Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Form and Function of Books

You could buy this at Saatchi

I have definitely found books to be of comfort and support throughout my life,
though perhaps not this literally.

Here is probably something more feasible in my world. 
I work all day among "front-facing" fun to have them at home, too.  
Doesn't this look like something you could do?!

More pictures and instructions

Another lovely decorating site

I don't suppose anyone else is going to be posting my brilliant book idea on their blog, so I'll share it here: 30+ books are always on standby in a laundry basket near my front door.  
Just in case, 
you know, 
I might want to read something.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Confessions of a Children's Librarian

I don't know how many "confessions" (plural) I'm really prepared to make, but the one that is on my mind today is this:

I am a better book advocate for boys than girls.

I read so-called "boy books."  I like them better.  Sometimes my favorite readers are 9-14 year-old boys who love all the same books I know about and can't believe I have such "excellent" taste.  Once I establish my credibility by recommending a book they thought was great, I'm golden.

I love that moment when suddenly I'm not just this random lady their mom made them talk to.  I can watch their semi-interested politeness transform to avid interest in what else I might know about if I thought that book was good.

Today, two boys came in with both their parents.  They'll be flying around the country on cool vacation plans, and their parents are desperate for something without a battery that will hold their interest.  I'm enthralled by the chance to make their summer something they will laugh about in "Remember when I was reading The Riot Brothers and I snorted milk through my nose, and dripped it on the library book, but nobody got mad because they were just so happy I was reading?"

Because I know books that are snortably funny.

I bought a "boy book" for Bill that he read--at first to humor me-- and then because it was so humorous.  He laughed so hard, he cried. (ok, maybe not that hard--but his version of this phrase--which is really saying something)  I showed that same book to these two soon-to-be travelers, and the older one's face lit up:

"I read that book.  That IS a really funny book."  (Golden moment; I'm in!)  And then he surprised me by continuing, "My favorite part was about the sword fighting."
And I couldn't help exclaiming, "That was one of MY husband's favorite parts, too!"

You see, the book was an autobiography from a wacky children's author.  A brother among five other boys, a saint of a mom, and a gem of a dad.  He shares funny, poignant stories of what it was like to grow up in his wild, warring, wonderful little tribe.  And we can't help but laugh.

"Sword fighting" was the game he and his brothers played when more than one of them would use the same toilet to pee at the same time.  You can probably fill in the gist of the game, given it's name.

Before I became a children's librarian, this book may not have struck me as a notable read worth recommending.  Boys peeing?  Really?  This is what we want to read about?

Maybe not, but there is an authenticity about this book that is unmistakable.  And from what I can tell, boys gravitate toward that.  They don't read books that don't read well.  They are harder to please, loyal as Labradors, and like funny, plotty, or fantastical books that claim the truth of adventure, heroism, and courage against all odds.  It helps if the main character is a boy.

So give me a "boy book" any day.  I'll read it like a crazy girl so that I can unexpectedly make his day when I say, "You liked that?  Then you are going to love THIS."  And he'll believe me one hundred percent.  That moment of confidence is what keeps me slogging through all the lame, boring books to find the ones that are going to make those readers wonder, What else does she know about?

What else, indeed?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wee-Hour Ramblings

It's 3:50 in the morning, though  it feels like the middle of the night to me.

I finally gave in to the insomnia and came downstairs with a laptop, a sweater, and a container of icecream.

My neighbors don't seem to notice this middle of the night feeling.  I think I could decipher what they are talking about, or name their tunes if I knew anything about that kind of music.

I check in on Facebook, hoping someone is updating their status...proof that I'm not the only one whose night is is drizzling away without sleep.  But that's mean; why would I want anyone to be glassy-eyed and fuzzy-headed just because I will be?

I am not happy with you, Mr. Rob Bell.  Along with everything else jostling in my mind that is incapable of producing answers, I have your challenging thoughts to contend with, too.  Tonight I started to read Love Wins, his newest book.  And then I really couldn't stop reading it.  Not because I could understand it all, or wrap my mind around it all.  It is a book that was asking me to view my faith from a completely different paradigm.

Not a few degrees differently.  I mean, a completely different paradigm.
I'm not sure how I even managed to make the journey with him to the end of his book.  I even reread a few parts I wanted to try to understand better.
He's not a complex writer.
But he's certainly sharing a viewpoint that is new and challenging to me.
I'm suspecting that 4:30 (now) is not the time to sort it out.

Half a container of Haagen Daaz later, I might be able to slip back into bed and feel absurdly jealous of the man who always falls asleep faster than I do, and who always awakes before I do.  It seems unfair.

Seriously?!  Are my neighbors cheering for a pinata?  It seems a bit much.

