While in Vienna, there was a lot going on in terms of finishing up work for the year, holidays, and naturally, diplo-baby #2’s arrival.
In Vienna, you spend just over a week in the hospital when you deliver – which on one hand, means that there is always someone prodding you or feeding you or checking something or other. But you also find yourself with weird pockets of time to fill as well while you recover. It seems like a lot of time at first pass, but it does ensure you go home in tip top shape. And it also means lots of melanges and strudels from the surprisingly good hospital bakery. So it was a good thing that I brought a supply of books with me since I had some unexpected down time to work through my list…here’s what kept me company at the hospital.
1. Gone Girl: In retrospect, I have no idea why this was first on my list. Probably because I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie, but after having read the book, I’m not sure I’ll even bother to do so. This was just flat out creepy (and frankly, a bit predictable if you ask me). There was so much talk of this being the story of a strong female lead, but I came away thinking she she was totally batty, and that these two characters were both equally pathologically messed up and no wonder they found each other. I just found every character in the book sad in some way…maybe it’s just me.
and Blue Nights
, in a melancholy memoir kind of way, and so it was interesting for me to go back and read her writings that were actually written not of memories past, but of things happening to her at the time while living in California (makes me wish I had read it in California though). Perhaps a bit ironically though, my favorite essay ended up being the last one – the one that is memoir in style, much like the books, about what it was like to leave New York and realize that your life was moving towards another direction.
“. This is a quick read, and a novel but in a memoir style – the recollections of one person as they seamlessly shift back and forth from being a little girl to an older woman to starting a family to a myriad of little seemingly unconnected instances in life, some completely mundane and some monumental. It was a good read but for someone post partum, in the hospital with a lot of spare time in your own thoughts and fluctuating hormones, it was a terrible idea. It made me tear up on more than one occasion about the thought of hospitals and why we even go to them, when I realized that now that we have had our two children, going to a hospital would never again (likely) be a joyous occasion after this.
4. Capital: A Novel: This was a fun read about the London real estate market, gentrifying on a specific road and all the residents, past, present and future in this row of houses. I love “ensemble” stories (just like I do ensemble movies) although you can bet that there were several characters here that were older or being gentrified right out of the market so of course, more tears from me. But it’s very well written with lots of layers and I thought this was a great snapshot into the many cultural mixes that you find living in London that truly make it a unique global city that rivals none.
5. Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World: This is a pretty quick read as well, and I had ordered it after reading Ben Hewitt’s article on “Unschooling” in Outside Magazine. It’s always fascinating to me that there are so many things that people don’t agree with in the American school system (myself included) but that the US must also be one of the only places where you can opt out of the system entirely, either by homeschooling, or even “unschooling”. I was hoping to that the book would go more into what unschooling actually looks like, but when there isn’t an actual school day, I guess it doesn’t make so much to report on. So the books seems to describe more the Hewitt family’s homestead and how they ended up there and their feeling about living on the land as a source of freedom. All of which inform the decision to unschool but don’t necessarily explain how it “works”. Still, an interesting essay on what it would be like to reject the system entirely.
6. Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life: If you follow along on our forest school adventures at A Toddler in the Trees, you know that I have a growing interest in what makes for the right ingredients for bringing up a toddler. Because while I grew up loving school and learning and even school work itself, I think there are some bizarre sways in what we’re taking away from children that are growing up now (recess…playing outside…freedom to make mistakes and decisions…independence) to make room for things like homework and more homework and structure and not allowing any room for any “potential” bad thing to happen. It’s not that I want bad things to happen, it’s just that shift seems to be creating an artificial world for them and I’m not sure that kids are actually learning more. They might be doing more “activity” but I’m not sure that they’re actually learning more lessons…in the life lessons sense. So books along these lines have become interesting to me to see what others thing…Anyway…Free to Play, as the title indicates, is a book that documents how play fits into children’s development and that they actually rely on it to learn thing for the long run. And not just things like sometimes we win and sometimes we don’t, but the bigger opportunity that kids have through play to play roles or have a safe space to confront fears (i.e. playing “monsters”), that kind of thing. I find that a lot of child rearing books seem to always have weird ethnological fascinations that don’t take into account modern needs (and advancements) and for this one, it’s hunter gatherer societies, but still, they make a lot of good points about the benefits – and the necessity – of space to play and some of the detriment that can happen when you take those opportunities away. So in other words, bring back recess!