books and dreams and packing it light.

i-mfCtQNn-X2A lot of life happens outside of books.  Since my last post, my husband graduated with his PhD in neuroscience.  We moved out of our house and into my parent’s house for a couple short weeks.  Ohio is calling our name and we are listening.  Among all the hustle and bustle of packing our house and moving, I have enjoyed reading the Rush Revere series and The Life of Fred with my kids.  Sixty Acres and a Bride (again), The Four Agreements, Here to Stay, The Rose Garden, Sandwich with a Side of Romance, Somebody Like You, A Tangle of Knots, and Once Upon a Prince have kept me company.  Sweet, lovely company.

Although I desperately miss my quiet read time, I am enjoying our crazy-move-across-the-United-States adventure.  Leaving our home and neighbors has been hard, but  it has forced me to evaluate my priorities.  So much of my time revolves around wanting to appear more “this or that” instead of embracing the life I have and the silly little quirks that make me, me.  I think it is natural to reach for perfection instead of embracing the perfection that already surrounds us.

I often forget that no amount of skill or talent will increase my personal worth because my personal worth is already there.  It is in you and it is in me and it has been since the beginning of creation.  C.S. Lewis talks about finding the God in everyone that surrounds us and Ann at Holy Experience talks about people’s tendency to “see the world in measuring sticks instead of burning bushes.”  Whether you choose to write or read or sew or bake or take fancy pictures – your worth remains the same.

As a stay-at-home mom, I struggle with this concept.  I believe that I should bake cookies more often, fit in smaller jeans, always talk kindly, and never take a minute for myself… yet, I berate myself for not being more “in the world.”  Other moms volunteer in soup kitchens, crochet hats for the hospital, and run their own private businesses.  The act of looking around at the world with my own ruler drains my energy and decreases my appreciation for the gifts I have to offer.  Oprah relates this habit of looking and comparing the accomplishments of others to the runner that spends more time looking behind then ahead.  Panic will boil in the veins when someone behind starts to get close and desperation will saturate our courage when others pass us up.  Somehow in this life of social media connections, I have to learn to start looking ahead at the things I want to accomplish in my life.  I have to find the courage to give validation to my dreams.

I’ve learned that it is hard to “pack it light” when it comes to expectations we have for ourselves and for those that surround us.  We define what we want and we expect results.  Like my over-stuffed storage unit, we hang on to harsh personal standards that really hold us back and weigh us down.  In the book Walden, Henry David Thoreau talks about the weight and responsibility of our possessions.  We buy a little knick-knack and we have to dedicate our time and resources to keep it looking dust-free and nice.  Like our knick-knacks, our harmful thoughts and definitions of what it means to be a good person weigh us down and prevent us from enjoying the amazing blessings of today.  They force us to always see our glass as half-empty instead of overflowing, bubbly, and fizzy with gratitude for the amazing life we have to live today.

Thanks to a highly-stressful move, I am beginning to see the overflowing exciting bubbles of joy in my cup of life.  I am happy, loved, and dreaming big dreams.  I have everything I need and so much more.  And for that – I am truly grateful.

When Dinosaurs Came With Everything…

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When a young boy discovers that today dinosaurs come with everything, errands with his mom transform from dull to “best day ever.”  The illustrations are cute and the story is so much fun.  My boys continue to ask me to read it to them over and over and over again – which is awesome because I have fallen in love with the book too.

When Dinosaurs Came With Everything by Elise Broach is a book you are going to want to pick up and try for yourself.

And then maybe when you are done reading When Dinosaurs Came With Everything, you will need to line up all your own dinosaurs to teach them the rules of the house.  They won’t mind, it will just mean that they are part of the family too.

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**Homeschool Notes:  This book encouraged discussions about family rules – the younger boys modeling the rules to their dinosaurs.  Talked  about what it means to buy a “dozen” of something.  Emphasized the importance of everyone helping around the house.  Creative writing entailed what it would be like to have a pet dinosaur and what rules they would create.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

imagesWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin is an incredible story of a a young daughter named Minli and her quest to change her family’s fortune.  Traveling along the Fruitless Mountain, Minli comes in contact with dragons, goldfish, a buffalo boy, and a ruler of great city.

Minli’s quest magnifies the importance of her family. What appeared to be scarce and “not enough” became “plentiful and bountiful” the further she traveled away from her loving parents.  When the heart-breaking decision comes to for Minli to help her family or help a friend, Minli doesn’t have to think for too long.

Rich with imagination, heart, and love – this book is incredible.

And the pictures included in this book are inspiring to the imagination.

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The boys and I enjoyed this book very much and the depth to the stories and fables has left an impact on my heart.  This journeys and adventures within the pages of this book would be an incredible gift to give to a loved one – adults included.

Homeschool Notes:

While reading this book we located various rivers on the globe, studied the phases of the moon with oreos, made our own dragon symmetry art with string, studied Henri Matisse, and made our own goldfish paintings.

The book stimulated a lot of discussions about what it means to “have enough” and the power of gratitude.  In the book, Minli comes in contact with a boy and girl that do not wish to change their fortune.  They are content and grateful with what they have and do not wish for more.  Creative writing assignments were completed with the idea of “what if I had everything I wanted?” and “what if I stopped looking for more?”

And finally, we began the family practice of listing what we are grateful for during dinner every night.

Little Pear by Eleanor Francis Lattimore

BA15-lIf you judge a book by it’s cover, you have no time to love it.  I am embarrassed to admit that I almost judged Little Pear by Eleanor Francis Lattimore.  One look at the cover made me believe that my boys wouldn’t like this book.  

