Hare Today

rabbitLast spring I moved to a neighborhood where people do more than pay lip service to the idea of community.
People here make a point of getting to know each other. They do things like welcome new arrivals by leaving an eggplant on their doorstep. (Some of my readers viewed that as the act of a produce terrorist, but I thought it was nice.) We have a robust civic association that puts on well-attended, family-friendly community events like a Fourth of July parade, a Halloween parade and an Easter Egg Hunt.
My next-door neighbors, Toni and Scott, are among the people who play the most active roles in making these events happen. They contribute countless hours of their time to help plan and organize.

As an engaged citizen, I contribute juice boxes, which everyone knows are the cornerstone of any close-knit community.

The annual Easter Egg Hunt was scheduled to take place today, so I stopped by my neighbors’ house last night with my contribution.

To my standard fruit juice offering I had added a bottle of fermented grape juice, which Toni and I proceeded to share. I hadn’t seen her in a while so we had some catching up to do.
About two thirds of the way through the bottle, the topic of our conversation shifted to the egg hunt.
“So do you guys have everything you need?” I asked.
“I think we’re all set. We spent two hours stuffing plastic eggs on Monday, so we have enough of those, we have snacks, and we’ve got juice.”
“Sounds like you thought of everything.” Knowing Toni, she had.
“Well, except for one thing,” she said, taking an ominous pause and a large gulp of wine. “We don’t have an Easter Bunny.”
The rabbit makes an appearance at the hunt every year. The neighborhood teenager who usually dons the suit was out of town this year, leaving a vacancy at a key position in the lineup.
Toni said, “We were hoping maybe a kid who needed some community service hours would do it.”
Any job that’s described in terms a parole officer would use is bound to be a plum assignment. My wine certainly felt that way, because it took over the talking and said, “I’ll do it.”
“Really?” Toni said. “You don’t have to, you know.”
This did not deter the wine, which kept on talking and said, “Oh, I’ve done time in an animal suit before, so it’s really no big deal.” And then it got to bragging about my stints several years ago as a mascot in a major college football bowl game. “I’ve conducted marching bands on national television and done a few commercials,” it said.
My spoken resume impressed Toni to the point where she didn’t feel the need to call my references. I was hired.
The hunt was due to start at 10 the day before Easter at a park a couple of blocks from my house. I showed up at 9:45. Toni passed the suit to me on the sly and I slipped into one of the houses adjacent to the park for my costume change.
I was pleased to discover that the rabbit outfit weighed a lot less than the cow suit I’d worn before; however, this suit featured the same vision impairment, oxygen deprivation and unlimited heat that came standard in the other suit. Since I could only see my feet, I knew I needed a handler.
On getting the head further situated, I also realized that one of the eyes had popped out. Unless the neighborhood was prepared to foot dozens of bills for toddler therapy, the suit needed some surgery. The neighbor whose house I was using as a dressing room lent a glue stick to the cause. With my eyeball re-adhered, off I went, amid much fanfare.

Or so I’m told.
Few things polarize the kid world like life-sized holiday characters. Kids either love ‘em or hate ‘em. The sight of the Easter Bunny caused more than a few kids to burst into tears, judging by the sound of things. Other kids adored me, which I figured out mainly by tripping over them. It warmed my heart to have a fan club.
And, as all self-respecting public figures do, I also had a stalker.
One little girl grabbed my paw and started dragging me around the park. When my handler intervened and redirected me, the toddler clung to my leg like a barnacle to a boat. Meanwhile, my bum eye had come loose and was flapping in the breeze.
This increased the flow of oxygen slightly and the risk of inflicting psychiatric trauma on the kids exponentially. Even with this expanded opening, breathing was still a bit of a struggle so I spent much of my time tugging on the bunny head to try to align the hole at its mouth with my mouth.
After about half an hour, my tour of duty ended. No doubt the civic association was deeply grateful for my services. After all, it’s not every day that the neighborhood kids get to see a one-eyed, nose-picking Easter Bunny.
But I won’t be surprised if they ask me to stick with the juice boxes next year.

