Summer Reading

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When I told my dear friend, Libby Barnett that I was reading The Swiss Family Robinson to the kids this summer, her face lit up.  “My father read that to me when I was a little girl,” she said.  She got a far away look in her eyes and said, “I remember it so clearly.  How I loved the oldest boy Fritz and all of their adventures and wished I was on the island with them!”

Watching her remember, as if she’d gone back in time, I wondered if my children would remember the stories I’d read to them.

So I asked.  And it turns out they do!  Before I knew it, we’d created a list of our Very Favorite, Most Memorable Books.  Please help us add to the list and tell us some of your favorites!

Picture Books 

When these “Oldies but Goodies” get pulled off the shelf, everyone smiles, nestles in a little more deeply and casually tries to claim the book as a bedtime companion.  After looking over the list we’d compiled, I wondered why out of all the books on our shelves, we chose this particular handful of picture books.  Then I remembered.  When Andie was in her NICU home, two-year-old Tucker and I recorded a tape of us reading stories in to a mini-tape recorder and left it in her isolette.  Even when we weren’t there, we knew she’d hear our voices when the nurses played the tape.  Can you guess what books we read onto that tape?  Yup, the books on the list below!
summer-reading2-150x150Koko’s Kitten by Dr. Francine Patterson – The story of the gorilla Koko who communicates in sign language and expresses her desire for a kitten as a friend. A beautiful, true story – a real tearjerker.
summer-reading3-150x150The Mitten by Jan Brett – As a little guy, Tucker would point to the mitten lost in the snow and say, “Uh, oh.” We love all of Jan Brett’s books! Another favorite is Trouble with Trolls, where a young girl tricks the trolls and makes her get away on skis!
summer-reading4-150x150Husband and wife team, Don and Audrey Wood, she writes, he illustrates have created some of our favorites: I’m as Quick as a Cricket, The Napping House, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear and our all time favorite King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, about a silly king who refuses to get out of the tub!
summer-reading5-150x150Speaking of tubs, The Tub People by Pam Conrad is another of our beloved books. The story of little wooden people who happily live on the edge of the tub until the tragic day the tub boy is lost down the drain. I’ve never read it without choking up.
summer-reading6-150x150Flossy and the Fox – This is the story of a clever young girl who tries to outsmart a fox. The story was told to the author, Patricia McKissack by her grandfather and in the audio version, she reads the story in her native language of the Deep South. My attempts to replicate her accent are always good for a laugh!
summer-reading7-150x150Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman, a protégé of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. How can you not love a story where dogs party wildly on top of a tree? We also admire the frank, truthful language, “No I do not like that Hat.”
summer-reading8-150x150Billy And Blaze: A Boy And His Horse (and the entire series) by C.W. Anderson. These picture books that tell the adventure stories of a boy and his horse. They are longer picture books and serve as a wonderful bridge before moving on to chapter books.

Chapter Books
summer-reading9-150x150The BFG – We love all of Roald Dahl’s books, but this is our favorite. This is the book where Daddy perfected his “giant voice” and created a Big Friendly Giant our children will forever remember and adore!
summer-reading10-150x150Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh – One of my all time childhood favorites. I couldn’t wait for the kids to be old enough to meet Harriet, the incredibly wise and wonderful child who literally spies on people and chronicles their lives in her ever-present notebook.
summer-reading11-150x150From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – This Newbery Award winning book chronicles the story of brother and sister, Jamie and Claudia who run away from home and spend the night in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
summer-reading12-150x150Grayson by Lynne Cox – This is the extraordinary story of a teenage girl who spends a morning swimming of the California coast with a baby whale who’s searching for his mother. Just thinking about this true story gives me chills.
summer-reading13-150x150The Wayside School books by Louis Sachar – The Wayside School was supposed to a single story with thirty classrooms side by side. Instead the classrooms were built one on top of the other, creating a school thirty stories tall! These stories are completely absurd, absolutely hysterical and a must read! If you can find an audio version and hear Louis Sachar reading in his nasally voice, your car trips will never be the same!

We love listening to Audio Books. They’re expensive, so we borrow them the library or set up an exchange with friends. They’re great for long car trips, but we often have a story playing just for the daily trips back and forth to school. We have many favorites, but one is Charlotte’s Web, read by E.B. White. To hear him tell the story in his rich Maine accent is truly a delight.

