October 28, 2014

Exploring: Burnt Mills Park

Bursts of yellow, kids scrambling up and over rocks, acorn whistles, and lots of sunshine: Burnt Mills Park, Silver Spring, Maryland.

October 21, 2014

Diving In

Last month we made a big decision. We withdrew Camille from the local public school and officially entered the world of homeschooling. It's been an interesting transition with several twists I hadn't expected and most of them center around the process of sharing this news with others.  We had been so caught up in discussing and researching our decision that I never really gave any thought to how to share our news with others. In fact, the first few times I found myself entering into conversations about our decision, I stumbled about looking for the right words and wondered if this was how it felt to "come out".  I found myself inhaling deeply while trying to quell the  desire to just rush through the revelation and leap ahead to their initial response. I quickly realized that I needed to come up with a "spiel", not unlike the ones I have crafted over the years regarding Camille's adoption or our nomadic life as a military family or the story I tell about how a Catholic Cajun girl ended up raising two Jewish kids.  I needed to have a handy little snippet to share with folks and the more I recited it, the easier the telling would become and the less I would worry about others' reactions. And so I did that.

But then I jumped into the pool with the homeschoolers and that's when the cold water shot up my nose and the sputtering started all over again. Suddenly, I was telling my story and realizing it was being prodded from a different angle. Like a new puppy at the dog park pool, I had been so eager to meet others who were homeschooling that I naively thought I would automatically be a member of the pack. If I had been paying closer attention to Hugo's recent dog encounters, I would have been able to anticipate that I would have to be carefully sniffed and inspected before any frolicking/connecting could begin. It doesn't matter how unconventional or rebellious one's decision may seem within the mainstream context, there still remains a deep-seated and very human need to place others into recognizable boxes. I soon realized that I would need to not only be able to identify the type of homeschoolers we would be (secular, ecclectic), but also defend our decision to homeschool and explain why we hadn't always been homeschoolers. So once again, I found myself crafting a story that would be told and re-told until it began to feel a bit easier to recite while doing a bit of my own sniffing to see if this might be a good fit for future homeschool connections. 

This recent homeschooling plunge has been a funny little trip into the weird world of human dynamics and an educational reminder that regardless of one's experiences or opinions on school/homeschool, there is a hard-wired and very human desire to examine others' decisions in the context of your own. And in the midst of all this there is my naked insecurity sprawled like a panting dog desperately wanting to sound smooth and coherent, while sputtering and slipping in the piles of anxious drool. Would this all work? Were we doing the right thing? Would we regret this?

None of these probing examinations or my attempts to respond really matter because the reality is that Camille is suddenly smiling again, happily diving into books, writing up a storm, asking strong thoughtful questions, and having fun. This is clearly the right decision for her at this moment in time and I am taking my cues from her (and Hugo) by shaking off the muddy questions and anxious slobber to dive in beside her.

August 23, 2014


Hugo: the happy, fluffy, goofy, teething maniac, who has managed to not only destroy several pairs of shoes, but also permanently wiggle a space for himself in our hearts.

May 10, 2014

Guys Read: Jon Scieszka

The Guys Read Group fully immersed themselves in Jon Scieszka's work during the month of April and it turned out to be a very good thing. They giggled their way through Knucklehead and Guys Read: Funny Business with some Stinky Cheese Man and Battle Bunny thrown in, too. And then they headed over to the Bethesda Library for his author event as part of the Bethesda Literary Festival. 

Within seconds, Jon had the crowd roaring with laughter. Seriously, he is a very funny guy. I loved watching the kids' faces because he had them hooked the entire time. And during the signing session, his good humor and kindness continued. Jon not only took time with each kid, but he made a special presentation to the Guys Read Group....he gave them an advanced copy of the newest Guy Read book (coming out Fall 2014). The boys have been so excited about that special gift with it inscription to them with their official name: "To The Swagger Muffins and Co" and they are taking turns with the book by handing it off each month at the meetings.

And with summer quickly approaching, here's a plug for the audio version of "Knucklehead". Add it to your list of necessary items for upcoming family road trips. It is really one of the best audio books and guaranteed to make all ages laugh out loud.

April 12, 2014

Cherry Blossom Girl

Kenwood Neighborhood, Bethesda, Maryland

Thursday evening stroll with Camille. Planning to head back this evening for a Japanese-style picnic (hanami) and early birthday celebration. Missing yesterday's flight, means we have more time to enjoy cherry blossom season which is always a good thing.

April 4, 2014

Guys Read!

Well, the slumber party book chat morphed into a full fledged book group! 

That dinner conversation back in February got the boys so excited about the idea of a book group, that not only have they started reading monthly selections, they have also attended their first author event, and they are currently in the process of designing their own club t-shirts. I am blown away by their enthusiasm and never would have dreamed that a  group of 11 year old boys would embrace this with such fervor. They are even spending their lunch periods creating lists of books to read in the next few months!

Their first read was the super creepy, but incredibly captivating The Screaming Staircase by the beloved British author, Jonathan Stroud. I knew that Jonathan was coming to town as part of his American tour and suggested that it might be fun for the boys to read his book and then attend the signing.  On the afternoon of the author talk, the boys met at our house to discuss their thoughts on the book and prep a few questions. One of the most exciting parts of the afternoon was the discovery that one of the boys had e-mailed Jonathan the night before to express his admiration and within just a few hours he had gotten a very friendly response from Jonathan's publicist. The boys were all impressed with K's brilliant idea to contact the author AND the fact that he got an almost immediate reply.

After a quick pizza dinner, we piled the boys into cars and headed over to the local library for the event. It took me while to park and by the time I got inside, I was thrilled to discover that the boys had seated themselves on the very front row and were engaged in a private chat with Jonathan. Having spent the afternoon with him for An Open Book school visit, I already knew that Jonathan was a friendly guy, but to see him chatting in such a warm and genuine way with this little group of adoring fans really made me smile. The event was wonderful and the boys were giddy with excitement when it came time for the book signing. Needless to say, it was a GREAT way to kick start the book group and the boys even got a special post on Jonathan's blog.

Our April reading selections are in honor of Jon Scieszka. In addition to being a fabulous author and the first Children's Ambassador of Literature, Jon is also responsible for the Guys Read movement which is dedicated to promoting the joys of reading, especially for boys. The boys will be listening to Knucklehead,Jon's wildly funny memoir about growing up in a family full of boys. I am encouraging the boys listen to this on audio book for several reasons: 1) Jon is reading it and really brings it to life, 2) audio books are an important way to read , especially for boys and 3) it will be perfect for Spring Break road trips....our family has listened to Knucklehead on several trips and we always end up howling with laughter. In addition to Knucklehead, the boys will be reading Guys Read: Funny Business. AND to top it all of, Jon will be at the local library this month so the boys will have another opportunity to meet an amazing author.  

Watch out world!  There is a fierce pack of young bibliophiles on the loose and they are fired up about reading.

March 18, 2014

Like A Red Verb Over the Snow

The Cardinal

Not to conform to any other color
is the secret of being colorful.

He shocks us when he flies
like a red verb over the snow.

He sifts through the blue evenings
to his roost.

He is turning purple.
Soon he'll be black.

In the bar's dark I think of him.
There are no cardinals here.

Only a woman in a red dress.
--Henry Carlile