Books & Podcast Recommendations for the Easily Distracted Parent

In the six years since I first became a parent, I’ve discovered that my attention span is exactly the length of two Paw Patrol episodes. But due to a recent surgery, a broken wrist and seven (yes, count them: SEVEN) weeks of suffering through various head colds and the flu, I found a newly redeveloped talent: the ability to sit still and pay attention to printed words. However, I realize that not every parent has the luxury of sitting on their couch for hours on end, so the following recommendations can be enjoyed in snippets, too!

Books:

Act Like It When I received the iBooks email with the phrase “free books” in it, I didn’t know I was going down a rabbit hole of romance novels, but this book is well-written and a good read, which I discovered after two shout-outs, one on Book Riot and one on my favorite podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. After reading this, I’ve read a lot of BAD romance novels and I’ll tell you, this one is rare: good, an interesting plot with real-life characters. Trust me.

Dumplin’ If you enjoyed Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, you will like this book. It’s YA fiction at its best: it doesn’t insult your intelligence and portrays teenage characters in a realistic way.

Hag-Seed Totally and completely different than the previous two recommendations, this is a highly entertaining book by Margaret Atwood. It’s her reinterpretation of The Tempest and you don’t have to remember the original (or even have read) to enjoy it.

We Live in Water I don’t usually enjoy short story collections, but this one by Jess Walter is so, so good. The first story is probably my favorite – it’s gut-punching, magnificent writing and the PWN is lucky to have such a talented writer.

And if you’re not in the mood for books right now, here are a few podcasts I’ve been enjoying lately:

Podcasts:

Crimetown Go behind the scenes of organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island, with this fascinating look at a larger-than-life mayor and the mob. After each episode, you’ll marvel that this is a true story.

Missing Richard Simmons I didn’t even know Richard Simmons was missing, but that doesn’t matter. Why did he disappear? Why haven’t his closest friends heard from him? And will the mystery be solved by the end of the season? I need answers. NOW.

Just Be

Right now, on my coffee table, there is a wooden spoon, a soft toy football, a Playmobil rope and finger monsters, all waiting to either be played with or put away. 

But I’m snuggled under a blanket, about to settle in for the season finale of Younger and the last thing I want to do is clean. 

Yesterday marked day four of constant family togetherness due to “snow” days, only the first of which actually merited the cancellation of school and work. Turns out I go slightly nuts after so much family togetherness and I was delighted to spend today at work combing through court dockets and researching a very specific area of law. It was good to use that part of my brain. 

The spouse took Future President to a birthday party yesterday afternoon and I stayed home with the baby so he could nap before an early family Christmas party. His naps have been erratic lately and I’m hoping and praying this isn’t the beginning of the end of naps for him. 

So while he napped, I did nothing. It was amazing. I didn’t know how much I needed the silence until I sat down on the couch and heard nothing. 

It turns out I needed those four days with my two kids more than they did. They loved their uninterrupted time with me, and while I enjoyed some of it, I am exhausted after hours of moving between trains and cars and Legos and playing “dog” and breaking up fights. I am cut out for two kids, that’s it. After four days of yelling “stop hitting your brother!” and “share!” and “no, you can’t have more candy,” I am feeling very confident that our family is complete. 

Yes, I am sad. But tonight as I packed up baby shoes and baby toys to give away, I felt a growing sense of relief. 

There will always be babies to hold and babies to babysit. There will always be the memories and photos of my own children as babies. And as I tried to stop the baby from throwing a DUPLO at his brother, I thought, will I miss this when they’re grown? 

Time will tell. 

Folding the 2T Clothes

I scheduled my hysterectomy today. 

Those are not words I ever thought I would say, at least not in my late 30s, and yet here I am, in extreme pain daily, fighting to hold it together at work and at home and taking more OTC pain medicine than is probably healthy. 

In two months I will no longer be able to have children, which has been our decision for a while, but the thought that this decision is being taken away from me permanently makes me ache in a way I never thought possible. 

No more babies. My head knows it’s the right decision but my heart is breaking in two. 

Tonight as I was folding clothes, I added the 2T pajamas to the baby’s stack, realizing that the next time he wears those particular pjs would likely be the last. His little belly hangs out a little and the arms are too short. They belong in the giveaway pile already but the finality of the 2T pajamas going to another baby, a baby that isn’t mine, is too much to bear right now. 

A Place at the Table

A few weeks ago on a random Sunday, for no reason at all, instead of making food for the kids, serving it at the island and then eating while standing while the kids sat in bar stools, I decided to make supper and actually eat it together at our dining room table. 

Somehow it had never dawned on me to eat at the dining room table when it was just the four of us. Since moving into our home over a year ago, we’ve only eaten at the dining room table a handful of times and only with guests. 

Granted, the baby’s chair is attached to a bar stool and the kids are usually hungry before we are, so most of the time it makes sense to feed them, and then when they’re finished, G and I eat while they play. 

But now I wonder how we let the good old-fashioned family meal disappear from our lives after having kids. Five years in, there was certainly something magical about all four of us sitting at the table at the same time, eating the same food without any distractions. We actually talked and laughed and even though there was cottage cheese on the tablecloth and the floor by the time dinner was over, I didn’t really mind. 

When I stand at the kitchen counter eating, I don’t enjoy my food and usually it gets cold because I’m distracted by other things like the dishes or a spilled drink or the baby hitting his brother with a serving utensil. But when I’m at the table, the kitchen is too far away to do chores while I eat. 

I know this isn’t revolutionary for most people, but sitting down together for a meal was such a refreshing few moments for my family. 

So we did it again the next week. Hey, look at us, bringing the Sunday family dinner back in style. 

Sure!

