Category Archives: Gifts

Book Review: Daring Book for Girls

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This review is part of my participation in MotherTalk.
This, and all future reviews, will be archived on the Reviews tab above.

When I was in college, I managed a small independent children’s bookstore. From storytime under the big in-store elm tree to choosing from the myriad books, puzzles and realistic animal and bug puppets, children entering our shop were encouraged to discover the wonder and adventure in reading.

One afternoon, like most, a mother and young child sat in a cozy corner reading from a small stack of books. As I went about my work, I took delight in the ebb and flow of their voices and his determined page-turning. That is, until it came to a screeching halt when the little boy — about three years old — began to shriek in protest: “No mommy! That’s a girl book! I’m not reading that!”

It was then I realized just how young children are when they learn the unfortunate pinks and blues, dolls and trucks mindset in “traditional” gender roles. I promised myself any daughter of mine would also have a truck and handle a fishing pole, and any son would have a doll and help bake a cookie or two in the kitchen. (Ya know, alongside daddy’s apron strings. Me not being a fan of the kitchen and all.)

I also was careful in future dealings with customers not to become mired in that narrow gender-role mindset; I’d show all children all different kinds of books, sharing all sorts of adventures with all sorts of readers.

Given this, one can imagine I’m not wont to pull from the shelves a book seemingly written for one gender or another. No thank you. I don’t need a bookcover or author telling me I’m an acceptable reader simply because I’ve got breasts.

Ah. But there’s now an exception to this rule of mine.

When the recently released The Daring Book for Girls by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz landed on my doorstep, thanks to MotherTalk and publisher Harper Collins, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being simultaneously intrigued and cautious.

But wait. Mamagigi’s getting ahead of herself. First, another personal story. (Yes, it relates. I promise. Yeesh.)

One spring, as a child, my parents bought a large, playground-grade swingset from my elementary school for our own backyard. Seems the school was planning an upgrade and held an auction to make room for new play equipment.

Now, this swingset was special. It was like no other in my little slice of suburbia. It was red. Cherry red. And big. Very big. It seemed to be crafted soley for the purpose of swinging higher than all the other shamed denizens of Swingset-land. This awe-inspiring swingset sat ready, its long A-frame legs and strong chains tempting us — and all the neighborhood kids — to hop on and give it a spin. You know, if you dared.

To put it simply, my sister and I were thrilled.

But alas. It wasn’t meant to be.

Just days after its arrival into our very own backyard, a tornado blew through my Midwestern town and twisted the beloved new plaything into a big, depressing, cherry-red pretzel.

We moped for days, wallowing in our misery and the unbelievable unfairness of it all. Suddenly, the once-promising summer shined less bright, and each day lingered longer than the one before it. This is what happens, don’tchyaknow, when one’s innocent childhood daydreams are squashed and all that remains is disappointment, frustration and — gasp! — boredom.

This continued at a painful pace until, well, until the day our mother had heard enough.

Without explanation or invitation, she simply marched into the backyard and began to climb a big old tree that had been uprooted during the tornado and landed in our backyard. A tree that for us, had only been further reminder of the Tornado That Ruined Our Life.

While our parents’ gift of super-sized, ready-made swingset fun was just a short-lived reality, that afternoon mom presented us with a much greater gift: a jumpstart of our imaginations. She was daring us to embrace an unexpected opportunity that had landed — quite literally — in our own backyard.

The Daring Book for Girls reminds me of that day. It beckons young girls to extract the iPod earbuds from their ears, close their cell phones and embrace creativity and the important role it deserves in one’s childhood.

From its unique Tiffany blue hue and silvery glitter stylings to its heftiness as a hardcover chock-full of information, stories and tips meant to empower today’s young girls, Daring offers so much more than tired and shallow tips about blotting lipstick, walking gracefully in heels and batting eyelashes at bad boys. And this non-traditional take on activities for girls is a treat, indeed.

Its vintage feel doesn’t hurt either, with marbleized inside covers and old-fashioned fonts, parents of potential young readers can’t help but feel transported to the simpler time of their own childhood. Or the childhood they wish they’d had.

