Tuesday, November 20, 2018

A Bookish Mom's Christmas List: 2018

It's been 4 years since my last post! Where the heck have I been? First, I was teaching ESL. Then I had a baby. I loved teaching and hope to get back to it, but it took up all my creative energy. Then having a baby took not only my creative energy but my regular energy too! 8 months in to my momming adventure, I'm finally finding a little time to put some creativity back on the page. Or the screen, as it were. I hope you'll stick around to see where it goes.

For my return post, it's the right time of year for what used to be my annual list of bookish Christmas gifts. Now it's got a bit of a mommy spin on it, but they're still solid gift ideas for readerly/writerly people who don't have little babies circling their feet.

(FYI: I don't get anything for promoting these products. They're just cool stuff I like.)

And now, this year's list:

For all lovers of stories and cozy throws, first on the list are the new Litographs blankets. Why read your book under a blanket when you can just read the blanket itself! Plus you can read all stealthy like, because if your situation is anything like mine, you can sit by your child for an hour doing nothing but staring at him, and he will ignore you, but as soon as you put something in your hand, like a phone or book or computer, he's suddenly in dire need: "Why aren't you looking at meeeeee?" and climbing your body up to your face and poking your eye. Plus look how pretty these blankets are. And yes, that's the entire text of the book in green.

(Image credit: here)

If you spend a lot of time reading board books, sometimes 18 times in one sitting, then you need to be collecting quality board books. Trust me as a former person-who-knew-stuff about children's literature (in my past life as a grad school student): they aren't just for kids, especially some of the ones that are books for older kids just printed in the board book format. (If you don't believe me, take a look at this beauty next time you're at the bookstore.) For a few bucks, you can get amazing books of brilliant artwork with an often wholesome, thoughtful message attached. A place to start is any of the bear books by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. The illustrations are delicate, and the words poetic and perfectly rhythmic. I truly enjoy them. They're downright peaceful and therapeutic to read. Our little guy is still paying attention to them at 8 months when most books with that much text have lost his interest for the moment.

(Image credit: here)

The next item on the list is an absolute must for a book lover. Find an exhibition that focuses on one of your book lover's favorite authors / illustrators / both, and get tickets to take them to see it. We were lucky to get to the High Museum in Atlanta to see the recent V&A Winnie-the-Pooh exhibition. We were able to take the baby along, which was fun. The exhibits were amazing--especially the original sketches and later colorization. It's fascinating to get a deeper look into old favorites. And it's a great family day out or date if that's what you're going for.

I've always thought gifting a homemade book of coupons was goofy. That was before I became a mom. Now I know that my good intentions about reading a book, doing a bit of crafting, going on a walk, eating, showering, sleeping--sometimes they just don't get done. A coupon book could be titled Book of Intentional Forced Moments of Much Needed Respite for the stay-at-home parent or anyone who is a control freak like yours truly. Write coupons specific to your person, like, "Robin, go read a chapter of the book you bought two months ago and haven't cracked open and have half lost interest in now." Or, "Robin, your fingernails look gross. Go soak in the bath and cut them afterward. Heck, why not go ahead and paint them, too. Go nuts, lady." If you're too lazy to make a book yourself, there's a ton on Etsy for about five bucks, and you can print them off from home.

Speaking of printing: Printed magazines. A thing of the past? Not for those of us who are both deeply visual and short on time. For us, magazines are perfect--if you can find one that doesn't utterly suck. Most do suck. Most are big old books of advertisements. But one creative magazine I love would be a wonderful gift for the artsy, writerly, readerly person in your life. There's not a single page of ads. It's filled with gorgeously organized pages of everything from travel articles to artist/author interviews to poetry to crafts you can cut out and do yourself to recipes to...you get the idea. It's Daphne's Diary, and it's the magazine version of that corner of the house you have full of halfway finished projects, boxes of random craft gear, and piles of various "art stuff" you'll never get around to. (There's also lots of great stuff on the website, including free downloadable things like this.) If your person is really into magazines, here's another even pricier option I've recently come across.

You remember clubs back when you were a kid? There was always a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. There were dues, like that nickel I used to charge the neighbor kids to come into my woods. There were club meetings. It was super serious. But when you're grown up, clubs are for drinking wine and talking about books. Or bringing something you've been writing and talking about it with other writers over a massive shared nachos appetizer. There are endless variations on the adult club or gathering. The point of it is to get out of the house and chill with other people with like interests. It's essential for the stay-at-home parent to get out. He or she must use other parts of the brain that don't involve thoroughly removing poopy from a baby bottom. They must engage in adult stuff for a good chunk of time so they can go back and be awesome with their family again. Gift your stay-at-home parent, your workaholic, your person-wh0-needs-to-destress, the time and money (if needed) to join a club, preferably a weekly one. They need it. Listen: they need IT. My favorite gathering place has been local art classes. They're not exactly clubs, but I have made a couple friends and enjoyed using the creative side of my brain. Behold my watercolor bee with his crooked wings but lovely personality:

The last gift on the 2018 list doesn't cost anything but time, unless you want an official copy of the book. Otherwise just print what you want off of Project Gutenberg and you're set. The gift is: the thoughtful delivery of an amazing quote from an amazing text, like A Christmas Carol. Yes, you can gift a quote to someone, but you need to make it an experience. For example with this quote, you could take your loved one on a wintry walk, stopping in a quiet moment where the trees open up to a crunchy frosty field, or where the city sounds calm and an inviting bench sits empty by a little park. Pull out a copy of the quote of your choosing (or the book with the quote marked by a red ribbon) and read aloud:

"The poulterers' shops were still half open, and the fruiterers' were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions, shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers' benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people's mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner."

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. And thank you for making it to the end of my return post.