Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Son

My relationship with my son is changing.
And. I. Love. It.
We joke more.
We laugh together more.
We have serious and not-so-serious conversations.
I don't have to tell him the rules as often. I can just give him a look or a gesture and he knows what to do or what I'm talking about.
We have inside jokes.
We have outside jokes. :)
He isn't nearly as whiny as he's been in the past and if he slips up and whines, we usually make a joke out of it or talk through it.
I don't have to tell him to go to the bathroom as often.
He is incredibly self-sufficient and doesn't rely on me to do as many things for him. He still wants permission and often my opinion, but I'm pretty okay with that.
He constantly tells me he loves me and randomly gives me hugs and kisses.
He loves to give me gifts, especially "flowers" from the yard.
That boy has my heart.
He's always been special, but lately I'm able to not just appreciate his uniqueness and quirks, but to celebrate them.
I'm so proud of him and so honored to be his mommy.

My little shadow

My daughter, that sweet thing.

She follows me everywhere. She announced to me a couple of weeks ago (and has continued her announcements multiple times a day since then) that "I go wherever you go!" And cries if I leave the room without her. She asks me if she can sleep in my bed when I'm putting her in her own. She turns on the charm and the pouty face and says, "But I go wherever you go, 'member?" I always promise her that I'll give one more kiss goodnight before it's Mommy's bedtime and usually sit at her bedside until she falls asleep (though that never takes very long).

This is one of those "the days are long, but the years are short" things, right? I want so badly to love the moment, appreciate her devotion and be flattered by her companionship. Sometimes I stop and smile, my heart warmed by her sweet little words, and I'm able to soak in the love and savor the sweetness. Other times I count to 10 under my breath and remind myself not to fly off the handle as I physically remove her from my leg mid-step.

I hear this phrase at least 50 times a day - "But Mommy…"
And it never seems to matter if another adult is in the room (Daddy, Grandma, Mimi, etc) she always "needs" my attention.
My girl is a "quality time" kinda gal. I understand this because I am one, too. This makes me treasure Fridays which are our special days together, and our frequent rides to school that are just ours. I'm learning to take her loyalty and devotion and turn it into teaching opportunities - she's learning to enjoy cooking, cleaning, reading, singing, and building relationships because of what we do together.
I pray that God will give me the necessary wisdom, compassion and joy that it takes to raise such a special girl. I am blessed to call her mine.

 “If you ever want to see heaven, watch a bunch of young girls play. They are all sweat and skinned knees. Energy and open faces.”
― Amy Poehler

Books I've Read - January-April 2015

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Each year the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library has a "One Book" community read program. Everyone in the community is encouraged to read the same book and participate in book discussions, clubs and events surrounding the book. This usually takes place in April, during National Library Week. The book was leaked a bit early (or I found out about it early) and for 2015, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry will be that book. I thought I'd go ahead and get a jumpstart. And boy, I'm so glad I did! I loved it! It pulled at heartstrings, tempted me to keep reading, evoked laughter and tears - a great first book of the year. I am going to enjoy being part of "One Book" this spring and look forward to the discussions and events that will occur.

The Read-Aloud Handbook
by Jim Trelease

I read this for work, but figured I'd add it here. This is a great book for parents. It's good for teachers and librarians, too, but if you're a parent of young kids (and I guess older kids, too!) you should read this book. It speaks of the rewards, benefits and importance of reading aloud to children. There's a whole section on books that lend well to being read aloud. The data is astounding. I so desperately want my kids to have a love for reading, so I plan to read aloud to them for as long as possible. I remember my 7th grade English teacher reading "Where the Red Fern Grows" aloud to us and I enjoyed it immensely. I read aloud to David all the time. He and I both listen to audiobooks to and from work. I really don't think you can ever get too old to have someone read to you. :)

*An aside: If you're looking for a fantastic audio book, try out the Harry Potter series. The series itself is one of my favorites (of course), but Jim Dale does a phenomenal job narrating and creating voices for each of the characters. He does 134 different character voices for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix alone! Amazing!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Neil Gaiman

What an intriguing book. I now think I might be obsessed with Neil Gaiman just a bit. I knew he was popular and was always interested in reading something of his. This was a great starting book, I think. I was captured from the start. It's nice and short (under 200 pages) and had just the right blend of sci-fi/fantasy, intrigue and valor. Well done, Neil Gaiman.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie

Sad, yet hopeful. This YA story made me laugh, but the overlying story is very serious and touches on topics of racism, class, drinking problems, abusive parents, making something of yourself, defying destiny, etc. I think it was a poignant story, well-written and thought-provoking. Worth the read, for sure.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
by Mark Haddon

This book was very strange. I was a bit bored at first, but it got somewhat more intriguing toward the middle of the book. The most fascinating part is that this story is told from the perspective of a boy with autism. Having worked with and known folks with autism, it was incredibly realistic and well-done. However, I wouldn't recommend it. It was just sooo slow.

