Tag Archives: reading

Readers are leaders

As one of those grown up kids who stayed up late to read with a flashlight, I consider this a magical moment of motherhood*: My little boy, zipped up in his outer space pajamas, cozy in a robe and slippers, hair still wet, sticking up and smelling fresh from his bath, snuggled next to me in the dim light of a late October night. We’re sitting on cushions, sipping hot chocolate and reading from the Curious George treasury together — three stories — before he’s off to bed.

He finishes my sentences more than I can believe, with a brain that soaks up words. The kid begs to watch his favorite television shows, but he’s also interested in bringing books in the car and wants to “read” to us from his favorites, which makes this bookworm mama melt.

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My sister-in-law threw me a book-themed baby shower before he was born, and we’ve continued to expand our collection thanks to lots of really great gifts. I thought I’d share a few new favorites in case you’re book-shopping for a toddler this season.

roadworksRoadworks by Sally Sutton 
Singsongy rhymes and fun-to-say noises + all of a toddler’s favorite road machines.

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Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin
I have long been a fan of her illustrations  and this is a whimsical bedtime book parents will treasure.

Snoozefest

Snoozefest by Samantha Berger
Starring a sloth named Snuggleford Cuddlebun who goes to a music fest, so need I say more?

51W+-TrvlbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Eileen got this from her aunt and imaginative cousins as a welcome-to-the-world present, but Emmett’s been helping her break it in.

dragons-love-tacos-book-coverDragons Love Tacos by by Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri
One of the first things Emmett memorized/thought was hilarious was the part in this book where dragons breathe FIRE (because of spicy salsa, of course).

What are your fresh favorites for the kids?  As for my bookshelf, I just started Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” as our next book club pick. I downloaded it to my phone because reading-while-nursing is the only way it’s going to happen!

*Lest things sound too idyllic at our house, I will ‘keep it real’ and let you know that between the hours of 12-4 a.m., I was bouncing back and forth between two children and thus needed three cups of coffee to simply function. 

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R&R

Oh, what a glorious weekend with absolutely no commitments on the calendar. Last week was full of work events (DMU Day at the Fair, DMU United Way Campaign) that I’d been staring down for months – the turning point between me being a perky pregnant lady and one who just wants to put up her feet.

Come Friday afternoon, I was free to do just that, and kicked off a lazy weekend with a pedicure at East Village Spa, which I enjoyed with my nose in a novel.
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(Kate Atkinson’s A God in Ruins is a kind of companion to Life After Life, which was fabulous. So far it’s good, but not as heart-squeezingly so as Life after Life, which I highly recommend.)

Then Emmett and I begged Joe out of work a little early for a run through the Cowles Commons fountain — something I’d hoped to do as an after-daycare adventure all summer long.

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Aside from some weeding so our house doesn’t look like an extra in Grey Gardens (I’ve been terribly neglectful of the yard all summer!), a few loads of laundry and finally snuggling in as a family to watch CBS Sunday morning and indulge in a second cup of coffee, very little has been accomplished around here and I’m absolutely fine with that.

Next weekend, I’ll be more in the mood to join in the neighborhood fun: Saturday morning (Aug. 29) is the CYC Sidewalk Chalk Flood down in Western Gateway Park (a fun time for families!) and then Ingersoll Live is happening that evening, with a mega block party vibe. I’m hoping I’ll be able to bike to at least one of the events with my big ole belly!

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What I’m into

We have zilch on the agenda for Memorial Day weekend, which is quite amazing, because we definitely need a long weekend to recover from all of the fun we’ve been having before graduation party and family reunion weekends have us traveling again.

Here are a few things I’ve been enjoying lately:

Family date night to Pedal Art at the DMSC. Joe scored tickets to the early evening poster show preview party, so we were able to attend the bike month event as a family and snag a great print before the crowds arrived. It’s so rare that the timing for those events works out for us, so I was in heaven with my 20 oz. chai latte pregnant lady splurge.

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Yummy Toddler Food. My friend Amy (who is admittedly somewhat neurotic about making sure her kiddo gets wholesome food) started Yummy Toddler Food and although many of the meals don’t quite work with Emmett’s allergies, the variety of recipes is great inspiration! Follow Amy on Instagram, too.

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Did you know you could DIY fruit snacks with a healthy supplement boost? (I also love her list of mealtime gear, which is would make practical baby shower/toddler birthday gifts. Emmett loves meal prep.)

Brunch in CB. We finally went to Dixie Quicks in downtown Council Bluffs when we were in the Omaha area for a wedding last weekend and it was a delightful and delicious spot right downtown. Any place that has gourmet chilaquiles and gives toddlers dinosaur figurines to play with is great, but this also has a little attached art gallery. If you find yourself in the area, check it out!

