I just finished reading an article from Vanity Fair titled "J Who?" (Summer 2019). This passage really resonated with me:
"J Crew, at various times in its 36 years, has struck an emotional chord... Today, scratch the surface of many a thirty-or forty something J Crew fan (ahem) and you'll find their inner teenager, waiting for the latest glossy dispatch from a land of just-beyond-reach privilege to arrive in the family mailbox. You couldn't put your finger on it, exactly, but what these people had, you wanted."
This description took me back, immediately, to the summer before my senior year of college. I distinctly remember choosing my first J Crew bikini-- super-simple- plain aquamarine. It represented my hope that I'd be cool enough to fit into those pictures in the catalog. I would have easy-breezy afternoons with friends on the beach. I'd be ready for wherever my day took me in J Crew apparel.
If memory serves, they had free shipping at $80, & the suit was around $50. I have always been a total sucker for free shipping, so I also chose a pair of shorts & a tee, but I labored for days deciding, because I wanted it all but was a poor college student & wasn't often buying J Crew clothing. I wanted to choose the best darn things in that whole catalog.
Obviously, I dedicated a lot of thought to this decision. I still remember it 20 years later. Why?? I was about to start a new adventure-- I was spending the fall of my senior year in Los Angeles, & I needed to choose the perfect J Crew tee shirt that fit my fantasies of what that time would be like. I was single & 20 years old & anything could happen-- & cooler things would happen if I had the right clothes.
As I read that sentence over, it sounds silly, but let's be honest, we've all believed in the power of clothes to create experiences for us. Most of us buy new clothes for job interviews. We treat ourselves to new outfits for vacation. Every summer, kids & their parents head to stores to choose their clothes for the next school year. My kids haven't expressed much of an interest in the past, but this year, I've saved up all of my Gap credit card rewards so that they can buy back to school clothes at the Gap outlet. Since it's kind of free money, I won't feel the need to be practical & tell them what to get. I'm going to let them get whatever feels good to them. I want to see what their fantasies are for the new school year-- is Ginny still all about dresses? Is James going to keep going with the collared-shirt look he's been choosing this summer? What clothes represent their dreams of the next school year? I may not be looking forward to the blood-sport that it finding the last white one-inch binder at Target, but the clothing part of back to school shopping excites me. My kids are starting new chapters, like I was back in 2000, & I'm looking forward to sharing their excitement. Oh, & we might swing by the J Crew Outlet after. Teachers need back to school clothes, too~
In case you didn't know, Michael's craft store offers $5 craft classes on Saturdays. Best idea ever! You don't have to schedule ahead of time, but if you find you have an open Saturday, you can get everyone out of the house. Ginny loves the crafts. James tried it the first time she went. I wandered the store for 20 minutes (you do have to stay in the store while they craft), & came back to find Ginny hard at work & James standing on the chairs lining the wall & carefully walking up & down them. The Michaels' employee was gluing his craft. He was just not ready.
Ginny, however, loved it then and loves it now, so we go, & frankly, I think James & I might actually have even more fun than Gin does. When I look back on James's preschool/pre-d years, I think those mornings will be some of my happiest memories. I don't get a lot of one-on-one time with James. He is my second child, after all. That's why I think he still chooses to not do the craft. Two years have passed since he stood on the chairs in that first class, & now he could totally handle following the directions. He just chooses not to. He appears to prefer time with me, & there's no way I'm discouraging that. The day will come when his favorite thing isn't hanging out with me. Until then, I'll follow his bliss around the store. We check out the holiday decor (Halloween is his favorite), touch all of the beads, & explore the toys. I watch his little face light up. We might just be passing the time while Ginny crafts, but man, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Last weekend, my husband discovered a cartoon about the Revolutionary War. He’s a history buff, so he was psyched to sit and watch it with our kids, who are five and seven. By the time I got back from errands, it was off, and my daughter was telling me how she hated it because they were so mean to a man.
The debate about whether tarring and feathering is appropriate for a children’s show is a discussion for another day. The fact is, my seven-year-old had just learned about tarring and feathering, and it was haunting her thoughts. It was still on her mind as she got ready for bed, and she was in tears.