Although one could argue this packaging forces the fond feelings of yesteryear, the fact is if the book’s contents didn’t live up to its packaging, moms like me would simply place it right back onto the shelf and walk away.

But that’s not a problem for Daring — it delivers.

Readers can flip to any page and learn something they didn’t know. Or, just as delightful, relish in recollections of past adventures. There’s no need to carve out hours for reading this book, either. Each page or two offers a new activity, a new tidbit of cultural information or just-for-the-fun-of-it facts. From sports (something I admit the tweeny me would have skipped right over had this book existed then) and history (our daughters should learn about all sorts of daring women that came before them, yes?) to crafts (like making your very own sit-upon — oh, how I wish I still had mine, with its now-dated greenish-brown and ivory gingham checks and long ivory plastic waiststrings) to clever tricks and tips meant to entertain, there’s little room here for boredom.

Gather your daughter. Tell her to gather her friends. Heck, gather your friends. There are good times to be had and memories to be made.

This book will have a place in my daughter’s collection. And although she’s too young now to take full advantage, I’m not. It’s also a useful tool for me, in my role as her mom, to help keep her days full of learning, adventure and creative play — the simple charms of childhood.

So for me, its purpose is two-fold: In addition to being a guidepost for my own mother-daughter adventures to come, it’s a sweet reminder of my own years as a child when the most important thing I had to worry about was what crayons to use on the sign for my lemonade stand.

That day following the tornado, when I dusted off my imagination — thanks to a not-so-subtle dare by my own creative mother — is one of several memories I hold dear. Like dancing with her in warm summer rain showers.

Or later, sitting with friends, knotting shoelaces onto sticks and dangling them above murky rain puddles. Just us girls, fishing poles in hand, chatting it up and waiting for rainfish to bite.

This book is a must-have — for us and our daring daughters.

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Filed under Children's books, For fun, Friends, Gifts, Growing up, Parenting, Reviews

Decaf next time?

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Can hardly sit still and don’t really know why that is, thoughts moving through my mind faster than I can make them into words for you here, I’m trying to figure out why that is but as soon as I think I have the answer I forget what I was trying to think of, isn’t it silly how that happens, as Maeve would say, silly mommy, she would laugh and I would laugh and there would be lots of laughing and maybe even some tickling and falling to the floor but right now I can’t think of much else other than the fact that I can’t sit still and focus and I don’t know why that could be, by the way today Maeve received a cute tea set for her birthday from a friend in my local adoption group whose daughter turned two a couple weeks before Maeve did, they came by and the girls played outside and inside and even got pulled in the big red wagon and collected rocks from the driveway and had orange juice popsicles on a hot, sunny day, and then when daddy came home tonight he helped open the tea set and showed Maeve how to set it up, cute in itself dontchya think, a big strong daddy sitting down to tea and showing Maeve how to pour and stir and use a pink saucer, she watched every move he made and I watched both of them silly happy at how cute it was and before we knew it we were all having an impromptu tea party, our very first ever, and Maeve was pouring tea for both of us and sometimes into the little bowls and onto the saucers too and then she’d just turn the tea kettle over and rest it in her lap while she drank from the teacup but that’s ok because it was only her first tea party after all and a girl’s gotta learn, and hey, wait a minute, I think I just figured out why I can’t sit still, it must be the 183 cups of tea Maeve poured for me tonight, because by the end of the “teapahty!” we were all just smiling and sipping and smiling and sipping and maybe, just maybe …

I sipped too much.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Firsts, For fun, Friends, Gifts, Husbands, Maeve

Favorite things

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I was thinking recently about how, despite a comfortable home and all its stuff, there are just a few things inside it that actually have a deep, sentimental, in-the-gut connection for me. Things not necessarily of great financial value, but of utmost import personally and emotionally. Some bring me great happiness; others are bittersweet. Thought I’d share some of them now and then. Here are two.

