Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Every Book Has Three Stories

They are gone. All four of them are finally back to school. They have been home for 9 days straight...two weekend days, one holiday, three snow days, one teacher workday, two more weekend days...put it all together and you get one long break at home. I love snow days. I loved them when I was a kid, I loved them when I was a teacher, and I love them now. But it was time for the kiddies to get back into a routine. 

After dropping off the high schooler, I sat down at the computer, went through emails, wrote some activities into my plan book and then watched the ALA (American Library Association) Awards on a webstream. Today is the day they announced the Newbery Award and the Caldecott Award amongst a number of other awards. Yes, the nerdy book lady in me finds this exciting. It may not be the Golden Globes or the Grammys, but it is exciting none the less. I'm always anxious to see if one of the winners is a book that I have read during the year. Last year, The One and Only Ivan had won the Newbery and not only did I read it, but Molly, Ryan and Timmy had all read it as well. 

This year the winner is Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. I read this book when it first came out and fell in love with the story. I actually have read all of her novels. Molly read it after me, loved it, and gave it to a friend in her class so she could read it over Christmas break. I also told Molly's class about the book and how great of a story it was and then sure enough, I saw a library copy on one desk the next time I visited. Another little girl told me that she got a copy at the book fair. Book talks and word of mouth is one of the best ways to get kids to read. 

I haven't read to Molly's class since before Christmas break. We have had so many snow days and the class' schedule is getting fuller with more demands of things that need to get taught that there just hasn't been time to read. I needed to touch base with Molly's teacher about a new time that she wanted me to come in, so I stopped by the classroom at the end of the day to go over her schedule. I was only there for about 10 minutes as the kids packed up their backpacks and waited for their buses to be called, but it was the best 10 minutes of my day. I hadn't seen them since December, but as soon as they saw me, they were so eager to tell me what they were reading. One little girl had a whole list, "Mrs. Nealon, I'm reading One for the Murphys right now, but when I'm done with that one I'm going to read Gingersnap and then Counting by 7's." She had a plan. She had a to-be-read pile. They were so excited to tell me about the books they are reading and I was so excited to tell them that Flora and Ulysses won the Newbery. In just those 10 minutes, that time when they were packing up, that time that may be looked upon as wasted time, was filled with book talk. They asked me when I was coming back to read. I told them that I would be in this week and that I would read part of Flora and Ulysses. I told them that I already ordered them a copy of the book for the classroom and would bring it in as soon as it came in. I felt their excitement and energy and it just brought a smile to my face.

Today I read a post on the Nerdy Book Club blog that read, 

"Every book has three stories - the one it tells, the story behind it, and what happens when it connects with readers."

This is amazingly true. It was a light bulb, an "ah ha" moment for me. Of course, every books tells a story, but if I really love a book, I usually then google the author, see if they have a website, try to find out the story behind the story. This was true after reading The One and Only Ivan. I found out that there was a real Ivan that was the inspiration for the book and that he lived in the Atlanta Zoo until he died in August of 2012. I found the second story of the book. 

The third story, is my story. About me sharing the book with my kids. About dinner conversations about the book. About reading it to Molly's class. About how they were so excited on Thursday afternoons to hear what was going to happen next. About creating our own mural, one like Ivan had made it the book. This was our story, the third story.

The third story, the one that connects the book to the reader I think is the most important one. There is one story in the pages of the book, but there are thousands, millions of stories that can be told about how the book connected to all its readers. We all have our individual book story which then becomes our memories. I remember my mom reading bedtime stories to me. I remember The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew being a favorite and reading it over and over again. I remember her reading chapter books aloud to us when we got older, The Prince and the Pauper, The Black Stallion, and Black Beauty, usually during the summer time to try to keep the reading going while we weren't in school. I remember the first time a friend recommended a book to me and then loving it and then reading all the books in the series. I can remember reading certain books at certain times of year and where I was while I was reading them. I can remember which books I read on the beach in Kiawah, which books I read late at night snuggled in my own warm bed, and which books I read in carlines, dentist appointments and waiting at soccer practices.

