What’s My Superpower?

This afternoon, we caught up on a couple episodes of Julie’s Library.

It’s been a favorite podcast of ours since early in the pandemic, and our Bug especially enjoys the stories picked out by Julie Andrews.

Today, we listened to the episode featuring What’s My Superpower by Inuit author Aviaq Johnston (link to an award-winning short story of hers–warning, it is about suicide).

The Bug is big into superpowers right now (though, being a realist, he has decided he no longer wants to grow up to be a superhero. He instead wants to be an astronaut.)

Before the Story

Before listening, we had discussed what superpowers we would like to have. The Bug said flying, super hearing and transforming into a dinosaur.

I said I’d like to have the superpower of being able to speak every language in the world.

(That’s been one of my three wishes since childhood–the other two being to read every language in the world and write every language in the world.)

Superpowers

While the story was a bit too obviously trying to teach a lesson, it was enjoyable. The author’s tone is playful and humorous, which softens the preachy nature of the narrative.

After listening, we talked about what superpowers we think we actually have.

The Bug wasn’t too engaged in this part of the activity. His idea of superpowers is still very much tied to Marvel and DC comics.

I think I know what his superpower is, though. It’s listening.

Super Listening

He said he wanted super hearing for a superpower, but he’s already got super listening.

The guy is an incredible listener. He’s inherited it both from his father and from my mother (it seems to have skipped me).

He also remembers. It has sometimes surprised me the things he retains and repeats.

For this reason, he’s merciless when it comes to inconsistencies. But he’ll also remember details of anecdotes, confidences and silly jokes.

Though sometimes it doesn’t seem like it, the kid really pays attention when you talk to him.

His great listening, combined with his innate kindness and empathy, make him a very thoughtful, sweet boy.

So What’s Mine?

Since he wasn’t super into the discussion, the Bug walked away without showing the least interest in discussing my superpower.

Sure, he’s a good listener, but he’s also five and sometimes just doesn’t give a crap.

I’ve been thinking about it, though. I think my superpower is communicating.

I’m gifted at being able to clearly communicate any message either face to face, over the phone, and in writing (and sometimes non-verbally with my comically expressive face). It has served me well over the years.

I’ve known about this gift for a long time. Hell, I speak four languages and can communicate effectively in all four of them (even German!).

The Question Is…

…What the heck do I DO with this superpower??

The Joy of a Used Bookstore

It’s been a while.

That is, a while since I walked into a bookstore (or any kind of store other than a grocery store!).

What to Read?

Today, my Bug and I pulled out my trusty edition of The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease to seek some inspiration on what to read next. We haven’t finished our current read yet, but we like to line up our next book.

After browsing around on our public library’s online catalogue and placing a couple of holds for some books that looked interesting, we got to thinking.

And we remembered this wonderful used bookstore we’d visited in Leesburg a long while ago, before the world fell apart.

Checking In

A quick Google search told me that Books and Other Found Things was open, but since I don’t always trust the hours posted on Google, I decided to give them a call.

The owner picked up the phone and when I asked, “Hello! Are you open?” he cheerfully responded: “Yes! I mean, I’m here!”

He informed me that masks were required in the store and that all visitors would be required to wear protective gloves. For these reasons, and others, we decided not to take our Bear along on the visit. He stayed home with Chico.

The Absolute Joy

It wasn’t entirely the same.

We were wearing plastic gloves (which were way too big for the Bug), and we didn’t feel like we could just relax into being there.

And yet…

It was just wonderful.

First of all, we were welcomed with a big smile and an invitation to come in from the rain, which is always nice.

And then we started browsing. Oooh the delight of browsing in a bookstore!

Careful to touch only when necessary, we poured over the shelves and shelves of books. Allen, the owner, very obligingly produced a pile of easy reader books when the Bug asked him if he had any books about the ocean.

Allen’s knowledge is vast, and he clearly knows his inventory very well. He found several books that the Bug was interested in, and I found several more on the young readers shelf that we could read together.

We didn’t linger long. Being in a mask and gloves isn’t really conducive to long-term browsing comfort. But we did walk out with a pile of books, including a boxed set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

A Slice of Normalcy

Though it was an abbreviated visit, it felt something like normalcy. It made me realize how much I miss being able to pop into a bookstore, or visit a café.

I’m so thankful that Books and Other Found Things has weathered the storm so far, and I hope Allen continues to weather it. It would be such a shame for Leesburg to lose this business.

It seems that other businesses have not been so lucky. Not far from us is Comic Logic, a comic book store that we wanted to visit, too. Sadly, their hours are significantly reduced, and they’re only open three afternoons a week. I can only assume that means things aren’t going too well. We’ll try to get there during their opening hours.

Not There Yet

We’re not back to normal yet, but today’s visit felt like a little step towards it. Like the hope of light at the end of the tunnel. I just pray that when we do get through the tunnel, the small businesses we love will still be with us.

The Joy of Reading

It feels so decadent.

It almost feels sinful…

To sit down and pick up a book…

…In the middle of the day!

Early Pleasure

I’ve always been a reader. I don’t even remember learning to read. As far as I can remember, I’ve always been able to.

