Toilet Tales

Parenting exposes us to a marvel of subjects that we would never imagine ourselves reading and talking about otherwise. Diapers and potty training is definitely one of those. I definitely had my share of doubts and concerns choosing which way to go – and I’m even close to the potty training part of it.

In the beginning I was in a flow of joy and exhaustion (breast feeding + not enough rest) that appeared longer than two weeks. My mom kept telling me “You just have to through these two weeks, afterwards it’ll be a breeze” – and it was. Anyway, I don’t want to get side tracked into nursing here. During that time disposable diapers seemed more practical. We had a stock of diapers at home that I thought would last a year. Well, that wasn’t true. It probably took 3 weeks and they were all gone.

This led me to start reading about cloth diapering and considering the different (and numerous) options out there.

Finally, I decided to just by a few sets of diapers, liners, and cover, and try it out. Other than the fact that I was changing diapers every hour or so – it was all good. Also, I was a little surprised when I did the math of how much it would cost to buy a whole set: a lot.

Finally, the Vancouverite in me kicked in and I thought to myself: Craigslist! I was lucky enough to end up finding someone selling a great selection of cloth diapers in my neighbourhood (and this is how I met Ella, the author of Little Red Caboose). The diapers were in great shape, cared for environmentally, no bleach only good amounts of sunshine – which is enough to keep them clean and fresh. Ella was super nice to give me a hand knitted wool diaper her mother had made. I was all set but I must confess (without shame) that I do a combination of cloth and disposable diapers. Whenever I’m at home Georgia wears cloth ones (which having a washer and drier not be three sets of stairs away, has made it way easier..) and weather allowing Georgia hangs out freely. During the night, when out, or travelling, she wears disposable ones that keep her incredibly dry.

The other day I was talking to a friend about different ways of teaching our children (and letting them teach us). “I’m not a big reader” she said, and knowing her you clearly understand that she is, instead, a person who does, makes, and lives. “But I find it cool to read picture books for my son that have some kind of lesson” – this is precisely what inspired me to write a post about this book, from the shelf of Max’s childhood.

Toilet Tales is a fun, imaginative, and playful book about potty training. It is written and illustrated by Andrea Wayne von Königslöw. Click here for the new edition. “Animals could never use toilets because…”

Exchangescope

I’ve long been an admirer of Planeta Tangerina, a publisher house based in Lisbon, Portugal. Founded by a talented group of designers and artists their books are spreading wings and being translated into many languages. They make picture books not only for kids but adults who marvel at the play between word and image.

I was in Brazil last Winter when I saw this book, Exchangescope, by Bernardo Carvalho.

At the first flip of pages, daunting it seems. What on earth does this mean? And then YOU start to change. And you turn the pages again. With different eyes, a different heart. Each time you see something new. Wheels, flames, trees, particles, birds, movement, macro, micro, falling, building it back up… let your imagination roam free.

And if you please, take a moment of your day and browse through this and other incredible creations by clicking here.

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A Farmer’s Alphabet

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A Farmer’s Alphabet (1981) is a stunning hand-crafted picture book by Mary Azarian. This alphabet book is made of b&w woodcut prints that portray icons of farm-life in Vermont. An artist and farmer herself, Mary Azarian, her life and career happen between the proof press and the field. Her prints have an intricate sense of dedication, hard work, and poetry.

Here are my favorite ones:

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My husband, Max, also grew up amongst orchards, vegetables, and chickens. Surrounded by mountains that framed the seasons as they change.

Spring is here, the Summer near. And here is a picture of Georgia during her first tractor ride:

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Lost and Found

I love going to bookstores, thrift ones, and larger ones too. Got books? Got a nice children’s books alley? Worth a visit. These days, I usually enter frantically, pushing a stroller, diaper bag in hands. I take a minute to breathe and find my way (Georgia is usually asleep at this point). I must be honest, a great deal of my reading is devoted to news, fellow bloggers, articles on sustainability, and of course, kids books. So I undoubtedly head in that direction first.

Finding a book I want to pick up and look at is a multi-sensorial experience. I look through the shelves as I touch the books gently. Authors and illustrators I know stand out but mostly the image, colors, shapes, and fonts, is what attracts me. And to this I blame design. Book design is the final touch that makes all the difference. There are a lot of kids books authors and illustrators who are practicing or have a background in design. One of my favorite artists on this boat is Oliver Jeffers, born in Belfast, Ireland, and currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. Click here to watch a short in-studio film about him.

His characters are real. They have, and communicate, real feelings. They reveal an imaginary world that lives within all of us. My choice for this post is:

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I’ve read Lost and Found over and over. The story begins with a boy in his normal morning routine. Unexpectedly, a penguin shows up at his door.

