sunday evening thoughts

I have this habit of curling up with Virginia at bedtime. I’ve been trying to wean her off the ritual, but the truth is that most nights I cherish those few special minutes. As we were curled up tonight, I looked at her profile, thumb in her mouth, the cute little bump of her nose in the dark, and her strong brow bone casting a shadow on the wall from the night light’s glow. She used to suck her thumb constantly, and while strangers felt compelled to tell her to stop, the dentist said she showed no signs of it affecting her teeth.

I’ve noticed she only sucks it at bedtime now. She made the observation a few weeks ago that she used to do it in her old school, but doesn’t feel the need to do it at her new one. Perhaps it’s just her natural development, or maybe it’s the nurturing environment. Regardless, it’s another reminder of the fleeting nature of childhood.

Now you see it, now you don’t.

One of the things I’m most thankful for with our recent move is the regeneration of my patience. I’ve been fresh out it for years, and the stresses of living in Brooklyn left me with an even greater deficit. Life here has given me the chance to slow down a bit, and while we spend a good portion of our time together shuttling back and forth to school in the car, or running errands, the quality of that time has been quite enriching. I’m an NPR junkie, hence the way the girls came up with our cat Ms. Paula Poundstone’s name.

Sometimes I worry about them hearing stuff that’s beyond their age or grasp, but I think it’s important for kids to have that exposure to the world as a larger place. When Scotland was preparing to vote on independence a few weeks ago, they listened intently for days on the drive to school. We talked about how it related to our own country, and got to talking about the Civil War. They were riveted by it all, and later that week when Paula Poundstone admitted on air that she was unclear as to what countries were part of the UK, they chuckled about it. I think this is part of the reason both our girls have such a rich vocabulary.

Recently, our car time has been occupied with listening to To Kill a Mockingbird. I began reading it over the summer, but finding the right time wasn’t always easy. I felt it was too heavy subject matter for before bedtime. We’d try to carve out time during the day, but then school started. I found out Sissy Spacek narrates the audio version, so we made the switch last week. The second we get into the car, before I’ve even had a chance to start the engine, Virginia chimes in “mommy, start the book.” They’re enthralled with the story, and we’re coming up to Tom Robinson’s trial soon, which has prompted me to prepare them for what comes next without ruining the book for them. It may be fiction, but it has stirred some real life conversations about our country’s history, and rather uncomfortable issues such as the crime that Robinson is accused of committing. I realize it may seem odd to broach such subjects with a six year old and eleven year old, but there is a way to discuss these things from a factual perspective without frightening them. And, it’s important that they feel they can talk to me about everything and anything. I’m never really sure that I’m always doing this single parenting thing right, but I know I’m at least doing it in the most honest, human, and respectful way I know how.


  • kristonlion

    Like! I had a fear of having kids because I didn’t want to ruin them and didn’t know what to do with them. I think you are doing a great job with your girls and you’re making it look easy. Just be open and honest. I wonder why I didn’t think of that.

  • Liz Bares

    Glad to hear I’m not the only one who thinks NPR is educational. My kids and I commute an hour and fifteen minutes to school(one way) each day. We listen to the Anne of Green Gables series, however I’m going to download To Kill a Mocking Bird. Thank you for sharing.

  • Gillian

    I’m an NPR junkie too. It is the soundtrack of our days and evenings. When I lived in Niger in West Africa I used to bring cassette tapes to listen to when I was homesick.

    Savor your sweet sleepy moments. They do go by in the blink if an eye.

  • JulieD

    i love NPR. I listen on iTunes Radio while I’m walking sometimes. I think it’s good to expose your girls to the world. You’re raising compassionate girls. xoxo

  • Cheryl Arkison

    So smart to listen to audio books. We too treat all subjects as potential conversations with the girls, 6 and 8. Makes for much more. More time, more intelligence, more curiosity, and hopefully more wisdom. With a little Katy Perry on the side.

  • Radhika

    After you talked about “Little Women” I listened to that. So good. I cried at points while listening. I just wrapped up “To Kill a Mocking bird”. It was an excellent book to listen to. I cried when they read his verdict. And I had to prepare myself for the verdict. I listen to books while dropping and picking up my kids too and on my long commute to work. My sons, 13 and 11 roll their eyes when I tell them “I have to mentally prepare for this next part” – like Tim’s trial verdict – but the three of us were really sad when we did listen to it. I cried. But that is besides the point!
    Another great post, Jennie! You are doing amazing. Want to know something? I cuddle with my babies any chance I get.
    Hugs to you.