But then, everything seems much too much.
My friends, amid sorrow and heartache of their own, told me to "take time to grieve," and I didn't admit that I don't really know what that means.

Does it mean staying up half the night with too many thoughts and not enough rest?
Does it mean eating chocolate icecream at odd hours because this is oddly comforting?
Does it mean trying not to cry at work, but finding a closet and sobbing anyway?
Does it mean being angry--about things that would barely bother me before, and getting on soapboxes and making speeches and taking up causes and then fizzling out, deflated and confused?

Maybe it is just acknowledging that everything is kind of confusing right now.  We're back on that shoreline of the ocean of suffering.  And I'm seeing so many, many bottles holding the grief of those all around and dear to me.

The waves keep pounding in.
I am sad...

...and outrageously annoyed that my neighbors are having a party and are THIS loud, THIS late.
I wish there was a crazy lady who would yell something shocking at them and make them all be quiet.  Instead, I'm heading back to bed.
Wee-hour ramblings are just that: ramblings.  It doesn't seem like I've gotten anywhere.
Or that there was even a destination to aim for in the first place.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Beautiful Day for the Zoo

serious boys

riding this train was a highlight
The animals were nice, but I think Landon's favorite thing was watching all the people.  Pointing out boys and girls and babies and papas....he is an enthusiastic people-watcher.

For us, the time was a gift.  Just to wander.  Just to look.  A distraction from things that weigh heavy on our hearts.  Watching Landon watch the world.  Loving that we are all three together.

Two Boys and a Bike

Uncle Lem gave us a bike trailer for Landon' birthday.

Landon wasn't sure about it at first

Daddy was thrilled

Have fun, boys!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

In Which Bill Rescues our Wedding Anniversary

Today is our three-year anniversary.

We meant to reserve a seat at a nicer restaurant.
We meant to dress up and look better-than-bedraggled for each other.
We meant to write romantic cards, give each other significant looks over dinner, and celebrate a marriage that has been everything we wanted and not quite what we expected--at the same time.

Three years with Bill have been a tremendous gift.  HE is a gift to me.  I feel lucky and blessed to be on the journey with him.  I feel lucky and blessed to know he feels the same way.

So when we got derailed last week--into territory neither of us wanted to travel again, I think the caboose with all our lovely anniversary intentions never made it off the tracks with us.

Last night my sister called to wish me happy anniversary early; I had to think a beat to remember anniversary of WHAT?

We gave each other grace as we admitted to each other that we had "kind of" forgotten about it--that we had no cards or gifts or reservations.  We admitted that we weren't faking a forget like people do for surprise parties, only to make the remembering sweeter.

And we said goodnight, Love.
Each on our side of the bed-- exhausted, heartsick.

Under other circumstances I might have worried that my marriage was showing signs of wear and tear.
I might have fretted that we weren't cherishing our moments enough, honoring the day "I do" became, "We will."  Under other circumstances.

I got home from work today and Landon and Bill were out on the trail, enjoying summer's benefit of long daylight hours.

I found a card for me.  An Anniversary card specifically, one he must have bought today.
Funny, sweet, kind.  (Those card writers can really get it right!)

Here we are, sitting among the rubble of our derailed plans, still not sure how to get back on track, what track, or if we even want to get on a train.  We're just trying to let some hurts heal before we ask too much of ourselves.

And he gets me a card anyway.
He tells me I'm cherished.
I'm not a defunct baby-carrier.
I'm the mother of our dear son,
I'm his wife.

And we will.

Happy Anniversary, Love.  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sorrow is a Heavy Stone

It was a beautiful ten weeks.  Ten weeks of having a secret between us, the joyous knowledge that a little life was beginning inside me again.

It was an exhausting ten weeks.  Ten weeks of being so all-consuming tired, there were nights it seemed too much work to put on pajamas.  Days when I would set my cell-phone alarm clock and literally try to nap in my car on my lunch break.

And it was a nerve-wracking ten weeks.  Ever hopeful, cautiously optimistic, how do you not grow attached to a person who makes their presence known in increasing measure every day?  I could relish the exhaustion, knowing that only a thriving little baby would be draining me so.  Come on, little baby.  Let's just get past this first dicey season together and then I'll more than make-up for this quiet time with you.  You'll be my favorite topic of conversation, my favorite person to think about....but right now I'm trying too hard not to grow too attached. 

Which is kind of silly, because you are already attached to me.

So we make our first trek to the doctors at ten weeks.  I have learned a thing or two after last time, so Bill was with me, Landon was not.

And it only takes two seconds to see a stillness on the screen that settles in my core like a heavy, heavy rock. So heavy I cannot speak.  So heavy I cannot cry.  So heavy, so still.  The nurse is talking and I am  listening but already this heavy rock is filling me up and I am so, so weary.  