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The boy is intrigued by the fact and wonders where the penguin came from. Perhaps he’s lost? Perhaps he needs a ride back to the South Pole? A true friendship may be found. In life we seem to find true friends in the most odd ways (or days). And then of course, they are like rocks in the shore, standing firm and always there, no matter weather and waves.

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Click on the image bellow to watch the version of Lost and Found in animation, created by Oliver Jeffers and StudioAKA:

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Goodnight iPad

Our times are filled with distractions. Our minds filled with endless horizons and information to be discovered and surfed through. The internet is now a 24/7 companion of many through our mobile devices. It fits in smaller and smaller gadgets, pocket size screens capable of connecting people, ideas, images, news… and beyond. I’m an avid user and liker myself. The internet has long been my tool to research and communicate. Living across the continent, the internet has definitely become a means through which I overcome the geography of distance. I write long e-mails, I blog, I post photos and occasional status updates on Facebook, I read the News, I skype-see everywhere my mom goes, I surf on Craigslist for used items, I follow other people’s pages, and clearly, all of that takes up a considerable chunk of my precious time. When access becomes so easy and versatile the greatest trick is to disconnect and turn our wi-fi minds off.

It’s about 2:30pm in the Similkameen Valley. The sun is out, glimmering the mountain hills and orchards. Georgia is resting on a blanket, kicking around, squeaking, doing her new bbbfffff sound, shaded by Sumac trees. Thanks to wi-fi I get to sit here and write. The computer screen holds endless possibilities between the digital-micro-satelite-levels and the physical-present-sitting-down-self. Like many of us, I strive to find a balance between connectedness and be-here-now. My blog posts are inspired by real moments and real children’s books. This blog post is dedicated to a dear friend of ours, Robynne, and the wonderful parody picture book she gave Georgia. Before we get into the book, a few words about Robynne must be said. Robynne is strong hearted and strong minded. She has an incredible attitude to life’s ups and downs, knowing when to let it pass, when to pick it up again, and when to tell it f*** off for a while. We’ve had some great talks and laughs. During which she’s quite loud. Don’t try to talk to her about any secrets (just kidding, she is one to trust your heart). Robynne can cheer you up just by showing up. Yesterday, she came over with her beloved birthday gift. I introduce to you, sweet rocking June (and Cherry, the guitar strap):

Robynne and Max have been playing together for long… long enough to fill a couple of song books. Brash & Frown (stands for their last names Frash and Brown) is a promising duet. Robynne rocks the voice cords on original and cover lyrics, along with Max’s folky blue-grassy tunes… I’m a fan (and so is Georgia). Now Robynne is stretching her fingers around June’s arms marking the beginning of a new phase of her musical talent.

Goodnight iPad is a reminder and joke about our, sometimes overly, digital lives. This book is a funny adaptation of the classic Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hunrd. Goodnight iPad is written and illustrated by Ann Droyd (aka David Milgrim). Click here to read a review and watch a book trailer on the Guardian. It starts out “In the bright buzzing room, there was an iPad and a kid playing Doom and a screensaver of -” The following pages refer to the latest of our techy lives: angrybirds, Nooks, HD-TVs, Blackberry phones, Facebook friends, YouTube, E-mails and Tweets, until the old woman in the room decides it’s time to Goodnight all of it! Launching each one of the gadgets out the window and finally everyone is going to sleep… And a peek into the dark room shows us the original Goodnight Moon being read under a flashlight.

It’s early to tell, Georgia is about to turn 5 months old. I notice her mesmerized eyes at the glimpses of TV and computer screens. I often skype my mom and Koochie in what is like weekly hang-outs. The other day while packing in Vancouver, Koochie entertained Georgia with his baby-talk via skype. When I look back, Georgia is giggling away to Koochie’s faces and sounds. In that moment, he was more present than anything else around her.

I can’t deny the practicality and joy I get from our digital/internet age but I feel a desire and commitment to share with Georgia the incomparable life: kept simple, wholesome, and organic. Her growth forces us to journey life at a slower pace and through a different scope. Seeing ourselves as example and parents. Our families, wide and diverse, bring Georgia a world of blend cultures, flavours, climates, languages, and places. During this month I will bring you more about Georgia’s time at the farm and the books that made outside our boxes. And in about a month we’re traveling from Max’s hometown, through Vancouver, onto a plane, stopping over in Dallas, onto a second plane, arriving in São Paulo, my home-gigantic-crazy-speedy-city. For now, here’s a glimpse of life in the Valley, Georgia during her morning read with Max:

