Monday, November 30, 2009

a little book chat, plus some extra noodling

I'm still a little fuzzy from our long holiday weekend. We really like to follow a consistent path; Ramona, Brian and I. Being away from home for all those days really threw us for a loop.
Ramona had so much fun, more fun than I thought a 7 month old baby really could be expected to have. She totally got the idea of it being a holiday and she really lived it up. She is going to LOVE Christmas. Ramona was so wild by Saturday night that I had to finally give in and let her sleep with us.
My house feels like a disaster, my blog neglected, bills unpaid......on and on it goes. Glad to be home and glad to begin the process of putting it all back together again.

So, for the sake of normalcy and coming back to daily life, I'm going to do my (new) Monday night routine of chatting about the books.

I want to talk about Pam Munoz Ryan. She is my new favorite author. I have written about Paint the Wind several times. A few weeks ago I read Becoming Naomi Leon. I don't think it is as epic as Paint the Wind. (After Ryan wrote that one she probably sat back and thought "Well....that's the best I can do.") I bet a lot of my students would relate to Naomi's story. She's a young girl, living a perfectly fine life with her great grandmother and little brother in a close knit trailer park. Everything is going great until her train wreck mother comes into the picture and starts messing things up. Many of Ryan's protagonists are Latinas and in the story Naomi travels to Mexico to escape her mother. While there, she gains a new confidence from reconnecting with her family and learning the honored family tradition of carving.

On a side note, every book I have read by Pam Munoz Ryan gives a little shout-out to breastfeeding, which just delights me. It's unheard of to mention something like that in a book for 4th and 5th grade students. I like to think there is no such thing as "girl books" or "boy books", but who am I kidding, Ryan's books are meant for young girls to enjoy. I think it's sweet and appropriate how Ryan will put a mother nursing her baby in the story as scenery. No big woop, just a mama and a baby. She describes this just as lyrically as she does a tipped over pot, tortillas cooking on a grill or a wild desert flower.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Book Talk - The Unfinished Angel

You know you are reading a nice book when you immediately think of all the people you want to buy it for. You also know you are reading a nice book when you start reading it aloud even though you are all by yourself.

On Friday we got a box of new books and on top was The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech. (She also wrote Walk Two Moons.) I had other important things to read, but I couldn't help myself. I had it finished by Sunday afternoon.

It is about a little angel that lives in the Swiss Mountains. The angel speaks very cutely. I didn't find it especially funny, but very endearing. The angel talks a lot about swishing in the peoples heads and shining warm beams down to them. Then a little girl, Zola, shows up and can see the angel. She has lots of ideas about what angels do and it perplexes our angle. "How is she knowing what angels are doing? I am the angel! I missed some teachings I believe". Zola discovers a problem that she would very much like the angel to solve and the two set out together to make things right.

This is a tiny book. It's like a novella. The characters are not too deep and we don't get much back story, but it is a dear little book.

thankful for the very large things, too

I am very thankful for my home. It is a modest, cookie cutter split level, but I am thankful to have it.

Two summers ago, when I was newly pregnant with Ramona, Brian and I decided to buy our first home. At the same time, my mom was ready to move into a smaller place and simplify her life. It wasn't glamorous or new, but I bought my mom's house. It was a favor that we both did for each other and now I live in my childhood home, with my new little family. I give Ramona a bath in the same bathroom that I got ready for prom in. Charming, no?

It isn't a dream house, but we can afford it and isn't that really the makings of a true dream?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thankful for the small things...

...the small, five pound things with wet noses and very awful breath.

Okay, it may seem trivial, but I'm thankful for my dog.

Seven years ago I got a dog as a college graduation present from my mom. I picked out a tiny Yorkshire terrier and named her Sophie. (Aren't all yorkies named Sophie?) I proceeded to spoil the hell out of this tiny, neurotic little dog.

I fretted a lot about what was going to happen with Sophie when Ramona was born. I worried that my spoiled, crazy dog was going to attack my small baby girl.

I did not even consider for a second that Sophie would be the greatest joy in Ramona's life. Yesterday I actually got Sophie out of her kennel especially to help me entertain the baby. I have to stand on my head to get a laugh out of Ramona, but all Sophie has to do is walk by.

