Category Archives: E.- the eighth year

Say what now?

E. *calling down the hall*: “Mummy, I hear that P’s awake!”
Me: “Do you want to go in and say good morning to her?”
E.: “Yes please!” *gets stool from the bathroom, climbs up and takes latch off door*, opens door* “Good morning, P-Boa!”
I then had the joy of listening to the following conversation from my cozy warm bed.
P.: “I had a weak last night!”
E.: “What’s a weak?”
P.: “No, not a weak, a weak!”
E.: “A wee? You had a wee overnight?”
P.: “No, not a wee! A WEAK!”
E.: “But what’s a weak?”
P.: “No! Not a weak! A WEAK!”
At that point I got out of bed and joined them. P. meant, of course, that she’d had a LEAK overnight and her pjs and sleepsack were wet, but it was the most fantastic ‘Who’s on first?’ moment.

*We have a latch on the door to P’s room so that our mad cat can’t burst in there in the middle of the night and sit under the crib and meow until P. wakes up. She used to do this when E. was a baby too, which was when Q. first installed the latch. Our best guess is that she forgets I’m no longer in there- she loves to come in and hang out when I’m putting P. to bed and she’s not the greatest at retaining information. But it is always deeply frustrating when she wakes up in the wee hours, gets off the bed, and starts roaming the house yowling, only to return in apparent surprise when she realizes I’m in the bed ON WHICH SHE WAS SLEEPING IN THE FIRST PLACE.

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Filed under Choose Happiness, E.- the eighth year, P.- the third year, Siblings

Here there be dragons

This post is sort of about How To Train Your Dragon 3 (The Hidden World). I’m not going to discuss in detail any major spoilers, but if you’re planning on seeing it, maybe dodge this post until you do.

I have wanted a dragon my entire life.

The dragons in the novels I read wound their way into my inner self and never left.

Melanie Rawn’s dragons, who communicated through colour and spoke with Sunrunners.

The crystal dragon in Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar.

And, of course, the dragons of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern.

How I longed for a dragon (or, failing that, even a fire lizard) of my own.

I grew up, as all children do.

I stopped looking for the door into the faerie realm, the wizard on my doorstep, the quest to come calling.

I grew a grown-up life, with a husband and a house and children and a cat and grown-up problems and grown-up worries that squeezed out the stars and made it harder to see the gaps between the worlds.

Deep down, though, I’m still the little girl I used to be, the one who escaped to other worlds when she didn’t want to inhabit her own.

The one who would have given anything to ride on a dragon. To be one of the Riders of Rohan. To wield the Elfstones.

To know real magic.

And so, when I watched How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World in theatres with E., I suppose I should not have been surprised when I full-on ugly cried towards the end. We’re talking openly sobbing, to an intensity that makes it still difficult to talk about the ending of the film, several weeks later (I’m crying as I write this).

E. didn’t feel the same way. He found it sad, but felt that the actual ending of the film made things better. We’ve had some interesting conversations about it.

He felt the strongest association with the main character. If all was right in his world, then all was right in E’s.

I couldn’t stop thinking about everyone else.

This wasn’t about watching the end of a beloved trilogy. I haven’t seen either of the two previous movies. The books are very different, but even so, I’ve only read the first two with E. (he’s read them all and says the twelfth and final book is his favourite). I didn’t grow up with them, in the same way that I grew up with The Dark is Rising or Narnia.

This was about watching someone who had been given the very thing that you had wanted all your life have to give it up.

It broke my heart.

In the theatre, E. and I were sitting directly in front of a birthday party. One little girl sobbed her way through the ending.

I knew that she was a kindred spirit.

She will want a dragon for her entire life too.

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Filed under Books, E.- the eighth year

Read With Your Ears (For Kids)

I wrote recently about how I discovered audiobooks in 2018.

I discovered them for E. as well.