Where You Came From

It’s been 4 months since Georgia was born. 16 weeks between this restful morning and the most exhilarating moment of my life. The memory still lingers in my body. In every cell that make up the bits of that experience. But cells regenerate and in this process our body is constantly dying -and living. I think maybe that’s why memories can fade with time. Which explains our capacity to change, forgive, and forget. Remembering, on the other hand, is intertwined between conscious and unconscious efforts. Remembering can be stricken by an image, a smell, or simply a desire to remember. Everyday it feels like the vivid and sharp memories of Georgia’s birth fades away… My body slowly making room for the new. Story telling between parents and their children, between children and their grandparents, between youth and elders, doesn’t always have to rely on picture books. In fact, the stories of our lives, the stories that are read from the heart, and spoken through the soul, are a treasure to be passed along. Today I will share the story of Georgia’s birth along with the picture book Where You Came From.

Saturday, the 12th of May, Max woke up early and left to go help a friend pick up some scrap metal. I stayed in bed and I remember realizing that was the first time I had been alone in a while. I enjoyed the silence. It was a sunny morning. I remember taking my time, putting on my maternity jeans, walking towards Broadway to catch the bus to go out for brunch with my family. After a wholesome meal at Bandidas we headed to the Trout Lake farmers market. It was busy and the air felt really warm. In line at the lemonade truck this guy started chatting, “Oh, I didn’t even notice you’re pregnant,” and the conversation distracted us from the long wait. He asked when I was due. “Tomorrow,” I said. And I remember tomorrow echoing in my head. 

Max showed up looking dirty and tired. Morgan (our friend’s daughter and most brilliant kid I’ve met) came along. The heat was bothering me. I chugged the lemonade and we decided to go to Lighthouse Park for a fresh breeze by the sea. From that bit, the funny part was walking down (and then up) this steep portion of stair-like hills, my step-dad holding some sort of stick cane and my mom saying “If Georgia isn’t born after this…” Incredible views, the whooshing sound of waves, the tall Coastal mountains in the background, the city afar… space between the rush and me. 

As the evening settled, we crossed the city all the way to Kitsilano to meet with my dad for dinner. It was late and I felt tired. My eyes were itchy and dry of exhaustion. My appetite was gone. I stared at the menu, back and forth and finally decided to ordered a raspberry lemonade. The conversations drifted slowly and eventually the restaurant was ready to close and kick us out. We headed our ways. Max and I were exhausted by the time we laid in bed. My belly stretched and heavy. A kiss good-night and a rest that lasted for only a few hours.

Sunday, May 13th and Georgia’s due date. Mother’s day, both in Canada and Brazil. I woke up feeling contractions around 2:30 am. I tried to ease through them and fall back asleep, but I felt incredibly uncomfortable laying down. So I went to the living room and started watching a movie sitting on a bouncing ball. Just now, I thought I had no idea which movie it was and suddenly her face came to me, and the story. Audrey Tautou. Beautiful Lies. I must have changed positions a number of times and I paused the movie at the onset of each contraction. It wasn’t long until I couldn’t focus on the screen. I walked around in circles between the hall way, kitchen, and living room. The walking turned into pacing. Slower, stronger. Time was going by faster than I would have imagined, suddenly the clock turned and it was almost 4am. I decided to wake Max up. I thought we were up for a long day of labour so I had waited for a couple of hours. He was excited but his energy stayed calm and patient. I focused on the moment, welcoming each contraction, working with it not against it, as I was taught during the prenatal workshop with the wonderful midwife Jeanne Lyons. Deep inside I kept telling myself “Hang in there, this is just the start.”

Max made me an avocado sandwich. Salty and nutritious. I wanted to wait longer to page our midwives. I got in the bathtub. The room lit by candles. I rested there and for a short while the contractions spaced out. I tried to stretch my neck and spoke gently to Georgia. I whispered, for both of us to hear, “Be strong,  open way,” as I massaged my belly in circles. I felt her limbs moving inside. I overheard Max playing Georgia On My Mind in the kitchen. It made me smile. I rolled a towel and rested my head, trying to nap a little. But soon the contractions picked up again and waved through me. I got it, we are on duty. The bath became too small. I needed space to move and fresh air. Shortly after the sun lit the sky we decided to page our midwives. Max picked up the phone and said “Hello,” pause “Oh, hey Heidi.” I couldn’t believe it. I must have dilated a few centimeters just then. Heidi had been on-call something like 4 days a month only. Max and I had an appointment with her earlier in the pregnancy. Everything about her is gentle, her voice, touch, and smile. She stands on a place of balance between natural birth and the resorts of medical care, which made me very comfortable. We left the clinic that day and I said to Max “I even like her smell.”