Parenting Books

Thought I’d add of few of my “go-tos.”
summer-reading14-150x150Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison – Found this in the hospital gift shop the day after Andie was born. Need I say more?
summer-reading15-150x150Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – This book has truly been a life saver when my children are constantly fighting and I’m ready to pack up and move out!

 

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne – True disclosure, I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but from what I’ve read so far, it’s right on. The book has allowed me to see that our family, like so many others, is moving too fast and like frogs in a pot of water that’s slowly coming to a boil, we don’t even know it!
summer-reading17-150x150Finally, a book I just finished reading last night, not a parenting book necessarily, but a book about living life Wholeheartedly. It’s so amazing I’m ready to stand on a street corner and pass out copies, The Gifts of Imperfection; Let Go of Who You think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene’ Brown. More to come about this book, as I’d like to devote and entire blog to this one!

We’re hoping this will be just the beginning of a growing list as you share your favorites as well! Just click on the Comment link below to leave your suggestions. Even if it’s just one favorite, we’d love to know about it!

Little Ducklings?

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LittleDucklings2Ever year when school resumes in the fall, I count down the days ‘til summer vacation begins.  I can’t wait to get the kids back in my nest, to allow our days a rhythm without alarm clocks, scheduled activities and homework.  To let their sleepy brains awaken over a plate of syrupy pancakes and watch their creative energies emerge ready to paint, draw, build Lego villages, or simply lie on the grass and look for shapes in the clouds.

When I think back on our summers past, I picture myself as a mother duck, the kids my little ducklings, following wherever I lead, rejoicing at places we arrive, delighting in activities I suggest, cheerfully eating foods I provide, and nesting in for sleep when I say the time is just right.

I assumed this summer would be just like all the others.  Yet as soon as school let out, I quickly learned that 10 and 12 year old ducklings don’t necessarily want to follow Momma Duck’s lead anymore.

In fact, they don’t really like Momma Duck’s food or bedtime or chores or quiet walks in the woods or fairy house building or puzzles or coloring.

What pre-adolescent ducks do like is TV and Wii and hanging out with friends and sleeping late and going to bed late and complaining and loud hip-hop music that ruffles Momma Duck’s feathers and iPods and computers and arguing and pecking at each other to the point where Mama Duck’s feathers just might fall right out.  At the same time, the ducklings still love ice cream cones and big bowls of popcorn and movie night, water balloons, and wiffle ball and swimming, and curling up next to Momma to listen to stories.

So it seems this summer is about Momma Duck learning to let these growing ducklings sometimes take the lead, or at least swim by their sides, all the while, keeping the nest soft and inviting, allowing the ducklings a safe and familiar place in which to return to rest.

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Real Women’s Soccer

Soccer1The only thing my husband wanted for Father’s Day was my participation in the first annual, mother-daughter end-of-season soccer game. It was our first and only free Sunday in June, and the last thing I wanted to do.

But by Sunday, I felt guilty about the complaining I’d done all week and decided to embrace the event.  Between Lee and Tucker’s closets I pulled together an outfit; Tuck’s Irish soccer jersey (too tight), Lee’s white socks with green stripes (too long), Lee’s soccer shorts and shin pads (too big) and Tuck’s still-too-big-for-him, hand-me-down cleats (just right).

I was filling a water bottle at the kitchen sink, when Andie came in.  I waited for her to laugh.  Instead she said, “Mom, you look AWESOME!” and gave me a big hug.  When Lee and Tuck came in, their faces broke out in huge, happy smiles, and I decided to leave my back-up clothes at home.

When we pulled into to the parking lot I saw other moms out on the field.  They were all in loose yoga pants, sweatpants, cute tank tops, too big t-shirts and sneakers!  I willed those extra clothes I’d left back at home to magically appear in my car.  I scoured the back seat, turning over notebooks, torn magazines, snow scrapers, water bottles, dog leashes and crushed up chips in the hopes of miraculously finding a stray shirt or pair of pants.  Nothing.

