Monday, September 11, 2017

A Few Things I Could Learn From My Kids

When our kids are young, it's mostly up to us to teach them all the things they need to know. We have to help them learn everything from toileting, to ABC's, to "stranger danger." It can be overwhelming, but, fortunately, we have some partners in this task. Our spouses, grandparents, anutns/uncles, and, eventually, teachers are also helping us on our quest to impart knowledge to our kiddos. 

All the while, whether we realize it or not, our kids are teaching us, too. Parenting has taught me so many things about myself, my husband, and life. My kids haven't taught me any of this intentionally - it just happens. However, now that they are a little older, I'm sure that if they were intentional, they could definitley teach me a few more things. 

Social Media - I consider myself to be pretty social media savvy, but I'm also savvy enough to know that my kids know WAY more than I do! I frequently find myself asking them "How do you do this on Instagram?" or "How does this Snapchat thing work?" If they were to teach a class, I'm sure sure I would learn lots of things I don't even really want to know. 

Celebrity Gossip - I don't know how they know these tidbits and facts, but they do - at least when it comes to celebrities that interest them. They know that Justin Bieber has the same birth date as me (minus a few years) and who Selena Gomez is dating now. They know who sings that song the radio plays over and over and over. They even know the meaning behind Taylor Swift's new video and how many YouTube views it has. 

Fashion - OK y'all, I've NEVER really been fashion forward. In fact, I walk a pretty fine line between conservative and just downright frumpy. I admit this openly. Fortunately, my girls have better fashion sense. Although, the trends stores typically offer make me want to scream and roll my eyes, my girls know how to pull it off. They put together outfits that I think will look ridiculous, but actually turn out to be pretty cute. Wonder what would happen if I let them dress me?!?!

Math - Give me research papers, vocabulary tests, and grammar examinations all day long, but please DO NOT MAKE ME DO MATH!!! It has never been my strong suit and I stopped be able to help with math homework by the time my kids hit middle school. Although the title of this post is "Things I Could Learn From My Kids," I'm actually not sure that anyone could successfully teach me how to do trigonometry or calculus.

How to Swim - I never learned to swim as a kid. My husband tried to teach me many, many years ago (before he was even my husband), but I was too nervous about being in the water to relax enough and learn. Over the years, I've gotten a little better, but if you are drowning and I'm your only hope - well, we're both in trouble. My kids, however, swim like fish. They've been in the water since they were babies and it is just natural for them. In fact, there's a much better chance that one of them could save you if you cramp up in the deep end!  

All About Horses - My two oldest daughters have been riding horses for 7+years. They know how to groom the horses, saddle up the horses, and, of course, ride them (including jumps and everything!). They also know all kinds of horse related factoids. I've been on a horse only a couple times that I can remember and they still make me a little skittish sometimes. I definitely would be able to secure a saddle or pick the dirt out of their hooves, but I know my girls could teach me. 

I'm sure there are tons more things my daughters could teach me. They seem to know all kinds of random facts and they are always learning new things. All the while, I hope that I am teaching them all the things they need to know and that we will continue to learn lots more together.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer Book Reviews 2017

With Labor Day upon us and the kids back in school, I think it's safe to say that summer is officially over which leaves me reminiscing about all the things we did (and didn't do) over the last three months. Back in June, I posted my list of Summer Reads. I've read seven books since then. Most of them were on that list, but not all. Overall, I was pleased with the books I chose. It became even clearer to me that historical fiction is by far my favorite genre. I have surprised myself, though, by being drawn to a couple "thrillers" which is not a genre I would have thought to be interesting a couple years ago. It's funny how our tastes change sometimes, isn't it?! Here's a rundown of what I read and what I thought. 
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain is set in North Carolina, the state I've lived in for most of my life, so it had a "hometown" draw for me. The story is set in a very rural part of the state in the 1960s when there was plenty of racial tension, women are still seen as "homemakers," and mental illness was very misunderstood. It tackles the issues of poverty, race relations, and government mandated sterilization head-on. There are parts of the novel that are not easy to swallow, but are they real and historically accurate - which is part of why it's hard to stomach. I gave this one ⭐⭐⭐ and would definitely recommend it to others. 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins is the follow up to her incredibly popular The Girl on the Train. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of either. The one big criticism I have of this book is that the chapters are narrated by many different characters which became confusing. While the chapters are chronological, there is no real pattern among the narrators and each one seems to narrate from a different point of view (first person, third person, etc.). Some of the chapters overlap events, but are told from different perspectives. Overall, I liked the story, but frequently found myself thinking, "Wait, which character was that?" and having to backtrack a bit in order to keep up. Ultimately, I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5)stars.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck is a historical fiction novel, but when I read reviews comparing it to All The Light We Cannot See  and The Nightingale, I was skeptical. Those are two of my favorite books and I could not imagine anything coming close to them.  It turns out that I was wrong and the reviewers were right! The book is vivid and engrossing. It gives a clear picture of life after the WWII and those who were left to pick up the pieces of their lives and their country. This is by far my favorite book of the summer and will be added to my list of all time favorites. Definitely recommend!! ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Last Letter From Your Lover by JoJo Moyes was my attempt to let this author redeem herself. I read Me Before You a few years ago and loved it, but the sequel, After You, was a grand disappointment. I was hoping that this one would renew my enthusiasm for her writing. It only got me about halfway there. The writing was pretty good, but the plot line was not unique and there were no real surprises for me in this one. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't amazing either. I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5 stars). 

