Juice Box Crocodiles and Harry Potter

We've been reading the Harry Potter series out loud to Harper. We have just finished Goblet of Fire. Harper asks us to read all the time, not just at bedtime, but before dinner and on the weekends. We love it. 

The other day, before dinner she asked me to read. Harry and Cedric had been transported to the graveyard of Tom Riddle. SPOILER ALERT - Then Cedric died and now Voldemort was back and wanting to duel with Harry as pretense to killing him. 

So - two things. 

1) The whole time I was reading this very dramatic passage, Harper had been drinking a box of apple juice. As it got more dramatic, I wasn't really paying attention to her except that she was cutting up the empty juice box. I finally glanced up from the stress of Voldemort wanting to kill Harry and Harry with no one to help him and saw that Harper was making this fantastic thing:

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I love it!

2nd Thing) When you haven't read Harry Potter (or seen the movies) in a long time, you forget the details. All I remembered about book 4 is that Cedric dies. What I didn't remember is that when Harry and Voldemort are dueling and they are connected by the golden beams between wands, ghosts start to come out of Voldemort's wands - Cedric, a couple others and then HARRY'S MOM AND DAD!! And they all come to speak to Harry, telling him to hold on, don't give up, they will give him time to run to the goblet/portkey to get back to Hogwarts. 

If you know me at all, you know I'm a big CRYER. So at this point I'm a mess. Harper is still cutting away on her juice box crocodile and she looks over "why are you crying?" and I laugh and beg her for some kleenex, which she kindly gets for me, and say "His mom and dad are here and they are helping him when he thought he was going to die!" She shrugged and kept on with her croc.

When does empathy kick in for kids??? 

She loves the stories and I know she's paying attention because earlier in the graveyard scene Voldemort talks to the Death Eaters who have apparated in to meet their newly reformed master. Voldemort talks to Lucious and Harper says, "I think that's Lucious Malfoy!" and when it is confirmed, she is pleased to have figured that out. I was pleased to know she's been really taking it all in. 

For Christmas I got Harper the Illustrated versions of Books 1-3. Don't tell her. 

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5 MORE Things I Miss About England

I miss my commute. It wasn't always this route, maybe about 50/50. This route would often be a good 5-10 minutes faster than the main roads. This route would also mean a 5-10 beats per second increase to your heart rate. Some days there would be HUGE farm trucks coming at you. Some days a ton of other cars (with far more experience on these roads). Some days no oncoming traffic at all. 

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I miss Pret-A-Manger. Pret became known to me in 2006 when I went to London to work for about three weeks. It was the cheapest, best quality quick lunch or coffee place in Soho. I still love it to this day. Fantastic variety, lots of veggie options, hot food, cold food, kid sized food. I wish we had one here. 

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Speaking of good eats: Wagamama is also a big favorite. Lovingly referred to as "Snobby Noodle" by friends here who have spent time in London and love Wagamama as well, we were so pleased there was one in St. Albans. We must have eaten there at least every other week. Sometimes we'd order it in for lunch when I was working. (In my brief window of working.) My favorite was the Shiitake Donburi. Or the Vegatsu. Or any of the ramens. 

Dammit. Now I want some. 

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Moving on to dessert -- Bakewell Tarts. I'd never heard of them before this trip. (Astonishing) A tart made with raspberry jam and almond? DONE. I haven't looked for any here. I haven't learned how to bake it. YET. I asked someone at a cafe what a Bakewell Tart was. And they were so confused.

"It's a bakewell tart." 

"Okay but what's in it?"

"It's a Bakewell." 

Okay sold. 

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(picture by Brynn from Wikimedia Commons)

These horses who lived on our route to Harper's school. 

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I asked Harper if she wanted to live in another country again and she said yes. And I said, England? And she said, Yes! So. Watch this space. I'm going to figure out how to make that happen.

 

 

 

 

 


You Can Learn A Lot From A Seven Year Old.

IMG_6204On Sunday I did a brave thing. I had two girls from Harper's grade over for a playdate. I was warned not to have three girls at a time-there could be too much drama. Well guess what? No drama! There was one moment, right at the very end of their play time when Harper had a hurt feeling. It last about three minutes. Whew.

They arrived around 11:30, played in Harper's room for a bit. Then I gave them luncheon: quesadillas, apple slices, tangerines and blueberries with a choice of apple juice or water. They also got a small slice of the mistake cake I had baked. (I was baking cakes for a friend's birthday that night and my first cake came out not quite right, so I started over. Bonus for the girls and Kurt. More about cakes and baking in another post.) 


