Jennifer Neri's Blog

Back of every creation, supporting it like an arch, is faith. Enthusiasm is nothing: it comes and goes. But if one believes, then miracles occur. Henry Miller


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I want to go in there

It’s been an interesting summer so far having my three kids at home full-time.

The dynamic has been very different; my two-year old is showing his personality, making a bid for dominance, leaving my older two quite uncertain how to battle him without too much personal loss (ie. mommy rushing in to his rescue ’cause he’s only two and not five and stop fighting with him like you do with each other!!)

One of the ways I’ve come to make peace is by assigning one of the older ones to read him a book.

It’s been fun because the toddlers interest is expanding from board books to story books. The three of them huddle together and peer into the book, still arguing (of course!) about who gets to hold it or turn the pages, but eventually they settle down and fall into the story.

I naturally gravitate to them from whatever I’m doing (which is invariable preparing some kind of food for their bottomless stomachs–seriously, where do is all go??). I love watching them read, the expression, the body language, the rapture. It’s quite honestly one of my favourite things to do. That, and I love listening to the story itself, especially told through either of my older children, because they tell the story differently, and it reveals so much about them.

My toddler has begun pointing to pages that he likes and saying “I want to go in there.”

I’ve raised three kids and none of them ever said such a thing before. I think it’s wonderful that my toddler has the capacity to express his desire to enter story world.

My answer to him is always this: Close your eyes, and you can be there in your imagination. Occasionally he does close his eyes and I see a vast array of expressions pass over his face.

I love living with kids (well, when I don’t want to kill them) because they are a constant reminder of how much wonder there is around us. We adults have so much to learn from them.

When I write I have that exact sense my toddler expresses of going into the story. Without that I’m not sure I would ever be able to produce something worth reading. Without that I would gain no pleasure from writing. And as I edit myself to death, I needed that reminder to stay in the story in the same way I do writing a draft.

Story is the foundation of life, without it we would be mechanical. It’s what makes us learn and grow and change. It’s what makes experience. And seeing my toddler respond in this way has brought story back to its most fundamental form for me.


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Strawberries from the wood

I was making breakfast this morning, peanut butter jam for the big kids, sunflower butter for the little one, topped with a local mixed-berry jam. The jam was terrific, and I did an ingredient check to see which berries were included: blueberry, blackberry, strawberry from the wood.

I suppose the translator was not fluent in english and wasn’t certain how to say sauvages in english. The french ingredient list included fraises sauvages–wild strawberries.

At the same time I was reading over my son’s english sentences he had for homework. They were very simple sentences, and didn’t say very much. I picked up a book and read him a few sentences picked randomly. Each sentence is a story onto itself, I explained. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has an action, movement. Even a description bears hidden momentum. My 8-year-old stared at me with big eyes, and nodded his head.

It got me thinking, does each of my sentences tell a story? Can I randomly read a phrase here and there and create a story from it? And does each sentence on its own lead to endless places and possibilities?

I can only hope that it does (and it gives me something else to look for while editing). It’s the way these sentences are organized and arranged that tell the story I am writing.

The words wild strawberries tell of little delicious red berries, tart, sweet, juicy, and fleeting. A vivid picture. But the words strawberry from the wood conjure a story. And I’m sure it’s a different one for each of us.


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My pre-schooler…..the writer.

My 3-year-old daughter came to see what I – her mama – was working on so intently. It was a warm sunny day, and we haven’t had many of those yet, and here I was, sitting in the backyard, typing away on my laptop  (I’m writing my second novel). She told me she wanted to write a story as well! I looked at  her and then pulled her onto my lap.

child_writing

The Pretty Princess Bedtime Story

Ariel was not tired.
Dadda said, “You have to go to bed.” And, he made an angry face.
And she said, “No. I do not want to go to bed. Now, please let me play all by myself.”
(So the Dadda thought, and thought, and thought some more. Then, he had an idea.
“Would you like to be a Bedtime Princess?” he asked.)
Ariel said, “I want to go to bed now, Dadda.”

The sentences in brackets are my words – the rest is hers entirely! Not bad for a just turned three year old!

Now, I’ll just have to find an illustrator – lucky for us, there is one in the family! (hint hint.) You can find her here: acorn mama .

Oh, and we have to write it first, of course…lambs_ivy_bedtime_la_petite_princess_toddler_set_babiesrus_s2_

This experience has me wondering why I never did this before.
I do all different types of art with the kids, and I read to them ALL the time, why had I never thought to have them write a story, especially since I am writer?

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