Max called my mom and told her to take her time, eat some breakfast and come over. To his parents, he said “We’re pretty sure she’s in labor, but could take a while, so don’t rush. We’ll call you when we’re on our way to the hospital.” Heidi finished breakfast and headed over. Just before she arrived I started not being able to focus on breathing during the contractions and instead I was grunting. That moment, I was entering transition. My transition was inwards, Georgia’s outwards.

It felt like the real thing, very much. The contractions were like hurricanes in my belly. When Heidi checked me I thought to myself “it’s okay, relax, we might have a long way to go.” But instead, she looked me in the eyes, tilted her head to the side, and said “I have good news, looks like 6-7cm. We’re heading to the hospital.” Max was running around trying to remember our last minute checklist items. He tried to get a hold of my mom but she was on her way and we couldn’t wait. I overheard Heidi on the phone with Richmond maternity and I reminded her to try and get a room with a bath so we’d have the option of a water-birth. She nodded, knowing there would be no time. Max left my mom a note at the front of building “Had to go to the hospital, see you there. Love, Max.” I kept trying to put clothes and would get caught half-way by stronger and stronger contractions. Heidi walked back into the room and squeezed my hips, relief. Clothes, pillows, plastic bags (in case the water broke). Between our apartment and the car I had to stop a few times. And off I’d go to the floor. No one could stop me. I felt hot and my legs shivered. I stayed in the backseat with a mountain of pillows. Looking up between contractions, which at this point felt very, very close together. I remember I’d look up at the mirror and meet Max’s eyes. That was our communication. I looked out the window, still on 16th Avenue. I looked up again, just passed Women’s Hospital, looked up again, Max telling me “We’re almost there,” Richmond bridge, I remember the sky was endlessly blue. The car windows were all open. My hair flying. My jaw clutching harder and harder. And that was the first contraction I felt like pushing.

We got to the hospital and Max helped me walk to the reception where I saw Heidi, kindly but firmly explaining that we needed a wheel-chair immediately. The receptionist asked me questions and I have absolutely no idea what they were. Now, or then. A child was sitting on his mom’s lap and crying really loud. At that point the mammal was in charge. My somewhat controlled and socialized self was somewhere else. Immediately after I sat on the wheel-chair I had a contraction and remember throwing myself on the floor. That moment was something. The child ceased to cry. My mom ran in, She made it. I was so happy to see her (dressed in beautiful white pants and wearing a vibrant red lipstick). I also remember thinking “Oh no, please don’t think the whole deal of natural birth is nuts, and my midwife is crazy letting me crawl around the hospital floors… it’s not her fault.” She bended to help me and right after Heidi did too. My mom said “I’m her mother,” thinking Heidi was a stranger. She answered “And I’m her midwife.” They smiled at each other. My mom later told me that her heart swelled at that encounter. She immediately felt I was in good hands.

I looked at Max and my mom’s faces, ecstatic. I can’t remember much of what they said. Honestly, I don’t think much was said. They supported me through touch and eye contact. The rush from the elevator to the room was such the wind refreshed my sweaty face. “Which room, which room?” asked Heidi as we zipped by the maternity entrance. Right at the door, I told Max to stop the wheel-chair. Again, threw myself on the floor. Max and my mom tried to help me get on the bed. My water broke as I raised my leg up. I remember saying “I have to take my shorts off, she’s coming out.” I got on the bed. I grunted with every bit of my body. It wasn’t voice speaking. It came from my guts, through my throat, reverberating through my soul, communicating to Georgia our strength and unity. I asked Max to grab a moist towel (for the perineum I thought). But there was no time for that. Instead Max used that wet towel to touch my face. It felt incredibly good. And with it, he stroked the hair off my face.  There were no instructions. Everyone was focused on the action. One contraction and I pushed without even thinking. She was ready to be born. I grasped onto the bed, my mom smiled and said “I can see the head. She’s coming.” I couldn’t believe it, goose bumps all over me. Another contraction and her head was completely out. One more, Georgia slipped out and was caught by Heidi’s hands. It was 10:06am. Her skin turning from blue to red. Connected to me still, the cord pulsing with our final blood exchanges. She was brought straight into my arms, eyes wide open, her fingers spread out searching for the touch and hold. Her heart beating close to mine. Her first breaths a cry of  presence. Here I am. And soothed into sounds that rhythmically accompanied her way to my left breast. My legs were shaking. I cried. I smiled. I was overwhelmed with the joy of meeting my daughter. I was felt so proud. Heidi looked at me and said “Next one we’re doing a home birth, right?” We all laughed. A shot of oxytocin speeded the delivery of the placenta and that was the only intervention. I examined every part of Georgia’s body. I looked into her eyes, still swollen from the journey. We did it. Our bodies skin to skin after all this time nesting inside. Knowing each other through voices, heartbeats, touch, and kicks. I looked at Max embracing us. Him and I, became three.

