Sunshine, Flowers, And Not Enough Books

spring flower

My husband and I went for a walk over the weekend.  Usually, walks are a bit of a production, I am not sure why.  We tend to make the kids come with us (they complain but then end up enjoying it) and so it is a lot of nagging to get everyone out of the house and then there is the negotiating about bikes and scooters and whether or not helmets need to be worn.  This time we left the kids behind.  They had been working in the yard for quite a while so we didn't feel the need to enforce exercise.  I took my new camera with me and my husband was very patient about stopping while I fiddled with settings and muttered to myself.  None of the photos are that great but I don't really care.  It was a beautiful day and I had fun.

bike path

We walked on the bike trail that runs through town.  Actually, it runs through a couple of towns and we can access it at the end of our street.  That only works in the evenings and on the weekends because we have to walk through a business to get there and we are only allowed to do that after hours.  I am pretty sure that is all unnecessary information but there you go.


I am afraid that this blog hasn't been as book review focused as it could be.  That isn't because I am not reading, it is more because I seem to be in a bit of a reading rut.  I keep looking at all the interesting books I have, the ones I have been so excited to read, and somehow I just shove them aside and continue reading all my old favorites.  I am enjoying all the old favorites but I have read them so many times I don't have much to say about them.  They are so inextricably tied up with my past and my memories that I can't write a dispassionate review.

Right now I am reading another Mary Stewart novel.  I do like her books.  They are simple, old-fashioned, fun romantic suspense, the type of book it can be hard to find nowadays.  But I am also eyeing Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers and The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.  Yes, I have read them before and no, I won't review them.  Besides, all I can say about Gaudy Night is that if you don't read and love the Peter Wimsey novels then we can't be friends.

Here is a side point.  My daughter really, really wishes we had named her Josephine and called her Josie for short.  For some reason, she has always loved the name.  It just seems like such an unusual choice for a ten-year-old.

I think I will just continue reading all my old favorites until I am ready to move on.  I thought about making myself pick up something else but I know it just won't work.  Even if I do make myself read a new book I will lose out on the enjoyment of it because a book read at the wrong time is a book wasted.

So that is what life has looked like around here.  It is a lot of books read for the five millionth time, a lot of walks taken over and over again, and way too many cookies baked.  Oh, and too many cups of tea to be counted.

The sun is shining, the skies are blue, and spring is finally on its way.  I think the days of my reading rut are numbered. I am going to ignore the everyday, boring routines of life and I will continue to wallow in the nostalgia of so many familiar books.

sky and trees

Do you like to read books over and over or is once enough for you?  Do you ever get stuck in a reading rut?

A Quiet Week

spring flowers

For the last few Mondays I have found myself writing a post about the best little bits of my past week.  I didn't consciously decide to do this, somehow it just happened.  I have decided that I really like it.  I enjoy focusing on the bright spots in what can otherwise seem to be a bit of a dreary week.  So for this week here are the things that made me happy.

I love these mini daffodils that I bought at the grocery store for a couple of dollars.  They grew like mad and flowered like crazy and they make me smile every time I look at them.  Plus, they came in a bright yellow little pot.  What more can you ask for?

Persephone and Virago

I had one more book come in the mail.  It was another secondhand Persephone, Hostages to Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge.  It is described as a domestic novel, the story of a young couple and their three children living their lives in a small village in Oxfordshire.  The description says it is a novel where not much happens.  That is my favorite kind of novel.  I can't wait to read this.  It has an annoying plastic cover on it since it was an old library book.  I will have to see if I can remove that.

My new camera was delivered.  With my usual unreasonable determination to master everything at once, I dove right in and tried to figure it out completely.  That didn't work too well.  Apparently, you can't learn how to work a camera on manual settings overnight.  I have now scaled back my expectations and decided, like a reasonable person, to learn the basics first and then move on.  And, like any book lover learning a new skill, I have decided I need a book for that.  So tomorrow I am going to stop in at Barnes & Noble and find a book on photography.  In about ten years you should see some gorgeous photographs on this blog.  Actually, I really like the camera and I will have fun playing around with it.

