Archive for the ‘Julie’s Life’ Category

My Lifelong Love Affair with Libraries

My Lifelong Love Affair with Libraries

I loved writing this piece for Read It Forward. Enjoy!

My Lifelong Love Affair with Libraries

My first car accident occurred in the parking lot of a library. I had barely earned my driver’s license a few hours earlier. I hopped in my Mazda GLC that evening for a joyride—straight to the public library. So excited to visit the stacks inside, I hurriedly parked, misjudging the space and clipped the fender of the neighboring car. I got a tongue lashing from the owner, naturally—though the damage was insignificant.

But what stays with me more than that humiliation on what should have been a day of driving triumph is that my first choice destination when exercising my new-born 16 year old freedom, was to drive to a library. Libraries were a haven and a place of intellectual adventure in my childhood.

I remember the delicious sense of “shopping” that libraries provided. My mother took us weekly to pick books—and we were allowed to check out as many as we liked! I would examine the spines for provocative words like: “Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack” and colorful book covers like Garth Williams’ illustrations for the Little House books.

Read more

The Brave Learner

The Gift of Noticing

The Gift of Noticing

My house is now poised for action: waiting to spring open its doors for the clown car of kids about to arrive. The siblings and plus ones and best friends all want to come here for winter break. We’ll be busting at the seams with 10 young adults—who are tall and energetic and take up all the cushions on the couches and eat up all the food in a locust consumption style. There will be laughter and games and snap chats and music and loud discussions about politics and travel and technology and Netflix.

When my kids were young, I poured over toy catalogs and ordered all my gifts over the phone. I looked forward to the day they opened these presents I’d carefully chosen with their happiness in mind.

Today—my adults—I’ve felt the shift coming—it’s not about the presents under a tree. The event of the holiday is not what it once was. It’s a chance to all share square footage, it’s memory lane and brand new experiences and optimism for the future.

The best gift we give each other is noticing.

There are questions about what each person is up to, what aspirations, who they are with now, and comments on hair cuts and new games and someone’s changed fashion sense.

The new and revised opinions, the changes from vegetarian to meat eating and back again, the hobbies acquired, the shared big kid toys, the shows we’ve binge-watched in each other’s absence and the one movie (Coco!) we’re saving to watch together: this is the stuff of holiday time now.

It’s too easy for me to drop into yesterday or tomorrow and forget about today—noticing all that it represents now, in the lives of my ever-evolving people who don’t even hold a candle to what I wished for them—so far do they exceed my imagination. The rich, nuanced, full-bodied unique people they’ve become—they are the greatest gift to me and I want to open it, and notice all the contents—shake them out on the carpet and enjoy them one bit at a time, commenting, affirming, sympathizing, and enjoying.

Here’s to a season of noticing all the loveliness that is your family: even if there is a hem of pain or a backstitch of loss. Especially to those of you rearranging family this holiday—I know that challenge too and maybe you can notice a few new things like: space to feel, time to do something for yourself, peace, rebirth.

Rooting for everyone to have a holiday filled with awareness and grace.

How sweet it is…

How sweet it is...

I sit now alone in my house.

I look forward to having Liam here for the summer after his semester in France.

I’m happy that Noah popped by to say hello on his way to a technology convention this weekend in Detroit.

I’m warmed by the phone call from Mexico I had with Johannah today.

I laughed at the easy exchanges with Caitrin and Jacob through text and snapchat.

Each of my adult children—they are actively a part of my every day life (isn’t that awesome?), even when some of them live thousands of miles away. What a time to be alive! A technological miracle.

I got to thinking…

How sweet it is…

  • to have a relationship with each adult child that is new and old at the same time
  • to be included in my grown kids’ lives, even while they also make amazing independent choices that I get to witness and celebrate
  • to look back fondly at all the soccer, lacrosse, baseball, and ultimate frisbee matches I attended, cheering till I lost my voice
  • to feel good about all the weekends I stayed in town, not traveling to conventions for business, so I could be at recitals and marching band events, winter guard competitions and play rehearsals
  • to recall the read alouds when I’m on the phone with Brave Writer parents, knowing I really did read all those books from my rocker, knowing that my kids really did hear all those stories in my own voice
  • to have scraps of paper and print outs and notes of the clever things my children said, and the wonderful things they wrote, and the surprising skills they developed—all stored where I can return to them when I want to remember
  • to see my kids develop political and compassionate selves, to listen to their forming opinions and be challenged by their unique insights
  • to travel to see them in new places, watching them master foreign languages and life abroad
  • to remember their births—their innocent faces—and to know them now fully grown; to see that thread of personhood evolve to this new person I love in whole new ways
  • to have lived at a time when homeschooling was an option, to have discovered that option, to have taken that risk
  • to have grown up with my children, to have become a better version of me because of who they are and who we were together
  • to have found our way even when we felt lost, even when we flailed and doubted, and struggled
  • to rise, to change, to adapt

How sweet it is (truly)…

  • to miss them

I love our reunions and I love the partings because when they go, they take what we created together with them, and then they do the big bold beautiful things I couldn’t even imagine they’d do!

