Thursday, May 21, 2015

Summer To-Read Pile (#1)

This weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer.  All those hours relaxing by the pool: hat, sunglasses, nice cold sweet drink, while the kids frolic happily on the way far other end.  Those days lazing on the beach, toes in the sand.  Those cool evenings, swinging in the hammock.

(Or more likely...) The mornings, afternoons, and evenings sitting poolside waiting for your swimmer kid to finish his one event in the 3-hour meet, running your own kid camp - summer school - sports practice - Vacation Bible School - friend's house bus route, or trying to keep one eye on your kid who just ran to the far other end of the playground and hoping you don't get arrested on suspicion of being a free-range parent.

Whatever the summer plans, we still have our to-read pile. That stack that - if the sun aligns just right with our sweet tea - we'll be able to get through by the end of August.  Here's the start of mine (more to be added, of course) - and a warning if you've never read my to-read pile selections before - I'm not promising I actually know what the book is about. It's either been recommended to me by someone I trust to make a good book selection or the cover and/or title is intriguing.

Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
"Lydia is dead. But they don't this yet." That's the first line - what else do you need?

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
Keep seeing it on must-read lists, so well, I guess I have to read it.

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Everything, Mira Jacob
This just sounds like a fun title.

Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads, Rosalind Wiseman
What happens to those middle and high school mean girls when they grow up?

Children's Books
I generally don't read too many children's books for myself, but I have picked up these two.  They happen to be free verse novels - stories told in a series of poems. Note too, if you are looking for diverse books - these are both African-American authors.

The Crossover, Kwame Alexander
Alexander was the guest reader for my school's PTA Family Reading Night.  My high schooler (my avid reader and basketball player) read it and loved it, though it's written for a younger age, so it's a good intro to poetry for the little people.

Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
I read so many "must read" reviews on this and then realized it was a children's book. It's a memoir of the author's childhood in the 1960s and '70s.

Still looking for more suggestions - what's on your summer to-read list? 

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*and keep up on my reading pile on Goodreads

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

#WIP Crochet: Sunset Summer Shawl

Task 1 - find another word other than "shawl" for the large swatch of fabric to wrap around yourself when you are out on a summer evening and feeling chilly.  "Shawl" sounds like something your grandmother would carry around to church.

In the meantime, while we're working on that etymology project, here's my new shawl project. I explained last week that it started out as poncho (also an article of clothing that needs a new name), but didn't like it and was debating pulling it all out and starting it as a whole new thing.  I'm continuing with that plan.  I've got it packed in my cute little 31 Totes pouch and am carrying it around, trying to get it done before summer kicks in.

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*or check out more crochet at ilove2crochet on Ravelry

Monday, May 18, 2015

Currently... Recovering from #GirlPop2015 & #GOTRMoco15

It was a busy weekend and I haven’t fully recovered yet.  I'm currently, looking back on a girl-filled weekend.

I took my Girl Scouts to #GirlPop2015 in Philadelphia. Hosted by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, it was a full day of guest speakers and breakout workshops on topics relevant to girls.  There were sessions on careers in fashion design and food, STEM and sports, media and entrepreneurship.  Moms also had options; I went to sessions about entrepreneurship and images in the media.  Keynote speakers included Shiza Shahid, co-founder of the Malala Fund; Vivienne Harr, who raised over $100,000 to fight child slavery – when she was 8 years old (only a few years ago), and Dr. Aprille Joy Ericsson, a real-life rocket scientist.  The girls were particularly excited about Mone’ Davis, the star of last year’s Little League Baseball, and Matthew Shuler, a performer from The Voice.  It was a different experience for them, they were expecting something more hands-on. But now, as they are getting older (they’re preparing to go into high school), it was a good next step, of listening and paying attention.

