Wednesday, April 27, 2016

learning to ski and other things

A few years ago, we decided that we wanted to really value time together as a family and place high priority on having time for just the 5 of us to connect and have fun together, away from our normal lives.

As part of that commitment, we recently went skiing for a week over spring break.   I have long had this vision of our family all skiing together one day when the kids are older, and cultivating a fun, outdoors, athletic, and bonding thing we can as a family.

My husband grew up skiing.  I did not.  You should know that before this week, I'd been skiing exactly 2 times: one day in 2000 and one day in 2010.  You should also know that I do not like to do things that I do not do well.  I'm a perfectionist in the worst way, and if I know that I'm not going to be the best at something, I don't even want to attempt it.  Hence, as an adult, I do not like to try new things.  I abhor it.  I want to stick with what I know and not go through the pain or (ahem) embarrassment of being a beginner.

Unfortunately, though, following through on my vision means I have to learn something new.  The thought of sharing this experience as a family and with my kids trumps any pride or insecurity I have about learning a new skill.  I have to overcome my fear of falling, of failing, of people all around me knowing that I have no freaking clue what I'm doing.

I was able to ski three days that week, and while Ryan was with me the whole time, I spend a lot of time swimming around in my own head as I made my way down the mountain.  I literally had a running internal voice saying, "Weight on your upper edges, shift your weight, turn!, edges, shift your weight, don't fall down, I'm out of control, stay up, stay up!, don't run into me, my knees hurt, don't hit that woman, you can go faster, you can do this, ouch, get back up, snow down my shirt!!, keep going, watch that bump, which way?, I made it!"  Yes, literally.  Audible voice in my head saying all this stuff.  Someone ring the crazy gong.

On day two, I had improved about 300 percent from day one, and there were actually times that I was having fun and not having to work so hard.  We stuck mostly to green runs, and I could feel myself relaxing as I mastered more technique and could enjoy what I was doing and take in the beautiful scenery.  And then I did what I always do.  I mentally pressed myself.  "Greens are not good enough.  When will you master blues?  When will you be an amazing skier and conquer black diamonds?"

Wait.  Stop.  When did skiing become something to conquer instead of something to enjoy? 

Then the thought came to me that skiing green runs was not failure or something I should be ashamed of.  That maybe learning to ski for me was more a lesson of learning to enjoy myself and accepting where that falls.  Of being satisfied with fun and easy and not feeling the need to push and push and push and then quit because mastering a black diamond seems so out of reach.  Why does a black diamond have to be the ultimate goal here?   Why can't skiing a green and loving the heck out of that be the ultimate goal?  Why can't just having fun be the ultimate goal?

I want to find pleasure in something by simply doing it, without comparison or self-sabotage.  To be so ok with simply being ok at something.  This is new for me and it feels weird and rebellious in a refreshing kind of way.  

I learned to ski.  But really, I learned so much more than that.

Friday, April 8, 2016

chapter books to read with 4-7 year olds

I have long since been an avid reader.  I loved our frequent trips to the library when I was a child.  I could stay there forever, and even now one of my favorite things is getting lost in a book store and wanting to read All. The. Books.  Memories of middle school include carrying a huge stack of text books (because back packs were apparently uncool at that time?) with a novel on top.  Every minute in between classes or while waiting for a ride after school, I read.  I loved a good story...still do...though my time for reading has decreased in proportion to my increase in kids.

My husband and I are firm believers that reading to our kids is one of the most important things we can do.  The time spent reading with them is time invested in our relationship and bond with them.  They also get a boost in language skills, vocabulary, communication, and concentration, which is never a bad thing.  We hope to instill in them a love of reading, and ultimately a love of learning in general.  So, we make reading to our kids a priority, even if it means a later bedtime, and refuse to use taking away reading time before bed as a discipline tactic or bribe.  That time is untouchable, no matter what.

Around age 4, Scout showed interest in reading longer and longer stories, so we started reading some chapter books to her.  She loved hearing more intricate stories with characters and an actual plot line, and she did an amazing job transitioning from looking at pictures in the books to imagining her own.

I will add the caveat that sometimes I do censor certain words or paragraphs.  For example, in James and the Giant Peach, James has two aunts that are particularly mean to him and call him terrible names.  I may have skipped part of this or altered some of the names, because the last thing I want to do is inadvertently give my kids ideas of negative names to call their unsuspecting friends and/or me! 

In the past few years, we've read quite a few chapter books with her, and since more than one person has asked what books we've read, I thought I'd share here.  

Thus far (as far as my memory serves me), in no particular order but listed under author's name, we've read...

Beverly Cleary
The Mouse and the Motorcycle
Runaway Ralph
Henry and Ribsy
Henry and the Paper Route
Ramona the Pest
Ramona the Brave
Ramona and Her Father
Ramona Forever
Ramona's World

Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
James and the Giant Peach 
Danny the Champion of the World
Fantastic Mr. Fox
George's Marvelous Medicine

Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prairie
Little Town on the Prairie

Astrid Lindgren
The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking

Um, obviously we stick with authors we like for a while.  Hoping to read some Chronicles of Narnia next.

Also, I feel its important to add that we heavily utilize our public library.  The branch we frequent has a large children's section, and I often will put the next book in a series on hold so it's ready for us when we are.  We have found that having a separate basket at home exclusively used for holding library books helps us keep track of them as we often have a lot checked out at one time between both kids.  I can't say enough for using the library!

I love that we are at this stage with Scout.  I enjoy reading books with her and hearing her laugh at funny parts and watch her emotions and reactions to the story come alive across her face.  When she begs for one more chapter, I almost always give in.  It's good for both of us.

I promise to check back in later with a new list of what we've read in a few months.  In the meantime, feel free to leave some of your favorites for this age range in the comments.  We are always looking for new ideas!

Friday, April 1, 2016

live and love

The sun has recently come out here in Seattle.  After the wettest rainy season in Seattle's recorded history, it's safe to say we are all letting out a sigh of relief.  It's amazing what a little sunshine and vitamin D will do for your soul.  I feel infused with life and hope.  Thankful that seasons change as all things do.  Thankful for new growth and the miracle of flowers pushing up through the soil and unfurling their colorful faces to bask in the sun as well.

I'm struck by the overflow of gratitude in my heart for things made new.  Struck by how much greater that gratitude is because darkness and rain covered us for months and months.  The light is brightest coming out of the dark.

Yesterday, we opened our windows and our back door, played in the backyard, barbecued dinner.  These simple acts reminding me that it is here that we live and love.  We blow bubbles and jump rope and laugh and eat berries and it is sweet balm to our spirits.

Those two words live and love.  They are interconnected.  You can't do one without the other.  If you are living, love abounds.  And if you are loving, life abounds.  Profound yet simple.

Whenever, I type the word love on my phone, it autocorrects to the word live.  This used to annoy me until I started thinking, "What if that were true?"

I love sunshine.
I live sunshine.

I love my kids.
I live my kids.

I love Jesus.
I live Jesus.

If I'm loving something, am I living it out?  Am I fully present?  Do I give it my all?  Soak it in?Breathe gratitude?

And alternatively, if I'm living something, am I loving?  Do I look for opportunities to engage and to encourage?  Do I find the good and joy and focus on that as I live my days, hours, moments?

It's amazing how the tilt of the earth, the parting of clouds, and the promise of all things made new coming to fruition in front of my eyes changes perspective.

So, go out today and live and love.  Love and live.  Blur the lines between the two and see what happens.

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