So weary of the hope.  So weary of the heartbreak.  So weary of carrying this secret that was supposed to bloom into joyous news.  It has sunk to the bottom of my heart.

There are only metaphors.

I feel like I am standing in the middle of a vast, empty space.  The wind howls around-- I cannot properly hear, even those closest and dearest.

I walk around in a mechanical stupor, going through motions that pass for functional.  

"I'm fine, thanks, how are you?" still works as a pat answer to a friendly coworker.

 I talk.  I chat.  I chatter with the patrons.  I can avoid awkward silences with my coworkers.  I can converse with my husband about what to eat and who has eaten and what will we eat tomorrow.

But when I lay down at any time: morning, noon or night, all I want to do is sleep.

It is exhausting to hold together a broken heart.
It is a lot of work to compartmentalize when you don't have a compartment strong enough for pain so persistent.
It leaches out.

A patron asked me Saturday, "Are you ok?"

A sweet dad who has watched me for weekend story time for almost a year.
Putting on my game face, making it fun, knowing their names, and sometimes, earning my own Academy Awards for Best Actress.
Because I'm a professional.   
"In a bad mood/having a bad day" goes in a compartment and the show goes on.

I don't have a compartment secure enough for "We've lost a second baby."

I don't have a buck-up, come-on-cowgirl pep-talk  for the way fear and sadness rattle through me. 

I wonder if I take time off work whether I will go into some weird hibernation mode.  Wrap myself up in sleep like a cocoon.  Emerge beautified and transformed.
Or pale and listless.
It's hard to say.  Seems like a risky toss-up.

So I keep moving.  Through the motions of a day.  Into the night.  
Sleepless.  Restless.  
And oh, so very, very weary.

Monday, June 6, 2011

9 Parenting Tips During a Toddler Meltdown

Landon was being less than adorable--by such a large margin that I just sat there frustrated, wanting to get through the bedtime routine with less crying, kicking, writhing and insistent demands. (on his part--I was too tired to do anything but sit there and watch the drama) While waiting for one of Landon's little fits to lose steam, Bill handed me a typed paper with this at the top:

You're a Better Parent Than You Think!

It was so unexpected that it made me smile.  What is this?  Commentary on my parenting in the middle of a "moment"?

It was a list he had found somewhere.  And remarkably, it was just what I needed as a runny-nosed, watery-eyed, exhausted little boy rolled around near me, voicing all the frustrations of not having enough "tools" in his box to cope with the disappointment of the last story of the night.

Maybe you will need this list sometime, too.

    1. Discipline is love in action.  It is teaching at the most gentle hands a child will ever experience: a loving parent's.
    2. Good discipline is grounded in good sense.  New & improved parenting theories are new, but aren't always improved.
    3. Good parents make mistakes (lots of them) and learn from them.  Disciplining in fear of mistakes only erodes your self-confidence.
    4. Strong discipline isn't complicated.  It's founded upon a few basics and the will to persevere with those basics.
    5. Discipline is action, not talk.  Discipline with consequences and you'll discipline less.  Discipline with words and you'll discipline more.
    6. All discipline interacts with a one-of-a-kind child.  Some kids require 1/10 of the average amount of discipline.  Some kids....10 times the average.  Good parenting is parenting up to the level required.  Do what it takes for as long as it takes.
    7. Kids are built to misbehave.  It's in their essence.  It's who they are.  Expect misconduct for years.  Expect to discipline for years.
    8. Humans resist discipline--some a little, some a lot. It's a fact of human nature that we often fight what is good for us.  Resist your child's resistance.
    9. Good parents are misunderstood.  Really good parents are really misunderstood.  Strong parents face a lot of opposition these days, not because they are wrong, but because they are right.
 I wish I knew who wrote this.  Parts of it really resonate with me and point to areas I could grow as a parent.      Bill was pointing to number seven as the one he wanted me to take heart from, but I think many of them have something to offer.

It's a grand and noble goal:  I'd like to become a better parent than I am today.

I guess it wouldn't hurt if I got a little more sleep so I'd be able to access the tools I supposedly have in MY toolbox to deal with frustrations!

Good night, sweet friends!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Meeting the Mailmen

How does a person develop their interests?

Neither Bill nor I are passionately interested in the precise name of every kind of construction vehicle known to man..
Or every four-wheeled vehicle, for that matter.

But Landon is.

He requests the same vehicle book with such persistent regularity, that I sometimes hide it to spare myself yet another boring rendition of it.  There's only so much energy I can infuse into, "Excavator!  Dump truck!  Cement mixer!  Oh look!  A combine about that?"

