Monday, June 29, 2015

Favorite Alphabet Books for Kids

One great joy of motherhood has been reading to our son. Here are some favorite alphabet books that we return to often:

Alphablock by Christopher Franceschelli 
Harry N. Abrams; Brdbk edition (August 6, 2013)
This board book includes sturdy cut out letters hiding surprises on the next page. Pages are easy to turn, even by little fingers. The bright, cheery designs are inviting and informative. My favorite one is "X": a cut out X for X-Ray that reveals the bones in a hand on the opposite page.

Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future! by Kate Schatz 
City Lights Publishers (March 23, 2015)
This new alphabet book is bold in every way: design and content. Great black and white drawings of strong women on brightly colored pages. Across from each drawing is a page-long biography of the highlighted woman to teach older readers history, while encouraging their own futures. An inspiration.

Paul Thurlby's Alphabet by Paul Thurlby
Templar (October 11, 2011)
Each page of this beautiful, retro-inspired book integrates a letter of the alphabet into a design. My favorite is "N" for newspapers, created by cut outs from the New York Times. The colors, faces and variety make the letters memorable for our littlest reader, too. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Money & Kids & Writers

When we were getting married, friends and family encouraged us to discuss finances as completely as possible. Financial disputes are known predictors of divorce. It is easy to see if religious and political views align, but it is harder to talk about the almost endless aspects of individual and merged finances. How much will each make, save and spend? What are we each willing to give up in order to gain something else? What will we teach a future child about finances?

As I make college and graduate loan payments and list things to buy during future holiday sales, I think about this. There's the obvious beginning: counting and how to determine a per unit cost.

Then there are the more complex financial lessons about preparing for a life, starting with choosing first jobs, college, career and social choices. How much to save for housing, retirement, clothes, technology, and more? Everything can be added and subtracted, but surprises happen. There are clear professional paths with likely incomes and murkier ones, like a writer's life.

It is a privilege to dedicate time to a writer's life rather than spending every minute working for cash and worrying about shelter and food. There are sacrifices that need to be made to find that time while also supporting ourselves. Those "sacrifices" aren't painful because of the delicate balance my husband and I have decided on and work to maintain.

How will we teach our son these lessons that we've learned both organically and sometimes painfully? Here are some interesting and (fairly) recent articles on this large topic. What else would you add?

Most People In the World Have No Idea How to Manage Their Money (Atlantic)

Student Loan Facts They Wish They Had Known (NYT)

The Five Biggest Financial Mistakes Young Parents Make (I'd edit that to read "new" instead of "young"...) Parents 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Poem @ The Brilliant Meal

Thank you to Anna Napp for sharing my poem, Permission to Stay, as well as a brief explanation about the poem's creation, on her website The Brilliant Meal. Anna's literary food blog offers beautiful stories, recipes, photographs and insight. I hope you'll look around the site and explore.

Anna's request to share something on her blog came at a fortuitous time - my birthday. As a friend texted me this morning, I'm turning 21 again. As with all milestones, I've been reflecting on the past and thinking about the future. I lived in Italy for four years, one as a student and three as an employee at NYU in Florence. Now, all grown up with a husband, son and different career, I'm living in Washington, D.C. And we're plotting to return to live in Italy temporarily in a few years. Life is filled with circular and straight narratives that intertwine.

The poem's title, Permission to Stay, reflects on the question of who can give and accept permission. The title comes from an Italian police document, but the meaning moves beyond the law. In this new year of mine, what permissions will I be given and carve out for myself?

Thank you again to my dear Sarah Lawrence MFA friend, Anna, for the opportunity to think about these issues and share a poem. I hope we can break bread in the same city together one day soon, preferably with a glass of wine.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Are you writing?

A writer asked me recently if I'm writing.

"Suuurre," I answered, drawing the word out. I have enough projects moving forward that I could talk about something. It could sound like I'm writing. I've been thinking about writing, commenting on student work and picking out children's books for my son at the library. Those are all writing-related activities, right? Suuurre.

But have I sat down in the last week or so and written a new poem? Edited an older poem? Submitted a poem? Read an (adult) poetry book?

Well, no. I have not done any of those things.

I want to do those things. But there are endless excuses: Grading! House hunting! Taking on new writing coach clients! Cleaning! Food shopping! Laundry! More cleaning! Paying quarterly taxes! Weaning our son off the bottle (a second time)! Taking our son to the doctor! Making dinner! More food shopping and cleaning! Afternoon napping after being woken up with our son at night!

And the excuses continue like that. I have my writing-to-do list so that I can use short periods of time to complete a task. Instead, have I been catching up on Game of Thrones during lunch? Have I been shopping online for a booster seat for our son? As the bambino would say with both jazz hands extended, "YES!"

If I were poet Leah Umansky, I might write a poem about Game of Thrones. But I'm not. I just watch the show, talk to my husband about it and forget about it. And I keep window shopping online as I look for sales.

That's it. Today is June 2. It is time to focus and write this summer.

Good vibes to all the writers balancing work, family life and writing. And please send some my way. (When you have time.)