Friday, September 16, 2016

Pages and Screens

Life with a newborn takes on a somewhat surreal quality. You lose track of what day of the week it is. Odd meals (granola with a side of tortilla chips and salsa, anyone?) get eaten at odder hours. For a few weeks, days and nights seemed to blend together as I camped out on the couch and nursed my baby round the clock. V and Lila kept up with their work and school routine and I whiled away the hours with some books and TV.

I was looking for some unadulterated entertainment and found it in the Back to the Future trilogy on Netflix- you have Michael J. Fox, the 80s, a very cool DeLorean and The Power of Love. The second movie of the trilogy is fun because the time travel is from the 80s into 2015; we have already lived the future, people. If you're looking for pure fun, this is the one to watch.

More time-pass TV came in the form of Psych, the comic detective show- I like to watch an episode here and there- and Doc Martin, the British medical comedy drama set in a picturesque seaside village populated by all sorts of characters. I managed to watch all 7 seasons of Doc Martin, although I have seen many of them already when the series aired on PBS. It made for great background TV, the characters keeping me company as I went about my day.

I did watch one serious movie on Netflix, Spotlight (2015), the story of the Boston Globe's tenacious investigation of the scandal of priests abusing children. It won Best Picture at this year's Oscars- not the usual blockbuster Hollywood movie, it is a solid docu-drama made in a rather understated way.

The PBS streaming app made me a happy girl by featuring Series 6 of the Great British Baking Show. For this series, we suspended our rule of no TV during meals, and happily watched this show as a family while eating dinner- with Lila rooting for Nadiya all the way and offering her commentary on the various bakes.

Over on the print side, many of the books I've been reading reflect my deepest desire at this time- to get my baby to sleep so I can get some sleep! So I've blearily made my way through Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth and The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer by Harvey Karp. Sure, these books provide some helpful tips here and there. But mostly you read about all the grand things babies are supposed to do- like sleep longer after 6 weeks- and wonder why your offspring never got the memo.

For lighter reading, I turned to kid lit, and thoroughly enjoyed The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. If you enjoyed Harry Potter and Roald Dahl, you have to look for this book (series, actually). It has the tried-and-true kid lit tropes of orphan children alone in the world banding together and fighting evil, but it works.

I had promised myself that given the stress of the newborn weeks, I wouldn't read anything very serious or depressing. Well, that plan was discarded quickly when I came upon a special issue of the New York Times Magazine titled Fractured Lands. The whole magazine issue is one long article, a brilliantly written mini-book. Scott Anderson describes the Middle East crisis from its origins all the way to the current exodus and refugee situation, through the lives of 6 individuals. It took me three solid weeks to read this issue, but I come away much better informed about the headlines that I glance at but don't really begin to understand. The whole issue is here online but I preferred reading it in hard copy.

In the kid section, Lila has been enjoying many library books lately and these two are recent favorites that we have read dozens of times before reluctantly returning them. I loved the gentle humor in Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott. A barber's son takes over his dad's salon during the night to give "shamp-eews" and haircuts to monsters. What I loved best about The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine were the adorable and cheerful illustrations by Sebastia Serra.

Speaking of kid lit, I was very saddened to read that Anna Dewdney of the much-loved Llama Llama books has died all too young of brain cancer, two weeks ago. We own a couple of her books and they are so much fun to read aloud.

What have you been reading and watching these days?