Sunday, May 17, 2015

I have books, and I have bedtime.

My boys are six and nine. I've spent many sweet hours reading to each of them since they were born. Each year, our read aloud time becomes more precious to me.

Connecting used to be easy. There were cuddles and snuggles—and the zoo.

But as time passes, I lose credibility. I commit outrageous crimes. I contaminate their Marvel world with my DC superheroes. I'm hilariously inept on their Xbox. Minecraft makes me dizzy. And between Pokemon and Skylanders, I don't know what they're talking about half the time.

But I still have two things going for me:
I have books.
And I have bedtime.

(Occasionally I also have kickball, UNO and Monopoly).

This year both boys started a new school. We were all nervous…especially my third grader, who had a traumatic teacher experience the year before. Before school started, I talked it up. I encouraged. I reminded him most teachers are amazing. I even showed him {this video} to prove some teachers are so spectacular you'll never forget them.

He remained very anxious.

But when the first day came, he went in with a brave face. And at the end of the day, he came out of his classroom smiling. It was a good day, he said. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

That night we read a new pile of picture books I had just picked up from the library. On top was Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato. It's about an elephant who feels invisible and alone.

When we got to this spread, my nine-year-old's face changed.

"Have you ever felt like that?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. "Today I did."
Then he spilled his guts.

Because we held Elliot between us that night, he found the words to tell me about his day. Both the good parts, and the hard parts. Because of a picture book, we hugged and cried and talked about it.

The school year is almost over now. It's been a good one. Really, it couldn't have been better. My nine-year-old wants to stay there forever. That first month he found a lot of friends. Friends who play Xbox. Friends who keep their superheroes straight. Friends who trade Pokemon at recess and play Minecraft after school.

Best of all, he ended up with one of those spectacular teachers he adores and will likely never forget. She doesn't jump on desks and proclaim her love of reading, but she's her own unforgettable brand of awesome.

Every day my kids get older. Every day they grow more independent. But every night, I'll be there—with a book and an opportunity to reconnect. And I hope it never ends.

Monday, April 13, 2015


April is National Poetry Month.

When my oldest kiddo was three, he went through a tornado phase. He dreamed of being a storm chaser. He dreamed of a life of adventure. Until a tornado whipped through our condo complex and changed his mind. Then he decided to be a volcanologist. Until the day he heard a documentary narrator state that most volcanologists meet an early end. When he turned five, he settled into the safer career path of game designer. Yesterday he told me he needs to find someone to negotiate a deal with Topps for a baseball card game he made up over the weekend. He keeps me busy, but his creative energy is contagious.

While Matthew was still in The Great Tornado Period of 2009, he created some digital art, named it F5 and asked me to write a poem to accompany it. Six years later, I still love the words, the boy and every thing about creating this with him.

In a flurry of surprise
and dust
and all the things
I didn't want
you swept in
and stirred things
--like a tornado,
its train whistle
in middle american
its arrival
in the } } h u s h { {
before we knew
what was
about to come upon us.
That is how you

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The book that made my head explode twice in one day

It's been awhile since I fawned over the sheer beauty of a book. Then yesterday I found this book at the library:

I stood there in the middle of the children's area—with toddlers and moms milling around me—oohing and aahing, and maybe drooling, over Sybille Schenker's Little Red Riding Hood. The paper quality.  The velvety ink.  The red stitched binding. Those exquisite cut-outs. The use of line, color and pattern. I couldn't get enough. My mind exploded with goodness.

Of course it came home with me.

Eventually, after more swooning and caressing, I sat down and read the text.

Then my mind exploded again.

I was all, "WHAT?! The wolf eats the grandmother?"
And, "What?! He eats Little Red Cap too?!"
And, "What?! The woodsman cuts open the wolf and they are alive inside?!"

I admit my childhood was sheltered.

But still.

How did I get to adulthood without knowing this story?

All I remember is the "my what big ears and eyes and teeth you have" part. Maybe I blocked out all the rest. My empathy dial has always been turned up unbearably high. We have an audio cassette of my parents amusing themselves by asking two-year-old me, "Want to read Hansel and Gretel?" Which sends me into a predictable toddler panic. "No, no! I'll cry really hard. They throw POTATOES at them!"

I think I've avoided fairy tales ever since.

But Sybille Schenker reeled me back in yesterday.

My Kindergartner found Little Red Riding Hood on the kitchen table after school.

"I know this story," he said.

"You do?!" Obviously not from me, I'm thinking.

"Yeah, it's on my reading app at school. The wolf eats the grandma, then he eats the girl.  Then the hunter cuts open the wolf and saves them."


Anyway, enough about my egregious literary gaps. I think I may need to own this one. If I'm feeling brave, perhaps I'll order Hansel and Gretel too.