somewhat bookish.

What I Read: November 2014 December 2, 2014

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 1:33 pm

I read 4 books in November – 2 fiction, 2 non-fiction, all on my Kindle.

Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman (2012).
This memoir was fascinating, horrifying and myopic in the way that you might expect of a 25 year old who has lived her life in a very sheltered religious community. It was sort of amazing to me just how very sheltered a person who lived in Brooklyn could be. Worth reading if you are interested in the Satmar/Hasidism/strict religious communities.

The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper (2010).
I listened to the first book in this YA series (trilogy? Are all the cool kids doing trilogies these days?) as an audiobook. I liked this book better, and I’m not sure if it’s because I just preferred reading it, or if the book was actually better. In this book, the FitzOsbornes (royal family of the fictional island nation of Montmaray) have been exiled in England after the Germans bombed their home to smithereens.

Delicious!: A Novel by Ruth Reichl (2014).
I’ve read and enjoyed all of Reichl’s memoirs, but I wasn’t sure how I would feel about her fiction. Happily I liked it! Billie Breslin moves to New York and begins working for the soon-to-go-defunct culinary magazine Delicious! There are great descriptions of food and a lovely romance subplot, plus a World War II mystery… basically it was a little fluffy, but such a quick enjoyable read for me. It would be perfect for the beach or a plane!

Yes Please by Amy Poehler (2014).
Let’s just all agree now that Amy Poehler is the kickass, feminist, funny, smart best friend/older sister that we all wish we had. Her book is good. If you like Amy Poehler, you should read it.


Movies for 2 Year Olds November 19, 2014

Filed under: Not About Books — cransell @ 1:58 pm

Frances has become a bit of movie buff this year. She often watches movies on road trips and sick days, and we will sometimes all pile on the couch for a weekend movie night.

It’s hard to know what will be entertaining and age-appropriate for a two year old, but these are some that have been big hits in our house. I will say that I am not particularly attuned to language – these are all definitely kids movies, but I don’t really notice if someone is calling someone else stupid. I do worry a lot about if things are scary, and all of these passed that test for Frances (although every kid finds different things scary). I really liked these tips from Maggie Mason, and am definitely quick to reassure Frances that things are going to be okay if she seems a little spooked (in new movies – none of the ones below have ever spooked her).

You’ll notice all of these are live-action. Despite the current obsession with Frozen in our house, Frances definitely seems to prefer live-action movies. Also, all of these (except for Mary Poppins) are streaming on Netflix, which is definitely a bonus.

What movies are/were a hit with the young kids you know? We’re always on the look-out for suggestions!

Annie (1982).
Annie is very child-inappropriate in so many ways. There is the drunk and abusive Ms. Hannigan, the bomb-throwing Bolshevik, the fact that Annie is almost chased off a bridge at the end of the movie. None of these things matter in the face of energetic kids and snazzy musical numbers. Such a hit that Jami bought the soundtrack off of eBay (how is it out of print? how?) so that we could sing along in the car.

Charlotte’s Web (2006).
Also known as “Piggie Spider” in our house, this is probably a movie that becomes more upsetting as a kid gets older (Spoiler alert: Charlotte dies.) At 2 that means nothing to Frances and she really loves all the talking animals. It’s a big hit, which I wasn’t expecting!

Mary Poppins (1964).
Frances first true movie love. This came on Disney Junior last year over the holidays and is what made us realize that maybe she was ready for movies, as she sat rapt. Lots of songs, dance and magic, along with the world’s best nanny. Frances loves to play “jolly holiday” and knows the soundtrack so well, that if there is a musical interlude while we are listening to the CD, she can narrate what’s happening in the movie (that she is not watching at that moment). All young children should be indoctrinated with Mary Poppins, so that you too can get the joy of hearing a toddler say: “Well Done, Sister Suffragette!”.

The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking (1988).
This is a very cheesy 1980s American adaption of the wonderful Swedish books. I can’t even explain to you how cheesy it is, in a way that I find totally delightful and nostalgic (I loved this movie as a kid). It brings me great delight that Frances loves it so much too. Childish mayhem (a horse on the porch? washing floors by skating around on brushes) and some very 80s musical numbers make this one to watch.

The Parent Trap (1998).
Although I am sure that the original Hayley Mills version of the Parent Trap would also be a big hit, we watch the Lindsay Lohan version which is streaming on Netflix (and also quite good). Frances calls it “The Girls” – as in “I want to watch the girls”. Pranks and fun by two “big girls” are what appeal our our toddler.


What I Read: October 2014 November 17, 2014

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 1:42 pm

I read 6 books in October, half of which were children’s books. 2 were non-fiction, 4 were fiction. 2 were in print, 4 were on the Kindle.

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (2008).
This is an Inspector Gamache mystery – set at a lovely resort in Quebec. I’m still not sure where I stand on this series. I don’t LOVE it, and the sort of psychoanalysis of the characters annoys me (even though I generally like the characters), but I do keep reading, and I do think that this is my favorite book in the series so far, so I’ll probably pick up the next one at some point down the line.

