Miss Night's Marbles

Musings, mumbles, marvels, and sometimes mockery, live from kindergarten.

Weekend Latte & Links: Foster Care, The Princess Bride, and Bobby Pins

Yup, it’s Sunday again, so awaaaaaay we go!

(Full disclosure: All product links on my site are Amazon affiliate links, and if you click through and actually buy stuff, a small percentage of the cost goes to help THAT kid, in a number of ways.)

RaspberryMuffins

Right now: It is chinooking outside, which means the snow is melting almost fast enough to see it happening, and it feels like springtime. It’s not spring, and up here, it is entirely likely that there will be several more snowstorms and deep freezes even AFTER the calendar thinks it’s spring, but for now, it sure is nice to pretend… Inside, there is spicy pulled pork in the oven and popcorn in a big bowl beside me, and Parenthood on the TV, and last night I saw Into the Woods and the songs are dancing in my head.

Shiny Brilliance of the Week:

  • The Kids Really Are Alright – The most common justification for helicopter parenting seems to be that “the world is more dangerous now than it used to be.” This post systematically debunks that assertion, as well as the  theory that children are safer BECAUSE they are more intensely supervised. Good stuff.
  • Differentiation Doesn’t Work – Differentiation has been held up as part of best educational practice for years, but is it being done? Does it work? Is it possible for one teacher with 20+ students to do it well? Do we really understand it? I definitely think we need more research,  but there is lots to unpack here. (You have to register to read the whole piece. It is worth it, and EdWeek does not send spam.)
  • From Foster Care to Freshman Year – Think about how much parental support most college students rely on. If we want kids who grow up in the foster care system to go on to post-secondary education, we need programs to get them similar resources.

On the nightstand:

  • Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. I will confess that I haven’t actually STARTED it yet, but when a book is recommend to you TWICE in one day, by two unrelated sources (one of which includes a 10-year-old reluctant reader), you BUY IT. It’s kid’s fiction, from the point of view of a little boy born with facial deformities, and that is really all I know, but everyone says it is a must read. I will keep you posted.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Because sometimes it is good to go back to places and characters we love. For the 3.5 people out there who do not know this: Chamber of Secrets is book 2 of 7. I love it because the friendships between the characters are well-established, and you really get to see the texture of their interactions with one another.

On the Audible app:

  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. If you love The Princess Bride (and who doesn’t?), this is well worth your time. It is written by Cary Elwes, who played Westley, and it is awesome as an audiobook because many cast and crew members make appearances, to read the segments they contributed to the book. Billy Crystal! Robin Wright! Christopher Guest!

One thing you should buy:

  • Spin Pins Seriously. If you have long hair and you EVER use bobby pins, you need some of these. I have crazy thick hair (my stylist says it’s enough for 3 people), and these are life-changing. What would take me upwards of a dozen regular pins can be done with 3 of these. MAGIC.

 


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Weekend Latte & Links: spanking, comfort food, and office fish

Happy Sunday, friends. I’m once again at my table by the window, and it continues to make me happy to sit here. As my brother (more on him in a second) said: “It’s nice to actually USE your windows, not just walk past them.” And really: it is. I sit here and LOOK AT THE WORLD, and that is perhaps something we don’t do enough of…

(Full disclosure: All product links on my site are Amazon affiliate links, and if you click through and actually buy stuff, a small percentage of the cost goes to help THAT kid, in a number of ways.)

Right now: Outside, there is a layer of fresh snow on the ground, and the late afternoon sun is shining, and there are real life rabbit tracks by my back door. Magic. See? This is what happens when you USE YOUR WINDOW! Inside, my house is miraculously clean (Something about the new furniture arrangement makes it stay tidier… I am still contemplating this mystery.) The sauce for this Cheesy Tortellini is in the slow-cooker, and Freddy is passed out cold after winning a 2-hour battle with a marrow bone as big as his head. Also, the Golden Globes start in an hour, and I have a date with my #kinderchat buddies to watch and live-tweet it. Join us! You can find me at @happycampergirl.

