somewhat bookish.

Toddler Reads: Halloween October 20, 2014

Filed under: Kids Books — cransell @ 1:11 pm
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Halloween is sneaking up on us! Here are few suggestions of seasonally appropriate, non-scary reads for toddlers.

My First Halloween written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola (1992).
This was in heavy rotation last year, when I secretly thought of it as “My Second Halloween”. That’s because it does a great job of introducing the basic concepts of Halloween to a kid who is old enough to notice that something different is going on. Costumes, pumpkins, trick-or-treating, Tomie dePaola has got you covered.

A Very Brave Witch written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Harry Bliss (2006).
Did you know that witches are scared of people? This is the tale of one very brave little witch who befriends a witch-costumed human girl on Halloween. Halloween fun and a lesson in not being scared of those who are different than you in one.

Bats at the Library written and illustrated by Brian Lies (2008).
Only Halloween themed, in the sense that bats are associated with Halloween, but still great fun. When a window at the library is left open one night, the bats enjoy a Night at the Library, complete with book chat, story times, photocopier shenanigans and all the fun that the library has to offer.

Room on the Broom written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler (2001).
A fun rhyming tale about a witch’s flight. She loses her hat, then her bow, then her wand, each found by a helpful animal who asks if there is room on her broom for them. When the overloaded broom breaks, with a dragon on the hunt, it looks like all hope is lost, but luckily her new animal friends come to the rescue.

One Halloween Night written and illustrated by Mark Teague (1999).
Three friends set off trick-or-treating, but everything goes wrong. Wendell’s scientist costume has been died pink, Mona has to dress up as a fairy princess, Floyd has to bring his little sister along. When a gaggle of witches start to tease the four trick-or-treaters, they find that they have special powers on this special night. Mark Teague’s great illustrations have made this a hit in our house since Frances’ first Halloween!

Toddler Reads are aimed at children 0-3. All of these books have been Frances-approved.


What I Read: September October 3, 2014

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 12:55 pm

I read 3 books in September. 2 fiction, 1 non-fiction, 1 on Kindle, 2 in print.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill (2014).
I wasn’t sure about this book at first, the writing still isn’t the norm – I guess, it stream of conciousness – and it took me a few (short) chapters to feel like I knew what was going on. In the end, I really liked the book – a look at marriage, parenting, infidelity, life from the perspective of the narrator/wife. Worth reading. And it’s quick (which seems to make all books more appealing to me lately – has the internet shortened my attention span?)

The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (2006).
This is the third (and I think last) Sorcery & Cecilia book, and it picks up, as the title suggests, 10 years after the last (which featured cousins Kate and Cecilia on their Grand European wedding tour). Each has children now, and when Kate and her husband James are called upon to investigate the disappearance of a German magician/railway surveyor, Kate’s two boys are sent to stay with Cecy and her brood. The mystery unfolds in letters between the cousins and their husbands. I didn’t love the second book in this trilogy, but I’m glad I kept with it, because this one was just as enjoyable (to me) as the first.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (1970).
A short (100 page or so) volume of letters between the author (Hanff) and the employees of a London bookstore from which she ordered books by mail. I picked this up on the statement that folks who like The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, would probably also enjoy this, and it did not disappoint. Delightful and charming, I read it in less than a day. True confession: I thought this book was fiction, until 3/4 of the way through I noticed that the woman signing the letters had the same name as the author on the book cover. So clearly, it read like fiction, but with the added delight that it is true!


Totally Two: September October 1, 2014

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 12:05 pm


Vital Statistics: You are now 24.7 pounds. Your pediatrician is happy with your weight gain and now we don’t have to go back until your 3 year appointment. Yay!

Best part of stitches is the popsicle.

What’s New: The stitches in your head. You fell at daycare last week and got a small, but deep cut (and a trip to the emergency room). The cut doesn’t seem to be bothering you at all, but you were not a fan of getting the stitches (probably understandable). When it was done, you go a popsicle and stickers though, so that improved matters.