We talked about how that show took place a long time ago, but that bad things do happen in this world, and that stinks. We talked about how that was a kind of bullying, and we talked about what she would do if she saw bullying at school.
Then, we had to figure out how to get her brain to relax enough to fall asleep.
Round One: reading happy, easy books (for her, that’s I Can Read books). I gave her 5. She was still wide awake.
Round Two: listening to music, specifically The Lion King. This required me finding a CD player in the attic and the CD. She’s glad to have a CD player in her room… but no dice on falling asleep.
Round Three: reading a hard book that would tire her out. Enter Bad Kitty. She read the whole thing. Still awake.
Round Four: I cuddled her for a bit. Our kids never fall asleep if we lay down with them, so I knew staying wouldn’t help, but I figured she needed to talk more. She said that she was just so sad that that had ever happened to anyone. I told her that I’m sad that anyone ever experienced that, too, and I’m hate that there’s nothing I can do to change things in the past. As we talked, my mind went to the school shootings and climate change and migrant children in camps, and I started wondering if I’d fall asleep.
How do I slow down when my mind is racing with things that make me sad? I figure out what I can do around that issue and resolve to do it. I try to make my little pocket of the world better. I thought that might work for a first grader, too, so I suggested that Ginny think of nice things she could do at school the next day. I told her that it stinks that you can’t change all the bad things in the world, but you can try to make the world a little better again through your actions. I suggested that she lay down and think of the nice things she could do at school to make the world better again-- could she help a classmate? Compliment her teacher?
That was the last time I had to go into Ginny’s room last night. I think brainstorming nice things to do makes you feel a little more in control when the world feels out of control, and the truth is, the better you make the world, the easier it is to live in it. That’s going to be our new mantra at our house… because that protective bubble we put them in as babies and toddlers is just going to keep popping, and one day they’ll learn about slavery and the Holocaust and 9-11. I struggled to sleep for days after Sandy Hook.
There will be other tough nights. Instead of counting sheep, I’ll encourage my kids to brainstorm ways to make their classroom, their town, and their world a little better. It’s my responsibility to give them strategies to get a good night sleep, because tomorrow, I want them to get out there and change the world.
I set a goal to read 50 books every year. That was a slightly easier goal before I had kids... :) It was also an easier goal before I got a smart phone, but since my husband woke up a few months ago & found me playing on my phone at 3 am, he's encouraging me to charge in the bathroom overnight. I'm back to reading before bed, & that's been great. It's a much better way to relax before bed-- I swear, sometimes I fell asleep just to escape what I was seeing online before I moved my phone out of the room.
So, anyway, I read books this year. :) Below, I've listed my favorites & told you a little about them. After that, I've listed every book I read in 2018. I thought about listing them chronologically, but frankly, you don't care what order I read things in. Instead, I've divided them by category so you can skip to books you might be interested. I'd love to get comments from you if you've read any of these! I'd also love to get suggestions for what I should read next. I hope you have a great reading year in 2019!
My Favorite Books (not necessarily written in 2018, but read in 2018)
(also in no particular order-- that's harder than picking a favorite child!)
When Life Gives You Lululemons- Lauren Weisberger-- This is the same author who wrote The Devil Wears Prada. If you haven't read that, read it, because it's awesome. Then, read this. It's got some of those fun rich-people details, but it's also rich with real characters you invest in emotionally.
Ginny Moon- Benjamin Ludwig-- Ginny has a developmental disorder, & the book is written from her perspective. It's not confusing, however. The structure just allows you to see how she understands things while also hearing what her foster parents, teachers, & others say to her. Her struggles with her birth mother are compelling, too.
The Reason You're Alive- Matthew Quick-- I've read a bunch of Matthew Quick (Silver Lining Playbook) books, & this is my favorite. I didn't want to like the main character, but I couldn't help myself. An author who can help you have sympathy for the unlikeable is worth reading.
