Monday, September 30, 2013

A Castle, a Museum and a Zoo All Because of a Book

This past summer Molly and I read aloud together The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. It was published in 1967 and won the Newbery Medal. It's a story about a sister and brother that run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While reading the book, Molly came up with the idea to go visit the museum and see the things that Claudia and Jamie saw in the book. So that's exactly what we did this weekend.

Ryan didn't have anything on his schedule this weekend so he joined us as well. He didn't read the book, but he now knows the story of Claudia and Jamie.

We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful fall day in New York. The sky couldn't be any bluer and it was about 72 degrees. It was perfect. We had three things on our list of things to see; The Belvedere Castle, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Central Park Zoo. When we finally got up to the museum, we saw all these police officers lined up. The museum is in Central Park and there was a concert in the park that day.   I think the officers were getting their assignments for the day.

I've always wanted to see the Belvedere Castle. I've seen it in a number of movies and just wanted to see it in person. It just happens to be a short walk from the museum. But when we got there, it was barricaded off because of the concert. There was a police officer standing guard that informed us that it was closed, but when I asked if we could just take a picture he said sure. He even lent his hat for Ryan and Molly to pose in.  He is usually assigned to a precinct in the Bronx.  He said that they brought in a number of police officers and assigned them to the park for the day. He said it was like a vacation day.

This is what he got to look at for the day. 

So now it was time to explore the museum for a few hours, but not before Ryan and Molly climbed some rocks and a tree or two.

Ahhh, we made it! We brought the book so we could take a picture in The Great Hall, which is also on the cover of the book. The Metropolitan Museum gets so many inquires about the book that I found a whole guide online to visiting the museum in reference to the book. Since the book was published in 1967, not everything is the same, but the guide makes suggestions to see other things in its place.

The Egyptian Exhibit. 

Do you remember this scene in When Harry Met Sally? They were at the Met.

A Vanderbilt mantle.  We visited the Vanderbilt Biltmore Estate this past summer.

Molly found this penny on this angel pulpit staircase (look on the fingers).

A bed that Claudia and Jamie could have slept in while living in the museum.

It really is amazing to see some pieces of artwork in person. I forgot how big this painting is. A picture in a history book just doesn't do it justice. 

After a few hours of exploring the museum, it was time to start walking toward the Central Park Zoo. Central Park is beautiful, and there is such a positive energy to it. Everyone was out just enjoying the magnificent weather. It is filled with street performers, musicians, face painters, balloon makers, portrait artists, children running ahead of their parents, and parents calling out to them to slow down.

 After climbing some more trees, and watching the boats, and enjoying a few street performers, we made it to the zoo.

After the zoo, Ryan and Molly wanted to go to one of the playgrounds that we passed. While they ran around and played, my mom and I sat on a bench and watched. I love reading all the plaques.

I loved this one...

And this one...

And then a few benches over, we found this it.

This little two year old fell in love with Molly and would not leave her side.

We spent an entire day in Central Park...

All because this little one wanted to visit a museum in a book.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could visit all the places in the books we read? Molly and I are finishing up The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck. It's about a mouse that lives at Buckingham Palace. Hmmm, that one will have to go on our Someday list.

"The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village."
                                                           ~Matilda, Roald Dahl

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From Now on I'm Going to Live Ishly

Every morning, after I drop-off Molly at school and the boys make their way to the bus stop, I have about half an hour before I then drive Shannon to school. During that time, I check emails and Facebook. A few mornings ago, I came across this Facebook post by Glennon Melton. She has a blog,, that I follow as well. 

During my internet fast, I learned that Facebook makes me feel bad. I wish I were cooler so it wouldn't effect me, but it does. I once saw an Olympic swimmer interviewed after winning a race and she said "I swim best when I mentally stay in my own lane." Me too. Facebook just takes me right out of my own lane- every single time. No matter how satisfied I am with my life, career, family, social life, etc etc - as soon as I log on to Facebook and peek into others' lives, I immediately feel that unease caused by comparison. I start to doubt myself. I just feel a little kernel of doubt settle into my gut and it feels really bad. Comparison is the thief of joy, and Facebook is a breeding ground for comparison, don't you think? I called my Sister the other day and said, "I'm going to quit Facebook. I don't use it right. Whether I want to or not, I just end up comparing myself to everyone else." And Sister said, "Actually, you're using it for the exact thing it was designed for. Remember- some college guys made it to compare women to each other." And I thought- AH. Right. Huh. The origin of Facebook is really annoying and offensive, actually, when you think about it. And even more annoying is that we often still use it for what it was originally intended:Comparison.
I think our only hope for joy is gratitude and comparison shoves us out of gratitude swiftly and dependably.