Toddler Skills: You are fearless. Even after 7 stitches, you are still jumping and climbing and throwing yourself around. I am both thrilled that your accident didn’t make you fearful, and constantly worrying that you are going to re-injure yourself.


Moments to Remember:

You had your first dentist appointment in late August. We spent the week before reading a book about Dora the Explorer going to the dentist and you were so excited for your appointment that we left an hour early and wandered around downtown Silver Spring until we could see the dentist.

You are suddenly noticing murals everywhere. “Look, a picture. LOOK!” you say.

When you don’t want wear something these days, you often say it’s “for babies”. Guess that big kid identification is complete!

We have started reading our first chapter book together – Mr. Popper’s Penguins, because you picked it up one day, declared it “MINE” and then wouldn’t put it down. It’s really neat to be reading a chapter book with you – we do any where from a few pages to a chapter a night. The other day, I asked you what you thought the penguin ate, and you said “worms”. Your Mommy pointed out that penguins are birds and birds eat worms – so neat to see how your mind works.

You like to play doctor and have been doing it more than usual post-ER visit. The other day, you insisted on putting a band-aid on my forehead, while sitting on your ladybug wheely toy (which I think looks most like the wheely stools that doctors use).


Likes: Dancing. Band-aids. Yoga at daycare. Balloons. Umbrellas. Dresses. Singing.


Dislikes: The end of stories at bedtime. Getting stitches. Time outs.


Adventures: So many! (In part because it’s been a month and half since this Mama posted. Oops!) We went to Chincoteague for Labor Day – had lots of great beach time and got to see Great Aunt Pam and Great Uncle Rick! Then your cousins Jay and Laura came to visit you in September. You had lots of playdates and saw a few baseball games. Good month.



Life List #40. Do the 365 day photo project. September 12, 2014

Filed under: Life List — cransell @ 12:18 pm
Tags: ,

Long before I had a life list, I’ve wanted to do a 365 Photo Project. One day last summer, I just decided to start. It actually took me slightly longer than a year, because I occasionally missed a day, but I just kept on trucking. It’s fun to have these reminders of the past year. It’s going to be weird not to be taking a daily picture – but maybe it will help me have a little more distance from my phone as well!

Some of my favorites from the project are below. You can see the full project on Flickr.

Spinning with Grammie #365photoproject #day38Day 38. September 30, 2013.


Sharing her animal crackers with Mommy #365photoproject #day73
Day 73. November 7, 2013.

Thanksgiving is for friends. #365photoproject #day91
Day 91. November 29, 2013.

Elephant! Christmas has begun. #365photoproject #day114
Day 114. December 25, 2014.

Sunday #365photoproject #day125
Day 125. January 5, 2014.

Snow day! #365photoproject #day159
Day 159. February 13, 2014.

Pedicure. #365photoproject #day178 #goodday
Day 178. March 5, 2014.

At the playground with Pop Pop and Grandma #365photoproject #day221
Day 221. April 19, 2014.

Mother's Day at the zoo. #365photoproject #day243
Day 243. May 11, 2014.

Computing like Mommy. #365photoproject #day254
Day 254. May 22, 2014.

Sibling and significant other dinner! #365photoproject #day262
Day 262. May 30, 2014.

Happy Thursday everyone. #365photoproject #day281
Day 281. June 19, 2014.

Friday night at the spray park. #365photoproject #day303 #nofilter
Day 303. July 11, 2014

Water lilies in Rock Creek Cemetery. #nofilter #365photoproject #day319 #loveDC

Day 319. July 27, 2014.

"Say cheese,  little baby" #365photoproject #day336
Day 336. August 13, 2014.

Watch out, DC! There's a dinosaur on the loose. #365photoproject #day359
Day 359. September 6, 2014.


What I Read: August 2014 September 11, 2014

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 1:05 pm

I read 9 books in August, and didn’t hate a one. 2 were non-fiction, the rest fiction. 5 were eBooks, 3 were print books, 1 was an audiobook!