My happiest memories of childhood are of our family reading together.

We read about NIMH, Narnia, Middle Earth, the cupboard, the high seas, deep space, jungles… More places than I can remember.

When we outgrew family reading time, I started reading on my own. I was never as voracious a reader as my brothers, but I was always reading something.

Forgotten Pleasure

When I was studying I found it hard to read for pleasure, as I am a slow reader and spent so much time reading school materials.

But upon graduating from college, I moved back home and started working a job that had a 30 minute commute by public transport. Perfect. My love was rekindled.

After having children, though, my reading slowed way down.

And then, after my mother died, I nearly stopped reading altogether.

Shared Pleasure

Reading was something I shared with my mother. It was something we did together. Almost everything I read was a recommendation from her.

She had majored in English and was always a deep and thoughtful reader. By reading the same books, we could talk about them together, too. Long after I’d stopped writing papers for English class, I’d still be discussing and arguing them with my mother.

When she died, that font dried up. There was no one else I could really talk about books with.

Many of my friends and family read constantly. But either they restrict their discussion of books to their book groups, or their tastes and interests are very different from mine.

And sadly, many friends, like me, have drifted away from reading because they feel they don’t have time. Whether it’s because of kids or work.

Necessary Pleasure

Since moving back to the States where I have access to a wonderful public library system, my love of reading has rekindled.

Access to English-language books is helpful.

Developing the courage to make my own reading choices and branch out into the unknown is also helpful.

Suddenly, despite not having my reading guru–my literary guide–anymore, I have fallen in love with reading all over again.

Now, with the pandemic, struggles with mental health, small children at home, isolation and boredom pressing in–Now, more than ever, reading is a necessary pleasure.

The newspaper. Magazines. Children’s books. Nonfiction, history, social sciences… And yes, the novels I have always loved.

Reading Is Keeping Me Sane.

I’m currently reading Kate Atkinson’s latest in her Jackson Brodie series, Big Sky.

In between novels, I’m reading chapters of El infinito en un junco by Irene Vallejo. It’s a sweeping history of books themselves, the earliest written word and the first libraries.

What are you reading?

Find me on Goodreads!

Reading for Change

29. Good Vibes: What makes you smile? What makes you happy?

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

You all know I’m a knitter. I’ve written about the joys of being a process knitter, and how much pleasure knitting brings me.

Right now, in these times of isolation, stress and turmoil, I’ve turned to knitting more than ever.

Reading to Escape

Reading is also one of my favorite activities. Mostly I read novels, but I also enjoy biographies and histories.

For me, reading is a way to escape. I’ve read challenging books, books that take me out of my comfort zone.

But, especially now, I’m reaching for more escapist literature, or comfort reading. Jane Austen, Alexander McCall Smith, lighter fiction, mystery novels…

Time for a New Reading List?

As the country seems to be coming apart around us, we’re all feeling anxious, stressed, angry and frightened. I feel helpless and powerless to make change.

Now is the time to take one of those activities that makes me happy (reading) and use it to become more informed.

Many people have published lists of recommended reading to learn about racism, white privilege, and how to become an ally. What has struck me, however, have been the lists of books for children.

Reading With the Kids

Reading is also one of our boys’ favorite activities, and seeing them read is one of my greatest sources of joy. Author Christine Taylor-Butler tweeted earlier this month that for every one book about racism you read to a child, please “provide 20 joyful books.”

But not just any joyful books. Books in which children of color are featured as the main characters, doing the same things that white children do, because all children do them.

One book like this that I grew up with was The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Another that we recently listened to on the Julie’s Library podcast was Tía Isa Wants a Car by Meg Medina and illustrated by Claudio Munoz.

Some Resources

Here’s an article from the New York Times that lists some great books for kids—not just books on racism, but also books in which children of color are the protagonists.

On the Julie’s Library website there is also a link to a list of books to read to kids to help support conversations about race, racism and resistance.

Learning Together

While I delve into a new and challenging reading list, I can introduce more diverse literature to my children and help them grow into anti-racists.

We can learn together as a family. That makes me feel empowered.

That, and donating to organizations I believe in.

Reading READING reading

Hooray for public libraries! Hooray for living in a country where I speak the language!

Since I’m off the knitting AND since we now live in the US, my intake of reading has skyrocketed.

With all the stress and frustration of moving to a new place, my biggest joy and consolation has been the Loudoun County Public Library. I’ve done so much at the library! I’ve registered to vote (HOORAY!). I’ve volunteered to teach English. I’ve played with LEGO, made a bunny out of little melted plastic beads, and other fun kids’ activities with the boys. I’ve also attended a seminar on getting back into the work force after a gap in your career.

All this… FOR FREE!

And of course, I have borrowed books. Mountains of books! Cascades of books!

Okay so maybe not *that* many. But it feels like a whole world has been opened up to me that I was missing when we lived in Germany. While my German is pretty darn good, I could never read more than children’s story books in German.

Now, I’ve rekindled my love affair with the written word. And it feels soooo good. I’ve even branched out a bit! I’m a big reader of novels, but since joining the local library I’ve read one history book and now I’m reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. It feels good to try new things.