Last week I found out that Bletchley Park, the center for codebreaking during WWII, is an easy day trip from London.  I spent a happy morning planning an itinerary and looking at pictures online.  With my fascination with Britain during WWII, this is the ideal day out.  Discovering that this day trip was doable made me very happy.  Thank goodness my husband thinks it sounds interesting too because I gave him no choice in the matter and just informed him that we were going.  In a little over two weeks, we will be in London.  I couldn't possibly be more excited.

How has your week been?

Books To Be Read In The Spring

The Wind in the Willows

The Mole had been working very hard all morning, spring-cleaning his little home.  First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms.  Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.  It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said "Bother!" and "O blow!" and also "Hang spring-cleaning!" and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat.  

 If you have never read about the adventures of Ratty and Mole and Badger and Toad, glorious Toad, then now is the time to do it.  I guarantee you will immediately want to go on a picnic on the river, a picnic that consists of "coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaldfrenchrollscressandwidgespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonade"

The Secret Garden

They ran from one part of the garden to another and found so many wonders that they were obliged to remind themselves that they must whisper or speak low.  He showed her swelling leafbuds on rose branches which had seemed dead.  He showed her ten thousand new green points pushing through the mould.  They put their eager young noses close to the earth and sniffed its warmed springtime breathing; they dug and pulled and laughed low with rapture until Mistress Mary's hair was as tumbled as Dickon's an her cheeks were almost as poppy red as his.

For years I read this book every single spring.  I still do sometimes.  This book also convinces me every spring that I really want to garden.  That desire does not always survive for the entire summer but I do start out with enthusiasm.  The problem is, I really want to discover a walled English garden and bring it back to life.  Since that isn't going to happen, I will just continue to read about it again and again and again.

The Enchanted April

All down the stone steps on either side were periwinkles in full flower, and she could now see what it was that had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented, across her face.  It was wistaria.  Wistaria and sunshine...she remembered the advertisement.  Here indeed were both in profusion.  The wistaria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, its prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiums in great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour.  The ground behind these flaming things dropped away in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where among the olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach-trees, and cherry-trees.  The cherry-trees and peach-trees were in blossom--lovely showers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacy of the olives; the fig-leaves were just big enough to smell of figs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show.  And beneath these trees were groups of blue and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions and daisies, and right down at the bottom was the sea."

This charming novel of four disparate English women who rent a small Italian castle for the month of April begs to be read over and over.  The story is slight but the charm and wry wit are captivating.  The women themselves blossom during the holiday and return home different then they went.  I had to restrain myself from filling this blog post with quotes. I do have to add one more because it so perfectly describes the emotion.

 Mrs. Wilkins, who, like all the shy, once she was started; lunged on, frightening herself to more and more speech by the sheer sound of what she had said last in her ears."

Are there any books that, for you, are inextricably tied to spring?

Just a Picture

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river walk

I needed a post for some site maintenance so here is a pretty picture of the river and some birds.  Enjoy.

"Write About Me"

child by the river

That was my daughter's suggestion when I was trying to pick a topic for a blog post.  She suggested I write about her and her activities in the yard and that I follow her around outside and photograph her for my blog.

Needless to say, I am not doing that but it did get me thinking.  When do we all lose that absolute self-confidence?  When do we lose the belief that we are interesting?  When do we lose the ability to say "here I am.  I am a fascinating person in my own way."? Because we are fascinating and we are interesting and really, I just want to be ten again and be totally convinced that a blog post about me is a worthy topic.

Jane Austen

Right now I am reading Jane Austen A Life by Claire Tomalin and it is fascinating.  I have loved Jane Austen for as long as I can remember and I enjoy reading about the little details of her life and personality.  Now, of course, Jane Austen went on to become a famous author and that isn't going to happen to most of us.  And of course, the fact that she became famous and her books are beloved makes her more interesting. However, we like reading about her, not just because she became famous, but also because we like having a window into someone else's life and thoughts.