Now my book memories are with my kids. I can tell you which books they loved to hear over and over again when they were little, and now that they are older, we talk about the books that we read. When I ask them, "What are you up to in your book?" They know not to tell me a page number, but a summary of what they just read, especially if they know I have read the book as well.

Molly and I especially have created our own book memories. After reading Matilda, we went to New York to see the show on Broadway. We went with my sister-in-law and Molly's cousin, memories were made. 

After reading From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see all the places that were mentioned in the book. Memories were made.

And sometimes just visiting a place that is in a book, creates a memory.

Right now, Molly and I are reading Boy by Roald Dahl. It is a memoir of his childhood. What's on Molly's and my bucket list is a trip to London. She has a thing for England. We just finished the third Mary Poppins book. She loves Roald Dahl books. I would love to bring her to England to see the places that are mentioned in the books we have read. I would love to bring her to the Roald Dahl museum and to see the  musical Willy Wonka playing in the West End. Ah, but to dream. It won't be happening any time soon, so we will just have to continue to travel there through our books. 

“When we read together—when a grandfather reads to a granddaughter, when a teacher reads to a classroom, when a parent reads to a child, when a sister reads to a brother, when everyone in a town reads the same book silently, together—we are taken out of our aloneness. 
Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another. 
We connect. 
And when we connect, we are changed.”
~Kate DiCamillo, Author of Flora and Ulysses

You can find all the winners and honor books from the awards here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Timmy Moved Out, Growing Pains, and a Whole Lot of Messy Bits

Today we have another snow day. I think today is number 6 and if we get as much as they are predicting and a zero wind chill for tomorrow, I think we will have more. The snow has just started falling and my house is quiet. No one was up, or at least I didn't think so until I saw Molly sitting in the kitchen on her iPod in the dark. She asked me if we had school, a delay or no school.

 I replied, "No school today, but why didn't you wake me if you thought we had school?" 

"Oh, why would I do that? You looked so peaceful in your sleep. I wouldn't want to disturb you," She said with a crooked smile.

In just the few minutes that I have been sitting here, the roof tops are now covered and it is starting to stick to the driveway. Every time we have had snow days this school year, it has been near a weekend and has given us longer extended weekends. This sounds nice. Snow days make you slow down. They are better than weekends because on weekends, parents usually spend most of their time running their kids to one activity to another. I am no different. But on snow days, all the activities stop. You don't have to get up or be anywhere. You can make a batch of cookies, read a book, watch a movie. Snow days are a gift and can be magical. 

But then there is that saying, "too much of a good thing." Like I said, all of our snow days this year have given us long weekends and this one is no different since yesterday was MLK Day. We already have had three days home together. One mom on her blog referred to Christmas break as a hostage situation. Sometimes too much time together is not good for anyone…including my own. 

The last time we had snow days, the kids had just come off from winter break, went to school for one day and then were home for five days. That's a lot of family time. During one of those days, I was in the shower when Ryan comes barging in and announces that Timmy has moved out. 

My first thought was, "Ugh, I forgot to lock the door!" Second, "At what age do kids finally stop barging in on you when you are behind a closed door?" Then, I asked, "What do you mean, Timmy has moved out?"

"Timmy has emptied out all his clothes and stuff from his side of the closet and has moved it all to the room in the basement." 

Timmy and Ryan have shared a room ever since Molly was born. She is about to turn ten. So for ten years they have been together and Timmy feels that that is long enough. He has written me long letters stating all his points as to why he should have his own room. He sometimes changes it up a bit and writes why he shouldn't have to share a room with Ryan. 

Timmy and Ryan are very similar in some respects. They both are competitive. They both love sports. They both play basketball. But Ryan has a bit of Oscar Madison in him, and Timmy is a bit of a Felix Unger.