Topping the list is Maeve’s adoption box, which includes hospital records, her birth certificate and anything written to her by her first mother B. In that same vein, photos of Maeve with B., and all of us together; and the stuffed animal B. gave her four days after her birth, when everyone gathered the first time.

My Pandora bracelet. A gift to me from Thomas and Maeve on my first Mother’s Day. When I received it, there were three charms: one to symbolize our dating years, one our marriage (a three-tiered wedding cake), and one the arrival of Maeve into our lives (an old-fashioned baby carriage).

Since then, a few more have been added as birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated, even any old day made special. A dangling pearl marks my birthday, the garnet my all-time favorite stone. The black Murano glass bead and small daisy-like flower is especially beautiful to me. The charms move loosely along the bracelet, jingling when I move my arm.

Since a day hardly goes by that I’m not wearing my bracelet, Maeve is accustomed to seeing it on my wrist. The best part is that as she grows and learns, she discovers a new piece, running her little fingers along its path. Cake! she exclaims, delighted with herself. As she befriends a charm, I share its story, re-living its history — more for my own sake, I imagine.

I look forward to filling and crafting a most unique and personal piece over the years, until one day the completed bracelet is a representation of me, the paths I’ve traveled, the people I’ve loved, the experiences we’ve shared. Something that hopefully will be treasured in some way by those here long after me.

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Filed under Adoption, Beauty, Birth parents, Birthdays, Children, Family, For fun, Gifts, Husbands, Life changes, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Relationships, Treasures

Mothers’ Day, plural possessive

This week is book-ended by Maeve’s birthmother’s birthday and Mother’s Day. Like last year, we sent her a little parcel, which includes a birthday gift and card, the usual letter and photo update, and a Mother’s Day card, complete with Maeve’s crayon-ing contribution.

Then, of course, there’s Birthmother’s Day, which is Saturday, May 12. (Not ever printed on any retail calendar I’ve seen. You?) As if B. isn’t already ever-present in my thoughts and in my heart, this week she is especially so, given these occasions.

While I’ve heard mixed thoughts on Birthmothers’ Day itself, pontificating about whether this notion offends or embraces first mothers is something I don’t have the right to do as an adoptive mother. It’s just not my place — I don’t get to decide how birth mothers feel.

What I do get to decide, however, is how I will celebrate and recognize the woman who gave birth to my daughter, to her daughter — to our daughter.

I believe this most emphatically: On Mother’s Day — last year was my first as a celebratee, rather than strictly a celebrator — B. holds just as much place in our family’s celebration of the day as I do. While embracing Birthmother’s Day would be her choice, of course, I don’t need a separate designated day to celebrate her, think of her, want to reach out to her. I’m honored to share The Real Deal with her, actually. Know what I mean?

So, call it doublethink on my part. While I am pleased, in one sense, that Birthmother’s Day is part of an effort to acknowledge the mothers not parenting their children — to shine the light so these women, these mothers, needn’t be forced to lurk in shadows and exist in whispers — I’d be even more pleased to simply celebrate B. on Mother’s Day. And I will. She is, after all, my daughter’s mother.

Of course, there’s also the completely separate argument that folks shouldn’t need a manufactured “Hallmark holiday” to remember those we love and treat them with kindness. Well, of course. Of course.

But these days of honor will continue to be printed in little squares on annual calendars; flowers will continue to be grown, wrapped and delivered cross-country in pastel papers; and card companies will keep rolling out designs and verses for 4 bucks apiece.

Perhaps the day will come some May when grocery, drug and card stores will designate actual space in their card aisles to birth mothers. Perhaps then Birthmother’s Day will truly have arrived. After all, if there are Mother’s Day cards for women who are “Like a Mother” to us, how about also acknowledging the women whose motherhood stems from, oh, I don’t know, biology?

Again, more mamagigi doublethink: While I ask why not have cards in everyday shops where folks see them, read them and buy them that embrace all sorts of mothers — most definitely birthmothers — I also think that’s a matter of semantics, really.