Does anyone else ever feel this way? If not, never mind, me neither. I'm totally cool over here.

This post had thousands of likes and over a thousand comments. People could definitely relate to what she was feeling. As a mom, as a woman, as a person, we all compare. I try to keep social media a positive influence in my life. I look at all the places that my friends visit and add them to our list of places to go someday. Friends share recipes, new stores opening, neighborhood happenings, lost pets, found pets, funny things our kids say or did. I enjoy them. I surf over the negative and try to stay positive, but then there are those days that you fall into that comparison mode and you just don't feel like you're doing anything right. Why do I feel like my house is always a mess? Why are my kids always fighting? What am I doing wrong? Wow, so and so made an awesome dinner tonight, we are having take-out. My biggest struggle is the question of when to go back to work. I know so many working moms that do such a great job of juggling the full time mom job and also work outside the home. This year I know two moms that have stayed home for years that went back to teaching this year. Should I make the plunge? Can I juggle these two full time jobs? Why do I feel so overwhelmed by this when so many other woman do it? Compare, compare, compare.  We all get into those ruts, or at least I do. 

And then two mornings later after reading the momastery post, I read this blog post about comparison in that half an hour before taking Shannon to school. You can read it here. It's a short little post, but it stuck with me. Go, read it...I'll wait.

Okay, you're back. Deep down, I already knew this, "the Lord has assigned to each his task." I can relate to this. I am a task oriented person with my to-do lists. I just needed a reminder that my to-do list is not going to be the same as anyone else's. So even though others may be working moms, others may have gone back to the classroom, I don't think that is one of my tasks...just yet. I am a meal maker, a chauffeur, a laundress, a travel agent, an adviser, a nurse, a counselor, a homework helper, a snack maker, a party planner, an organizer, a reader, a writer, a volunteer, and a teacher to my children. 

We shouldn't be comparing because we each have a different task list. 

I thought about this all morning as I was picking out my next read aloud to Molly's class for Thursday afternoon. I thought about the first book I read to them, Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind. It is about a teacher that is determined to find that "just right" book for all her students so that they can beat the principal's challenge to read a thousand books by the end of the year. We talked about that the reason why there are so many genres of books is because we are all different kinds of readers. We all have different tastes and like different things and that's okay. We talked about how the world would be pretty boring if we were all the same and that is the same with books.  

Then last week, I read two books to them. The first one was Carnivores. This is a funny book about how the carnivores are misunderstood and that they have feelings too and that no one likes them just because they ate a few neighbors.

The book trailer is hysterical. You can watch it here. I couldn't get the video to load to the blog but was able to load the link.

The next book I read to them was Mr. Tiger Goes Wild.

This is a story about Mr. Tiger being tired of always dressing the same and acting the same and being the same as everyone else in town. He gradually shows his true colors of who he really is, until one day he goes wild.

After we read, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, we read the lyrics to Katy Perry's new song Roar. We compared it to the two books we just read. We talked about being who we really are and not doing things just because other people do them. We talked about how we are all different and that makes the world a more interesting place...and then we sang and we RRRRRRRRRROOOOOOOAAAAAAARRRRRRRED!!!!!! 

We had so much fun.

So now back to the morning of thinking about "my task" and how "my task" is different than anyone else.  I was online and came across that September 15th is International Dot Day based on the book by the name, you guessed it, The Dot.

I've seen this book, I've heard of this book, but I've never read this book. I love this little book.

Vashti thinks that she can't draw. She tells her teacher, "I just CAN'T draw!"

Her teacher replies, "Just make a mark and see where it takes you."

Vashti makes a dot.

Her teacher tells her to,"sign it."

This is brillant, just make a mark and see where it takes you! 

So then I had to read ISH.

Now we have a boy, Ramon, who is not satisfied with his art work. He crumbles up everything he attempts to draw. He then finds out that his little sister has taken all his crumbled up drawing and taped them to the walls of her room.

"This is one of my favorites," Marisol said, pointing out.

"That was supposed to be a vase of flowers," Ramon said, "but it doesn't look like one."

