What I’m Into: M(P)aternity Leave/Ace Edition
So, if I had my stuff together, I’d be adding my voice to Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” blog linkup every month. At the end of the month, like the rest of the fun blogging people I follow.
I am always planning to do this, you guys. Like every month. And it doesn’t happen. So I want you to know that when I come up with this post four times a year, it has happened despite all the forces that want to keep me from telling you about what I’m spending my time doing.
There’s no time for media consumptions like the first few months of a baby’s life, when all expectations shut down and wonderful people bring you casseroles and you’re allowed to sit on the couch and breastfeed and eat cookies and watch Netflix.
So, in these almost-three months since Ace was born, while I’ve been eating these dark chocolate nib and sea salt cookies and sitting on the couch breastfeeding. Here’s what I’ve been into…
When August was born I tore through books those first couple of months. And even with Brooksie, I had long hours of baby time while August napped. Then, I read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in the rocking chair. This time I had a similar plan, to finally read Middlemarch. I started and stopped.
Somehow, those moments of reading eluded me. It’s probably because no big children were napping right? Or maybe it was because I just chose Netflix over books? I’m trying not to judge my lack of reading those first couple of months. I’m just now getting back into the good work of reading. It was a challenging couple of months, and if I ate a lot of dark chocolate and watched some terrible Hallmark television, there is grace for me, people.
What I did read:
Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected by Kelle Hampton. This is Kelle’s story of learning, following her daughter’s birth, that her baby had Down syndrome. The memoir follows her daughter’s first year and Kelle’s growth through the grief of her daughter’s diagnosis.
This is beautiful book aesthetically. It’s covered in photographs, and was sweet to read in those first few weeks after Ace was born. But honestly, it was a little too grief-filled for me, which was probably just my response in a time when I didn’t want to grieve Ace’s DS. I wanted to bless him. I wanted to celebrate. Probably it would have spoken to me more in prenatal diagnosis days, when I was still trying to make peace with our future. That, essentially, is what this book is about. Thankfully it did introduce me to Kelle Hampton’s blog, where I’ve found some great resources as a new mom of a baby with DS. Also, her Instagram account is wonderful.
Other memoirs about Down syndrome that I read before Ace’s birth? Sun Shine Down by Gillian Marchencko. This is another story of the grief and eventual healing of Gillian, after giving birth to a daughter with DS. A great story for someone working through the diagnosis. Gillian is real and doesn’t sugar coat her story.
My favorite, my gold star of memoirs about Down syndrome, goes to A Good and Perfect Gift by Amy Julia Becker. I loved this memoir long before I gave birth to Ace. It is gorgeously written and has such a depth to it. It’s not just a book about grief, it’s a book about perfection and performance, and finding the grace to celebrate the value of all life, regardless of how a person measures up to our culture’s ideals of success.
For kids: A friend sent me the book, We’ll Paint the Octopus Red way back when we were given Ace’s prenatal diagnosis. This is a children’s book about a little girl whose baby brother is born with Down syndrome. Since we didn’t know for certain whether or not Ace would have DS, I read the book to the big boys without any long talks about DS attached. I just waited for them to ask what Down syndrome was. And when they didn’t, I let it lie.
After Ace was born, when the time came to tell the boys about his diagnosis, they were not worried at all. In fact, they were pretty excited. “Ace has down sin drum? Ace has down sin drum?!” Well done, Octopus book.
Siblings Without Rivalry was in my Audible ears last month. My big boys have entered the constant bickering/hitting phase, and I’ve been struggling with how to intervene. This book was incredibly helpful. These are the same authors who wrote How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, a book that has greatly affected how I communicate with my kids. This one was super challenging and I’m not following through perfectly. But I’m already seeing a difference in how the boys speak to each other and work through their problems on their own.
I recently finished An Altar in the World by my girl Barbara Brown Taylor. So much underlined in that one. I’ll be thinking (and writing, I’m sure) on her final chapter on the act of blessing for a while.
What I’m reading on vacation:
I’m on the East coast visiting family/making the most of the beauty that is my husband’s paternity leave . . . Yes, paternity leave exists in some wonderful places. Bless it.
Right now I’m in the middle of Oh the Glory of It All by Sean Wilsey. A fun, dark memoir about Wilsey’s crazy, rich San Francisco parents in the eighties. I also started the second book in Margaret Atwood’s Madd Addam series. This one is The Year of the Flood.
Also, I’m finally reading Teach Us to Want by Jen Pollock Michel, which has been yelling at me from my bookshelf for months. Rich writing, rich theology. I’m excited to share more of this one with you.
Podcasts I’m Listening to:
So many podcasts, you guys. There’s of course, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, which I will love forever and ever.
But I’ve also recently discovered On Being with Krista Tippet. You want to listen to some good soul-talk? This is your place. I loved her recent interview with Jean Vanier of the L’Arche communities, especially as I’m thinking a lot about what it will look like to raise a boy with special needs. Such good, rich encouragement in there.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I have become such a fan of Pop Culture Happy Hour. I adore Linda Holmes, who is super smart (she works for NPR!) but not afraid of loving cheesy RomComs and Romance novels. I almost always agree with her take on movies.
Then there’s Dear Sugar. I think Cheryl Strayed is such a gifted writer. If you haven’t read any of her advice pieces at The Rumpus (think more beautiful essay than Dear Abby) from way back in the day, you’ve missed out. She gathered her best work from those columns into the book Tiny Beautiful Things, which I haven’t read yet. And now she (along with author Steve Almond) host an advice “radio” show (podcast) that answers the relational questions of readers with a deep literary bent. I can’t stop listening to it.
And then there’s The Liturgists, whose LGBTQ episode was a beautifully nuanced looks at the stories of LGBTQ folks in the church, as well as the science of sexual orientation, and the different theological reads of the biblical passages that refer to same sex relationships. I highly recommend it.
I can’t stop, you guys. When I’m alone I’m watching The West Wing, which (shockingly) I’ve never watched before. I’m totally sucked in.
Before that, I discovered the world’s cheesiest Hallmark TV series, When Calls the Heart. Based on (wait for it) Janette Oak’s Christian fiction that I read in middle school. Y’all I wrote a song about these books. (I wrote a song about everything when I was 13.) You better believe that when I saw the existence of this TV series, I was all on board. Also, it’s safe for ages 7 and up. Don’t judge me.
New stuff that I loved/am loving: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. (So fun, so funny. You already knew that, though.) Last Man on Earth (haven’t finished, but the first five episodes were hysterical). And Wayward Pines (not the world’s smartest show, a little cheesy, but so so satisfying. It reminds me of a Lost that doesn’t make you wait for ages for answers.)
When I’m in the car, my boys are usually there with me, listening to kids audio books (we love this one), so discovering new grown up music feels impossible. Someday, ten years from now, I’ll listen to music again. That’s what I say to myself while I’m listening to Kidz Bop Radio.
Sandra McCracken’s Psalms album sat with me throughout my labor and stayed with me days after Ace’s delivery.
I’m also listening to Gungor’s new album One Wild Life: Soul, especially their gorgeous song “Light” about their little girl Lucy, who has Down syndrome. Listening to that one on repeat.
I dyed my hair pink. I’ve been wanting to do this for the past four summers and I finally made it happen. Sadly, it only lasted two weeks. Now I need to find some other way to rebel against my being an almost 36-year-old mom of three.
What about you? What have you been into these last three months?
Linking up with Leigh Kramer and her What I’m Into series. So excited she is my newest San Francisco internet-friend made real-life-friend!
Beware! Amazon Associate links all over this post!