Bio: I turned 40 in June of 2011. Shortly thereafter I realized I needed to end my 10-month marriage. Making this decision was difficult –you don’t exactly brag about being married a Kardashian length of time– but the mechanics of executing this huge fresh start, and a whole series of related smaller ones, proved even more daunting.  I always bounce back from adversity, but not always with the gusto I have in mind at the time.  Sometimes, instead of ricocheting off the wall, I hit it with a resounding“splat” and slide down it before landing in a heap on the dirt.  This blog chronicles adventures in splats with the hope that the posts will evoke laughter, provoke the occasional thought, and prove that even the messiest ones usually work out just fine. Eventually. Find me blogging at Splatospheric.

Judgey Judgerson

I was recently reminded that I should ease off on making judgements, because I was, for a moment, THAT mom.

My back story is that I am pretty type A. I never miss appointments, am always 5 minutes early for things, I finish Christmas shopping in November and packing for any trip, no matter how short, is a 3 day event for me. I am always prepared for everything I do including possible contingencies. Unprepared people annoy me and while I avoid confrontation and would never say anything to a scatterbrain, inside I am thinking all sorts of snotty superior things and wondering what they use for a planner. Until LAST FRIDAY.

Friday I had a lot on my plate, but I was prepared. I was going to wake up at 5am and take the Boy with me to Northern Virginia while my daughter stayed at home with my mother. In Northern VA, I was going to arrive at my old townhouse by 8am to let the termite inspector since the house is under contract and required a second inspection. I was prepared with toys, snacks and a change of clothes for the Boy (I let him ride up in his fleece pjs since it was so early). The inspector had a 2 hour window to arrive and then I would head back toward home with the Boy, stopping in the town we are in the process of moving to for him to get a vaccine with his new doctor. I noticed that I had not written the vaccine time down on my to do list for Friday, but no problem, I remembered that I scheduled it for 11am. From there, I would be back home in Charlottesville by 1pm or so to collect my grocery pick up at Harris Teeter and back home in time for naps. No problem! I made a list the night before with everything I needed and packed accordingly…diapers, wipes, clothes for the Boy, books, toys, snacks, original termite report, drink etc.

I got to the townhouse just in time, ran the boy in snuggled close to me in his fleece pjs and waited almost the full 2 hour window for the inspector. During this time, Boy went through 3 diapers and I changed him from his fleece pjs into his clothes for the day. It was them that I realized that I had not packed shoes for him. Or a coat. And it was 7 degrees outside.

At this point I started to formulate a plan for how I was going to get him into the doctors office for his vaccine without them sending CPS after me for exposing him to the elements. I had already changed the appointment 3 times and needed to keep it. I decided I would wrap my own coat around him and go in coatless myself and hope no one noticed the bare-footedness. I’d make up a toddler bunion story if I had to.

After the all-clear from termite man, I raced back to the doctor’s office arriving 5 minutes late and about 20 minutes into the low gas indicator light. The receptionist looked at me funny, then back at the computer, and back at me. ’His appointment is for Monday’ she said with that tone and look I have given to other people so often (a little annoyed, a little pitty-ing). No wonder his appointment had not been on my to do list for Friday. I remembered all the disorganized people I had ever encountered and made some rambling excuse about how things were crazy and could they please fit me in. I was mortified but wasn’t too hard on myself. I had a lot going on after all.

I realized that we all have craziness that causes things to go haywire now and then — more now than then for some people, but it happens to all of us. Even me. I vowed to stop being such a Judgy Judgerson from then on.

I have been at Panera this afternoon having some much needed mommy time and before I took out my laptop to start a new post, this Judgina McJudgerelli walked past me with a major snoot face and was frantically looking for a booth. There were lots of tables but no booths. She snort snooted back to her friend and said LOUDLY glancing at me and standing about 2 feet away “Let’s just LEAVE! This is ridiculous! This place is just FILLED with STUDENT! They are not even eating a LUNCH! They are all just on their COMPUTERS taking up SEATS! There is not ONE booth AVAILABLE [long glare at me]“. I gave a glare, sigh and head shake in her direction but I avoided direct confrontation because I am a scaredy ‘fraidy cat. She stomped out commenting and complaining the entire way.

