Never Doubt the Power of the Moments

Another landmark moment.  Cooter finished reading “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” a couple of weeks ago.  Our deal is read it, and then you get to watch it.  He had to wait to watch the movie until his big sister Aub came home from college Friday afternoon.  He was ready to hit play the moment she walked through the door.  Thankfully, he did let me get supper served first.

They all loved it.  He got through the loss of his favorite character and handled it with strength and only a few tears welled up.  (Though he’d never admit it)  What’s funny is I had no idea that this was also a Harry Potter Marathon weekend on one of the TV channels.  So last night, I found myself sitting up alone, about to write.  I clicked through and saw that the very same movie had just started playing.

True Confession:  The Harry Potter movies are the same for me as Princess Diaries 2.  If they’re on, I’m watching.

So I worked a bit and listened to the movie in the background, pausing for my favorite parts.  Towards the end, Harry is very close to being completely taken over by evil forces in his mind and heart.  What saves him from that is a montage of flashback  memories–a photo of his parents, hugs from his best friend, sitting and laughing over next to nothing with his two closest friends–one by one the people he cared about came to mind, and he was able not only to fight against the evil but also to say (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I feel sorry for you.  You will never know what it is like to feel love.”

Bless.

All those moments.  The times we sit and just “be” with someone else–talking, listening, sharing, laughing, crying, sitting quietly–all of those moments are stored up as an arsenal against all the hard and dark and broken times in our lives.

Store them well.  Make all the good memories.  Never question the worth of a kind word or a smile to a stranger.  Never doubt the good you do when you listen to the story of a young child or sing along to the radio with your friend.  Never feel that you are wasting time just sitting with a friend, each of you doing your own thing.  Never hesitate to share a laugh or encouragement or affection.

All of those things keep the light burning and in times of darkness will guide you home.

You matter.  Your words and laugh and all you are matter.  More than you can ever know.

Giving thanks for all the joyful memories I have tucked away and can pull back out when the storms approach.

Wishing you all the same.

Love to all.

Patronus

To produce a patronus which is a strong protective force, you must think of your happiest thoughts and memories. Lovely….. By frostnova [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The One About Vocabulary and Book Burning

Some days our homeschooling goes beautifully.  We are on our game, learning all the things, and we stay focused, on track, and we get through everything that we need to do in a timely manner.  Then we are able to move on to other things that we really enjoy.  Or nap.  Naps are good too.

Today was NOT one of those days.

But it was still beautiful.

Which is one of the main reasons I love homeschooling.  It can be a success without being  a neat and tidy notebooked, paperclipped, stapled, workbook process.  It can be messy and chaotic and loud and scattered and done in fits and starts and still be really good.

Like today.

This morning Cooter started off building with his Legos in his room.  I know this because I could hear the sound of Legos being pushed and stacked and moved around.  That is NOT what reviewing your times tables sounds like.  When we finally sat down together he had his Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary that he got for his birthday on his lap.  As I wrapped up what I was working on, he asked me questions–vocabulary questions–what does “reprisal” mean?  What does “trumps” mean?  I think we went through ten words before I realized that we were indeed “schooling,” only I didn’t tell him.  Sometimes it’s best to let the learning just happen without calling it that.

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Who am I kidding?  With this one, it’s best to do that as much of the time as possible.

This afternoon I left them working on their writing, and I went to attack Mt. Washmore waiting for me on the couch.  I was folding clothes when I heard Cooter call my name.  I turned around to see him standing in the kitchen doorway.

“Well, I have a funeral to go to now.”

Because I know this child well, I didn’t clench or panic as I might have if it were any of my other children.

“Yeah?  Why is that?  Whose funeral?”

(WARNING: SPOILER ALERT FOR ANYONE WHO HASN’T READ THE HARRY POTTER BOOKS!)

 

 

 

 

“Sirius.  Sirius Black.”  He paused.  I took in the too bright eyes and the smile that seemed plastered on.  Oh my heart.  “He was my favorite character.”

