THE STUFF THAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED LISTS
Top 5 Biggest Life Events of 2018
- That would be the sudden— well, hinted at for a long time, and then suddenly going into action—remodeling of our kitchen. More on that in my last post.
- Oh, I also painted the living room and added some Ikea shelves and made that room look totally new, too. Home improvement definitely became my new favorite hobby of the year, if only it wasn’t so expensive a hobby!
- Driving home from the library in late May, I got T-boned in the intersection of Pike and Jefferson. No one was hurt, but my car bit the dust. Lucky for us, a friend of Jason’s had a car he was willing to sell us for just about what the insurance gave us. The only problem was getting the cigarette smell out of it, which eventually, we did.
- While I wasn’t hurt then, I DID have surgery later that summer, because round about where my gall bladder had been removed last summer, I now had a hernia that needed repaired. THIS HURT A LOT. I’m better now though.
- In happier news, in September I saw Paul Simon in his next-to-last concert with my best friend and our parents. I really wanted to write about this at the time, but I didn’t have time. Angie is the biggest Paul Simon fan I know, but she lives in Colorado, so I half-jokingly asked if she’d happen to be back east about the time of this concert, and she was like, “actually, yeah, I was thinking of coming out and taking my dad to it for his birthday.” “That is a great idea, I should see if my dad wants to go, too!” He DID, and we got tickets for all six of us (us, my parents, her dad and his girlfriend) together, which was the best, because half of my joy was watching the joy on MY dad’s face at that concert! Simon started out seeming kind of old and tired, but he gained energy as the concert went on, as if the music itself was fueling him, and after awhile it was pretty much a spiritual experience— Angie looked like she was having a spiritual experience for most of it, and I’m pretty sure I hit spiritual experience during “Graceland” at least.
The Top 5 Biggest New or Unusual Library Programs I was Involved In
- Yoga Storytime: I once or twice ran into my library director at yoga class, so when she got it into her head that we needed to offer Yoga Storytime weekly, she hoisted it upon me! But the program has proved to be both a hit and even a lot of fun for me, and it’s surprising both how MANY yoga-themed story books are out there, and how NOT ENOUGH there are when you’re doing them in storytime every week.
- A One Book visit from Zach OHora. Look, I may still be a little bitter about getting unceremoniously dumped from the One Book Every Young Child project, but I’m not going to back out of the chance to actually help host one of the library-festivals-with-visit-from-the-
author that I used to write about theoretically each year. OHora is a repeat One Book author, so I’d gotten to talk with him a lot when writing the activities for Stop Snoring, Bernard! So it was fun to talk with him again for My Cousin Momo. But it was even more fun because I got it into my head that, if we were having a huge event after all, I needed to construct a five-headed library monster (as seen in The Not-so-Quiet Library). And everybody LOVED my five-headed library monster, including Zach OHora, and it stayed up most of the year.
- Hogwarts Party Mach 2! It wasn’t called that. But being that it was the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter showing up on this side of the Atlantic, and so many people wanted a repeat of the Hogwarts Party from a couple years ago that wasn’t while they were away on vacation, we did it again this September, with experience on our side— the experience that taught me, most notably, that I can only set up and clean up for Potions Class ONCE during the party, even if I could easily split the people who CAME into two classes. And even with only one Potions Class, I STILL didn’t get to wander around looking at other stuff much! This year the teen advisory board hosted an escape room and baked Sorting Cupcakes, so a bit of the workload was off my shoulders, anyway.
- Happy Monday: This is one of the director’s brainchilds (brainchildren?) that came out with the Yoga Storytime plan. I guess she thought our storytime advertising wasn’t specific enough? And so she wanted a "Happy Monday" storytime to counteract the Monday Morning Blues. Except the people coming to it either have no concept of Mondays yet or they currently don’t have to deal with Monday Morning Blues because they spend EVERY day of the week with people who have no concept of Mondays yet, so whatever. It’s fun to do storytimes with no other theme than Something Happy, though, and having the excuse to play upbeat music and do the Chicken Dance.
Top 5 Family Night Themes of 2018:
- Cardboard Construction: I actually got in trouble for this one, because there was SO much cardboard I didn’t get cleaned up in time. But it was so awesome, and I didn’t lose Family Night after all, that the pain of that scolding has faded and the awesomeness remains.
