Failure IS an Option

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Wednesday night is family night. Our standing date to spend time together. It’s the untouchable night. No work. No interruptions.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband decided that a game of catch was in order, since it was our first rain-free sunny summer Wednesday. And so, with miniature football in hand and triangle formation, he tossed around the old pig-skin with our dudes. (I watched from the sidelines as cheerleader and music coordinator).

If memory serves me well, this is the first time we’ve played catch with our kids. Ever. Why? Because my husband and I aren’t good at sports. We don’t have an interest in most things sporty.

Earlier in the week my 9 year old told me he wasn’t good at sports like football, soccer, and basketball. Despite my protestations he was sad about what he viewed as deficiency.

But WOW can that kid put a mean spiral on a football pass. He knew to line his fingers up with the laces on the ball and follow through with his whole body. When I asked him where he learned how to throw like that, he said, “My PE teacher.”

He had the technique down. His little brother on the other hand didn’t. He needed help. It wasn’t coming easy. What a great opportunity for peer to peer teaching.

Our oldest demonstrated and helped his brother with positioning. And, for the 7 year old it was frustrating when the ball didn’t go where he intended or as far as he wanted. There were tears at failed attempts.

On the flip side, our youngest is a great receiver. He stepped into the ball and wrapped his entire body around it to prevent dropping it.

Instinct? Innate ability? Either way, it was his strength. His big brother was afraid of the ball coming toward him, using his hands and arms to block the ball.

Again, peer teaching. Our 7 year old had the opportunity to demonstrate and instruct his frustrated older brother. There were tears at dropped balls.

For both, there were moments: throwing up of hands, stomping of feet, and blaming, “You didn’t do it right so I could catch it.” Or, “You didn’t tell me that part. That’s why I did it that way.”

There’s room for improvement, but by the end there was laughter and joy; a sense of accomplishment. Since then they’ve gone out on their own to throw the ball around.

Why am I telling you this? A sweet family outing story? No. This evening allowed us to start the dialog about failure and what it means; about starting imperfectly and growing into a skill.

I value failure for what it can teach us. (I talk about failure in writing here.) I despise failure because I wasn’t taught to embrace it. Quite the opposite, I was taught to avoid it. It is only in my adult life that I’ve come to realize the benefits.

I am aware of the need to create an environment where failing is an accepted practice, mostly because we’ve decided to homeschool and assume the full time responsibility of formally educating our boys.

My children need to know how to harness the power of making mistakes. Right now they fear being wrong and messing up. Our football night is a prime example.

Inadvertently I’ve contributed to their sense of foreboding about being anything less than perfect. I have unwittingly taught them to be critical of others shortcomings by a careless comment here and a careless statement there.

 I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.

~Michael Jordan

Now I need to unravel this thought process and reframe failure for my boys. It’s time to deliberately teach them that it’s normal and everybody does it: cool kids and geeks, the book wise and the street smart, young and old. Failure is an equal opportunity life coach.

To grow from ignorant to bad; from bad to good; from good to better; and from better to best; we have to be willing to look at where we fell short, what went wrong, label it, and then bridge the gap so we can learn and develop. That’s the beauty of failure.

 It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.

~Bill Gates

We put undue pressure on ourselves when we:

  • Fear giving the wrong answers
  • Worry about not getting it right the first time
  • Panic about trying something new

I want to normalize the process of learning from your mistakes, trial and error. We often hear this quote: “I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong,” which is true. How in today’s world do we teach our children to leverage their failures instead of berating themselves for the one result?

I don’t know what the answer is but I know it starts with a dialog. It starts with a moment like football family night. It comes with experiential learning and allowing them to own it without shame. Diana Laufenberg said it best here. Or maybe you’ll prefer the way Ramsey Musallam said it here.

This transition from parent to teacher and care-giver to educator has me scared, I am prepared to fail some. Okay, I’m prepared to fail often.

And the best part … I am willing to be transparent in my failures so that I can model for my kids how to respond to our own limitations and push them farther out. J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard Graduation address beautifully speaks to failure. And I appreciate her openness. I hope I express it to my children with similar grace and eloquence.

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all. In which case you have failed by default.

~J.K. Rowling

Where have you failed? What have you learned?
 

Advertisements

I Read White: The Issue of a Single Story

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

When I first started writing fiction I wanted to be intentional about representing a diverse cast of characters: race, culture, and socio-economic levels. For my first novel, which is still in process, my main character is black, her best friend is biracial and another central character is Latina.

