somewhat bookish.

A Time of Mothering Transition July 31, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 12:52 pm

It seems pretty appropriate that this time of transition for Frances, this BIG move from the land of daycare to the land of public school (her home for the next FIFTEEN years), coincides with what feels like a big shift in my experience of motherhood.

Up to this point, my main goal as a mother has been to keep my kid alive and safe. The things I’ve had to offer her, the things I’ve been focused on have been practical things: is she eating enough, is she getting the right amount of sleep? I’ve been focused on the things she needed to master in these early years: first rolling over and then crawling and then walking. Sleeping through the night. Potty training. Learning to feed herself, dress herself, put on her own shoes. Really basic, but vitally important things.

But in the last few months, I’ve felt my gaze start to shift from the practicalities of the here and now to the open landscape of the future. How do we teach her to be a good person? How do we strengthen her core, so that when the harsh winds of the world blow, as they will, she will remain strong and confident and whole? How do we help her become a good person, concerned about justice and the world beyond herself? As we enter a time where her own memories of her life will begin, how do we want her childhood to look? How can we make it a good one – one where she learns what she needs, feels protected and loved, has the space to explore and have fun and make mistakes?

It’s daunting. But exciting too.


An Ode to Daycare July 30, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 8:45 am

This morning I wrote out our Very Last Check for daycare. There will be plenty more kid expenses in our future, but for the past three years, we have been paying the equivalent of a second mortgage payment every month and it’s pretty exciting to be stopping that. I have loved Frances’ daycare so much. They have been such a big and important part of our lives for the past 3 years, and this seems a good time to celebrate them!

Oh, daycare, I love you so. Let me count the ways:

1. You kept me sane. My first months home with Frances were filled with anxiety. Is my baby broken? Am I breaking my baby? Is this NORMAL? I cannot even explain the weight that lifted off of me when I dropped Frances off for the first time and realized that for the next 10 hours multiple people with years and years of experience with babies would be taking care of my child. If something was wrong with her, they would notice. If she needed something new, they would notice. BECAUSE THEY HAD DONE THIS BEFORE. Amazing. So helpful.

2. You taught me super useful stuff. Like how to get rid of cradle cap (olive oil on the head, comb it out). You told me, gently, that it was time for Frances to have shoes. (Babies need shoes before they start walking? Who knew?! Daycare!).

3. You taught Frances super useful stuff. Blowing her nose? I never taught her that!

4. You did crafts. Every day. I hate crafts. Thank you for handling that for me!

5. You fed her. After she started eating “regular” food, you made her breakfast, lunch and snack every day. From scratch. One less thing on my plate, for which I am so grateful.

6. You gave me friends. Other parents with kids the same age who I like spending time with. It’s so amazing to have folks like that who you can just hang out with at each other’s houses while the kids play. I do not take that for granted.

7. You loved my daughter, more than I thought it would be possible for someone not related to her to do. I feel so lucky, that every teacher Frances has had at daycare has been loving and nurturing and has thought my kid was the bee’s knees. (She’s totally the bees knees). What a gift to a child to know that there are adults other than their parents who care about them deeply. Thank you for being a part of our village.


Three and A HALF! July 28, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 11:59 am

Summer on the Lake in MaineWhat’s New: You are three AND A HALF! Big deal! We celebrated with cupcakes, so you know it’s official. This also marks my final monthly post All About You. When I first started these, I wondered when I would stop to protect your privacy, and I decided on when you started school. Your first day of PS3 is less than a month a way, so this is it. I have loved writing about you and keeping the memories of these early years for you. I look forward to what you create and remember on your own. What else would one wear to the library?! #FrancesFashionGrrl

Toddler Skills: You are the most stylish kid I know. I love to see your personality shine in the outfits you choose.

More Maine SummerMoments to Remember:

You sometimes pretend to call the police on your Mommy and me because we are not listening. “Hello? Yes? She’s not listening.” (Having conferred with other daycare parents, this is a habit all the kids in you class have picked up.) Earlier this month you did that while holding a calculator in your hand and pressing/saying: 9-9-1. Not sure your call is getting through, kid.

Also, that weekend I referred to your calculator, and you said “It’s not a calculator. It’s a count-a-lator.”

You are great at counting objects now (rather than just saying numbers in order). You always skip the number 15 when counting. (Also, after 29, you say twenty-ten).

You have taken to calling us “sweetie pie” (I think one of the teachers at daycare must say this.) You especially say this when disagreeing with us. “Frances, don’t stick your hand in your glass of milk.” “It’s okay, sweetie pie.”

