Creating New Rituals

Happy New Year, readers! I hope you all had a wonderful and fulfilling holiday break. My family and I had many relaxing moments, but I am very happy to be back to the real world today. The week between Christmas and New Years was a bit of a haze for me.

Our homeschool co-op doesn’t pick back up until next week, but we started our second half of first grade today. I’m excited about all the things JC is excited for this year, and I’ll be writing a full blog on it soon.

But for today, I want to talk about creating new rituals for a fresh year. This year I’m not setting any resolutions, because I feel like making a list of things to do and ways to be better is just setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. I know I’m not the only one who had a rough go of 2016, and this year, I really want to be good to myself. Here are some of the rituals I hope to create this year for myself and my family:

  • Ending our day with music: At the end of the day when dinner is done, parents are exhausted and the kids get that wild, pre-bedtime wind, we often turn on the TV to kill time before bed. I would like to start trading the TV for music and audiobooks. I’d love to see what playlists my family come up with.
  • The Best Year Ever jar: I’ve made room on our kitchen bookshelf for a big empty jar, and I’m encouraging my family to drop a note inside when something good happens or when they’re thankful for something. At the end of the year, we’ll have a whole jar of happy memories.
  • Using essential oils in my showers: Most days, a shower is the only time I get to myself–and some days even then I have a small visitor pushing trains around the bathroom. I would like to utilize some essential oils and scents to help set a tone for my day.
  • Starting my writing time each day with a writing prompt: I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to writing prompts and at least 3 books full of them, all for when “I have time”–and this year, I will make the time.
  • I want to set aside a time each week to be creative outside of writing: I used to love to sew and scrapbook and do crafty things. As a homeschooling mom, it was very easy to let those side projects slide. I’d love to pick some of them back up, though. I started a Harry Potter pillow almost 3 years ago I haven’t finished. Is there really any excuse for that?
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It should not take 4 years to make a pillow.

 


I’d love to know: what rituals do you have? 

I’m Going Back to Kindergarten

I think it is time to go back to kindergarten.

No, I’m not talking about JC. I’m talking about us. People. Everywhere.

I don’t have to recap for you what has been going on in the world. I know you, like me, are probably overwhelmed by 24-hour news coverage of shootings, bombs, rape cases, racial tension and a presidential election that makes me wish I could actually vote for the Hermione Granger ticket.

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I’m not going to rehash the details, and I’m not going to give you my opinion. In fact, I thought for days about even pressing “publish” on this blog. The beauty and the nightmare of social media is that when anything happens–good, bad, controversial–people can post their opinions about it. But it seems recently that people have forgotten the most basic etiquette and manners. And so I think it is time to go back to kindergarten and remember a few things.

Like to BE NICE. When bad things happen, and when people get hurt, we want to put the blame somewhere. You know that saying, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? I feel like social media needs a gigantic dose of that.

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And to TAKE TURNS. Social media allows us to talk. And talk. And not pay attention to what other people might be saying.

Or to PLAY. Being connected all the time is exhausting. Go outside, read a book that is made of paper and has no buttons. Walk around a zoo and see real animals, not just videos of them acting cute on YouTube.

Make sure to have a SNACK. When you’re hungry, you’re crabby. When you’re crabby, you take it out on other people.

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Do something with FOCUS. Little kids have an amazing ability to focus intently on things–whether it be building with legos, poking things with a stick, or walking very, very, carefully on an imaginary path when you’re in a hurry. Can you remember the last time you focused on one thing because you loved it, and not because you had to?

That we need to USE OUR WORDS, NOT OUR HANDS. Is it just me, or is the violence out of control? Situations escalate far too quickly. It is so, so frightening.

Finally, DON’T LIE. Just don’t. It will eventually come back to get you–and if it doesn’t, you know what they say about karma.

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What lesson do you think the world needs to remember right now?

