I love to sit down and contemplate the past year and plan for the new one. I usually dream up things I’d like to do and write down my hopes and plans for the new year.
Here are a few cool things I’ve run across that will make 2017 an interesting, artistic, and engaging year.
Memory keeping. This is something I want to do more and do better. Check out this awesome app: 1 second every day . Digitally record a bit of life every day and easily compile your recordings into videos. I’m also considering this as a mini-project for my kids. Check out creator Cesar Kuriyama’s intriguing TED talk.
Need reading motivation? Want to do something different to crank up your reading life? I found the mega-list of Reading Challenges. There is something for everyone here.
Still don’t know what to read or put on your challenge list? Check out this Literature Map to help you find authors you may enjoy. Or just have fun exploring their parent site to discover movies, technology, and music. It’s pretty awesome.
Feed your creative side and take part in a 31 Day Drawing Challenge through Creative Bug. I’m planning on doing the one I’ve linked here.
If you’re a poet or want to try your hand at writing poetry, try a Poetry Writing Challenge. This one is several years old, but it is still full of engaging prompts. Although designed for the month of April (National Poetry Month), these prompts can be done any time of year, so pull this up and have fun.
And of course, if you want to follow in the footsteps of the NaNoWriMo movement, here is the official NaPoWriMo site — National Poetry Writing Month. In April, they will post daily prompts and inspiration.
And if you’re looking to keep track of all of these plans, check out this overly simple calendar from MochiThings. Feel free to send me a gift card to this site. #JapaneseCutenessOverload
Do NOT buy these. I repeat: Do NOT buy these. You will eat the whole package and then feel massive regret. Regret that you didn’t buy the bigger size. They are why I now avoid the candy aisle. I mean, is there anything more awful for you? Sugar, sugar, and a whole crayola box of food coloring. Gah, I’m salivating just thinking about it!
2. Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix.
I am on a roll when it comes to things you probably shouldn’t consume. This show is one of them. But I will have to say that I binged watched this many Friday nights–often with a bag of the previously mentioned badness ;). It is NOT for the faint of heart and is excessively and increasingly violent. I will say I have enjoyed the comic book cinematography that the series employs, the extensive backstories for the heroes and the villains, but let’s face it: it’s the movie equivalent of those gummy worms.
Although I should try to redeem this post with something less indulgent, I’ve decided to forgo the effort. I mean, can you really redeem gummy worms and violent “super hero” episodes on Netflix? So, lastly, I offer you:
3. Park and Eat.
No, I’m not talking about the little diner just down the road that sports the same name. I’m talking about shamelessly picking up your favorite fast food while out on a solo shopping run and actually taking the time to eat it. Alone. Unhurried. In a quite location (i.e. the car). Recently I discovered that I was not the only mom who partook of this guilty pleasure. There are other moms sitting in parking lots eating Chik-Fil-A, and they are loving it! Why not go in and sit down, you may ask? Well. We want quiet. We want peace. We want to listen to whatever radio station we want to listen to and not be interrupted. We want to drink every single last drop of our Coke and not share any of it. And yes, we want to order the dessert that you never have room for and eat it anyway because . . . well . . . because we can!
As Dorothy made her way to Oz with her trio of friends, she only wanted one thing:
To Get Home.
Her friends each searched for the thing they needed most. The Lion needed Courage; the Tin Man needed a Heart; the Scarecrow needed a Brain.
And Dorothy? Well, Dorothy needed home.
This past week, I spent 3 days surrounded by a group of women each looking for something they thought they needed. We gathered to listen to the wonderful Julie Bogart as she imparted her wisdom regarding life, relationships, and homeschooling during the “Be Good to You” Brave Writer Retreat. But as the days went on, I think we began to notice that there was something else we needed. Something we had overlooked in our search for the elusive Wizard. The one thing that will magically help us. Something we already had.
During one of the final sessions, Julie discussed “The Invisible Education.” This “Invisible Education” results from the atmosphere of our homes as we strive to educate our children.
What kind of atmosphere are we creating? Well, we can boil it down to a simple question: do we create a space that tries to replicate school, or do we “retool our understanding of home to support learning”?
Retooling our understanding of home involves coming to grips with the belief that Home is not meant to be the same as school. It is meant to be HOME–a place of love, support, encouragement, time, rest, hugs, freedom and more. Basically, everything that most schools aren’t.