Despite my desire to be intentional, I was also concerned about promulgating the stereotypes associated with race. This hope to handle well a people’s culture and race, a people’s story, has been one of the constant sources of writer’s block for me. What if I failed? What if I made a mockery of someone when I wanted to be honoring?

My reasons, of course, for being purposeful in character selection were well founded. I wanted to create a story that would have resonated with the eight year old me. A story that wasn’t accessible to my younger self but could fill the gap for another child.

I wanted to write a story where someone who looked like me, sounded like me, and acted like me, would take grand adventures and do amazing things in far off places. I wanted to write a book where main culture and lifestyle weren’t reserved for a single segment of the population but where anyone could take part in it. Such high hopes.

Every child deserves such a story.

My juvenile literary exploits were limited. Partly because of the topics that interested me and partly because of what was at my disposal More than anything, I had a fascination with white stories even though I wanted to see myself on the page.

Unfortunately, I read white. Regardless of how the characters are described, my mind generates Anglo images and I have to reframe what people should look like each time they appear in the story. It’s terribly annoying.

Sessions at the Festival of Faith and Writing 2014, like: It’s Just Fiction: Reading and Writing About Race, Culture, and Power with Mitali Perkins; The Power of Suspending Disbelief: Why I Read and Why I Write with Pam Munoz Ryan; and Issues Facing Writers of Color in Christian Publishing with Edward Gilbreath, Marlena Graves, Al Hsu, and Helen Lee; as well as the myriad of presenters, opened my eyes to a greater challenge …

As much as I encourage my dudes to read, I am guilty of raising another generation to read white. Looking at their bookshelves is a clear indication of how I’ve grossly neglected diversity in their literary lives.

How had I missed this?

I guess I could make excuses. I could say it’s because there isn’t enough diversity in their areas of interest. A sure sign that we as writers have work to do and we as readers need to support what is available.

How is it that I could be acutely aware of this injustice in my reading experience and miss the signs in the singular experience I am delivering to my dudes?

How had I, one who’d been victim to single story, been negligent? How could I see the importance of raising readers as a response to my personal history described in a recent post, yet overlook this distinction in theirs?

I could make excuses, but I won’t.

Honestly, I don’t know how I missed it. The good news is there’s time to change their reading trajectory and mine. I need to apply the same intention to selecting books for my family’s reading life as I’ve attempted with my writing life.

And, there’s so much more to “diversity” beyond what I’ve previously stated, like: religion, sexuality, politics, gender; the possibilities of variety are endless.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie beautifully conveys the issue of a single story in literature in this Ted Talk, recommended during an FFW session. I encourage all of you as readers and writers to take the time to watch this video.

Ahh! Awareness!

During teacher appreciation week I usually buy books for my boys classrooms. Mrs. B. responded to my inquiry for what books she was hoping to add to her class library with, “Of course, any books with multicultural characters.”

A wonderful reminder to me for which I am grateful.

Since hearing this cry for diversity at FFW, I notice it everywhere. My Amazon trolling looks different, my search criteria for a good book is broader, but it’s only the beginning.

Another reminder I am thankful for is the #weneeddiversebooks campaign that is currently storming the social media world keeps the issue in front of me. This article is one of many that shows how important it is to tell every story.

I wish I could accurately express how I feel realizing that I’ve fallen short. I wish I could help you understand how far we’ve yet to go. But it starts with being aware. It starts with passing it on.

Help me change the way I read. What books would you recommend, for my dudes and me, to expand our horizons and build a richly diverse library? How have you battled this issue? Please share…

Best Beginnings

“There is no beginning too small.” ~Henry David Thoreau

Currently on my nightstand  ... some on loan from friends. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Currently on my nightstand … some on loan from friends.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My best beginning is steeped in words and was the best beginning twice: once as a little girl and once as a parent.

My reading journey began with trepidation … halting steps.

Picture an awkward first grader, uncomfortable in her skin early in life, already different because of the color of her skin and body type. I wanted nothing more than to fit in, to be “normal”.

The youngest child in my family who was replaced as such by a surprise baby sister, school was the environment where I could be myself and where I was most alive.

One challenge … academically I struggled. Often I was in the lowest levels of each subject: math, writing, reading. I didn’t care much about math but reading made an impression.

Life in the late 70s and early 80s wasn’t like today. Few people sent their kids to school knowing how to count to one hundred or read by sight. Back in those days reading went hand in hand with phonics.

It’s no wonder that I was “behind”.

There were lots of books in my home but they were mostly adult reads. Both my parents were insatiable readers but I don’t have memories of mom and dad reading to me, although they talk about doing so.

