Something We Read: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

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Last Stop On Market Street was the first book I put on Bitsy’s Amazon baby registry, and the first one I bought since I was too impatient to wait for someone to buy it for us. I was just so excited about having books for her, and this one in particular  I knew would be special. It received some of the most prestigious honors in children’s literature. It is a 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, the winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, and a 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.

These awards speak well for the book, but what attracted me most was its content and message. After church, CJ and his grandmother take the bus to the soup kitchen where they volunteer each week. CJ sees his friends go home in their cars, and wonders why he can’t do the same. He feels a little sorry for himself, but his grandmother patiently, lovingly, and wisely shows him how fortunate they are, and how to find beauty all around them in this ordinary excursion. Who needs a car when “we got a bus that breathes fire?” CJ’s friends who get to go home after church will not get the chance to meet all the people CJ and his grandma see on the bus and at the soup kitchen. CJ doesn’t need a smartphone to hear music when the man across from him on the bus has a guitar, and plays a song for everyone. CJ closes his eyes to appreciate the music. It takes him out of the bus to an imaginary place of freedom, beauty, and magic.

After CJ and his grandmother exit the bus in the neighborhood of the soup kitchen where they volunteer, CJ looks around at the “crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows, and boarded-up stores.” He asks his grandmother why “it’s always so dirty over here.” She points out a rainbow and tells him that being “surrounded by dirt” can sometimes help you be “a better witness for what’s beautiful.” CJ then recognizes his grandmother’s gift for finding beauty, and looks around to find it himself in the street lights, stray cats, and shadows around him. When they approach the soup kitchen and see the people they serve every week, CJ tells his grandmother he is happy to be there.

There are so many messages in Last Stop on Market Street that I want to share with my daughter, and I’m glad I have this book to help me do that. I want her to be able to find joy and beauty in everyday settings, and be grateful for our many blessings. I want her to have close relationships with her grandparents, like CJ and his grandmother have. His grandmother is such a positive influence, teaching him some of the most important lessons for living a happy, meaningful, and useful life. The illustrations show diverse characters, something very important for every child to see in their books. Most of all, I love the sense of community CJ’s grandmother clearly has and is teaching him. She connects with the people all around her. She sees the bus as a valuable public space where people can interact and learn from one another. She smiles and wishes a good afternoon to all the other passengers, and has CJ do the same. The way she speaks of the people they serve at the soup kitchen shows that she does not condescend to the people she serves. She treats them not only as equals, but as wonderful people she and CJ are honored to know. I think the book conveys all of these messages without being preachy. I try to share these messages when I read it to Bitsy through my voice, expression, and pointing to the illustrations, delighting in all of the beauties CJ’s grandma points out to him. I’m so glad Bitsy has been enjoying this one. The message, as well as the condition of the book in its hardcover format, should hold up for her for years to come.

This post contains some links to items and services on Amazon. As an associate, I earn from qualified purchases. 

 

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Learning As We Go

I’m someone who’s been reading about child development since I was a child. I’ve always been interested in the subject intellectually , and knew I wanted to be a parent. I believe in preparing. When I found out I was having Bitsy, I started seriously researching the best baby products right away. My husband and I spent two weekends in Birthing From Within classes (a class and book that I highly recommend–It helped me advocate for the kind of birth I wanted, while also accepting that the birth didn’t happen according to my plan). I believe in doing all of these things, while also accepting that as parents, there’s so much that we learn by doing.

When I created my baby registries, I did not include a shopping cart cover. It just seemed so unnecessary. I’m not fussy about germs and public spaces. I thought I was too smart and cool to fall for the marketing of another new purported necessity. My child could handle sitting in the shopping cart like all the children of yesteryear. My child need not be afraid of the world.

That was before I had a wiggly toddler. 

A scary experience I had today showed me how wrong I was. I was grocery shopping with Bitsy today. She loves shopping with her Mama, looking around at all the colors, the people, the stuff on the shelves that must seem so amazing to someone for whom everything is so brand new. I was walking along, happy to find really great items in the clearance section, sales on items we needed, rebates on Ibotta, and beautiful fresh flowers to take home and arrange. I talked to Bitsy about everything we saw, and narrated what I was doing. All was well.