The Death of Mrs Westaway- Ruth Ware-- Ware wrote The Woman in Cabin 10, but I liked this one a lot more. What starts as a case of mistaken identity becomes very, very suspenseful very, very quickly.
The President is Missing- Bill Clinton & James Patterson-- I've read almost everything Patterson has written, & I was extra excited for this one. I got just what I hoped for-- suspense & plot twists a la Patterson, & insider knowledge of the White House & presidential security from Clinton. This is long but I read it really quickly. Everyone I know who has read it loved it, too~
The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas- haven't seen the movie yet, but the book was compelling. It's a Young Adult novel, but it doesn't feel silly. Every character is well-developed, & the story is wrenching. Starr is a teenager whose family has left the inner-city, but who still have many ties to their old neighborhood. She's the sole witness when one of them is murdered by a police officer. Kirkus says, "This story is necessary. This story is important." I'd concur.
Everything, Everything- Nicola Yoon- another Young Adult novel. A friend recommended this one, about a girl with an illness that prevents her from leaving the house. I loved her & the cute boy who moves in next door...
Bonus Favorite Books- ones to share with your kids!
The Haunted Library- Dori Hillestad Butler- I got the first one at the Library of Congress, & now I've read three in the series with my kids (ages 4 & 7). How can I not recommend it??
Mother Bruce- Ryan T. Higgins- my favorite picture book of the year! There are now others in the series, too. Bruce is a grumpy beat who got some eggs to eat, but they hatched & imprinted on him.
The Singles Game- Lauren Weisberger
When Life Gives You Lululemons (Devil Wears Prada #3)- Lauren Weisberger
Ginny Moon- Benjamin Ludwig
The Knockoff- Lucy Sykes
Carnegie's Maid- Marie Benedict
The Reason You're Alive- Matthew Quick
Live By Night- Dennie Lehane
The Wicked City- Beatriz Williams
My Ex-Life- Stephen McCauley
Surprise Me- Sophie Kinsella
The Wrong Side of Good-Bye- Michael Connelly
The Woman in Cabin 10- Ruth Ware
The Death of Mrs Westaway- Ruth Ware
Unbound- Stuart Woods
Shoot First- Stuart Woods
Black Schooner- KD Mason
Haunted- James Patterson
Fifty Fifty- James Patterson
The President Is Missing- Bill Clinton & James Patterson
Dead Cold Brew- Cleo Coyle
Psycho- Robert Bloch
Unraveled- Maggie Sefton
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, & the Hidden Power of Character- Paul Tough
Keys to Parenting the Gifted Child- Sylvia B. Rimm
There Are No Grown-ups: A Midlife Coming-of- Age Story- Pamela Druckerman
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark- Bill Dedman
The Elite (The Selection #2)- Kiera Cass
The One (The Selection #3)- Kiera Cass
Love & Gelato- Jenna Evans Welch
Tell Me Three Things- Julie Buxbaum
The Hate U Give- Angie Thomas
Everything, Everything- Nicola Yoon
Early Chapter/Middle Grade
The Rainstorm Brainstorm (Wellie Wishers)- Valerie Trip
The Mystery of Mr. E- Valerie Tripp
Ashlyn's Unsurprise Party- Valerie Tripp
Meet Molly- Valerie Tripp
Isadora Moon Goes to School- Harriet Muncaster
The Chocolate Fudge Mystery- Cam Jansen- kickin' it old school!!- David A. Adler
Junie B, First Grader: Aloha-ha-ha!- Barbara Park
Junie B, First Grader: Dumb Bunny- Barbara Park
Al Capone Shines My Shoes- Gennifer Choldenko
The Unlucky Lottery Winners of Classroom 13- Honest Lee
The Haunted Library- Dori Hillestad Bulter
The Ghost in the Attic (Haunted Library #2)- Dori Hillestad Butler
Christmas in Paris- Anita Hughes
Season of Wonder- RaeAnne Thayne
Deck the Halls- Carol Higgins Clark & Mary Higgins Clark
Silent Night- Robert B. Parker
Happy Reading in 2019!!!