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Shiny brilliance of the week:

  • I will confess I have not read ALL of it yet, but this long-form piece on The scientific evidence against spanking, timeouts, and sleep training brings a thorough and scientific approach to things that tend to be considered a question of “philosophy” rather than neuro-biology.
  • This New York times post: To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This, also puts a scientific spin on something that we often ascribe to destiny or timing, or interpersonal chemistry. The idea of systematically constructing intimacy is fascinating to me, and makes me think of other situations where intense relationships (both platonic and romantic) sprout up rapidly: summer camp, university dorms, even slumber parties.
  • I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the parallels between emotional trauma and physical injuries, which also leads to thinking about how we react to and conceptualize physical vs. mental illnesses – both chronic and acute. Comfort Food: No one brings dinner when your daughter is an addict illustrates a very real example of how ill-equipped we are to deal with mental illness in any form.

On the nightstand:

  • The Poisonwood Bible. I read this novel years ago, and am re-reading again, now. I love the way Barbara Kingsolver evokes PLACE in her writing, and creates a world that a reader gets to inhabit for as long as the book lasts…
  • Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. I just finished this, and loved it, even though Me Talk Pretty One Day will ALWAYS be the very funniest book I have ever read. Very few authors actually make me laugh out loud, but David Sedaris’ essays and observations on life do it every time.

On the Audible app:

  • I’m almost finished with The Night Circus, and I still recommend it. It makes me want to buy the actual book, in addition to the audio version, so I can go back and re-read the descriptions of the circus, the tents, the food, the magic…
  • I think my next listen with be The Book of Negroes. I read it when it first came out, and am currently watching the mini-series, which is making me want to re-visit the whole story.

One thing you should buy:

  • An beta fish in an aquarium. I LOVE LOVE LOVE having a fish in my office at school. My current little friend is named Winter — his predecessor, Olaf-the-Original-Office-Fish having swum into the great white light over the holidays — and I strongly recommend a fish for school administrators (or anyone else with an office, for that matter). Kids come in all the time to visit him and ask me questions, and watching him swim around never fails to make me smile.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about light and darkness (there is a whole post coming on this, I think…) so it seems meaningful to share: this Sunday has 12 more minutes of daylight than last…

xo

 


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Weekend Latte & Links: Oprah’s chai, rearview mirrors, and a tea cozy

Yup, you’re getting two posts in one day, because I somehow forgot to publish my New Year’s Day post on the day I wrote it. Many would tell me this is terrible blog marketing strategy. Fact: I don’t care.

(Full disclosure: All product links on my site are Amazon affiliate links, and if you click through and actually buy stuff, a small percentage of the cost goes to help THAT kid, in a number of ways.)

Right now: Outside, it is straight-up THIRTY BELOW with windchill, but: IT IS NOT SNOWING. This is a first for Weekend Latte and Links, as it was definitely snowing on both of my previous entries. Inside: I am sitting at my table, BY THE WINDOW, and the winter sunlight is pouring in, and Freddy is sound asleep on the couch across the room. Breakfast was a vanilla latte and oatmeal, but more importantly, right now I am drinking Oprah’s Chai, and nibbling some espresso brownie cookies sent by a camp friend, and both are deeply delicious.

Tea and Sunlight

Shiny brilliance of the week:

  • I am usually loathe to link to Buzzfeed, but my dear friend Matt B Gomez sent me this list of 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature, and I have kept the tab open for the whole week, reading and re-reading.
  • I do like a good challenge, and this 100 Things Weekend intrigues me. Can I get rid of 100 things in my house in a single weekend? It seems like a worthy thing to try…
  • There are so many posts at this time of year about starting fresh, looking forward, putting the past behind us. This post about rearview mirrors, and how we NEED to see and know what is  behind (and around us) before we can move forward safely, has struck a deep chord with me.
  • And finally, because I know some of you keep coming back for links about education, here is one to challenge one of the most sacrosanct constructs in modern K-12 education: The Myth of Learning  Styles.