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Image source + more pics 

A fantastic bedside book. I finished “All the Light We Cannot See,” our next book club choice, ahead of schedule because I hated to put it down! The prose was lyrical, the chapters short but the novel thick, and it was set in WWII France, so pretty much my ideal combo. Definitely recommend.

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A mid-week visit from a long-lost friend. Alex, my freshman year college roommate, lives in Wyoming and Alaska and the last chance I got to see her was in the Dominican Republic at a wedding in 2012! It was so special to share Des Moines with her, especially a bike ride around Cumming Tap, a visit to the Jasper Winery Concert Series, and an afternoon outing to the Des Moines Art Center restaurant (nom!!!) for girl talk and Fiber: Sculpture 1960-present exhibition. It’s amazing! Go!

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Visitors are encouraged to walk through this piece and ring the bells and shells. It’s a dream. Also, there is a giant woven vagina. So.

We also visited Beaverdale Books and Backcountry Outfitters, where I bought what look like ballerina sandals for an 80-year old, but feel like the ultimate footwear for a lady who is going to be pregnant through the heat of summer. (Apparently they are “yoga lifestyle” shoes, but let’s be real – they are going to be utilized while eating fried things on a stick at the State Fair, walking the dog and at work.)

Off to soak up more long weekend. Code for: Take more naps!

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Reading lately

I’m finally, FINALLY starting to feel less like a zombie and staying up later, so I’ve been getting more reading done.

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Our latest book club selection, The Paying Guests was a pretty steamy read, set in 1922 London, and rather suspenseful. I stayed up until MIDNIGHT (on a Saturday night in my pajamas) to finish it.

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I just read probably the best answer ever to the age old “Should I Have a Baby or Establish My Career First?” dilemma. Way to go Heather Havrilesky, Ask Polly columnist for The Cut.

Choice quotes:

Because having it all, by its very nature, implies that you have a lot more than you can handle. Who can handle “it all,” anyway? “ALL” IS A WHOLE FUCKING HELL OF A LOT.

Choose both. Choose the career AND choose the baby. Don’t put off one for the other. Choose both now and later and accept that you’ll be juggling for years no matter what you do. Even if you never have a career, you’re going to feel like you’re juggling. Parents juggle. Why not juggle things you love? Sure, you’ll have to work hard and make some sacrifices. Accept it and move forward.

One other thing: Being pregnant makes you irritable and ambitious at the same time. Use that energy to fuel your new business. Once you stop feeling hung-over around the clock, you’re going to want to conquer new terrain and strangle anyone who tells you to “relax” with your bare hands.

That last part, so true. I’m finally coming out of hibernation mode and I’ve put my Let’s Get Shit Done maternity pants on. Bring it.

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Oh, and the book that kept me up and turning pages last night (in a totally different way than The Paying Guests), a geek-out over “Diving Deep in Community Engagement: A Model for Professional Development,” edited by the fierce ladies Mandi McReynolds and Emily Shields, two women who I feel very fortunate to have gotten to know over the past few years.

When I interviewed for my job in Community Relations at DMU, I know I wanted to move my career in this direction, and opening the book was like lighting a torch inside of a cave. I’m just wrapping up my first year in this position and opening Diving Deep was like seeing the way forward illuminated. It feels wonderful to have such intelligent, supportive professionals down the street (and in my Facebook friend feed so I can send them fangirl messages late into the evening, of course) as I move into year two.

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Christmas memories

I hope you had a lovely holiday season! We were lucky enough to spend this Christmas break making memories with both Joe’s family in Council Bluffs and my family outside Chicago. I love days when you can stay in your pajamas as late as you like. (Because sleeping in isn’t really an option these days, with a toddler who wakes up before dawn.)

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Here are a few favorites from 2015: 

Seeing the stocking I finally sewed for Emmett hanging from the fireplace. I bought the Christmas fabric forever ago (October 2011?) at a shop in Dubuque but didn’t have my DIY act together together in time for his first Christmas. I pieced and quilted it over Thanksgiving with my mom, and used this free pattern and tutorial to base the shape.

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Cooking a Polish family favorite with my father-in-law. Joe’s family feasts typically feature golumpki, a dish of ground beef and pork and onions and rice rolled in a steamed cabbage leaf. This year, Joe’s mom had to work and Joe was hung over resting all morning, so it was up to me and Stevo to fire up the stove. I really enjoyed making these! I didn’t take photos because, well, my hands were covered in raw meat, but you can watch Martha Stewart make them with her mom in this video.