Not only HAD I eaten lunch but had a cookie too and am pretty sure that Panera was built on the fact that people come and park their butts here and work and graze all day. I was also in a single chair (not a booth or table). Why else are there free wi-fi and outlets lining the walls if not to attract us device-using booth hogs? What did I learn here:

1.) Don’t judge unless you have the full story. There is more to every situation than what you can see, even if the situation is a sock-footed 2 year old baby at the dr.’s office with no coat or a computer clad mommy with only a water bottle visible and a big footprint at Panera. Being a Judgepants McFudgepants is not cute.

2.) I am 38, graying with crows feet, but I look like a student to a snooty old bitch :o)

Bio: Susan Maccarelli is a temporarily-retired sales and account management professional who has been a stay at home mom since 2010. As mom to 2 toddlers, wife to a work-from-home husband and executive director of the Maccarelli family meals, activities, cleaning, laundry, shopping, real estate endeavors, travel and general errands, she derives constant inspiration for her blog, Pecked To Death By Chickens, from the little annoyances that pop up daily as she tries to keep an eye on all the moving parts.  Susan enjoys travel, reading, cooking and talking about herself in the third person.  In fact, Susan is writing this bio about herself right now.  Find her on Facebook and Twitter

Lessons in Adulthood: Restlessness and Raisin Bran

By Jamie Berube

At 2 a.m. this morning I poured myself a bowl of Raisin Bran and sat down at the dining room table and took a bite. Between each cold spoonful I alternated between staring at the ceiling fan above spinning a soft purr in the dead-ness of the early-morning hour, and gazing out into the chilly black night from behind the glass of our sliding back door. The sound of my munching on mouthfuls of bran flakes and chewy, sweet raisins against the backdrop of the hum of the fan provided just enough noise to make the hour not feel totally empty, though the same could not be said of how I felt as I sat there in a tired, old tee-shirt and wrinkly sleep pants, slurping up cereal while most of the world as I know it lay peacefully asleep.

I wasn’t eating a bowl of cereal at such an hour because I was struck with the late-night munchies or couldn’t sleep or even because I really like Raisin Bran. I was eating a bowl of cereal at the dining room table at 2 a.m. because I realized about four hours prior after a high-anxiety, unsatisfying, everyone-must-be-out-to-piss-me-off kind of day that I really, really have nothing in my life figured out. At all. And the things that I thought I’d figured out and decoded in the naivety of my early twenties are still absolute mysteries to me – unknowable and unfamiliar still, even after thinking time and time again that it finally all made sense.

There are days in this life that render me helpless and confused and leave me…well, exactly where I was at 2 a.m. this morning: alone under a ceiling fan staring out the back door with a mouth full of cereal, wondering why the heck life has to be so messy and hard.

Yesterday was one of those days. And rather than panicking and collapsing in the kitchen corner with my husband’s bag of BBQ potato chips or a glass of cheap Merlot while sucking back the tears of uncertainty and insecurity and disillusionment that so perfectly capture the twenty-five-year old experience as I and many of my friends have known it, I chose to keep composed and feel what I was feeling with no judgment. So I sat down and tried to work through the feelings over a bowl of Raisin Bran with the restless and relentless face of a befuddled zombie. If ever a zombie could appear to look befuddled.

I’d say this was healthier than a kitchen corner breakdown with both hands in a bag of potato chips.

Nothing catastrophic happened to provoke this — nothing outside of my own head, of course. The world did not end. My heart did not break. I ate well and exercised and read a little bit of the Bible before work and acted responsible and did my typical workday thing. But I found myself feeling restless and irritated with myself and my circumstances as I combed through thoughts about people and life and what I want and who I want to be — stuff that I’m still figuring out. The process of “figuring it out” doesn’t make sense all the time. People and life and growing up don’t always make sense. And I hate that, which may have been the problem and the very reason I was up so late, feeling restless about life over a bowl of Raisin Bran.

In our twenties I think a lot of us are perpetually after the prized “milestones” that society has told us we sort of have to accomplish in our twenties. Sociologists have defined the “transition to adulthood” as marked by these five steps: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. It’s the formula we’re fed our whole lives. And the pursuit of these things thrusts us into the rat race after them at an early age whether or not we are ready for the chase, or even know what it is we are chasing.