So far, Sophie has shown herself to be gentle and tolerant of Ramona. She has adjusted her behavior to match our new expectations. She even lays at my feet when I rock Ramona and never asks to sit in my lap when Ramona is curled up there. She seems to take pleasure in guarding her family.

That Marley doesn't have a thing on Sophie. She is from that place where really good dogs are made. Bless her little doggy heart.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

thankful, round two

Next on my thankful list: Ramona's babysitter.

This makes me nervous. You know how when you proudly declare that your baby sleeps through the night, never cries anymore, eats everything you serve her....and then, what do you know, you end up eating the mud? Well, it makes me nervous to declare victory at any turn.

But, in honor of the coming holiday, I'm going to go there.

We really like Ramona's babysitter. She is a good, honest, caring, sweet person. Because of her, Brian and I are carrying on with our lives very much like before Ramona was born. Sometimes I hate being a working mom, sometimes I feel a huge relief when I'm driving off to just depends on the day. But I know that I would not feel this bouncy ambivalence if I didn't honestly feel safe with who we had chosen.

I am thankful that I have a safe and caring person to care for my child while I am at work.

Friday, November 20, 2009

On the First day of Thanksgiving.....

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is only since being a teacher that it became my favorite holiday. My first year as a teacher I was a hopeless mess. I didn't enjoy teaching that first year until November. By then I finally got my class under control and began to enjoy teaching. It just so happened that it was while teaching about pilgrims, turkeys, and the first thanksgiving (real or fictitious,whatever) that teaching got my heart. I associate this holiday with taking a giant breath and releasing.

I also love the nice break we teachers get, the time with family, and enjoying a holiday with food, but no gifts.

In honor of this holiday, and this very fortunate life I'm living I am going to write about something I am thankful for every day until the BIG DAY.


I am thankful for books. I am thankful that I get to base my livelihood on their existence. I'm thankful that they make up a big part of the Ego that is Nova. Read from a musty library page or from an electronic device, whatever, I'm deeply thankful for the stories.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Book Review - Walk Two Moons

sheesh.....I totally need more structure. I haven't blogged in a week, and not because I didn't have stuff to say. So, introducing....Monday Night Book Review! Darn it people, I'm going to keep picking nights until one works.

I'm reviewing an old book tonight. Copyright 1994. A few weeks ago a teacher friend suggested I read Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. He said it was my kind of book, and that it was "winsome". It must be my kind of book, because there is a mom in it and SPOILER ALERT....SPOILER ALERT....

she dies. I alert you that it's a spoiler, because the best thing about this book is the really wonderful plot twist, and I've just ruined it big time. But, how can I resist telling you about another sick/dying/dead mom? Seriously, what is the deal, children's literature? I guess moms are pretty much huge in the life of a child. What is more heartbreaking than a motherless child? Well, they are definitely children's literature gold. It seems like most of the books that I've read during my quest this year have been about a sick or dying mother.

What? My quest, you ask? Nova, you are on a quest?

Oh, why yes I am. (I have a 6 month old child, I am really really good at carrying on both sides of a conversation.) At the beginning of this school year I took a vow to stop reading all grown up books. I haven't read a book of adult fiction since Ramona was born. No matter how tempting, I'm just not going to do it. Last year, even though I was a school librarian, I didn't crack a book in my very own library. I just went about my own personal reading goals with no concern at all for the books at school. But then Ramona came and my mind got very fuzzy. The chapter book fiction of my 4th and 5th graders have become the only game in town for me. Seriously, I'm a reading maniac. I will go back to reading adult fiction, maybe. Right now, I'm just reading my way through the shelves of my library.

But, back to Walk Two Moons.....The story is about a grieving girl, who is on a cross country trip with her wacky grandparents to bring her mother back home. Our girl, Sal, tells a story about a new friend, a girl named Phoebe. She spends the entire trip telling the story of Phoebe, and for a good reason: "Beneath Phoebe's story was another one. Mine."

Shon, you are right, this book was totally winsome.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


This is the season of change.