I wonder how many of us are just as interesting inside, we simply aren't as good at expressing it in our letters as Jane Austen was.  I so wish more of them had survived.  Because really, Jane Austen was a woman just like us.  She had friends and family and flirtations and a social life.  She got annoyed with people and found people amusing. There were tragedies and disappointments in her life and there were moments of happiness and fun.  That is what the letters do for us.  They turn Jane Austen into a real person instead of only a famous author.  She becomes not only the woman who had to fit her writing in around her life but also the woman who had a life to fit in around her writing.  She was real.  She was interesting.  She was hugely talented but also normal.

Wouldn't you like to know a woman who says such things as

We met not a creature at Mrs Lillingsone's, & yet were not so very stupid as I expected, which I attribute to my wearing my new bonnet & being in good looks."

Or this quote, which is quite well known.

 How horrible it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!

Sometimes I think we can lose the real person in the icon.  Jane Austen is justly famous.  Her novels stand the test of time as few others do.  They are supremely readable and still as fresh and sparkling as when they were written years and years ago.  But Jane Austen wasn't an icon, she was a friend, a daughter, a sister.

I bet you anything that at ten years old she would have cried "write about me!" because she would have known she was interesting.  She would have been right.  It is too bad so many of us lose that conviction.

Spring Snow

It is spring.

Spring, which brings to mind images of crocuses popping up all over the lawn, daffodils unfurling their yellow buds and robins hopping through the yard.

Instead, it is snowing.

It is Monday, it is snowing, and my kids have a snow day.

Despite the snow today, there have been some good things in my week.  Actually, my kids definitely view the snow as good.  Anything for a day off school.

I took my son clothes shopping. Now, I know that doesn't sound like a good thing and I know my son didn't think it was a good thing but he needed a new suit so I dragged him to the store.  It was relatively painless.  He is very tall and very thin so finding him clothes that fit is a challenge.  We did it though and he looks very handsome.  After that, I told him we could do what he wanted so we went to visit my parents and then I took him to Wendy's for dinner.  It was nice to spend some time with just him.  He gets chatty when he is on his own and he makes me laugh like no one else I know.  If it didn't sound so corny I would say it was a good mother-son bonding experience.  Since that is way too corny we will just say that despite his expectations, clothes shopping did not kill him and we had a nice time together.

I managed to cook a steak successfully.  I view myself as a good cook but steaks are my nemesis.  I have a bizarre fear of underdone meat which causes me to turn all steaks into leather.  My family saws away at them while insisting that really, this one isn't too bad.  However, yesterday I conquered the steak.  I looked up exactly how long to cook it and followed the instructions exactly.  I didn't leave it cooking "just for a few more minutes to make sure."  I ended up with a perfectly cooked, perfectly tender steak.  My life is now complete.

I bought a new camera.  I have wanted this camera for almost a year now.  My aunt is very interested in photography and when we were on vacation together last summer she let me use her DSLR.  It was way more fun than I thought it would be.  She had to pry it out of my hands in order to use it herself.  I came home and researched them but I just couldn't justify the expense.  That didn't stop me from deciding what I would buy if I could.  I settled on a mirrorless camera, the Olympus om-d e-m10.  Then it was just a case of stalking it online until I found it at a price I was willing to pay.  That day finally came last week when I found an affordable reconditioned one and there was a very good coupon code to go with it. I ordered it and I am now impatiently waiting for it to arrive.  I am sure it will be a steep learning curve because I am used to my little point and shoot camera but it sounds like fun.

As for books this week, I am in the middle of a Jane Austen binge.  This happens periodically.  I just feel a need to reread her.  Plus right now I am reading her letters and Claire Tomalin's biography of her. I think I mentioned that before.  I did take a break last night to read My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart.  Yesterday was a bad day and sometimes a little romantic suspense is just what is needed.  That, and the ice cream my son walked down to the store to get for me, greatly improved my day.

How was your week? I hope it isn't snowing wherever you are.

Books and Plans

Persephone Books

This book came in the mail yesterday.  I don't really know anything about it but I found it online for something like $3.00 and I just couldn't pass that by.  I was so pleased that it even came with the bookmark.  I ordered another Persephone for about the same price but that hasn't arrived yet.  I had told myself that I wasn't going to order any more books for a while but then my husband came home and told me about an interview he had listened to on the BBC. It was with an author I have never heard of but he said it was very interesting and that it sounded like the kind of thing I would like.  So based on that, I puttered around online and found one of her books.  Now would be the perfect time for me to say who the author is but to be honest, I can't remember.  It will be a pleasant surprise when it shows up in the mail.  Since I am constitutionally unable to only order one book I ended up with three on their way to me.  Not that I am complaining, and I think my husband is just enabling me here.