I stared out the front windshield and Lee motioned Come on from the field.  Slowly I opened the car door and stepped out.  I wobbled and nearly fell over as the cleats found their footing on the gravel parking lot.  Pulling my baseball cap low over my eyes, I made myself walk forward.  When I reached the field, Lee threw his arm around my shoulder and whispered, “You look great,” in my ear.  I looked up to make some snarky reply, and there before my eyes was Louise, another team mom, and she was wearing tall orange socks and cleats!  When I lifted my cap for a better look, I saw several other moms wearing a hodgepodge of their kid’s/husband’s soccer clothes, too!

As the 9 and 10-year-old girls easily lined up in their field positions, we moms milled about, trying to decide who would play where.  The only mom with a bit of experience was quickly elected captain.  “Who’s up for playing up front – doing a lot of running?” she asked.  I’d been walking a bit lately to tone up, so I raised my hand.  So did Louise and one other mom.  The other moms found places on the field and the game began.

Within the first 5 minutes, my legs and throat were burning, but we surprisingly held our own.  Louise even managed to score a goal, tying the game at one all.

When the ref (my husband) announced next goal wins, the girls came on hard, shooting again and again at the goal, where our only experienced player and captain, repeatedly blocked their shots.  After one save, she punted the ball hard and it landed right over my head, bouncing toward the girl’s goal.  I turned to follow the ball and saw that I had a clear break away.

I forced my exhausted legs to run and saw that the only thing standing between me and a game-winning goal,  was that cute little goalie bouncing on the front of her toes.  I pulled my right foot back, ready to shoot and bring it home for moms.  My foot released, sailing forward, yet just before my cleat met the ball, a bright yellow cleat, toe pointing straight up, slid in and knocked the ball out of bounds.  I fell back toward the ground, glimpsing a long blond ponytail and Andie’s face looking down at me with an enormous smile on her face.

The girls scored right after that and went on to win the game.  But that’s ok, because now I’m inspired.  Throughout my daily walks, I pick a mailbox, a tree or a street sign about 50 yards away and sprint as fast as I can, all the while imagining a soccer ball, a goal and my daughter trying (unsuccessfully!) to catch me.

Whoops, Silly me!  Wrong Picture!

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Here it is!

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Go U.S. Women!!

Independence Day

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My dad’s birthday is on the 4th of July. For years we woke to the mixture of him blasting John Phillip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever and my mother shouts of “Turn that music down, Jerry.”

We spent all his birthdays at my aunt, uncle and grandparent’s summer cottages in Henderson Harbor, NY.  The only time during the 4th of July that I didn’t spend in the water or making tents out of towels on the lawn, or running around with lit sparklers was when everyone gathered around Nam and Gramp’s black and white, rabbit-eared TV to watch Wimbledon.

I remember one year, leaning back against Dad’s legs watching Chrissy Evert battle Martina Navratilova.  Chrissy had just hit a beautiful winner down the line.  “Dad,” I said, “I bet she could beat you.” Everyone had laughed. Confused and embarrassed, I pulled my knees into my chest, until Dad patted me on the back as if to say, it’s ok.  Then I knew my silly mistake.  Of course she couldn’t beat my dad.  Nobody could beat my dad.

For years I’d sat on the grass outside the courts, watching him play.  His opponents would always tease, Oh no, he’s brought his good luck charm, and I’d wait for them to finish so I could get on the court with Dad.  Eventually I’d stand on the opposite side of the court, trying to return his serve, trying not mishit the ball as he charged the net, and trying to win that promised hot fudge sundae if I ever beat him.  We’ve been playing for years and I’ve yet to win that sundae.

The summer I turned 16 was the first I spent away from Dad on his birthday.  Instead, I spent the day at The Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Wimbledon!  I’d traveled to England on a High School summer exchange program and a group of us spent the night sleeping on the payment outside the stadium in hopes of securing tickets.  When the gates opened on the morning of July 4th, we were tenth in line and ended up with front row seats on Center Court.

I tried to mentally record every detail to later share with my dad. The reel still plays in my head of the traditional bowl of strawberries and cream, the delicately manicured pea green grass of the courts, our Chrissy playing just yards away from me, the misbehaving fans screaming from the standing-room-only section, Jimmy Connor’s bow to Princess Diana that made her blush so deeply, and how she was so pretty in a soft, fuchsia dress that several times I ended up watching her instead of the tennis match.

So there I was, across the ocean from both a dad and a country celebrating birthdays.  A 16-year-old girl experiencing her first true taste of independence; all the while wishing her Dad was by her side to share it.

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