Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cure for a Book Hangover, Kid Edition

A few weeks ago, William read the last page of the final book in Brandon Mull's Fablehaven series. He contemplated the back cover of the book and sighed a deep, shuddery, eight-year-old-in-an-existential-crisis sigh. It was finished.

It's a phenomenon well known to intense readers. He had become deeply immersed in the series of fantasy books, recommended by my friend Erica, whose own son had enjoyed them, and finishing them gave him that sense of melancholy that hangs over us when we grudgingly finish reading a terrific book. Someone referred to it as "a book hangover," which I think is very apt.

But what to read next?

William finished the Harry Potter series over the summer and then tackled the first few books in Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Little House on the Prairie series. He also read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series and Heroes of Olympus series. He loved all of those. But he keeps putting the first Fablehaven book on my nightstand and imploring me to read it so he'll have someone to discuss it with. So that should tell you how much he enjoyed Fablehaven--he wants to hold a book club meeting with his mom.

I wanted to find him something awesome to read. Something that would lessen the book hangover. But I wasn't sure what to recommend at that point. He mentioned wanting to start reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Ring series, but David and I both remembered struggling with those books when we were young. (Heck, I struggled with them when I read them as an adult. And I'd already read books like The Tin Drum by Gunter Grass and The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.) So we suggested that perhaps he might want to wait on those for another couple of years. But in the meantime, what could he turn to?

I turned to my second favorite source of info after Dr. Google: The Facebook. "Help!" I wrote in a desperate post to my Facebook friends and their friends and the friends of their friends. "I neeeeeeeeed book recommendations for William."

And oh boy, did they deliver!

What the Facebook peeps (and their kids) suggested:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Books by Andrew Peterson (example: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga)
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society series of books by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • Redwall series by Brian Jacques and Gary Chalk
  • Children of the Red King series by Jenny Nimmo
  • 39 Clues series by Rick Riordan
  • The Sisters Grimm series by by Michael Buckley and Peter Ferguson
  • The Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer
  • Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer
  • The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood and Jon Klassen
  • Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters
  • The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper
  • The Unwanteds series by Lisa McMann
  • Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland
  • Keys to the Kingdom books by Garth Nix
  • Gregor The Overlander and the other Underland Chronicles books by Suzanne Collins
  • Peter and the Monsters books by Darren Pillsbury
  • Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage and Mark Zug
  • Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander
  • The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon by S. S. Taylor and Katherine Roy
  • The Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy
  • The Apothecary by Maile Meloy
  • The Pendragon books by  D.J. MacHale
  • The Three Investigators books by Robert Arthur
  • Books by Nancy Farmer (example: Sea of Trolls Trilogy)
  • Books by Madeleine L'Engle (example: A Wrinkle in Time)
  • Warriors series by Erin Hunter
  • Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery
  • The Inheritance Cycle books by Christopher Paolini

As a book nerd, this list makes my heart sing. A long list of books to try! Even if William doesn't respond to some of them, others will surely appeal to him. If your child is looking for new reading material, you might also find some good candidates from this list.

Got any other recommendations? I'd love to add more books to this list. so please let me know.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

A dark and windy Halloween

It was a dark and stormy night.

No. Make that, it was a dark and blustery night.

Oh, and it was cold too. Teeth-rattlingly cold. And blustery. Did I mention the blustery part?

But the Scary Chef and the Ninja would not be deterred. Neither wind nor cold nor dark of night would keep from making their self-appointed trick-of-treating rounds.

Not only that, but William and Andrew and Sammy trick-or-treated for more than an hour and a half during this rather extreme weather situation. Along with hundreds of other kids, of course, their parents, Chewbacca and a host of Darth Vaders, Princess Leias, and Elsas from "Frozen." Bruce and I accompanied them, and we were pretty amazed by how fast our kids could run when motivated by candy. I'm wondering if perhaps we should enter them in the Boston Marathon since they are so good at sprinting in full costume. 

I praised Andrew for saying "trick or treat" AND "thank you" when he went up to the front doors. I added, "And you were very cute, too." Andrew immediately responded, "You mean scary." And I nodded solemnly, "Yes of course." 

Not cute.
Scary. Very very scary.

Andrew, Joseph, William and Sammy.

The Scary Chef and the Ninja.
The grandmothers were not put off by the Scary Chef.
David removed his Darth Vader helmet so he wouldn't compete
with the fierce scariness that was the hallmark of the one and only Scary Chef.
Even ninjas love their mamas.
All in all, we had a lovely Halloween again this year. Even if we lost a few things along the trick-or-treat route, everyone seemed to have fun, and no one got frostbite. I didn't get a good picture of me wearing my giant black-and-purple tutu, which was the focal part of my 40-year-old princess get-up, but that's okay. I was able to drown my sorrow in Twix bars, and really, can you ask for more than that?

Friday, October 17, 2014

San Diego Revisited

Check out these two giddy kids on vacation, sans small people!