The other day, you heard your Mommy and me saying we loved each other in the other room, and you piped up “I love you guys!” Heart melted, day made.

You drew your first piece of unassisted, representational art this past month. Up to now it’s been pretty much scribbles, but on a card for your Grammie Gloria, you said you were going to draw her an umbrella, and you drew a circle, and then line down from the bottom. Voila, umbrella! I was wondering when this would start, and I guess the answer is three and a half!

While in Maine, your Grammie, Mommy and I were talking about buying something, and you piped up: “I can’t buy it. I don’t have money. I’m a kid.”

You played your first mini golf while in Maine. I can’t say you *quite* got it. After a few swings, you would sometimes pick up the ball and drop it in the hole, but it was fun. Can’t wait to play again.


Likes: Older kids. Water. Dogs. Purses. Fishing. “Fixing” things. Candy.

Dislikes: Missing out on anything. You don’t want to stop playing to eat or to sleep. Just go, go, go.

Fourth of JulyAdventures: July was a month of travel, we went down to Grandma & Pop Pop’s farm for Fourth of July, and then up to Maine for a week (just getting home yesterday). While in Maine, you went to your very first amusement park (StoryLand). It was a HUGE hit. Summer on the Lake in Maine


What I Read: June 2015 July 27, 2015

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 9:27 pm

I read 7 books in June – 4 non-fiction, 3 fiction. 4 were on Kindle, 3 in print. In June, I only read books by authors of color and it was a challenge that I enjoyed. I had to make an effort to find a wide range of books by diverse authors, since I seem to mostly find books by/about white folks through my regular sources. I’ve added a bunch to my To Read list, but I have to say without the self-imposed restriction, so far in July, I’ve read mostly white folks again – so I think I’m going to try to insure that going forward at least half of my reading in a month is by or about people of color.

Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely (1992).
When I first read the description of Blanche on the Lam in this Booklist article, I thought “this sounds just like me”. I LOVE a mystery with a strong female crime solver. Especially one where the protagonist isn’t in a traditional law enforcement career. The sleuth in this book is Blanche White, an African American housekeeper, who stumbles into trouble on this job while hiding out after some difficulties with bad checks. I was a little surprised by just how much race and class were a factor in this book. Blanche tells it like it is, and how it is for black folks in fictional Farley, North Carolina, is Not Good. (I was going to qualify that by saying in the 1990s, which is when this book was written, but given the news lately, Not Good probably describes a lot of places today as well). My reading of this overlapped some with my reading of Beyond Mercy and it was eye-opening to see how much the injustices discussed in that book, were reflected in this fictional mystery. (The criminalization of minor behaviors that disproportionately affect poor black and brown people – like Blanche being given jail time for writing a bad check at the beginning of this book, the truly horrible targeting of black men by law enforcement as a perpetrators of crimes they didn’t commit). Apparently even my mystery reading has privilege! Anyway, the book is a great one if you enjoy the same kinds of mysteries I do. I definitely recommend it.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston (2012).
A mix of memoir, humor and social commentary. Thurston grew up in Washington, DC in the 1980s and it was really interesting to read about the city I call home in that time period. Really smart, really funny. Recommend.

Quiet Odyssey: A Pioneer Korean Woman in America by Mary Paik Lee (1990).
I am admittedly a huge nerd who loves history and I just geeked out over this book. It’s the autobiography of a Korean born woman who moved to the United States in the early 1900s as a child, a time when there were very few (in the low hundreds) Koreans in the U.S. Simply fascinating.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (2013).
I had heard good things about this book, but I didn’t actually pick it up until Roxane Gay ringingly endorsed it. So glad I did – it is the guilty pleasure, soap opera drama of the exceedingly wealthy fiction families on Singapore. This is a vacation read incarnate.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014).
This book is so very, very good and also so disturbing. It shattered what remained of my trust in the U.S. justice/prison system after Ferguson and all that has followed. Should be required reading in high school history/government classes/everywhere.

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson (2014).
Super fun middle school caper. Think Ocean’s Eleven, except a middle school election instead of a Vegas heist. Really fun. Would love it if this became a series!

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy (2015).
One of the interesting things for me this month has been reading books that weren’t written *for* me. Like, I’m welcome to read them, but I am not the target audience. This book is by/for/about Muslim feminism and is worth reading for anyone who is interested in intersectional feminism.


THREE THREE THREE: June June 29, 2015

Filed under: Motherhood — cransell @ 9:21 pm


What’s New: You will occasionally, voluntarily wear shorts nows. It’s only 90% dresses and skirts these days. Big news!