You know that feeling when your kid does something cute and you know for sure that you’re going to remember it later and write it down and then you completely forget it? Yeah, that happens to me all the time. I almost wish there was a permanent video recording of my kids so I could re-hear all the cute things they say, especially since as soon as I get out my phone to record something, they stop whatever cute thing they were doing and either run away or just stick out their tongues at me.

I want to capture on video the baby – who I still call a baby, even though he’s two – saying “Sure!” when he means yes. I think it’s just that he can’t say “yes” yet, but I really hope he doesn’t give it up when he does finally learn how to say yes. His other new “yes” synonym is “‘kay!”

“Do you need a diaper change,” I’ll ask him. “Sure!” he yells.
“Do you want a cookie?” I’ll say. “Sure!” he yells.
“Are you ready to go to Nanny’s house?” I ask. “Sure!” he yells.

I think you get the picture. And now that he has a word that sort of means yes in his vocabulary, he doesn’t say no to EVERY SINGLE QUESTION and this has been Life. Changing.

He thinks he can count and solemnly points at a row of cars and says, “Two, three, two, two, three.” It’s adorable.

My favorite part of the day is when I see my kids after 9 or 10 hours away from them. “Hi!” the two-year old screams. “Hi, Mommy!” He runs at full speed toward me yelling, “Hi! Hi!” The five-year old says it a little more calmly but he’s usually excitedly jumping or running at the same time, too. I just love that they love me.

And when it’s way past bedtime and they’re still awake and I just want to enjoy my Jingle Jangle ice cream from Trader Joe’s while fast forwarding through Project Runway to watch the runway show before I fall asleep on the couch, I try to remember that these times aren’t forever and faster than I know it, my beloved babies won’t even come out of their rooms to greet me after a long day.

 

 

But Mommy, The Guts!

Last night, there was talk of a Thanksgiving turkey.

I don’t cook a lot of meat, with the exception of the occasional fish or hot dogs, but this is because I don’t know how, not because I’m trying to raise my kids vegetarian. Except by accident, I actually am.

Last night, G and I were talking about making a turkey and how that would work since we don’t have a large roasting pan. Maybe the crockpot? G suggested.

P immediately piped up from the back seat: “We don’t eat turkeys! They’re too beautiful!”

G told him the turkey we would be eating was ugly. “It doesn’t matter, Daddy! Brown turkeys are beautiful, too!” I assured him he didn’t have to eat any even if we cooked a turkey next week for Thanksgiving. “But Mommy,” he said worriedly, “The guts!”

governor_collins_daughter_darby_with_thanksgiving_turkey_at_mansion-_tallahassee_florida_3250932633

“But Mommy, the guts!” (Image courtesy of the Florida State Library & Archives.)

And just like that I didn’t want any Thanksgiving turkey either.

Thanks for reading Day 16 of NaBloPoMo! NaBloPoMo November 2016

 

 

 

 

Read other NaBloPoMo posts here:

Day 16: The Ugly American
Day 15: I Found a Dollar in the Wash
Day 14: Eggnog Lattes for Lazy People
Day 13: Sunday is for Baking
Day 12: Chaos and Calm
Day 11: Choose Kindness
Day 10: Long Live Snail Mail
Day 9: The Day After
Day 8: The Sun Also Rises
Day 7: Election Day
Day 6: Daddy’s Boys
Day 5: I’ll Just Leave This Here
Day 4: 2016 Book Lovers’ Gift Guide
Day 3: Once Upon a Hong Kong Winter
Day 2: Parenting Hacks
Day 1: Created Equal 

I Found a Dollar in the Wash

You know that amazing feeling when you find a wad of cash in the dryer, all crumpled up and soft from surviving the laundry cycle?

That’s how I felt when I re-read a blog post I wrote in May.

I have another doctor’s appointment today, and I needed this reminder: You can’t do everything and that’s okay.

Here’s my post from May:

***

Another day, another doctor. That’s life with chronic pain. But today’s visit with a new doctor changed my life.

She can’t know how her words affected me, but after asking about my job and commute and family obligations, she said something so simple and so obvious: “you are burning the candle at both ends. You need to give yourself permission to not do everything.”

But I’m trying to lose weight and take care of my kids and do my job and spend time with my husband…

“I think you look good just the way you are.”

Mind blown.

Every time I go to a doctor’s appointment I wait for the lecture about my weight. And it’s never happened. But this doctor knew exactly what to say to make it click for me. It’s not about the numbers on the scale, but about how healthy I am both physically and mentally,  and I cannot expect myself to be healthy emotionally if I keep beating myself up over the numbers on the scale. I exercise. I eat healthfully, most of the time. I’m trying to make time for myself.

And I need to stop and acknowledge that I can’t do everything and that’s okay. Right now, I don’t read. I listen to podcasts and music on my long commute instead of books. And that’s okay. My house isn’t spotless and sometimes the boys have cereal for both breakfast and dinner. And that’s okay. I will never iron my clothes or organize my underwear drawer. And that’s okay.

Dinner can wait. Breathe in, breathe out. Rock your baby longer, smell the last hint of baby in his hair.

Dinner can wait. Breathe in, breathe out.

***

Thanks for reading Day 15 of NaBloPoMo! Halfway to the finish line!NaBloPoMo November 2016

Read other NaBloPoMo posts here:

Day 14: Eggnog Lattes for Lazy People
Day 13: Sunday is for Baking
Day 12: Chaos and Calm
Day 11: Choose Kindness
Day 10: Long Live Snail Mail
Day 9: The Day After
Day 8: The Sun Also Rises
Day 7: Election Day
Day 6: Daddy’s Boys
Day 5: I’ll Just Leave This Here
Day 4: 2016 Book Lovers’ Gift Guide
Day 3: Once Upon a Hong Kong Winter
Day 2: Parenting Hacks
Day 1: Created Equal