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (2013).
In the latest book in the Maisie Dobbs series, Maisie investigates the murder of Usha Pramal, an Indian woman who had been living in England for a number of years, working as a nanny and house cleaner. In her personal life, Maisie continues to struggle with what it might mean to marry her companion, James Compton, and with her desire to travel independently.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014).
I loved this book so much. It involves books and reading and a baby left in a bookstore. It involves grief and love and family and finding community. It deals with sad (and happy) things, but is not dark. And it reads so fast. HIGHLY recommend.

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper (2009).
This was interesting addition, because I didn’t really read it, I listened to it as an audiobook on my phone. I still prefer print (paper or digital), but it was pretty amusing to be reading a book while walking around, or playing Candy Crush on metro. The story is about the royal family of Montmaray, a fictional island kingdom somewhere between France and Spain, on the eve of World War II. It had lots of elements that I liked, but I kept getting distracted by the fact that the narrator of the audiobook was middle aged and the narrator of the book (which is written as a diary) was a teenager. DCPL only has the sequel in print, but we shall see if I like the sequel better when the voice in my head is a teenager…

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier (2013).
I really enjoyed this book – historical fiction about a British Quaker who moves to Ohio in the time before the Civil War and her involvement with the Underground Railroad. Chevalier does historical fiction quite well – I also loved Girl with a Pearl Earring when I read it years ago.

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich (2014).
The latest Stephanie Plum mystery. I couldn’t even tell you what happened in this one, just that I read them all when they come out and they provide me 24 hours of comfort reading. This is my literary popcorn.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (2014).

My Family and Other Hazards by June Melby (2014).
I got this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program, and thoroughly enjoyed it. A memoir of the summers of the author’s childhood, it tells of her family’s adventures running a miniature golf course on a lake in Wisconsin, with a little miniature golf history thrown in for good measure.

Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita (2014).
Another Early Reviewer book, this was a fun, quick summer read. I literally read it in a day, can’t remember the last time that happened! Nothing too surprising in the plot – spoiled, little rich girl gets sent to sleep away camp to get a reality check. She learns life lessons, and falls for a cute guy, etc. But perfect for the beach!

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (2000).
YA historical fiction – which looks at the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia. Really interesting and enjoyable, and totally different than the only other book I’ve read by Halse Anderson (Speak) which was a contemporary story about rape. I picked this up as a Kindle Daily Deal and it was a good one!


Men Explain Things to Me August 25, 2014

Filed under: Random Reading,Uncategorized — cransell @ 1:40 pm
Tags: ,

This #fridayreads inspired by @lizfaw. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. #365photoproject #day344


Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me is a slim volume, just 7 essays comprising 130 pages, but it gave me a lot to think about. Although the book is decidedly feminist, the essays are not, for the most part, about the stereotypical feminist issues. Although I could certainly relate to the titular essay (in which Solnit writes about a time that a distinguished older gentleman spent a great deal of time telling her about a book on Muybridge that she really must read (although he clearly hadn’t), which turned out to be one she had written), the essays that resonated with me most were about activism and uncertainty and the space to think. About how activism is important and has an effect, even if it’s not the one we expected. Solnit spent several years protesting at a nuclear site in the U.S. The protests were unsuccessful, in that they didn’t achieve the goal of shutting the site down, but that protest inspired a protest in Kazakhstan that did manage to shut down a Soviet nuclear site. This week especially, as we all sit here with what has happened in Ferguson, with the knowledge that it is just one killing of an unarmed black man, in a long history of the killing of black men, that was good to read. That activism is important and worthwhile even if you can’t see the end point, that to stand up for beliefs is vital and beneficial, even if the benefit is not what you expect. Sort of the butterfly effect of activism, which is something I hadn’t considered. I tended to think, up to this point, that you protest and speak out and it’s futile and futile and futile, until the moment things changes. And that you keep doing things, because you are waiting for that moment. But maybe the earlier protests weren’t futile at all. Maybe we just didn’t see the way they built the broader web of justice. Such a hopeful thing to think.

“Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable” was probably my favorite essay in the collection. It certainly made me want to read more by Woolf. The essay praises uncertainty, celebrates the unknown, reminds you that there a truths that you can only see sideways. Or that you glimpse for a second, and then they vanish, never to be seen again. Or perhaps they pop up again at some point in the future, in the words of an author or the image of artist that has managed to capture something so TRUE that it stops you in your tracks. As a librarian (and as a person – let’s be clear, my profession didn’t come from nowhere), I classify. I organize and arrange and make things fit. I write lists. But there are so many things that are amorphous. Hard to describe, hard to pin down. This essay reminded me to celebrate those. To give myself space to think, or more importantly to not think. To not fill up my time and my space and my brain and my life so much that there isn’t room for the unknown, for ruminating, for mysteries. It was a good essay. You should read it.

H/T to Liz for encouraging me to pick this book up!


Totally Two: August August 20, 2014

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 12:58 pm

what a treat!

Vital Statistics: You are now 24.2 pounds! Good job, chowing down and beefing up, kiddo.

What’s New: Your Mommy has a new job! I know that’s not really NEW with YOU, but it does affect you – your daycare schedule has changed to 8-6 (from 7:30-5:30). No longer are you the FIRST kid at daycare every morning.

mmm tomato

Toddler Skills: Eating. Well, I don’t know that this has improved to the level of a SKILL, but we have been really working on getting enough calories in you this past month and you have been doing a great job. And you love your “Dr. Corder Milk.”

"Say cheese,  little baby" #365photoproject #day336

Moments to Remember:

Sometime in the past month, your Mommy pointed out the Capitol Building to you. Now every time you see an imposing white building or one with a dome (including church cupolas), you say “Look! It’s the Cap-di-dol.”

You are working on third person pronouns, but so far you have one – HER. She, he, it, his, her, it’s, HER is currently the word for all of those. This lead to the following amusing (to me) exchange when we read this book last week. F: “What’s her name?” M: “President Taft” F: “Oh!” (Knowingly) “… is stuck in the bath”.

We all watched Annie a few weekends ago for family movie night. You are obsessed and always was to sing Annie songs. You refer to the song “Dumb Dog” as “Mean Dog”. And you are fond of asking us: “What’s Annie’s dog’s name?” If we ask you, you answer confidently: “Sammy!(A note from your Mama: since I first wrote this, you have started saying “Sandy”, but I still love the weeks of “Sammy”, so I am memorializing them here.)

One day, while looking through photo albums (a favorite activity of yours), you saw some old pictures of your Mommy with a guitar (she used to be in a band, you know. Total rockstar). You decided you wanted one too, so a lovely, Minnie Mouse guitar was ordered and you have enjoyed playing it these past few weeks. You do a great rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

You are very sweet with your loveys. You are sleeping with two these days – LaLa of course, and also Minnie Mouse, who you loved as a baby. At bedtime you often cradle them in your arms and sing them lullabies. Especially “Stay Awake” from Mary Poppins.

this? this is my spray park

Likes: Christmas stories. They are often the choice at bedtime these days. Being two. I’m happy to report that after real peak in the occurrence of tantrums they have calmed down as the month went on. You still have them, but they aren’t constant, like they were for a two week stretch there. You still like spray parks and playgrounds. Plums. Reading. Dr. Corder. Annie. You are always singing the songs from Annie. Exercising.

Dislikes: You went through a few weeks of extreme toothbrushing aversion (teething?), but luckily that has passed. You also really hated putting on your shoes for a while there, but then we bought you new, bigger shoes and we don’t have that problem any more. Guess they just weren’t comfortable, oops. You have some general dissatisfaction with life occasionally, but nothing is particularly bugging you these days.


Adventures: Your Grammie came to visit this past weekend and did all sorts of great stuff with you. SO MUCH FUN.



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