But he truly loves vehicles.  When we drive around, Landon is all eyes looking for vehicles to identify for me.  From the back seat comes a steady patter of, "Bus!  White truck!  Digger!  Van!"

And Landon truly loves mail.  He loves trying to fit the key in our box, and grabbing the goodies inside.  He loves carting the postcards around saying, "mice, mice"  (mine)  He likes to pretend to read them and then wants me to prop them on the mantel with other special cards.  He likes sifting through the shoebox of postcards we have collected from our postcard trading hobby.

Landon can spot a mail truck like a safari guide can find big game.  From startling distances he'll begin calling out, "Mail truck! Mail truck!" and I have to focus on my driving instead of peering three lanes over at opposite traffic to find what he has seen.

So when the mail truck turned up at OUR house, with the mailmen having a little pow-wow near it, I knew it was a moment we couldn't miss.

Kinda starstruck

Landon was quiet and attentive to every detail of the inside of that truck (which the driver kindly let us inspect).

And then he couldn't stop talking about it for the next three minutes when we drove away.
Letters.  Truck. Mailmen.  House.  Letters.  Truck.  Mail truck.

It was, indeed, a grand moment for my little vehicle and mail enthusiast.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Landon is Two! (x 3)

For a boy who didn't get an official birthday party planned for him, I'd say he did pretty darn well in the birthday department.  Instead of parties with invitations, themes and decorations, we more had "gatherings" to celebrate Landon turning two.

With whoever could come.  On very short notice.  And always there was cake.

First round: my parents' house.  Aunt Marilyn, Uncle Brian and Aunt Ali and the kiddos and my mom all shared with us for this Friday-evening-after-work gathering to say happy birthday to Landon.  The first time.

Then Saturday we got to be with the other side of our family, with Bill and Martha.

Round three was at Beth's house with her kiddos with the cookie cake.

So happy, happy, happy birthday, dear Landon!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Whose Kid is This?

 I think I read somewhere that having a routine makes bedtime easier.  Smoother.  Less drama.

I want to find that book and say poo-pah to that one.  Write a snippy little comment in the margin for others who would be so easily misled....

Here's what it has come to: Routine can morph into sacred ritual.  And a sacred ritual is not something you want to get wrong.  Not even a small detail.

I can understand having the same elements of the routine, and in the same order.  So we do.  

But last night when Landon got increasingly hysterical about his pillow, I was at a complete loss.  He was not crying the "I'm overtired and just need a few minutes to cry it out and then I'll be ok" cry.  This sounded more like, "There are snakes in this bed biting me and you are cruel and unusual to leave me in here with them."

Very strange.

So I break one of my general rules and go back in to see why he's not settling down.  My Hardy-boy- reading beloved joins me to help solve this puzzle.

And because BILL has some pretty set bedtime routines of his own, he DOES.
He takes Landon's pillow, and returns with the right color pillowcase on it.  NOW it is Landon's pillow.  NOW he can start in with the "I'm really overtired" cry.

If I had not seen this transformation myself, I'd be hard pressed to believe it.  I went to bed asking myself, Really?!  My baby is that caught up in his pillow?

I snuggled into bed, because the whole thing had worn me out.  I lay down on my own pillow, the one that has literally traveled around the world with me,
the one that probably smells unusual to anyone but me,
the one that is a running joke between Bill and I because I call him a Saboteur of my Happiness if he even gets close to it---
and I had to smile.
Yep, I guess he really could be that into his pillow.


Landon loves grapefruit.  He eats them with baby-bird enthusiasm--eagerly opening wide for each bite we scrape out for him.  He likes it when we squeeze the extra juice into his sippy cup.  And he'll drink it all.  I don't think he has ever turned down an offer to share a grapefruit with daddy.  I don't think I've ever accepted the offer.  It's just one of their things.


On any given night, Bill and I will close out the day with reading.  We're nerds like that.  We both genuinely enjoy reading, and always have something going.  I bring home movies from the library, but we never watch them.  With our limited time, the movies generally get crowded out for the greater pleasure of reading.  Plus, screen time doesn't help me fall asleep, but a poorly written children's novel can work wonders.

Landon, on the other hand, is still trying to decide where his loyalties are.  He will occasionally knock on the closet that houses the tv and ask, "moo-ee?  moo-ee?"  I admire his random efforts.
So one day I asked him, "Okay, Landon, what would you rather do?  Read stories or watch a movie?"

I can tell you, he melted his librarian mama's heart when he said, "Read sories!" and then "Yap" as he chose a book and plopped into my lap.

This is our son, alright.  Oddly quirky, grapefruit-eating, book-lovin' little boy.

Discovering him is more interesting than anything I've ever done.