Playing  Suspend at both family parties. My niece Mia got Suspend for Christmas and brought it over in the morning. Such a fun multi-generational family game! You have to figure out how to hang and dangle the metal pieces without them falling. Kind of like Jenga.
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Reading for pleasure. There are few things more relaxing for me than getting lost in a good book. I downloaded Station Eleven, my next book club book on the Kindle app this time, so I could read in the car during the nighttime drives. The interwoven story lines are gripping.
Handmaking gifts is always a favorite, although unfortunately I didn’t do very much this year. (I did sew new pillowcases for my mom using the APQ sewathon roll-up pattern.) Emmett got lucky in this department, though. My brother made him the IKEA-hack learning tower so he can be a kitchen helper. And my mom and aunt made a way-awesome “quiet book” together! I can appreciate the hours and hours they spent on it:

I have a few days off and a to-do list a mile long, so blogging is the perfect procrastination. I’m hoping to put down words about motherhood at 18 months, because everything feels different as we’ve hit new developmental milestones.

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Liking lately

I’m in denial about this whole summer-being-over thing, although once I unpack my sweaters, I’m sure I’ll change my tune.

Here are a few things I’ve been into:

To eat: A few friends hosted “Meatfest” last weekend, a backyard barbecue with insanely good smoked meats and a smorgasbord of sides. Great weather, better people. I asked Joe to make this roasted potato salad with shaved fennel and salsa verde, a killer potluck-pleasing dish he’s mastered. It’s for real.

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To read: I felt compelled to go to the library the other night, and made it to the Forest Avenue branch just before it closed for the evening. I’d never been there before, and the selection isn’t huge (they seem to cater to the ESL population that lives in the area), but this Sticks banner between two big tree sculptures made me smile.

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I picked up “The String Diaries” and raced through it this week. I can’t rave about the prose itself, but it’s a fast-paced thriller that reminded me of Gone Girl in ways. It has elements of the magical, but it uses one of my favorite techniques of bouncing around time periods and intertwining plots.

To make: Truth – I basically showed Joe this project and he made it for me. I have a huge empty wall in my office that’s been aching for artwork these past six months, and when I saw this, I felt like it would be a cool installation piece. Just a big frame, chicken wire, staples, spray paint, spacers and paper strips.

{photo via Sugar & Cloth}

{photo via Sugar & Cloth}

The project is by Sugar & Cloth, but I first saw it linked from Going Home to Roost. I have yet to get the paper and cut strips for it, but I might treat it like a gratitude journal, curling up messages of thanks as a daily meditation. I’ll probably post something to Instagram once it’s up in my office.

 To conquer: Emmett and I ran out first 5K together last week. DMU did a Friday evening run from campus, down around the sculpture park and back. We definitely didn’t PR or anything, but it was my goal to at least jog the whole thing, and I followed through. The kid didn’t even break a sweat.

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Nicole and Everett also ran, and Mollie and her daughter, Kaydin. I’m really starting to feel like part of the DMU community. It’s crazy to believe next week marks six months in my role there.

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Stop scrolling

When I’m tired, it’s really easy for me to kill 45 minutes curled up on the couch, tapping away at my phone, re-checking Instagram or Facebook. I wish I had more time to read, or work on projects, and then I realize I do – I just threw away an hour mindlessly scrolling away. I think I’m going to just shut my phone down after 7 or so a couple nights a week to just completely eliminate the itch.

I’m almost finished with “The Most of Nora Ephron,” a collection of news stories, essays, a  novel, a play, screenplay and magazine pieces by the late writer.

The Most Of Nora Ephron

I appreciate her personal, chatty style, and have found it interesting to see how her life experiences recycle throughout her work. Certain themes – food, marriage, divorce, infidelity, Jewishness, etc. run throughout all of the pieces, and certain anecdotes show up multiple times in some form or other.

It’s a brick, but a quick read. It was a good book to bring on our road trip to Saint Louis – short chapters or at least easy spots to leave off and pick up. I’m sad I missed my book club’s discussion, though!

Last night I actually used the sewing machine that I had sitting in a corner of the dining room. It felt good to sew and accomplish something tactile after spending hours at the computer. I mean, these sweet fabrics are hard to resist.

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What are your weekend plans? Joe got an invite to a Winefest event where he might meet Lynne Rossetto Kasper! Otherwise, we don’t have much on the docket aside from babysitting and maybe swinging by CelebrAsian.

 

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I’m a scaredy cat

I’m a pretty big scaredy cat when it comes to creepy, haunted things. (Or, let’s be honest, certain films for children. It took me until I was 28 to get through E.T. without hiding under the covers.) A few years ago after watching Amityville Horror (the newer version that features lots of Ryan Reynolds being sexy) with friends, I made Joe come outside and walk me from our car to the apartment, 10 yards away. I blame it on my overactive imagination.

So I probably shouldn’t have gotten hooked on True Detective, the HBO show everyone’s been raving about. It centers around some occult murders, which felt just real enough to completely terrify me. We’d finish an episode before bed and I’d be checking behind my back whenever I’d take Wilbur out on his nighttime walk.