Knowing there are so many things we are supposed to do so that we can run the race well and achieve the success we’ve thirsted for all our lives can put us on edge in the constant striving and straining for lofty, romantic things things like dream jobs, exotic travels and adventures, networking with the right people, maintaining fulfilling relationships, having a good-looking social life, finding true love, contemplating grad school, and keeping up with general well-being and mental growth and maturity.

These choices affect the whole of our lives. These choices are the foundation we lay for who we are to become as an adult.

And then there’s other stuff like remembering to get an oil change, paying back student loans, and deciding whether or not you are the lamest, most pathetic human being on the planet because you stayed in all weekend watching Homeland and Real Housewives of Atlanta on the couch instead of training for a marathon or writing a novel or swimming in the ocean like cool twenty-something’s do on their off-days.

All of this, the rat race and the restlessness and the things we tell ourselves in our heads we should be doing, is enough to make life nothing but miserable and monotonous and void of joy.

And what a tragic way to live in what we’re told are supposed to be “the best years of our lives.”

I wish I had a fix for this. I wish I had a way to make all of the crap that happens to us at this age that hurts and confuses and discourages us make sense. But if I did, I wouldn’t be a writer. Or a girl who can’t sleep and contemplates the complexity of growing-up at 2:30 in the morning.

Not having it all figured out is normal at this age. My therapist tells me this almost every time I see her. So I get it. But the fact that it’s normal doesn’t take away from the fact that it can still cripple me with restlessness and anxiety. Restless for something greater, and anxious for that feeling of “oh, my life has started now, I’m where I want to be” — a feeling that I’m not entirely sure ever really comes.

I think this is especially true post-college when we are working jobs we don’t like, are unlucky in love, can’t seem to get ahead with pursuing that dream that we’ve set our lives upon chasing, or can’t figure out what we want or what’s true in the world.

At some point in all of our lives, we will all experience these things. Maybe even all at the same time.

What I realized around 2:37 a.m. this morning after polishing my cereal bowl clean is that there are no answers. There are no formulas or recipes that can rescue the restless twenty-something spirit. But more than answers I think that at this age a lot of us just need to be assured that we are not alone — to hear other people’s stories of struggle and change and growing-up and how they survived the rat race without giving up or giving in to anything less than greatness.

It might not resolve the restlessness or mend the bruises of broken dreams and aching hearts, but it can make it more tolerable. Because when we make the struggle a part of our story rather than something to try and escape, and we’re transparent about it with others, it can make the hard parts of life much less lonely to navigate.

I put my empty bowl in the sink at a quarter to three and walked into the bedroom and closed the door behind me as I shuffled toward my side of the bed. I slipped under the blanket and pulled the covers close to my chest. And for just a moment before finally dozing off, I felt like maybe I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Sure I had a frustrating day and my circumstances aren’t perfect all the time but what if that’s the way my story was intended to play out? What if my life started a long time ago and I’ve been too busy trying to keep up in the rat race to enjoy it?

There are days in this life that will render me helpless and confused and leave me restless over a bowl of Raisin Bran at 2 a.m. But maybe that’s okay, because maybe restlessness is a sign that we are still in the fight — still after something bigger and greater than ourselves. A battle that for me has yet to be won. And if the sleepless nights and moments spent staring off into space like a zombie in disheveled sleep clothes contemplating my life and future have taught me anything — it’s that I may be getting closer to the day when I can look back at these years and say “now it makes sense — now I think I’ve figured it out.” Even if it takes one thousand more sleepless nights and one thousand more bowls of 2 a.m. Raisin Bran, it will all be worth it when (or if) I ever get there.

Bio: I am a recent transplant to Southern California from the South where I work as a social worker and freelance writer. I miss the boiled peanuts and thunderstorms and my mama’s lasagna back home in Florida where I spent my childhood as a barefoot tomboy but have learned a lot from the mysteries of the Wild West. Writing is my passion. I seek to use every opportunity I have and view every life experience as valuable to my growth as a writer. I blog at: Everydaydolce.com and tweet at @jamberube

Friday Favorites (April 14-18)

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A little on turning forty, depression, and how a dramatic change in hair brings much needed grounding.

The beauty of outdoors– through the eyes of a mother and her child.