Can two brothers share a room without driving each other crazy? Well, it lasted for ten years until the day I was in the shower, (Why does everything always happen when the mom is in the shower?)

I didn't make a big deal of it. I just let him stay down there. There is a part of me that was sad that it has come to the point that he felt he needed to move out. They don't always fight. There are times that I can hear them talking in their room after the lights are out. On those nights, there is one part of the mom in me that opens their door and tells them to quiet down and go to sleep, but there is that other part of me that is happy inside that they are laughing and giggling and just sharing stuff with each other.

It has been almost three weeks since the big "move out." I ask him if he is happy in his new space. He says, "Yes." He says he does not want to move back up to his room. There are draw backs. The room is my guest room. So if Timmy stays there, I have lost a guest room. The room doesn't have a closet. But there is a closet in Molly's play room which is just a few steps away. Molly also has to walk through the guest room to get to her play room. It was originally a storage room and we finished it a number of years age so the girls had a place to set up their Barbie houses without the boys coming through like tornados and destroying everything. Last weekend, Timmy was angry because Molly woke him up when she walked through to get to the Barbie room. It was 10:00 am though. So after being in the basement and weighing all the pros and cons of moving out of his room he has decided to stay in his new space.

The other night Molly and I were watching the movie Letters to Juliet. An English girl had visited Italy and had fallen in love. She was a teenager and even though her heart wanted to stay in Italy, she made a choice and returned to England with her family. Now, fifty years later, she is on an adventure to find her lost love, Lorenzo. At one point she is in the car with her grandson as they pull up to a mansion in the beautiful countryside of Italy and her grandson says something about fifty years ago he was a farm hand and now he owns the land. You got to miss all the messy bits. The grandmother replies, "Life is the messy bits."

Life is the messy bits. This saying has always stayed with me. My house is a disaster at the moment. Every January has always been a reorganizing month for me. But now I have beds that were in the guest room taken apart. We have Timmy's bed moved in. We have piles of stuff in the basement as we sort through stuff that we don't need any more. Growing pains. They never seem to go away. There is always another phase that our kids are going through. It doesn't seem to matter which phase they are leaving and which one they are entering, it always pulls at a mama's heartstrings. Whether it's moving into a big kid bed, not using a sippy cup any more or wanting a space of their own so that they can have a desk to do their homework without the annoyance of their little brother, the heartstrings get a tug.

And there are other signs that they are growing that has changed my whole way of thinking. Molly and I went shoe shopping on Friday. She wanted a pair of boots that other girls in her class have. They were black boots that lace up just above her ankles…combat boots. But I also wanted to buy something. I have my tall boots and my Uggs but I was looking for some shoes that would be warm in the cold weather if I didn't want to wear my boots and it was too cold to wear my little ballerina flats that my toes freeze in. I starting walking up and down the aisles looking, trying to find something that would be comfortable, that would keep my feet warm but would not make me look like an old lady. I also didn't want to be wearing something that made me look like I was trying to be a teenager or that my own teenager would look at and say, "Mom, you can't wear those!" I felt old as I was looking through the shoes that day. And then a young girl asked if I needed help. I looked at her, this young girl, would she understand my dilemma? I explained what I was looking for, I told her I didn't want to look like an old lady but can't look like one of those moms that is trying too hard to hold on to their youth. This young salesgirl understood. She actually showed me the little boots she was wearing that laced up but weren't combat boots. She said they were super comfy…and they just went on sale. And they had my size! I bought two of them, a pair in black and a pair in tan. I couldn't find her after I tried them on, but I told the girl at the register to please tell Jessica thank you for all her help. She did more than help me find a pair of shoes, but made a mom of teenagers not feel so old at that moment. My own growing pains.

And one finally note about these growing pains. Last week we emptied out the kids bathroom. It was disgusting. Doesn't seem to matter what I do, they can't seem to keep it clean. So we emptied it of everything. I mean everything. I bought them each a bin, and they now have all their own personal products that they bring back and forth to the bathroom when they go take a shower. The only thing that is in the bathroom is toilet paper and towels. But I had Molly and Ryan go through the bin of bath toys that was still in there. I was going to let them keep it but just sort out what they didn't want anymore. 

