In which life is too short for crappy books…

I have been a reader for my entire life.  I have devoured books as readily as some might scarf down a pizza or memorize the words the their favorite song.  I could spend hours perusing the shelves of book stores, never ceasing to find something (often more than one something) that interests me.  Reading is a massive part of my identity.

So imagine my surprise to discover in the past year that not all books are worthy of my time.  I know.  I was as shocked as you are.

If I’m honest with myself, it started years ago.  I’d start a book that had all the right criterion for something I’d love.  Historical fiction.  Trashy beach read.  Bestseller.  Young adult fiction.  Dystopia.  The list is endless, really.  I see it, it grabs my attention, I buy it.

And for a variety of reasons, I wouldn’t get drawn in.  I’d get distracted (I tend to do that sometimes).  I’d get bored.  Another book would become more appealing.  I’m fickle, I suppose.

But I have always had guilt.  I am a reader.  Readers read books.  I can’t leave one unfinished!  I have forced myself to trudge through books I don’t love simply to be able to say that I finished them.

It stops now.  Life is too short for crappy books!  My reading time is limited.  If I don’t want to finish a book, it’s time to stop reading.  Put it away.  Donate it.  Loan it to a friend.  But finish a book I’m not interested in?  Why torture myself?

Life’s too short to read books that are crappy.

It’s too short for friends who aren’t real.

Too short for movies that I don’t enjoy.

Too short to spend a sunny day inside cleaning.

Too short to choose TV over playtime with the girls.

Too short for my iPhone instead of real people.

Life is too short.

Be selective.


My daughter hates me.

My daughter hates me.  All kids go through a similar stage, I’m sure.  I do everything wrong.  I make her do her homework (the horrors!).  I force her to brush her teeth (call social services!).  I don’t tolerate rude and disrespectful behavior.  I have high expectations for her.

In kid-speak, I’m mean to her.

I know I shouldn’t let it bother me.  I’m her mother—not her friend.  I love her more than anything in the world, and because I love her, I have a job to do.  If I do it right, we’ll be friends later…much later.

It bothers me anyway.

What mother doesn’t want to be adored?  Hugged and kissed when she does the school drop off in the morning?  Obediently obeyed with a smile?  Snuggled and told, “I love you so much Mommy!” at bedtime?

Of course, I recognize that this ideal mother-daughter relationship doesn’t really exist.  I only see glimpses of relationships between other girls and their mothers, not the whole story.  I can’t be the only mother that struggles with these issues.  I know I’m not.  Definitely.


I’ll be honest and admit that I’m not the mom of the year over here.  Ignoring the fact that my house is rarely clean (and that’s with biweekly cleaning people, too) and the fact that my idea of a home-cooked meal is 90-second rice, frozen veggies (yes, I microwave them first), and chicken nuggets, there are areas I struggle with as a mother.  I’m quick to frustrate.  Impatient.  Particular.  Overcommitted.  Selfish.  Lazy.

Of course, I’m not all of those things at once.  But they’re things I describe myself as when I’m feeling particularly crappy at this thing called, “mom.”

Last night, though, my daughter woke up sick in the middle of the night.  I was ripped from my sleep by her call for, “MOM!” from her bed.  It took me less than a moment to fly from my room to hers, help her to the bathroom, hold her hair back, and stroke her back as she got sick.  To hold her once it was over.  To sit with her and comfort her.  To reassure her.

And she wanted me.  Her immediate instinct when she woke up sick was to yell for me.  She did it without thinking.  I’m who she wanted.

Maybe she doesn’t hate me after all.  On some level, I’m doing something right.  She might not appreciate it all now, at eight years old.  But one day she will.  One day, she’ll know how much I love her and how much I do and how much I want for her.

I take it all back.  I am mom of the year after all.


Back to school…blues…?

It can’t be. I’ve craved the return to school for weeks (if not more). I can’t be experiencing some weird sort of…well…missing it…can I?

Yes, I can. It’s not that I’m not happy to have the girls back in school. I am. Oh, I am.