I rushed over to him.  Yes, he’s nine now.  Yes, he’s rough and tumble and getting too old to hold my hand in parking lots much anymore, but I RUSHED OVER and grabbed hold of him and held him tight.

And he let me.

“Oh, baby, I’m so sorry.  I know.  I know.  It’s hard.  I’m so sorry.”

We’ve been learning a lot about grief over the past four plus years.  When my Daddy died, Cooter wouldn’t have much to do with Mama for a few weeks, and she was so afraid he was mad at her or blamed her.  He didn’t.  He just turned inwards.  He did the same thing when Mama passed.  Our Princess cried her heart out, tears for days, but Cooter just turned inward and was very stoic.

But today, today my little guy looked up at me and said, after I told him it was okay to cry, even if he needed to go to his room and be by himself to do it,  “I’m going to burn this book.  That’s what I’m going to do.  I’ll finish these last few pages, but then I’m going to burn it.”  He choked back the other unsaid things I heard in his voice and walked off.

This evening as he was reading the last of it in the car, he mentioned again his desire to burn the book when he was done.  His sister, who was delighted to find her very own copy at the used bookstore (a copy of her own that wasn’t her big sister’s), begged him not to.  “Do you know how hard it was to find that book?”  Finally, we agreed that might not be the thing to do, and we talked about Sirius and how he had gone just on the other side of the veil.  Just like Maemae and Cap had.  They are still with us, right there, just on the other side.  He nodded.

But still.

I remember when I read that chapter of the book.  I had so hoped Harry’s summer woes were over.  That he was going to finally have a good place, a good person who loved him, to spend his summers with and not the Dursleys.  But instead, life dealt him and all of them another terrible blow, and his life was upended yet again.

Much like real life.  Just when we think things might settle and be okay…..topsy turvy it goes, and we have to learn how to live with the new normal.

And so it would seem that on this day that no math was done (tomorrow will be really fun, y’all) and writing wasn’t finished, and we didn’t discuss the Bill of Rights as planned, that learning happened.  Important and good and hard learning.

And that right there.  That’s why I love homeschooling.  From vocabulary inspired by Star Wars to holding my baby through his book burning thoughts to sharing our thoughts on life and death and grief together, I love it.

It’s not my favorite everyday, and tomorrow I might need to be reminded how much I love it, but right now, I wouldn’t trade it for all the free time in the world.

Love to all.

Always

The world has lost another beautiful soul.

Tonight I give thanks for this talented actor whose portrayal of Severus Snape as written by JK Rowling in the Harry Potter novels taught some, reminded others, that there is more to people than what meets the eye.  Professor Snape reaffirmed for us the truth in Mary Lou Kownacki’s words:

Engrave this upon your heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you heard their story.

Many of us spent years until the release of the seventh book in the summer of 2007 disliking this man and his ways, distrusting him.   And then, in that book, the details of his loyalties are revealed, and we learn the story of who he was and how he was treated before and whom he really loved, and what he did for that love. And then…..we realized…..

this is not a world of easy black and white.  There is no all good or all bad.

It’s all grey.  The good with the bad.  The broken with the beautiful.  The light and the dark.

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So can a talented artist like yourself.  Well done, sir.  

Thank you, Alan Rickman, for bringing this to life for us–for your part in teaching us to look beyond the story we see–to listen and hear what is not always easily seen or shared.  You shall be missed.

Always.

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Parenting with Ambiguity, Or I Might Have Messed Up Today–Still Not Sure

Despite this week having a lot of hard bits in it, we had a major win for the Zoo Crew.  Cooter, who two years ago was in first grade and barely able to read Old Hat, New Hat, finished the fourth Harry Potter book.  All 752 pages.  He’s been working away at it for a while, but has really been intent on finishing it for the past ten days or so.  To the point where I find him curled up with the book on a couch or bed or floor when he should be doing his math or spelling or science, and I can’t find him.

