Posts tagged books
Surprise Memory for the School Year's End

Today I'm doing one of my favorite end-of-the-school-year gestures. It's a present I'll give to my children in ten to twelve years. Pat on the back for early prep on this, right?

As a teacher, I found the last week of school such a roller coaster of highs and lows - wanting to keep the children I'd grown to cherish, wishing them success with new role models and guides, ready to bust open the doors to summer relaxation.

Looking to find some way to capture the emotion of the final days of school, I searched the interwebs to express the bittersweet experience for my children.

What I found (and loved!) was this sweet idea from MaryLea. Do you all know her? If not, take a peek at the hundreds of art projects she has going over at Pink and Green Mama.

I asked my children's teachers (and their aides) to write notes on the interior pages of a loved book. From here to there from there to here, I'm a big-big Dr. Seuss fan so I purchased three copies of "Oh, the Places You'll Go." I was happily delighted with the amount of time each teacher spent, thinking about what my daughters and son will be like as high school seniors. Each educator highlighted particular gifts that my children had shared and wished them a generous journey ahead.

These words will mean so much in years to come as the distance from preschool snack time and recess grows.

So, go buy a great book for the child in your life. Send it and a very thankful note in a sealed, discrete envelope (or drop it off at the school office) a week or two before the school year ends. Volunteer to come back to receive the signed book the second-to-last day of school. And then tuck the book away in a special place until next year when the message gets added.

*The key here: not forgetting that special place from year to year.

Sending you and yours warm wishes for the endings ahead.

xoxo, MJ

The tradition of St. Nicholas

It's that time in our house. Do you follow the tradition of St. Nicholas? As it goes in our house, we put out our shoes on the evening of December 5 and await the goodies that St. Nicholas leaves for us when he visits. His treats are almost always Christmas books and some chocolate golden coins.

This photo is from last year's celebration, during which time our house was undergoing a bit of a renovation, hence the lovely floor covering. We let L put out two pairs of his tiny shoes since they are so small.

My oldest believes that St. Nick and Santa are one and the same so she always leaves out her list for St. Nicholas to get a head start.

Will you be leaving out your shoes tonight?

XOXO, MJ

A tri- to try you'll come back to

Hi friends. What a week, huh? Phew. I have some treasures to share with you that I think you'll be pinning, bookmarking, and digging for months to come... classics, if you will.

But before we go to those goodies, how about we break out the celebrations, huh? Today is All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead. Let's offer some prayers and party dances for those who have left this world before us! Tomorrow is National Sandwich Day and we'll be chowing down on a Pars Caeli staple, peanut butter and jelly. I'll take mine with raisins on it, please. Sunday, hows about you and I soak up the joy that is November as National Sleep Comfort Month, and hit that snooze button one more time?

                                

1. KEEP THE COLOR COMING

You all know I've been loving the saturated hues of the fall leaves! I make daily trips to the backyard and around the neighborhood to gather the most amazing colors I can find. Unfortunately, you also know how the story goes when these leaves spend 24 hours inside... crunchy, brown mess. Somewhere in the way back of my head, I knew there was a way to preserve the colors and eliminate the mess. Sheri over at Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt has done it again and brought us the gift of everlasting autumn!! She got the original from Martha, of course, but simplified it and beautified it for you and me.

2. FIND THE BOOK YOU AND YOUR KIDS NEED

So your daughter or your nephew or your next door neighbor is troubled. Maybe it's a friend who's moving away or perhaps parents are separating. Maybe a pet has died or a loved one has passed? Tough situations find their way into our lives usually when we're not ready for them...or ready to articulate and explain them to our kiddos. This amazing list of children's books is a great resource for parents, teachers, and adults. Alison over at No Time for Flashcards has a whole host of other beauties you're going to want to review! Check out the comments section, too, for incredible adoption reads.

3. BLAZE IT RED

Have you done it yet? Moved over to the red lipstick camp? I'd always been a bit scared of the boldness (particularly for those of us with thin lips). However, I've recently taken the leap (I'm not going back) and now own two bright red hues. I loved this post from Camille Styles this week with all the nitty gritty details on how to wear red lips well. If you're the least bit nervous about it, or if you need a reference to return to...this is the one!