And this post brings a book of incredible answers, Where You Came From. Written by Sara O’Leary (click here to visit her blog) and illustrated by Julie Morstad (visit the books section and flip through the arrows). This is a story common to all, kids, and parents. One of the wonders that early arises… where do I come from? That is a question we often hear and usually respond to as our nationality. This book brings us fantastic dreamy answers, way cooler than that.

Savour this delightful tale of wonderful and crazy possibilities. It takes us through Henry’s parents imaginative answers to his question ‘where did I come from?” You were brought by a flock of crows, or was it the fairies? A red balloon down from the sky, special delivery on the mail, or was he on sale? Grown in the garden, crafted on wood… and oh no, his father remembers, “Your mother and I both dreamt you. And then you came true.”  Georgia is like a dream. Sweeter than I could have ever imagined. Sometimes it all feels like a dream and I touch her skin- to know it is also real.

This book was a gift from the Koochie, not simply my stepdad, but a dear friend. Who’s told me stories, tales and truths, taken me places, and watched me grow. I must have asked him a million questions during our long hours stuck in traffic in São Paulo. He brought a foreign language to our home. He seemed so much like us that I always wondered where he’d come from. He accompanied my plans – the imagined ones, the concrete ones, the unexpected ones. The second to best of Georgia’s birthday was watching him and my sister Tete running into the room, just minutes after giving birth, absolutely thrilled! Koochie immediately took her in his arms and whispered a welcome chant, words of beauty and courage- all she has.



As Georgia grows I will tell her stories, from books and from life. And she’ll imagine this beautiful story as her own… we dreamt of her, so many times. In my dreams I always saw her as little girl (not a baby), with a charming smile, dark hair, and glowing eyes. Just now, she nests between my legs in her morning nap. Resting, conntent, and safe. We’re here and ready to nourish, comfort, love, encourage, and respect her in every stage of life. When awake her eyes wonder at things, new and familiar, but they spark an innate wisdom. They reflect a soul that has walked many roads before being born through me. And to leave this long post with a reflection: where did you come from? A place or a dream you wish or imagine it be…?

The Boy from the Sun

The Summer is coming to an end. Kids are back in School next week. Pears and apples are maturing on the trees. The Celsius dropped from it’s peaks. The Sun sets earlier, and earlier, and earlier, and so do we. I look back and think of beautiful evenings at the beach, abundance of B.C grown fruits and veggies, and warm morning walks, getting away from our south facing home heat. I look forward and I see the charm of Autumn. A time to retreat, drink tea, read, and snuggle. Our first Autumn with Georgia. I am excited to watch her watching the season change. During our strolls, she glances by concrete walls and stares for prolonged periods at the tree-tops. I wonder how she will perceive them slowly turning, from green to yellow, from yellow to orange, from orange to red, from red to brown, from brown to the ground…

Fascinating fact of life to realize: everything is constantly turning, becoming, aging, changing, transforming into something else – but essentially all small matters remain a part of the greater oneness on earth. Same but different. Re-arranged. We are currently re-arranging life. Once again packing into storage the little bits and pieces of our life. Soon we travel across the Coastal Mountains for a month-long family farm stay until our much further and long overdue journey to Brasil. One final remark before I get ahead of myself (in time and space) this post is about the beauty and balance between city and nature, shelter and outdoors. For a glimpse of Summer, here’s Akira, Madoka and Adam’s son, moments before he picked his first cherry tomato off the vine. The most handsome creation. An explorer, food lover, and bare-foot walker.

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This post brings to you another one of Max’s thrift-store finds: The Boy from the Sunwritten and illustrated by Duncan Weller.

On their way to school on an idle black-and-white morning, three kids sit and stare at the grey nothing around them. An industry and fumes lies in the background. Suddenly a boy with a bright yellow head lands from the sky. The Sun boy is decidedly going to cheer them up and as quick as a magic trick, he shows them a magnificent rainbow bird. The boys look surprised and eager to see more. The paths around turn green, butterflies, children, musicians, and animals all appear as the kids follow the Sun boy across the concrete path. Through ancient forests and fields they run until the sidewalk stays behind. The Sun boy brings color and beauty to life. The abundance of space and air welcome imagination and play. His advice is wise “And when you take the time to fill the worlds within you will join the world without”, for one can find happiness inside and bring color to life in the greyest of days. And so the children learn this trick. The industry remains in the horizon but the children take the path that leads to the trees dancing in the Autumn wind.

