Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'm Going to Stop Telling My Kids to "Be Nice"

On June 9th, in 55 days, Molly and I will be in New York to see Matilda on Broadway. She is so excited! Molly and I read Matilda together and then I found out it was coming to Broadway. She really didn't want anything for her birthday, so I got us tickets to the show. We have already downloaded the music to her ipod and she is singing along. Now she is reading Who was Roald Dahl? and is thoroughly enjoying learning about this British author. I just read the NY Times review for Matilda and I also am looking forward to our NY trip. You can read the review here. 

I love the part that says, " 'Matilda,' you see, is about words and language, books and stories, and their incalculable worth as weapons of defense, attack and survival. It’s about turning the alphabet into magic, and using it to rule the world."

Doesn't that make you want to read it and see the show?

Molly and I are now reading together The London Eye Mystery. She loves everything England. I really think that Molly is an old soul and had another life in England. She actually went to school today wearing her British flag shirt. I just get little glimpses of her from somewhere else every once in a while, like when she says, "The snow is ever so lovely."  While reading Matilda, she just absorbed all the little language differences between American English and British English. 

Molly just finished Who is Jane Goodall? She got both this book and the Roald Dahl book at the school book fair. This was the perfect book for Molly because Jane Goodall is also British and works to save the environment for the chimpanzees.

Molly was reading this book at Shannon's soccer game yesterday. She is very concerned about nature and the environment. Right now in her third grade class, she is learning about soil. Now that it's spring, she wants to go buy plants and flowers for the garden because it will help keep the soil in place.

Look how intense she is writing her notes from the book. She wants to save the world.

I found this paper next to the computer this morning of people she wants to research.

I finished reading Endangered last week. It is thrilling, fascinating and heart warming. It shows how violent and cruel people can be, but how beautiful and compassionate as well. There are some parts you will be sitting on the edge of your seat. I wanted to close my eyes a few times but then realized I couldn't read.

Now I am reading every day. So far, I'm loving it. Yesterday I read,

I know longer think she's just being nice. She's being kind. Which is much more a sign of character than mere niceness. Kindness connects to who you are, while niceness connects to how you want to be seen.

How true is that? We all have thought at one time or another that someone was just "being nice" but we knew in our heart that they weren't sincere. My "mom brain" just took a mental note...stop telling my kids to be nice. I am now going to tell them to be kind and teach them to know the difference between kindness and niceness. I want them to have kind hearts.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Trying to be a Roll Down the Windows Kind of Mom

I just started reading a new book, Every Day by David Levithan. Every day, the main character wakes up in a different person's body. "Every day I am someone else. I am myself-I know I am myself-but I am also someone else. It has always been like this."

I am only at the very beginning of the book, but already, it has made me think. In the first chapter, the main character is in 16 year old Justin's body. He is with his girlfriend, Rhiannon, and they are in the car. She, of course, just thinks she is with Justin.

She asks me what I think, and I tell her, "Honestly, I'm just trying to live day by day."
It isn't enough, but it's something. We watch the trees, the sky, the signs, the road. We sense each other. The world, right now, is only us. We continue to sing along. And we sing with the same abandon, not worrying too much if our voices hit the right notes or the right words. We look at each other while we're singing; these aren't two solos, this is a duet that isn't taking itself at all seriously. It is our own form of conversation-you can learn a lot about people from the stories they tell, but you can also know them from the way they sing along, whether they like the windows up or down, if they live by the map or by the world, if they feel the pull of the ocean.

Do you drive with the windows up or down? Do you sing out loud? I'm more of a windows up, radio not blaring, and sing quietly to myself. But not my kids. Every day, I pick up my kids in carline at school, Ryan jumps in the front seat, changes the radio to his station, hits the window button and as it starts to move to the down position, he sings! He sings out loud for the world to hear! Sometimes, I'll have a car full of kids, a song will come onto the radio and everyone will join in, and just like Justin and Rhiannon in the book, they don't worry too much if their voices hit the right notes or the right words. These are lessons that I need to learn from my kids. I don't need to hit the right note and the right word all the time. As a mom, I am always trying to do the right thing by them; feed them good meals, get all their homework done, read everyday, get them to clean their rooms and do chores around the house and try to get them to understand that I am not the maid and that they need to learn to do things for themselves. But sometimes we need to let go. Sometimes we need to let them eat chips at lunch and know that's okay. Sometimes we need to let them stay up late to watch the big game even though it's a school night. Sometimes we need to drive with the windows down, music blaring, and sing out loud for all to hear. Even last night at the dinner table, Ryan broke out into song which then turned into a duet. 