That's it from here, lovelies. Let's have a bright weekend.

XOXO, MJ

Mommy and Daddy School: Children's Bookclub

I've been a proud member of a wonderful bookclub for the last five years or so (did you see the Hunger Games night that I hosted...memorable and delightful), and my daughter, M at age 7 has always been intrigued by the idea of reading and eating together with friends. To keep her excited about reading, I suggested that we could gather a group of her friends and explore some chapter books together over the summer. I had to throw in a craft and some delightful treats to seal the deal, but I didn't really need my arm twisted.

Soooo, I had this crazy idea that borrowing a chocolate fountain, melting 4 pounds of milk chocolate yumminess in it, and inviting over a handful of 7-year olds would be fun. 

I was right. And I was exhausted post event.

Starting a bookclub with your child allows you the opportunity to connect and to educate, and it sets a great tone for future learning. Your child sees that you embrace reading, that reading can be and is fun, and that reading shared with friends enhances relationships and knowledge of ourselves.

Here are my tips on how to host a bookclub for a special young person in your life:

1. Invite 3-4 friends.

Keep it small to start off. Where possible know the parents, too. This size of club makes it easy to have more in-depth discussion and allows the kids to be able to listen to one another's ideas without being overwhelmed by the numbers.

2. Get the parents involved.

Though I'm a teacher by training, I still wanted lots of input from the other parents of kiddos involved in the bookclub. I sent out an email with 5 suggested chapter books (with Amazon links) and asked each mom to pick two that seemed like good reads for their girls. We decided on two dates in initial email exchanges as well so that everyone could get these on the family calendars.

3. Read the book, too.

We selected The Chocolate Touch as our first book. It's a good book that mirrors the story of King Midas. The protagonist John Midas gets the chocolate touch and turns everything into chocolate...even his mom! My daughter finished the book in one afternoon because she was so excited about it, and I wanted to be able to talk about the details with her and her friends so I devoured it, too. While you're reading, jot down a few notes and a handful of discussion questions. If you feel stumped on what to ask, simply Google a synopsis of your chosen read. Someone has already created the questions. Trust me.

4. Make it easy to enter the conversation.

M made packs of numbers 1-4 for her friends. Our first question: How would you rate the book? (We do this without the props in my bookclub as a way to begin the book talk) The girls shuffled through the numbers, looking for 4s if they loved it and 1s if they never wanted to read it again. I asked them to turn their chosen number face down and on the count of three - we all revealed our ratings! First question, why did you give the book this rating? I loved that we had variance in opinions and great reasons to back up their thoughts!

We breezed through the events of each chapter, with each girl clammoring to tell what they loved best about the characters and details. At the end of the discussion, I asked each girl to re-rate. One bumped her rating of a three to a four after the conversation!

5. Fun is a must.

We want children to connect joy and reading together so let's make it fun. Think about how food can be themed for the event. The Chocolate Touch lent itself to great chocolate treats such as strawberries and angel food cake dipped in a chocolate fountain. 

Throw in a craft, too! I wanted M to have full ownership of the meeting so we imagined together what kind of project would fit well with the plot of the book. We decided on a chocolate box but put a twist on it by folding a pyramid-shape! Super cool and easy. Check out this site for lots of box templates easy enough for kids (and busy moms) to follow.

After two hours of pizza, talk, and chocolate, with full stomachs and high-pitched giggles, we said good-bye to great friends and avid readers.

Next month we read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and M is so excited to plan our menu and gather the craft supplies. I'm already behind her in my reading...just as I had hoped.

Hosting a bookclub for your child requires a little bit of energy, but it opens up some great paths into literature and relationships for your little one.

Any great children's reads that you'd recommend? Would you have wanted to be a part of a bookclub as a child?

