Tag Archives: books

The Gifts of Imperfection

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For Gracie’s 19th birthday we surprised her with a trip down to Virginia to meet her favorite author. We arrived an hour before the “meet and greet” and book signing so that the girls could get a seat up close to Kiera Cass. I hung out in the back of the crowd so I could take photos of Gracie’s special experience. As we waited for Kiera Cass to arrive I found myself browsing the shelves to my right. I was surrounded by crowds and didn’t want to lose my prime picture taking spot so I killed time by perusing the self help titles.

I found myself drawn to a particular title:

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I picked it up and began reading. By the time Kiera Cass walked into the room I was well into chapter 3. I had never read a secular book that spoke to my soul quite like this one. At the end of the evening I purchased a copy and was up half the night reading it. I couldn’t put it down. It was as if the author had a window into my soul and saw my greatest fears, anxieties and compulsions. She was a fellow perfectionist. And the truth she spoke awakened something within me, inviting me to engage in the hard task of self-assessment. It challenged my way of thinking, made me see the root of my weariness, and invited me to consider a different approach.

I finished the book in a day and was hungry for more of her teachings. I sought out quotes, YouTube videos and interviews, and it was during this search that I stumbled across her OWN Lifeclass. I signed up, eager to dig deeper into the heart of my perfectionism and people pleasing tendencies.

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I have a daughter that is much like me. Miss Molly also is burdened by the need to please others and driven by the same miss guided lie that perfection brings peace.

I invited her to embark on a journey of self discovery with me. I bought her a copy of the book, because it is not one you want to share. This is one of those books you mark up with highlighted quotes and notes in the margin.

Two months ago we began the online class together.

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Course Overview:

“Have you ever thought, “What will people think?” or “I am not good enough,”? New York Times best-selling author and research professor, Dr. Brené Brown will take you through her Guideposts for Wholehearted Living—and leave you feeling more connected and passionate about life. Brené will guide you step-by-step on a joyful, courage-building journey unlike any other. It’s heartwork through artwork.”

Every week, for Molly’s one-on-one time, we pull up our lesson and dive into our self-awareness journey through a series of creative, artistic, “heartwork” projects.

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This past week we explored what drives our need for other’s approval. Our creative assignment was to find a photo of ourselves from a time in our life when our choices weren’t driven by the need for approval from others…when we were authentically ourselves.

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I found the assignment challenging. For as long as I can remember I have been driven by the fear that if I’m not good enough, smart enough, talented enough, diligent enough, the world will come crashing down. My life is driven by the concern for other’s assessment of me, rather than my desires for my life. It is painfully uncomfortable to be that emotionally naked in front of you all, but that is the truth. My self worth is rooted in my dependability and reliability. My choices are driven by fear and guilt. My worthiness for love is firmly rooted in my ability to “do” rather than simply “be.” I can’t remember the last time I made a decision based solely on my desire to do something.

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This is the photo I found to represent my authentic self. Even at this age I still struggled with perfectionism and people pleasing, but it hadn’t fully taken root and there was still a silliness, lightness, and  freedom to be myself.

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Molly chose this photo:

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Which is so perfectly Molly, circa 2006!

Our weekly date is the highlight of my week. I have been powerfully affected by this journey of self awareness, as I have looked the lies that drive my life choices, and challenged them. It has been an uncomfortable journey, as I have shed layer after layer of self protection and have consciously chosen to lean into the discomfort, rather than run from it or numb it.

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It has been a joy to share this journey with Molly, as we have embarked on this “heartwork” together. It had drawn us closer and connected us in the way only a shared struggle can.

It has been a joyful journey of growth. How grateful I am for God turning my face to that simple book tucked within the self-help shelves of Barnes and Noble.

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A “Magic-full” Night

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I discovered the magical world of Harry Potter soon after the fourth book was released. I jumped on the fan wagon a bit later than the rest of the world. As a mom of three little kids I couldn’t understand the hype among my friends when they raved about this children’s book series about witches and wizards. It certainly wasn’t my “typical” reading material so it took me a while to give it a chance, but once I did I was hooked. I proceeded to binge read my way through the first four books in the series and then suffered withdrawal with the rest of the world as I waited for the release of book # 5.

When the release date was announced I found myself counting down the days until I could get my hands on the next book and find out what was happening to my Hogwarts friends. When our local Barnes and Noble announced a midnight release of the newest book you can bet I was planning on being there to get my copy. Grace went with me and it was a fun adventure for the two of us. We felt as though we were getting away with some sort of mischief as we snuck away to the bookstore late at night. When we arrived the atmosphere was celebratory as fans arrived dressed as their favorite characters, discussing the possibilities of what twists and turns the next book could hold.

It was the literary equivalent of Super bowl tailgating and the energy was intoxicating. The store was decorated and offered Harry Potter crafts and activities to occupy the masses as we counted down the minutes to midnight. The experience was so much fun that it became a yearly tradition to attend the midnight release of the newest Harry Potter book. In the years that followed Molly and Rusty joined us too and then we would arrive home at 1:00 am, I would tuck in my tired little ones, and then sit up most of the night reading, unable to wait a minute longer to satiate my literary addiction.