I was frustrated watching my friends and mortal enemies (as if that exists at 7) dive into more complex books than See Spot Run or Dick and Jane. They were growing their skills and vocabulary, sounding out words and counting syllables with fists striking tabletops. All my words were short single beats.

Devastated to find out I wasn’t equal, that I work to do, that I didn’t fit in, it was a heartbreaking time.

You’re wondering how this could possibly be the best beginning?

Well, it forced me to fight for written words. Envy drove me to become the best reader in my peer group instead of the worst. And in the process I fell in love with language, with literature.

Now I experience the world in words similar to conversation bubbles in comics and cartoons. (There’s a book, A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd, that I am dying to read because the description of how Felicity views the world feels like how I see it.)

Words and stories and books are how I fit in.

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Their Spring Break reads which were done before Spring Break started.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Round one of in my two part best beginning saga put me on the path of a life long love affair with great stories. Round two is less “hero’s journey” and more practical but no less tied for best.

Looking back at the initial trauma I lived through made me determined that my dudes would have a better tale to tell.

Their reading journey is my second trip to unlocking the wonder of words. It’s a personal mission. Even though it shares the title of best there is something sweeter about walking through it with my boys.

From board books to picture books and from comic books to chapter books and even eBooks to audio books, my boys have fallen in love with the power of stories. And it’s the only gift I felt qualified to give them.

What a rewarding opportunity to observe:

  • Stillness because they’re lost in another world.
  • Peels of laughter that is private joke between them and the pages.
  • Vocabulary beyond their ages and catches me off guard.
  • Expressions of sadness or anger that result in books being thrown down.
  • Conversations that start with “Mom you have to read this because…” Followed by a plot summary or character analysis (and they don’t know that’s what they’re doing).

At ages nine and seven, they own more books than I did when I was old enough to work full time and buy my own. Plus we take advantage of the local library and visit our local bookstores. Another joy is borrowing and loaning books to friends. This summer I hope to facilitate a “book club” experience for them and our small group buddies.

Readers surround them. They believe that readers are leaders.

How wonderful it is to have their reading origins shape their interests. My nine year old is planning a future as a comic book writer and illustrator. His seven-year-old little brother is a fledgling filmmaker.

I pray that this reading life is worthy of best beginning in their estimation. May storytelling stay in their blood. May they bring to words to life for others. May they continue the legacy of reading being the best beginning, twice.

What about you? What are your thoughts on beginnings? What is your BEST beginning?

 NOTE: This was a reflective journal exercise for me. Thanks to Lisa Sonora for sharing her 30-Day ROOT Journal Project with the world. And thank you to Stephanie at Visible and Real for writing the post that led me to Lisa.

Celebrating the Love of Reading …

I’ve been boasting to my dudes about how I used to stay up all night (2 or 3 in the morning and still getting up for school by 6AM) reading by flashlight under the covers.

Of course they thought that was cool and funny because I was breaking the rules.

My oldest expressed interest in doing the same thing. So I promised him a READ-A-THON. Maybe not the best name for our event. Still we pulled an all-nighter; complete with a carpet campout and picnic.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint Grasshopper Cookies, York Peppermint Patties, and Honey Mustard Pretzels

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  - Oreo Fudge Cookies and Cheetos Cheese Puffs

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – Oreo Fudge Cookies and Cheetos Cheese Puffs

I purchased both dudes favorite snacks and drinks, along with some of my favorites. I made sure we all had new books to start reading that night.

The premise of the event was to see who could stay up the latest reading. We spent a couple of weeks throwing down the gauntlet. Each of us claiming the win, which just meant we’d earn the right brag.

At one point the oldest dude said, “I’m going to win because you need your rest and I don’t. You’re old and I’m not.”

Thanks for that! I am definitely older. My days of hiding under the sheets reading till the wee hours of the morning have long since expired.

But the most important part of doing this event was celebrating the new found love of independent reading that my dudes have discovered. They’ve always loved Momma reading to them at bedtime, but now they each ask for 5 minutes or more to read quietly before lights out.

Yes, I’m grinning from ear to ear.

My husband and I wanted to make a big deal out of their summer reading accomplishments, by awarding certificates of achievement. Also, we took the time to write each of the dudes a personalized note expressing our pride and joy.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint  - Lots of book options

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – Lots of book options

Our oldest dude read 10 books since school ended with the shortest being 192 pages. Many of the books he read within 48 hours of getting them. He also read lots of comics.

