Off-the-beaten-path books we now like reading to Lily

As many of you know, Lily (age 4 1/2) is in the midst of a full-on fancy dress, girly-girl, pink princess phase. And while I’m not pushing back or restricting her that much – since I feel this IS just a phase that she’ll work through – I am doing my level best to read books with her that have, if not a full-blown feminist bent, positive messages for young girls. (I’m having a few issues with “Peter Pan,” which we started reading to her each night before I realized she’s not quite old enough, nor is the book, shall we say, kosher in its depiction of gender and race. But that’s another post.)

Since we’re lucky enough to live a few steps away from the local library (don’t think that escaped my notice when we were looking for a house), we take the girls there often, and when Lily was about two, she really got into the process of checking books out herself. The books she chose were pretty much beside the point, as evidenced by her selection method: step one, approach picture book shelves; step two, grab three books randomly; step three, rush to check them out, having not even glanced at them.

“Oy,” I thought. “This will leave us reading some real clunkers.” And it did, of course. (See this popular post about my experiences with creepy children’s books, may of them “classics.”) But it also led us to some pleasant surprises – books we’d have never found if not for Lily’s blind selection system. So between the books we’ve found by those means, and the ones I’ve taken a chance on via Lily’s preschool book order, we’ve found some good stuff. Here’s a partial list of some current favorites. Continue reading

A dream deferred (or surrendered?) to motherhood

While marking the one year anniversary of An Adequate Mom this week – a big thanks to all of you who stop in now and then – I thought I’d talk about something that’s haunted me for quite a while now.

In a strange but telling coincidence of timing, Lily was conceived within days of my return from two weeks at an artist colony in Lake Forest, Illinois called Ragdale. I’d earned a place there, during the competitive summer months, on the basis of a book manuscript excerpt that I’d submitted with my application.

Writing a book had been what my life had seemingly always been pointed toward. The first thing I remember saying in response to the “what do you want to be when you grow up?” question, posed by my grandfather while I, at age five, dried dishes in his kitchen, was, “An author.” (Yes, I later claimed “Avon lady” and “veterinarian” as career goals, at a time when playing with makeup and animals held great appeal, but I eventually came full circle. Good thing, since I never came to wear makeup in day-to-day life.)

I loved books and stories from the get-go. Once, when we’d driven the seven hours to my grandparents’ home in Clay City, Indiana and arrived late at night, my parents had told me it was too late for my grandfather to read to me. So what did I do? I waited until it sounded like everyone was asleep, grabbed my ragged copy of A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh,” and woke up my grandfather to read to me. The ritual was one of the main things I looked forward to in visiting my grandparents, and I wasn’t about to be cheated out of it because we arrived at an untimely hour – something completely out of my control.

A couple of years later, I sat at our family’s kitchen table with our humming blue electric typewriter, and I typed out, word for word, pages of various Nancy Drew books I had read. I liked playing at being a writer, and pretending I was in the act of creation rather than merely copying text. Continue reading