In reality, even if Hallmark, American Greetings or Some Other Big Card Company actually saw the light and produced such all-encompassing card varieties — I’m not sure I’d be buying a “birthmother card” anyway. After all, this year’s card came straight from the mainstream section of paper greetings offering bona fide Mother’s Day wishes, thankyouverymuch.

Yes, bona fide wishes for a bona fide mother on a holiday celebrating mothers.

So, B., no matter how the little box reads in this year’s calendar or future, perhaps more-enlightened calendars, happiness and love to you.

Happiness and love to you always, B.

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Filed under Adoption, Birth parents, Children, Family, Gifts, Love, Maeve, Open Adoption, Parenting

Love Thursday

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On Loving A Seven-Month-Old Maeve
(Written one year ago in my journal)

Because her big toothless smile greets me each morning.

Because when I least expect it, her hair springs a subtle surprise curl.

Because she places her little paws on my cheeks and watches me, face-to-face.

Because she can wear a pink beret like no one else I know.

Because her laugh is so darned hearty.

Because she curls up in my arms and finds peace.

Because she watches everything, taking her whole world in.

Because she notices her reflection in framed art and photos on the walls.

Because she lights up when mama or dada enter the room.

Because her big, dark eyes are the deepest pools I’ve ever waded in.

Because she fits in my arms as naturally as she does in my heart.

Because her little (toothless) jaw chews when she smells food or sees others eat.

Because she’s so inquisitive, so fearless, so in-the-moment.

Because she laughs when the cats dodge to escape her grasp, as if it’s a game.

Because her chunky, Michelin Man thighs are so delicious. 

Because there is so much promise in her chubby feet and long toes —
for they will take her on all her life’s journeys, long after I am gone.

Because she is my little girl.

Because she has changed me forever.

Because. Just because.

 

 Happy Love Thursday, everyone! For more images of love, visit
Love Is All Around and Love Thursday: Love is All Around Us.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Curls, Family, Gifts, Husbands, Love, Love Thursday, Maeve, Parenting, Relationships

Berry-good, cherry-good

The bad news?

My day began bright and early, in a dentist chair, white knuckles gripping plastic-clad armrests, while sounds of drilling reverberating relentlessly inside my head. An hour and a half later, I left the dental office with a small envelope of gargantuan pills to ease the arrival of forecasted pain and discomfort.

I arrived at my office soon after only to have to dig my desk out from a blizzard of 80 or so proof pages (in 8.5-point font reduced 30 percent) requiring a careful read and deliberate eye, numerous rounds of corrections, and an extra hour-plus at the office this evening in order to push the project closer to completion before tomorrow’s 3 p.m. printer deadline. (It was middle of the afternoon today before I realized I’d not yet left my desk for the ladies’ room.)

The good news?

I am one seriously lucky woman.

This evening, feeling completely beaten by the day’s events, I arrived home to the sight of Maeve nestled in her daddy’s lap, fed, freshly bathed and smelling sweet, the regimen of her curly locks complete, listening to him singsong her book-of-the-moment, Jamberry by Bruce Degen. I watched her big, brown eyes travel from each turned page of adventure in Berryland to her father’s lips, where she watched intently as he recited, just for her, rhyming waterfalls of words like, “Raspberry, Jazzberry, Razzmatazberry, Berryband, Merryband, Jamming in Berryland.”

Also awaiting me was a dinnerplate of easily chewable foods, my favorite beverage well-stocked in the pantry and fridge, and, as a special sorry-your-day-stunk surprise, all the fixins for a tooth-friendly ice cream sundae. Maraschino cherries, too. (The one exception to my no-fruit-with-caloric-pleasure rule.) All of this handiwork, by the way, from the husband who called amid the paper frenzy at work to offer post-dental support. I am, after all, known for having needed intravenous anesthesia in order to make it through a previous (and tortuous) dental visit some time ago.

Gosh, I love this man.

Taking off my coat, I knelt beside Maeve and Tom while they finished the Jamberry fest already in session.

And a funny thing happened. I forgot about the drilling, the rinsing and spitting, the numbness and pain. I forgot about dropped copy, missing charts and 3 p.m. deadlines. I was no longer consumed by these events that had marred my day. Also gone was the looming pressure of night and household routines awaiting execution.