Last night, I picked up my last kid from basketball at 9:30. It was a beautiful night! The car read that it was still 76 degrees, clear sky, the stars were out, and I was in a short sleeve shirt and was comfortable. While I was driving, Darius Rucker's new song, Wagon Wheel, came on the radio, yes, I like country music. Every time I hear this song, I wish I still had a toddler because I would be dancing around the house with that toddler in my arms, dancing and twirling. It just sounds like that kind of song to me. But now whenever that song comes on the radio, it is me and Molly that turn up the volume and sing out loud together. I am trying to learn to be a little more of a windows rolled down kind of person. 

This morning, I went through the mail and in my Real Simple  magazine, there were six photos honoring moms for Mother's Day. This mom is a "stick your head out the sunroof" kind of mom. Her daughter wrote, "She just spontaneously burst through the sunroof." It made me smile!

I watched this music video of Wagon Wheel yesterday and there were the Nealons' favorite Duck Dynasty Family in the video...another smile.

So today it's supposed to get close to 90 degrees. I think I'll take Chris' Jeep out, roll the windows down, and sing out loud with the kids...heeeeeey mama, rock me!

And just another share...I was at the book fair today and bought an updated grammar book to use as a reference. Chris' Jeep is now incorrect. The "modern" way is Chris's Jeep. I don't know, it's hard enough trying to be a "roll down the windows" kind of gal, not so sure about this grammar change.

Monday, April 8, 2013

32 Books Sanders Corner Kids Are Now Reading

Usually on Mondays, I write about what my kids and I are reading. But this Monday, I thought I would share with you what Sanders Corner is reading. It's been three weeks since I was up at school volunteering because of the flu and spring break. But the kids are back in school, I am feeling better, and we are all back into a routine. At the end of the day on Friday, I stopped by the school library to talk to our librarian because a few weeks earlier, I had dropped off all the books for Mrs. Hwang's book donation that my neighborhood made in her memory. It was a group effort. My friend, Lori, sent out the email and collected all the money. I worked with the school librarian to pick out the books. The Newbery and Caldecott Awards as well as other awards had just been announced so that helped with some titles that weren't yet in our library. Once the books were ordered, it was time to figure out the book plate. I knew my neighbor, Scott, would do a great job. Lori and I worked on the wording, and then Scott did the rest. So, back to Friday afternoon. I wanted to check in with our librarian because I knew she was busy getting the books checked into the system and ready to be placed on the shelves. When I asked her about the books, she said that most of them were already checked out. She slowly introduced them to the classes because she didn't want the first class that saw them to check them all out at once and leave nothing for the other classes. So smart, I know I wouldn't have thought of that. She said that the books were a big hit. Not only were most of the books checked out, but many of them had a wait list for them! I asked if she had any left that weren't checked out. I wanted to see at least one with the book plate in it. She had a few sitting in her office that she hadn't introduced yet. This is what it looked like. 

She told me that one little girl gasped when she opened her book and saw the bookplate. When some of the teachers and staff saw the books and the bookplate she said they loved it. When she showed a class the book, The One and Only Ivan, one boy said, "Just like the one and only Mrs. Hwang!" That one got me a bit choked up when she told me that.

 So thank you to Lori for starting the email and collecting the money. Thank you to Scott for doing an awesome job on the bookplate, and thank you to all my neighbors that contributed to the donation. According to the librarian we made a difference. 

Here are the book titles, in no particular order, so keep an eye out for them. One may be in your child's backpack.

So there you have it, 32 books that Sanders Corner kids are now reading. I have read most, but not all of them myself.

 And don't forget the Sanders Corner book fair is this week. The other day, my self proclaimed "non-reader" jumped in the car, book fair paper in hand and yelled, "Mom, I'm so excited! The book fair is next week and I circled all the books I want." Ahhhh, he can call himself a non-reader all he wants, but I know better.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Operating in the Lowest Common Denominator Mode