It started with our long car drives to go see my father. P. has pretty much stopped napping in the car, which means she and E. spend much of their time winding each other up and getting sillier (and noisier) by the minute. It got so bad we ended up putting a blanket ban on driving home from my mother’s house after dinner- the hilarity mania that ensued when bedtime was missed and dessert had been eaten was, quite frankly, distracting to the point of becoming dangerous.

If E. is otherwise occupied, P. can’t rile him up. And, if he’s not responding to her silliness, she pretty soon gives up and starts playing with toys or looking out the window. E. can read in the car without getting sick, so our problems were always when we had to drive somewhere at night.

Enter the audiobook.

I’m not exaggerating when I say audiobooks changed our lives. On our most recent trip we listened to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the way there, and The BFG on the way home, and the only complaints we had were from P., who announced after one too many descriptions of the nasty giants that she ‘didn’t yike the ABCDBFG’ (which was a good reminder that her level of verbal comprehension is sufficiently high that we should be choosing audiobooks that are appropriate for her if we’re going to play them over the car’s stereo and not just have E. listen to them on his own). She was a huge fan of Matilda, however, especially the part where Matilda glued her father’s hat to his head.

Audiobooks have also been hugely useful as an alternative to quiet reading after dinner, when I’m putting P. to bed, and we need E. to start calming his mind and his body. Without the focus of a good book, he’s likely to end up bouncing off the walls (literally). On the nights he feels too tired to read, he’s happy to put on his headphones and borrow my iPad (although I do have to set Guided Access to make sure I don’t find any surprises on my camera later).

At the moment E. is really enjoying the Upside Down Magic series, but he also loves any Roald Dahl book when the hold (finally- our library doesn’t have enough copies of Dahl’s books) comes in. He’s listened to a heap of Beverly Cleary, quite a few Geronimo Stiltons (which Q. and I find deeply painful to listen to, but E. loves them), most of the Timmy Failure series, all the available Stick Dog books and a couple of Captain Underpants. I asked him if he wanted to put holds on the How to Train Your Dragon series, which is his current passion in ‘real’ books, but he said he prefers to listen to books he hasn’t already read (even though he’s also read all the Timmy Failure and Stick Dog books).

His list of holds is growing thin, so please do recommend anything great we haven’t yet discovered! I’ll take suggestions for podcasts (especially science-related) too, as I’m sure that’s going to be the next step.

 

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Filed under Books, E.- the eighth year, P.- the third year, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

2018 recap (the books edition)

In 2018, I set myself a goal of reading 75 books. In the end, that turned out to be an easy target. I hit 75 by the end of July and finished the year with a total count of 118 books read (108 new books).

I only started tracking my books read in 2015 (in a dedicated journal after I discovered in 2014 there wasn’t enough room in my five-year journal entries to include books), so it’s hard for me to contextualize that figure, but I’d say it’s likely I’ve been a 100+ books/year reader for most of my life. Reading has always been my escape, my self-care, my anxiety management. Even during my busiest periods I would make time to read for fun (my book totals only count books for fun- books I read for my research don’t count). My best friend from my Master’s degree said she knew we were going to get along as soon as she realized I also had a library card for the public library system.

What I read changes depending on the mental bandwidth I have available; I’ve had to return books to the library unread when I realized I just wasn’t in the right headspace to be able to tackle them. When I was in high school I mostly read science fiction and fantasy, but I’m not as grounded in those genres these days. I tend to read a mix of novels, memoirs and biographies, historical non-fiction, and texts devoted to parenting, feminism, behavioural psychology, and time management/organization. I get inspiration on what to read next from blogs (especially Modern Mrs. Darcy), the New Yorker, and other spots online, but I also like to wander the shelves of my local branch of our fantastic library system when I get the chance (admittedly, this is a very infrequent occurrence at the moment).

As I’ve written on here before, I effectively stopped buying books several years ago when I realized they were my latte factor. Our public library system is so good, I can’t rationalize spending the money, or having the new book take up coveted shelf space (especially as E’s collection of novels grows). I’m highly resistant to reading a book that someone else has bought for me (for reasons which I can’t clearly articulate- the best I can think of is that I always have a pile of books to read that I’ve chosen for myself, and I never prioritize the books that someone else selected).