I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS. My kids are also big fans (are there kids who aren't??). Now, my kids are totally happy to wear Christmas clothes year round, & with teeshirts & such, I'm all in. I have a hard time shelling out for a fancy dress Ginny will only wear once, though. Just rubs me the wrong way, so I've collected a bunch of dresses below that look totally festive but aren't crazy-dressy or crazy-Christmas-- she'll be able to keep wearing her dress & feeling pretty the whole winter. Let me know if one of these will work for your little elf!
I've had a rough couple of weeks-- some sad news. I'm really trying to keep rolling, & I decided my solution was to start Christmas NOW. I watched a Hallmark movie last week, the kids & I listen to Christmas music in the car, & I've already decorated my bathroom (I know, that's weird. It's just that I'd just bought the scented light thing. Everything else is up in the attic). I hear everyone complaining about how the season starts so early... whatever. I'm embracing it. I'm going to the Christmas Tree Shop tomorrow to take advantage of their Friends & Family sale. The kids, my mom, & I go every year & grab new ornaments, wrapping paper... the fun begins! The season is only so long, the kids are only little for so long, & I'm ringing it all in. This holiday can bring lots of stress, but it brings so much joy, & who can't use a few extra weeks of joy?
I hate, HATE those tiny button batteries. I've been using a book light that uses AAA batteries, which works ok (& doesn't require a tiny screwdriver), but my mom says I must upgrade to this-- it's rechargeable, which means A- better for the environment & B- you'll never be left in the dark! Moreover, it's got three brightness, which mom is raving about. Here's the link:
And while you're at it... Grab this book! One of my latest five-star-reviewed books on my GoodReads page :) Light without being silly, & with plenty of fashion~
The sweater that made this outfit arrived at my house yesterday, & I haven't paid for it yet! This was one of 8 items in my first Amazon Prime Wardrobe box. There will be more boxes (don't tell my husband. He gets really grumpy about organizing the recycling).
Here's how it works:
1. Head to Amazon. Start your search by clicking on Prime Wardrobe on the left hand side as you're searching.
2. Add up to 8 items to your box!
3. Order! Nothing gets charged to your card until 1 week after it arrives at your house.
4. Run to your porch/mailroom/whathaveyou when your Prime Wardrobe box arrives! You'll get 1 week to try things on. Enjoy, ask friends for their opinions, etc.
5. Return what you don't want, love what you keep!
Here's what came in my first box:
AWESOME deal. You get this shirt in black & white for $22, total! It's silky but not thin & the length felt great to me. I sized up & didn't regret it.
I love Lucky shirts-- such beautiful details~
My favorite find from this shipment! It's in the top picture, as well. Just perfect. Great weight, soft, perfect length, & it'll look great under a vest, too~
Kate Middleton wears Superga, so I had to try :) I really liked these, it's just hard to spend $65 on sneakers I probably won't wear until spring... if you live in a place where you can wear white sneakers all winter, definitely click above!
I loved this, but I think I need to get it in another color, since I bought the other wine colored sweater above. This is lightweight, falls really well, & the length was great on me (I'm 5'6").
A super-simple look, but these are comfy & soft & not too tight.
Last item! I ordered these in a small, & they were a tighter fit than the black & white above. I would suggest sizing up, but there are some cute color combos when you click on the link above.
So that's it! I tried on everything, chose what I wanted to keep, & "returned" things I didn't want under "my orders" on Amazon. Then, I taped up the box & dropped it off at UPS using the return label that came in the box. Really couldn't be easier, & oh-so-fun! Let me know if you have any questions or if you find anything awesome when you try it out!
The kids & I are all back at school, & PHEW, is it a tough transition. We've had a lot of tears in these first few weeks. The kids are just so tired... I think we may have convinced the man who sold us our new car NOT to have children with how epically they melted while we were shopping. Seriously. Remind me to find a way to apologize to his fiancee. It sounded like she really wanted them.