The sitter said he would lay on the floor while the smaller children crawled all over him. And still he read, unhindered by the fact that he was a human jungle gym.

Our youngest dude read 12 books within his reading ability. He’s great at sounding out words and remembers words that you’ve only helped him with once.

He also delved into the world of comic books, Sonic the Hedgehog being his favorite. At first I thought he was just looking at the pictures but when I asked him to tell me the story, he could.

I’m telling you these are the happy Momma moments. When something you’ve desired for your children manifests itself you can’t help but throw a party.

You may have noticed I get a little obsessive about my boys being readers. Leaders are readers, right? 

There are other things I need to be obsessive about for their sake. But this is the one that bubbles up most often, the one I feel most equipped to tackle, and it’s one they can carry with them everywhere they go.

More than once during our READ-A-THON event, I heard my 6 year old say, “You’re the best Momma ever,” primarily due to the junk food feast.

It was a special night. Great fun even though I conceded at 1:15AM to my 9 year old. He won the bragging rights but decided not to exercise them because he “didn’t feel right about it.” So sweet and naïve.

I don’t know that I would have been as generous to him. I would have bragged it up. I guess there’s always next year because guess what? They asked if we could make it an annual event. Yay!

Thankfully, there were a lot of people who knew about the event. I updated Facebook every 20 minutes or so, which means he’s received kudos from people in our circles of influence. I appreciate their acknowledgement because it reinforces his love of reading, his championship title, and his good sportsmanship.

To keep dudes going during the school year we have a new incentive which we kicked off the night of the READ-A-THON. I call it READ RACING.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint – What you measure is what gets done.

Nothing fancy … just reading goals outside their school work for the first semester.

  • 6 year old = 500 pages within his reading level
  • 9 year old = 1000 pages within his reading level
  • Me – 3000 pages

Part of the new challenge: I get to pick one of their reads and they each get to pick one for me. So we’ll be forced into trying something we wouldn’t necessarily choose on our own.

If they complete their race, I will give them each a $20 gift card for Amazon (which I believe they’ll use for buying toys because they know Momma will buy their books).

I am encouraged and hopeful and inspired. See what good stories can do for you. Good stories move us!

What has inspired you or made you grin from ear to ear this summer? What can we celebrate together?

The Boys Who Stomped a Hornets’ Nest

European hornet with the remnants of a honey bee

European hornet with the remnants of a honey bee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’ve never been stung by a hornet, consider yourself lucky. Because each sting is like the prick of a needle followed by the sensation of molten lava bubbling beneath your skin as it spreads out setting fire to everything in its path. And then it gets painful.

As you can tell, we weren’t fortunate this weekend. We were closing what had been a fabulous weekend.

Let me start our story with a brief history:

Every year for the past 3 years my husband has taken a daddy-and-me date with each of the boys which makes room for me to have a mommy-and-me date with them too. A whole weekend, one on one, of Daddy’s or Mommy’s undivided attention.

Hubby took our oldest to Chicago for Comic Con. They went to the Field Museum of Natural History and saw T-Rex Sue. They went to the Lego store and grew his mini-figure collection. He had the chance to ride on the top deck of a double deck bus. And they visited with friends.

The youngest stayed home with me. We went to the movies and watched SMURFS 2. We ate at the restaurants of his choice and he didn’t have to negotiate with his brother. (In case you didn’t know, Taco Bell is a restaurant). We also managed to make it to an end-of-summer / housewarming party for some friends. He was allowed to spend his money after being in what I call a “spending freeze” for several months.

So what could be a better way to end this memory-making-happy-fest? Lunch by the river with friends? Yes … we thought so too. And that’s what we did. 

Our dudes were happy hanging out with their friends. Splashing at the water’s edge. Playing in the woods. Exploring and having adventures. Laughing and shouting with joy like only children can.

Until that moment when they kicked a log and stomped through the hornets’ nest.

We warned them to be careful and watch for poison ivy but we should have warned them of something else, something far worse.

I’ve yet to experience anything more overwhelming as a parent than watching my dudes careening toward me, in real and imminent danger, wearing the face of true terror, and bathed in black and yellow fury. Swarmed.

9YO: They’re gonna get me.
Me: Let me help you. Take your shirt off.
9YO: No, then they’ll KILL me.
Me: They’re on your shirt and I can’t get them off you unless you take the shirt off.

Stinger of an european hornet (V. crabro), whi...

But I had no idea how to help or protect my boys. In my ignorance, I assumed hornets were like bees, sting and die. Nope. Their sticky little bullet shaped hornets’ bodies clung to our kids’ clothes and hair; repeatedly stinging.