Look what is now in the give away pile!

There are no more alligators in the bathtub!

So there you have it, Timmy moved out, kid growing pains, mama growing pains, no more alligators in the bathtub, and a whole lots of messy bits…but life is the messy bits and I wouldn't change a thing.

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Lesson from a 1950 Movie

Thumblina, The Ugly Duckling, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The Little Mermaid, The Emperor's New Clothes, these are all stories by Hans Christian Andersen. I remember these stories from my childhood and have recently been reintroduced to them since we have seen the movie Frozen by Disney. I found out that Frozen is loosely based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, but I was not familiar with this story of his so I needed to find a copy of it and compare it to the movie. When they said it is loosely based on the story, it really is loose. There really are not too many similarities to the story and the movie. There is a Snow Queen and there are some trolls and we did see a reindeer in the book, but the story itself was very different.

While I was searching for a copy of The Snow Queen, I also came across the 1950 movie Hans Christian Andersen with Danny Kaye. I remember watching this movie when I was a child. I can still recall the tunes of the songs Danny Kaye sings as he tells the children in his small village his stories.

Well, after seeing Frozen twice and then reading The Snow Queen, Molly and I snuggled up on the couch this weekend while everyone was at the high school basketball game and watched the movie and it was like magic. Magic is my word for 2014. I'm trying to find those everyday moments that really are magical. Here I was sitting on the couch watching a movie that I haven't seen in decades and I knew all the songs. I could sing along to Thumblina and The Ugly Duckling and I'm Hans Christian Andersen. It was as if only a few years had past and not decades. I was transported to the couch in my childhood home, probably on a Sunday afternoon, because that's what we did back then on a Sunday afternoon when there were no sports scheduled and all the stores were closed and you didn't have anything on your to-do list for a Sunday other than go to church and have Sunday dinner. We would sit together in the house, watch old movies while dinner was roasting in the oven and the aroma would just fill the house. Magic!

But as I watched this wonderful old movie through the eyes of an adult, a parent, a teacher, it also made me a little sad. You see, the opening of the movie is Hans sitting outside with a group of children and he is telling them, no, singing to them, one of his stories. The children are engaged, they are listening, they are laughing. Well, see for yourself.

At the end of this scene, Hans' apprentice comes to worn Hans that the schoolmaster is upset because the children are supposed to be in school, but they would rather be outside listening to Hans' stories. The schoolmaster, the burgermaster, and a number of the villagers come to talk to Hans about his stories. They are upset that he has books outside and that he is filling their heads with nonsense. But Hans replies, "But there are different ways of learning." 

Let me say that again, "But there are different ways of learning."

Afterwards, Hans is walking through the village past the school and you can here the children reciting their math facts in a very drone tone of voice in unison. You can here the boredom in their voices.

With my parent eye as I watched this scene, I couldn't help but think about all the testing we do today in the classroom at such an early age, the benchmarks, the SOL's, the standardized tests. All these tests that are meant to tell teachers information that they probably already knows about their students. Our teachers spend about seven hours a day, five days a week with our kids. They already know who are the good readers and who are not. They already know who needs help with their math and who does not. I'm not saying that we don't need to test at all. But it really has become the main focus of school and the love of learning for the sake of learning and the love of reading a book for the sheer enjoyment of reading a book has become lost.

This weekend, I went into the basement into Molly's play room. We call it the Barbie room, it is slowly turning into a craft room as she gets older. But this is what I found.

She took a poster board and wrote, "I cannot live without books!" She tacked it right through the canvas of the cute picture of butterflies that was hanging on the wall. I couldn't figure out why she had the need to do this, but then later on in the day I was at my desk and noticed the bag that my mom gave me for Christmas.