So, the kids have had a tough time adjusting, even though they're getting about the same amount of sleep they got over the summer. School's just tough work. Pre-k is tough. First grade is brutal. Both kids are doing great all day, so they're holding it together when they need to. We'll get there... and then we'll have to swing by the car dealership. You know, just to say "hi" & "kids can be so fun!" :)
For those of you who don't know, I'm a high school English teacher. Our last day of school was yesterday, & it ended at 10:30. I went out to brunch with a few friends, & we left the restaurant around noon. I don't need to pick up my kids (& they don't want me to pick them up at camp) until at least 4, so I had some time. I kept trying to brainstorm what to do. I tried to think of a coffee shop on the way home where I might sit for a bit outside & read, but I couldn't think of one that wouldn't have me chillin' in a parking lot. I knew, of course, that I could go home & throw in some laundry & catch up on the cleaning... but I have over two months around the house. I'll be doing plenty of laundry.
Therefore, completely on a whim, I decided I was going to the beach. My school is about 45 minutes from the beach, & it's a little over an hour for me to drive from there to my house. Totally worth that driving time. I got there around 1 & walked & walked. Then I headed over to my favorite beach coffee shop, grabbed an iced, grabbed my book, & leaned against a big rock on the beach & read for a while (I'm reading Wicked City by Beatriz Williams. She's a fantastic writer of historical fiction, & I'm loving this one). My sister called, I chatted with her, walked the beach some more, & then headed back to the car.
Nothing got accomplished yesterday afternoon (although I did stop on my way home & grab our new laundry basket at Target :) ). I'm totally ok with that, though. I got four hours, & rather than do more of the same, I slowed down for long enough to ask myself what I wanted, & then I gave myself permission to do it. No guilt. It felt great. I love going to the beach with my kids, & we'll probably be there in the next week, but it's good to spend some time with yourself, too. I'm pretty proud of myself for starting the summer off with an eye towards balancing my life so that my needs got met too.
I'm also glad that I took the opportunity to fly by the seat of my pants. 21st century parents have a tendency to over schedule. I'm glad I started summer doing the opposite, flying by the seat of my pants & just going where I wanted to go. I think it's a great attitude to bring to my summer days with my kids. Kids are wishing for some new stories? Let's walk to the library. Drive by a candy store? Stop. Band playing in the park? Sure, the kids can stay up late.
I saw a mailbox on my walk yesterday that said "Seas the Day." I think I'm going to make that the motto of the summer: "Seas the Day."
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to read. As a high school English teacher, I’ve seen the benefits of loving to read. I could give you all of the lines about exploring new places and hearing new perspectives through reading, and all of that is true. What is also true is that school tends to be much easier for kids who like to read. It’s easier for them to access information on anything they are passionate about learning, and I can’t imagine a greater gift to give a child.
When I had my own children, I went looking for books that would get them excited about reading. I got lots and lots of books, and I borrowed many more from the library. I found that the books my kids were most excited about were the books they could, at an early age, “help” me to read. For the most part, these were books with silly sounds or rhyming lines that the kids could remember and shout when I got to that part of the story. Reading these books together has been such a joy (over and over and over again…). They’re well worth picking up!
Trains Go! by Steve Light
Spoiler: Different kinds of trains make different sounds.
Best line for kids: “Squeak clang ting, bing bing bing!”
Also great: Cars Go!
Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton
Spoiler: Snuggle puppy is loved.
Best line for kids: “I love who you are; I love what you do, ooh I love you.”
Also great: Pretty much everything by Sandra Boynton. Our other favorites are Pajama Time! and Moo, Baa, La La La!
Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton
Spoiler: Red Truck saves the day when a school bus gets stuck in the mud.
Best line for kids: “Vroommm!”
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
Spoiler: This is a celebration of all little babies and ends with a sweet line that’s really just an excuse to give your child a bunch of kisses.
Best line for kids: “And both of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”
All the Biscuit books by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Spoiler: Biscuit is a cute little puppy who sometimes gets in a little trouble but has a wonderful relationship with his little girl.
Best line for kids: “Woof woof!”
Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
Spoiler: Knuffle Bunny gets left at the laundromat.
Best line for kids: “Knuffle bunny!”