- Magical Journeys: In fact, it seemed THIS would be my Last Family Night Ever, because maybe I was too ADHD to handle programming and I should concentrate on collection development and learning to catalog and posting on Facebook or some junk. Of course, by August suddenly I was not only going to resume Family Night in September, but I was also starting Yoga Storytime and Happy Monday and Saturday storytime and special events like the Hogwarts Party and… WELL ANYWAY, so Magical Journeys would have been a good high note to end on, nonetheless. We did “magic” white crayon watercolor paintings, and since one of the main stories we read was Mem Fox’s Possum Magic, I found some recipes for some of the unique Australian foods in the book and served them. DUDES, WHY HASN’T AUSTRALIA BEEN SHARING THEIR YUMMY DESSERTS MORE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD? Click the link and make them, you won’t regret it.
- It’s a Mystery! Mysteries were always my favorite genre as a child, so I liked finding mystery picture books for this program, see below. Then I made a treasure hunt type puzzle, where they had to look for clues—pieces of a picture that fit together like a puzzle— that led them to another place in the library, where they had to find MORE clues to piece together, and so forth. Only one family came, but they had a great time!
- Korea: for the two weeks of the Winter Olympics I had thematic Family Nights, including one week where we explored the culture of the host country. This included the book No Kimchi For Me! (by Aram Kim), about a young apparently Korean-American girl, I mean cat, who can’t stand the spicy-sour pickled relish salad her Korean grandmother serves with everything, so her grandmother makes it into a pancake instead which makes it finally palatable to the girl. So we tried this ourselves, and her grandmother was totally on to something. The batch of kimchi I made was, WHEW, strong— no one, not even the grownups, could do more than smell it, let alone eat it. But when I put it in the pancake recipe from the back of the book, it was pretty tasty, even by the standards of (some of) the kids! One mom pointed out that it reminded her of some spring rolls she’d had, so I took home the leftovers and made fried wontons with it. There’s still a couple in the freezer I keep forgetting about. They do make my breath pretty scary. Anyhoo.
- Winter Olympics: speaking of which, was a fun topic on its own, as I tried to make versions of winter sports that could be played inside. So we had Lego Bobsled races, a marble slalom run, and rug hockey, naturally. I had some really cute pictures but can't seem to find them now.
I did a search of all the 2018 picture books the library got this year, and there were so many I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanted to read that, but I didn’t,” or “I know I MUST have read that, but I can’t remember a single image from inside it.” Here’s the ones I DO remember actually reading, though:
- The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson. One of those “I’m just going to flip through this one real fast before I put it on the shelves oh my all of a sudden I’m crying in the stacks” situations. Just a lovely story of having the courage to be yourself and learning to accept others and everybody’s got their own stories and so on and so on…
- 2 1/2? Animal Colors and Animal Shapes, by Christopher Silas Neal. I buy a lot of board books for the library because they get worn out easily, and they’re relatively cheap so I don’t put TOO much thought into them, and for these two I was like “animals, colors, and shapes, perennial board book topics, made a list of recommended new board books, okay sold.” But then I actually read them in preparation for one of those baby/toddler story times no one showed up to. These books are so fun! Neal merges the animals and shapes and/or colors together in both words and pictures, making up funny new portmanteaus (and there’s color mixing in the color one, too). The baby/toddler storytimes may have bombed, but they did alert me to all the wonderful things being done in the board book genre…
- A Parade of Elephants, by Kevin Henkes. I had a Kevin Henkes-themed Family Night this fall on his birthday (which happens to be the day after my dad's), and we’d just gotten this book in, so…. I found this very hypnotic. “Round and round and round they are. Round and round and round they go,” is just sticking with me forever now.
- They Say Blue, by Jilllian Tamaki. Very dreamy. I know this is making a lot of Mock Caldecott lists this year so maybe I won't be too far behind. But the truth is, I'm going to cram a whole bunch of 2018 picture books in a few weeks right before MY Mock Caldecott, which reminds me:
- Dazzle ships: World War I and the art of confusion, by Chris Barton and more notably in this case illustrated by Victo Ngai. This ended up being my top vote in our Mock Caldecott because this wacky psychedelic camouflage was worked into the backgrounds of every page, and it was pretty mindblowingly trippy for nonfiction…!
