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.

 

soldiers vs. jedi in an epic battle

 
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.

It’s Not Starting Over, It’s Just Going On

It’s been too long since I’ve blogged, dear readers. And it isn’t because I’ve had nothing to write about–it’s because I’ve had too much to write about. I haven’t known where to start, feeling like I needed to write something deep and meaningful about the changes in my world. I started a dozen different posts, but none of them felt right.

During my bouts of useless perfectionism, JC has become increasingly adept at using Apple Music. He carries around my old iPhone, listening to Star Wars soundtracks and music from the Muppet Movies. In one of the songs from Muppets Most Wanted, Josh Groban (in a delightful cameo) sings:

It’s not starting over, it’s just going on…

  

That sums up the way I feel about this year. There’s only so many times that you can start over. Eventually it just becomes going on. Doing life. It is with that mindset that I jump back into regular blogging. I’ll fill you in on all the changes as we go, and I hope you do the same for me. 

The last time we talked, it was spring. What’s new with you?

January Book Round Up

My literary goals for 2016: read 100 books, and don’t waste time finishing books I don’t like (I’m really bad about this). In January I read seven books for pleasure. I started and stopped reading three books. Here are my mini reviews (and, as always, no spoilers).

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The Good Girl by Mary Kubica: This book was dark from beginning to end. Mia Dennett, daughter of a prominent judge, goes missing for 6 months–then is returned home with amnesia. If that’s not mystery enough, add on the questionable morals of her family, a weird case of Stockholm syndrome, and hints that the kidnapping may not be as black and white as it originally seemed to be and you’ve got yourself a pretty legit thriller with a Ā satisfyingly twisted ending.

The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas: This was a pretty good piece of historical fiction, and it will definitely please the feminist readers out there. Gracy Brookens, the sole midwife of a mining town in Colorado in the late 1800s, is accused of murdering an infant. The town splits as the trial convenes, and things come out about the community–and Gracy’s own family–give this slow-to-start novel the startling end it needs.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight: We know from the start that Amelia, a 15-year-old private school student, is dead from an apparent suicide. What we don’t know is why. Told from the perspective of Amelia’s mother as she researches her daughter’s life and Amelia herself as she lives out the days before her death, it becomes apparent that the truth is not always what it seems on the outside. This book made me really, really happy that I was mothering a five-year-old boy and not a teenage girl.

Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella: Oh, how I wanted to love this book. The original handful of Shopaholic books were great. The last one, Shopaholic to the Stars, was tedious at best. But I read this one, it’s sequel, out of loyalty. However, the things that made Becky, the main character, endearing in the previous books were grating and annoying. It was way too “out there”. I skipped huge chunks of the last part just so I could get to the end and see how it finally wrapped up.

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalain: Loved it. Read my full review here.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: This YA read was clever. When Clay, the main character, finds a box of cassette tapes on his porch after school, he realizes they’re a narrative from a girl he secretly crushed on for years–a girl who has recently committed suicide. Much like Reconstructing Amelia, this was an interesting but deeply sad story about the complicated web of teen suicide.

Remember Me This Way by Sabine Durrant: When Lizzie goes to put flowers on the crash site where her husband perished a year ago, she finds that someone has beat her there–and the flowers are signed by a woman she has never heard of. Her decision to find out leads her down a path that unwinds life as she thought she knew it. This book is also an excellent commentary on domestic violence and how easy it can be to miss (as an outsider) and escape (as a victim). This book was genuinely creepy, and had me looking over my shoulder more than once.

I just realized that most of the books I read this month were dark and a little depressing. I’m not as into thrillers as much as my January reading selection would lead you to believe–but I will say that most of these books were delicious to sink into and kept my attention until the last word.

What did you read in January?

 

Always: A Tribute to Alan Rickman

Today the artistic world lost one of the greats: Alan Rickman.

During his career, Rickman lent his talents and voice to nearly 70 productions. He was the bad guy we all loved to hate: Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Harry the heartbreaking adulterer in Love Actually–but for me, and I think for most of my generation, he was Professor Severus Snape.

 

Conversation I had with my mom this morning. Excuse her for getting Sirius and Severus confused šŸ˜

 
I realize that I have been outspoken about my feelings on the movie adaptations of the Harry Potter series. I have issues with them. However, there were two things I didn’t ever have issue with, and that was the casting of Hagrid and Snape.

There have been a few times in book to movie history when an actor takes on a role so perfectly that you simply can’t picture the character any other way. Meghan Fellows in Anne of Green Gables comes to mind. Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid is another. And Alan Rickman, from the first time we see him sitting at the Hogwarts Staff table, was Snape.

JK…had persuaded me that there was more to Snape than an unchanging costume, even though only three of the books were out at that time,” Rickman told Empire Magazine in 2011. Indeed, by the end of the seventh book we would learn that Harry was simply a player in a much bigger story–Snape’s story, some would argue. And Rickman led us there, first through the movies and then in the eyes of the reader as they read and reread the books. It is not often that a movie scene elicits more emotion from me than the written word, but the movie moment when Snape, portrayed by Rickman, holds Lily Potter’s lifeless body in the debris of her home gets me every single time.