On the nightstand:

  • Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief. Yup. This was highly recommended to me, and with good reason. About 200 words a day – not a lot, just enough to reassure that this seemingly interminable, aching, roller-coaster-in-the-dark process, is endurable. Recommend, for anyone who is moving through loss.
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty. I started this a long time ago, and just now came back to it. Young Adult literature works for me right now. Basic premise: a groups of girls at a finishing school discover a portal to another, magical world. Drama and danger ensue. Ironically, it is neither terrible nor great, but the plot moves along and is interesting enough to make it worth returning to.

On the Audible app:

  • I’ve only recently regained my attention span for audiobooks, so I’m still plugging away at The Night Circus. It remains good, magical, slightly dark, and gorgeously descriptive. The plot is forgiving enough that if I tune out for a few minutes, I can still follow it, so that helps, too.

One thing you should buy:

  • Tea Cozy. I know this seems like a little-old-lady thing to own, but I tell you, if you drink tea from a teapot, a tea cozy is a life changer. THE TEA STAYS HOT. And yes, they all seem to be made out of fussy cutesy patterned fabrics, but trust me. Hot tea is worth enduring a little chintz. Or polka dots. Or even chevron.

 

Back to school tomorrow. I know I am not alone in my ambivalence about this. Enjoy this last day of rest, friends.

xo


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A seat by the window

*I wrote this post on Jan 1, and then somehow didn’t post it. So, you’re getting it now. The intention remains the same. Happy New Year, friends. I hope 2015 has been kind to you so far.

So. It’s 2015.

While I have long been ambivalent about New Year’s Eve, I do love New Year’s Day. A fresh start, a chance to begin again, to try out a new, improved version of one’s self… I like resolutions, even though I am inconsistent about keeping them. January has always seemed full of hope, just as September does.

All day, I have been trying to decide if that is still true, this year. Do I still feel hopeful? Does today feel fresh and different?

The fact is: it doesn’t. The sky is the same. The sun is the same. The snow on the ground is the same. Freddy still wants me to throw his ball. The garbage still needs to be taken out. The candlelight still flickers agains the wall.

The sameness is not a bad thing. To the contrary, there is a certain kind of comfort in it, even hope. The world already feels different enough to be terrifying. The concrete sameness of the sun going down behind the same mountains, and coming up behind the same trees, seems like a message that yes, SOME THINGS are certain.IMG_1606

And at the same time (to amend something I said to My Girl after she had a rough afternoon involving crying in a shopping mall): grief is a sneaky and fickle bitch. And as much as I am deeply comforted by the sameness of the mountains, the sun, the sky, all I have thought about for days is how much I wish I could sit at my dining room table and see out my window, at the same time. I’ve now spent the better part of 2 days rearranging furniture in my little home, so as to see outside while I drink my coffee, eat my dinner, sip my tea.

 

Every single piece of furniture in the main part of my house has been moved, with the exception of my glass-front bookcase, and I’m starting to have a vision of how it could fit next to the desk, and then I could put a bench and some hooks where the bookcase is now… Every plant, every lamp, every piece of art has had to move, too.

So: outside is the same. Inside is entirely different.

I’m sure there is a metaphor here, somewhere. Maybe a couple.

Most importantly: I have a seat by the window.

Windowseat

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On grief and toothpaste

When you lose someone you love, but who lives far away, the grief can be bloody lonely.

People say that texting, e-mail, FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagram, are not REAL ways of connecting; that when we “hide” behind screens, we are avoiding Real Connections. I live in a big city – 1.2 million people and climbing. And in this whole big beautiful busy city, I am The. Only. Person. missing Lauren. I have great people here: family, friends. They love me, and they take tremendously good care of me, but they did not know Lauren, and so at best, they loved her only in the abstract “I love Amy, and Amy loves Lauren, so I love Lauren” sort of way. This grief is bloody lonely.

So, in THIS situation,  for those of us missing Lauren, the connection through a screen, through typing, flying fingers, is what holds us together, and helps us find one another when we need to know we are not alone. I used to judge people who spent holidays with their phone glued to their hand. And then I spent this Christmas with my phone glued to my hand.