- Claymates, by Dev Petty and again most notably in this case illustrated by Lauren Eldridge. This won our Mock Caldecott so overwhelmingly that no books came close enough to win an honor! I knew it didn’t have the Distinguished-ness to win the real Caldecott, but I adored this basically stop-motion-cartoon-on-paper so much I wished it did.
- Snail and Worm Again, by Tina Kugler. I can’t remember if I had this up for the Geisel or the Caldecott or both, but it's a definite winner on the Geisel front— there's so much delight in such simple language!
- Frankie, by Mary Sullivan. But this won our Mock Geisel, a sweet little story of canine sibling rivalry told in a few simple but effective words.
- After the Fall, by Dan Santat. Such a heart-rending tale of perseverance!
Top 5 Other Picture Books I read for the first time this year, some of which are also from 2017 but I didn’t read them during the Mock Caldecott cram session:
- Dot and Jabber (series), by Ellen Stoll Walsh. Oh my, who knew such books existed! I found them while prepping for the Mystery Family Night, see above, and was so thrilled to find stories simple enough for storytime that are yet classic genre mysteries, with clues to follow and solve, and they’re nature stories, too! Good on so many levels.
- Raindrops Roll, by April Pulley Sayre. Nonfiction, we have it in, a factual book about rain, except it’s also poetry and the words roll like the raindrops. And the photographs are fascinating, too.
- Grandma’s Tiny House: a Counting Story, by JaNay Brown-Wood. I read this to several different storytimes right before Thanksgiving— while it’s not overtly a Thanksgiving story (and if it is, it’s in a climate a bit warmer than Western PA), it reminded me so much of when my extended family used to have big Thanksgiving parties at Aunt Peggy’s or, long ago, indeed in Grandma’s Tiny Duplex, with more and more people coming and everyone being totally welcome but it all getting out of hand. It amazed me how much FEELING could come across in, as the subtitle says, a simple counting story.
- Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy. I needed something beautiful that day— it was right after the synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill, and I even had a friend who knew a couple of the victims, and I was just so sick of all the hatred and ugliness, then here was this book about sharing your own beautiful visions and art to brighten up your world, and it was something I could do. I had everyone in Happy Monday make a beautiful picture (of their own definition of “beautiful”) and make a gift of it to someone else. I drew a butterfly for the downstairs circ desk. ;)
- The Babies and Doggies Book, by John and Molly. You know how I said I tend to buy board books for the library without too much deliberation? This was totally the case here. “Babies and Doggies? Sickeningly adorable, totally buying it.” When I finally actually read it, it proved to be even more sickeningly adorable than advertised. I bought it for Jason’s baby nephews for Christmas and then made everyone else in the family read it before I wrapped it, too. BABIES. DOGGIES. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT.
- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy 2 Furious, by Shannon Hale. Because Squirrel Girl is the greatest, as we discovered this year.
- Whiskerella and
- Little Red Rodent Hood, by Ursula Vernon, because hyperactive rodent-girl superheroes are the theme of this list apparently. Yes, the Hamster Princess series continues to be a delight.
- Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas, by Dav Pilkey. Okay, rodent-girls and dog-men. People/animal hybrids fighting crime with wackiness.
- The Princess in Black and the Science Fair Scare, by Shannon and Dean Hale. Not a person-animal hybrid, but still fighting crime with wackiness. Yes, basically the only new novel-length books I read this year were continuations of series my kids have been following for at least two other years, not counting Squirrel Girl.
- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Shannon Hale, and even a few of the comic books by Ryan North, because even though comics make me mildly dizzy, I loved Squirrel Girl so much I needed more of her, so I made it work. The Squirrel Girl doll Maddie got for Christmas is sitting in our Christmas tree now, by the way.
- All the Wrong Questions (series), by Lemony Snicket. I may have enjoyed this series even more than the Series of Unfortunate Events, being that it’s slightly less unfortunate, and slightly more straightforward-mystery. I loved getting to know Lemony Snicket more as a character, too. I’ve got a crush on him now, actually (in his adult form— he’s a kid in these books), because he’s obviously a sensitive, intelligent book lover. Shame that the actual Daniel Handler was being an ass again while we were reading this, because Lemony Snicket the character is something else all together.