We have such wonderful teachers that work so hard to educate our children, but their job is getting harder and harder as more and more demands are placed upon them. 
It is up to us as parents to instill the love of learning and reading so that they don't lose it, or for some, to help our children find it. 

I have had people tell me, that not everyone loves to read and that I can't make them love to read. That may be true. I have four children with different levels of passion about reading, or lack there of. But no matter where their starting place is, if you encourage reading and nurture it, it will grow, even if it is in small amounts. 

This weekend, Ryan told me that when he gets older he's going to be in therapy because of how I ruined his childhood by "torturing" him with reading. But then, on the same day, he tells me that the book he is reading, The Elephant in the Garden, is surprisingly good. He said, "At first, I asked myself, 'What could possibly be good or exciting about an elephant in a garden?' But it really is an interesting book."

My word of the year…magic…it is magical that a boy can say these two sentences in the same day.

Shannon, is another dormant reader. She has never liked to sit still and read, even when she was little, it was a battle to get her to sit on my lap and read a book with her. She wanted to run and be free. But look what I found!

She has started a 100 day reading goal for herself, calendar marked off, the days all numbered and stops on April 10th, her 100th day of reading. Molly I think influenced her a bit. Molly and I saw Frozen for the second time for her reward for reading for 100 days straight. She wanted Shannon to go and I told her, if you can get Shannon to read for the next 100 days, then she can go with us on our next reward day.

Will she make it to 100 days? I don't know. I didn't know if Molly and I would make it to 100 days. But any improvement in a child's reading habits is worth the effort. Some of my kids may never grow up to be passionate readers, but I do want them to be readers. Some parents are afraid to push their kids to read. They are afraid that they won't read when they grow up, that they will be turned off to reading. But we make them brush their teeth everyday. My kids aren't little anymore and yet, I still have to remind them to take care of this basic need. I want them to have healthy teeth. I don't want them to have cavities and so I make them brush, no I require them to brush their teeth. And I do the same with reading, I don't "make" them read, but require them to read because I know that it is good for them, just like brushing their teeth…and I really do hope that when they are adults, they don't stop brushing their teeth or reading books.

But a friend sent me this. It just reinforces my need to keep them reading. If these statistics are true, it breaks my heart.

What we are reading…

Ryan is reading this one now.

I finished this one last week and moved it to Molly's to be read pile.

I read this one last month and Molly just finished it.

Ryan and Molly have read this one twice and now Timmy is reading this one. It's great story.

I finished this one last week. Great middle school story. 

This one is definitely a YA/high school book, not a middle school book. Josie is a 17 year old in 1950 in New Orleans and her mother is a prostitute. I'm on page 110 and really enjoying the story…nothing rated R…but I wouldn't be giving it to my middle schoolers. She also wrote another YA book, Between Shades of Gray that is supposed to be a good read…not Fifty Shades of Gray.

Monday, January 6, 2014

100 Days of Reading and a Few Lessons I Have Learned

Today is day 100!!!! Not the 100th day of school, but 100 days of reading. Back on September 29th, Molly and I started The Molly and Mommy Mega Mania Miraculous Magical Read Aloud. We wanted to see if we could read aloud for 100 days...straight. 

We did it!

We read on Halloween and Thanksgiving. We read on the day we drove up to New York for Christmas and the day we drove home. We read Christmas morning while we waited for Shannon and Timmy to wake up. We read on the train into New York City when we went to see Cinderella. We even read over the phone when Molly went with Chris and Shannon to a soccer tournament over a weekend. We did not miss one day!

It started when I read the book The Reading Promise. A great book about a father and daughter that started a reading promise of a 100 days when the daughter was in fourth grade that didn't stop until the day she left for college. 

Molly and I started our own 100 day reading streak and in the past 100 days we have read eight books.

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail

James and the Giant Peach

Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins Comes Back

Beryl A Pig's Tale


Tuck Everlasting

The Cricket in Times Square

What have I learned in the last 100 days for all this?

