When Caroline started middle school this year I crossed my fingers that all the stereotypes of middle school were untrue and that reality had drastically changed from when I traversed the same waters. It turns out that all the finger crossing in the world doesn’t change middle school so there has been a fair amount of drama on and off since school started. I was recently talking with a friend about how we feel a complete lack of control over the happiness of our children.
As we talked, I remembered a quote that I had read a few months back. It focused on what we can in fact do as parents of middle schoolers and then I spent the better part of this weekend trying to remember where I had read this quote.
The line reads like this;
“You just make sure that when those girls walk in that door every day, they never doubt that home is the most comforting place for them to be. That is what you can do.”
Jenny goes on to say that to her, comfort comes in the form of mashed potatoes. For me, comfort comes in lots of forms. Banana bread and chocolate chip cookies sometimes. A new stack of library books often. And always, open ears and open arms.
What about you? What does form does comfort take in your home?Read more
“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”
I’ve written about poverty here a few times before.
I think the first time was when I went to Caroline and Katherine’s school library right before volunteering at a school in a high poverty area located only about fifteen minutes away from us. That school had no library because their budget did not allow for a librarian. The doors were locked. On the flip side, our library was full of books, a full time librarian and so many parent volunteers that we had to take turns volunteering with our children’s classes.
I also wrote about poverty after participating in a poverty simulation. My post about this event is long but please go read it. I know I still don’t understand what it is like to live in poverty but I know more for having participated. For one hour, I played the role of an extremely poor person. It was a truly eye opening experience.
With only these very minimal touches in to the world of poverty, I am incredibly confused. I am confused that the ‘people in charge’ don’t understand what a huge role poverty plays in all that is broken in our country.
Where is the word poverty in our discussions about Baltimore? Does being poor excuse rioting and looting? Absolutely not. But does being poor contribute a whole lot to the culture that lead to rioting and looting? Absolutely.
And how about all the energy that we are putting in to reforming our public school system? Where is the word poverty in that discussion? If children are coming to school hungry does it matter what curriculum their teachers are teaching? If children have no books at home, does it matter what standardized test they take? If parents are working three jobs and there is no one at home to read aloud to a child, will that child learn to read at the same time as my girls who have been read to since they were in the womb?
I certainly don’t know how to erase poverty in this country but I do know we need to start talking about it. What happened in Baltimore this week makes me incredibly sad. My only hope is that these events will further and create a much needed conversation.Read more
Everyone so often, I write a post about what I found especially interesting in the weekend papers.
Here are my latest thoughts about discussion worthy articles. Let me know what you think!
Push, Don’t Crush the Students by Matt Richtel. I definitely have a ‘whole blog post’s worth’ of thoughts on this one but frankly not the ability to wrap my mind around the whole thing enough to write it. The story is one of the Palo Alto school district where high achieving students are feeling significant stress. You could easily replace Palo Alto with many towns including Ridgewood. I know what the problems are. I sure wish instead of writing another article about the crazy stress we are putting on our kids, we could find a way to collectively change it.
The Cost of Daydreaming by Vivian Gornik. I am taking a memoir writing class and my teacher quotes Vivian Gornki’s The Story and the Situation frequently. The book is sitting on the top of my to-be-read stack. So of course it seems appropriate that Gornik has an essay in the paper this weekend. And an essay is about… wait for it… paying attention, of course!
Are You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader? by Nicholas Kristof. Again, we are given multiple examples of how far down the United States has fallen in our mathematical abilities. I’m not sure what needs to change but it certainly seems like something must.
Owning a Bookstore Means You Always Get to Tell People What to Read by Ann Patchett. While technically not a ‘weekend read’, I loved this article so very much. I’ve often said that I want to be Ann Patchett when I grow up and now that is even more true. Her description of a great reason to own a bookstore makes me want to own one all the more!Read more
I can’t believe that another month has passed.
Somehow it’s already time for our new favorites…
The Bus Ride by Marianne Dubuc. This modern day take on Little Red Riding Hood is not to be missed. I’m pretty sure that each time I’ve looked at it, I notice a new charming detail.
Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien. This book is laugh out loud funny. Turns out Hoot Owl is not such a master after all but it is awfully fun watching him figure that out.
Sidewalk Flowers by Jon Arno Lawson & Sydney Smith. Shh… Don’t tell anyone but we don’t usually love wordless picture books around these parts. Truth be told, I have a hard time ‘reading’ them. At first Katherine put this book aside but we both picked it up again at separate times and I’m so glad we did. The story and the illustrations are equally engaging.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez. This lyrical picture book is inspired by the true story of a girl who fights Cuba’s traditional ban against female drum players. Richly colorful illustrations are the perfect accompaniment for the strong girl power represented in this story.