Night Sky Wheel Ride

This week’s post is a deserved mention and a “fun-tastic” picture book. So back in January, there was I, five months pregnant, enjoying life between rainy days, snow-muddy sidewalks, movie torrents, pre-natal yoga, and home-cooked feasts. God knows why, I was still insisting on finding a job and being honest about the fact that I was due in May was clearly not helping. Long story short, I started out 2012 canvassing for the Wilderness Committee. And another long story short, it all ended one evening (seven days later) when I had knocked on more than 25 houses in three hours and all I managed was to hand out flyers on Salmon Farms and the Enbridge Pipeline. To be specific it ended when I desperately had to pee behind a bush at a North Vancouver yard (people weren’t even answering the door, let alone letting me use their bathroom). That was it. No more canvassing for my pregnant self. Defeated. Until one happy morning when I had the idea to contact Michael, co-owner and publisher of Tradewind Books. Mike took me in despite showing a very thin layer of experience and knowledge in the field of children’s book publishing.

The following Monday I started an internship at Tradewind Books and a teaching assistant position for the Children’s Book Workshop Mike teaches at UBC. Days went by and I felt happy and productive. Mind mapping and quick notes were my way of keeping track of all the information, knowledge, and experience on children’s books Mike has to share. During my internship I learned about web design, copyrights, editing, book design, and the woven network of publishers and editors across the continents. Mike’s wife, Carol, is the art director at Tradewind Books. She is always in tune with what is out there and has an incredible talent to visualize and bring books to life with a fresh breath of art. Along with Carol’s touch is the brilliant work of the graphic designer, Elisa Gutiérrez. An example of their extravagant results is the book Night Sky Wheel Ride.

Night Sky Wheel Ride brings together Sheree Fitch‘s playful poetry and Yayo‘s breath-taking illustrations, in what literally feels like a wheel ride daring adventure into the night! Nothing is impossible, everything is imaginable, and movement is the only permanent thing. All is grand and turning, from apple trees, to laundry machines, all the way into the sky. Anyone who reads this book through will be moved along and thrilled by a contagious joy. Elisa designed this book wonderfully, giving the text movement and life in Yayo’s art work. This book was one of Mike and Carol’s gifts to Georgia and they will always have a special place in our bookshelf. At this stage, Georgia only half pays attention when I read her books, but the musical read and vivid colours sure grasped her attention. She waved her arms around and licked her fingers in delight.

Check out an interview with Yayo on Taleen Hacikyan’s Art Blog.

If I Were a Lion

Who doesn’t love receiving gifts on the good old mail? A couple of days ago, I got startled by an exaggerated door bell noise “Canada Post, I have a package for Georgia Brown.” So I grab Georgia on one arm and run down the stairs. It was a package of treasures: two beautiful pictures books and a green peppa snuggly rabbit (the ones with wool inside especially designed to gather smells, memories, and miles). Precious! Georgia laid beside me wit her peppa near as I flipped through the books. So this post is dedicated to “the other” Brown family in Cawston who sent us these gifts, Corey, Colleen, Simon, and Mia.

Through the Coastal Mountains they travelled. In a beautiful Valley they settled. Healthy and happy chickens they raise. While Simon and Mia thrive in energy, health, and charisma. From the first time I met Simon I’ve been charmed by his adventurous spirit and smiles. And Mia, she is one of a kind. Or, one of my kind. Tough, but so incredibly sweet. She likes the color Pink and doesn’t put up with mean roosters. We don’t see each other as often as I wish but I notice them grow, move on to the next grade, learn riding all kinds of wheels, and hear stories that happen in their own world- acres of backyard where everything is possible. These guys chose the quiet life. Not so quiet when you have rooster and kids running around in the morning. But their home is a place of nurture. I look up to their gentle and respectful ways of parenting. And look out for the blue Toyota whenever I’m in town, just to wave hello.

On to our book… This one, I must say, is one of my favorites of all times. If I Were a Lion written by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by Heather M. Solomon.

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The book begins with this young red-haired girl sitting on a corner (time-out chair) and her mother saying “You try my patience, child! I do not like it when you’re wild.” The following spreads take us on a journey of this girl’s imagination. Taking on examples from the wildest animals she goes to portray what wild really is and what wild will do. And why is it that she isn’t wild. The illustrations are fantastic! As if straight from a child’s mind they picture animals going wild inside the girl’s home. Wild coyotes howl to the moon and rummage through the trash, an orca whale splashes in the kitchen sink, seals and walruses scatter around the tiles… Like every child this girl is creative and knows right from wrong. She brings incredible creatures to her home, which turns out in chaos, just to show that if she was wild…. Things would be a lot worse!