1. Well, first, Molly loves sequels. Molly doesn't like when a story comes to an end. When we finished Mary Poppins, we had to read the next one and for Christmas she got the third and fourth book. The last book we just finished was The Cricket in Times Square. Molly was not happy with the ending. 

"There just has to be another book, there just has to be!"

Now, I knew the book was a classic. I knew it had won a Newbery Award, but I had never read it myself and had no idea if there were any more books about Tucker the Mouse, Chester the Cricket and Harry the Cat. We went to Amazon, and sure enough, there is a whole series. So at the moment, we have moved onto Mary Poppins Opens the Door and then  Molly wants to read the fourth Mary Poppins book. She has a plan to then go back to The Cricket in Times Square series.

2. I have learned that once you start something, sometimes it takes on a life of its own and gains its own momentum. Once Molly and I started reading, it has led us to other books and know we have a whole list of books we want to read together. I even asked her if she wanted to read The Cricket in Times Square books on her own. She said "no," she wanted them to be part of the streak.

3. I have learned that small changes in routine can make a big difference. Molly and I didn't always read for a long time. Some days might have been only for 10 minutes just so we could put our X on the calendar, but after 100 days of reading we read eight books that otherwise we probably wouldn't have read. Can I apply this to other things in my life? Should I make a calendar for exercise? I HATE to exercise even though I know it is good for me. If I make a commitment to do it everyday, even if it's just for 10 minutes, that is better than the nothing I'm doing now. Making the commitment to reading EVERYDAY instead of just reading more really made a difference.

4. I have learned that I can have deep conversations about life and philosophy with a nine year old. This happened when we were reading Tuck Everlasting, a book about a family that drank from a spring of water and ever since that day, never changed. They had found the fountain of youth and would live forever. Isn't that what we all want? But after reading this book with Molly and then watching the movie, we talked about what it would really mean to live forever. Would we really want that? We decided that we would want to live long and happy lives with a beginning, a middle, and an end, but we wouldn't want to not have an end. Even the best books, the best stories have an end.

5. I have learned that reading together is very different than just reading by yourself. Molly and I kept each other accountable for the reading streak. There were times when I completely forgot we hadn't read and Molly remembered. When you have another person holding you accountable, it seems that you are more likely to succeed. Note to self, what else can I apply this to in my life?

6. I have learned that when reading aloud with Molly, we now have "inside" jokes if you will. We see something or hear something and it reminds us of a character or a word or a scene from one of the books we have read. We share something together because we have read the same books. Molly and I went to see Saving Mr. Banks together. After reading the first two Mary Poppins books, we saw the differences between the books and the Disney movie. We loved the part of the movie when Disney was trying to convince Mrs. Travers to sign over the rights. He told her that his copies of her books were so worn and dog eared because he had read them over and over again and that he would do them justice on the screen because he loved them so much. 

7. I have learned that there is magic in the books that we have read. Molly and I see things in our everyday lives that we might not have seen before…like this shadow that appeared on the kitchen floor that looks ever so much like our beloved Mary Poppins.

8. I have learned that the magic within the books can transport us to different places and different times without leave our chair in front of the fire place, but that we also can go visit these places in person.

Molly in the Great Hall at the Metropolitian Museum of Art. We took a trip to New York City and went to the museum all because of the book The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

This was Christmas Eve. We brought the book knowing we were going to Times Square. We just had to take a picture.

So today was 100 days…100 days of reading together. Molly and I celebrated by going to the movies together to see Frozen, again. She has fallen in love with this movie. It surprised me because from the commercials I was expecting a movie about a snowman, not a princess movie. But the singing was phenomenal, and we have two strong princesses that didn't need a man to rescue them, and in one scene, the girl rescued the guy. We were able to go to the movies today because there was no school. I know a lot of parents thought that the kids could have gone to school today, but Molly and I looked at this day as a gift. Molly didn't want to celebrate our accomplishment until this weekend, she wanted to do it on the 100th day and the only way that that was going to happen was if we got a snow day…or a left over ice day. Now, to find a copy of Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen…I found out that Frozen is based on his story. Molly and I will have to read it…together.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What is Your Word for 2014?