Harry Potter and the Book That Better Not Ruin It All: Trusting in the Writer

It’s the eve of Harry Potter’s birthday, but the big gift is for us. Tonight at midnight, we’ll be able to get our hands on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child–the script that is essentially the eighth book in the series. For those of you out there who are like me, and quite literally grew up with Harry, this is a very big deal.


I read the first book in high school before anyone knew who Harry was. I still remember when I realized JK Rowling was a female writer, and it was an extremely empowering moment for a young girl who aspired to be a writer herself.

I read the last book as a married woman. By then, everyone knew who Harry was. I stayed up all night and read the book in one sitting, both wanting desperately to know how it ended and not wanting to say goodbye.


I take the Harry Potter series very seriously. I wrote my college senior thesis on Harry as an archetypal hero. I truly believe that the series brought back the golden age of reading.

So it may surprise you to know that I’m not sure I want to read the eighth book.

Rowling gave us a glimpse into the futures of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the epilogue of the final book. And when I closed the book, I was satisfied.

All was well.


I’m not sure that I need to know what life is like for Harry nineteen years later. We live in a world of sequels, trilogies, series…but I believe that sometimes saying the end is the best and strongest decision for a story.
I feel similarly about the upcoming movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which brings us back to the wizarding world–this time in America–long before Harry was born. Leading up to the movie, Rowling has shared information with us about the American version of Hogwarts. I just can’t get excited about it. I think the names sound a little ridiculous, the concepts too strained. It’s like Rowling is trying just a little too hard.

Why is she trying? My husband would say that it all comes down to money, but I disagree with him. I think that sometimes, when you’re a writer, it can be hard to let go. You live the characters, you breathe them and dream about them. And even though the best choice would be to let the story rest, you just can’t. I imagine that as she penned Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, it was a bit like visiting very old, very good friends.


And that is why, ultimately, I will read the eighth book. I’ll take my time with it, not like my marathon nights of reading for books past, and I will trust in the writer. Because I owe it to the little red-haired girl who so looked up to the red-haired Rowling, and I’ll trust her to bring me home to Hogwarts.

Will you be picking up your copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at midnight? Do you enjoy stand alone novels, or do you have to know what happens next?

No matter what quiz I take, I always end up in Hufflepuff.


Summer Reading

I was always the nerd who loved summer reading assignments in grade school–and I usually blew through them within the first couple of weeks of summer so I could get on to the “good” books. Because, lets face it, 1984 is just not a “good” book when you’re a teenage girl.

Long gone are the days of required reading, but I thought I’d give myself a summer reading list–and even toss in a couple of nonfiction books, since I almost always read fiction. Here’s my list.


 

Perfect by Rachel Joyce

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Eat Dirt by Josh Axe

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin (out in June)

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling (out in July)

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

Love Walked in and Belong to Me by Marisa De Los Santos

The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Book of Doing and Being by Barnet Bain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

 

What’s on your reading list this summer? Are you or your kiddo doing summer reading?

 

 

 

Perfect Things

I found this quote in a new book I’m reading (Love Walked In by Maria de los Santos–I’m only a chapter or so in, so the story hasn’t evolved too much yet–but her writing style is beautiful). It stuck with me and I chewed on it all day, so I thought I would share.

 It made me think of items and things I’d put on my perfect list. Some I came up with:

  • The beginning of spring when the weather is amazing but it is too early for bugs.
  • The opening bars of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.
  • Twilight. The time of day, not the stupid books.
  • The way babies move their little mouths when they’re asleep.
  • Using your favorite pen.
  • The first bite of ice cream.

What would be on your list of perfect things?

Reasons Being a Grown-Up is Fun

Lately, JC has been telling me how life is going to be when he is a grown-up.

“Mom, my kids are going to go to bed whenever they want. So probably 11:34 every night. And I will have much more screen time. I will have screen time whenever I want, right? Because that’s what being a grown-up is.”