It was a sad day when the final Harry Potter book was released. I brought it home with a mix of emotions…eager to find out how the story ends but not wanting the journey to be over. The summer tradition of midnight release parties and reading Harry poolside had come to a close,

or so we thought.

Then I found out about this:

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We put the release date on the calendar with plans to attend its midnight release at Barnes and Noble. Grace was eager to share this special experience with Tyler and Ozzie who were not part of our lives when this was a summer tradition. We made plans to attend the midnight release at the Boardman Barnes and Noble and meet up with the Hudaks.

After a busy Saturday (more on that in my next post) we came home and laid down for naps before our midnight adventure. We left the house at 9:30 pm and even having taken naps Tyler ended up falling asleep on the drive there. It was a struggle to wake him up when we arrived but we convinced him to climb out of the car, and boy is he glad he did.

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This Barnes and Noble went above and beyond any experience we had previously had at a Harry Potter midnight release party.

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The attention to detail was amazing. Kudos to the workers that created the magic!

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The store was packed with Harry Potter fans.

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The first stop was the registration desk where we reserved our copy of the book and were given a colored/numbered wristband that determined the order we would be called up to the check-out at midnight.

We found our friends right away and the kids got in line to be sorted by the sorting hat.

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The hat was placed on their head and then an employee asked them a series of scenario questions. Their answers determined what house they were sorted into. Grace and Ozzie were both Ravenclaw.

Ozzie feeling the pressure:

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Around the store there were activities to enjoy. They had wand making, face painting, and coloring pages for the kids.

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On one of the worksheets the kids could draw what they think their patronus would look like. This is Tyler’s patronus. His patronus is a dog. 🙂

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The decorations around the store were incredible. It was fun to just walk around and look.

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Even the bathroom had magical touches!

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There were many photo opportunities as well:

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Here Ozzie is modeling one of the free invisibility cloaks they were giving away. Doesn’t he look excited?

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We splurged and got in line at the Leaky Caldron for a Butterbeer to share.

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Then it was midnight.

It sounded like the New Year’s Eve countdown in Time Square as the crowds shouted:

10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1…*CHEERS*

We waited for our colored wristband to be called up while we relaxed in the children’s section and colored Harry Potter coloring pages.

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It wasn’t too long before they had efficiently worked their way through the crowds of people and the last few fans, us included, left the store with the newest Harry adventure in hand.

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I did not go home and binge read it this time. I am exercising willpower and trying to resist picking it up. I told Toby I would save it for our roadtrip and would read out loud to him as we drive. We will see if I can hold out that long!

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Storybook Day with Gracie

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“The more that you read,

the more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

the more places you’ll go”  – Dr. Seuss

Today was a smashing success!

After much planning Gracie completed her National Honor Society service project requirement for her upcoming junior year. To keep her membership in the National Honor Society active she is required to log a required number of service hours each year, a required number of tutoring hours, and one large service project in which she displays the character attributes of service and of leadership as she leads her peers in the service project she has planned.

When pondering what to do for her big service project she considered many possibilities but decided that she wanted to do something that tied into her future career goal in the area of education. Grace has a passion for teaching, and a passion for books. As a child who struggled with learning to read before being diagnosed with Dyslexia, she knows the joy that comes from finally breaking through the wall of illiteracy and discovering the joy of reading.

She is now a book lover, and although she still struggles with Dyslexia she has learned how her brain learns. She hopes to take that personal experience into her future workplace as a special education teacher.

She is a firm believer in the quote by Frank Serafini:

“There is no such thing as a child who hates to read. There are only children who have not found the right book.”

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So when considering what to do for her National Honor Society project she decided to combine her love of children and children’s literature and plan a “Storybook Day.” She wanted to share with the children from church some of her favorite books!

Offering some of the other young women at church the opportunity to complete one of their personal progress 10 hour projects, she organized the girls into teams of two to plan a craft or activity that corresponded to a favorite children’s book. Two of her co-op buddies also came to help out for the day.

After putting out sign-up sheets at church she ended up with 13 kids at her Storybook Day, not as many as she had originally hoped for but what ended up being a perfect number.

On Friday Grace spent the day preparing for the activity. She went shopping for the food needed for lunch. She stopped at the Dollar Tree to buy treats for the goody bags that she was sending home with each child. The items in the goody bags corresponded with each of the books they were reading to the kids.

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She made name tags and a sign-in sheet.

She set up the stations for the different activities and decorated the chalkboard in honor of the activity.

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By the time the sun set she was ready for the day ahead. She even had time to paint her nails to match her story for lunch the next day:

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The other young women arrived by nine the next morning to help finish setting up and then the children began arriving at 9:30.

The kids played on the McDonald’s Play Place while the girls waited for all the kids to arrive. At 10:00 they began the day with their first book:

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The kids sat on a quilt in the yard to listen to the story and then did an apple or tree craft that tied into the story.

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The next story they listened to was:

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Following this story they made rainbow scales like the fish in the story by decorating clear plastic cups with Sharpie markers and melting them in the oven until they became a “fish scale.”