I am sitting in a quiet house as I write this. The kids are all back in school today. Part of me says it's cruel to have them go back for only two days. Will they really get any work done? Will the students and the teachers really be focused? And then, part of me says, two days is a good way to ease back into the regular schedule. As I said good-bye to each one of them, I said, "At least tomorrow is Friday." They really didn't seem to care, they just didn't want to be going back at all, no matter what day of the week it was.

The other day, I was reading a mom blog. She was saying that the two words "at least" changed her perception as a mom. It is that time of resolutions, that time of year that we feel we get a new start and we can make our life better. Most people though don't make it past the first few weeks of January before they fall back into their old habits. But this mom, was able to change those bad situations with her kids or at least her own perception of the situation with using the two words "at least." Yes, the kids all fell into the creek while sledding, but at least no one hit their head and got hurt. Yes, Ryan just spilt his drink at the dinner table for the 103rd time, but at least this time the glass didn't break. At and least…put these two little words together and you can change your perception of any situation.

For the past few years, I have not made a traditional New Year's resolution. Instead, I have picked a word to guide me throughout the year. Last year, my word was embrace. The year before, my word was enhance.

Last night at the dinner table, I had everyone pick their own word to be their theme for the year. Lately, I've been struggling with the feeling that my kids do not have a real sense of appreciation for the things that they have, but rather a sense of entitlement that we hear so much about. As a parent, it is so hard to balance everything. We want to be able to give out kids Christmas gifts and birthday gifts and we want to make out kids happy, but at the same time, I want them to be grateful for the gifts that they have…and not just the things wrapped in boxes under the tree, but the gift of a roof over their head and food on the table, a warm bed to sleep in and a mom and dad that love them very much. 

So we each picked a word, a word that you can use to guide yourself to be a better person in 2014. A word that can help you make good choices whether it has to do with school, being on a sports team, a better sibling, a better son or daughter, getting along with friends or teachers. This is what we all came up with:

So for 2014, we have Confidence, Strive, Believe, W.W.J. D. (What would Jesus do?), Perseverance, and Magic.

My word for the year is:


I picked magic because lately, I keep coming across the word. At Christmas time, you hear the word a lot. Keeping the magic of the season alive for the little ones, alive throughout the year, and then I would see the word in the books I'm reading. 

"I don't want to know how you did it. I want to believe that you're magic." ~ Counting by 7's

This past week, while in New York, the girls and I went to see Cinderella with my mom. There were three costume changes that happened right on stage, transformations from one costume to another and it was like magic before your eyes. How did Cinderella change from her old peasant clothes to her ball gown right before our eyes? How did the old woman, Crazy Marie, turn into the Fairy Godmother? It was like magic. 

For Christmas, Molly got a book about magic card tricks. She has become obsessed with them and has gone online and watched videos on how to do magic tricks with cards.

Chris and I will be celebrating our 20th adding anniversary this year. I remember the first time I held his hand. We were in New York City with a group of friends. It was after Christmas and I can't remember exactly what we did. I'm sure we saw the tree, went out to dinner, and went to a few bars. We had been friends for a while and had just gone on our first date right before Christmas so the whole transition thing from friends to dating was a little awkward. But it had gotten late and it was cold and he took my hand for the first time and the awkwardness melted away and it was like magic. 

I want my eyes to be open to magic, I want to be able to see the magic in my life everyday. 

And on this magical day, we celebrate 12 years with my loving, funny, laughing, joking, hugging RyRy.

Love this kid!

"When they had eventually calmed down a bit, and had gotten home, Mr. Duncan put the magic pebble in an iron safe. Some day they might want to use it, but really, for now, what more could they wish for? They had all that they wanted."

~William Steig, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

Snow on his birthday…magical!