Archives for June 2014

What I Read: June

June was another two book month.

overwhelmed

First up, I finished a book leftover from May. Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has Time grew out a piece that journalist Brigid Schulte wrote for The Washington Post in 2010, which explored the decline in leisure time in America. In the book, Schulte blends personal experiences with interviews with, neuroscientists, leisure researchers (who knew there was such a thing?), and regular, everyday people to find out what contributes to our ongoing sense of overwhelm and the impact that this has on family life, productivity and creativity.

Some of the criticism of the book stems from the fact that many felt like Schulte was making this an issue specific to mothers. Since she is a working mother herself, she does tend to focus on this population quite a bit, but was also careful to note and provide examples of how everyone—dads, working professionals without kids, and kids themselves— feels the affect by so many competing demands

Most interesting to me was the comparison of leisure time and family roles in Europe as compared to America and the discussion of progressive offices and flexible work-life scenarios that are already in place within some organizations. Although these examples are still far from the norm, learning about them gives me hope that others will soon come to see that there is a better, more productive way to balance work and life. The book is kind of depressing and hopeful all at once, and I think that just about anyone who struggles with trying to keep an million things in the air at once would find this an interesting read.

interestings

My second book was The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. It had been on my wish list since last summer, but I moved it up in the queue after I read an interview in which David Sedaris called it one of his favorite summer reads. He is one of my favorite authors, so I was pretty sure he wouldn’t steer me wrong. I was right—I loved this book!

The story kicks off with a group of six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts, who dub themselves“The Interestings” because they think they are, well, the most interesting people in the world. During the next three decades, we see some people falling away from the group, some of them achieving the fame and fortune and others giving up on their dreams because they realize that, in reality, they are just kind of average. I thought the way that Wolitzer chronicled the way that the friendships among members of the group endure, are tested or break was pretty realistic. I found myself caring about what happened to all of the characters, and stayed up late a few nights in a row just so I could read more of their stories. I would definitely recommend it for a summer beach read.

At the halfway point in the year, and more than halfway to my reading goal!

Little B: Nine Months

9_Month- (1 of 2)

Whenever I write one of these updates, I always think, “Well, that was our best month yet!” Then, during the next month, Little B seems to get even cuter and does even more amazing things. Someone recently told me that “every age is your favorite.” True statement.

At her 9 month doctor’s visit earlier this week, B weighed in at 17 pounds, 15 oz and was almost 27 inches long. She is wearing 9 month sized clothing, but I feel like I need to start stocking up on the next size soon, because she is seems to get bigger every day!

In addition to her first ride in an airplane and out-of-town trip, B took her first trip to the zoo, this pas month.

Zoo-2

Taking a break from animal watching with granny

Zoo-17

Both B and the gorilla were completely unimpressed with each other

She also tried out a swing at the park for the first time (hated it) and had her first taste of Pop’s water ice and ice cream (loved it).

Water ice collage

We finally have a forward crawler on our hands! She resembles a crab when she does it, scooting on her butt with her knees alongside of her. Still, she gets where she is going—and quickly, too! The first time I saw her do it, I cried. Something about seeing the back of her little head as she made her way toward the front door made me think about those times in the future when she’ll walk out the door and away from us, all by herself (Seriously. What is wrong with me?). She can pull herself into a standing position pretty easily now, so we finally lowered the crib. She likes when we hold her hands and walk her across the floor and has even taken a few tentative steps while holding onto furniture or a railing.

9_Month- (2 of 2)

An outtake from our 9 month photo session. She is keeping us on our toes, for sure!

B seems to recognize quite a few words. For example, if we ask her to wave, clap or kiss, she eagerly shows us her stuff. The latter is my favorite! She sticks out her bottom lip and plants it right on ours or the nose of a stuffed animal.  Similarly, if we say, “where are your balloons?” (the mobile above her crib) or  “where’s Tracy?” she knows just where to look. “Ma-ma” is still one of her favorite sounds. She uses it a lot when she is frustrated about something, but there have been quite a few occasions lately when I think she actually associates it with me.