Also great: everything else by Mo Willems. His Elephant and Piggie books for beginning readers are fantastic.
Just One More by Jennifer Hansen Rolli
Spoiler: Ruby always asks for “just one more.”
Best lines for kids: “And what’s this? Just one more kiss? Ok, Ruby. Just one more.” “Again! Again!”
This is a fun book that, like this other books on this list, will have your kids saying, “Again! Again!”
My kids are regular kids. Translation: sometimes they fight. And by sometimes I mean "everyday, at some point/points, every single day, they duke it out." A friend of mine & I were griping about our children's fights, & she said her mom gave her advice when she had her second child. She said, "When things get bad, just add water. Throw them in the tub."
I have found that to be some of the best advice I've gotten (second-hand) as a parent. It really does restart the day. Granted, it might be weird to just throw your kids in the tub in the middle of the day, but when things have gotten really ugly, it's worth it. I'm sure it will change as the kids get older & stop tubbing together, but for now, it's fantastic. It always distracts them from whatever moods they're in & introduces a fresh activity. Life is usually (not always, but usually) a little calmer once they're out.
And on the days it's not calmer, heck, at least I got something checked off the to-do list. You've got to celebrate wins whenever you have them. :)
Here are some of the biggest hits from our tubby time-- the kids LOVE bath fizzies (we've ordered this set), & glow tubbing is also super popular!
Don't mind me. I'm just finishing up crying after watching the episode of Sister Wives when Maddie, one of the first children born into the Kody Brown family, gave birth. I've seen every episode of this show, & I've struggled to explain why I'm so hooked to people who haven't seen it. The family is polygamist, & Kody has four wives. This is a very different world from the one I come from, but over the years, I've converted several people to the show, my mom included.
Their family looks very different from ours. 18 kids, 4 houses... & Maddie's birth was very different from my births. She chose home birth; I didn't have that option but wouldn't have chose it if I could. I had just my husband & the nurses & doctor. She had, I think, her husband, the midwives, two or three of her moms, & her dad coaching her. My dad came to the hospital the day my daughter was born... but he showed up to hold her after everything was all cleaned up. He definitely did not coach my husband as he caught Ginny coming out ("You don't understand how slippery they are"). In fact, my husband wanted no part of catching her. He's a head-of-the-bed kind of husband... & I was fine with that. It was a very, very different birth.
And yet, as they all reflected on baby Axel's birth, it became clear just how much family is family is family. They all marveled at the beauty of the creation of life & at their new roles in this baby's life. You saw the look of absolute love in the new grandparents' eyes... the same look my parents' eyes have when they look at the kids, & the same look Matt's parents have. We may not be polygamists, but love is love is love, & it's so nice to get a glimpse of it in someone else's house while you sit on your couch. That's my kind of reality tv.
You know those stories of mothers who react in a split second & save their children? They throw themselves in front of vehicles & lift cars with their love. They risk life & limb. Well, I'm writing this while sitting in pain on my couch because I did the same thing. I was walking out of the mall today & slipped on ice. As I flew towards the ground, I twisted my body in a gesture of protection, & I'm paying the price tonight. Thing is, my kids weren't with me. I nearly broke myself to keep from dropping my coffee.
Coffee & I have been together for over 20 years. I'm not going anywhere, coffee. Sure, we "took a break" when I was in my first trimester with the kids, but as soon as the second rolled around, we got back together-- mostly half-caf & decaf, but we were together. Now, we're together twice a day, more if I really need you (you know, when I'm cold, or tired, or bored... you fill all my needs).
So as we head into the season of love, here's my list of reasons why coffee is my Valentine (don't tell my husband):
1. You are there for me when I'm at my most needy & unpleasant
2. You change yourself to make me happy (I can add cream, caramel, sugar, flavor shots...Baileys... you'll be whatever I want you to be)
3. You are my security blanket. This is big. When I'm going to a social situation that I'm not totally comfortable, I always stop & get a coffee first. It makes me feel safe & gives me something to keep me looking busy.
4. You & I have shared many, many, many happy moments with friends & family together. My people don't break bread, they drink coffee.