We also had our Girls on the Run 5K this weekend.  This is our fourth season of having a GOTR team at our elementary school and it’s just as exciting as the first season.  Getting the girls to actually run/walk 3 miles is an accomplishment, but it’s the personal development along the way that really makes this program worthwhile.  This season, I’ve had these comments from our girls:
  • One with a recurring pain in her foot, who usually does not walk or run, was determined to finish the race.  When we practice, she said that if she goes slow and takes time to stretch her foot, she could finish.  And she did!  (Don’t worry, Mom and doctor knew she was involved in the program.)
  • One of our girls has asthma and she was so proud of herself one day when she was having a really good run. She said it was the best she had done in two seasons. A later practice, the weather was awful and she had to walk most of the course and she was disappointed that her pace wasn’t the same. But she finished, knowing that she could do better and she was learning to manage her health.

It's comments like these, when you see the girls actually seeing the potential in themselves, that trumps the sore muscles and tired feet.

I slept very little, drove a couple hundred miles, and spent hours with my daughters. It was a good weekend.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

A Flower Grows in Brooklyn (Botanical Gardens)

On our last trip to New York, our friend suggested we stop through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.  It was our first (real) stop after a morning departure from home and four-hour drive. The flowery pathways and beautiful gardens made for a great place to stretch our legs and kick off vacation.

Add a visit the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens to your New York City itinerary
There is, of course, a schedule of events and talks and demonstrations, but we didn’t do any of that. Instead, we met our friend and wandered around, enjoying the blooms and fragrances of the various themed gardens. Here's a few.

The Fragrance Garden, with all the smell-good flowers.  We might’ve even picked a mint leaf and sniffed at it through out the day.

The Japanese garden, my perennial favorite at any garden. This one has the requisite lake and pavilion.  If I lived nearby, I could imagine bringing a book and a cup of tea for an afternoon of peace and quiet.

The Waterlilies. Another one of my favorites. Flowers growing in water is quite fascinating to me. And as a black-thumb gardener, it seems like a good option, the opposite of a cactus, but maybe just as easy?

Bonsai Gardens.  I'm amazed by little teeny plants and trees and the patience required to cultivate such little greenery.

If you're going, what you need to know
  • The Gardens are closed on Monday
  • Admission is FREE on Tuesday, but a relatively good price the rest of the week ($12 for adults, $6 for kids over 12, kids under 12 are free anyday)
  • It’s next to the Brooklyn Museum and you can get a combo Art & Garden ticket

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Currently... Exhausted by my Calendar

If I was rich and famous, I think I could be hospitalized with a press release saying I was suffering from exhaustion.  And people would check on me and I'd be given some time to rest.  Instead, I'm a regular mom of 4 and this is my regular state of being. Pass the coffee and the water, because according to my primary care expert, WebMD, I may also be dehydrated.

Why, oh, why would I be tired?  Here's a few ideas. Maybe some look familiar.

I've put stuff on our summer calendar.  My mind is already boggled looking at the grid of sports schedules, possible championship/next level events if kid/team qualifies, pre-college activities (still grappling with that), conventions.... all during the restful summer.

I'm looking at the end-of-school calendar. Exams, concerts, award ceremonies, summer registrations. Oh, and graduation! My oldest/first niece is graduating from high school!  We're so proud of the beautiful, talented young lady she has become and wishing her the most success as she ventures off! But - how did we get to this point? It seems like not too long ago that I went to her pre-school graduation. Her next big step is the first domino of a succession to fall, with my other nieces and nephew and own children in line, one after another. So understand, this isn't just my niece graduating and moving on with her new adult-ish life - this is all the blood-related children in my life leaving me.

I'm thinking about getting back to a real exercise plan. You know how bad it is when the thought of exercising makes you tired? Yeah. That's bad.

There's still a stack of to-do's on my desk and in my email box.  Even with the strategy of ignore it long enough and it will be too late to do it anyway, there's still a bunch of stuff to do. The trick, of course, is figuring out what must be done and what would be nice to do if there was time, because a lot of us get bogged down with getting it all done, even the stuff we don't even care about or someone else put on our list.  The list needs to be triaged to: must do, want to do, don't care to do.