Seems simple enough, but homeschool families are a bit notorious for taking the simple and making it complicated. Julie encourages us to pour into the atmospheres of our homes and work to create a space where learning thrives naturally. We do this through Connection with our kids. As Julie continued to explain, Connection consists of 6 Cs.
The 6 Cs of Connection
Compassion (compassion for all things, successes and problems)
Collaboration (the presence of a mentor; be present as a parent/mentor)
Communication (tell the truth; be a partner)
Creativity (problem solving; allowing space for not knowing)
Cognition (knowing how to guide students into “musing, pondering, and mulling things over)
Consistency (a pattern of behavior; our compassion/collaboration/etc needs to be consistent)
As I took all of this in, Julie brought the session to a close with a fun performance of the song Home from The Wiz. She noted that Dorothy just wanted to get home. That Home was where she felt safe and loved.
I started thinking about Dorothy’s friends: The Lion, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and noticed an important link. In order for us to make our homes HOME, we all need the same things those characters did. We all need Courage, A Heart, and A Brain.
1) My sweet, dear son has decided that he wants to read War and Peace. For over a year, he has begged me to get him a copy of the novel so he could read it. He has had a penchant for hefty literary volumes, so after I’d heard enough begging, I decided to dig out my paperback copy and give it to him.
By the way, he’s eleven.
At the moment, he’s somewhere around chapter 5. Why would a boy want to read War and Peace, you may ask? I’ll let him speak in his own words:
“Mom, don’t you think that if an eleven year old boy reads War and Peace, it gives him braggin’ rights?”
Yes, son. It surely does. It surely does. So READ ON!!!
2) Yes. You are seeing that correctly. There is a picture of Little Debbie right here. And let me tell you this little box of Star Crunch goodness is DANG-ER-OUS! But it’s fun and delicious and crunchy danger. If you’ve never had these, you need to get your sweet tooth geared up and grab a box. My mom used to buy these on occasion when I was growing up and pop them in the freezer. I think it was an attempt to keep us from eating them; instead, it just made me enjoy them in their rock hard state. I try to avoid most junk food, but a few days ago the store had three boxes of Little Debbie’s for $5. Who can pass that up??
3) Last but not least, I have been enjoying Simply Charlotte Mason. If you are a homeschooling mom, you probably know about this site. But you may not. I was blessed enough to find this site early on in my homeschool adventure. It has been a source of encouragement, inspiration, and all-around help. Plus, who doesn’t LOVE their resources (especially the artist studies!). As I’m planning our next school year, I find myself drawn back to this site for it’s suggested schedules and reading lists. If you’re a homeschooling family, do check it out. If you aren’t, please take a look and learn about Charlotte Mason–you may find yourself inspired.
If you are new to Charlotte Mason and her style of learning, then this short introduction to the many facets of a CM education is for you. With brief descriptions of everything from Narration to Science and Geography, Catherine Levison covers it all. It is a nice, concise overview of CM style and a wonderful resource for anyone wanting the skinny on CM.
2. Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot
I have loved reading this book. A seemingly never-ending adventure that includes bandits, hunger, loneliness, hardship, and victory, this true story by Sarah Marquis is an engaging page-turner. Marquis tells the story with honesty and no sensationalism. Her introduction pulled me in as she shared her dedication.
“I dedicate it to all of the women throughout the world who still fight for their freedom and to those who have gained it, but don’t use it.”
Whew. Challenge accepted!
From our many travels, we had racked up several airlines miles, but with no future travel in sight, they were soon to expire. Mags for Miles to the rescue! By cashing in my miles, I subscribed to seven, count ’em, 7 magazines. Cooking Light, Southern Living, and more. 🙂 I was quite pleased. Although I’d love a subscription to Garden & Gun or Oxford American, I wasn’t given those options. So I picked from the list they offered. It has been nice to have a variety of magazines handy when I just want to sit down and take a brain break. Got expiring miles? This might be worth checking out.
Etched on the side of a rough black baton are two simple letters: N and O. But this baton, though light in your hands, weighs down the other members on your team. It’s easy to carry, barely noticeable, and if you’re not careful, you will overlook the effect it has on your teammates.