5. You make sure I'm awake every day. That's also big.
So, coffee, this Valentine's Day, I hope you know how loved you are. My life wouldn't be the same without you. So yes, I will crash my elbow into the ground to keep you safe. You do for me so I'll do for you. That's what love is all about.
I was just getting sleepy & wrapping up for the evening when I heard that sound. That sound every set of mom ears is uniquely tuned into-- the cry of a kid. In a heartbeat, I'm wide awake & running upstairs. James had had a nightmare. He was crying & calling my name when I came into his room. He didn't want to tell me what the dream was; I'm not even sure he knew, so I just laid him down & laid down with him. Within a minute or two, he was asleep again.
I wish that every fear he ever had for his whole life could be solved that easily. Alas, life is not that simple, but any time my presence can comfort my child & solve his or her problem, man, I'm there. There is no greater feeling than kissing away your child's worries, & I'm so grateful whenever I can. Sleep be darned :)
For the past week, as I've been grading & blogging, I've been switching between CNN & binge watching Season 3 of Fuller House. I know. It's a little weird. That said, I hate to be out of touch with what's going on in the world, but then I need to get away from it & escape to that impossibly large house in San Francisco. After hearing about so much that disturbs me, saddens me, & disgusts me, I need a few dance sequences. I need someone to say "How rude!" I need Uncle Jesse.
I've accepted that this is who I am. My GoodReads book list is similar. I've read almost everything John Irving has written, & one of my favorite books from last year was The Last Days of Night, about Tesla & Edison. I also have almost all of the mysteries of James Patterson, Janet Evanovich, & Stuart Woods on there, as well as a good amount of Young Adult lit (for work, I swear :) ). In short, I'm all over the board.
And that's ok. I am smart & curious & reflective. I also cried at the Season 3 finale of Fuller House. I'm ok with this dichotomy. It allows me to feel happy & balanced. Now the big question is, what should I watch until Season 4 of Fuller House comes out??
A friend of mine recently asked me what my "end game" was with this blog. Truth is, I have no idea. I know that I'm really enjoying being creative & writing again. I'm enjoying getting to know some of my readers around the country. Weirdly, I find that my life feels more balanced since I started this project, which sounds bizarre since I'm busier. I'm busy in a good way, though, & clearly blogging offers me something I needed to be doing. I'm having so much fun with this!
I don't dream of this turning into my full time job, however. I also love teaching. I have a really hard time imagining walking away from being with the kids every day, even if this blog somehow started turning a huge profit... so I guess what I'm doing now is my end game. I want to write & search for deals online & connect with readers & other bloggers. This blog is my dream just the way it is :)
I do have to say, though, that I'm getting vicarious joy from reading about what's going on on some bigger blogs. For example, Living in Yellow is getting to design a clothing line with Gibson. How exciting is that! She clearly did want to make her blog her full time job, & boy, mission accomplished! She has a staff! Good for her! It's really neat that we live in a time when there are so many resources to help people create the lives they'd like to live.
If you're thinking of starting a blog in 2018, you can check out my Pinterest page called Blogging in the USA. I've found lots of resources if you're looking to try this out!
I should be grading. I've been off of work for just over a week, & I've barely done any. I have, however, lived Christmas to the fullest. The kids & I met my mom at the mall Christmas Eve day to watch the last minute shoppers, celebrated Christmas Eve at my in-laws, Christmas morning at our house, & Christmas night at my parents'. We slept over at my parents' for more family time, had a bonus Christmas at my sister's house, babysat their friend Lucas for a day, & hunkered down in the house for two frigid days before hosting my sister & brother-in-law & their kids for New Year's. We played with the kids' new toys & discovered just how well Ginny can read. James got a I Spy book at the library & spent hours devouring it in our laps. I may have spent a bit of time on my phone, but generally speaking, I lived in the moments with my kids this week. It was awesome.