We leave for London four weeks from tomorrow.  And yes, we are literally counting down the days.  I have a chalkboard wall in my kitchen (that sounds so Pinterest-worthy but my kitchen really isn't) and my daughter has a countdown on it that she updates daily.  She is so excited about spending the week with her grandparents.  I am glad because then we don't have to feel guilty about leaving them behind while we have fun in London.

I have been researching bookstores in London and trying to make an organized plan of attack.  In case you can't tell, I take my book shopping in London very seriously.  A few stores I have been to before but know I want to revisit.  Places like Persephone Books and Daunt Books are essential, but I have also been collecting a list of other places that are new to me this year.  Then I am trying to organize them so that I can fit them in around the other things we want to do.  Because believe it or not, book shopping is not the one and only thing my husband wants to do.  So if you are reading this and you live in London and you have any absolutely essential bookshops please tell me about them. And if you want to recommend great coffee shops for my husband too that would be wonderful.

I think that a huge part of the fun of a trip is the planning ahead of time.  Of course I love the actual vacation but I also really love looking up places to visit and gardens to walk in and what the different areas of a city are like.  I even like shopping online for the perfect travel shoes.  (That is the holy grail I have yet to find.) Vacation planning is a guaranteed way to improve a bad day.  I can't wait to get to London but at the same time, I don't want the planning to be over.

I haven't read anything absolutely amazing lately.  I did read All My Patients Are Under the Bed by Dr. Louis J. Camuti.  It was entertaining.  It read like a series of anecdotes strung together. He sounds like he was quite the character and he treated the cats belonging to some famous people such as Frances and Richard Lockridge who wrote the Mr. and Mrs. North mysteries.  I tend to read all vet stories and compare them to James Herriot. Few measure up but this is a fun, quick read.  Probably an even more fun read if you are a cat obsessive.  We have a cat and I like him but I am not a cat obsessive though some members of my immediate family are.

Right now I am reading Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope.  I love a good Trollope and this fits the bill.  Rachel is in love with Luke Rowan.  She is not considered worthy of his love at first, then he goes to London and rumors start circulating about him.  That is where I am now.  I am sure there will be trials and tribulations but that it will all work out in the end.  There is quite a bit about clergymen and the church, not all of it favorable.  I wonder how people felt about that when it was originally published.

This is kind of a rambly post but that is what happens when I just sit down, pick up my laptop and start typing.  I'll try to do some more well-thought-out posts soon.

Don't Let Monday Get You Down

walk by the stream

It's Monday.

It's raining.

It's not spring here yet.

But that is okay, because for once in my life I am going for optimism and a positive outlook.  Just don't place any bets on how long that positive outlook will last.

Here are a few happy things that have happened in my life lately.

My husband and I went out for breakfast.  It was midweek, we were both busy, but we met up and had a delicious breakfast and some nice conversation.  If I was a fancy blogger this is where you would get an arty picture of eggs.  Since I am not fancy you will just have to imagine the yumminess.

My aunt and I spent the day together.  We are friends as well as relatives but we don't get to see each other much.  Every few months we dedicate a day to thrift shopping and endless conversation.  It was therapeutic and surprisingly frugal since all I bought was a silver cuff bracelet for $6.00.  That is the thing about thrift shopping, you never know what you are going to find or indeed, if you are going to find anything at all.  It was a good day.  I think I am talked out for the next month.  My husband might be grateful for that.

I took my daughter to buy new sneakers and found a pair of leopard print flats for me.  I have been looking for comfortable leopard print flats for a year.  I finally found the perfect pair in the clearance section when I wasn't even really looking.  This made me surprisingly happy. I wore them all day Saturday and they were just as comfortable as I hoped.  And yes, I did get my daughter the sneakers she needed. Bright blue Converse, so she is happy too.