And buzzing is not the dull hum of day to day life in a hive or colony as you see in documentaries. Buzzing is a collective voice of ferocity, shouting:

  • Who do you think you are?” and
  • How dare you?” and
  • I’ll show you.”

And show us they did. Punishment, plain and simple, doled out for invading their privacy; for disturbing their home.

Not knowing if they were allergic, I gave my little ones Benadryl (which I always have with me) and we took them to the ER. The entire car ride they were distraught with their suffering:

9YO: It’s all my fault brother got hurt.
Me: No, it’s not. It’s nobody’s fault.
9YO: Yes, it is because if I hadn’t gone exploring, brother wouldn’t have gone exploring.
Me: It’s still not your fault.
6YO: When’s it going to stop hurting?
Me: I don’t know, but Momma’s here.
6YO: It hurts so much. My arms. When’s it going to stop?
9YO: Oh, I hurt my brother.
Me: Please calm down.
9YO: Don’t say that to me.
Me: You’re right. I just need to make sure you aren’t having a reaction. It’s easier to do if you’re not screaming.
6YO: Are they gonna give me a shot?
Hubby: No, they won’t give you a shot. You’ve been stung enough times today.
9YO: Mommy, just promise me I won’t die.
9YO and 6YO screaming and crying in agony!

At the hospital, they took us right in. They gave them each a dose of steroids to stop the inflammation and Tylenol to alleviate the pain. Thankfully! Then both boys dozed off and slept for a few hours.

hornet

hornet (Photo credit: beckymaldonado)

Physically, dudes seem to be better. Minor itching and discomfort.

Now my outdoorsmen are done with nature. My dudes, who just a few weeks ago were chasing fireflies and giggling with delight, are shaking with fear at the mention of leaving the safety of our 4 walls. They are unwilling to be out of doors longer than what’s necessary.

Racing to the car as we head out in the morning, is no longer a playful act or friendly competition between brothers. Instead it’s a matter of survival.

9YO: Don’t make me go outside until I’m mentally ready.
Me: Okay. Fair enough.

How do you respond to that?

Hornet

We all sustained injury but the youngest got the worst of it. He’s chosen to believe that hornets don’t live in the city we live in despite my telling him it’s possible. Maybe he’s in denial.

My oldest is in avoidance mode. But I don’t want them to be afraid.

I know they’re traumatized. So I’ll watch and wait … Because forcing them outside at this point would be like stirring up a hornets’ nest. (Pun intended).

I’m open to suggestions that may help little people adjust. Feel free to throw advice my way!

Photos from Zemanta via WordPress

… chasing fireflies …

Fireflies 1

Fireflies 1 (Photo credit: ShutterSparks)

Curiosity of children is an amazing thing.

I love seeing their imaginations at work as they reason with and negotiate through and interact with their world.

The simplest concepts can become complex mysteries that want solving; like fireflies lighting up the night in a petite fireworks display.

That’s how we spent last week … chasing fireflies … entertaining our 2 nieces along side our 2 dudes. (Remind me to tell you later about parenting 4 kids for 10 days when you’re only used to 2 kids. Ages: 9, 8, 6 ½, and 4. Yeah, we were busy.)

What makes fireflies light up? Bioluminescence!

The kids all understood, at a high level, the complicated truth thanks to the children’s movie Curious George. It’s a defense mechanism.

But at it’s core, the elementary truth, is that it’s fun. They want to capture the light between their fingers and watch it blink in their hands.

And so, we spent hours waiting in the fading sun, trying as the sky darkened, laughing with hope and reaching for the little miracles.

When they were successful, they would preserve their prizes in plastic water bottles and plastic sandwich bags without air holes. In their enthusiasm they smothered the little bugs, forever extinguishing the light and lives.

Sad. I know. I tried to explain the value of life but to no avail.

From their inquisitive point of view there would be more fireflies to chase the next night … and the next day … and the next day. Youthful optimism.

This experience made me think of dreams. Okay, I had some help. Yesterday, blogger buddy, Britt posted a little ditty titled:  What’s Wrong with Having Dreams Anyway? She says it brilliantly. Which made me think of this post I’d started.

A post which I originally thought would lead to me telling you the story of how busting my bout of baby fever but instead it’s turned into a post about running hard and fast after something as elusive as fireflies.

Dreams, if your lucky come true.

Wait!

That’s not right.