He was so excited when he finished the last chapter yesterday.

So was I.

Just typing that he read that whole book brought the realization home–he really has learned to read.  And read well.

I am so thankful I cannot even fully express it in words.

Not all the day to dailies of parenting are like that though.  A clear-cut win or failure.  So many of my parenting moments are cloudy–I’m not sure where they fall until much later, if ever.

Like today.

One of our deals about Cooter reading the Harry Potter books has been that once he reads the book he can watch the corresponding movie.  That has gone well until this one, which is the first one rated PG-13.

Still, I was open to trying it with the crew.  Our Princess has read all of the books multiple times, and she has been waiting patiently to watch the movies after her brother finishes the books.  She has been a great encourager and cheerleader for her brother.  I am proud of her for that.  She so could have put on the pressure and made it a miserable experience for him.

I told my littles this morning that if they helped get the house in order, they could watch the movie this evening with their big sister home from college.  They were excited and eager to do so.

Until they forgot.

I was out running errands, having left them with instructions of what I expected them to do.  I even went so far as to say no electronics (aka “Minecraft”) until after I got back and approved the jobs they’d done.

Ahem.

So imagine my surprise (read: disappointment) when I came in and discovered that not only had they not finished their tasks, they were on their devices, having misinformed their sister of what their instructions had been.

Not cool.  Not cool at all.

So I now share my room with two devices which won’t see the light of day or my littles’ hands anytime soon.

Off they went.  Before lunch was ready and after–picking up, putting away, sorting, and tidying up.  Their “messes” had grown legs and traveled into more rooms than their own, so they had quite a bit to do.

From time to time or twelve, they lost their focus and started playing Legos or trying to put together their Halloween costumes or re-read the favorite parts of a book or two.

*sigh*  The struggle is real.  Focus is a lost art.

Mid-afternoon one of our Princess’ friends came over and asked if she could play.  This sweet friend came to the door with her infectious smile and bubbling over with stories from her day.  She is adorable and pretty much an answer to prayers.  She is a good friend to my middle child, and I’m thankful for her.  Princess came rushing to the door and begging me first with her eyes and then her words, “Please.  PLEASE?”

The weather here has been a mess the past several days.  Rainy, misty, and finally a little cooler to go with it yesterday and today.  It seemed rather nice, if not still a little damp out, this afternoon.  I KNOW my children need to run around and play outside and get fresh air, something they haven’t really been able to do the past few days.  Still, I wondered what kind of precedent I was setting by letting her go play when all of her picking up wasn’t done.

I let her go.

And I let Cooter go out and play too.

Their smiles and the laughter and the sounds of children’s imaginations coming up with all kinds of storylines to play out was music to my ears.  Which was good because what my eyes saw that was undone in this house was not making me very happy.

I called my two back in at supper.  I knew we were about to board the struggle bus, as I was going to have to dole out the consequences.  No movie tonight.  They hadn’t upheld their part of the bargain.  Instead of focusing and getting the odd jobs and picking up that I’d given them to do before watching the movie, they had dilly-dallied much of the day.  And then this afternoon and evening, they chose to continue playing outside instead of finishing their work.  I had even reminded them of the consequences if they kept playing.

But here’s where my heart was torn. They had chosen to PLAY OUTSIDE with their friends instead of coming in and doing what they needed to do to be able to watch the movie.

I have to say, that despite the untidy house, I’m kind of pleased that they chose outside and relationships over watching a movie.  Not happy about the house, but definitely pleased that they chose as they did.

Which doesn’t even make much sense, does it?

Well, the mess will still be here tomorrow, and I will supervise a little closer so they will stay focused.  I hope.  Together we will get it done.  And one day, probably not tomorrow, they will get to watch the movie.  And it will be spectacular.  But tonight what I’m celebrating is my children’s priorities.  Skewed as this may sound, I give thanks that they chose their friends over a movie.