Hollow City
by Ransom Riggs

Here is the sequel to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Because I didn't start reading this one directly after the first one, it took me at least 50 pages to get into this one. But once it took hold of me, I was hooked for good. I just found out that there's a third book coming out in September - I love me some sequels!! Anyway, this one was interesting and tied things together a bit more, I think. I liked it.
by Tina Fey

This one had been on my list for quite awhile but I kept shoving it under the pile. I wish I hadn't. Tina Fey is fantastic. Plus, I listened to this one on audiobook and hearing her voice speaking her written word was way better than if I had read it on my own. Please do yourself a favor and listen to this book. I'm confident that your local library has it. :)

Happier at Home
by Gretchen Rubin

I love, love, love this! I'm kind of obsessed with happiness these days. I love the way the author thinks, the way she organizes her chapters, the things that are important to her and the way she approaches a challenge. There were so many insightful and helpful things for me in this book.  After checking Gretchen Rubin's books out at the library and starting to read them, I turned right around and purchased them so that I could make notes and highlight, if that tells you how much I enjoyed them!! I read this book first because I had it on audio and could devote more time to it, but upon completion, I immediately turned to her first book, The Happiness Project. Her newest book - Better than Before - just came out about a month ago. Hoping to pick it up soon.

The Happiness Project
by Gretchen Rubin

This was fantastic. I don't know that it's for everyone, but I really enjoyed it. I have gleaned so many insights and great ideas from these words. More than ever I am thankful for the happiness that surrounds me each day. This book is full of ways I can continue that happiness in my life and offers new things to try.

Dot Complicated
by Randi Zuckerberg

This is worth the read. Our lives are incredibly different than they were just a few short years ago, thanks to technology. This book put some things into perspective and shared some great tips and advice on how to manage the tech/life balance. I plan to dedicate an entire post on JOMO which she touches on, but she also ties tech with love, family, career, etc. It's tough to balance it all, but she lays out some straight forward advice on how to do just that.

Yes Please
by Amy Poehler

Oh my goodness. I loved this book. Vulgarity aside, Amy Poehler is hilarious and surprisingly insightful. I wrote a whole post for this book.

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

This was a great book on parenting and how to communicate with your children. It felt a bit hokey at times, but it had some really great information and techniques that I'll certainly use with my own children. I also picked up their book called Siblings Without Rivalry that I plan to read soon. My kids are fairly patient and loving toward one another (as far as siblings go) but I'm sure there will be moments in the future that I'll be glad to have read that book.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac
by Gabrielle Zevin

I started reading this because I really enjoyed The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. These two are completely different books. This is most definitely a Young Adult novel and geared toward such. It was a good book and I enjoyed it - nice and lighthearted, easy to read and not too challenging, which was a nice change of pace. Interesting story, and sweet, like young love can be.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mandarin Immersion

David and I have discussed at length the opportunity to sign Xander up for a Mandarin Immersion program in our school next year. We have sent in his application and are waiting to hear back from the school. Due to the lottery process, we won't know if he got in for a few weeks.
There are so many benefits and many wonderful outcomes that can result from an immersion program. David and I had many questions at first, but have done a lot of research, attended parent information meetings, spoken to friends and colleagues who are familiar with this type of program, and have concluded that we'd like to give it a try.
We are stepping out in faith and asking God to give us guidance and wisdom. So thankful to serve such a BIG God!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Yes Please

Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please, is fantastic.You can read real articles and reviews about it here and here, but I figured I'd throw in my two cents and share some of the parts that were insightful and quotable and meant something to me.

First off, the book is fairly vulgar. If you can't get past the language and bawdy writing, don't read it. I've mellowed a bit in my 30's and it just doesn't bother me like it used to. So, looking past that, Amy P is downright perspicacious, and unwaveringly insightful. She doesn't mind sharing the good parts of her life along with the bad. And that's one of the things that makes this book so good. Her humor isn't self-depricating, but she admits when she's wrong and is flat out real. The older I get, the more I value the people who are honest and open and willing to share the reality - the beautiful and the broken. Which leads me to the first quote,

“I have realized that mystery is what keeps people away, and I’ve grown tired of smoke and mirrors. I yearn for the clean, well-lighted place. So let’s peek behind the curtain and hail the others like us. The open-faced sandwiches who take risks and live big and smile with all of their teeth. These are the people I want to be around. This is the honest way I want to live and love and write.” 

