hours” wait.
  • Nope. Broken foot or no, we can’t do this.
  • Husband puts kids to bed after eating sandwiches for dinner while a very gracious, kind friend comes over to check on my foot. Prognosis: get x-rays.

Saturday:

  • Goal of the day: get ready for the 3-years-old’s birthday party
  • Instead, pack up the car like we’re going on vacation and drive to best Urgent Care 45 minutes away.
  • Leave in time to get there right as it opens.
  • Get lost going to a place I know how to get to (again) and arrive 30 minutes after opening. 1 1/2 hour wait. Again.
  • Husband and kids go to Ikea around the corner. I try to not get influenza, strep, or any other contagion incubating in the Urgent Care.
  • 1 1/2 hours later to the dot x-rays show no break (phew)!
  • Drive 45 minutes home.
  • T-minus 4 hours until party time.
  • Cupcake making time, except no eggs or butter
  • 10 minutes after husband gets back from eggs and butter run, realize I never got gifts for the goody bags.
  • Husband comes back from shopping for goody bag items with all the other things I never realized we were missing (he’s fantastic like that).
  • Make cupcakes, dinner, assign children to cleaning and laminating game pieces for party games.
  • Keep waiting for Amazon delivery of stickers I am using in almost all the games only to check delivery date and realize it is NEXT Saturday they will arrive.
  • Despite it all, party is a success, deemed “perfect” by the almost 4-year-old.

Sunday:

  • Get home from church, after making my first public announcement (a nerve-filled event for this introvert) only to realize that there was a huge smear of white frosting all down the side of my butt. Yep, that happened, in real life.

Wow. That feels a lot better saying that all “out loud.”

What?! You’re just here for the books? Oh, right, books…

Books. It should be noted that none of the following have been read since Wednesday, but before that we were on it.

Younger Kids:

Older Kids:

Family Read Aloud:

Here’s to a more normal pace this week, less public humiliation, and always, good books.

Immigration: Fiction Books to Read

I realize there are precious few words left to say about immigration to the United States of America. Don’t worry, this is not a political treatise.

As is usually the case, I have found myself referring back to books that resonated with me on this issue. Over the last several years, many excellent books have been written featuring immigration as one of the main characters. These books serve to either give us solace in the realization that we are not alone in our experience or they give us access to a perspective we may not have considered, much less experienced. While I would not go as far as to say that you can “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” simply by reading a story, I will say that the understanding gained through seeing the world through another person’s story is invaluable.

These are stories of fiction, but that does not dampen their impact. May you enjoy them as much as I have.

Anatomy of a Reading Parent

This is a little drawing I like to call “Anatomy of a Reading Parent” (or the more aptly titled “Anatomy of a Parent Attempting to Read”). Before we get into the details, a few things to keep in mind. This is, in fact, an effort at an artistic representation of real-life. However, a few things have been lost in translation (entirely the fault of the “artist”). I do not have curly hair; it was just easier to draw. I do not know why the book ended up being so tiny…feel free to interpret this as evidence that my children are of much greater significance than my books. The eye-rolling, “grrrrr” face I exhibit is purely coincidental and not at all an external representation of my internal exhaustion. All other distortions are merely proof that I should stick to the written word.

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Anatomy of a Reading Parent:

  1. Eyes. Your eyes need not bother with looking at letters on a page and combining those letters into words. You have long since memorized every captivating word of this book. This memorization will prove essential by #4 when your well-trained eyes will be needed elsewhere.
  2. Six Senses. There is a little known phenomenon called “Six Sense Reading.” Six Sense Reading is experienced while reading to children whereupon said children feel the need to demonstrate, using your precious sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch, every moment they encounter in the book. Rest assured, your senses will be assaulted.
  3. Voice. Your voice is arguably the most vital part of the “reading parent.” Will you use inflection? If so, to what degree? Will you voice each character differently? Accents, anyone? At what speed will you read? The possibilities are limitless, but you will find your voice is not.
  4. The Provoker. This child will not rest until each and every person involved has been poked, prodded, and irritated. He or she will not limit their provocation to physical intervention, they will shake the chair, wave their hands in front of the page, and disrupt in any way their imagination leads. It leads far.
  5. The Word Tracker. Do not be fooled by this child’s youth. The fact that they may not be able to read is inconsequential. They know the order of every word on every page of every book you own. This child seems to listen, not for the sake of the story, but only to ensure the correct words are said in the correct order at all times. There will be no flubbing, editing, or skipping pages on their watch.
  6. Legs. Did you wonder why my legs did not continue all the way to the feet in the picture above? It is because they fell off at the knee due to lack of circulation. The constant pressure of any number of children on your lap while reading any number of books can cause you to lose all feeling in the legs. Be advised, standing up immediately after reading in this manner can be hazardous to your health.
  7. The Climber. Beware the climber. Havoc will be left in their wake. They will be on your lap, your shoulders, the other side of your lap, your head, your feet. You will lose hair, your glasses will break, and your arms will bruise. Good luck.
  8. The Book. It matters not the title of the book you so carefully chose. The book (and all books) will be universally known as, “Again.”
  9. The Sneak Peeker. The elusive sneak peeker will make every attempt to listen unseen. They think themselves too old for picture books and too cool for listening to you read. But the rustling pages draws them out. The moment you feel the need to look over your shoulder, you will know the sneak peeker has arrived.
  10. Sleep Reading. After hours of reading, your mind will begin to be lulled to sleep by cadence of your own remarkable reading voice. At this point, the reading parents’ mind does something truly amazing. It turns on auto-pilot allowing you to continue reading, albeit in mumbled fashion, while being asleep. Do not worry about your child’s ability to understand your garbled words. In the same way the mind is able to fill in missing letters while reading, a child’s mind is able to fill in the missing sounds while listening.