I do buy books for the kids, but I’m selective about what comes into our house to stay and what comes in temporarily from the library. When it’s a book that E. is reading, I try to gauge whether it’s a book (or a series) that I think I would want P. to have easy access to as well in due course. Classics (like the Little House and Ramona books) are a given, but newer stuff too (Aaron Blabey’s Les Méchants  and Tracey West’s Dragon Masters come to mind). E. reads so voraciously that we go to the library nearly every week. I keep his total number of books checked out to around 15 (anything more I’ve learned from experience becomes unmanageable) and he decides which books he’s ready to return in order to take out new ones.

There are weeks where all my holds come in at once (usually because I’ve enthusiastically placed a bunch of new ones and forgot to make some of them inactive) and I do end up waiting a long time for certain items, but it’s a system that works well for me. It’s certainly facilitated my reading.

In 2015, I read 131 books (93 of which were new). I didn’t have paid work that year and I was floundering after finishing the PhD. I took refuge in books.

In 2016, my reading total crashed to 44 (all of them new). If you knew me in real life, you could probably judge just how horrific a year 2016 was by that total alone. I didn’t finish a single book in November of 2016; I think because P. was sleeping so badly I was just too tired to read.

2017 was better at 63 (again all of them new), but still below what I would consider to be my ‘normal’ reading rate. I had thought my monthly totals would have increased in the second half of the year as P. got older and slept more consistently through the night, but looking back I see there was no such pattern.

I know I prioritized reading over other things (most obviously my photography) in 2018, but it still felt like last year marked a return to ‘normal’ reading habits, and I’ll be surprised if I don’t crack 100 again this year. After three years with very few books reread, I suspect I’ll be making time for some of my old favourites, as I have a small(ish) collection of books I tend to reread over and over again. They are my warm fuzzies, my ultimate comforts.

Since I really enjoyed reading Ana’s list of her favourite books from the past year, I wanted to make a quick note of the books I’ve loved the most since I started tracking my reading (these are the ones I’ve marked with a star in my journal). These are the books that captured my heart or spoke to my soul, the books that stayed with me long after I’d closed the cover, and (in some cases) the books that have changed how I think about and live my life. They weren’t necessarily published in the year when I read them.

2015:
A Buzz in the Meadow (Dave Goulson)
Some Luck (the Last Hundred Years Trilogy, Book One- and the others) (Jane Smiley)
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)
The Empathy Exams (Leslie Jamison)
They Left Us Everything (Plum Johnson)
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids (Laura Markham)
H is for Hawk (Helen MacDonald)
Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)
The Bone Clocks (David Mitchell)
Why Smart Kids Worry and What Parents Can Do to Help (Allison Edwards)

2016:
American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers (Nancy Jo Sales)
Midnight Riot (and the rest in the series) (Ben Aaronovitch)
The Age of Miracles (Karen Thompson Walker)

2017:
Unfinished Business: Women, Men, Work, Family (Anne-Marie Slaughter)
Option B (Sheryl Sandberg)
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges (Amy Cuddy)
The Best of Us (Joyce Maynard)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)
Future Home of the Living God (Louise Erdrich)
The Writer’s Diet: A Guide to Fit Prose (Helen Sword)

2018:
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Matthew Desmond)
Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Chris Cleave)
The Course of Love (Alain de Botton)
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (Cal Newport)
Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
Raising Human Beings: Creating a Collaborative Partnership with Your Child (Ross Greene)
Stylish Academic Writing (Helen Sword)
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think (Hans Rosling)
The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World (Steven Johnson)

If I had to pull out my all-time favourites from that list, the books I think everyone should read, I’d go for They Left Us Everything; Station Eleven; Everyone Brave is Forgiven; and The Course of Love.

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

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Filed under Books, E.- the eighth year