My teenage son told me that my husband and I are good parents.  I know, I almost passed out from shock as well.  A compliment from a teenager on parenting?  What is the world coming to?  I wish I could have recorded the conversation so I could play it over and over next time he is rolling his eyes at me.  Seriously though, it made my day.

The last book I ordered showed up in the mail.  It is a volume of Jane Austen's letters.  It is a nice fat book and I can't wait to dip into it.  And yes, I might have ordered just a few more books.  I felt a little bad until I thought that some people buy coffee every day or eat lunch out.  I do neither, I just buy books.

I ate ice cream and french fries for dinner one night.  After two weeks of exercising and eating right I gave in to temptation.  Maybe that shouldn't be on a happy list because I am sure it wasn't good for me but it tasted so good.  Now I am back to my boring health kick.  Which in a way, is also a happy thing because I feel better.

What things have made you happy lately?

Things I Don't Like

I don't like large parties.  A few people are fine, any more than that is torture.

I don't like idle chatter.

I don't like alcohol.  I would rather have a nice cup of tea.

I despise group activities, especially ones that put you on the spot.

I hate it when people comment on how quiet I am and then look at me expectantly as if I should suddenly change my whole personality in order to fit their expectations.

I don't really like spontaneity, give me a good plan any day.

I hate squash.  Any and all squash.  And it doesn't matter how you cook it, I will still hate it.

Mice are evil, especially if they get into my house.

I don't like gushy emotions. I am not heartless, I just don't necessarily like to talk about it.

I don't really like most board games though I played endless games of Candyland with my kids when they were little.  I should win some kind of award for that.

I don't like amusement parks.  Too many people, too much commotion, I don't like scary rides.  Oddly, I do like state fairs.

I don't like watching sports, much to my husband's sorrow.  Though when we lived outside Chicago we used to go to Wrigley Field and I liked that because I enjoyed people watching.  I didn't really watch the game.

I don't like gum.  My kids do.  It annoys me, especially if my daughter has bubble gum.  That is one of the worst smells on earth.

If you look back at the beginning of this post you can see that it was started with the intention of discussing differences in personalities.  I was thinking about how quiet people are constantly being told how quiet they are as if it is unacceptable.  Somehow I got sidetracked into a pointless list of annoying things, I am not really sure how that happened.

But really, all of these things are parts of what make me who I am.  I don't like amusement parks and squash and mice.  I also don't like crowds and being put on the spot.  All of those feelings are valid.  Just because you like squash doesn't mean I have to as well.  However, for some unknown reason, people seem to think that if their personality is a certain type then all other people should be the same.  I don't mind if you are exuberant and chatty and loud.  Go for it.  It might wear me out eventually but I will enjoy the show in the meantime.  But I will enjoy the show from my own quiet corner, I won't get on the stage with you.  I also won't force you to stay in my quiet corner.

The world benefits so much from having a variety of personalities.  We need the team players and the loners, the people who jump in and the ones who sit back and make a plan, the ones who brainstorm with a vengeance and the ones who narrow the focus.  We need to recognize that it is okay for people to be different.

I can love books, you can love parties.  You can love group vacations, they can sound like hell on earth to me.  You can have a glass of wine, I'll have my nice cup of tea.

We can be different and still be friends.

Just don't serve me squash.  I hate it and it doesn't matter how you cook it.

Books I Have Acquired Lately

books I bought

Notice I did not say books I bought.  That is because I didn't buy most of them.  I found them on free racks at the library and thrift stores.  A lot of people seem to be giving away books lately.  I'm not going to complain.  So here we go, this is what I have acquired in the last few weeks.

First up is All My Patients Are Under The Bed by Dr. Louis J. Camuti.  It is the memoirs of a cat doctor.  I seriously doubt it can compete with the James Herriot books which I have loved since childhood but you never know.  It was free, I'll give it a try.  My daughter also wants to read it.  She loves all books about animals.  Hmmm, maybe I should introduce her to James Herriot.

Next, we have Doctor's Wife by Maysie Grieg.  It is another book I got for free at a thrift store.  I know nothing about it, it just looked old and therefore possibly interesting.  I just looked it up.  It looks like a doctor/wife/nurse love triangle thing.  I think the wife conveniently dies at the end.  Not my usual cup of tea but it might be amusing in a train wreck sort of way.