Toddler Skills: You are so coordinated these days. You’ve always been a climber, but you can really scale new heights! You are finally tall enough to really use the balance bike these days and the other day as you zipped down the sidewalk, I thought: how do parents not have heart attacks when their kids are on these things. You are moving faster and climbing higher and it is both exciting and occasionally terrifying. But go you!

Playground with Ben

Moments to Remember:

With the Women’s World Cup ongoing, you’ve watched a bit of soccer this month. One afternoon, you decided you wanted to “play soccer” in the backyard. Instead of kicking the ball back and forth as we’d usually do, you would kick the ball and then immediately fall down. Soccer’s penchant for drama wasn’t lost on you!

This weekend we had an all day rainstorm. We actually had a lot of activities (play day and birthday party), so you weren’t going TOO stir crazy, but in the afternoon, you asked to play outside, and I thought… Why not? How many years do we have of a kid who wants to play in puddles? So we put a bathing suit on you and out we went. So much fun.

Rainy Saturday

Likes: Dress up. All the time, dress up. Splash parks, pools, summer time outdoor fun. Treats. If you had your way, you would eat nothing but “treats” all day. Movies. Temporary tattoos. Band-aids as fashion.

Dislikes: Quiet time. Bedtime. When you have to stop go, go, going.


Adventures: In June, we went to Williamsburg for the weekend, and saw Grandma Jane. We also attended my friend, Kendra’s wedding. When you saw her arrive at the church you gasped – brides do look a lot like princesses! We went to another Nats game on Father’s Day and you also got to go to 3 birthday parties this month, which was pretty fantastic!



Books for Queer Families: Stella Brings the Family June 8, 2015

Stella Brings the Family

I am always on the look out for books with two mommy or two daddy households. Seeing yourself reflected in books is powerful, and while I don’t have any aversion to children’s books with more “traditional” families, I do crave books that show Frances a family like her own.

Stella Brings the Family, written by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, is about a little girl with two dads. Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day celebration, and Stella isn’t sure what to do. She doesn’t have a mother!

Pros: Book features two dads! Two competent, loving, totally normal dads. AND another kid in the class has two moms! Good illustrations, pretty straightforward story.

Cons: WHY is the lack of a Mom on Mother’s Days such an issue? There are no homophobic jerks in this book. And the problem is resolved easily enough (Stella invites her whole family). And YET – Stella agonizes for a week in the book about what to do. She feels anxious, is too distracted by this dilemma to play soccer one day, can’t sleep another day. I am SO ready for a book about queer families where the queer family is not the problematic plot point.

Overall, I would actually mostly recommend this book. It’s a positive portrayal of diverse families. And every time Frances asks for this book, she says “And the boy has two mommies LIKE ME.” So clearly, this is a powerful thing, seeing a family like yours. I’m just still waiting for a book with queer families that isn’t ABOUT having two moms or two dads. Some day!


#WeNeedDiverseBooks June 1, 2015

Filed under: Random Reading — cransell @ 9:01 am

Inspired by this article, I’ve decided to read only minority authors for the month of June. The lack of diversity in the publishing industry has been on my mind for a few years, since reading this article a few years ago about the lack of diversity in children’s books – and I make a real effort to ensure that Frances’ children’s books reflect the fact that she lives in a majority minority city, and introduce her to kids/life around the world. But I haven’t ever made a similar effort in my own reading.

This is definitely an area where I could use work. Taking a look at what I’ve read so far this year, only 4 of the 47 books I’ve read so far have been by non-white authors. This makes me better than this year’s summer reading list by the New York Times, but not by much.

I decided to give myself a month between deciding this and starting, so that I could do some research about good titles that I might like. I enjoyed Americanah (one of my 4 books this year), but it took me 6 weeks to read, and I generally read 6+ books a month, so I needed to make sure I had a good mix of more serious literature or non-fiction, and all the fun stuff I like to read: mysteries, children’s chapter books, and memoirs. Library Journal helpfully came out with this list of mysteries – and I’ve already starting (and am thoroughly enjoying) the first Blanche White novel. Otherwise, I did a lot of reviewing of ALA lists for children’s books – and googling things like “diverse memoirs”. This I think I highlights the problem with lack of diversity in publishing (and reviewing). Many of these books just aren’t coming to my attention through my regular sources (newspaper reviews, library blogs, the NPR books email, etc). That’s not right either, but in the meantime, I just need to expand where I’m looking.

The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is on this – and has a tumblr and twitter feed which make it easier to follow news and get book recommendations – but I’m always looking for more. Is there a place you get book recommendations that covers diverse authors and characters? Do you have any books to recommend?



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