And so, it would seem that to have well worn pages we must also have well worn bodies.

Books of the Week

I have ended this week with an overwhelming sense that I am too old: too old for human interaction, too old for the world we live in, too old for the never-ending hype. At the ripe *old* age of 39, I find myself increasingly baffled by the goings on around me. Everyday closer to 40 is a step deeper into the embodiment of a curmudgeon. Cases in point:

Too old for human interaction:

While standing in a very long line at Disneyland, I was desperately (and unsuccessfully) trying to encourage the whining children towards patience and endurance. I explained that learning to wait in long lines was simply a part of being at Disneyland (a statement they did not take kindly to). An overly eager stranger then chimed in, “Welcome to the happiest place on earth.” I genuinely laughed, appreciating his humor. UNTIL he said, “Oh wait, we should say, ‘Long lines at Disney.’ hashtag happiestplaceonearth.” HOLD ON, WHAT?! This dude just used the word “hashtag” in a conversation. He changed a perfectly fine sentence into a tweet, out loud and on purpose. Ummm, no. I am way too old to have a conversation of this nature.

Too old for the world we live in:

The other day the teenage boys across the street were staring at their car in, what appeared to be, great distress. In a completely appropriate, unstalkery way, I watched to see what their frustration was about. The car had a flat tire. These two teenage boys stood there unable to figure out what to do next. They stared, they bent down, they tried to unscrew lug nuts with their hands, they stared, they looked under the car, they scratched their heads. They did all manner of irrelevant things. And I realized I live in a world where teenage boys have no idea how to change a flat tire. Ummm, no. I am way too old for this.

Too old for the never-ending hype:

One of my daughters went to the orthodontist this week to get braces. This is an extremely common place event for later elementary school age children living in the United States. And yet, it is necessary to “hype” even this. Now, before you think me cold-hearted, I do understand that the adults are trying to help the kids not feel so self conscious and embarrassed by the metal in their mouths. As a former braces wearer, I appreciate the gesture. However, when I see my daughter’s name on a huge sign that says, “You wear your new braces #likeaboss.” {groan} I begin to question where it has all gone wrong. Now we use “like a boss” to encourage our young children. I am way too old for this.

In the midst of all this absurdity, I have had some redeeming interactions…with books. This week, my children and I have come across a few “new to us” books that have been thoroughly enjoyable and genuinely interesting. I am never too old for this!

Picture Books of the Week:

1. The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers – Not unlike the night gardener himself, this book brings a little joy and beauty to a weary world. The illustrations are fantastic and the story is kind and hopeful.

2. Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson – When a group of 3 and 4 year old boys brought this book to me to read, I was skeptical. But from the first page to the last, they were hooked. They participated, enthralled by their magical abilities to create the next page.

3. Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian – This book follows the tale of a lonely and bored goldfish who finds himself increasingly accompanied and mediating dramas galore. It is a funny and very entertaining read.

4. Go, Little Green Truck! by Ron Schotter – Ever wondered what happens to the beloved farm vehicles once a new, bigger, stronger vehicle comes along? This is the charming tale of one such vehicle. Look out for the “easter egg” paying homage to one of childrens’ literature’s most beloved farm girls.

5. Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen – Thunder Rose is a super hero story for all little girls (and boys) to be inspired by. The amazing illustrations of Kadir Nelson bring this story to life remarkably.

Chapter Book of the Week:

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk – Wolf Hollow follows 12 year old Annabelle as she navigates farm and school life during wartime, being the victim of bullying, and seeing the best in a person written off by everyone else. It is beautifully written.

May your family find these as enjoyable as we did.