Wednesday, February 24, 2016

World Read Aloud Day -- Hooray!

Today is World Read Aloud Day, and I am proud to say that my family celebrated!

Especially if you have young children in your life, check out Mem Fox's 10 Read Aloud Commandments.  If you're intrigued and inspired by the commandments, try her wonderful book Reading Magic

Donalyn Miller, reading teacher extraordinaire and author of the much-adored The Book Whisperer, has a great piece on Scholastic's web site:  "Never too old: Reading aloud to independent readers."  Again, if you're intrigued and inspired, consider reading The Book Whisperer or its follow-up, Reading in the Wild.

Whatever you do, stay committed to reading aloud to the kids in your life!

I read to and with my kindergartner every day, but I admit that I sometimes fall out of the habit with my older kids, who are now independent readers.  We have had some great read alouds of Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins books and her Ramona ones.  I have read aloud Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy two times through with my sons and will try for a third time with my daughter (I checked it out of my school library once a month for much of my early grade career and heart it so much).

We celebrated World Read Aloud Day after dinner this evening.  I read Last Stop on Market Street, which I purchased at the Scholastic Book Fair at school because I loved the cover.  What a gorgeous book with a beautiful (but subtle) message and wonderful language:

The outside air smelled like freedom, but it also smelled like rain, 
which freckled CJ's shirt and dripped down his nose.

The bus creaked to a stop in front of them.  It sighed and sagged and the doors swung open.

"Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful."

I could go on!  Matt De La Pena (author) and Christian Robinson (illustrator) so deserve all their many honors and awards.*

My oldest chose several poems from Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends.  My middle guy took on BJ Novak's The Book with No Pictures.  My newly-minted reader treated us to Mo Willem's I Really Like SlopA highlight of the day for sure, much better than one of the 167 episodes of Full House in our DVR.

I gathered some favorite family read alouds to pose for a pic.  I'm sure I'm forgetting many beloved read alouds, but here are some thoughts/tips ...

David Shannon's No, David! books -- Kids relate to David and can easily memorize these books, which they love! 

Ruth Krauss's I Can Fly -- Such a pleasure to read well-written rhyming books.  Joy in the language and in the beautiful illustrations in this one!  Captures the spirit of childhood.

Where Is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox -- A simple story, but calming and engrossing.

Just a Little Critter Collection by Mercer Mayer -- We adore Little Critter at our house, and it's fun to read from these anthologies.  You can read book after book with no lag time for decisions or negotiations!

I Really Like Slop by Mo Willems -- The Elephant and Piggie books are so funny and clever.  I laugh out loud.  Beginning readers can practice reading with expression and timing, and it's such a pleasure to listen.  

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein -- Again, the pleasures of language itself!

Goose Goofs Off -- One of my favorite books from the 1980s Sweet Pickles glory days.

The Book With No Pictures by BJ Novak -- Perfect for gifting.  My kids laugh at this book every time, whether they are the ones listening or reading.  Cool for them to see the power of words.

I'd love to know what the beloved read alouds are in your home or classroom. 

Starting next month on March 24th, you're invited to join my Read Aloud Roll Call.  Write a post about some read aloud experiences in your home or classroom and link up on the 24th of each month.  More on that later!

Thoughts on reading aloud or any of the books mentioned in this post?  Please share in comments.  Happy Reading!

* Last Stop on Market Street's Honors:  Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, A New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2015, A Wall Street Journal Best Children's Book of 2015

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

I've seen this round-up on other book blogs, but I'm participating for the first time.  For a links to the other posts, visit The Book Date.

It's Monday, February 22nd, and this is what I am reading...

 My audiobook is William Boyd's Any Human Heart.
I purchased Any Human Heart as an Audible Deal of the Day because it was well-reviewed.  The novel is beautifully narrated by Simon Vance.  The story of Logan Mountstuart, as told through his journals, is interesting but almost too interesting as his life intersects with Pollock, Picasso, Hemingway, members of the royal family, and other famous artists, authors, and historical figures.  I've enjoyed it well enough, though now that Logan is middle-aged and working through some strange (to me) sexual stuff, I am losing patience.  I don't think I'll regret having listened to it, but I am ready to move on to my on-deck audiobook:  Be Frank With Me.