I love the playful text and the textured illustrations, which incorporate the girl into images of her fantasy. We make mistakes, we drive our parents crazy, we make a mess, we hide, we can be mean…. One thing is that we have to learn from it, know how to fix it up when we can, and apologize when we can’t. Until one day, we are on the other end, as parents of our own wild child.

A Bit Lost

This post goes way back in time… the time when I was a little bean in my mom’s belly. July 1988, it must have been a cool Winter day. I picture my mom with a great round belly and her great luminous smile. Perhaps she spent the day at home, cherishing her temple and the simple pleasure of being home. I imagine my sister, Ana, in her toddler days, a blue-eyed blondie that could get around with just about anything for her cuteness prevailed. Ana probably dove into my mom’s bed (that’s if she wasn’t already there) and gave her a million kisses and happy birthdays before 9am on that July 26th. At the moment, I might have actually known what the day was like… from my mother’s womb perhaps I knew there was a celebration, perhaps I knew my birthday too was drawing closer, and likely, I knew my sister’s voice, the sound of kisses, and the taste of chocolate cake.

Two days later, there was I. Born at 9:00 in the morning. A new bundle of life. I believe that even the earliest moments of our lives linger with us and in us. The abundance of care, devotion, respect, and warm love, are an intrinsic part of me. I think of my mom as a fountain with a constant flow of energy. This energy stays positive no matter what comes her way. It translates into happiness and courage. It divides easily three ways, so we all feel the desired attention. She brought my sisters and I into this world, three distinct souls that converge in the essential ways we face life, laugh, and play. And these are essentially my mother’s ways.

I reflect on these things as I watch Georgia’s expressions trying to imitate mine. I watch her mouth trying to follow the exaggerated movements of mine. And fall deeper in love every time she blinks slowly and smiles – to start all over again. I believe this “game” of imitation has great influence on us. The gestures we develop. The attitudes we take. To respect ourselves and others. To speak our opinion. To laugh. To help. To hug. To be hugged. To trust. To stand back up after being hurt. To bake incredible brownies. To celebrate. To be loyal to our family and friends. To fold clothes and care for our home. To be cautious. To dream high. To cry in both happiness and sadness. To have courage.  And foremost, to bear fruits that will nurture the grounds of our own tree of life.

Finally, here’s one of my mom’s book choices for Georgia: A Bit Lost, by the Irish illustrator and designer Chris Haughton.

This baby owl falls off her nest and can’t find her momma. As simple as that. This book is about that feeling of being lost, or even worst, lost from our nest and mom. I mean, look at this baby owl… she’s lost! Luckily she comes across a friendly squirrel that truly feels for her. And her descriptions of what momma looks like takes them to different animals that are definitely not momma, finally leading baby owl back home. The motto behind this story is also the simple fact that in life, sometimes we don’t value something until it’s gone – or out of sight – or lost for a little while…

The illustrations are beautifully crafted by hand and digital means. The characters really stand out with full emotions and expressions, while the forest is playfully designed in contrasts of blue, pink, red, and green. It is definitely worth a glimpse on the post by the author on A Bit Lost: the making of.

And I confess: I fell A Bit Lost every time I loose my mom of sight. I still do, and always will.

And Then It’s Spring

This week’s post goes out to my husband, Max Brown. On Tuesday, the 17th of July, he turned 25. A short work-day allowed us to enjoy a mellow celebration in the company of our baby girl Georgia. We strolled across the steaming asphalt streets, through refreshing parks and gardens, to our lunch destination Che Baba, on Fraser St. and Kingsway. The combination of a pleasant and minimal 70’s atmosphere with an open kitchen serving fresh ingredients was perfect for the occasion. Max and I shared an incredible roasted & pickled beet salad and the absolutely most amazing slow roasted pulled pork shoulder sandwich of all times. Trust me. Perfectly cooked and arranged on a fresh ciabatta baguette. To die for!

        Click on the photo to read a review on Che Baba Cantina.

Enough of all the food talk. Let’s get to our book of the week and the reason behind it. Over the last months Max found many many great children’s books. Just wait, keep reading, and you’ll get to know them all. But this week’s choice has a special reason. Max grew up in acres of organic orchards and fields, at his parents farm in Interior B.C. A bicycle ride from the Similkameen River, where he learned to dive, swim in the currents, and find precious stones and other treasures adrift… His childhood was shaped by the seasons, the weather, the worries, and the gift of the most delicious tasting fruits and vegetables. The farm is located in a beautiful Valley where spotting blue jays and eagles, deers and bears, are all a part of life. Perhaps the farm-life explains his patient and caring nature. And Then It’s Spring was a special book that awaited for Georgia since early Spring. We waited and watched, with wonder and excitement, as Max’s lettuce and herbs sprouted, Georgia came to this life to smile and thrive.