XOXO, MJ

A Summer of Happiness in the Second Week


The talented Denise at Hello Moxie (hello, have you seen her photos? Wowzer.) has inspired a Summer of Goodness here on Pars Caeli, the weekly bookclub capturing the best elements of The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Last week I challenged myself to Act More Energetic, a resolution that Gretchen had set for herself in Chapter 1. Real quick recap: Done with Difficulty. In the last seven days, I've had both daughters up vomiting through the night, causing worry, mess, and less sleep for all of us. They both recovered quickly but the witching hour of 4pm (that's our roughest hour with everyone between meals and ready for a break. Do you have one of these in your house?) fought me and drained what little bit of zeal I had left in me from sheer determination. Nevertheless, I do think focusing on energy and being more present and awake in the moment was really helpful, and I saw the positive ways my children responded to this effort.

Chapter Two takes us to Marriage

Here are the resolutions that Gretchen set out:

  • Quit nagging
  • Don't expect praise or appreciation
  • Fight right
  • No dumping
  • Give proofs of love 
My hubby and I have been married ten years in August, and we've been in love for fifteen. I first admired and respected him as a man of great integrity and character. I fell for his wit, his enveloping expressions of love, and his determination. I can be a self-doubter, but I am sure, and I was sure as I've never been before or since, that he was the man for me...the one with whom I wanted to live in happiness for the rest of our lives.

Marriages are as different as the individuals who vow to be a part of them. I thought this, often, as I read through Gretchen's struggles and solutions in this chapter. Had I made a list on how to be happy + married (which I'm crafting) I don't know that I would include points one, two, or four...and I'm not sure if three and five would make my top resolutions.

In fact, in a similar way to Denise, I was pretty frustrated with Gretchen early on in the chapter. I believe that good marriages necessitate both individuals being loudly, passionately, and lovingly themselves. Simple eg: If you feel like sending Valentine cards is an important part of who you are, then your spouse should know this. He/she does not always have to honor every request and whim, but simply swallowing your needs and wants does not lead to happiness (in my experience).

It also felt strange to me that she didn't let her husband into the research and practice more (part of me even felt bad for him as she was experimenting with different approaches to see his reaction).

But I get it. This book is about the process, the project.

Here are some take aways that I did love:

#1. I was entirely engaged with the Fight Right section. I'm fiesty and often too defensive. I could use help here. I am, like Gretchen, a snapper. Her description of couples who fight right made sense.

Couples...tackle only one difficult topic at a time...these couples ease into arguments instead of blowing up immediately-and avoid bombs such as "You never..." and "You always.
 Ewh, yuck, I utter both of those.

#2. I've been rolling this one over and over in my head:

In marriage, it's less important to have many pleasant experiences than it is to have fewer unpleasant experiences, because people have a "negativity bias"; our reactions to bad events are faster, stronger, and stickier than our reactions to good events.
YES! I get this. In fact, my husband just brought up a morning conversation he had with a blogger about how much more attention negative posts get than positive. Our media is geared toward negativity and drama, and our brains are wired for it, too.

#3. Loved this one:

Although men and women agree that sharing activities and self-disclosure are important, women's idea of an intimate moment is a face-to-face conversation, while men feel close when they work or play sitting along someone.
 From the moment I met my husband, I was struck by what a great companion he was. Never had I met someone so open to accompanying and going alongside of me (and not directing, negotiating, or just letting me go on my own). We both work a lot from home, and even the simplest gesture of the dualing laptops, sitting close on the couch means a lot.

#4. The good word from Yeats:

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.

Definitely, yes. I have always been given a lovely space to grow and find new pathways to life fulfillments but am I offering the same? How are we helping each other to grow?

So here's what I'm working on for the week. It's not exactly one of Gretchen's resolutions, but she touched on it in her research.

#2 from my takeaways:

Create less negative experiences.

In many ways this ties up all of the resolutions. I am going to work on fighting right & offering more expressions of love. And I'm going to focus on him, and in the forefront of my mind, even with all the craziness that is life, I will create (meaning I have control of this) less negative. And I will naturally create more positive.

What are your thoughts, readers? Did you identify more with Gretchen's resolutions?

What will you take on this week?

Here's a pinnable for you. I've been talking with my kids about this a lot since reading. We've been practicing hugging each other while saying, "I love you, I love you." thoughtfully. That's about six seconds. So far, it's fabulous!

XOXO, MJ