- The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge. I can always count on Hardinge to give me a unique reading experience, which is why her books seem to be the only ones I ever pick up to read on my own nowadays.
- Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. Took me a few chapters to really get into this one, but it was perfect for us once we did, because it takes place at Christmastime and we READ it at Christmastime (well, a couple weeks ago), and it turns out a D&D-like game is a major plot point, which this family can really appreciate. Also, the main character likes to sit in the nook behind the Christmas tree and Maddie has been totally doing that, too, and I can’t stop thinking about that now.
- The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine, by Mark Twain and Philip Stead. I think I enjoyed this more than anyone else in the family— I brought it on one of our camping trips, and Jason was just like, “what,” and the kids were slightly more open to it than he was, but also a little confused, but I thought it was wonderfully weird and full of character. I loved the way Stead framed it as a sort of conversation between Twain and himself, and I loved getting to share Twain’s VOICE with my kids without having to worry about problematic racial issues and the like.
Top 5 Rereading Experiences of This Year:
Having a hard time ranking these, but I’m pretty sure the first will have to be:
- Howl's Moving Castle. There was a read-along on Tumblr the other month, and I was like, Oooo, let’s see what they’re discussing! And then I was like, ooo, must butt in with my own long rambling observations! And then I was like, Okay, I can’t just participate in the discussions, I need to reread it again MYSELF! And then I was like, Okay, it was too much fun rereading this, now I’m going to foist it on my children whether they like it or not! (they liked it). It’s like I forget how much I love that book, it only gets better with each reread.
- The Percy Jackson series. Maddie claims she likes these better than Harry Potter now. They are super-fun. And I seem to get more of a crush on dorky-dad-Poseidon more every time I read it, too.
- The Young Wizards series up through Wizard Abroad. Wizard’s Dilemma is next and even though it’s my favorite, it’s also dang heartbreaking, and I’m not sure I’m up for that with the kids just yet. Anyway, they were ready for a change after four books, anyway, but they really enjoyed it, and I was again struck by how utterly MADELEINE L’ENGLE-LIKE these books are! Speaking of which:
- A Wrinkle in Time and When You Reach Me: Sam was reading the latter in school about the time we were reading Young Wizards, and he wanted us to read it at home, but I was like, “I’m not reading that to you until AFTER we read A Wrinkle In Time,” so we did. Both. See GeekMom article about it.
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Christmas Carol. We finished Greenglass House a little more than a week before Christmas, and I wasn’t in the mood to read a NON Christmas-set book NOW. So I was like, “I read this to you a couple years ago but I don’t think you appreciated it enough,” and read the Best Christmas Pageant Ever to the kids. I still don’t think they appreciated it enough. But it’s short, so we were done in three days, and I still wasn’t ready for a non-Christmasy book, so I was like “Hahhah, time to introduce you to Dickens!” And it’s been a long while since I read A Christmas Carol and I was struck by how relevant and timely it felt (except maybe the Tiny Tim bits). Also how close the Muppets’ version keeps to it, which Sam had just watched in school so he was extra excited about that.
Top 5 Movies I Watched For The First Time This Year
- Thor Ragnarok: Of all the MCU movies, I’d never gotten much into the Thor ones, but this one was just sheer delight from start to finish. I like a superhero movie that makes me laugh as much as thrill. I looked at my list— I actually saw more than 5 movies this year (not in the theater), there were nine or ten or something— and was a little surprised when I went to rank them, but this one probably did make me happiest of all of them.
- A Wrinkle In Time: Though in retrospect, the more disappointed I become in the way Camazotz was handled (what? Were there people there or not?), it was still a thrill at the time and had a big influence on me this year, what with my first three months of GeekMom articles (a quarter of all articles I wrote this year!), and my reading to the kids later on. Also Meg in my head actually does look more like Storm Reid than myself now, this last time we read it. Movie Mrs Whatsit, never, but Movie Meg, yes.