 My ebook is The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington.
The Monk Downstairs was an ebook deal a couple of months ago.  I'm only about 20% in, but I like the premise of a former monk (fresh out of monastery) living downstairs from a single mom and her daughter.

My book book is My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.
So excited when my library hold for this book came in!  I adored Olive Kitteridge, but skipped The Burgess Boys because it sounded kind of harrowing.  This book reminds me of how gifted Strout is and makes me think I should try The Burgess Boys, knowing that I will be in good (expert, even) hands, no matter the subject matter.

What are you reading this Monday?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Milestone Post-It

Our ten year-old left this book and post-it on his Dad's nightstand.  I was so tickled when I saw it there.  Bub was in a bit of a reading slump this Fall, but his Grammy bought him this book at Costco after Christmas, and it seems to have re-ignited his reading fire!  Judging the book by its cover, I sense it's not my cup of tea.  My son was wise to recommend it to his dad instead.  My hubby started it two nights ago, and I have high hopes that he'll love it as much as our boy and that it will be the first of many shared reading experiences.  That's my kind of fantasy.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Quick Lit -- February

Favorite February Reads ...
On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King -- King is a master.  What a treat to read about his early years, his journey as an author, and his straightforward, thoughtful, non-pompous wisdom about craft.  Reminds me that I still need to read The Green Mile and need to talk my hubby into joining me for 11.22.63 on Hulu.  If you haven't read 11.22.63, please do it! 

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes -- I already told you how much this book resonated with me this month.

Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea -- I didn't anticipate thinking much about Marx and Engels in my post-grad school life.  I never would have thought to imagine the personal lives of their loved ones, but I am glad Gavin McCrea did.  McCrea's Lizzie is a memorable and lovable character.

Great writing, but ...
These books were well written with some very well-crafted scenes and intriguing characters, but I can't tell you to rush to grab them for your nightstand:  The Past by Tessa Hadley and Dear Thief by Samantha Harvey.  Ditto Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man.

I fear I am becoming an impatient, lazy reader in my advanced age.  To all of the authors mentioned above:  it's not you, it's me.  

If I were 10 ...
I'd be crazy about Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.  I did enjoy it at 40 and love that my ten year-old was breathing down my neck to finish it so he could start it.

It's okay to skip ...
Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald, especially the audio version.  Full rant on this audio production can be found on Goodreads, where I am booksandcarbs.  Please find me.

Also, now that Instagram has made it easier to manage multiple accounts from one device, you can find me there as booksandcarbs as well.

For more Quick Lit posts, check out Modern Mrs. Darcy and friends!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Waterlogue-ing by the water...

I avoided clearing the crap off my phone for over a year, leaving myself unable to update its operating system and thus unable to download cool new apps or update the ones I already had.  When I finally cleaned the slate and updated in August, the first thing I did was install the Waterlogue app.

I had seen amazing #waterlogue images on Instagram and was ready to give it a whirl.  My own early attempts were kind of pathetic, and my enthusiasm faded.  A recent post by Jenny at Dinner: A Love Story reminded me of all the cool things I had planned for Waterlogue.  Jenny photographed and waterlogued her daughters' favorite childhood toys.

We're on vacation for the long weekend, and I decided to try some waterlogue-ing by the water.

Sunshine, warmish breeze, good book, comfortable chair, kids playing in the sand, ocean view, and cold Diet Coke.*  Waterlogue-worthy.

I'll save my list of future Waterlogue projects for another day.

*You know you're a DC addict when your reaction to a snazzy new design on the can is not "How cool!" but rather, "Shit, did someone buy Diet Coke Lime?"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My Year of Yes ... and No

Tuesday was a gloomy, wet, bleak sort of day.  Near constant rain and a pervasive damp chill.  By late afternoon, I had given up shuffling through the mess in my house and decided to sit and read for about thirty minutes.  Strange how I can easily waste thirty minutes mindlessly checking Facebook, but I hesitate to be intentional about activities that are relaxing and restorative.

Anyway, that chunk of reading time helped me make progress toward finishing Shonda Rhimes' Year of Yes:  How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person.  I've actually never watched Rhimes' many shows, though I'm sure they're great.  A friend mentioned Year of Yes at pick-up a couple weeks ago, and the title resonated with me.

This year is supposed to be a Year of Yes for me, but also a Year of No.