So, this post is for the people at the other end of my screen. For Sutter and Jared. For Ilana. For Becky and Craig. For Ryleigh. For Mike and Matt and Morgan. For Kalli. For MJ. For Sue and for Judy. For Mimi and Kate. For all the people, scattered all over this huge earth, who feel like a light that they relied on to see the world was blown out on December 1st, and who aren’t sure how we find our way without it…

This is how things are for me, right now, today. Things may not be quite the same for you, but maybe they are a little bit similar, and the one thing that is crystal clear to me in this very muddy mess is that Lauren would weep at the thought of any of us believing we were alone in the dark.

Some days, the idea of leaving the house sounds divine, but the process of wash-face-brush-hair-put-on-clothes-including-shoes takes upwards of an hour.

I double and triple check the locks on the doors. And the windows. I don’t walk anywhere after dark alone, and that is a challenge at times, because up here, at this time of year, it dark for 37 hours a day.

I got all proud of myself for not having any physical manifestations of anxiety. And then I realised that I had chewed my chapped lips until they bled.

I don’t really remember things that happened before December 1st.

There is a moment, every morning, not long after waking up, when I think. “Oh God. She is still gone.”

A friend sent me beautiful flowers, and my first impulse was to text Lauren a photo of them, because Lauren loved flowers…

I strongly suspect that I frequently look like hell. My mouth remembers how to smile, but I can feel that it doesn’t reach my eyes or my voice. On a related note, I didn’t know it was possible to FEEL the circles under my eyes.

Some days I feel like I am looking at the world though the wrong end of a telescope, so deep inside myself that finding my way to the surface is a monumental task. Sometimes, the sadness has a physical weight to it. Like my limbs are heavy.  And I don’t always remember to breathe.

Sometimes, I sit on my floor and cry, and I think about each one of us, sitting alone on our floors, in our showers, in our cars, and crying, and all I can think is how MONUMENTALLY FRINKING UNFAIR THIS IS.

I can SEE the moments of light, or rather, i can identify the moments that SHOULD be considered light. But I don’t always (or even often) FEEL them as light.

I have learned that, when a wave of darkness comes, if I just sit with it, if I just FEEL it, it will pass. And if I try to avoid feeling it, I’m more likely to end up crying in Target because I can’t find the right kind of toothpaste.

Speaking of toothpaste, I’ve learned that brushing my teeth always makes me feel better. Not better as in “all the way back to normal,” but better as in “an improvement over 5 minutes ago.” I brush my teeth a lot.

toothbrush-390870_1280

 

In ballet class, a million years ago, I finally, FINALLY, pulled a perfect double pirouette. A classmate commented “See? It gets easier!” My tiny, beautiful, Turkish ballet teacher, in a tone both sharp and gentle, retorted: “No! Double pirouette is double pirouette. Not easier. Ballet does not get easier!  You get stronger, better. Good girl.”

I’m clinging to that idea right now. That this may not get easier, but that I may get stronger. And when you think about what we know about getting stronger: it does not happen all at once. It happens in such tiny little increments that you don’t even notice it, until, one day, you can do the thing you couldn’t do before.

And, to get stronger, you have to DO THINGS that make you stronger, even when they don’t appear to be making a difference. You have to have faith that you CAN get stronger, eventually.

So, what am I going to do?

I’m going to keep doing the things that I know SHOULD help, and try to have faith that someday soon, they actually WILL help.

I’m going to walk my dog in the sunshine, and look at the world.

I’m going to make a very hot vanilla latte every morning, and drink it while looking out the window.

I’m going to make my bed when I get up, because it is one small way of making order from chaos.

I’m going to drink lots of water, and eat lots of vegetables, and take my vitamins.

I’m going to light candles when the light grows dim in the evenings.

I’m going to keep fresh flowers in my house.

I’m going to check in with my Sutter-girl every day. (This helps most of all, every day, every time.)

I’m going to watch lots of cooking shows, and Gilmore Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, and Law and Order.

I’m going to accept every kindness that is offered to me, graciously and with no apologies.

I’m going to take a hot shower every day.

I’m going to brush my teeth.

toothbrush-571741_1280

Again, the comments are open, but I’m not ready for notes about how my friend is always with me, or how God has a plan, or how He doesn’t give me things I can’t handle. I’m willing to talk about toothpaste, though…

 

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