This next book I actually bought.  It is Jane Austen A Life by Claire Tomalin.  I love Jane Austen and have read a lot of books about her and her writings.  I have meant to read this for a while and finally got around to ordering it.  It came in the mail today and brightened my whole day.

Death Beside the Sea by Marian Babson is another free book from the thrift store.  I think I read mysteries by her years and years ago.  It looks imminently forgettable but sometimes I just need a mindless mystery to pass the time.

The same thrift shop gave me Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.  I have heard of this but never read it.  I thought it was autobiographical but the back of the book says it is a novel.  Either way, it is about exactly what the title says, the adventures of a penniless writer living in the two cities.

Again, I found this next book for free.  It is Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.  I have never read anything by him but I know a movie was made of this novel.  I thought it was worth a try.

The last two books I got at a thrift store but I actually purchased them.  I am getting so used to finding books for free that that fact is a bit of a shock.  They are The Game of Kings and Queen's Play by Dorothy Dunnett.  Again, they are books I have heard quite a bit about but have never read.  People seem to be a bit obsessed with this series and I think anything that inspires that degree of devotion is worth reading.  I have high expectations for these which is not something I can say for all the other books on this list.

I haven't included on this list the huge stack of books that the library was giving away that I got for my daughter.  I can't remember all of the books, I got a bit over-excited and just kept pulling them off the shelf and shoving them into her arms.  I do know one was The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken.  I liked that book when I was her age and I might need to reread it just for nostalgic reasons.

vintage purse

And finally, one other thing I bought from a thrift store is this purse.  I have a bit of an obsession with what my kids call "old lady purses."  I don't care, I love them and add to my collection whenever I can.  They aren't practical for everyday use, mainly because they are too small to cart around all my junk, but I use them when I am dressed up, much to the kid's slight horror.  The purses make me feel like I should be wearing a hat, pumps, and a 1940s suit.  If only I was.

Book Memories

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

I typed the title of this post and then paused, slightly stumped by the fact that most of my life is made up of book memories. That is what happens when you are a book obsessive from birth onward. If I wrote about all of the memories that come to mind we could be here for days.  I will spare you that and stick with what originally inspired the title. You can thank me for my restraint in the comments.

It was book fair week at my daughter's school.  Just like when I was a child, book fair week is also the week of parent-teacher conferences.  And just like when I was a child, the kids are taken down to look at the books but they are not allowed to buy.  They have to bring money in the next day.  Somehow that manages to heighten the excitement and anticipation.  Or at least it does if you are a bookish child like I was.

I always loved the moment when we were taken down to the gym and we filed up onto the stage to look at the tables full of books.  I don't know why they were set up on the stage.  It was crowded and hard to navigate but that was just one more thing that made it exciting.  Most of us were never on the stage, and if you were like me, you never wanted to be unless it was to look at books.  The stacks of books were neatly arranged on the tables by grade level.  It was kind of like a treasure hunt.  You would circle the table, never sure what books you were going to see. Many of them were completely uninteresting but sometimes you would find just the book you didn't know you wanted.  Reading this over, I am starting to think I was a slightly strange child.  Yes, I really did find book fairs this exciting.

I don't remember all the books I bought.  I know when I was little I bought some of the picture books that came with the little records of the story.  Remember those, back in the days of record player?  They were 45s I think, and you had to insert that plastic disc in the hole in the center so the record would fit on the spindle.  Then you would lie down on the floor right in front of the speaker and listen to your book while following along.  There was always a sound to tell you to turn the page.  I remember I had Black Beauty and Tootle the Tugboat, I believe.  Then when the story ended it would make that repetitive noise of the needle bumping in the groove at the end of the record (I don't know how else to describe it, but I can still hear it) until you would pick up the needle and drop it down at the beginning and listen to the whole thing over again.

