Books For Any Day, On A Rainy Day

One of the biggest goals I have as a parent is to show Jack and Carolyn how valuable reading is. It is no secret that I am a bookworm, and this summer I expect to read through a book about every other day. I want Jack and Carolyn to find the same magic in books that I have all my life, and so books are a huge part of our life and daily routine.

We usually read a few books throughout the morning, usually board books or simple picture books. Additionally, Jack has taken to sitting alone in his papasan chair in his room and reading for a period of time in the afternoon. We read a book or a few poems before naptime, and later in the afternoon sometimes Carolyn will want to flip through one while Jack plays cars, so we’ll do that. I keep a running stock of different books for them in the car, for longer trips to Princeton or New York. Finally, at night, we all sit together and read a book and five or six poems before they go to sleep.

Every time I take the kids to the library or story hours at local bookstores, I am astounded by the number of books on the shelves. We have a huge collection, and somehow my Amazon cart always contains at least five new books waiting to be ordered. The library has been a great resource for us, because it allows us to try different books without dropping cash on them right away. That way we can get only the books that we really treasure, and the rest can circle on and off the shelves of area libraries! I thought I’d give you guys an idea of what we’ve been reading lately, and which books we couldn’t go a day without. It seemed fitting, since today is so wet and gross that we’ve spent the morning inside reading a bunch of these:

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Trucks, trains, and boats: this is Jack’s section of the shelf. He’ll read any book about anything with wheels or an engine, so it’s not difficult to pick out books, but these are a few of his favorites. His Chuggington book has flaps that you can lift up, and that’s always fun for him- Maurya and Julius gave it to him, because they’re geniuses. This is a great one for long car rides. The Little Engine is an absolute classic, and the smaller copy is actually my brothers from their childhood! I’m not crazy about him having open access to that copy, since every once in a while he’s been known to rip pages. My friend Brittany got him the larger edition, which has the most beautiful illustrations. I just love it πŸ™‚

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Classics: the books I read as a child, that we return to again and again, that never get old. Eloise is a favorite of Carolyn’s, and I’ve been looking at Madeline books for her as well. Fox in Socks is my favorite to read, but Jack’s favorite is Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear. King and King is a wonderful story about a prince whose mother wants him to marry, but none of the princesses he meets seem to fit- until he meets….another prince! It’s so cute. Fun fact: Are You My Mother was my mother’s book when she was a little girl!

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Aw πŸ™‚

IMG_1997We also have a small stock of board books, mostly for Carolyn now, but Jack will flip through them from time to time. Urban Babies Wear Black and Foodie Babies Wear Bibs are two other favorites, but they’re out in the car. I’m really loving the “Little Miss” books- P & P and Jane Eyre! Too cute!

IMG_1990These are the universal favorites- the ones that, if every other book in the world disappeared, we’d survive on these few. They’re all popular with both of the kids and myself- I love, love, LOVE reading these books! Blowin’ in the Wind is an illustrated version of the Bob Dylan song. John Muth does the most incredible watercolor and ink illustrations, and we are obsessed, as you’ll soon see. A Book of Sleep is just a really solid pre-bed story that I enjoy about a little owl. Zen Ties and Zen Ghosts are both written and illustrated by Muth, and feature the use of Zen Buddhist philosophy, haiku, and a giant zen panda to convey meaningful lessons. One is a book that beautifully addresses bullying (and reverse bullying) through the use of color and numbers. I actually read it at Bucks last year for Reading, Writing Women because I thought it was such a treasure. Tales of Beedle the Bard are children’s stories from the Harry Potter books, and they’re all cute, but we really like the Tale of the Three Brothers. Finally, the two books that we couldn’t live without: Caroline Kennedy’s A Family of Poems and, our most recent addition, Poems to Learn by Heart. These are beautifully illustrated by Muth, and organized by Kennedy into overarching themes preceded by little introductions explaining her connection to the works. Her family had a deep appreciation for poetry, and in these volumes she shares some of her favorite works for children- most of them very famous and classic poems that I know and enjoy myself! It tickles me to know that Jack and Carolyn are growing up reading Frost and Dickinson.

