Tis the Season

The light of the season is upon us and the books are under the tree.

 

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My children are enjoying the magic of the holidays, though most days they chose These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder as their read aloud as opposed to the traditional picking of Christmas books from under the tree each day. (We’ve been reading the Little House on the Prairie series out loud for over a year and they all love it.)

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I was silly enough to begin a new project last week. I’m thirty-five pages in and trying to moderate myself so I don’t completely disappear into the story during this family-centered time of year. I’m trying for a thousand words a day, but yesterday I did double that. Oops. A good “mistake.”

What are you up to this month?

 

The Chill in the Air

Christmas is about stories. The stories you make into memories with friends and family, those you read in scriptures to highlight the reason for the season, and the sometimes funny or heartwarming tales of winter that can be found in books of all sizes.

Rather than focusing on presents, for the weeks leading up to the special day my kids look forward to reading and hearing their beloved holiday books that we keep displayed under our tree. Each year they rediscover their favorites and enjoy new books in the collection.

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What is one of your special Christmas traditions?

What Grows in Family Trees?

We are being watched and someone will want to model us—especially if there are children in our home.
Fortunately, the most recent habit of mine that has been chosen by one of my kids is harmless. At least, I like to think it is. Returning readers will recognize the following image:

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For those unfamiliar, that is Fernando, my literary muse of sorts. While growing wild on the water oak in my backyard, it still needs regular watering during dry spells to stay fresh. Living in the south, I see hundreds of live oaks with branches blanketed by ferns and moss, but this little guy I’ve watched from birth, so to speak. With each passing month, even during the ice storm this winter, he’s managed to thrive and grow.

Yes, the correlations between Fernando and my literary endeavors are endless, but I didn’t know my watering and regular picture taking have been noticed, but then my youngest drew this:

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She proudly pointed out the fern growing near the base of the tree, just like “Mommy’s fern.” I was touched, and humbled by the reminder that whatever I do, my kids will take it to heart. Here’s to the hope of inspiring nature and creativity!

What’s the oddest thing a child has copied from you?

Backyard Musings

Creatively, it’s been a rough month. Literary rejections and a house full of visiting kids are the two biggest factors. Both of these can provide inspiration, but dished out simultaneously over the course of the past few weeks, my soul was beginning to wilt.

What could I do to find peace and inspiration while keeping watch over seven kids? Trek around the backyard, while tuning out the noise of the kickball game for a few minutes.

My goal was twofold: find examples of FORTITUDE in nature as well as the beautiful patina of CORRODED metal.

Mission accomplished, spirits lifted!

With the help of my camera, I recorded these wonders in abundance and will share them over the next few posts. Today, I’m skipping Fernando (though there is good news from his neighborhood) and going straight to the back fence. When my family moved into this house nearly two decades ago, there was a tree growing through the fence, just one or two links worth. We left it alone, and now it looks like this.
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It’s sad, in a way, but a powerful example of growing despite trials and perceived road blocks.
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What could have halted progression became woven into its life, making the core stronger. (It’s survived several hurricanes.)
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Not only is this tree still growing, it’s providing a craggy surface for other living things. Love that moss!
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The textures are amazing.
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Where can you find inspiration today?

Surreal Reading Moment

My autistic teen goes to bed when the younger kids do, but he has permission to read a pre-determined number of chapters before turning his clip-on light out. Since chapter length varies by book, he’s learned the art of bartering. If I say “Two chapters” he’ll tell me, “Chapters too little. Five chapters.” I’m likely to say three, and he’ll say “five, five, five!” To which I’ll respond, with an offer of three or possibly accepted his request. It all depends on the time the bedtime routine is finished.

Last week he borrowed my library book—before I got a chance to read it. The Game of My Life: A True Story of Challenge, Triumph, and Growing Up Autistic by Jason (J-Mac) McElwain with Daniel Paisner is something I wanted to read, but I did hope he’d show an interest, too. (Yes, the J-Mac of the high school basketball video that went viral a few years ago—and still makes the rounds. He also finished the Boston Marathon this year.)
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When my son’s done with his chapters, he comes in to tell me (proud that he read so much) and I try to ask about what’s happened in the book, or who it’s about. Usually, I’ve read the book but he’s branching out more—he read a Captain Underpants book the week before which isn’t a series I’ve tried out for myself. I asked him what happened in the J-Mac book and he got all excited and said “Big Bird! Sesame Street!” and repeated that a few times. Since he spent way too many years obsessed with the show, I thought he might have been flashing back to scripting or something, but I asked, “Does J-Mac like Sesame Street?” (I’ve heard it referenced in at least one other autobiography of a young adult on the spectrum.) My son said “yes” and smiled really big.