And you know what else?  They didn’t really sound off much when I laid down the law and said “no” to the movie.  After the initial thirty-second pout by Cooter, they ate their supper talking about what they’d been playing with their friends and who said what, and it was wonderful.

Relationships.  People.  Every single time.

(and the house–I know.  But we will get to that tomorrow.)

I know that today wasn’t my shining moment as a parent, because I’m still confused if I handled things as I should have.  Perhaps I should have kept them locked inside until all the chores were done.  I don’t know.  Somehow it just felt wrong in that moment.

And goodness knows they sure fell asleep fast and well tonight, from all that playing and adventuring.

I might never know if any of my decisions were right, wrong, or otherwise.  All I can do, in the words of my Mama, “is the best I can with what I have in that moment.”

And that was today.

May we all choose people over the other stuff in this life.  Every single time.

Love to all.

If You Need a Timeturner…..

Last week Cooter hit another milestone.  He has been reading this same book off and on for a couple of months.  A little bit at the time, minus the several days in there when he thought he had lost the book.  (I believe it was found in his abandoned “Indiana Jones” backpack.)

Cooter finished reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.”

Cooter's very own copy from our favorite local used bookstore.

Cooter’s very own copy from our favorite local used bookstore.

Y’all.  The excitement in our house when he finished–it was palpable.

His oldest sister grew up with the books and movies.  She was able to watch the movies as they came out because she grew up with the characters.  Her siblings do not have that luxury, because all the movies were made long before they had even heard of Harry Potter.

To slow down the requests of the littles to watch the movies, I’ve invoked the rule as Headmaster of Zoo Crew Academy that one must read the book in full before watching the movie.  (Being Headmaster is cool like that.)

So you can see why he was so excited.  He was ready to watch that movie.

I am excited because he is reading so well.  His handwriting might still look like chicken scratch that only he and I can interpret, but by golly, my boy can read.

I’ll take it.

He had to wait a day for his big sister to come home from college.  They had agreed to watch it together.  I’m glad it was only a day.  As it was the littles were just about camped out at the end of the road, waiting for her arrival.  When she got here, they were thrilled.

It was everything they had imagined and then some.  They loved it.  And it was so rewarding for them to know they’d earned it by reading the books first.  I love hearing their conversations comparing the book and movie.  It was hilarious when our Princess got frustrated with me because I forgot something that had happened.  It’s been a few years since I’ve read the book and seen the movie.

At the first of this week, I was discussing scheduling of a couple of potential summer activities.  Our Princess was standing there, and she heard me trying to figure out if two things would be at the same time.

“Oh that’s no problem, Mama. I can just get a timeturner and use it.”

Bless her.  She’s still waiting on her letter from Hogwart’s too.  She will, after all, be eleven this year.

A timeturner is a device used in the third book by one of the main characters who has more than one class scheduled at the same time.  With this necklace she is able to go back in time and take the classes at the same time.  So to speak.

When my girl suggested that she might need one (and was totally okay with that, I might add), it hit me like a cold, wet rag in the face.

Wait.

I turned to her.  “Baby girl, if we need a timeturner to get it all done, we have too much on our schedule.”

I think I was telling this to myself too.

As the excitement of wrapping up the school year grows and my oldest moves back home for the summer, I see all of these wonderful options and projects and things that would be great popping up–on newsfeeds, in emails, on flyers.  And while I don’t intend to hole up all summer in my Roost with a stack of books close by (oh my, give me just a minute–I went to another place for a moment *sigh*), I don’t think we need to sign up for all the things this summer.  So many good things out there, but so many good things can turn into a stress-filled summer of staying in the road and on the go.  While I’m proud our Princess is a problem solver, I am not happy that she thinks running hither and yon is the norm.

Oh me.  I think we all need a stay-cation.

As we all come upon the good things out there, let us remember it’s only good if we still have some empty space in our day to dailies. To breathe.  To visit.  To simply be.  There might just be such as thing as too much good.