After all, before me in all her juicy glory was a baby girl who — ok, at 18 months she is every day less Baby and more Spunky Little Girl — is simply so lovely to love. When she had registered the sound of my jingling car keys as I entered the house, I’d heard her little voice whisper to daddy excitedly, “Mommy! Mommy!”

She and I soon hunkered down to read, to play, to giggle and wiggle. Me, still in my work clothes and shoes, her, set securely into the curves of my lap like there was nowhere else in the world she expected to be. And that’s just fine with me, because there’s nowhere else I’d rather have her.

Gosh, I love this little girl.

There’s nothing better than walking smack into the love in your own home to remind you how little drilling and deadlines matter.

Later, after Maeve was tucked into bed with visions of “Quickberry, Quackberry, Pick me a Blackberry” and “Trainberry, Trackberry, Clickety-clackberry” swirling in her head, Tom and I sat down for an ice cream sundae together.

Feeling corny and especially lucky with the little threesome that is my family, I dropped some extra cherries on top. Three in all. And it was perfect.

A good day, I’d say.  A berry-good, cherry-good day.

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Filed under Adoption, Children, Children's books, Curls, Editing, Family, Gifts, Husbands, Love, Maeve, Parenting, Relationships, Work

Valentine wishes

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Happy Valentine’s Day!
2007

For your sake, I won’t go into all the grueling details about how long it took to get this photo or how I’d hoped this photo would actually turn out. Suffice it to say, as much as I’ve learned as a parent thus far, I have more to learn. And I must admit, some of these lessons need to be taught more than once for them to sink in.

I had grand plans for this photo shoot. Maeve would be caught, mid-giggle, as she playfully held the sign up for all to see. I would snap The Perfect Photo and it would become part of some cleverly crafted Valentines she’d share with playmates and loved ones.

A lesson I still must master in this Parenthood Journey? Letting go. Losing expectations of perfection.

That doesn’t come easy for me.

On the day we went to court to finalize Maeve’s adoption, my nervous hands and clumsy fingers ripped a huge whole in her little tights as I negotiated them onto her chunky legs. I freaked. I’d had a beautiful dress for the occasion and the tights had been carefully selected to complete the look for this important day which would be recorded by photo, by video, by memory. I wanted to capture as much of this event as possible so she could look back years from now and feel the energy of the day.

Did I have another pair of tights on standby — another pair in the exact shade I’d selected? Of course not. (There’s a lesson, too.) Did I have to choose another pair from her dresser? Yes. Did her second-choice tights affect the outcome in court that day? Of course not.

During the wardrobe malfunction that morning, my sister (my polar opposite when it comes to rolling with the punches — I more easily roll up in a ball somewhere and worry) said something very memorable. As I clung to the useless tights, panic setting in, disappointment creeping up, she chuckled and said: “Welcome to parenthood, where you can’t control every little thing. Going with the flow is just part of the deal.”

I’ve never been good at going and flowing. In fact, I don’t think that river is even on my map.

But I heard her. And that day, when I would become a parent in the eyes of the court, the state, the law, I did find some humor in my initiation of sorts. She’s right, I can’t control every little thing because there’s someone else in the picture now. And that picture, with Maeve in it, is brighter and better than it had ever been.

So, in the interest of learning the lesson of letting go and relishing results that aren’t in The Plan, I post my less-than-perfect picture of Valentine wishes. And ya know, it’s not so bad. She’s clearly a very happy little girl — and that’s all that really matters.

So, we’re off to school to deliver our little photo valentines and share with her nursery school playmates a big heart-shaped oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie I baked — a cookie I’d better get out of the oven before it gets too brown or loses its shape. (Hey, Less-Than-Perfection is a lesson I’m learning — present tense.)

Happy Valentines Day — may you all find love today in the least perfect of places.

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Filed under Adoption, Beauty, Children, Family, Friends, Gifts, Love, Maeve, Parenting, Still learning