Books for your 8-12 year olds

Last week’s post on children’s books spurred some great discussion on Facebook about my recommendations for children’s books. As much as I love-hate all the memes going around, whether they’re asking me to list my top ten books (only 10?!) or challenging me to surpass the BBC’s assumptions about how many books I’ve read from the canon (trust me, it’s more than 6), anything asking me to provide a finite list proves a great challenge.

That’s because I’m obsessive when it comes to reading. Take a look at my Goodreads account and you’ll see that I’m genre-promiscuous. I’ve read the complete works of Shakespeare, but I also (re)read Twilight and *gasp* thought it was a great story. I read fiction for very young children like Neil Gaiman’s sweet Remember the Milk and at the same time, I really enjoy a meaty piece of literary or historical fiction like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch or Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Read more

In Defense of Mr Business

Like most other elementary school parents in the known universe, I <del>endured the torture of</del> took my kids to see the Lego Movie this winter. And while I found the 3D glasses unnecessary and the plot schmaltzy, the final scenes between Mr Business and Emmet/Will Farrell and his son almost made it worth the Everything is Awesome ear worm. Almost.

Since we saw the movie just over a month ago, we’ve been working on a LEGO city of our own in the play room.

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Because Bacon!

a large plate of bacon
A big plate-o-bacon

I’ve been struggling with what to write about this week. I’d love to say something meaningful about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s tragic death, but I think I like what Russell Brand had to say better than anything I could put together. Likewise, I’d love to offer my thoughts on the upcoming Sochi Olympics. But I’m home with a sick child and not feeling great myself, so instead of stalking FB all day for news of my soon-to-arrive nephew (!!) I’m going to talk about bacon. Because bacon, duh!

A friend and I were talking last week about the rage induced by kids futzing around in the morning instead of getting ready for school. The potential for rage only increases when you add cooking a healthy protein-laden breakfast to the mix of morning chores. Oh how I long for the days when I could eat a piece of toast with my coffee and not have to take a mid-morning nap to sleep off the carbs…

Anyhow, here’s one easy solution I’ve come up with to the protein in the morning dilemma. Because while I’ve embraced eating leftover steak for breakfast, I’m not quite up for left over arctic char. Read more

A Few Cutting Remarks

WP_20140130_001On G’s seventh birthday, we bought him a gift that many of our friends and parenting peers thought was both insane and inappropriate: his first pocket knife.

I grew up a consummate tomboy and I have the scars to prove it. I still enjoy whittling a green sapling to spear a marshmallow over the campfire, and nothing makes me think of my father more than sharpening a knife on a whetstone (although I use honing oil now instead of spit. Sorry Dad!).

So when my six-year-old son asked for a pocket knife so that he could whittle sticks, I had a hard time saying no. Matt didn’t have any concerns either, so we got him a knife. And over the past two and a half years, he’s done great with the knives (yes, he has more than one now). He has carved home-made birthday presents, his own marshmallow-roasting sticks, a couple of olive pokers, a few spoons, and more whittled-down-to-nothing nubs than I could count. Read more

After Hiraeth

hireathWhen The Displaced Nation shared this word from This Page is About Words today, it resonated. Like kummerspeck (grief bacon), it’s a word that should exist in the English language, or at least in the expat language.

What I love about this word, hiraeth, is that it sums up what for me is both the greatest joy and the keenest sorrow of the expat life: the fact that each place you live becomes a part of you (the joy) and each place you leave keeps a little piece of your heart (the sorrow). All those transitions, over a decade or more of moving around, create a very complicated form of nostalgia that I will now refer to as hiraeth.

And expats spend a lot of time talking about transitions, by the way. But transitions in the expat life go well beyond getting used to a new location. What about the transition when your first good friend, the one who bought you your first cup of coffee in a new location, herself moves on to a new post? Or the exodus that happens each December, because corporate calendars aren’t always aligned to the school year?

As if the goodbyes this past December weren’t hard enough Read more

Gabriel Patrick, my September Angel

a photo of Gabriel whittling
At long last, Gabriel is the proud owner of a pocket knife! To date, he still has all 10 digits.