Some of her favorite activities include playing peek-a-boo (particularly when we sit in the rocking chair in her room and she can grab the curtain to hide behind), rolling/chasing a ball across the floor, knocking over stacks of blocks and taking objects out of boxes or bags and throwing them on the floor (she hasn’t attempted to put them back in yet, which makes me think she is going to be messy like her mama). She bangs away on the piano at my mom’s house and “dances” (i.e. bobs her head and the top half of her body up and down) when she hears a song that she likes. Rock music, like what they play on WMMR, is her favorite and will even lull her to sleep when she is having a fussy moment in her car seat. Of course, like most kids, she seems to prefer objects that are not toys. The remote control and my purse and make-up bag seem to be an endless source of fascination for her right now, which has given us the opportunity to start teaching her the meaning of the word “no.” She gets it most of the time, but it’s absolutely not her favorite thing to hear.

New foods this month included scrambled egg yolks and toast. She likes combinations of things, like oatmeal and yogurt or squash and peas, mixed together. Surprisingly, one of her favorite mixes has been banana, beet and blueberry. It seems like a bizarre combination and beets are kind of an acquired taste, but she can’t seem to get enough of it. We have also been teaching her how to drink out of a cup with a straw. Most of the time, she does pretty well. Sometimes, though, she just likes to play. She’ll take a huge gulp of water and then let it all dribble out of her mouth, grinning like a crazy person the entire time.

B is down to just three bottles a day. On one hand, I’m grateful that she dropped her pre-bedtime bottle so easily, as I have heard that that one can be the most challenging. But, I do miss those moments of extra snuggle time that we used to have when she would fall asleep in my arms afterwards. It feels like little bits of her babyhood are slipping away little by little. I have no complaints about the fact that she continues to be a stellar nighttime sleeper, however. She usually goes down between 7 and 7:30 p.m., after songs and stories, and sleeping until about 6 a.m.

Looking forward to what the next month will bring. We are three-fourths of the way to one!

 

What I Read: May

I really could not tell you how I’m filling my free time lately, as most of the days pass in a blur. But, I can tell you that I haven’t been reading.

I thought I would actually start getting through more of the books on my list, since I started going to the gym again and a good book is the only thing that gets me through a session on the elliptical machine. But, that doesn’t seem to be the case. I started reading two books at the beginning of April, and it took me until the end of May just to get through one of them.

But, at least this post is pretty timely for those who are looking for a bit of light reading for upcoming summer vacations.

maine

If you couldn’t tell by the cover J. Courtney Sullivan’s novel Maine  makes a pretty good beach read.It tells the story of the women of the Kelleher family over the course of a month at the family beach house in—you guessed it—Maine.

Alice is the deeply religious, sharp-tongued matriarch of the family, who harbors guilt over an incident from her past.  She is joined by her daughter Kathleen, a recovering alcoholic and black sheep of the family, who runs a worm farm with her hippie boyfriend in California and Kathleen’s daughter, Maggie, who breaks up with her boyfriend and discovers she is pregnant, just before the trip. Rounding out the cast is Ann Marie, Alice’s daughter-in-law, who strives to do everything for everyone and project the image of the perfect wife and mother, despite the skeletons in her family’s own closet.

For the bulk of the novel, Sullivan lets the characters tell their stories separately. The narrative of Alice’s past, growing up in New England during World War II with aspirations to be an artist, was the most interesting, in my opinion. Otherwise, Sullivan draws on all of the stereotypes that are usually associated with Irish-Catholic families and the characters seem predictable as a result. It’s only when the characters finally converge at the house during the last third or so of the book that the pacing picks up and the real sparks began to fly between the family members.

Sullivan doesn’t tie up all of the loose ends at the conclusion of the story, and I found myself wanting to know what happens to each of the characters after their month in Maine ended. Sadly, I read an interview with Sullivan, in which she said that she didn’t feel compelled to revisit the Kellehers any time soon, so I guess I’ll just have to live with the endings for each story that I imagined in my own head.

However, if you also find that you are a fan of Sullivan’s writing, she has authored a few other books. I can vouch for her first novel, Commencement, which follows the lives of four recent graduates of Smith College. The characters in this book were more richly crafted and well developed, and I felt more invested in the story throughout.

As you might recall, at the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read at least 12 books this year. At the halfway point in 2014, I’ve made it through five. So, I have a bit of work to do during the next six months!