Nichole shares a beautiful and simple post about explaining infertility to a child.

Heather from Star in Her Eyes talks statistics and chance and love.

I Like Sex: Am I Sex Positive?

photo 2My sex life didn’t start out on the most positive of notes. Boys abused me, pressured me and confused me about the whole act of sex. The images I was given through the media didn’t help either. MTV was showing everyone hooking up on the Real World or Laguna Beach- never with the same person twice, so I thought I was’t “doing” it right. It seemed like everyone was having sex and enjoying themselves, so why wasn’t I? It hurt a lot, I never got any pleasure and it was, quite frankly, boring. The images I was seeing made it look so easy and romantic, but I never felt like the girls in the movies.

It wasn’t until I entered college that I started to understand what sex could be. It stopped hurting when I found out I was allergic to latex and I was given the opportunity to learn about my body and what I really enjoyed. Through a caring and patient partner and my own experimentation with the sex toy industry, I was able to discover new things about myself and my sexuality.

It got even better when I was given the opportunity to do some sex research. I was able to publish, “Gender Differences in the Interpersonal Context of Sexual Encounters of College Students,” as well as learn such fascinating things about other people’s sex lives, without it being awkward. I went from a blushing prude (yes a prude, a very severe conservative that thought all women should be covered up and keep their legs closed- oh how the tides have changed) to an open-minded and excited sexologist in a matter of weeks. People were telling me about their fantasies and all the places they had sex, to the number of sexual partners and positions. I just could not get enough! It was then that I decided to continue my education. As a graduate student at the University of South Florida, I currently study and explore sexuality and sexology. I was given the opportunity to assist with the class, Human Sexual Behavior and from there I discovered I wanted to be a sex therapist.

I also know now I really love and enjoy sex. I am a sex positive feminist that loves to bring knowledge and pleasure to everyone I meet. I am open about sexuality and how it ebbs and flows in our lives and I don’t see how what other people do to pleasure themselves involves me- have at it as long as it’s safe and consensual, go baby go! When I discuss my dreams for the future, it usually involves bringing orgasms to the world. Watch out Dr. Ruth!

Yet, what does it mean to be sex positive?

There really isn’t a solid definition. It’s a moving target that many scholars and activists alike can not agree on. But I like to think of it as being positive about sex. It’s a mentality that embraces all positive aspects of sexuality and the various acts of sex. There is no slut shamming or bashing of any kind about what people do to pleasure themselves. Sex is openly discussed. It also addresses the various myths associated with some sexual acts as well as myths about the body. I believe that a good sexual education is a must and that it teaches people from a young age about all the aspects of sex. Fulfillment and pleasure are on the top of my list as issues that need to be discussed in sex ed classes.

Health is also an important matter when being sex positive. Knowing not only how to name the correct body parts, but knowing how reproductive systems work, as well as how to pleasure oneself, is the first step being sexually healthy. Lastly, I also believe that safety and consent is a big part of being able to control what happens to you before, during and after sex. It is extremely important and sets the tone for the rest of your sex life. Seeing sex as beautiful is a wonderful thing.

What do you think? Do you see yourself as sex positive? I would love to hear from you!

Bio: Samantha currently attends the University of South Florida. She is getting her Masters degree in Women’s and Gender Studies with a focus on Sexology. She will be continuing her education at Mercer University in Atlanta by getting her LMFT and sex therapy certification to help individuals looking to explore their sexuality and help couples regain their magical spark! Find her blogging at A Feminist Life ad on Twitter

My 10-year-old Has Started Her Own Blog

My 10-year-old has started her own blog. Half of my brain is great with this. Knows it’s an awesome opportunity for her to engage with the world about something she loves. Hopes it will spurn her on to embrace her passions. Loves the idea of her learning in the trenches.

The other part of my brain is scared to death. Scared that we are pushing boundaries that will put her in danger. Scared that she will run head-on into disappointment, frustration, and confusion. (I AM a blogger, so I know these things come with the territory.) I’m scared she will be too focused on numbers and not enough on content. Too worried about appeasing her audience, and not sticking with authenticity. Too concerned with perfectionism to stay true to what’s driven her there in the first place.