As for me, I’m working my way through a knee-high stack of books that I’ve been meaning to read for some time. First things first, I am re-reading The Great Gatsby, in an effort to undo some of the movie’s garish imagery. After that, it’s on to East of Eden, The Bell Jar, and a collection of Flannery O’Connor short stories. I have also been really into Ben Yagoda and Steven Pinker, and will probably be tackling a few of their books toward the middle of the summer. I’ve been digging in to Nikky Finney’s works lately- she’s so dynamic, I can’t get enough. Elizabeth Raby is another favorite. Finally, I’m hoping to re-read both Moby Dick and Pride and Prejudice sometime in August, because it’s been a while.

I am being treated to a surprise visit by Patty this afternoon- hooray! We’re going to grab smoothies, for sure, and then probably heading up to Doylestown to check out a new Farmers Market, and then maybe some food with Maurya and Julius, or if it’s getting too late, back home for…more food. Right now, it’s nap time, which is Mom-code for a full sixty minutes of having full use of my hands! πŸ˜‰

Spring.

 

Let me first say that when I started this post I was writing from the inside of a fort that we constructed from miscellaneous blankets and sheets, and then stuffed with pillows and more blankets. The kids were napping on either side of me. We’ve been on a fort kick recently, usually in the morning, right after breakfast, and sometimes in the evenings before bed. It’s absolutely amazing.

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Of course, I wasn’t able to finish before they woke up, so I am writing the rest of this from the outdoor tables at the Yardley Starbucks.

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Not a bad alternative πŸ˜‰

There isn’t much to say in the way of new and exciting news, so I thought I’d share with you just a general overview of the types of activities we’ve been enjoying over the past week or so. A little of this…

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Helpers! I fins that I care very little about how much laundry actually gets folded, and mostly I just enjoy watching them feel good about “helping” me. It’s magic.

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Possibly the greatest food ever created.

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We made train-shaped sugar cookie sandwiches with vegan oreo creme filling. Jack just about lost his mind.

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Green smoothie, green tea….green life?

…and a little of that…

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This is one of my favorite onesies- Beatrix Potter for GAP πŸ™‚

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random lunch: hemp bagels with hummus, power greens, and Field Roast vegan sausage with snap peas!

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I ordered a few choice items for the kids for their spring wardrobe, and these sweatpants have been a favorite. They are so, so soft, and have buttons and flaps so you can roll them up or down. I have thought about getting him a second pair on a number of occasions, because they are so cozy and versatile.

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Favorite hemp bagels! We actually made a Wegman’s detour on our way home from TJ’s JUST to buy these, because they are amazing.

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Carolyn got fancy sandals from Old Navy- mostly because they were on sale at a great price. They are totally not sturdy enough for the playground or general everyday wear, but I thought it would be nice for her to have a cute pair of sandals for special days πŸ™‚

 

 

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TOMS and a pink Lulu devotion tee. This is probably my fanciest outfit as of late. Don’t judge.

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Our favorite TJ’s licorice. Ally introduced me to it- delicious, naturally flavored, and vegan. Also, 99 cents. Unbeatable.

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Jack is becoming an incredibly kind and patient brother, even when Carolyn’s strong will gets the best of her πŸ™‚ Also, JACK’S SWEATER! Another great find on the GAP clearance rack ($9, I think?)!

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GAH, groceries, the true story of my life. This is about ten days’ worth of nosh O.o

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BOO! Those wooden stacking/nesting blocks were an Easter gift to Carolyn. They’re very popular.

 

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Hist Whist!

We made a rockin’ three “cheese” vegan pizza one night, which was a hit:

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Homemade sauce and roasted veggies!

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Tofu ricotta, Daiya cheddar shreds, and sesame parmesan over six-herb dough, homemade basil sauce, spinach, and roasted peppers, onion, and broccoli.

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Obviously, there were no leftovers.

We madeΒ  trip into New York, and the kids got to see Eli and Abi while I met Patty. It was pretty incredible, because I was having a really challenging day, but somehow seeing Patty melted everything away and left me feeling refreshed and centered. We had a wonderful time, doing what we usually do (eating), and just being together. We got dinner at Thai Market (spring rolls, fried tofu, and pad thai), tea and macaroons at Peace Food Cafe, and then cupcakes and brownies at Babycakes. We watched the sunset from the Lower East Side, and then took the long way uptown, driving up Park Ave. through Grand Central. It was incredible, and I left feeling quite the opposite of when I had arrived.Β  That is the true power of a great friendship.