"Well, it looks vase-ISH!" she exclaimed.


This is why I love children's literature, because big problems are told and discussed and shared in their simplest denomination. It was an aha moment. The lesson that I am still trying to learn myself, is the same lesson that I am trying to share in all the books I have shared with Molly's class.

As an adult, I've been grappling with comparison, always asking questions of, "How does she do it?" Whether it's about keeping the house clean, getting all the errands done, cooking healthy meals for the kids, volunteering a million hours, working a full time job??? 

From now on, I'm going to try to live ISHLY. My house will be clean-ISH, my meals with be health-ISH, chores will be done-ISH, the laundry will be folded-ISH and I will learn to be happy-ISH that everything is not perfect. It reminds me of when I was trying to get my Project Life book photo album done...done is better than perfect.

I'm still learning, but sometimes you can find the answer in a children's book.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ivan, Mary Poppins, and A Book Thief

Last night, Molly snuggled into bed with me so we could read. I read aloud to her every night, sometimes it just takes a few minutes before I look over to her and ask her if she is awake and I receive no reply, and sometimes we read for over half an hour. So last night before reading, Molly asked me if I knew when the book fair was in DC. Her school librarian on Friday had told her that it was coming up.

"Mama, do you know when the DC book fair is? Katherine Applegate is going to be there and I really want to meet her. Remember after I read The One and Only Ivan I sent her an email but she never replied. I would love to meet her in person."

My heart soared and sank at the same time if that's possible. You see, Molly is my only true lover of books. My other three are readers, but it is because I am always in search of trying to find that just right book for each of them. But Molly has the love of books on her own. When I talk with Molly about books, it isn't as a mother trying to get her to read, "Here, I found this book, I think you might like it, it's about_______." Kid with blank stare looking back at me thinking, "I just finished my book, won't she give me a break?" When I talk with Molly about books, we have conversations between two readers. 

"Molly, I found this book, I think you might like it, it's about _______"

"Thanks Mom, this reminds me of [insert title]. Remember when we read that book together. I loved the part  when________. And it was so sad when________. Even now thinking about it makes me sad."

So, back to my soaring and sinking heart. My heart soared because I have a kid that loves to read so much that she wants to spend a weekend day going into DC to a book fair with her mama. My heart sank because we had missed it. For so many years now, we have had many, and I mean many, sports on Saturdays. I always knew that the book fair was in September, but I was never able to go because of our game schedule. But this year, the boys decided not to play a fall sport. They decided to do some open gyms for basketball to get ready for the winter season but that is about it. Our Saturdays are free. I read somewhere online that the DC book fair was this weekend. I thought to myself, "I need to look at the schedule because if it's a nice day. Maybe we could go." And then the thought never came back. Well, not until I read a tweet about it and realized we had missed it. When I told her that we missed it and I was so sorry, she looked so sad but then said, "It's okay, Mama, I was going to tell you on Friday and I forgot too...we both forgot, maybe next year."

This past weekend, we went to the movies. We saw a trailer for Saving Mr. Banks. It is the story about how Walt Disney tried to convince P.L. Teavers, the author of Mary Poppins, to sell the rights to the book so that he could make the movie. 

So I think Molly and I have our next read aloud. We bought this copy of Mary Poppins when Molly and I went to NYC to see the play on Broadway. Now is the time to read the book.

May 2011
Molly was in first grade.

We went to the stage door after the show and got some autographs. This was Jane and Michael.

Molly with Mrs. Banks.


And there is Mary Poppins herself. We had so much fun that day.

The other book I'm reading right now is The Book Thief. I'm about two-thirds through and it is a wonderful story of the best and worse of humanity rolled into one. It makes your heart sink and soar at the same time. On Saturday at the movies, Molly and I saw this picture for The Book Thief. It is coming out in November.

 The book has been in my "to be read" pile for a while. I was going to read it this summer but never got around to it. Molly saw the poster of the girl holding a book. She looked at me and said, "We have to go see that! If you're going to be a thief, a book is worth stealing." I searched to see what the movie rating is, but couldn't find anything. I'll have to wait and see if she can watch it. It definitely would be an opportunity to teach a little bit of history.

My favorite quote so far:

"Once, words had rendered Liesel useless, but now, when she sat on the floor, with the mayor's wife at her husband's desk, she felt an innate sense of power. It happened every time she deciphered a new word or pieced together a sentence."

So that's what I've been reading. How about you?