All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior (2014).
This book gave me lots to think about. It introduced me to the concept of flow, which helped explain why a lot of early parenting can be frustrating (hard to achieve flow with a newborn). Another thing that has really stayed with me is this idea of child-rearing as a duty. Yes, it is often a source of joy, but it can be pretty miserable at moments too and the idea that you do it because it’s your duty to do vs. it’s supposed to make you happy (always) was pretty freeing to me. I love my kid a ton, but sometimes parenting sucks and that’s okay.

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale (2014).
I got this as a LibraryThing Early Reviewer book and read it to Frances that same night. It says something about the appeal of the story and illustrations, that a 2.5 year old was interested in reading a full 96-page chapter book in one sitting! In the book, Princess Magonolia leads a double life as The Princess in Black, the amazing superhero who vanquishes goat-eating monsters. Nothing mind-blowing, but good fun. It’s actually grown on my each time I’ve read it.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (1942).
The Boxcar Children was one of my favorite series as a kid. When I saw that the first book was available as an eBook from the library, I decided to give it a reread. I still love the creation of a little home in the boxcar. Some of the writing seems dated now (the way the girl children do the cooking and the cleaning), but nothing offensive.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford (2014).
I picked this up on a whim from the New Books shelf in the Children’s Room at MLK because I liked the cover and it was SO GOOD. A neat old house, eccentric characters, a mystery, just totally engaging and fun and GOOD. If you like children’s chapter books at all, this is well worth reading.

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg (2014).
Wizenberg is a food blogger, but I mostly “know” her because I read her first book – A Homemade Life. This looks at meeting her husband, getting married, the publication of her first book, and opening a restaurant. I really appreciated how honest Wizenberg was about the ways in which she was not on board and the times in which she was not a good partner in the restaurant endeavor. I think marriage at its best makes us want to be better, but we are all still our imperfect selves, which is hard, and I appreciate that she did not gloss over or sugarcoat that.


Totally Two: October & November November 13, 2014

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 2:20 pm


Vital Statistics: You have topped 25 pounds! This seems like an amazing milestone to this Mama. Just 2.75 years after your birth you have finally outgrown the weight limit of your Rock n’ Play!


What’s New: Illness! Your first ever bout of Strep Throat, which lead to you falling asleep on me in a restaurant. You haven’t done that since you were 6 month old, maybe younger.

All Filomena'd out.

Toddler Skills: Singing. Dancing. Recognizing the letter F and the number 2.


Moments to Remember:

Sometimes lately when I am cooking, you want to hang out with me in the kitchen. I set you up with your own cutting board, and bits of vegetables and your little knife from the toddler utensils, and you stands on the stool next to me and “cook”. You take all the vegetable bits and peelings, and put them in a little bowl with water and then use a measuring spoon to stir and taste your soup. It makes meal prep 1000% more fun.

You recently taught us a fun new game you got from daycare: “Mama, Mama, jump up and down, jump up and down, jump up and down. Mama, mama, jump up and down, please sit down.” It’s wild that you are old enough now, with enough language to teach us new things.

You really like to play “Sofia”, which means that I spin you around while singing the Sofia the First theme song. Not sure how those two things got conflated, but it’s pretty darn fun.

Two phrases that have recently been added to your vocabulary: “I don’t know” and “Oh my gosh”. I get a kick out of both!

One night at bedtime, we read a story where kids, on their first day of school, introduced themselves and said what they liked to do. So I asked:
“What’s your name?”
“And what do you like to do?”
“Put on clothes.”
This is so true! Dress up is where it’s at these days.

On Halloween, the first time trick or treaters came to our door, you burst out in tears when we gave the candy to them (and not you). The next time I saw trick or treaters coming, I said, “Okay, kid here is how it goes: The kids come, they say trick or treat, we give them candy. And then we DON’T CRY.” You did great with that round, and when the next group was headed our way, I heard you saying to yourself “we give them candy and we DON’T CRY.” I love to watch you coach yourself through situations that are hard for you. You are doing such a great job at this hard work of growing up.

You call the neighborhood black cat that likes to hang out on our porch “Catty”, a combo, I assume of cat and kitty. I will be so sad when this stops.

You are a little shy around new people, but lately you usually warm up on the playground and start playing with another kid around your age (or a little older. Big kids are the coolest). Whenever you want their attention, you yell. “Kid… KID.”


Likes: Nightgowns. Bags, purses, totes, things to carry other things. Pony hair. Lollipops. Frozen. Yes, it’s finally happened, the Frozen bug has bit. I actually don’t mind Frozen, but I am happy that this bit after Halloween, so that you were a Doctor and not Elsa. You were an AWESOME doctor.


Dislikes: That your parents are not mind readers. Or maybe that your parents cannot simultaneously “Go Away” and “Don’t Leave Me”.


Adventures: So many! Pumpkin picking with Mommy. A visit from Grandma and Pop Pop. HALLOWEEN. Two birthday parties. Fun galore.



Toddler Reads: Halloween October 20, 2014

Filed under: Kids Books — cransell @ 1:11 pm
Tags: , , ,

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.




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