  • Suzy

    You’re doing it right, Jennie. Did the same with our two, not that we weren’t criticized, but now they are young adults who are aware and care about the world and it’s people, unlike many of their contemporaries who don’t know what’s happening and don’t really care. The not caring part is scary to me.

  • Liz S.

    I’m pretty sure that I read it here, Jennie – a thought along the line of stories (books, movies, etc. – but for me it is books) helping us make sense of the world and life.

    My growing up (I’m 59) was so insulated and not so instantly available. There was time to prepare/be prepared by adults.

    I think, I said it here before – to this day, I have very fond memories of family reading time. I haven’t had regular TV for over 10 years and although I stream some things, I more often read. My mother (79) and I share a Kindle library and it has been so much fun to talk about books. We like much of the same but also some different things so we’ve both read things we might not have selected on our own.

    I’m getting carried away, but as always you sharing bits of your life makes me think – a good thing!

    “Honest, human and respectful” – I think those are wonderful cornerstones for all relationships.

  • Deborah Williams

    Hope you have something unexpected and fun happen today! Little things bring great peace. Hope you are finding your new normal and feeling positive about the future.

  • Joy @ WhatIWeighToday

    I only wish my family had listened to NPR growing up. I didn’t discover it until I was in college at NYU because my boyfriend’s roommate always had it on. I loved it. Back in Philly, I went through this phase of thinking New York had all the cool stuff and Philly sucked. I was explaining this to a friend who asked me to enumerate the New York City things I missed. “NPR” I said, immediately. And she was like, “do you even know what NPR stands for? It’s national public radio–we have that here.” And thus I reunited with my favorite kind of radio. As I side note, I have to share I was at a meeting at WHYY here in Philly and I saw Terry Gross! An NPR nerd freakout ensued. NPR is good for everyone.

  • Tamara Komuniecki

    I’m in awe of you, and of all parents who are left to pick up the pieces when the other half leaves. I do not know how I would do it, and at the same time I know I would. You are doing so with patience for yourself and your girls, deep love for them, and true respect to consider their needs and development in all of the decisions you make. This is my (outsider’s) perspective, anyway. You are an inspiration, and I think of you often when make one your recipes and check in on your blog. I decided to actually reach out and say so tonight when I saw that an old friend (Cheryl Arkison, above) commented, too.

  • Barb

    The question of how much to expose children to is difficult. Much of what is happening in the world is scary and incomprehensible to adults, so I’m not sure how a child, especially a sensitive child, could be expected to process it.

    As a child I remember having horrible nightmares when I would hear frightening things on the news…even though the news was so much tamer then than it is now. I didn’t understand that the probability of those bad things happening to me was pretty low, despite the fact that I’m sure my parents tried to reassure me.

    I am thankful I lived a pretty “sheltered” childhood. I still had plenty of opportunities to find out about the harsh realities of the “real world” and spent my years after college (and before having my own kids) teaching in a very troubled urban neighborhood. At that poin in my life, I felt like I could actually make a difference, and I think I did.

    Hopefully, every parent will be able to read their own kids to be able tell what they can handle. Thanks for bringing up this subject, I think about it a lot.

  • Heidi

    As an educator I would say you are doing the right thing by reading/listening to it together so you can talk about the tough stuff. I am also an NPR-aholic, but my kiddos are a bit younger (4 and 6) so I still feel the need to shelter at least the younger one from some of it. However, with the death of my/their beloved FIL/grandfather 6 weeks ago, they are more in-tune with others suffering so in some sense the seriousness of the news of the world is more real to them.

    If you are looking for another book after TKAM, I would suggest Cold Sassy Tree. Not sure if it is available in audio though…

  • Pat Forrest

    I am the 79 year old mother Liz S. referred to in her comments. I read a lot to my 2 children when we were all together. We also had a lot of discussions in the car going places. I always prayed not to get to hard a question while i was driving. To me one of the best times of my life was during the 20 years my children were with me. When you are in the time it sometimes seems long but then before one knows it they are off on their own.

    Enjoy your time with your girls. It goes way too fast.

    I am going to enjoy reading about you and them plus your recipes.

    I am going to recommend two books-The Education of Little Tree and Stewart Little.

    Much love to you, your girls and the 4 footed ones.

  • Jennifer Perillo


    It was so lovely to read your comment tonight. Thank you for stopping by, and for reaching out. Look forward to “seeing” you here again often.


  • Mandy

    Just a note to look up the education of little tree book before you read it , the book turned out to be a hoax the author really was not what he said he was.