Did we just have a conversation?

Yes, this seemingly small exchange does count, especially when it takes years to get that far, but I wasn’t completely convinced because of his Sesame Street response.

Well, this weekend I got my chance with the book. Sure enough, J-Mac’s first words were “Big Bird”, said while he was watching the show with his brother.

Note to self: Don’t underestimate the power of books when it comes to opening communication with my child.

Has a book helped with discussions between you and someone you love?

P.S. Here’s the Fernando update:

Fernando of the Water Oak, 23 June, 2014

Fernando of the Water Oak, 23 June, 2014

He’s taking to the summer well, as long as water is provided on the non-thunderstorm days.
And is it just me, or does the moss/fungus on the right look a little corroded?

Music: The Sensory Edition

If you know me, or have followed this blog for any amount of time, you realize that I love music. I use music for mood alteration, inspiration, and escape. My preferred listening method is live, in concert. For sanity sake, I try to attend at least two live performances a year but life doesn’t always allow that.

My second and third choices for listening are earphones and in the car—alone. 100_4829

Having songs plugged into my ears is great for tuning out exterior noise, but it isn’t always practical when supervising children. Plus, I don’t want to subject those around me to my butchered attempts when singing along.

When driving, I usually have my nifty homeschool kids in the car and they like music, too, just not always the same stuff I like. I used to put the “Children’s Music” playlist on shuffle when we went anywhere but I found myself getting a little snappy after fifteen minutes. So now the whole iPod—which is attached to a cassette adapter because I’m so last century—gets put on shuffle when we go.

A Disney song = the kids happy, or most of them, and often me.

A little Mitch Malloy = me happy, and sometimes the kids.

Queen = everyone is good.

Sesame Street = one happy kid.

The Beach Boys = all good, for most songs.

And on, and on.

There are a few times it’s easier to skip to the next song because the natives are noisily protesting, but most of the time they settle down when I say “it’s Mommy’s turn.” When a song I love comes on, my immediate reflex is to turn it up, but with boys with sensory issues in the car, they drown out the music with their own shrieking of discomfort. (That or I get “What’s Mommy singing?” from my teen with autism, as if he can’t tell I’m trying to sing the song that we’re listening to. Funny kid.)

All this—and more—is why my favorite non-live music experience is in the car. ALONE. I can turn it up as loud as I want and sing off-key without annoying people. (I’d also say without embarrassing myself, but I never know who is watching from the outside of the car.) Listening in a vehicle is a step above earphones because the music cocoons your whole self, not just your ears. At times you can feel it, but it’s an immersive experience and the steering wheel makes a good keyboard or drum.

What’s your listening habit?

I Banned a Book

Ever since my oldest began his love of reading, I’ve opened my book collection to him. He’ll finish a book, draw the cover in his reading journal, and head to the bookcase to trade in for a new one. Oh, and let’s not forget adding a leaf to the reading tree. 100_4650

My teen with autism has read everything from (most recently) Kirby Larson’s Hattie Ever After to The Old Man and the Sea. After he chooses a book, he brings it to me to share. If he’s gone for something like Caddie Woodlawn’s Family, I’ll first steer him to Caddie Woodlawn, explaining that this books is about the same family, but it’s best to read this one first and he’s fine with that. But the other night I had to say no to a book.

Not just any book—a special bookcase book. (That means one of my favorite authors. No, they don’t all fit in this little area, but many do.) 100_2048

He wanted Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and I said no.

He’s not ready for it.

Is he old enough? Physically, yes. Emotionally/mentally, no.

I adore tough books. They’re awesome springboards for conversations and I have oodles of books I can’t wait to discuss with my kids—when they’re ready.

So, yes, I banned a book. Temporarily.

I pointed to the other Laurie Halse Anderson novels he could read and he went to bed that night with the first Vet Volunteer book instead, but I think Laurie will understand.