On Self-Esteem:

“Looking silly can be very powerful. People who are committing and taking risks become the king and queen of my prom. People are their most beautiful when they are laughing, crying, dancing, playing, telling the truth and being chased in a fun way.” 
Failing is okay. The earlier we can learn this, the better.

“I had already made a decision early on that I would be a plain girl with lots of personality, and accepting it made everything a lot easier. If you are lucky, there is a moment in your life when you have some say as to what your currency is going to be. Decide what your currency is early. Let go of what you will never have. People who do this are happier and sexier.”
We can't all be everything. Figure out what you're good at and what you enjoy and your life will be much more satisfying.

“Sometimes we whisper it quietly and other times we shout it out loud in front of a mirror. I hate how I look. I hate how my face looks my body looks I am too fat or too skinny or too tall or too wide or my legs are too stupid and my face is too smiley or my teeth are dumb and my nose is serious and my stomach is being so lame. Then we think, “I am so ungrateful. I have arms and legs and I can walk and I have strong nail beds and I am alive and I am so selfish and I have to read Man’s Search for Meaning again and call my parents and volunteer more and reduce my carbon footprint and why am I such a self-obsessed ugly asshole no wonder I hate how I look! I hate how I am!” 
Isn't this the truth? How often we forget what we've been blessed with and focus on the negative.

“I am introducing a new idea. Try to care less. Practice ambivalence. Learn to let go of wanting it.” 
If only. This applies to ourselves, our jobs - anything we try to control.

“I am allowed to have healthy self-esteem.” 
I know this sounds simple and direct and silly that a 34 year old woman would glean insight from this, but sometimes I just need permission. I regard this as permission and will own it.

"Everybody wants you to share your MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT all the time, and I am here to tell you that you don’t have to. You don’t have to tell it or tweet it or Instagram it. You don’t have to put it in a book or share it with anyone who doesn’t feel safe and protective of your heart."
Good advice for all of us in our social media-happy, TMI, nothing is private world.

“Ignore what other people think. Most people aren't even paying attention to you.” 
This was a tough one for me to learn, but over many years I've gotten better.

“Sticking up for ourselves in the same way we would one of our friends is a hard but satisfying thing to do. Sometimes it works.” 
Try it out. Practice talking to yourself the way you would your best friend. It helps.

“Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is no space in their head or bed for love. They feed their demon and it gets really strong and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their beautiful bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin. Maybe a day even comes when you are getting dressed for a fancy event and it whispers, “You aren’t pretty,” and you go, “I know, I know, now let me find my earrings.” Sometimes you say, “Demon, I promise you I will let you remind me of my ugliness, but right now I am having hot sex so I will check in later.” 
I love this quote! Yes! Don't let that demon win. Learn to tune out, turn it off and ignore that bastard!

“Fighting aging is like the War on Drugs. It’s expensive, does more harm than good, and has been proven to never end.” 
Hahaha! For real. Aging is inevitable.

“Continue to share your heart with people even if it has been broken.” 
So much harder to do than it seems. But totally worth it.

“Dancing is the great equalizer. It gets people out of their heads and into their bodies. I think if you can dance and be free and not embarrassed you can rule the world.” 
YES! Be who you are.

On Womanhood:

“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry for.” 
Do I hear an "Amen!" We blame ourselves for so much, but we don't need to own it all.

“Too often we women try to tackle chaos that is not ours to fix.”
Another problem many women have. Sometimes we have to let things go and give away some responsibility.

“I find that, in general, the amount of sharing men do with each other in one year is about the same as what I share with my female friends while we wait for our cars at the valet.” 
Hahaha!! Speak it, sister.

On Judging:

“That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again. Good for her! Not for me.” 
Yes!! Let's stop comparing ourselves and judging others on their choices. Especially us moms. Ain't nobody got time for that.

“It is no longer unusual for people who choose surrogacy, gay adoption, IVF, international and domestic adoption, fostering, and childlessness to live side by side and quietly judge each other. We can all live in peace thinking our way is the best way and everything else is cuckoo.” 
Haha! Can't we all just get along?

“I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things.”
Surround yourself with people who inspire you.

On Ambition:

“You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.” 
Just do it. Sometimes it's worth it.

“Great people do things before they're ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you're afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that's what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that's really special and if you're not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself.” 
I'm so bad at this! She says later that adventure and danger can be good for your soul. My soul rejects that. But my brain realizes there's truth in this statement.

Either way, we both agree that ambivalence is a key to success. I will say it again. Ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.” 
This is such a struggle. But enjoying the process and not worrying about the end result, while ignoring others' opinions and judgements makes life so much better.