Like chasing fireflies … if you want to catch your dream you have to be diligent and patient. You have to put effort into the result you want. You have to accept the fact that you are not like everyone else.

Being a dreamer is not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. But I’ve said something like this before, here.

Dreams can be snuffed out if they’re locked away in an airtight container or ‘real life’.

Isn’t it odd how quickly we give up our dreams? How they end up by the way side? To Britt’s question I say, there’s nothing wrong with having dreams.

I’m a self-proclaimed dreamer. And that may be weird to some of you. But I embrace my weird.

My big dream is finishing my novel, being recognized as a best selling author some day. My small dream is to write every day.

I know … it’s kind of a single track. But like my kids this past week, hanging out in the front yard while darkness descended; chasing fireflies … I am chasing my dream …

I’d love to hear from you … What fireflies will you pursue? What dreams will you reignite?

Images from Zemanta

Summer Reading 2013

The first Captain Underpants book.

The first Captain Underpants book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The best gift my dudes gave me for Mother’s Day was cuddling up on the sofa at Grandma’s, cracking open the newest Big Nate book: Big Nate Flips Out.

It does my heart good that my dudes have reached the point where they’ll choose Momma reading to them at bedtime over anything else (including screen time).

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what our reading plan will look like this summer. Last year we transitioned from reading picture books to chapter books; which was met with opposition. This year will be easier. I hope.

We’ve overcome the qualms of our oldest not wanting to read independently. As a matter of fact on our road trip to Grandma’s for Mother’s Day weekend, he spent two of the three hours’ drive reading. Woot!

And we’ve moved our youngest past sight words to reading with confidence. He’s good at sounding out words he doesn’t know. His teacher tells us: “Wow is he a reader.” Yay!

With less than four weeks left of school it’s that time again … and my list is already started thanks to soliciting titles from friends and family via Facebook.

The stories or series they fell in love with since summer 2012:

  • Captain Underpants – We’ve read all 10 and now have to wait for the next one to be published.
  • Sweetfarts – Anything with bodily functions appeal to 8 & 6 year old dudes. We’ll tackle books 2 & 3 in this series.
  • Big Nate – As I said we’ve just started the most current novel.
  • Roscoe Riley Rules – The first 5 books were a Christmas gift. There are more for us to finish.
  • George Brown Class Clown – Received 2 for Christmas. Again there are more to read which makes us happy.
  • Origami Yoda – We’ve only read book 1 (they were reluctant at first, now they’re hooked)

 

The books that fell short since last summer:

  • Geronimo Stilton – Surprisingly, they didn’t like the bright colors and font treatments as much as I did.
  • Magic Tree House – Our oldest loved them when his teacher read them to him in school but lost the love when I read them at home.

So here’s what’s on the horizon for summer 2013 (in addition to the different series we need to finish):

  • Jigsaw Jones Series
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Paddington Bear
  • My Father’s Dragon
  • The Cricket in Times Square
  • Because of Winn Dixie

For my youngest we will invest in the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. He loves the snarky and indignant pigeon. Plus he can read them on his own.

And, there are always more to come, like the books we stumble upon during bookstore visits.

For me … I have more 20 unread books on my Kindle to work through and the list is ever growing. I can’t help myself. I download at least one book a day.

Then, in a sneak attack mom move, I’ve told my oldest I will be reading the Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch; which I will because they sound like a load of fun; but I will buy physical copies just in case someone wants to dive in too.

He said, “You should read it to us because we like mysteries.” Right! The idea of it being something for me and not for him has piqued his interest. Oh the reverse psychology!

I didn’t offer it to him because his primary response to my book recommendations is rejection. We’ll see if he makes it to reading these.

LOTS of options. A good book is only a click away for us. And amazon.com has a summer reading adventure map. Plus you don’t know where to begin they have recommendations by age group (including adult) for summer reading.

Happy Reading! What’s on your book list? What will you read this summer? What will your little people read?

Previous the Jotter’s Joint reading posts:

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/05/10/summer-reading/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2013/03/25/reading-for-screen-time/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/07/23/unplugged-turned-off-and-tuned-out/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2012/06/05/joint-venture-summer-reading-tips-from-raymond-bean-award-winning-author/

https://thejottersjoint.com/2013/04/04/how-to-commit-identity-theft-without-breaking-the-law/

Photo image from Zemanta via WordPress.com

Reading for Screen Time

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We’ve entered a new phase of parenting. My husband and I have decided that screen time isn’t free. We are instituting a minute for minute trade off. For every minute our dudes read, write or craft, they get a minute of screen time.