By Mouse and Frog by Deborah Freedman. Mouse and Frog got a lot of attention before it’s publication and after reading it, I see why. It is the perfect story of the power of working together and of creativity. This may be my go to teacher gift this year.
Home by Carson Ellis. This is another book that has gotten a lot of attention in the blogging world. Gorgeous illustrations and sparse words show us how different people live around the world.Read more
Over the past two weeks, life, full of all good but time consuming things, has taken priority of over this space here. Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit was last week, but I’m going to participate today with my latest reads.
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I haven’t read a ‘self-help’ book in a long time. I tend to start them and abandon them so I stopped trying. Better Than Before was a book worth finishing. I learned a lot about myself and how and how not I should try to change my habits. This one is worth the read.
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. I saw the cover of this book and decided to read it before I even read the flap. It really is just about the coolest cover I have ever seen. The story is about a group of teenagers in the month leading up to what many have predicted to be the apocalypse. A giant asteroid is headed toward earth and it is fascinating to see just how people behave.
The Stranger by Harlan Coben. Harlan Coben lives in our town which made this book with multiple Ridgewood references all the more fun to read. The story was compelling and pretty easy to relate to- scarily enough!
Wreckage by Emily Bleeker. I had heard good things about this book so I decided to read it as soon as we got home from vacation. It seemed like a good idea to read it as far away from the next time I’ll be on a plane as possible. In case you didn’t guess, the story is about a small plane that crashes on a small island and the relationships that develop between the survivors.
Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey. Can you imagine if even the tiniest bit of light made your skin feel as if it were on fire? This memoir was a page turner and equally parts depressing and inspiring.
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. This recently released young adult novel has been called the new “Fault in our Stars.” I definitely did not like as much as that but it was a great read and an interesting opportunity to understand how it feels to be a gay teenager in today’s world.Read more
“I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.”
Katherine often asks to hear her birth story. When I tell it, I think her favorite part is that I went in for a regular doctor’s appointment, two weeks before her due date, and came home two days later with a baby. I think she likes the element of surprise.
Somehow, I feel equally surprised that my baby girl turns nine today. All the cliches fit in here nicely. Time flies. I remember that day like it was yesterday and on and on. There is just something about your youngest getting older. The girls recently informed me that one becomes a tween when they turn nine. Maybe that explains why I’m feeling so undone these days. Is it possible that both of my girls are now tweens? That they are both closer to being teenagers than they are to being toddlers?
Katherine has to remind me over and over again that she is no longer little. She wears the same size flip flops that I do. She asked for much more jewelry and clothes than she did toys this year. She amazes us constantly with her skills as a dancer and as a piano player. She is no longer just playing around with the things she loves. She is perfecting them. She participates in family conversations and is very often the wise, voice of reason. She makes us laugh and not in a silly way but in a really smart way. She loves to read and write and is becoming a 21st century learner, communicating with her teacher on line in a way that leaves me pretty much unneeded in the conversation. She is a great friend and is learning each day the values that she most respects in others and in herself.
There is a big part of me that misses the little girl that Katherine once was but there is an even bigger part of me that is excited to get to know this big girl because she is truly great.
Happy Birthday Katherine! I hope your day is as amazing as you are.
There are thousands upon thousands of books published each year. Therefore, I don’t know why I am surprised every single time when I find amazing new authors but I am. Recently, I stumbled upon two authors that are just genius that I want more and more people to know about.
Carin Berger commented on my blog earlier this year and while her name was familiar to me, I realized that somehow we had never read her books.
Her latest title is Finding Spring which is something that took an awfully long time to do around these parts this year. Perhaps our lingering winter made Finding Spring especially sweet but I came to realize that all of Carin’s work is to be treasured. She uses cut paper collage that is so fun to examine closely. You see little snippets of writing scattered on scrap paper used to create amazing illustrations. The stories in each of her books that we read including The Little Yellow Leaf, A Perfect Day and Forever Friends were great studies of both nature, the power of friendship and never feeling alone.
Along with Carin, we also discovered Sebastian Meschenmoser. My amazing friend Jules of Seven Impossible Things is to thank for this new-to-me author. And no secret here- she is often the one to lead me in a great direction. Waiting for Winter is no longer a seasonally appropriate read but I encourage you to check it out none the less. The expressions on the faces of the animals in this tale are among the best I have seen. Somehow in what appears to be simple pencil sketches, you can read in to the minds and the imaginations of these creatures who are out to find the first snowfall. The second title we read was Mr. Squirrel and the Moon. In this tale, Mr. Squirrel’s imagination runs wild and it is awfully fun to pretend right along with him.
I hope you enjoy these new-to-me authors as much as I did.Read more