I’m thankful that the enthusiastic side of my brain has won the argument long enough to get her up and running. And so I sit here with my worries, but before I can say “Google Analytics” all the people who love her have climbed on board her new rocket and are cheering her on as she shoots towards the stars. (She IS 10, you know.) She is getting the biggest confidence boost from her village; the biggest she’s gotten since learning how to ride a bicycle when you’re almost 5 and the hi-fives just keep on coming. She is staring face-to-face with what it feels like to come up with a great idea and the crowd goes wild.

I’ll bask in the reflection of her glory for a bit, thrilled with her smile and the momentum building-up behind her. I’ll worry a little about what’s to come. And I’ll learn from her – no doubt I already have – as she stumbles through this new place she is so glad to be, holding on tightly to what brought her here in the first place.

Angie has been blogging since 2008 about faith, life’s unexpected curveballs, and resisting domestication. Before three kids she taught high school English, but now she works part-time on her dad’s farm and manages her family of five with her hard-working husband. Her rural life is centered on their three acres where she is supposed to be gardening, but instead has her nose in a book and stays up all night writing. Read about her family chaos and find encouragement for yours on her blog Home Building @ www.angiejeanwagner.com.

Friday Favorites (April 7 – 11)

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One of our favorite writers, Dani Shapiro, talks about letting go in this short, but powerful post.

Another great writer, Katrina Kenison, (and a future Better Blogger participant!) shares her thoughts on the present moment, and she offers three Audible copies of her book as a giveaway.

Cecelia from Only You talks honestly about her struggle with anxiety.

Vacation time is upon us! Caroline offers tips for staying healthy when you’re away.

Sometimes we all need a reminder to embrace and be present in each day. Diane from Being Truly Present shares a beautiful post about emerging from Winter and seeing the Sun.

Stop Trying to “Cure” My Son

Autism Awareness (or Acceptance) Month runs through the month of April.  It is a time for people in the Autism community to raise awareness and acceptance to all the little things that make those with Autism the amazing and challenging people that they are.

The past few weeks have been filled with a number of amazing stories on autism. Stories that were insulting, inspiring, and infuriating.

I know that I may be in the minority because I do not sit and wonder why my son has autism. I am confident I know why. Sam was born at 24 weeks. That means the majority of his brain development happened outside of the womb. Knowing that – it is no surprise to me that some of the brain connections might not have formed properly. Of course, there is also the new report that was just released showing evidence that autism forms in the womb – which just helps reinforce my notion that Sam’s autism developed in the isolette.

Because of that, I have not had to waste my energy or emotional time on the “whys”. (I did plenty of that wondering why he had to be born so early.) I also have not joined the anti-vaccination crowd and blamed Sam’s autism on vaccinations that will protect him and those of his friends from preventable diseases. (NOTE: If you want to argue with me about vaccinations – don’t. I have spent enough time in NICUs and PICUs with immune compromised children. The fact that you are willing to endanger any of them makes my blood boil. So lets leave it at that.)

Instead, I have used my time to come to terms with the fact that Sam is autistic. Notice that I didn’t say “Sam has autism”. That was a very deliberate choice in words.

Saying Sam “has autism” implies that this is something he can be cured of. Like cancer. Saying that Sam “is autistic” means that autism is a part of him. Just like his eyes are blue.

That doesn’t mean I will not do everything in my power to help Sam overcome his autism. He is in speech therapy. He is in occupational therapy. He is in ABA therapy. He has completed FloorTime therapy. He eats a diary free and gluten free diet. (A note on the diet – this was at the suggestion of his pediatric gastroenterologist almost a year before his autism diagnosis.)

But even as I help Sam find the tools to communicate and connect with the world around him, I am not trying to change him. I love him for all that he is. I love his quirks. I love his ability to vanish into music. I love his smile. I love his laugh. I would not change a hair on his head – and that includes all the autistic hairs.

And that is because of the simple fact that those autistic hairs are a part of who Sam is. He is not bothered by being autistic… so why should I.

Now- don’t even get me started on the AOL CEO, Tim Armstrong, and his totally insulting comment about “Distressed Babies”.