As moms, our favorite word can sometimes be “no.” We wield it deftly in the face of repeated questions. We tap out a rhythm of “no. No. NO” after all the begging for candy. This baton is so easy to carry we just slip it in our back pocket and take off running, all the while keeping one hand on it so we don’t lose it along the way.
Saying no is necessary as a parent. “No” can keep our children safe. “No” can help a child learn boundaries. But how many times do we say no to harmless desires our children voice because they are inconvenient or require something of us?
“Mom, will you play outside with us?”
“Mom, can we make cookies?”
“Mom, can I go to with you?”
and on an on . . .
Saying YES to your child can brighten his/her day so much. I’ve seen a look of unexpected happiness cross my son’s face when I said, “yes” to one of his requests. I don’t remember what he asked for, it was insignificant . . . to me. But it was important to him. And saying “yes” lifted his chin a little bit and pushed his shoulders back.
His leg of the race got a bit easier.
So GIVE UP. Throw that black baton over your shoulder and notice how much easier your teammates run. They just may start cheering you on while you’re running.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with someone.
As I mentioned last week, moms have a difficult race to run, and sometimes as we run, we pick up batons that don’t belong to our team. And because we pick up these batons, we run with a burden and not the freedom God intends us to have.
The baton of perfectionism.
This baton is still in the package, and that’s the way we’re going to leave it while we’re running.
I used to struggle with perfectionism in many area of my life, but then I had kids, and I got a big ole dose of reality. Now I live in the realm of “good enough.”
House need cleaning? Well, it’s good enough.
Kitchen spotless? Nope, but it’s good enough.
You get the picture. However, my expectations did not relocate to the land of “good enough.” No, my expectations kept their home address on the Peninsula of Perfectionism. (I have a sneaky feeling I’m mixing metaphors, but stick with me). This baton of perfectionism shows up so heavily in my expectations.
I expect my children to wake up, eat breakfast, and prepare for the day, but they seem to have other ideas, and they definitely operate at a pace that doesn’t exist in my world. I expect our homeschooling day to go as planned. It doesn’t. And although I know that some of these things are never going to happen as I expect them to, I still struggle with my perfect expectations.
This perfectionism becomes a burden in my motherhood race.
This baton makes me frustrated and irritable and even hopeless. I carry it around and sigh when things go awry. And my kids notice those sighs and then believe they have done something wrong; they have not measured up to my perfect expectations–expectations they may know nothing about. Our sighs contain a world of meaning to little ones so GIVE UP.
Toss that perfectly packaged baton in the grass and notice how your mind clears of things that should be and begins to look at the things that are. You’ll start to enjoy the day as it is, with all of it’s dirty clothes, messy beds, brave attempts, and sincere hugs.
In my dream life, I have Maria’s job. I love everything about this site. This site makes me want to research and write a literary analysis essay for the heck of it. Follow her on Twitter for something fresh about creative life and history.
As Maria states, “The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways.”
Check it out, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. (oh, make sure you don’t miss the “ALSO” section in the side bar for some fun finds).
I started homeschooling in August 2015, and we are quickly approaching the end of our first year. I can’t believe it. It has gone so fast, but it has been so good. (Read about why we homeschool). Toward the end of our first semester, I found Julie Bogart of BraveWriter on Periscope. Her scopes were so inspiring and encouraging, and through those scopes, I ran into another group of amazing women: the women of Homeschool Scopes.tv. I have never found a more supportive, uplifting, and encouraging group of women. I get the feeling that if these women lived nearby, I could call them in a time of need, and they would almost all come over to help. The kind Melanie Wilson is the founder of the group; however, it is full of homeschool moms sharing their experiences and encouraging one another. If you are a homeschooling mom, do check them out. You’ll be glad you did.
Lynna has been doing brief “Mama Moments” on her Facebook page. For just a few minutes, Lynna hits on some huge topics relevant to us moms. She’s a sweet-spirited, relatable mom of seven. Check it out; you’ll find encouraging moments like this one (if the video doesn’t show, just follow the link):
We are currently listening to The Cay by Theodore Taylor and narrated by Michael Boatman. Boatman does an amazing job telling this story. Lively and authentic, his reading has captured our attention and our imagination. It is a story that has us listening intently. We usually listen to audio-books in the car, and just today, my son asked if we could go for a drive because he wants to know what is happening in the story. Great characters and strong stories never really disappear from our minds, do they?