And Then It’s Spring is a wonderful picture book about a boy and his animal companions waiting for Spring to come and their Seeds to Sprout. It’s written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin Stead, with a unique use of block-print technique. Erin won the Illustrator Caldecott Medal for the book A Sick Day for Amos McGee, co-created with her husband, Philip Stead. Hope you enjoy this book trailer on this gentle and rainy Friday afternoon- or on a sunny side if you elsewhere reside.

M is for Music

Music has an amazing influence on us. I have friends whose babies are soothed by the same songs they recall listening to while pregnant. Last Friday we saw The Be Good Tanyas live in downtown Vancouver at the CBC musical nooner, it was sunny, it was really hot, and there were lots of people gathered.

Among the most enthusiastic and grooving ones was a crowd of kids right in front of the stage. Up and down they jumped, running after each other, grabbing the shy ones by the hand, dancing in circles wearing summer hats and lively colours. Kids instinctively shake to the beats. Witnessing this reminded me of how magically music brings people together and loosen our stiff necks. For those living in Vancouver, music is a huge part of our summer hyper of living outside. Tonight, we’re venturing with Georgia to the Folk Festival and the weekend also holds a great celebration: Nicky and Gabe’s wedding! An incredible pair of humans that live this life with equal parts of passion and justice. I am thrilled to join you in this day, rooted in commitment and respect. And this is the incredible picture book they gifted to our bebe:

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M is for Music (2003) is written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated with collage and paint by Stacy Innerst. This book brings a musical choice of words to the alphabet. Every page is enriched by instruments, genres, artists, and qualities of sound. It goes like this:

I is for interesting instrument (interval, intonation, improvisation)

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The Alphabet is followed by Musical Notes from A to Z that include an explanation/insight on the words. The large print with deep colours and shades attract the eyes of our little one- who is two months old just today. I will finish this one up with a video from L’Orchestre d’Hommes-Orchestres, We saw their Tom Waits concert at the Cultch from the front row while I was pregnant. One of the most memorable musical experiences of all times. Note: extremely talented performers and interesting instruments at play.

Ziiim

The Summer kicked in…! Again, Vancouver reveals its diverse and excited population out and about on the streets. Three evenings this week we spent at the beach, napping under the sunshine, napping by the Sea. Georgia surely likes the Pacific waves and breeze. Yesterday I left on a quest to find a summer hat to protect her face during our walks and picnics. I found a great adjustable hat that will last us through our trip to Brazil next Winter. Other than Georgia’s early start at the beach I’ve been reading and singing for her in Portuguese. I guess she is half Brazilian and half Canadian but the more I hear this, I like to believe she will grow up and feel a whole of each- rather than a half- of both.

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This picture book was written by João Wady Cury and illustrated by Ilka F. Mourão. Ziiim (2012) does not only have a beautiful cover (with all my favorite blues, greens, and oranges) but it is also written in the Q&A form, which makes this inquisitive exploration of love and dimensions very personal. It represents a child’s journey from their heart (warm and near) to the ever expanding universe- and back. The message in this book has a profound impact in my life. My heart, my home, my loved ones, are all spread between the continents. Rather than having little pieces of my heart everywhere I like to imagine it pulsing wide, remaining one strong unit beating to my Brazilian pace and Canadian ways. This book was a gift from my sister, Ana, and brother-in-law, Miguel. I’m always cruising through this city reminded of their company and joy of life – rain or shine. I’m always missing with my heart and traveling the seas to know where and how they are. Saudades is all I got.

*I will keep an eye for an English publication of Ziiim.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Here’s a personal fact you might be really surprised to hear… I read my first Dr. Seuss book when I was 18 years old. At the time I was in NY with my stepdad, Gene Johnson (aka Koochie), recently graduated and on my way into university, with 8 months in between. In the process of re-arranging the ‘bodega’ (the storage room) Koochie came across an old edition of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (1990) we sat and read it together. I can’t think of a better time in life for that gift. So now you must be wondering if I’ve drifted into my own children’s books randomly… of course not, my version of the book is back home in Brasil. Georgia’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! was a gift from our friends, Dan, Jenn, Morgan, and little Audrey. It is a beautiful party edition with a sparkly cover. This morning, as the sun is daring not to shine, I laid down and read this joyful and honest tale of what life entails. Georgia stared at all the colours and shapes and I felt goosebumps, page after page… and here’s a video of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! told at Burning Man 2011:

ISBN 10: 0679805273 and ISBN 13: 978-0679805274