Then, today, it was clear that it was time to take down the tree. We have a real one, & needles were falling off... no, basically, branches were falling off. It had to be done, & as the ornaments came down, melancholy rolled over me like a Mack truck. James found a train ornament he'd picked out on Veteran's Day. I remembered the day he bought it when I'd been looking forward to the whole season-- picking & decorating the tree, visiting Santa, riding the Polar Express, driving around looking at lights, & then, of course, opening on the big day. Now all those moments had passed, & my kids would be a year older the next time they came around.
So I cried. I cried & tried to distract myself & then cried some more. I'm proud of how often we live in the moment with the kids, but even when you do, those moments still pass. I wish I had some wisdom to write here about it, but I don't. You don't get to play Santa forever, & eventually they don't want to read I Spy books in your lap. And that sucks. But I also know people who've lost children, whose children are frozen in time for them, so I'm not letting myself stay in this mood for long. It is a blessing that they keep growing. I have so much to be grateful for & to pay attention to...
For example, while I was busy trying to pull it together today, the kids decided that they wanted to help clean up after the tree. James got the vacuum & attached the stick thing & spent probably 45 minutes sucking needles out of the cracks between our floor boards. Ginny decided to make her doll's Jeep into a "snow plow" to clean up the needles in the kitchen. All of this activity happened while they were dressed as superheroes (naturally). If I'm too busy feeling bad that these days will one day end, I'll miss the day that Spiderman & Batman clean my floors. Good thing I do keep my phone handy-- I took pictures. When these days have passed, I'll be darned if I don't have plenty of ways to remember them. These are pretty awesome days.
I really resisted the Elf on the Shelf. I really, really didn't want to do it. I couldn't wrap my head around spending $29.95 on a little doll & then telling the kids that the doll was watching them to report back to Santa like a vindictive little spy, and oh, yes, if you touch it you ruin its magic. What a terrible, horrible tradition. I was having none of it.
Then, the kids started going to a friend's house two mornings a week and they had a elf. If we didn't get an elf, my kids would somehow feel rejected. Much as I didn't want them being spied on by a little doll, being rejected by one seemed worse. That's how Snowflake came into our lives last year.
I didn't do anything terribly creative with it last year, but we had our fun. Snowflake read a tiny book one day & hung from a few ornaments on the tree. She wrapped tinsel around the stairs. The kids loved her. I was indifferent but did my mom-duty and moved her around every evening until it was time for her to return to the North Pole on December 24th.
After we celebrated Thanksgiving this year, I knew we had to get ready for Snowflake's return. One more thing to do in the evening, right? Great. Then something happened that changed my perspective.
The news of November 29th felt like a gut punch. On a global scale, our standoff with North Korea freaked me out. One of my students asked, "We're kind of in a Cold War now, aren't we?," and it became my job to have that conversation with her. Then, the news about Matt Lauer really, really got to me. I've been thinking about it, and I think it's because I welcomed him into my home every morning I was around. I watched him every day on both of my maternity leaves. I watched he and Katie Couric try to do their jobs through their own devastation as the Towers fell. The news made me feel angry, betrayed, and scared. (See a great article about this in Scary Mommy-- the link is below.)
This is a hard time to be a high school teacher. The issues the kids are seeing every day in the news are really hard to navigate. They're trying to figure out who and what to trust and what a good adult looks like. As an educator, I do the best I can to help them as they enter adulthood, but I wish it wasn't such an ugly time. I'm grateful that my husband and I have been able to shelter our little ones from most of the vitriol and ugly stories in the news right now.
That brings me back to the Elf on the Shelf, because this year, I am freaking EMBRACING that Elf. We need a little holiday magic. We need something to look forward to every morning. I need something to look forward to every morning, and the kids' faces as they race around looking for Snowflake are pretty magical. I'm going to ask Snowflake to ignore when my kids are being unpleasant, not report back to Santa, and just join me in basking in their innocence. Adulthood and adult issues will come soon enough. In the meantime, I'll do everything in my power to give my kids a little magic this holiday season.
I'm an English teacher, a wife, a dog lover, a bibliophile, & a wanna-be fashionable mom. Well, I'm already a mom. Just trying to get the "fashionable" part going...