I mentioned this to my cousin, who is also a fan of the show, and he said the trick is to have a “palate cleanser” show or piece of entertainment to put a buffer between the scary thing and sleep. My palate cleanser has been a fun book Andrea loaned me: Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

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It has been on my list for ages, and is a quick, funny read. The title character is a (fictional) cult figure in architecture and her husband is a genius at Microsoft who has the fourth most watched TED talk. Lots of the humor pokes fun at the nerdy stuff I geek out about, so I’ve really enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a beach read, it’s in paperback!

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To-read

The other day I had a note from a friend who finally read a book I’d recommended something like nine years ago. It’s funny how books can sit on a shelf and find us at the right time, isn’t it?

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Book Journal image via Julianna Swaney

A few books I have on my to-read list:

A White Wind Blew. Picked this up from Beaverdale Books the other day at the suggestion of a friend. Maybe I’ll nominate it to my book club next week. I have a feeling my dear friend Sophia, a classical pianist, could get behind it.

Dr. Wolfgang Pike would love nothing more than to finish the requiem he’s composing for his late wife, but the ending seems as hopeless as the patients dying a hundred yards away at the Waverly Hills tuberculosis sanatorium. If he can’t ease his own pain with music, Wolfgang tries to ease theirs—the harmonica soothes and the violin relaxes. But his boss thinks music is a waste, and in 1920s Louisville, the specter of racial tension looms over everything.

When a former concert pianist checks in, Wolfgang begins to believe that music can change the fortunes of those on the hill. Soon Wolfgang finds himself in the center of an orchestra that won’t give up, forced to make a choice that will alter his life forever.

Set against a fascinatingly real historical backdrop, A White Wind Blew raises compelling questions about faith and confession, music and medicine, and the resilience of love.

Someone Could Get Hurt. My cousin loaned us his copy, which is awesome because I’m always linking to Dadspin articles.

No one writes about family quite like Drew Magary. The GQ correspondent and Deadspin columnist’s stories about trying to raise a family have attracted millions of readers online. And now he’s finally bringing that unique voice to a memoir. In Someone Could Get Hurt, he reflects on his own parenting experiences to explore the anxiety, rationalizations, compromises, and overpowering love that come with raising children in contemporary America.

In brutally honest and funny stories, Magary reveals how American mothers and fathers cope with being in over their heads (getting drunk while trick-or-treating, watching helplessly as a child defiantly pees in a hotel pool, engaging in role-play with a princess-crazed daughter), and how stepping back can sometimes make all the difference (talking a toddler down from the third story of a netted-in playhouse, allowing children to make little mistakes in the kitchen to keep them from making the bigger ones in life). It’s a celebration of all the surprises—joyful and otherwise—that come with being part of a real family.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I always want to read the books elephantine recommends. Although am I the only person who has no interest in The Goldfinch? I LOATHED The Secret History.

Two doctors risk everything to save the life of a hunted child in this majestic debut about love, loss, and the unexpected ties that bind us together. “On the morning after the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Havaa woke from dreams of sea anemones.” Havaa, eight years old, hides in the woods and watches the blaze until her neighbor, Akhmed, discovers her sitting in the snow. Akhmed knows getting involved means risking his life, and there is no safe place to hide a child in a village where informers will do anything for a loaf of bread, but for reasons of his own, he sneaks her through the forest to the one place he thinks she might be safe: an abandoned hospital where the sole remaining doctor, Sonja Rabina, treats the wounded. Though Sonja protests that her hospital is not an orphanage, Akhmed convinces her to keep Havaa for a trial, and over the course of five extraordinary days, Sonja’s world will shift on its axis and reveal the intricate pattern of connections that weaves together the pasts of these three unlikely companions and unexpectedly decides their fate.

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Reading right now

What’s on your 2014 reading list? I’m currently laughing out loud at Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman. One of the front blurbs calls it “The British version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants,” which I can kind of see because it would probably sell a lot more copies than “sidesplitting feminist manifesto.” The book is also incredibly smart, I think, in its treatment of sexism and body image, etc.

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It’s full of British cultural references and foul language, and I keep chuckling to myself as I read it, which is making it an annoying bedtime book for Joe. He is wading through Herman Wouk’s War & Remembrance which I bought for him at a garage sale because we both loved The Caine Mutiny. His book is like a bazillion pages and not hilarious. Sorry, love.

After this, I should really get started on Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which is my lady book club next pick.

Shorter interesting things:

There’s the New Yorker  profile of Pope Francis, which is currently available in full online. The profile paints Pope Francis as someone who’s evolved over time. I went to Catholic school for 13 years (which I like to joke is the right amount of time to cure someone of Catholicism), and there are a lot of redeeming qualities about Francis’ message and attitudes toward the papacy. Plus, the cover image made me smile in a major way when I pulled it out of the mailbox:

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I read this NPR story about a movement to build subdivisions around farms instead of golf courses. In love with this!

Did you know there’s a posthumous Maurice Sendak book?

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