I always pat his head and tell him not to worry about being a grown-up quite yet. After all, childhood is magical, right? Of course it is–when you’re an adult looking back on it. When  you’re an almost 6-year-old boy, it looks an awful lot like a bunch of adults telling you what to do. We have always tried to include JC in decisions, but there are obviously things he doesn’t get a say in. Like that 11:34 bed time.

Bedtimes are important.


I can’t explain to him why adulthood isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Money worries, laundry, jobs, colleagues, what to make for dinner–there’s a lot of tedious parts of being a  grown-up.

But then I stopped thinking about all the tiresome aspects and started looking at it from his point of view. And I have to be honest–sometimes, being a grown-up can be pretty fun.

When you’re a grown-up, you get to choose what you want to eat. Sure, we should all eat healthy but on the days when you just want a giant milkshake and a chili dog, you can have it. And you have keys to a car that allows you to procure it.

You can eat the middle out of the brownie tray if you want. Or, as I’m likely to do, the middle of the lasagna. Or all of the yummy cheesy chex out of the bag of chex mix.

You get to pick the music you listen to in the car. And you always get to sit in the front seat.

You can call in sick to work. You can’t call in sick to school unless your parents let you. I was lucky–I had cool parents who let me stay home from school on my birthday and every now and then for special occasions. Of course, this was before hardcore attendance rules.

You can wear as much make-up as you want without anyone making you wash it off before you leave the house.

You get to stay up late and watch TV. In bed. Watching TV in bed is the best. I dreamed of doing it when I was a kid–we had a staunch no-televisions-in-the-bedroom-rule at my house–and as an adult it is as cool as I thought it would be.

Of course, when you’re an adult you understand that all these choices have consequences. When you stay up late, you’re tired the next day. When you wear too much makeup, you might get some funny looks (I say ignore them and rock that sparkly blue eyeshadow). The chili dog will inevitably come back to bite you, and you can only call in sick to work so many times before you no longer have a job to call in to.
The secret to adulthood? You’re so busy being an adult that you don’t get to do all that fun stuff. But every now, the stars align. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Dawson’s Creek in bed with a giant milkshake and the middle of a lasagna.

What’s your favorite part of being a grown up?

 

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School is OUT!

Kindergarten in our house ended much like it started–quietly and with little fanfare. There were no end of the year parties, no tiny processional of gowned children. And this was okay with us–JC is not the party type.

Instead, I mentioned to him that he had completed his first year of homeschool and that after the summer, he’d be starting first grade.

“No,” he said. “I don’t think so.”

A year ago, a comment like that would have thrown me off-kilter. Not this time.

“Well, everyone has some type of school. So what should we call it?”

“Super awesome dinosaur battle time.”

Alright, then.

Just because we’re not the last-day-of-school-party type doesn’t mean I’m not taking some time to reflect on out first year of homeschooling. I’m working on a yearbook for him, noting not only his academic achievements but his emotional and developmental ones, too.

I feel like this year went…differently than I thought it was going to be. I made a lot of tweaks and changes as we went. The phrase “unschooling” has always turned me off–but I have a suspicious feeling that we leaned a little to that side in the end. Some things that I thought went well:

  • JC continues to stay at the level of or excel the public school standards. I was concerned about his writing and word recognition/spelling earlier this year, but the moment I stopped pressuring him was the moment he started doing it. His strong subjects are still science and math.

  

  • He is finally warming up to hanging out with other kids. I think he still prefers the company of adults, but he’s learning there are perks to finding a crowd his size who like superheroes as much as he does.

  

  • We have found a co-op we really like and we’re looking forward to their summer sessions and joining them again in the fall.
  • Project based learning really works for JC. I love watching him getting excited about learning–especially when he doesn’t realize he’s learning. Favorite topics this year were the solar system, trains (of course), dinosaurs and World War One.

 

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It is a little bittersweet to see kindergarten come to a close. We had a lot of ups and downs as a family during the school year, and I’m excited to sink into summer. While there’s always things to work on, my singular goal for this summer is to have fun and play–because after all, that’s the way we all learn best.