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The next story was:

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Molly helped plan the activity that followed this story. Using purple yarn she created a “Harold and the Purple Crayon” drawing around the yard. The kids each grabbed hold of a paperclip attached to the yarn that they pulled through the maze of twists and turns to reach the end.

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This story was followed by:

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This book ends with Curious George and his red balloon so it only made sense that the activity that followed included water balloons! The kids loved participating in the water balloon games which quickly evolved into an old-fashioned water balloon fight.

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Then it was time for lunch. Gracie took charge of this part of the day with great plans in mind. The book she planned for lunch was:

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Lunch was a plate of some of the foods featured in the book. To add to the authenticity she used a straw to cut caterpillar holes in the watermelon and strawberries. The swiss cheese came pre-poked. 🙂

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While the kids ate lunch Grace read the book.

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Lunch was followed by dessert, of course!

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For dessert the kids enjoyed chocolate chip cookies while listening to this book:

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At the end of the day the kids had about 30 minutes before parents were due to return so after packing everyone’s goody bags with their completed crafts the young women organized the kids into games. It was a perfect end to an already “booked” event.

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A lot of work went into this very special day and I think the whole family felt a bit of relief when it went off without a hitch and ended successfully. Grace was grateful to all the girls who came to help and for the many hands that made her load lighter.

After a long day it is now time to say goodnight…

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“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.” – Goodnight Moon

School is out!

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“No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.”

School is done…officially!

For the last two weeks the kids have been completing their work and finishing school one by one.

Two weeks ago, on Tuesday, Rusty and Tyler completed their last assignment. The next day Molly finished up school and Gracie turned in her last study skills assignment on Friday.

The following week Ozzie still had school, although there was little actual work done. It was mainly field trips, class parties and movies. I used Ozzie’s last week of school to get some home projects done and some spring cleaning tackled before our summer schedule began. (More on that in my next post)

Friday was Ozzie’s final day of 3rd grade. He only had school for one hour. As crazy as it was sending him to school for one hour of movie watching I did it because it was important to him to say goodbye to his teacher and friends. I used the hour he was gone to finish my plans for the day. I wanted to do something fun to celebrate a successful year. The kids all worked so hard.

It was quite a year. With the 2013/2014 school year came some new challenges:

Gracie completed her first year of high school and earned a 4.0. Go Gracie!

We all had the challenging adjustment of a new family member moving in halfway through the school year.

Adding Ozzie and his schedule of court mandated appointments required a new level of independent study for Molly and Rusty. They stepped up to the challenge in a most impressive way.

We had the new life experience of juggling public school requirements with home school commitments. That added many new challenges to our schedule.

But, we did it! We endured to the end and finished with flying colors!

On Friday at 10:15 we picked up Ozzie from school to begin our “Last day of School” celebration. I had a fun day planned and we couldn’t wait to get started.

Our first stop was Living Treasures Animal Park. Last year for Tyler’s adoption gift my parents gave us a family membership to Living Treasures. (Living Treasures is a local petting zoo.) Friday was the first opportunity we had to go.

When we arrived we purchase pellets and carrots to feed to the animals. Ozzie, who had never been there before, was especially eager to start walking around.

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The giraffes were the biggest hit of the day!

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Rusty loved the baby camel…

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…Until he was slimmed by it 🙂

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After we were done at Living Treasures we headed south for surprise #2. Our next stop was Baldingers, a penny candy store that I often took the big kids to when they were young. They have memories of being given a quarter to spend and a basket to fill and thinking they were the luckiest kids on Earth. Ozzie and Tyler had never been there before so they didn’t understand the big kids’ squeals of delight when we pulled into the parking lot until they stepped through the front door and saw the tables filled with penny candy. They each received $1.00 to spend (inflation and larger appetites have driven up the cost of this treat. )  😉

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Ozzie shopping with his $1.00

Ozzie shopping with his $1.00

After we were done candy shopping we headed to our final stop. I had a gift card I received at Christmas time for Barnes and Noble bookstore and decided to let each of the kids pick a summer reading book. I remember what a special treat it was as a kid when my parents would take us to the bookstore and allow us to pick a new book as a reward. It was equally as fun being on the other side, as a parent, watching them get excited over the prospect of a new book. Some of them knew exactly what they wanted and headed to their chosen book right away while others hemmed and hawed and wandered until I gave them the 10 minute warning. In the end everyone was pleased with their purchases and I was thrilled to have a car full of quiet, book-loving readers on the ride home.

The final purchases

The final purchases

With the change of seasons comes mixed feelings. There is such excitement over the months of freedom stretching ahead of us but also a bit of sadness as another year passes and the kids move up another grade. Nobody felt those mixed emotions more that Ozzie who cried himself to sleep that night. “I am just going to miss school so much. I am never going to be a third grader again,” he shared with tears streaming.

As much as I found the thought of a little boy crying over the start of summer break humorous, I got it. The excitement, the relief, the saying good-bye and moving on, the passing of time and the lost moments…It can be overwhelming. Sometimes the mix of emotions that come with change can be too much to contain and the feelings pour out in the form of tears.

I get it.

Change is hard but with it comes tomorrow…

And tomorrow is a wonderful thing to look forward to. 🙂