After Luncheon, Harper offered each of her guests a candy from her Halloween bag. Very generous. Then, as Harper said, they did "an activity". I pulled out paint and toilet paper rolls and they made thanksgiving turkeys. I traced feather shapes on construction paper and the cut them out. One of them wanted to freehand her feathers so I said, "Rock on" and she did. I, however, forgot to take pics of their turkeys. Here is Harpers:

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That's a crown and a cape...

While they were working on their "activity" one of the girls got frustrated that it wasn't come out the way she wanted. I said that we had plenty of supplies so she could start over or get new pieces or whatever she wanted.

I said, "Practice makes perfect"

She whipped around and said, "NO!" 

I looked at her and said, "No?"

"No. Practice makes better. Because nothing is perfect." 

I told her I loved that and that I was going to write it down, which I did.  IMG_6276

While the paint was drying they went outside to play on the chair swing and use the sidewalk chalk. 

It got a little rowdy and I caught a couple of moments of the girls almost getting clobbered by the chair as it swung wildly. Fortunately none of them had to learn how to play safely the hard way. 

It was a good time! And I'm pleased it went so well and I learned an important lesson from a seven year old: Practice Makes Better.

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National Novel Writing Month Has Started!

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I am writing a novel. You should too! I joined up with National Novel Writing Month organization. They've been around for a while and this year I'm finally DOING IT. The goal is to write a novel (50,000 words) in the month of November. Totally doable!  A draft is a draft.

Today is my 6th day in a row so I've earned this badge already: 

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My story came to me while we were in England this year. I kept jotting down notes and thoughts and ideas, expecting to get to it sometime. Then I was reminded of NaNoWriMo and signed up. So glad I did! I like keeping score, which is what the group and website encourage you to do, very motivating.IMG_6134

There are challenges. The actual putting words to (virtual) paper is not the hard part.

My challenge is switching back to freakin' Pacific Standard Time last weekend! (I write in the early early hours before anyone else gets up.) But since the time change, Harper has been getting up even earlier than she normally would have. UGH! And she comes right to me. This morning I had been at it for about 20 minutes (My goal is 1 hour) and she came in and sat on my lap.

Mama, I had a bad dream

I'm sorry sweetheart! 

Can you read Harry Potter?

No.

I then made her lie on the guest bed in my office and doze for about 1/2 hour!  I wrote as far as I could before she started sitting in my lap again. And yes, I then read Harry Potter (we are in the middle of Goblet of Fire, FYI).

With all that, I have still written every day, can't wait to get my fingers back on that keyboard and continue! Hopefully she'll settle back into her normal sleep pattern and I can have my full writing time back.

Challenge yourself! You can still get started.


What I'm Reading: Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Speaking of books written by men that I read for a specific topic: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath inspired me greatly last week. The examples they used to illustrate their points were fascinating, sometimes down right amazing. (Solving malnutrition problems in Vietnam or stopping abusive parents.) Their book is mentioned in the other most inspiring book I've read lately - The 12 Week Year. - which is how I found it.

Change can make you crazy whether you choose it or it chooses you. Books like Switch help you identify pieces of the puzzle that you might not have seen before. Taking the challenge from angles you never thought of. If you feel stymied, give this one a read, see if it makes you go "huh, never thought about looking at a problem from that direction." 

And be prepared to do the work!

 

PS Affiliate links above.


What I'm Reading: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

I'm a reader. I love books. I love the smell and feel and look of them. I love libraries and bookshops and random bookshelves in other people's houses. My eye goes right to books and I can't help but peruse the shelf of them wherever I see them. 

Books come at me from various sources - magazines or newspapers or facebook groups or podcasts or radio shows. I don't remember where I heard about Washington Black but I knew I wanted to read it. I like history and the main character, a slave to start, then a free man, and how he makes his way in the world. It's not the standard story you expect at all. It takes place well before the American Civil War and includes hot air balloons, the arctic and aquariums. Unexpected all.

I'm also trying something new. Only reading books written by women. This is a pretty easy thing to do and why not? Men have dominated literature for eons, so why not just read women's work? This rule applies to all new books that I seek out. If I already own a book written by a man that I haven't read yet, then fine, I'll read it. Eventually. 