We went to San Diego last week and left William and Andrew at home with their grandmothers, who gamely agreed to watch them, feed them, and chauffeur them around to their many important engagements. 

Traveling without the boys was the weirdest thing. I only had to carry my own stuff. I only went to the restroom if I had to actually go to the restroom myself. There were no interruptions at mealtime or showertime or any other time. I never had to hunch over my plate to keep small hands from snatching any of my food. I was able to decide to take in a yoga class or go for a run or head down to a nearby bar for happy hour without making any other arrangements. I just went! And when I sat down to work on my laptop while David was attending a session, I never had to get up and wipe someone's tushy or fetch him a granola bar or find someone's missing shoe or referee an argument. I just...got work done. It was a little disconcerting, actually. 

Of course, we did miss the boys. We wondered what they would have thought about dipping their toes in the icy-cold Pacific.

David, right before the water washed over his feet and instantly froze his toes. Del Mar, CA.

And I feel reasonably confident that they would have looooved the food.

Shrimp burrito and fish taco at El Zarape. Oh my God, so good. University Heights, San Diego, CA.
But we knew that their grandmothers were taking good care of them. And we knew that it was good for us to get away for a little while.  David enjoyed the educational sessions that he attended, as well as seeing some old friends, and I did, too. I even ran in a race...on vacation! Aren't you proud of me? I even ran really fast (okay, so "fast" is a relative term here).

It was a really nice trip. But as always, we were glad to get home. And glad to hug and kiss Andrew and William and tell them all about our trip. As we predicted, Andrew was interested in hearing more about how we rode on a train and a trolley, while William was interested in the food. Love my boys.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Couple of quick October photos

Okay, just a couple of quick photos before I leave town for a few days.

Here's one of William and me at the new Zaxby's. Andrew was the one eagerly awaiting the opening of the place, so we took him there the day it opened. I promised William that we'd get him there soon, and so today, that's where the two of us had lunch.

At Cheekwood with Andrew a week or so ago. Love taking him there. We often take a picnic lunch at eat it by the ponds, and then I let him play Julie the Cruise Director and lead me all over the place. 

For example, he took me on a tour of the scarecrows. It wouldn't be autumn in Nashville without a visit to see the scarecrows at Cheekwood, after all.

Oh, and you know how I mentioned that the boys are both playing soccer? Guess who scored his first goal this past Saturday? This guy!

And it was even on purpose! First, I was in total disbelief, and then I was so excited that I was literally jumping up and down. A very red letter day for Andrew and his dear old unathletic mom who's never scored a goal in her entire life. 

Early October Update

How is it that I have gotten so woefully behind on this blog? Ack. Well, I did write a nice little post featuring William and Andrew on my other blog a month or so ago, if you want to go check that out sometime: The Joy of Small Stuff

What can I tell you? We've been busy this fall, per usual. Both kids are playing soccer, and William is busy with a blue streak of other activities, namely piano lessons, church choir, Scouts, and tennis lessons. Andrew gets to tag along to many of those. It can be exhausting sometimes, but they're the kind of kids who thrive on Doing Stuff.

William started the third grade, which is utterly amazing to me, given that I remember very clearly being in third grade myself. He is reading up an absolute storm. He finished the entire Harry Potter series this summer, read the first few Little House on the Prairie books, and now he's happily reading his way through a series called Fablehaven. He's my little bookworm. Er, or my not-so-little-anymore bookworm. I love love love that he's become such an enthusiastic reader.

Andrew started his....get ready....last year of preschool this fall. Gulp. I know! As one of my friends remarked in disbelief, "But he's your BABY." I KNOW. It is utterly astonishing to me, too. He loves his class, loves his new friends, loves his teachers, and is having a ball. His classroom has a bulletin board with a calendar, and a weather chart, and other information, and Andrew is recreating all those things on his own bedroom wall, next to his beloved world map.  He is also making sign-in lists for the entire house, since he signs in each morning when he gets to his classroom. So don't be surprised if you come to our house and see purple pieces of paper taped all over the place. Just sign your name, right underneath where Andrew has signed his own name. It's very important to him. He's so earnest about it, and it's so, so adorable.

It's easy to not notice incremental change, but then sometimes I look at them carefully and really notice them. And I think, "Wow, they really are getting so big!" I recently cleaned out a bunch of old clothes from Andrew's room to sell in a consignment sale, and he's already wearing clothes that William wore in kindergarten. It doesn't really seem like that long ago that William was in kindergarten, and yet....

Hope you are all having a good October! I adore autumn and Halloween and so do the boys. I'll try to get some good autumnal photos to post soon.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

40 Candles

So this happened a few days ago:

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Yep, I turned 29 again!

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Okay, fine.

29 plus....11.

(Sheesh. You made the old lady cry. Are you happy now?)

As those of you who have seen me at all recently know, I kvetched and moaned for the better part of the month of July about turning 29 plus 11.

