A British chat show and diverse books

I found one of Max’s new favorite authors on a British chat show. If you’re not familiar with The Graham Norton Show, I suggest you look it up on YouTube or BBC One right away.

Graham, who long ago surpassed Ellen DeGeneres as my favorite, is a cheeky and funny host. His guests interact while sitting, chatting and drinking on a red couch. (This was prior to Covid-19) It’s looser and more relaxed than most programs and it doesn’t matter if you know the U.K. stars as they often are more amusing than the familiar American guests.

This is how I discovered David Walliams, actor, writer and comedian. (He’s wildly successful and his books are in 53 languages.) Max just finished Bad Dad, telling me I would like it.

When I pressed for more info, he said, “I just liked it. I know you’re trying to blog about it but I can’t tell you anything else.”

Max reading The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale.
(It is a graphic novel about Harriet Tubman.)

Fair enough. I read Walliams’ first book, The Boy in the Dress, a sweet story about a boy who …surprise…likes to wear dresses. The book captures the immediate fallout when he’s discovered and the eventual resolution that being different is a strength.

While writing about boys that wear dresses is easy for me, I’ve struggled how to lift Black and marginalized voices in this space since the death of George Floyd and many others this year. I’ve drafted a couple of posts, fretted and not posted. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing or coming across like I think I’m an expert (far from it) but decided not saying anything is worse.

Instead of looking back at the books we read when the boys are younger, I’ve turned to what they’re reading now.

I’ve found that the graphic novels Calvin likes to read are wonderful representations of the gender spectrum, Black, Indigenous and people of color and people with disabilities. These books have led to some good conversations at our house. The characters and the beautiful illustrations in these page-turning stories will stick with you.

A few favorites include:

For more resources, I recommend checking out the Kids’ Nook of my local and new favorite bookstore, Downbound Books. It’s an amazing shop with a beautiful and helpful website for kids and adults. You can have your purchases mailed or pick them up. 

Calvin reading

Calvin at Downbound the day before the world shut down in March.

Here’s a good article: These books can hep you explain racism and protests to your kids

Looking for a beautiful moment

I’ll confess – sometimes I’m writing a story in my head while it’s happening. I know I’m not the only writer that does this. You think to yourself, I can use this beautiful moment for content.

But that’s not how life works is it?

Since the pandemic, I’ve been visiting our local park almost daily. One afternoon, my husband and I were treated to the sight of six baby ducklings. They crowded their mama, much like my twins used to do to me.

The next day at lunch, I announce to my ten-year-old boys that we were going to do something fun and go find the ducks! It was a gorgeous sunny day without the usual Ohio humidity.

three ducks
The ducks as preteens. Photo by friend Megan.

I knew when they saw the ducklings they would love them but these days (even in a pandemic!) they often moan and whine about leaving the house. I wonder if this is foreshadowing to the teen years.

Underlying this is the fact that we’ve been trying to cut down technology all summer. A friend told me her kids have to complete everything on a list before they have technology time. This was not a popular suggestion at my house and honestly, my attempt didn’t last long since I’m working from home and my husband is at work in the mornings.

Back to my beautiful moment, Max and Calvin agree to ride bikes to the park.

Calvin is riding his new bike is a big deal. I feel grateful and hopeful, emotions that are hard to tap into these days.  

As they ride, Max zooming, Calvin quite cautious, I snap a photo. I think to myself, “I’m killing it as a stay-at home-working mom today.”

The universe put me in my place.

We go to lock up the bikes so we can navigate to the ducks on foot. A fight breaks out. The easiest of tasks often elicit high emotions.

We get down to the path by the pond and the rain has made it a mess. I tell them to walk around the path but this makes it worse and we sink. Calvin gets mad that his new shoes are muddy. This is my fault, of course.

We get to the dock where we spied the ducks and they are nowhere to be found. I keep up my sunny spirits and we look for turtles too. But everyone is grumpy and their lives are hard because I made them do this. They continue to bicker. Calvin cries; Max rides ahead. I keep my cool but am thinking, “I need to get back to my desk. “

I’m not having a beautiful moment.

Being a parent is like that for me. There are many times where I have no idea if I’m doing the right thing. I remember asking my friends when they had babies, “How do you know what to do?”

They would tell me, “You just know.”

I now understand how you can apply this to babies but each age comes with a new challenge and I still question myself. It’s exhausting.

You would think I wouldn’t sweat the day-to-day stuff since Calvin was diagnosed with a brain tumor when the boys were two. We’re lucky and grateful but the lasting repercussions of chemotherapy are not always easy. (Read more in a previous post.)

I get frustrated that people don’t understand but that’s probably just the pain I feel as a mother. One thing Calvin has struggled with is his balance. He used to fall down a lot and in preschool his teachers were very concerned. On the flip side, his doctors tell us they wish all kids with his tumor would do so well.

He’s improved with time. Last summer when Max got a new bike, Calvin wasn’t interested and we didn’t push it. This year, during the stay at home orders, he expressed his desire for a bike.

It hasn’t been an instant fix. He’s frustrated and wants to be as good as his neighborhood friends. He chose a pink bike and helmet. Calvin is always true to himself.

When we get home, I go back upstairs to work, leaving Max to pout about not getting the computer. Calvin decides to go out.

On his bike.

From my desk, I watch him bike up the street, slowly but surely.

Hey, I got my beautiful moment.

Calvi on a bike
Calvin on his bike

Now for the books

It’s hard to believe my babes will be eleven this week. I feel like I just wrote this post about them turning six. I’m excited to give them some new books and will share in the future.

Max has been rereading Charlotte’s Web. (Read about the first time here.)

One of Calvin’s recent picks are Snapdragon By Kat Leyh. (I loved this special book and recommend it.)