I have finished two books written by men recently. These were specific books whose exact material I wanted to read about. But majority of my book reading will be by women. Try it.

 

PS. Affiliate links included above.


Pencils - Standard #2

IMG_5876I bought me some basic pencils today. Bog standard pencils. Classic yellow #2 pencil with pink eraser. I got a pack of 10 from the grocery store and I love them so far. USA GOLD - "Proudly made in Tennessee."

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Harper's Pencils

Harper is in first grade and we are drowning in pencils. They are given as party favors and valentine favors and rewards at school and come flying out of piñatas. And most of them are CRAP. You can sharpen them over and over, but they break so easily and so often. With all the "oooh look! We can print pencils with anything cool on it!" enthusiasm, they forgot the basics about ACTUALLY USING A PENCIL.

I know I know, kids today barely use writing instruments of any kind (past a certain age).

But I recall pencils not only being used for writing, but for PENCIL FIGHTS! Raise your hand 🙋if you had pencil fights during recess or on the school bus! I certainly did. Armed with my trusty Berol Mirado #2 or the Eagle, I would challenge my friends. (All this in between Chinese jump rope and marbles and milk caps.) Berol Mirado Eagle Pencils 

I never grew out of my love for writing instrument. You might know I'm obsessed with office supplies in general, writing instruments in particular. So much so that I once did a Writing Instrument Census in our house. (Gosh that was in 2010 - I have two years to prep for the next one.)

PENCILS!! Get yourself some. You know you want to (affiliate links in this blog post):


The Things You Keep When Clearing Out

JaiEarringsCleaning up / clearing out your space, no matter that space, challenges you to think hard about what you want to keep and what you truly don't need. We packed up most of our personal belongings when we went left for England this year. (Friends were renting and we were making space for them.) Upon our return, we pulled out the essentials from their boxes and left the other stuff to get around to.

I finally got around to a big plastic bin of random t-shirts, bathing suits, work out clothes and my jewelry. "My jewelry" sounds fancy, but really it's a bunch of cheap and cheerful bead bracelets, glass earrings, etc. Nothing upscale at all. I just hadn't wanted to take two sandwich sized bags of stuff with me. 

Since we've been back I've had only what I had in England: four pairs of earrings, five necklaces and one ring. And it's been plenty.

While unpacking yesterday, I made a pile to give away and cut down my jewelry load by 1/3 or so. That feels good.

But these. These will never go. Never ever. 

These were made by a dear friend I knew from high school. She died in a house fire with her two little children in 2003. Devastating.

You could never put Jai in a tidy box. She couldn't be defined. Quirky gets close, but is not quite enough. She was an artist and made lovely jewelry. These are the only things of hers I own and I will keep them close. 

If you've seen the tattoo on my right ankle, that's her website logo design. She's always with me. 

Cleaning out stuff always brings up memories and emotions and joy and pain. And so much to celebrate, even in grief. 


5 Things I Miss About England (An Incomplete List)

We lived in England for only four months and I miss it just about every day. Today I wanted a nice cup of strong black tea but didn't have any in the house. Plenty of Earl Grey and Jasmine green and chamomile and etc etc. But not any bog-standard* black tea. I had to order some from Amazon. Made me think of what else I've been missing! Here's a short list:

I miss the green! This was in the park behind out house and we walked there often. Soothing to the soul.

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I miss Waitrose! This was my last visit to our local Waitrose and I was so sad. Not sure why I loved it so much. A bit nicer than your standard Sainsbury's or Tesco, but not crazy fancy by any means. But they had this brand of prepared foods that we fell in love with. So YUM.

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I miss the tea. Good strong black tea. The Tea aisle in any grocery store in the UK is much more fascinating than our "coffee and tea" aisles in the states.

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I miss the pubs - Especially ones with excellent food and lovely gardens. Like this one - The Holly Bush. (Even better - it's in Potter's Crouch!) Pubs are family friendly, dog friendly, friendly friendly. It's a different type of place that we don't have an equal to here in the US.

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I miss school uniforms. I never went to a school that required uniforms, so this was a total novelty for me. They are so sweet! I know, I know, anyone who went to school in England is rolling their eyes at me. I loved shopping for these. 

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Gawd I can't wait to go back. Until then I have to get my fill with The Crown, British Baking Show and Doctor Who.

 

 *Bog standard is a phrase I learned there and love. I use it still, and always will. 

 

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