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Back at home, the weather has been so lovely, so the kids and I have been spending a lot of time outside.

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I can’t even. JOY of joys πŸ™‚

The turtle sandbox has been the highlight of their day so far.

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We’ve also been hitting up the playground almost daily, making new friends (both kids AND Mommy!)

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This is the first time that Carolyn has been able to fully enjoy the playground. She learned to walk over the winter, and it was just too cold to have them outside for extended periods of time. She is loving it, and to be honest, it’s really nice to be able to put her down and let her run around. It gives my arms a much-needed break, and she gets to explore the world! The playground we usually go to is fenced in and geared especially for toddlers, so it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever for all of us.

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Carolyn has discovered the slide. New favorite thing!

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Her flowery bubble onesie was part of their spring order. It’s really soft, and it’ll keep her cool during the later summer months, but it’s totally layer-able and comfy, so it works for spring weather too.

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Baby’s first Keens! Jack got his first pair last year, but he’s outgrown them so we’re scoping out a pair for him this week. They will probably each get a pair every spring- they’re so versatile, and great for play.

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These green shorts were another great find from the GAP. They’re really well-structured and the material is very sturdy, plus the color is so fun πŸ™‚

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Jack is officially one of the big kids, now- he climbs the slides. It is an ongoing battle, though I know at some point the matter will be out of my hands and I’ll have to surrender to his boyish impulses. I’m not quite there yet.

Speaking of big kid activities…..

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There was a carnival at one of the local farms, and my Mum and I decided it would be a good idea to take the kids. It was a blast, Jack was ALL ABOUT IT, but in excess- he just wanted to go on ride after ride, and this monster obstacle course was the clear favorite. My legs were FEELING IT by the time we left, and so was my heart, because I swear I almost went into cardiac arrest going over the swinging bridges at the top. Jack, of course, was absolutely fearless and loved every minute of it.

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This is my new favorite shirt for Jack- chambray from GAP, it has convertible sleeves that roll up and down and button while rolled up, perfect for a busy toddler!

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Carolyn’s safari shorts, another great find at Old Navy- super durable, comfy, and cute!

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It was some of the most fun I’ve had with them, and I am really looking forward to the Grange Fair this year. I can’t even imagine what Carolyn is going to think about all of the animals- she’s a big animal lover, and I think the cows are going to blow her away.

That about sums it up on the kids’ end- food, laundry, fun. What more could you want? We’re all approaching this summer with a new attitude. This fall marks some big changes for us. I’ll be commuting into Philly for school, and the kids will both be starting day programs at Rainbow Academy (Jack for PRE-SCHOOL, WHAT IS HAPPENING?!). I know that we’ll embrace these new changes as we do everything else- with a sense of adventure and excitement. But I’m also making sure that we pump this summer full of fun activities and lots of quality time together. I’m doing a bit of volunteering, and taking a solo trip out to L.A., but other than that I plan on spending the next three months soaking Jack and Carolyn up and having extraordinary adventures together.

This summer is special because I have a huge break from school. I plan on using the time to write and spend plenty of quality time with the people that matter most to me, but also to focus on myself a bit more. I really enjoy getting up before the kids in the morning and going for a run, or hitting the yoga studio at night after they’re in bed. I haven’t been as diligent about those thingsΒ  because with homework keeping me up until midnight or later, it’s hard to find the time/energy.

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I am especially looking forward to getting back into a regular running routine. I’ve been running, but only a few miles because I just don’t have time. This summer is going to be all about the long weekend runs and bike rides!

Finally, a bit of news before I sign off. This semester I was the recipient of two awards for literature at my school!

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I gave one reading two Wednesdays ago, to a room of 50 or so people. It was horrifying, very scary, and I thought I was going to collapse- but I had an incredible group of people there to support me. I am very, very fortunate, and I feel that more with each passing day.

It all feels very surreal, like it’s some kind of mistake or joke. I’m trying to let it just be validating, like what I’m doing is right, and I have enough of whatever it takes to be my version of successful in this wild and crazy world. I feel hopeful- these past two years have been a huge growing experience, and I suddenly feel as if I have potential. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before- my future always seemed this distant, foggy thing that was just floating out there somewhere. Now, it feels like I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I am meant to do. I feel like a real person, a happy person.

I’ll leave you with one final thought- and it may be the most important one of all:

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…fiddleheads. Life is so good.