The book I most clearly remember buying is The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.  I had looked at it when my class had visited the sale because I liked the cover but I didn't want a book about a witch so I put it back.  Later that day my mom took us back to the book sale and she picked up the same book.  For some reason, I can still see her standing beside the table and flipping through the book.  She handed it to me and told me she thought I would enjoy it, that it wasn't really about a witch.  She was right, I did like it.  I loved it, in fact.  I loved the story of Kit Tyler who comes from a Caribbean island to live with her Puritan relatives in Connecticut.  I loved her feisty personality, I loved how she stood up for the "witch" and I really, really loved the romance with Nat.  I am not sure how old I was when I bought this book but I know I was in elementary school, fourth grade, maybe?  Romance was new in my books and I was enthralled.

My daughter brought her allowance into school today and bought a book.  It isn't anything as special as The Witch of Blackbird Pond, at least in my opinion.  It is an activity book with an annoying title that I can't remember right now, but it doesn't matter.  She was excited, she had the anticipation and the fun and the decision making that I remember.  She is making her own book memories.

Some Advice For Friends Who Just Had A Baby

teddy bears

You have been handed this beautiful baby.  What do you do now?  You feel like you know everything (five million baby books will do that to you) and nothing all at the same time.  That is true.  She is your baby.  You are the authority on her and don't ever forget it.  If something doesn't seem right, trust your instincts.  But at the same time, you don't know much.  There are tons of people around you who know so much more than you.  Take advantage of it.  That mother-in-law who knows exactly how to swaddle a baby so the blanket doesn't come unwrapped as soon as you set her down, she is invaluable.  Learn from her.

Enjoy having a girl.  Enjoy dressing her exactly how you like because it will not last.  Soon you will have a two-year-old who stamps her feet and crosses her arms and insists she hates pink and hates dresses and only likes orange shirts.  So dress her in all the pink and frills now.  Or alternatively, dress her in the edgy, cool outfits because some day she is going to hate those awesome gender neutral outfits you have diligently searched out and she is going to insist on wearing purple and sparkles and things covered in Disney princesses.  Clothing angst is not solely confined to teenagers.

Toys multiply.  There probably should be a scientific study done on this because one day you are going to look into her room and swear that you couldn't have possibly bought all that junk.  She will then tearfully insist that it isn't junk and that she loves every single McDonald's toy in there.  If you try to dispose of some of it while she isn't around she will never forgive you and will hold it against you for the rest of your life.  I am thinking of the pink stuffed cat with the slightly demonic expression that my daughter did not play with for over a year.  I donated it.  She still brings it up 7 years later.

You are wondering if you will ever sleep again. You will, just probably not any time soon.  Why do you think God invented caffeine?

No stage lasts forever which is both a blessing and a curse.  So enjoy the newborn stage, enjoy the toddler with all her questions, hey even enjoy the teenage years, because you only get to enjoy each stage with this baby once.  Once it is gone, it is gone. That is the curse.  But also remember, sleepless nights don't last forever, terrible twos don't last forever, toilet training doesn't last forever.  That is the blessing.

Don't compare.  You will know other children that walk sooner than your baby or talk sooner or sleep through the night sooner.  It doesn't matter.  I guarantee that when she is 18 no one (except you) is going to care how old she was when she did these things.  She is doing them.  That is all that matters. And if your baby is the one doing them first, don't gloat.  Remember, does it really matter if your baby walks at 11 months and 4 days and the neighbor's child walks at 11 months and 8 days?

Read to her. Every day.  Constantly.  There are few things that are as important as instilling a love of books.  Make books a routine part of her life.  Make them accessible.  Read the same ones over and over.  Babies love repetition.

"Babies are gross but it's okay."  Words of wisdom spoken by my husband to my son while discussing our friend's baby.  Babies truly can be gross.  You know you have become a parent when you reach over and wipe the spit-up off your baby's face with your bare hand.  Or maybe when you eat that slightly soggy goldfish cracker they offer you. Or when you clean up the mess that has leaked out of their diaper and you do it with only a slight grimace of annoyance. That baby may be gross but it is your gross baby and that is all that matters.

Hold her and hug her and love her.  There is nothing like the soft weight of a baby sleeping on your chest. Babies don't last forever, they grow up quickly and then you become the nostalgic parent giving unwanted advice to people with newborns.  That is your future, but for now enjoy the moment and your baby.