We are now vacuuming every night, because we can't keep Ramona on a blanket and we have realized that if we don't keep the floor picked up she is going to eat a paperclip! Last night when we were working on dinner, she rolled into the kitchen to see what we were up to. It seems like it's time to start baby proofing. Not just thinking about it, but really doing it.

Where is her baby-ness going?

But, you know, the people I really don't recognize anymore is Brian and me. Who are these people?? Who are these people who care about someone besides themselves? Who are these people that clean their house and try really hard to cook dinner?

I don't write much about Brian. Really, who wants to hear about another woman's amazing husband? And when he is a god-awful horrible selfish buttface miscreant, it's against the rules to air our problems out on the internet. So, it makes it kind of hard to write about him.

However, here are some things I've been really wanting to say about Brian:

1. His love and devotion to Ramona is startling to me. I have always thought Brian was pretty selfish and honestly, not really very interested in family. He's always been more about friends. I never get tired of admiring Ramona and her father.

2. He is very helpful around the house. He is kind of like Rainman. Once he settles into a routine you can pretty much count on him to take joy in carrying it out day after day. Brian was telling me about an article he read that said a large percentage of women with full time jobs are also responsible for most of the house work and child care stuff. It isn't this way in our house. Of course, there are LOTS of jobs that I do with Ramona that Brian is clueless about. I'm nursing her, so there is that. Also, I do her laundry, give her baths, clip her nails, get her dressed in the morning......the list goes on.....but, Brian really does the lion's share of the housework. And, to be fair, I kind of keep these little things with Ramona to myself, because I like doing them.

3. I'm going to tread very carefully on this one, very very carefully. He is enduring the change in our relationship with a lot of good humor. One of my favorite movies is Before Sunrise, and I also really like the sequel. In Before Sunset, Ethan Hawke's character talks about how he and his wife aren't affectionate anymore and it feels like they run a day care center together. When you watch this in your early 20's you pity poor Ethan Hawke. Now, I see the whole thing differently. Ethan should have stayed true to his wife and been patient. That's all I'm going to say about that.

I am feeling the shortness of my life lately. Ramona is growing so fast. She will be a little girl, and then a grown girl. And, there we will be, Brian and Nova. Maybe we will go to France?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Help! People are judging us!

Do you watch Modern Family? I watched it the other night and there is a scene where the dads get the baby locked in the car and one of the dads shouts "Help! Our baby is locked in the car and people are judging us!!". I found this incredibility funny.

And it struck a nerve. It feels like there has been a lot of stuff in the news about being a good parent. Stuff about shouting and spanking, stuff like "news flash: OMG, TV isn't going to make your baby smart!".

A blogger that I follow with a devotion that makes my husband tease me (he says "Nova, what would KMM do??") called for a break in the madness.

I was too overwhelmed by life to add my voice to the comments, but I was relieved to hear it. I was glad to hear someone say, Lay Off The Parents.

Here's my bit. I had/have some post partum depression. When I came home from the hospital my anxiety was crushing. It hurt to be that afraid. What was I afraid of you ask? Was I afraid I was going to be a bad mom? Nope. Was I afraid that my life was over? Nope.

I was afraid my baby was going to die and I would never be happy again. Before we left the hospital we were given STACKS of DVDs to watch. SIDS! Shaken Baby Syndrome! Infant Suffocation! Because I'm a crazy rule follower and a desperate people pleaser I was very susceptible to the propaganda. I became very sleep deprived from staring into her bassinet. And when she was about 3 weeks old, I said to myself "I am not going to be able to keep her alive with my eyes, it's time to relax a bit".

Why did those nurses that cared so lovingly for Ramona and me put that kind of fear in me? Couldn't they see that I was a careful person that wasn't going to do anything stupid with my dear baby? They did it because they are worried about the tons of parents out there that have the parental capabilities of a sock drawer.

I'm a teacher, believe me, I see some actual bad parenting. It really wouldn't hurt for some of these people to read a book or take a class.

But sheesh, I think most of us are doing a good job. It goes back to the middle path. A little learning and research is ok, but it's pretty easy to OD on the stuff. But where is that line? How do you know when you've had enough?

Middle path is wisdom and wisdom ain't easy, folks.