Even several weeks into January, I still thought I'd get around to posting my 2016 resolutions.  Riding the high of successfully staying out of Target for all of 2015, I thought I could come up with something concrete and challenging but also doable for 2016.  I kicked around the idea of getting 100,000 steps each week on my FitBit, but that fizzled. 

This new year's resolution is more basic and more important:  say yes to my family and my home.  It's not that I ever intentionally say no to my family.  I have three awesome kids and a very supportive, loving husband.  We have a pretty happy home.  However, I have made a habit of making outside commitments that seem (and are) worthy and good but that make me less present for my husband and kids, less organized around my house, and unnecessarily anxious. 

So the challenge is that saying yes to my family means saying no to some other things ... things that are good and worthy and that I often (but not always) enjoy.  I am a pleaser and a good girl.  I want to be helpful and social and "do my part."  I will still do and give and organize, but for this year, I am going to try to say no more often.  Not no to everything, but no to more things.

In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes' sister reminds her "No is a complete sentence."  Where has this insight been all my life?  Wow.  I already had some practice saying no in January and it was so hard.  I am trying to resist the urge to rationalize and justify each no and to just put it out there and exhale.  If anyone wants to think I am selfish or a slacker, I will have to live with that.   

Rhimes spent a year trying to say yes to more and, as a result, transformed her life.  I so enjoyed reading about this moment, this year in her life -- especially the chapter about motherhood.  In general, I am not striving for the same levels of badassery (word from the book) that Rhimes achieves.  I'm simply looking to a spend a year being more selective about what I say yes to.

Rhimes' book has inspired me to flesh out my yes.  I want to say YES to family, to sanity, to rest, to prayer, to less anxiety, to open spots on the calendar, to time for creativity (writing, crafting), to walks, to books, to good conversations with people I love.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Saving My Life This Winter

What's saving my life right now?  I survived January in pretty good shape, but I'd still like to link up with Modern Mrs. Darcy and friends to share what's saving my life this winter ...

Sunshine and warm(ish) temps -- It's been a mild winter in Chicago (so far and KNOCK ON WOOD).  We've had a handful of brutally cold days, just enough to make us appreciate these days in the 30s.  I actually think we hit 40s today, and the sun was shining.  I spent five minutes pleasurably watching, for the first time ever, actual birds flying in and out of the birdhouse my parents gave me last year for my 40th birthday.  I don't do stuff like that, but I did today.

Tennis -- This sport is my fun, my escape, and my only exercise.  The tennis court is where I leave all the crap on my to-do list and all my worries, both petty and real, behind.  I am ridiculously protective of this time (i.e., I do not skip unless a kid is sick and sometimes not even then) because it is a key component of my (relative) mental health.  The added bonus is the chance to laugh with, learn from, and be encouraged by awesome, strong women at all stages of life.

Audiobooks -- These enrich my life in every season of every year.  I'm currently listening to Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.  Jury is still out as to how strongly I shall recommend it.

Neighbors -- One of my dear friends moved in across the street at the end of the summer.  Our kids had a half day from school on Friday, and we did a swap-a-roo.  She picked up all the kiddos at school and fed them lunch so that I could play in my tennis match (see above).  When I got back, I brought them all across the street to my house so she could go to Costco and run an errand or two in peace.  Just another reminder: ask for help, and you'll usually get it.

Crock Pot -- Peel and slice a bunch of potatoes and one onion and put in bottom of crock.  Cover with broth.  Stir in packet of ranch dressing mix.  Heat on high until potatoes are soft.  Stick your immersion blender in there and blend it all up (or blend in batches in regular blender?).  Serve your potato soup with sour cream, bacon, and cheddar cheese.  I'd say my kids love it, but that would be lying.  I love it though.

Refrigerator in the Laundry Room -- We used to have a second refrigerator in the garage.  In a semi-unconscious, self-punishing act, I stored my Diet Cokes in there and thus had to brave the cold, dirty garage every morning as I started my day.  Sometimes the items in the garage fridge would all freeze and explode.  It is not super fun to clean up frozen chunks of root beer and the glass from an exploded milk bottle.  We did a home project this Fall that resulted in a new laundry room with space for the back-up fridge.  What a treat to have this refrigerator inside the house.  I am grateful each morning when I retrieve my DC and the lunchbox-only items that would be vulnerable to being pilfered if in the main fridge.

All of the above strike me as plenty to be grateful for this winter.  I think I'm going to make it.  How about you?