Then we approached the checkout line. She’s been a bit wiggly in the baby seat of the shopping cart, but I’d watched her and turned her back around when she twisted to look in the direction we were going. Just as we were getting in line, she got very fussy. I unbuckled the seat belt and tried to lift her, but somehow she had gotten her leg stuck between the bars of the cart. I tried but couldn’t get her leg out of there. She got scared and cried louder. I got scared, too. I told myself, okay if her leg would fit in here, we must be able to get it out, right? Some ladies saw our predicament and came over and tried to help. I started to freak out. What if her leg gets broken?! What if she loses her leg?! I had tried to keep calm for my daughter, but now I was crying. There were some paramedics in the store, and one of them came over to help. He had a little trouble at first, but finally we got her positioned just right, and he was able to carefully slide her leg out of there. I was so happy to have her out of the cart and hold her close. It all happened in a matter of minutes, but those minutes of fear and pain felt so long.

Bitsy fell asleep in the car, and I carried her safely on me in the ErgoBaby at the next store. When I got home from my errands today, I shopped online for a shopping cart cover. Those who know our love for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and all things Eric Carle, will not be surprised at how happy I was to find this wonderful Very Hungry Caterpillar Alphabet shopping cart cover. I was even happier when I saw that it is 20% off on Amazon today! I ordered it, and with my 2-day Amazon Prime free shipping, it will be here before we need to go shopping again! I’m so relieved.

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As we raise children, parents will find over and over again that we were wrong about some of our ideas and expectations. We have to be willing to learn. We also can’t let it hurt our egos. It doesn’t bother me that I learned I really need a product that I thought was a little silly and fussy not so long ago. We don’t know it all, and that doesn’t make us bad parents. I’m just glad that everything turned out okay today, and that there’s an easy solution to prevent it happening again. As a mama, I’m going to keep reading child development literature, keep preparing, but remain flexible enough to keep learning as I go.

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Something We Read: Family Storytime With Winnie the Pooh: Surprise Tails

Bitsy is fascinated with her books. She is now at a stage in which she finds a book and brings it to me, saying, “Read!” in that sweet baby voice. A book-loving mama could not be more pleased!

Yesterday, one of the books she brought me was Winnie the Pooh: Surprise Tails, which turned out to be a fun surprise for us.

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Bitsy’s daddy was home for a lunch break. He heard us reading this story in which Eeyore is the main character, and having recently found his old harmonica, played a blues lick for each of the old grey donkey’s lines! This was so fun for all of us. The music enhanced the story, but most off all it was fun for the three of us to be goofy, laugh, and share a story together. You don’t have to be musicians–we aren’t–to include a little music when reading to your baby.

The touch-and-feel features in this board book are so interesting to a baby. The first page has a tiny mirror, and Bitsy is soooo amused by her reflection now. My favorite is the wooly tail Kanga knits for Eeyore.

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Sharing this little moment together was so special for us. I hope you’ve been finding little ways to make reading to your baby fun for the whole family. If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for the book discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

Something We Read: I Am a Bunny by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry

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I love each season. I’m happy to see the new ones come, and experience little moments of melancholy as I watch each one end. The cozy times spent indoors in the winter are replaced by the vibrant colors of spring. Lush, green, carefree summers fade into crisp, quiet autumn. Each season has its own beautiful fragrances. My favorite summer aromas are tomato vines and fresh basil. I had one of those brief, melancholy end-of-season reveries this week when I was gathering basil for a light summer pasta and saw that this year’s basil is coming to an end.

last basil of summer

I’ll miss the smell, the taste, and the experience of walking outside to the small kitchen garden to collect basil for our food, but I thought happily of what good use we derived from the plants this year, how much we enjoyed them. This summer has been a particularly special one, with Bitsy’s first birthday, a trip to celebrate a centennial birthday in the family, first steps, and first visits to the pool. It’s now time to start ordering bulbs to chill and plant in the late fall/early winter. All year long, I look forward to my spring tulips and hyacinths. I hope to share this love of the changing seasons with my daughter. It has brought me so much joy and reassurance through changing times all my life.

One way I can share this love of the seasons with Bitsy is by sharing with her one of my favorite books from childhood, I Am a Bunny, by Ole Risom, illustrated by Richard Scarry.

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My adults read this book to me so often when I was a baby/toddler that I memorized it then, and have memorized it again now as it has become Bitsy’s favorite. The illustrations are beautiful, the tone is peaceful and happy, the text sweet and concise. Nicholas, the titular bunny, enjoys the entire year by finding something beautiful in the natural world to celebrate in each season.

He picks flowers and chases butterflies in the spring, blows dandelion seeds in the summer, watches falling leaves and snow, and enjoys seeing wildlife in every season.

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Readers are reminded that winter is not the end, that the cycle begins anew, when Nicholas curls up to for a winter’s nap and dreams about spring.

