Getting into a groove of summer reading and leisure is something of a challenge having kids. It used to be that once school was over, I could sit down with a book and read nonstop. Many times all three of us would read a book in a day, take a small breather, and dive right into another. A cousin who lived across the street was often frustrated…begging us to come out and play soccer or jump on the trampoline or do something active!
It is impossible to have a similar luxury of free time now. More often than not, reading and other edifying activities get squeezed in where they can. Even more often, the best time seems to be in the evening…until you wake up the next morning with a book on top of you and your page lost!
But I think we’re making some progress in baby steps this summer. Here are some things we found and enjoyed this month.
“She was abandoned to her fate. What was clear to any spectator was that the only link binding her to either parent was this lamentable fact of her being a ready vessel for bitterness, a deep little porcelain cup in which biting acids could be mixed.” Two pages into What Maisie Knew, Henry James’ novel about a little girl caught between her parents’ divorce, and I’m already in awe anew at how James captures the tortured complexity of human relationships. —Sarah
When one of my girls was sick, we watched multiple episodes of Planet Earth II (Planet Earth seems justifiable any time as educational and awe-inspiring, even more so when there is a sick kiddo in the house). It did not disappoint. The filming quality, proximity, and creativity brought awe and amazement anew. If the first Planet Earth was repeated, with only a shift in subject material, it would have been fantastic. Planet Earth II not only continues in the same strain, but does does even better several times. The sequence that stands out as more thrilling than any action movie is the baby iguanas and the racer snakes. Highly recommend. The last episode is not quite as enjoyable as the others, because it takes a slightly didactic turn. Yet, it still has moments of fascination and amazement and certainly gets you thinking. — Sophie
It’s been a few years since I saw it, but I remember the modernized film version of the novel mentioned above, What Maisie Knew, as being quite good. It stars Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, and is available on Amazon Prime. Be forewarned: it has some language, and deals with heavy topics. — Sarah
I recently had a 6hr+ car ride (one way) with my two girls ages 3.5 and 1.5. My expectations were not very high, but I prepared as well as I could. The best thought I had was to find recommendations for kids books on tape. A big winner was Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox & Other Animal Stories. The stories are ones that aren’t just entertaining for the kids, but amusing for the adults as well. Hearing Fantastic Mr. Fox made me want to rewatch the superb movie rendition by Wes Anderson. I was astonished, however, that the 3 farmers were even more disgusting and grotesque in the story. The other tales were similarly enjoyable, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree. Yet my 3 and a half year old, after listening just once, surprised me by relating long segments from The Enormous Crocodile in precise detail and enthusiasm during a quiet lull on our drive back home. — Sophie
Camille DiPaola (see some of her stuff over at The Mom Edit) recently launched Totally Casual Motherhood. She’s got some great “totally casual” pics as a mom posing in designer gowns, but really what I want to share is that her Totally Casual Motherhood podcast is refreshingly real…both in her working out of technical difficulties (first time podcaster!) AND in the direction she’s trying to go. Check it out. — Sarah