News flash – my boys LOVED Little Pear!

And I did too.

Little Pear is a compilation of stories about a five-year-old Chinese boy and his adventures.  He learns the importance of communicating with his family, not wandering off, and problem solving with his friends.

Some children’s books fail to communicate the consequences of lying, running away from home, and stealing.  This isn’t one of the books.  Like the book Ping, this book creatively teaches values and introduces vital conversations between parent and child.

I don’t own this book yet, but it is on my ever-growing-list of books to buy.  I love owning books with values and goodness in my house for little hands and growing minds to explore.

Mathematicians are People Too – Volume 1

51P4BWJW2FL._SY300_ My kids seriously love this book.  Mathematicians are People Too – Volume 1 is all about the famous mathematicians and scientists that made math what it is today.

Archimedes was found running down the street naked while yelling “Eureka!”  He had been stewing over a math problem while in the bath and was so excited he forgot to get dressed before running back home to write it down.

Pythagoras paid his first student to listen to him teach.  Later, he loved teaching so much that he created his own school.  People of the city were scared of his mathematical developments and set fire to the school.  It was said that his students created a human bridge in an attempt to save their teacher.  Students and teacher were all killed.

Young Newton created trouble when he decided to fly kites at night with a lantern attached.

And Thales looked for patterns in everything.  Patterns allowed him to solve his problems creatively – even with his stubborn donkey.

This fun book shares stories about Galileo, Hypatia, Pascal, and many more.  While reading the book, we learned that math didn’t always come easy for everyone but it is worth the work.  Math and numbers and science can be fun!  Love this book!

The 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes

The_Hundred_DressesWhat do you do when someone claims something you know to be false?

And what do you do when this person continues to “lie” about it?

This is the predicament found in The 100 Dresses by Eleanor Estes.  A girl that comes to school in the same faded blue dress, day after day, has just claimed that she owns 100 dresses.

The girls at school ruthlessly continue to tease the girl about her dress collection on the way to school, during recess, and on the way home.  The so-called-owner of the 100 dresses never sheds a tear and the girls think the teasing is okay.

Until one day…

The day of the school drawing competition proves that the girl wasn’t lying.  100 beautiful dresses painted upon sheets of paper hang around the room in all shades and styles.  The pictures, drawn by the faded-blue-dress-girl, are amazing.

The girls are ashamed when they realize that the girl did have one hundred dresses. Instead of cloth, her dresses hung on sheets of paper.

The pictures of the dresses are good, amazing, and award worthy.  The girl never comes back to school to receive her award.  Faced with the consequence of their teasing, the girls feel awful.  They try to make amends with the girl but she has moved away.

I love the discussions this book started in our home.  Contrary to the popular playground saying – sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me – our words and actions do affect the people around us.  Sometimes words hurt more than a fist.  We talked about finding the courage to stand up against people “poking fun” of others and the importance getting to know people.

The girl with the faded-blue-dress simply wanted to be accepted and loved.  She “dug deep” as Brene Brown would say, and chose to Dare Greatly.  She chose to share a part of her heart with the people – in hopes of connecting with others – and her heart was bruised with their words.  The 100 Dresses has a powerful message for young and old alike: love before you judge.

I think it is easy to believe that we can only be friends with people who are “just like us.”  In reality, we can love and connect with everyone in the world if we are willing to put down our differences and acknowledge that everyone is lonely.

In conclusion, The 100 Dresses is a beautiful book, worth the space it will take on your bookshelf and in your heart.

Building Mighty Hearts

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For the last two years, my oldest has been enrolled at our local public school with his brothers close behind.  The environment has been fabulous with many resources and assistance available.  My head proclaims that “this is good,” while my heart has been arguing that something isn’t quite right.

Like many families, our life revolves around the school schedule.  We roll out of bed to pack lunches, hurry one another out the door to school, showers sometimes happen, and the kitchen is quickly cleaned after my 2nd grader walks out the door.  Mornings evaporate and before I have time to breathe, it’s lunch time.  We eat while  frantically finishing that kindergarten homework that we were unable to finish the night before.  I quickly wipe lunch from kindergarten-boy’s face while carpool waits on the driveway, rush the youngest kids down for a nap, wake them up early to hurry back over to school for pick up, squeeze in a hug and kiss, argue about homework, scramble half a dozen eggs for dinner, more homework, read to the kids if it is a good day, sort laundry, and hop back into bed….

My head says this is good, normal, while my heart screams for something more.  Deep within in the monotony of every day life, I feel paper-like.  Plastic.  Disposable.  Too rushed to sprout into the mother and woman I want to be.  My heart screams for freedom to read to my kids without time restraints, to experience the lights that pop in their eyes when they learn something new, and to dedicate my life to their future in a way that our established schedule will not allow.

I crave the busyness of having my kids at home, their smiles, and their energy all day long.  I want to experience the world in their eyes, introduce them to new ideas, and explore friendships.  I want to talk to them and listen to the melody of their heart.

But… I can’t find the energy to do it all.  I can’t maintain the balancing act of school and the heart.  I am too busy spiraling around with the demands of the world to be the mother I want to be.  Like a puppet called to perform an act that isn’t my own, I zoom around carting my children off while secretly wishing I could stop.  At the end of the day, I want to “hit the pillow” with the knowledge that my children are not strangers to me.

I fully acknowledge that homeschooling isn’t right for everyone.  It hasn’t always been the answer for my family and it may not be our long term goal.  But right now, I am more than excited to slow down and plant the seeds of love within the mighty hearts of my children – “angela style.”