I knew this day at my kitchen counter alone would come. It is here. For all the challenges and uncertainties of homeschooling, I am deeply grateful for the closeness that lifestyle choice afforded us.

I wish you this moment in your future too. xoxo

For more blog posts about motherhood:

On Being a Mother

The Love of Learning

The Love of Learning

I’m a picky eater, even today. But at 12? Really picky. My friend Pam’s mother was a charter member of the “clean platers” club. Mrs. Citron expected me to eat all the meat loaf and mashed potatoes and limp wet dull metal green beans on my plate. I choked these down with glasses of milk despite the fact that my own family was vegetarian. Mrs. Citron’s friendly glare required it of me.

Then she brought out the dessert. Nuclear waste green pudding. I didn’t even like chocolate pudding. The texture, taste. This swirl of unnatural green in the parfait dish sat in front of me and I knew I would be required to eat it.

I weakly fought back: I was too full. This mother countered that “No one is ever too full for dessert.” I asked for more milk thinking I could drown each bite. She retorted that if I was too full for pistachio pudding, milk would make me fuller, therefore no milk for the dessert.

No escape—the family of four had already licked their spoons empty and my pudding sat uneaten, swirled to inviting perfection.

At this point, Mrs. Citron excused the family, but not me, from the table. They didn’t leave. They all sat staring at me and my uneaten pudding wondering what would happen next.

She got out of her chair, walked to my side of the table, and stood behind me. She put her hands on my shoulders and began to knead them, Dolores Umbridge style.

Her declaration: “Pudding is delicious. You’re going to love it. Take a bite.”

I’ve always been a good girl. I want to do what’s expected. But my stomach was a rebel. It lurched. I took one small slippery, putrid bite and thought: I will puke the meatloaf. I choked back the gag reflex.

“Good girl,” she shoulder rubbed. “Now you’re doing it!”

Despite my poor math skills, I quickly calculated that there were likely to be 15-20 bites of pudding ahead of me. Tears flooded my eyes instantly. I was trapped and embarrassed. Everyone was watching.

I took the next bite and the next one, willing myself to not throw up, wishing my sentence would end, hating everyone at the table, and especially hating pudding makers for ruining my sleep over.

As I got near the bottom of the dish, Mrs. Citron’s incessant shoulder rubbing and constant coaxing, “There you go! One more delicious bite honey!” ramped up.

“Wasn’t that yummy? Aren’t you glad you enjoyed your dessert?”

I had no words left—just teeth coated with a green memory.

I ran to the bathroom and burst into tears. I drank water straight from the tap. I rested on the toilet seat. I wished I could magically transport myself out of this hell hole called a family home.

No amount of sugar, sugary sentiment, pretty dishes, colorful pudding, reassuring comments, or gentle shoulder massage could ever EVER coax me to love pistachio pudding. EVER! I promised myself.

I’ve made good on that promise.

Now swap multiplication for pudding.


The Secret to a Happy Homeschool Is…

The Misunderstood “Child-Led Learning” Model

Stealth Attack Learning

The Brave Writer Lifestyle: How It Worked with My Kids

The Brave Writer Lifestyle: How It Worked with My Kids

Walk down memory lane with me and see how we practiced the Brave Writer Lifestyle in my home!

My best memories are from all the times I went off-script in home education. I followed the rabbit trails, I followed my children’s leads, and I stayed alert to great ideas from unconventional sources. I used Family Fun magazine, for instance, as a resource for educational ideas far more frequently than any traditional curriculum. Immersive experiences created the kind of education I always wanted my children to have.

In the broadcast below, I share how I did what I did with my kids and I even showcase some of their writing!

Practices Covered

  • Poetry Teatimes
  • Read Alouds
  • Copywork/Dictation
  • Art Appreciation
  • Shakespeare
  • Movies/TV
  • Nature Journaling
  • Language Games
  • Friday Freewrite
  • One on One Time
  • Writing Projects
  • Putting Your Child in the Driver’s Seat
  • Literary Elements

BONUS TIP: Party School!

Find out more about Party School here!