- Black Panther: Finally my favorite actor gets a major role in an MCU movie, but you know, the rest of it was so cool I really didn’t think about him much. It just LOOKED cool. And Shuri is the best.
- Coco: I was only half-watching this while it was on at my parents’ at first, but was so quickly sucked in and teary-eyed. It was a lovely movie, and I hope it becomes all the more beloved over time in the ranks of Pixar.
- Cargo: While I was recovering from surgery (see above) I had a “Let’s watch everything Martin Freeman was ever in on Netflix” day— I didn’t quite get to everything, but I never would have suspected that my favorite (Black Panther wasn’t on Netflix until, like, a week later, so it’s not included in this particular binge) would be a zombie movie. But it’s lovely and heartrending and deep and you get to see Martin interact mostly with kids which is the most adorable. Also it was kind of frightening and gross, but besides that stuff it was quite sweet.
Top 5 TV Shows and Other Things With Episodes I Watched This Year
- The Good Place: Holy motherforking shirtballs, this probably tops the list of Top New Things I Discovered This Year Across the Board. It filled a hole in my heart Community left behind for unorthodox sitcoms that respect the intelligence of their audience. I love that every episode is a genuine lesson in moral philosophy while at the same time being abso-forkin’-lutely hilarious, AND the characters also regularly make you cry. I love that it’s a show about GOODNESS, because there’s far too much negativity in the world and it’s so great that something so positive is also just so much fun. I love every time I have to log into Wordpress now by clicking the box that says “I’m not a robot.” I love that my sister-in-law is moving to Jacksonville next year and every time I hear about it I snort-laugh to myself and try to avoid explaining why.
- Series of Unfortunate Events: Is this really all the way up at number 2? I docked my other returning favorites for not being AS good as usual, whereas this year’s installment of SoUE had me even more enthusiastic and interested in what’s coming up and how the background mechanics of the VFD are going to be explored further, and laughing out loud, than the first season did. So it’s got a bump up that way. Can’t wait for the last installment.
- Jessica Jones: This was the only Netflix Marvel series I finally got around to watching this year after watching The Defenders last year. I watched it during the first part of my surgical recuperation, when laughing hurt the most, because it is DARK. SO DARK AND HORRIBLE. You’d think I wouldn’t care much for that, but what saved it was the characters, particularly Jessica herself. I just LIKE her SO MUCH, which is funny because her biggest character trait is that she’s a complete misanthrope. She should not be likable, but I love her!
- Agents of SHIELD: While the half-a-season that was on this year wasn’t the most outstanding thing the show has ever done— kind of run-of-the-mill— it’s still everything I like about television in one place, and I still wish the MCU would give it more credit. I mean Agent May OUGHT to show up in the next Avengers movie, if the rumors are true that Captain Marvel’s going to come looking for Coulson, because who was Coulson last with? AGENT MAY. She and Captain Marvel would totally dig each other.
- Legion: You weird, weird show. I love you for your weirdness, but at the same time I think you got a little lost up your own butt this season. The middle of the season seriously suffered from a lack of direction and an even more serious lack of Loudermilks. Loudermilk twins make everything good, and they were all but forgotten for about three episodes in the middle there, darn you. But on the other hand, there were still so many moments of brilliant weirdness, and the beginning of the last episode, a massive psychic sky-battle-slash-musical-number, was possibly the most amazing thing I have ever seen on TV. So get yourself together for season 3, that’s all I ask of you. Bring me weirdness with an at least marginally arching plot. Oh, in related news, I spontaneously joined a Legion-related fanfic exchange the other month, for which I made certain there would be no lack of Loudermilks. I wrote two stories for it. All the stories in the exchange are here… mine are the ones marked “Rockinlibrarian” obviously. The one that was written FOR me is also quite lovely (there are Loudermilks and dream logic and music so yay!).
CHRISTMAS GIFT ROUNDUP
Top 5 Presents I received:
- This experience of Christmas Miracles I wrote about last week. Relatedly:
- The new kitchen. This was technically like a birthday/Christmas/Mother’s Day/Everything present.
- A pair of squishy “pain relief” shoe insoles. You know you’re old, I tweeted, when your favorite gift Christmas Morning is a pair of pain relief insoles. Really, though, I have been enjoying them thoroughly all week.