“Pretending to not want something can work. Really not caring if you get it takes a lifetime of practice.” 

“It’s very hard to have ideas. It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.”
As an adult, I've struggled with being vulnerable and putting myself out there. That wasn't much of a problem for me as a teen and young adult, but he world has gotten to me along the way. I want to get back to this - I want to be one of those magic people of the world.

“You can only move if you are actually in the moment. You have to be where you are to get where you need to go.”
Yes! Where we are is where we need to be. We'll get out of it, just like we have in the past. But sometimes you have to sit right in it, wherever you are, to get through. 

On Happiness:

“Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being. See what I just did there? I saved you thousands of dollars on self-help books. If you can surf your life rather than plant your feet, you will be happier.”
Flexibility, man. It makes everything sooooo much easier.

On Humankind:

“Telling me to relax or smile when I’m angry is like bringing a birthday cake into an ape sanctuary. You’re just asking to get your nose and genitals bitten off.” 
Thank you. I'm glad someone said it. I HATE being told how to feel!

“A person’s tragedy does not make up their entire life. A story carves deep grooves into our brains each time we tell it. But we aren't one story. We can change our stories. We can write our own.” 

“The only way we will survive is by being kind. The only way we can get by in this world is through the help we receive from others. No one can do it alone, no matter how great the machines are.” 
Involve others. Have relationships. Love deeply.

“Let's end by pointing out all the positive ways you can scare yourself and feel alive. You can tell someone you love them first. You can try to speak only the truth for a whole week. You can jump out of an airplane or spend Christmas day all by your lonesome. You can help people who need help and fight real bad guys. You can dance fast or take an improv class or do one of those Ironman things. Adventure and danger can be good for your heart and soul.”
See above. I'm soooo bad at this. I just don't like the unknown and the danger and the scariness. I'll work on it.

“I wondered if I was just doing this as some kind of ego trip. Then I decided I didn’t care. Not enough is made of the fact that being of service makes you feel good. I think nonprofits should guarantee that giving your time and money makes your skin better and your ass smaller. Why not? There are so many people in the world with so little. Who cares why you decide to help?” 
For real! Who cares why you help - just do it!

“It’s called Yes Please because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would you like to be left alone? Yes please. I love saying “yes” and I love saying “please.” Saying “yes” doesn’t mean I don’t know how to say no, and saying “please” doesn’t mean I am waiting for permission. “Yes please” sounds powerful and concise. It’s a response and a request. It is not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman. It’s also a title I can tell my kids. I like when they say “Yes please” because most people are rude and nice manners are the secret keys to the universe.” 
Ahhhh! "Nice manners are the secret keys to the universe." LOVE IT!

 On Technology:
 “My phone is trying to kill me. It is a battery-charged rectangle of disappointment and possibility. It is a technological pacifier.” 
Must I say more?

“I cannot stress enough that the answer to life's questions is often in people's faces. Try putting your iPhones down once in a while, and look in people's faces. People's faces will tell you amazing things. Like if they are angry, or nauseous or asleep.”
Seriously, people. Can we give the cell phones a rest?! 

On Apologies:
“Apologies have nothing to do with you. They are balloons in the sky. They may never land. They may even choke a bird.” 
I don't necessarily agree with this. Apologies do have something to do with you - as does forgiveness. However, a person's acceptance of your apology or forgiveness has nothing to do with you. 
But I appreciate her humor in the situation.

“Your brain is not your friend when you need to apologize. Your brain and your ego and your intellect all remind you of the "facts."”
Yes. Rely on your heart on the matters of forgiveness.

On Children:

“When your children arrive, the best you can hope for is that they break open everything about you. Your mind floods with oxygen. Your heart becomes a room with wide-open windows. You laugh hard every day. You think about the future and read about global warming. You realize how nice it feels to care about someone else more than yourself. And gradually, through this heart-heavy openness and these fresh eyes, you start to see the world a little more. Maybe you start to care a teeny tiny bit more about what happens to everyone in it.”

On Finishing:
“It’s important to know when it’s time to turn in your kazoo.” 
We all need to know when it's time to be done. Let's not overstay our welcome and continue somewhere long past its due. Know when to "turn in your kazoo" and move on to greener pastures.

“I know enough now to know I know nothing.” 
Reminds me of the Avett Brothers' song "Backwards with Time."
For all I know there's more I don't
Oh the little I have learned
For every year of knowledge gained
Is a negative year I've earned

“People are very bad and very good. A little love goes a long way.”
Love wins.

 She quotes Maya Angelou in her book,
"People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."