And may we, none of us, ever need a timeturner to do the things that fill our hearts and feed our souls.

Love to all.

Cooter's motto most days, I'm pretty sure.  :)

Cooter’s motto most days, I’m pretty sure, that little mischief maker. 🙂

Cooter and the Polyjuice Potion

Today has been one of those days that almost seem surreal.  A grey, cold day.  Winter is hanging on.  In the air and in our hearts.

It has been a culmination of light and darkness.  Joy and strife.

For quite some time, my little guy has been working away at reading “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” The littles had been promised they could watch the movie when he finished it.

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And today, in the midst of the darkness and uncertainty as a woman’s life hangs in the balance, Cooter finished reading the very last page.

So tonight, after we got back home this evening, we put in the movie.

A promise is a promise, after all.

The excitement in the room was palpable.  They kept talking about what was coming next, which was a bit irritating for the Mama in me, but since it showed good reading comprehension, the teacher in me was thrilled.

At one point, three of the main characters drink a “polyjuice potion” that contains a hair from another which causes each one to take on the form of the person from whom they got the hair.  As they drank the potion, Cooter–who had been SO on board with watching the movie from the get go–started walking out of the room.

Wait.  What?

“Y’all call me when it’s over,” he said over his shoulder.

“Where are you going?  What’s wrong?  Don’t you want to watch the movie?” I asked him.  I couldn’t believe he was LEAVING.

“I’ll be back.  I just don’t want to see them take another form.  I don’t want to watch it happening.”

Oh bless it.

Me either, buddy.

Because it’s really hard, isn’t it, when you think you know someone and then, during a time of crisis or stress or at a meeting or a meal out with friends, that’s exactly what happens.  Someone takes on a form, an attitude, says something so totally out of character.  And it’s just hard.  It’s painful.

Or like when it turns out the world isn’t the safe, fair, and just place you once thought it was–that’s hard too.

Tonight I’m thankful for light in the darkness, hope in the brokenness, and the high fives from a little guy who has worked so hard and met his goal.  Even in the midst of the hard times, there is light and joy to be found.

Love to all.

 

 

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the parts of me that never were

I huddle in the back of the cold room

and lift the lid of the wooden chest in the corner,

in the bottom right

there is the faded cardboard box

I lift it out and gently take the lid off

 

the tissue paper is just as I remember

a bit more yellowed, some disintegrating

between my worn fingers

 

and then, there amongst the wisps

and clouds of tissue

are what I’ve tucked away over the years

 

the dreams

 

from all the years–

the silly and the real,

the big ones and the small,

barely dared to be breathed aloud ones

 

dreams of being

a teacher

a veterinarian

the first female president

dreams of writing a book

of starting a home for those with none

of dancing under the starlight on the deck of a ship

of wearing an elegant gown in a castle

 

the dreams of singing with a favorite star

or of acting on the stage again

or of seeing the Space Needle or

walking down a snow-covered street

in New York City at Christmas

 

of traveling across the country in an RV

 

dreams that, one at a time,

I’ve let go of

and tucked

unceremoniously

in this box

 

as I touch them and feel them

and wrap my heart around each one

I no longer feel the loss

or sadness over letting each one go

they are fading memories of a time gone by,

of a person I used to be

almost a comfort

like an old, familiar quilt

or a story I’ve read over and over

 

and memorized in my heart

 

they are all a part of me

and yet they never were

 

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Today our Princess was beaming as she told Mess Cat that since she will be eleven in almost a year, she will be expecting her letter from Hogwart’s next year–or the next, since school will have already started for them at the school of magic when she has her birthday.  I asked her did she really think she would leave us and go live there, and our bright and shining girl smiled and said with a wave of her hand–“Oh I will write…..I can use the owls to send letters back.”

She dreams big, and she is happy living in the dream for now.  It is my hope that she can tuck it away with a heart filled with peace one day, and that her heart won’t break when her letter doesn’t arrive.

 

Big, beautiful dreams and love to all.