Another September has come and gone. I can already feel the days getting shorter and the light is definitely beginning to wane. Always a month of transition, September has been particularly difficult for me the past five years because the fourteenth of the month marks the untimely death of my father.

Although that day was particularly hard (something about hitting the five-year anniversary made this year worse than the last few for me), September also marks another major milestone in my life: the anniversary of the day I became a mother–Gabriel’s birthday. So after trying unsuccessfully to put a coherent post together on my feelings about the loss of my father for nearly three weeks, I’m going to bag the sad middle of the month and move straight on to the happy ending 🙂

I’ve already weighed in on G’s super-star birthday party, but since the craziness of the party last week, I’ve had more time to reflect on the little man himself and on the journey we’ve undertaken together. Read more

Back to School!

A photo of Gabriel's first day of kindergarten, 2010
Gabriel's first day of kindergarten in Colorado, August 2010

I’ve never been one of those moms who cried at milestones. I’ve looked forward to the first solid food, the first steps, the first loose tooth, and even the first day of school. It’s hard not to be excited when your kids are absolutely desperate to escape you and each otherover the moon at the thought of seeing their friends after nearly two months of traveling.

But something’s just a bit different this year. Not only are we 6,000 miles away from where this picture was taken on Gabriel’s first day of kindergarten in Colorado last year, but this year, Lily starts school too. That’s right. As of 8:45 this morning, I’m sort of an empty-nester. The International School doesn’t have a half day option for kindergarten, so Lily will be joining Gabriel at school five full days per week. Besides catching up on the 800 blog posts I’ve been meaning to write about our amazing summer, I’m a bit at loose ends. Maybe it’s because the kids have been with me pretty much around the clock since early June. Maybe it’s because it seems impossible to me that my baby is actually a five year old who managed to lose her first tooth and teach herself to read this summer. And did I mention that’s she’s grown? Read more

Lily’s Birthday is on Mother’s Day…

Lily's first bath at home a few days after her birth...

Tomorrow, my “baby” girl will be five years old. Five years since my father told me I needed to hurry up and have this baby because his flight home was booked for only a few days after the conversation.

Five years since I squatted down to pick some asparagus on May 7 after days of on-again, off-again labor, only to stand up and say emphatically, “time to go to the hospital!” Five years since I became a mother of two.


A lot has happened in those five years. Read more

No Buns for Jesus

Misunderstandings are a part of expat life. Language barriers, cultural differences, and a desire to attribute meaning when sometimes there is none–all of these are experienced on a regular basis. Such was the case when I posted the following in my post, Easter in Finland:

Of course, it wouldn’t be a holiday in Finland without it’s own special pastry or bun, and Easter is no exception. These buns are like an elephant ear–crispy and covered with powdered sugar. They’re our least favorite so far, especially since they’re competing with the yummy raspberry jam in the Runbergintartut (in celebration of the birth of Finland’s most famous poet) and the cream filling of the Mardi Gras pastry (Laskia pulla). Once we complete our first year here, I’ll have to report back on the highlights of this year of pastries!

I should have been suspicious when I couldn’t locate the Finnish name for this delicious little sweetie Read more

Finding our School Groove

Gabriel & Lily on the first day of school this year

Like many American parents, I spent a great deal of time the past two years completely freaking out worrying about sending my children to school. Public school? Broken, underfunded, full of bullies, a little scary. Private school? Long commute, overpriced, not feasible, full of rich kids & drugs, a little scary. Home school? Holy shit. Lots of fear there too (Am I good enough/patient enough to do it? How will I get them social interaction? How will I have a life?!).

At the time I had no idea that I’d be taking the easy way out of this debate by moving to Finland two months into Gabriel’s first year of school. The school was already chosen (most of Nokia’s expat families send their children to the International School of Helsinki, Nokia foots the bill, it’s one of the few options for English-speaking children, and they had a spot for Gabriel.). Whew! Read more