I’ve also got a little idea for a business germinating, and I know where I’ll go for resources and books to help me develop it…

That’s right. The library.

Check out my Goodreads button in the right-hand menu to see what I’ve been reading.

Favorite Parenting Books

Oh, what the heck. I do not like to be called a “Mommy blogger,” but I’m going to go ahead and give some recommendations for our favorite parenting books.

When our first son was born, I often turned to forums like babycenter.com for advice. I read online articles and discussion boards. None of them helped assuage my anxiety.

Finally, as I wrote in an earlier blog article, I decided to quit the internet, and to use just a few trusted resources. Here are some of them.

Favorite Parenting Books for Pregnancy

Getting email updates is fine (especially if they’re funny), but nothing beats a well-researched book.

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy

  • What we liked: It’s packed full of research-based information, well-organized and easy to refer back to.
  • Not so hot: It’s pretty dry reading, but that’s about the only negative.

From Tiny Tot to Toddler: This is a free guide provided by the Quebec government to expecting parents, and is therefore not available outside of Quebec. The link might help you find out how to get a copy. It is FANTASTIC.

This is often referred to as “the bible” by healthcare providers in Quebec. If you have any questions about your pregnancy, or your baby, they often ask, “Have you checked in the bible?” It is CHOCK full of really useful information.

  • What we liked: EVERYTHING IS IN HERE. You can look things up by symptom, name, stage, etc.
  • Not so hot: Because it’s government materials, they provide ONLY official recommendations, and might frown on practices like co-sleeping, or other more “folksy” remedies or recommendations.

The Birth Partner, by Penny Simkin

Penny Simkin is a well-known US-based doula, and her book is for those accompanying pregnant moms. My brother gave this book to Chico to read while I was pregnant, and he found it extremely informative (especially the part about “very rapid labor”…).

Favorite Parenting Books for Newborns

Once the little one comes along, you’ve got a whole new set of questions. We continued to refer regularly to Tiny Tot. We also found What to Expect the First Year very useful.

  • What we liked: Well organized, easy to refer to, and often addressed the concerns we were facing in the right time frame (it’s organized by month).
  • Not so hot: It’s quite categorical, and can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong if you’re not doing what they say. It’s also got a LOT of information, which can be overwhelming, but I think that’s a common pitfall with these kinds of books.

With our Bug, we didn’t need to worry much about sleeping issues. He was born an olympic champion of a sleeper. Our Bear, however, gave us a bit more trouble on the sleeping front, and so we consulted:

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth

  • What we liked: It gives pointers that you can put into practice right away, and offers a variety of ideas and potential plans for getting your kid either into a good sleep pattern or back into one when they’ve gone through a transition.
  • Not so hot: It’s heavy on data and statistics, which is reassuring but also dry. That’s why there’s a handy “how to use this book” section at the beginning.

Favorite Parenting Books for Food and Feeding

BLW (or baby-led weaning) is all the rage right now, and we did refer to the book for some information. It’s Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. We did not end up going whole-hog, but did a combination of BLW and old-fashioned spoon feeding.

Again, Tiny Tot was an amazing resource for beginning solids. It has a whole guide for what kinds of foods to give, including portion size recommendations, etc. It’s got a chart that you can use to tick things off as you keep adding foods, and great suggestions for what to try, and how to prepare it.

Favorite Parenting Books for Behavior

As our Bug got older and we started facing the famous “terrible twos” and “threenager” phases, we looked to some books for advice on behavior management.

Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp

  • What we liked: It provides actionable things that you can put to use IMMEDIATELY, and you will see immediate positive results, if you’re willing adjust your behavior and try something new.
  • Not so hot: It’s SO AMERICAN, and kind of makes you feel like an idiot. But whatever, it works.

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline and Jim Fay

  • What we liked: It challenged us to think differently about how we approach situations, and was also immediately effective.
  • Not so hot: It’s coming from a very Christian background (assuming churchgoing, etc.), which is fine with us as we are Christian, but might not appeal to others. It also assumes that Mom is staying at home full-time with the kids, which is a bit frustrating, but again, does not invalidate the precepts of the book.

Oh Crap! Potty Training, by Jamie Glowacki

I’ve learned that potty training is a polarizing topic among parents these days. We had the attitude that potty training is taught, and that our son was ready to be taught when he was a little over two years old. We did not subscribe to the wait-until-they’re-ready theory, and wanted to help our son out of diapers as soon as possible, for our sanity and for the environment.

  • What we liked: This is a no-nonsense guide, with a healthy dose of reality and a great sense of humor. Her style really fit our parenting style, and when we approached potty training as a fun, teaching-learning activity, it made it relatively smooth.
  • Not so hot: I have trouble thinking about what is not so hot in this book. Other people I have spoken with don’t like the pressure they feel to get their kid out of diapers, or worry that the pressure of potty training will have an adverse effect on their children. In my mind, if you’re pressuring your kid to potty train, you’re not really following this book, and you’ll have an uphill battle to face.

The Best Parenting Advice Ever…

Usually comes from your doctor, close friends and/or family, and your own instincts. These books might give you information and tools, but you’re the one who decides what to do with them.