Bio – At just 24 weeks into her pregnancy, her son Sam was born. He entered this world way too small (just 1 pound 12 ounces) and way to early – but don’t tell him that! He has been a force to be reckoned with from day one. Now, Sam is a healthy and thriving three year old, who is taking his recent Autism diagnosis with more maturity than the rest of his family! As for Melissa, Sam turned her world upside down. She went from being a career focused individual to a work-from-home mom. Her kids are her pride and joy – but don’t get her wrong – it is not all craft projects and kid perfection at her house. Far from it. Her blog  is a place where she tell Sam’s story, how he impacts his big sister, and generally explore the perils of parenting. You can find her on Twitter (@MelRagent), Pinterest (@MelRagent), and Facebook  sharing her stories.

 

Books for the kids

Every few weeks we go to the bookstore as a family. And a few times each year we are lucky to have GG around. A grandmother who loves books is a special kind of blessing. A grandmother who loves books means each kid comes home with three new books to read.

Here’s a rundown of the latest volumes in our house:

For my nearly 10-year-old boy, who loves to read books about real boys. He’s just not into wizards or magic or dystopia. He’s looking for real life in the pages of a book. (I don’t know where he gets that from. Ahem.)

Genius Files: From Texas With Love by Dan Gutman. Gutman is one of his favorite authors. Actually all of my kids like him. He writes all of the My Weird School books. (Get started with Miss Daisy is Crazy!) The Homework Machine is also one of my son’s favorites. But the Genius Files books are his favorite favorites. And when we got to the bookstore last week, I thought my son was going to hit the ceiling when he saw that the fourth Genius Files was there for the purchasing. (Don’t you just want to cry when you hear of such excitement?) This book is a medium-length chapter book that my boy gulps down like the Gatorade he loves so much to drink.

Timmy Failure #2: Now Look What You’ve Done by Stephan Pastis. A graphic novel that my son has read more than once and that he has loaned out to many of his friends. (This is one of his roles in his peer group. He is B: Lender of the Books.) Pastis is also the artist and creator of Pearls Before Swine, a syndicated comic strip. (Know it?)

Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue!: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger. I have a confession to make. My nearly 10-year-old has never seen Star Wars. None of them. No matter. He still loves these books by Angleberger, who has written other books too, my favorite being Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M’Lady Luggertuck’s Corset, which I read aloud to my boy and which we both thoroughly enjoyed.

For my 8-year-old girl, who reads even while she is watching TV. She also reads when she is walking around the house, though we try to discourage this behavior when stairs are concerned. She ALSO reads to her little sister, which makes my heart grow four sizes every time I witness such sweetness.

Ava and Pip by Carol Weston. A.Dor.A.Ble. This book appealed to my little wordsmith for several reasons. 1) It’s about sisters. Sisters who are different from one another. My girl knows a thing or two about this. 2) It’s about wordplay, palindromes in particular. Her younger sister’s name? A palindrome. 3) The illustration on the cover of the book features a little girl with orange hair perched under a tree and a little girl with brown hair swinging upside down from a tree branch. Freaky similarities abound. Must familiarize ourselves with other books by Weston.

Ruby Goldberg’s Bright Idea by Anna Humphrey. A girl and a science fair. That was all it took for my girl (who is working on “All About Tornadoes” for a certain April science fair) to pick up this one. Not one to be interested in the fairy books or the princess books, I am a proud mama that this is the book that spoke loudest to my girl. And I’m grateful to writers like Humphrey who are writing books that sit alongside all of those pink, sparkly ones that so quickly take over the shelves. (I know, I’m getting close to a rant here…) It looks like Humphrey’s other books are for older girls, so we will definitely be checking them out soonish.

Junonia by Kevin Henkes. When Junonia first came out, in 2011, we got it out of the library,and I read it to my son. He was resistant at first, because it’s about a little girl. (See above, boy who likes books about boys…) But I kind of forced it on him, and he enjoyed it. Upon seeing it in his sister’s pile he even said a few positive words about it! This book is gorgeously written. It’s quiet and pensive and real and lovely and I hope will stand the test of time and become a must-read. Really. It’s that good. Henkes is probably best known for his picture books, which are unique and funny and perfect. And I’m so glad that he also writes these middle-grade chapter books. (My girl received Henkes’s The Year of Billy Miller for Christmas and read it (as did I). It’s wonderful. We are big Henkes fans. (Julius, Baby of the World and Chrysanthemum are among our favorite of his picture books.) He knows about the inner feelings of kids, and we’re lucky readers to read his wisdom in his stories.