- Also relatedly, two squishy mats for standing on in the kitchen.
- An old file cabinet, which I plan to use to deal with the pile of papers I have all around this room just as soon as we can get it shipped out here from my inlaws'.
- Laptop &
- tablet, ie Electronic devices for my kids. Notice, I didn’t have to fight anyone to get to my own computer and type on it just now. So there! Hah!
- A personalized jigsaw puzzle for my parents. Made a collage of pictures of them and the kids together and uploaded it to the Ravensburger page, where they turn it into an awesome Ravensburger quality (because it is) puzzle for you. Utterly perfect for my parents, who are big jigsaw puzzlers and who have been sharing that love with my kids lately.
- Pajamas for the kids! Snuggly jammies! For Maddie I found a flannel fabric that was RAINBOWS AND DONUTS. AND DONUT BUTTONS. She was dumbstruck.
- I mentioned above getting the Babies and Doggies board book for Jason’s nephews. I got a few others, too, notably a couple Dinosaur vs. books for the 2yo who is definitely in a roaring a lot phase. But I had bought some snuggly fleece with doggies that look like his dog to make a yearly sweatshirt for my brother, and it was the end of the bolt so I got some extra half-price, and as I cut out the sweatshirt Jason said, “is that a baby blanket for Max [the 5 month old]?” and I was like, “not at the moment, but there’s going to be a lot of leftover and that’s a great idea!” I combined the leftover snuggly fleece with some other leftover fleeces and a velvety stretch fabric and some matching blanket edging I happened to have and voila. I wrapped Babies and Doggies in a Doggy Baby blanket! And Christmas evening as my sister-in-law held the baby after a feeding in the blanket, she said, “I think he already loves it.”
Maddie got a lava lamp in the pile from the school. Lava lamps are really kind of awesome, aren't they.
OTHER STUFF I WROTE THIS YEAR FOR YOU TO REVISIT
The Exactly 5 Other Things I Posted Here:
Okay, actually there were six. But I've already linked to "Christmas Miracles and Gifts of Grace" twice, even though that should really be number 1.
- And then I already linked "My Personal Wrinkle In Time Movie Review" too, but we'll make that the new number one.
- "Thoughts on the Autistic Spectrum part One" and "...part Two" ...are technically two separate ones, fine. Actually three separate ones, since apparently I accidentally posted part one twice. BUT ANYHOO this is me comparing myself to what people describe as "mild" female autism, not so much trying to decide if it describes me but more exploring HOW it describes me, if that makes sense. Weirdly, the other month I listened to a podcast on how to tell the difference between ADHD and ASD when there are overlapping symptoms, and was shocked to discover most of my autistic symptoms DO seem to be caused more by ADHD than indicative of a true ASD. NOTHING I KNOW ABOUT MYSELF IS TRUE!
- "Pro-Life Revisited" and
- "Thoughts on the State of the World" are mostly me complaining about current events and people and stuff, still, but I'm SMART and RIGHT, dangit.
- "Missing Viewpoints" explores how I didn't have anything like a "typical" adolescence and how that is a total bafflement to me. Incidentally, To All the Boys... just missed making BOTH the book AND movie lists this year, so this is the only mention you get of it.
The Top 5ish Articles I Wrote for GeekMom:
- Well let's cheat and sum up everything from the first quarter of the year with "In Anticipation of the Wrinkle In Time Movie," which acts as a master list for all L'Engle content I wrote this year. Long-time readers of my personal blog will recognize much of the material freshened up from my original Year of the Tesseract series, but better, so I'll just highlight a couple that did not appear in that first series in any form, such as "Judging A Wrinkle in Time by Its Cover," "Mrs Who and Verbalizing through Quotes" and "What to Read After A Wrinkle In Time."
- "Self-Medicating Through Music," on how my favorite things affect my brain, and speaking of my brain
- "Emotional Labor and the Executive Dysfunctional Mom" sums up a lot of the things I'd learned about how ADHD manifests in adult women over the past couple years.
- "Mental Health Awareness Through Fiction" was an interesting evaluation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, among other things
- "Perils of Gardening While Imaginative" explains what goes through my head while I'm working outside.