What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan was a bit difficult to read because it chronicles a parent's greatest fear - losing a child - and the angst was palpable as I read. This book had a real "Whodunnit" flare and there were certainly some twists that kept me engaged trying to figure out the answers. In the end, the answer was not what I expected. I gave this one ⭐⭐⭐.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman was the wild card on my list. Based on the book's synopsis, I knew it was not going to be anything like what I normally read and that's why I added it to my list. I was on the fence about this book through much of it. At times, the "make believe" aspect was a little too much and overdone. But, the ending saved it and it turned out to be a truly endearing story about how a little girl and a grandmother's past bring an unlikely group of people together. I gave it ⭐⭐⭐.

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown was only okay. Based on the book cover synopsis, I predicted this to be a real page turner, but ended up finding rather anti-climatic. It was an interesting story line and there were some surprises along the way, but nothing that really made my jaw hit the floor. Perhaps my expectations were just a bit too high. I gave it ⭐⭐✩ (2.5 stars).

I still have five books left to read from my List of Books to Read in 2017 as well as two additional books sitting on my nightstand! There are only four months left in the year, so I guess I better get busy reading!! 😄😉📚

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

What did you read this summer?


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Our Last First Day of Middle School

I originally wrote this letter to my oldest daughter in August 2013 as she was about to begin middle school. At the time, it was brand new territory for all of us and we were both a little scared. 

Two years later, I shared it with my middle daughter as she embarked on her middle school journey.

Today, my youngest starts 5th grade, considered middle school at the school they attend. That means, it's our LAST FIRST day of middle school. Of course, I knew this was coming last spring as she finished up elementary school. I attended my last class party, possibly my last field trip as a parent chaperone, and did my last run in the elementary school carpool drop off line. Admittedly, part of me wanted to turn cartwheels and jump for joy. Another part of me, though, cried silent tears for the innocence and simplicity of childhood that has, somehow, slipped away in the blink of an eye. 

This is one of many, though - many last firsts - because there is a last time for everything, right? 

So, today, I share these words one more time - one last time. I still believe in them and hope they will continue to carry ALL my girls through the good times and the bad ones. 
Dear Emily,

Today, you start middle school. Since you are the youngest, I've been down this road before with your sisters, but that doesn't make it any easier for me to swallow and, probably, doesn't make you any less nervous than they were. Right now, I know you are excited about meeting new people, having new experiences, and gaining more independence. I am excited, too. I know that you are also a little scared, though, and I want you to know that I am, too.

I have heard lots of stories about kids - tweens and teens- making bad decisions, succumbing to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriate purposes, and trying to do grown up things like sexting and drugs far too soon. I read plenty accounts of means girls and heard plenty stories about adolescent drama  I'm sure you have heard some of these stories, too. Part of me wants to think my daughters are too smart and too good to fall into those traps. However, there is another part of me that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

We are currently standing at the bottom of a mountain - a mountain called adolescence and puberty and middle school and high school. We are preparing for the climb that will lead us to a peak with the most wonderful views and a fantastic sense of accomplishment. On our way there, though, as we climb to the top, we will certainly stumble on occasion. When the going gets tough (and even when it's easy), I want you to remember these pieces of advice.  I will do all that I can to remember them as well.

  1. Work hard.  Remember that school work comes first and everything else is secondary.  That includes sports and friends and other hobbies. I don't expect you to be perfect, but I do expect you to try your hardest every time. If you do, I will be proud, but you will be prouder.
  2. Be brave.  You are going to have so many new experiences. Some will be good.  Some will not. When you face these challenges, have courage. Stand up for what you believe even if it makes you "uncool." That will fade, but your courage will make a lasting impression.
  3. Be yourself.  You are unique and wonderful and just the way God intended you to be.  Don't ever change in an effort to "fit in." If others cannot see how fantastic and remarkable you are, that is their loss - not yours.
  4. Do what you know is right.  When others are pressuring you to do something and your gut tells you not to - LISTEN! We have tried our best to teach you what is right and what is wrong. You will know it in your heart. You just have to follow your instincts.
  5. Get organized.  School and life are only going to get harder, busier, and more complicated from here on out. Get organized now. Learn how to manage your time. Don't procrastinate. These are habits that will help you in middle school, in high school, in whatever career you choose, and in life for a long time to come.
  6. Be kind.  Adolescence can be tough and awkward and uncomfortable.  Remember that everyone is struggling with something. Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Even when it's not popular, be compassionate and courteous.
  7. Be confident.  You are awesome. Don't ever forget that. You can do anything you set your mind to. You will change the world - I'm sure of it.
  8. Surround yourself with the right kind of people. There is an old saying (that I heard many times from Memaw and Paw) that says something like "you are no better than the company you keep." If others are mean or deceitful or immoral or if they try to change you, then they are not the kind of people with whom you should spend your time. Rise above them.  
  9. Remember that we will always love you.  Daddy and I are here for you anytime you need us and there is nothing you can say or do that will make us stop loving you. If you have questions, we will find answers. If you are unsure how to handle a situation, we will gladly give you guidance. If your heart is breaking, we will dry your tears. If you have made a mistake, we will help you amend it. If you are about to explode with joy, we will share your happiness. All you have to do is come to us. We are NEVER too busy for you and your "problems" are NEVER too small or too big. All you have to do is talk. We will listen. I promise. 
  10. Have fun.  You are on the brink of learning so much and experiencing so much. It won't all be easy going - there will be bumps in the road. But, despite the bumps, there will also be lots to enjoy. Smile. Laugh. Make new friends. Soak it in. Enjoy this stage in your life. Believe me, it will go by faster than you can believe!

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