It is Tuesday morning. The kids are back in school after a week long spring break and I have logged on to this blog for the first time since February 22nd. March is gone and it is already April. For a number of weeks now, I have just been going through the motions of being a mom, really just trying to get through each day and trying to figure out what has to get done that day and what could be put off until the next...what is the least common denominator for the day. Most of the time, I try to be positive, I try to remember in the middle of our chaotic days that this won't last forever, that I will miss all this one day, that my kids will never be this age again so enjoy the moment...cherish the moment, but reality is, I just can't do that everyday, all day. Reality is, I'm frustrated with my kids after I've told them a million times to not leave food in the basement because we will get ants and now our basement is crawling with ants and I have to pay an exterminator to get rid of them. I'm frustrated with my kids when I call home from the car after dropping off one kid and now tell the one at home to be ready when I get home so I can get him to where he needs to be and is still in the basement playing xbox when I arrive home, not ready, not dressed for practice, not waiting by the door like I had asked. I'm frustrated that I had told the kids not to use the desktop computer because I had to bring it in because we were having a disk problem and they used it anyway and now it doesn't work at all. It also doesn't help that as I write this on April 2nd, it is 30 degrees outside and still feels like winter. It doesn't help that it actually snowed during our spring break and as I was backing out of the driveway the car slid down the driveway...right into the basketball hoop and moved it about three feet. It doesn't help when one of your kids calls you and says he hit his head when he is all alone at home and ended up needing staples in his head. It doesn't help that three of us got the flu, me included, and it just sucks every ounce of energy you have even weeks after. Yes, lately I've been in survival mode, we eat dinner but it has been take-out. I do the laundry, but not until Chris tells me that he has no more underwear or socks. I've paid the bills but haven't worked on my Project Life album or written a blog or finished the book I've been reading. 

But it is a new month, the last quarter of school starts today and summer is within sight. Two vacations are planned already for this summer and I am working on trying to get us back to Disney. The last time we were there Molly was three and now she is nine. The boys are signed up for two basketball camps and Molly is signed up for a farm camp. There are only 46 days left of school and summer is within sight. Even if I can't feel the warmth of the sun at the moment, I can feel it in my mind. I can hear the crashing of the waves at the ocean, feel the sand between my toes, I can see my kids swimming and biking and fishing and smiling and laughing. I think about this and start to think again, enjoy the moment. I'm going to miss this someday, Shannon is about to finish her first year of high school, Ryan is going to graduate from Sanders Corner and move on to middle school. I'm only going to have one kid left in elementary school next year. How did this happen?

So even though, March was not the best month for us, it really was not all bad. We had birthdays and spring break and soccer tournaments and basketball tournaments. We even got a new bunny. So here is a quick positive month in review...

 I brought Molly pizza for lunch on her birthday.

 For lent, we decided to do random acts of kindness. This was one of them.

Molly's fortune the day before her birthday.

 Molly's birthday dinner.

 Finally received all the books that I ordered for the donation for Mrs. Hwang.

Shannon made the Stone Bridge JV soccer team and so far their record is 4-0.

A visit from Grandma in the Red House.

Snow storm supplies.

A snow day.

The one and only time this winter Ryan wore his heavy jacket.

Finding friends on the soccer field.

Shannon, Molly, and Chris all took Tamiflu and never got it.

Receiving a real letter in the mail.

 All-Star Basketball.

Championship Game.

Third grade bowling night.

 Spring Break snow...it is pretty.

Molly wanted attitude glassses.

Third Grade Animal Fair.

Shannon's birthday was spent on the soccer field.

Second Place...Way to go Loudoun!

Birthday Shopping with the girls.

Shannon's birthday dinner.

Funny faces...enough said.

 Favorite Shows.

Relaxing on a $4000 couch with built-in docking station for your iphone.

This picture does NOT do the moon justice on this night. It was the biggest, most orange moon I had ever seen. Ryan had a basketball practice in the middle of nowhere. We drove down these back country roads for miles before we found the school he was supposed to be at. On the drive home, I was concerned that we would get lost because it was so dark. And then, as we continued driving down the tree lined road, we saw it and truly didn't know what it was at first. We were moonstruck. I actually stopped the car and we just looked at it and soaked it in. Again, my phone camera could not capture how magnificent it really was and we ended up following it all the way to the main road. Once Ryan saw the main road, Ryan breathed a sigh of relief. He was actually nervous driving on those backroads and was happy once he knew where he was.

Caps vs. Islanders Game

Cotton Candy

Our Newest Nealon...Thumper.

After we picked up our new bunny, we stopped at the tractor supply store to find the rabbit food that he has been eating. The kids wanted us to get some chicks. They were cute, but I put my foot down to the chickens.

Happy Easter!

So there it is, the bad and the good of March. Today I will go through my to-do list before the kids get home, bring Molly to horseback riding lessons and then cheer on Shannon at her Stone Bridge game while our homemade dinner is simmering  in the crock-pot. Truth is, being a mom is tiring, exhausting and overwhelming, and you never get to take a vacation from it. So sometimes you just have to go into the lowest common denominator mode until you can find your groove again. Mine had disappeared for a few weeks, but I think I can see a glimpse of its reappearance.