  
And so while I loved him in Love Actually and Alice in Wonderland and all the other things I’ve seen him in, Alan Rickman will forever be The Half Blood Prince to me. He will be Severus Snape.

Always.

  
 

This Will Be The Year.

I’m not making resolutions this year. Why? Because I do not keep them. Resolutions from years past hang over my head like a giant, scowling to-do list that is never, ever going to get done. So this year, I’ve made a list of things I want to do this year that are FUN. This may be the year I finally drop the weight or organize my house from top to bottom, but it won’t be because I’ve declared them resolutions. This will be the year for…

…More sleep. Less social media scrolling before bed.

…More movement. Less crazy structured workout plans.

…More beauty in my house. Less stuff for stuff’s sake.

…More good books. Less mediocre tales.

…More nature. Less screen time.

…More decadent and special yummy treats. Less eating out of boredom.

…More regular mornings and evenings. Less fly by the seat of our pants patterns.

…More spending time with people I love. Less forced social interactions.

…More standing up for myself. Less pushover.

…More intention. Less random.

…More writing stories. Less writing “to do” lists.

What do you want more of in 2016?

 

Holiday Photos and Other Realities

My social media feeds have been filled with photos of my friend’s adorable children, dressed in their holiday finest, sitting on Santa’s knee or posed, pink-cheeked and smiley, at a Christmas tree farm. Being the modern Mommy that I am, I also take a round of holiday photos early in the season–both for practical purposes (like sending them out in Christmas cards) and for assurances (how long will that adorable white sweater with the silver reindeer on it survive while on a 5 year old boy?). And I did get my one perfect picture: JC in front of the holiday model trains at our city’s botanical gardens, smiling happily. It’s the photo that most people will see, and the one that will most likely end up in our holiday memory book.

 

the perfect photo: how sweet (and edited!) it is

 
It is one photo out of 300 that I took that morning. The other 299 are him flying around the trains, making train noises at the top of his lungs, or with his face in a weird contortion because he never stops talking.

  
 Oh, and there are about 75 of him being an At-At Walker. Because, you know, Star Wars.

 

Yoga? Nope. At-At walker.

 
I really love my one perfect picture. But you know what? I kind of love the other ones more. Because they show my son as he is all the time–full of words and thoughts and movements. Perhaps those are the ones I should be showing to the world: the true images of my boy at this stage in his life.

Because, honestly, I’d love to see the outtakes of some of these perfect holiday photos I see online. I’d love to see the hundreds of shots it took to get the sweet shot. Except for your kid terrified and screaming on Santa’s lap. I despise those pictures and kinda judge you as a parent for making your kid cry.

Looking at all my photos this morning made me think of all the other holiday realities that aren’t always as perfect as they seem: getting the lights strung on your house (and falling off the ladder and cursing the very existence of outdoor illumination); having a big holiday meal (and remembering why you don’t spend time with these people year round and feeling sick from all the decadent food); and hunting for that perfect gift at the mall (while standing in line for 45 minutes while the cashier flicks her light on and off and calls out “price check at counter 7!”). I realize that paints a pretty bleak picture of the holidays. However,  you have to look past the realities and peel back the imperfect to get to what really matters:

Like spending a whole, beautiful morning outdoors with a happy kid and my mom and being lucky enough to capture every stinking moment of it.

Like seeing your kid’s face light up when you light your outdoor lights for the first time (I guarantee they aren’t going to point out the imperfections!).

Like the joy of eating your father’s pie at Thanksgiving–after all, no one makes it like him. The pleasure of catching up with people who have known you since before you can remember, and being surrounded by your own personal brand of crazy. We all have it, you might as well embrace it.

Cousin-Eddie-Merry-Christma

There’s one in every family

As for standing in line at the mall…well, there isn’t much I can help with there. I suggest internet shopping, and then using the time you’ll save to make hot chocolate, find your favorite crazy relative and make some imperfect memories.

What is your favorite not-so-perfect holiday memory?

 

 

It’s my “Blogiversary”!

WordPress was kind enough to inform me yesterday that my little blog has turned a year old! It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.

When I launched Mama Writes Words, I was not new to the blogosphere. I had a blog but I felt like I’d written myself into a corner, and I was struggling to write about things that weren’t a part of my world any more–and even worse, I didn’t think any one was listening. So I took a break for about 6 months while I thought about what I wanted out of  blog and the experience. Because blogs take time and effort, and I knew that if I returned to the format I wanted it to be because I was writing about something that I REALLY cared about.

wanders

And so here we are a year later! I’ve loved getting to know all of you who are out there reading–I’ve loved sharing stories about JC, book reviews and getting feedback on my writing. And I’ve learned a few things:

  • It’s okay to break the rules every now and then. For example, I have trouble following a set blogging schedule if it means I have to put up fluff. I’d rather post less and make my posts more meaningful.
  • Not everyone is nice. That’s what the delete button is for. Constructive criticism is good. Meanies are not.
  • Other bloggers can be an awesome support system–and they have some pretty great book suggestions, too.
  • It is really an honor to watch readership grow. Everyone is busy, and the fact that people take time out of their busy days to read and comment amazes me. So if you’re reading, and you keep coming back–thank you.

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Thank you all for inspiring me!

Here’s to another year!