So there you have it. The first issue of Brown Paper Packages. Four things I’m enjoying right now. If you check them out, let me know what you think.
That really is the secret to winning this whole motherhood race.
Yes. You read that right. I said “give up.” You’re probably thinking how on earth can giving up lead to winning. Usually winning is reserved for those who don’t give up. Well, not in motherhood. For mothers, victory comes when we give up.
Instead of just focusing on our own lane, the race before us, and the steps we need to take, we often scan the other lanes, sizing up the competition (other moms), trying to see how she does it, trying to figure out how we can be more like her, wondering if the other runners will notice our stained uniform and our imperfect hair. But all of that scanning just distracts you from your goal, your race.
Often in this motherhood race, we even reach for batons that are not even in our lane, batons that don’t belong to our team. And if you’ve ever run a race, you know that full hands and carrying heavy things are not conducive to a successful run. But moms seem to have a difficult time running with the team baton. We keep reaching for other things to carry.
Here are some of the batons we grab as we run this motherhood race.
The baton of control.
Smooth and sleek, control feels lovely. It’s ergonomic and custom fit to our own hand. It seems perfect, but what we often don’t realize is that control does not help us achieve victory. More often than not, control keeps us from ever crossing the finish line because we don’t let other team members run with us. We decide we can win the relay by ourselves. All four legs? We got ’em.
As a mom, we often allow control to push our kids away instead of embracing them and bringing them along with us. Control likes to be alone, and it likes to do everything alone because then it can do things the way it wants to.
I am a notorious control freak especially in the kitchen. Make cookies with the kids? NO! Too messy. Teach a child how to cook a simple meal? NO! Takes too long. And on and on. When I’m alone, I can control things.
But when I’m alone, I’m alone.
My children are learning from me, but they are not learning the things I want them to learn. They are learning that it’s better to be alone and do things alone because you can control things. But you and I both know that that is an illusion. Control only brings stress and usually a bitter satisfaction. Yes, we did it. But we know that it cost the other teammates.So . . .
Give up control.
Allow your children to join you in the kitchen. So what if there is a mess, cleaning is a life skill, too.
Drop that baton, and embrace the freedom found in open hands.
Have you ever considered the difference between these two words? Ever considered how knowing this difference could possibly change strained relationships in your life?
Well, I never had! Not until I readHave a New Kid by Friday by Kevin Leman. (ok, that totally sounded like a Reading Rainbow book review, but anyway) I read this book when my 1st born wasn’t quite 3. He’s about to turn 7, so I’ll save the detailed scholarly review for another day. But although it’s been a few years since I read this, there were/are two things from the book that have stayed with me.
1) After trying the “no eye contact” method for dealing with the 1st born getting out of bed constantly, he slumped his shoulders in defeat and slouched back to bed and stayed there. (whoop whoop!)
2) Respond. Don’t react. There’s a difference.
Leman’s book for desperate parents has some great information and good ideas, but this is one concept for everyone. Learn to respond rather than react . Oftentimes, parents (or kids/wives/husbands/employees/bosses/students and the list goes on) react rather than respond to our children (or family/husbands/wives/etc). As Leman, writes “our emotions get the better of us, and we speak or act without thinking first.”
So what’s the big difference between the two? Well, the Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines react this way:
1: to exert a reciprocal or counteracting force or influence
2: to change in response to a stimulus
3:to act in opposition to a force or influence
4: to move or tend in a reverse direction
5: to undergo chemical reaction [ever felt like you might spontaneously combust?!]
Still not clear? Leman explains it this way, “If the doctor says, ‘You responded to your medication,’ that’s good. If the doctor says, ‘You reacted to your medication,’ that’s bad.”
So when your child does something crazy, like push a playmobil pirate arm band up her nose, don’t fly off the handle and go psycho. That will just end up freaking her out even more which will make it all that much harder to fish out. She already knows it was a bad idea.
And instead of shooting down every little hope and dream your child tosses into the air like a balloon (reacting), take a minute to watch it float higher and higher, imagine where it may go, guess how far it will travel, wonder if someone will find it. Hope that it will reach the moon. Respond.
by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow
A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath. Proverbs 15:1-3
(originally published in Jan. 2012 at realjennywhite.com)