Whew. I think I need a nap.

How do you carve out vacation and fun and relaxation on your calendar?

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

I Really Did Learn All I Needed In Kindergarten

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. If you’ve got a kid in school, you probably couldn’t miss it, with all the hoopla about celebrating your kid’s teacher.  And, don’t get me wrong, it’s all well-deserved. I mean, sure, we parents got them through the ABCs and how to count to ten (and the over-achieving parents made it to 100) but spelling, explaining why “rough” and “through” do not rhyme, when to use a comma, carrying the 1 (though it’s not called that anymore) and long division?  And then the harder stuff like chemical equations, ancient world history, and math involving area under a curve?  Yeah, home-schooling is not an option for the sanity of this household.  Summer workbooks and homework is about our limit. So 
THANK YOU! to my kids’ teachers.

During this week, I came across my kindergarten report card. Wow. What a difference some years make in the expectations of our kids.  I actually was evaluated on properly using scissors and my ability to skip and hop.  These are such important skills for life!  I don’t hop much these days, but I might skip a little bit more than a woman my age is expected to and I definitely use scissors a lot.

Here’s a few other life lessons I learned in Kindergarten.
  • I claim only my share of attention.  Obviously, I was in the pre-selfie and reality show generation.
  • I enjoy books, stories, and poems. This has never changed, thank goodness.  As well, these is crucial for a writer.
  • I take care of my personal needs.  I need to do that a little bit more these days and make myself a priority.  Not all the time, but sometimes us moms need to remember to put ourselves first.
  • I express myself with art materials.  The hundreds of skeins of yarn and shelves of craft materials is proof that’s still a key part of my life.
  • I am courteous and considerate of others. I do my best.

On the explanation of the report card to parents, it notes that “kindergarten introduces [students] to school as a happy place.”  I know school has changed a lot since knowing your colors was considered an accomplishment for 5-year olds, but I do like to think that children can look to their school as their happy place. And thank you to the teachers that make it so.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When's It Time to Start Over? A Question for the Crafter and for Life

Any crafter knows, sometimes that wonderful idea you had in your head doesn’t work out exactly the way you envisioned it.  You can tell early on, too – those first few stitches, cuts of fabric, swashes of paint.  But maybe if you tweak it, maybe if you carry on, it’ll magically become what you imagined.  Or maybe it won’t, and you’ll have a disappointing mess.

Thus, you are faced with the question of whether to keep on going, because you’ve started and invested your time, materials, energy, or do you start all over again and accept the lost investment, but hopeful for the thing you actually wanted.

This may seem a deep philosophical question for the events that come up in your life. That college choice, your job, a relationship.  There’s many choices we make in life that seemed like a great idea when we started, but somewhere along those first few steps, we get clear signals that we were not going to be happy with the end results.

For today, however, this is a pretty basic question. Should I keep on with this poncho/shawl plan I had for this orange yarn, because it’s not looking as cute as I had originally thought it would or do I unravel it and start all over again on a new design, one that I may like better and actually wear more? Do I continue with the one that may be easier, the poncho, because it's my own design so I can be creative and no one can tell me that it's wrong, or with the one that may be a little harder because it's from a pattern, which by the way is written in Russian with a basic pattern chart.  Such is the question of the crocheter.
Poncho in progress - my own design 
The other option - a summer shawl
Since I have two skeins, I’m gong to start option number two (the shawl) and see whether I like that any better than the poncho.

Life isn’t always like that, you can’t always follow two parallel paths until one is the obvious choice.  Sometimes you have to make a definite choice and be ready to start over if you have to.  Or stick with your choice and make the best of it.  But back to my yarn…

I’m carrying it around with me and will work on a few more rows, then decide. Either way, I guess I’m going to have to unravel one or the other.

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