Some of you are thinking, “Duh, of course”. Others are thinking, “Novel idea,” kind of like we were when some friends mentioned it.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to make. But, it’s hard to practice. As I write this post it hasn’t even been 24 hours since we communicated and introduced the change to our dudes. I already want to give in.

My dudes are mourning the loss of what has been freely given. It’s always been available to them. No questions asked. They’ve never had to earn it. This is a shift they weren’t expecting.

How did we end up here?

You may recall a post I did this summer: Unplugged, Turned Off and Tuned Out. And unplug we did. Less gadget time helped. I am sad to report that it’s creeped back up to unnecessary levels because we keep getting busier and busier. My hubby and I accept responsibility for this. It’s our fault not our dudes.

We’ve noticed increased tiredness; aggressive behavior and language; and their brotherly friendship is deteriorating. Sometimes their interactions end in a physically volatile manner.

They’ve forgotten about respect and acceptance and love. Oh yeah and did I mention respect. Not just for one another but for themselves. This can not continue to happen.

What’s their response?

8 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

8 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

My oldest dude is mopey and mad. My youngest isn’t happy but spent 10 minutes this morning reading when they would usually watch TV. He’s on the path; already earned his first screen time. It may be harder at the end of the day for him. We’ll see.

Needless to say they are very angry. I’ve already heard the “B” word out of their little mouths. No. Not that one. This one: “I’m bored and I don’t have anything to read.”

Tragic right?

In my day, TV shows and movies weren’t so accessible. I mean you had to wait a whole week for the next episode. Now you can wait a day and see it on Hulu. And if you missed episodes you had to watch the reruns in the summer. Now you can wait for the next season to start and see the previous one on Netflix.

Oh and don’t forget the beauty of DVR. My kids have the luxury of instant gratification. It’s way too easy for them to watch what they want when they want; which can be a challenge for parents.

We were sent outside to play and couldn’t come back till the streetlights came on. We didn’t have all this fancy gadgetry. We didn’t have VHS till I was in high school. We didn’t have a computer in my childhood home. DVDs didn’t exist nor did the Internet or Apps. We had what we had and we were happy.

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

We didn’t get to buy books, we went to the library. My boys have their own personal libraries and are running out of room on their bookshelves. We had chores that we didn’t get paid for, it was how we contributed to the household. Our little guys get an allowance for their contributions i.e. cleaning up and folding laundry.

I digress. Our boys have so many advantages.

The oldest is struggling the most. He said, as I dropped him off at school, “I hate reading and writing now.”

I truly hope this isn’t the case. It isn’t the desired effect.

Our goal isn’t to make them perceive reading as a punishment. Rather we want screen time to be perceived as a privilege and not a right. That it is a level of reward or an added benefit. For me reading is its own reward and I want my boys to think the same way.

Maybe there’s another approach and we haven’t come across it yet.

Of course, as parents, we receive the right to gift screen time to our boys on occasion but it’s not the rule of thumb. I know that there will be modifications along the way. In the end I anticipate that their moods will improve.

6 Year Old Reads© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

6 Year Old Reads
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

For those of you thinking that it may not be the type of content they experience or the amount of it … we did a week long trial limiting their screen time and the content. We saw positive change.

So here we go. It’s time for drastic measures. Wish us luck … send up a prayer … We purchased new reads!

Parents, what have you done to balance out screen time in the lives of your little people?

I’m Not Your Superwoman

Lois Lane's first appearance as Superwoman. Ar...

Lois Lane’s first appearance as Superwoman. Art by John Sikela. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a song I loved growing up, titled: I’m Not Your Superwoman, performed by Karen White. If you were to go check out the lyrics (video here), you’d wonder why it appealed to my teenage self. But it did non-the-less.

A few years ago I started using the catch phrase: “Well I’m off to save the world one person at a time.” It was my standard exit line instead of “bye” or “I have to go.”

People would say things like “Oh you’re a superhero?” Of course, dripping with sarcasm.

To which I would reply in the affirmative. Assuring them, “My cape is tucked into my blazer and my tights and boots were hidden in my heels.

They’d ask, “If you’re a superhero, what powers do you have?”

Thinking they’d stumped me I would smile and say, “I can read minds.”

You know what comes next …

Prove it!”

You’re thinking, she’s out of her @#$% mind,” I’d say, getting a laugh for my flippancy.

I’m not your Superwoman …

Nor do I want to be …

Boy I am only human …” is a line from the song. And that’s me. I’m only human. And most of the time the first person I’m off to save is me, from myself.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983.