David took me out to dinner at a lovely local restaurant on the night before the Big Day, and at one point during the meal, I said, rather dramatically, "This is the last night of my youth!"

David calmly took another bite of his grilled catfish and said dryly, "And tomorrow morning, you're going to wake up, and you're going to be... exactly the same."

Yup. I was. I am. And my parents , especially my dad, took great delight in honoring the grand occasion. Check out the cane and the tiara that I'm wearing in the photo above. What you can't see in the photo, however, are all the "I'm 40!" and "Happy 40th Birthday" decorations and the giant massive bunch of helium-filled black balloons that filled my front hall. Mom and Dad had a lot of fun at Party City, clearly.

At any rate, here I am. A former coworker of mine posted a happy birthday message on my Facebook page and asked if I remembered the old show "thirtysomething" and how it was always about drama and how messed up people's lives were? "Now you're past all that!" James wrote cheerfully. (He's over 40 himself, so he can say these things.)

It's all a state of mind. Well, mostly. But I really can't blame 40 for the gray hairs I'm starting to get. The blame should and does rest squarely on the shoulders of the Wyckoff Brothers.

Not that I don't love them, of course.

I mean, come on. How could I not love this?

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Or this, my two sweet boys and husband, gamely posing for me for yet another picture at Turner Field during our recent trip to see the Braves play?

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Saturday, July 05, 2014

I like my treats to be chocolate

Okay, I have to share this little anecdote, which I also recently posted on Facebook, but it still makes me giggle, so.

Some background: Twice this year, I managed to land a Groupon for the local Sushi Train restaurant, and we've taken a lunchtime field trip there to spend it. This is a guaranteed big hit. The boys love...I mean LOVE....sushi. Andrew can easily eat a dozen pieces, and William can probably put away twice that amount. They don't do raw, yet, but that's about their only limitation at this point. They also adore the concept of a place where they can pick out the little plates of sushi themselves as they cruise by on the conveyor belt. That's big-time awesome when you're eight or four years old.

At our most recent trip to Sushi Train, the boys were finally, finally hitting their limit on sushi, and I spotted a bowl of steamed salted edamame on the "train." I quickly grabbed it and began digging into it with gusto.

"Look, Andrew!" I said. "When you pop open the pods, you get some of the salt from them on the beans and they taste all salty and delicious. It's such a nice little treat."

Andrew remained unconvinced, but I guess he was trying to be as tactful as a four-year-old can possibly be.
"I like my treats to be chocolate," he said.

Monday, June 23, 2014

And suddenly it's late June

Do you ever feel like time just got away from you? No? Yeah, me neither. Never happens. 

whistles innocently

Okay, so, yes. It often does get away from me. And it did again this time. Two months have somehow passed since I last posted here. Both boys have gotten taller, eaten a metric ton of food, had haircuts, needed another haircut, performed in school programs and finished second grade (William) and three-year-old preschool (Andrew). 

William also performed in a piano recital (quite admirably, I might note, and he didn't even use any music, unlike every other kid there), and we all attended his Cub Scout Packnic when he was promoted from a Wolf Scout to a Bear Scout. Both kids finished up their soccer seasons. There's been some day camps in there, we've been to the pool and various playgrounds, and last week, we even went to Memphis for the day. 

We were busy, to put it mildly.

What else can I tell you? 

William has finished reading Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, as well as The Lost Heroes of Olympus series, and now he is deeply immersed in the 39 Clues series. He loves the show "Cosmos," and David has successfully converted him into a Doctor Who fan. He's still taking piano lessons, and he's writing his own piece of music. It's, um, interesting. (However, he knows exactly what he wants to do, and the fact that he understands how to go about doing that actually is impressive.)

Andrew is obsessed with maps. Every time he goes to the Y or preschool or anywhere with paper and crayons, he draws a map. Sometimes it's a treasure map. Sometimes it's a map of Nashville. Sometimes it's a map of our neighborhood. They all look sort of the same, except for the colors, but he is confident that he has managed to capture the essence of whichever place he's drawing. He always knows exactly where X should mark the spot and where he is. "Look!" he crows, displaying his artwork in front of him as if it was the original copy of the Declaration of Independence. "I made a map!!" And I agree that it is a marvelous  map, and he is deeply satisfied. 

They both talk incessantly, and they both ask lots of questions. Often at the same time. 

Sometimes their questions make me sit back in my chair and exhale with wonder. This morning, on the way to Westminster, Andrew asked, "So it's nighttime in heaven right now, isn't it?" as if heaven was Australia on the other side of the globe. "Hmm," I said, forgetting to change lanes. "Maybe it is." I don't know where he got that, but I kind of like it. William then chimed in, "It's probably whatever you want it to be." I like that, too. Those moments when suddenly I am challenged to stop thinking linearly are sort of magic. They shimmer there in front of me like a soap bubble, and I think, "I must remember this."