For my 5-year-old girl, who is ALMOST reading on her own and who tries to will herself into being able to read daily.

Mercy Watson Fights Crime by Kate DiCamillo. We LOVE Mercy Watson. This is the fourth MW volume we have purchased, though we’ve read them all through library loans many, many, MANY times. These are books you can read over and over as a parent and not want to gouge out your eyes. DiCamillo knows children. Her Because of Winn-Dixie took the place as my 8-year-old daughter’s favorite book almost two years ago, and so far it’s holding strong. You would not be making a mistake in judgment at all if you ordered the whole set of six Mercy Watson books. In fact, order two sets and give one to a friend!

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. I am probably the last person to discover this book. Apparently it’s all the rage! It is a good one. About artistic expression and literally coloring outside the lines. A good message for kids. And for the adults presumably reading this book aloud. I just learned that Daywalt has a background in screenwriting and directing.

Pete the Cat: Too Cool for School by James Dean. My daughter loves the Pete the Cat books. LOVES them. She has so many, I’ve lost count. The pictures are funny and the stories are a little irreverent. This one is about Pete asking everyone else their opinions about what he should wear. He ends up wearing everyone’s favorite item and being overdressed and uncomfortable until he changes tack and chooses his own favorites. Another good message and a cute addition to my girl’s growing Pete collection! I know that as soon as the reading thing clicks in her brain her Pete books will be dogeared. (Sometimes she sleeps with Pete under her pillow already, as if hoping the words will seep into her brain.)

Thanks to GG for her generosity. I hope you find some of these of interest to you and yours. And I’d love to hear what your kids are reading! Our next trip to the bookstore is rapidly approaching…

Music of the Heart

Bye, bye, love.
Bye, bye, happiness.
Hello loneliness.
I think I’m-a gonna cry.

Wouldn’t you know it? It’s Buddy Holly. Right here in Starbucks, keeping me company while I write.

Sure, the lyrics tell a story of love and loss and heartbreak, but for me, the song is about joy. It’s about singing at the top of my lungs and not thinking twice about embarrassing myself. It’s about laughing through a jumbled chord or lyric. It’s about watching my dad wiggle his guitar around, hoping the free the slippery little pick that escaped his able fingers. It’s about family and connection and harmony.

It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m doing, when I hear a Beatles, Buddy Holly, or John Denver song, I’m back in my childhood family room. I can clearly see my dad flipping through the sheet music pages, then a flicker in his eyes as he decides he’s found the next song for us to sing together. These songs, they’re so much more than music, they’re memories. The kind that fill up my senses — and my heart.

So today, as I heard that familiar old song, I couldn’t help but wonder. Years from now, what tune will fill the room that makes my kids instantly think of me?

While I don’t play the guitar, we do a whole lot of singing and dancing in our house. Pink, who’s far more tech savvy than I am, knows how to play music from my locked — yes, locked — iPhone. And, much to my dismay, she usually skips the songs that are my personal favorites. Big’s mastered getting to his favorite playlists on our Apple TV, too. And Little? Nobody takes over the garage to the Cars CD with outrageous dance moves like he does. Nobody.

The soundtrack to all of this entertainment tends to be made up of the latest and greatest Radio Disney and pop hits. A few songs stick — Party in the U.S.A. may forever and always be Pink’s theme song, and Hall of Fame is an all-time favorite of the boys — but for the most part, our tastes change as often as the charts.

Maybe that’s what they’ll remember. The way we listened to a song over and over until we knew all the words, then moved on to the next challenge. The way we all sang along, and music filled the air — and our souls — on quieter days. The way that, no matter how annoyed we all were with the day — and each other — music brought us back together, with a smile.

Whatever song or lyric it is that wakes a memory of me long after I’m no longer dancing on this earth, I pray it brings a warm smile to my kids’ faces. And reminds them of the joy that filled our home — and our hearts — through the years.

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