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Sharing this beloved book with my daughter, seeing her love it, too, helps me to see the beauty of change and the passing of time, just as the changing seasons do. My mother and I bonded over this book, now Bitsy and I love reading it together over and over again. I am reminded of my grandmother, how she would take me outside in the afternoons and point out the plants and animals we saw, helping me to share in her love of nature and watching things grow. I remember picking flowers for her from our yard.

This book is pretty in a very simple way. There is no major action, exciting plot, or gimmick, just a poetic love of the natural world and a gentle character who finds pure joy in all seasons. It is so dear to me, and I hope you can share it with the little ones in your life. Even more so, I hope you get to share with them the books you loved most as a child. What better way to pass on to children a love of reading?

This post contains a link to an Amazon listing for the book discussed. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”–Philippians 4:8 

 

Something We Read: Sense and Sensibility for Your Little One

Children’s literacy is one of my passions. Start reading to your children early and do it regularly! It helps them develop important preliteracy skills and a love of reading, and even more importantly, is a wonderful way to bond with the little ones we love.

I’ve been reading at least one book to Bitsy every day since her birth, and keeping a journal of all the books read to her. My hospital bag included two books to read to her during our stay. I’ll never forget my mother reading Home for a Bunny, one of my childhood favorites, to Bitsy on her first day in the world.

As a weekly feature on Fridays, I will share with you one of the books Bitsy and I read together during the week.

This post contains links to Amazon listings for the books discussed in it. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Something We Read This Week

Sometimes Jane Austen is the best self-care. My schedule this summer has been busy and often sometimes very stressful (don’t take two summer classes with a newly-mobile baby while traveling out of state on the baby’s first flight!), and while I have a big bag full of exciting new books from my library, and plenty of required reading for my MLIS courses, there are times I just need to go back and reread a good Jane Austen novel to make everything feel better. Books we read repeatedly throughout our lives can take on new character and meaning with our own changing attitudes and experiences. My feelings toward Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, for instance, have grown more sympathetic over the years.

During a family trip to the shore this summer, I reread Mansfield Park, the Austen novel I’d gone longest without rereading. Later, I wanted the satisfaction brought by the triumph of wise, patient Elinor Dashwood and, let’s be honest, the sense of superiority over the foolish, bad-mannered characters the narrator so bitingly ridicules, so I’ve been enjoying my beloved clothbound edition of Sense and Sensibility. Which brings me to my choice for one of Bitsy’s books this week:

Sense and Sensibility: An Opposites Primer

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How fun for Bitsy to have her own version of the book her mama is reading! I read it to her, then handed the sturdy board book to her so she could play with it while I read my own. She loves to play with her books, turning the pages, pointing to pictures, and vocalizing.

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She also loves pulling all the books off her bookshelf and throwing them on the floor.

The format is like any other first book of opposites, but what better way to teach my child the concepts of big and little than through the examples of Norland Park and Barton Cottage?

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And who wouldn’t want to get an early start sharing their favorite novels with their child? The book is as amusing for parents who are fans of Jane Austen as it is for little ones. Here’s Marianne Dashwood playing the pianoforte the only way it should be played–passionately:

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Sense and Sensibility: An Opposites Primer is part of the BabyLit series. I first discovered the series on a visit to a small local bookstore. What a boon to a literature-loving parent’s heart! All the books in this series are so clever, attractive, and well-made. I only bought this one that day, though it was hard to leave the others behind. I’ll definitely add more of them to our collection soon.

Does your little one have any books in this series? Which ones are your favorites? Let me know in the comments! I love discussing books and discovering new children’s lit!

 

First birthday, first blog post

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Hello and welcome! I’m a stay-at-home mama to a daughter we’ll call Bitsy, a graduate student of library and information science, and a person who loves to celebrate special occasions, milestones, changing seasons, and the small beautiful moments that make up our lives. I am so grateful to be able to stay at home with my daughter–it gives me the chance to experience so many more of the sweet, small moments of helping her grow–but one of the things I miss as a stay-at-home mama is having co-workers with whom to talk shop. A lot of what I’ll do in this blog is talk the shop of parenting and homemaking with my readers. I don’t pretend to be an expert. I’ll just share my experiences and talk about what works and what doesn’t in my own home and family.

I saw my daughter’s recent first birthday as a good occasion for writing my first blog posts. I want to share the experience of throwing her first birthday party and, over the next few days, reflect on her first year of life and my first year as a parent. I’ll look back at how different phases felt, the time I spent back at work, caring for a baby while taking classes, and what products from my baby registry were most useful. Some posts on this blog may include affiliate links for products and services I actually like and recommend. I hope this blog will be a space in which we can learn from one another and share joy in the small things that make life so meaningful.

Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing. — Therese of Lisieux