Superwoman (Kristin Wells). Art by Gil Kane, 1983. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up though … my mom was Superwoman. She worked full-time outside of the home. I honestly don’t know how she did it. Even with the help of 4 able-bodied children.

Our house was always clean. She managed to make home-cooked meals at least 4 nights a week. The other 3 nights were handled by the leftovers. Laundry was always done. And not just washed and dried but folded and put away. And, we didn’t have a dryer, they were hung on a clothesline outside (year round). Dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, scouring.

It all got done some how; without modern conveniences. We didn’t have a dishwasher (she still doesn’t). I was almost out of high-school before we got a microwave.

Yet, our home was a constant state of “guest readiness”.

Where am I going with this?

My husband and I have been talking about hiring someone to come in and help clean our house; maybe cook meals. We just can’t do it. Not with our schedules and other responsibilities. 

I have several friends who’ve referred their person or service; a maid who fills the gaps in house work and does the things that they just can’t. It seems the norm within my peer group.

And crazy as it sounds … it feels like cheating … taking an unauthorized shortcut. I actually feel guilty for needing the help (which I shouldn’t – feel guilty that is).

I mean what’s different from the generation before to my generation now? I guess each generation has its battle. For my mom, she was up against the June Cleaver model of wife and mother.

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot "It's a ...

Barbara Billingsley in the pilot “It’s a Small World”, 1957. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still … how’d she pull it off?

My mother was always the first one up and usually the last one down. Which is true for me too but I accomplish far less around the house than she did.

I don’t remember seeing her enjoy much of the homey home she provided. She rarely sat to read a book or watch TV. Maybe on Mothers’ Day or her birthday meals were prepared and served to her. There weren’t days of staying in her PJs to cuddle up with us.

That’s not what I want from my life.

So this is me giving myself permission: I’m NOT Your Superwoman.

I’m just a woman … a mom … a wife … an employee … a daughter … a friend … a sister … Dreaming of living a SUPER life.

Now I’m off to save my world.

To all you Superwomen out there, my cape’s off to you for all that you do!

Superwoman (Kristin Wells)

Images from Zemanta

How They Became Dudes

Backyardigans.

Backyardigans. (Photo credit: Vintage Studio. Artes Plásticas e E.V.A.)

When my oldest was born, I gave him nicknames like: Little Face, Sweet Pea, and Pumpkin. Only I said Pumpkin like the “m” was an “n”.

He would look up at me with those big happy eyes, cooing and gurgling. Intense even then. I was a woman in love with this gift: motherhood.

My husband said, “He’s such a dude.”

I didn’t care much for that.

When my youngest came along, he was also called Pumpkin with the “m” pronounced as an “n” and Sweet Pea. His other nickname was Chunkers because he looked over-nourished. Plump and healthy.

He would look up at me with a wide smile and bright eyes. He was my giggler. Rolling with laughter. And, I was a woman in love with this gift: slightly more experienced motherhood.

My husband said, “He’s such a Dude.”

I still didn’t care for it.

As they got a little older people would refer to them as Buddy. You know?

Hey Buddy how’s it going?”
Hey there Buddy?”
What you got there Buddy?”

Buddy for me sounded like a dog’s name. I didn’t like it. Just one of my ~isms. But when I found myself referring to them as Buddy, that was the end of it. I started calling them Dude along with my husband because in my mind Dude was better than Buddy.

And so began their Dude-dom.

It became such a common term in our house that it wasn’t long before the oldest was addressing the youngest in this way:

It’s okay Dude.”
What do you want Dude?
Dude? What are you doing?”

It was an early word for the youngest.

Then came the Backyardigans episode: Surf’s Up, in which the characters pretend to be surfers in search of a secret beach. The Dude Talk abounded. The girl surfer was a Dudette. It was a favorite episode for a long time.

Surf’s Up solidified Dude as our family term of endearment.

Boys. They are boys. Active. Strong. Strong-willed. Confident. They already have very definitive ideas about a man’s role in life.

My oldest recently asked my husband, while smoothing down the front of his shirt, “Does this make me look manly?”

Ahhh testosterone in the morning. Already a man’s man. Already a Dude.

Now this one word means so much more for us … Tone can change what it means. While roaming the Hanson Household you’re likely to hear, “Dude …” just a few times.

So for those of you who’ve commented that you love the fact that I call them Dudes, I have to say, I can’t take credit for it. But, the title suits them.

What’s your “dude” or special pet name? How’d it come to be? I’d love to hear the stories behind the names given in love.

Photo image from Zemanta