It’s not that I miss the pool and the sun and the vacations. I do. Oh, I do.

I think it’s that the kids’ return to school, Jessica getting slightly older, and the (don’t laugh) fact that I’ve hired a cleaning company to help me now that I’m working so much, have all sort of changed this definition I had of myself.

I’m an overstressed, overworked, over exhausted, under appreciated, overwhelmed mum (I must be channeling my inner Brit tonight). Or, I was.

Suddenly I have time. I can breathe. I can think. I can make more choices. I have options. There’s flexibility.

And I feel guilty about it.

Go figure.

On the upside, I played field hockey with my oldest daughter tonight while my younger two wrote and colored. And it was awesome. Everything about it felt right. I was enjoying my kids. Actually enjoying them.

It doesn’t happen often enough. It if it does, I don’t remember to pause and catch it.

Maybe the two are related. Perhaps.


Family Project: Summer Reading Contest

Today is the first day of summer vacation! On a whim, I told the girls we should start a reading contest. It has suddenly ballooned into a major family project, and we are so excited about it!

First of all, I want to give credit where credit is due. This project is modeled on a classroom reading project my daughter’s kindergarten teacher did this year. I’ve made some modifications to suit a family, but the ideas behind the project are hers. So Mrs. Koontz–thank you for this inspiration.

I was also inspired by a teacher friend’s middle school house cup contest–thank you too, Cap!

Teams: We are working in teams. As a family, we chose parents against kids, which we hope will help our daughters feel closer to one another instead of competing with one another. Depending on your family, you may want to team up as boys vs girls or mixed teams. The key is what works for your family.

Points: My daughters are still young and reading short chapter books, early readers, or picture books. We decided that every book (without chapters) or every chapter earns one point.

My older daughter is starting to read silently, and my younger daughter primarily reads aloud. So that we can guarantee that they’re actually reading everything they say, we alternate between asking them to re-read a page to us, asking them questions about each book or chapter, or simply asking them to tell us about what they read. If they’re so inclined, they can ask us to do the same. 🙂

Reading Journals: Though this is team contest, we are tracking books individually, too. We first created a large chart for the wall so that everyone could record their books. I very quickly found that this would be impractical, and we modified our program to include individual reading logs instead. Everyone has their own, we decorated our covers (even dad did his!) and there are lined pages inside for recording books or chapters.

Team Tallies: Daily, or several times a day, you should record everyone’s progress on a large team tally board. Make a big deal out of this family time–cheer for every participant and count up the tally marks (math lesson!).

Prizes: Our project is going to last for 8 weeks (we think). The grand prize is a trip to Chuck E Cheese (if the kids win) and Cheeseburger in Paradise (if we win). I’m also planning smaller “pop prizes” for the first team to 50 books, first team to 100 books, first person to 50 books, most books read in the first week, etc. Some of these pop prizes will be team prizes and some will be individual.

I think that’s it, so far! I’m sure I’ll modify as I go and we see what works and what doesn’t. My biggest concern is the length, so I’m hoping we can
keep the kids motivated for the entire 8 weeks.

If you and your family want to join us, please do! I’d love to hear about how your family does their summer reading project, so please use the #summerreadingproject tag!

Start reading! 🙂





In which I am behind (and loving it)

For a lot of reasons, I stopped making lists when I moved overseas.  I had been an obsessive compulsive list maker.  I’d add things to the list after I’d done them so that I could have the gratification of crossing them off and feeling like I had, in fact, accomplished something.

But suddenly, making lists became stressful for me.  I probably became a little more disorganized in the process.  But it felt freeing.

Perhaps it’s because, as a parent, I know that list-making is futile.  If I add “wash dishes” to a list, it’s a waste.  There will be more dirty dishes in the sink as soon as I get the satisfaction of crossing it off.  I might add “buy stamps at the post office” and won’t have to put that back on.  But it will quickly become replaced by another activity that is of equal importance.  Do I make a list of activities?  Chores?  Things I need or can’t forget?  Maybe I need separate lists for each. And then I need some sort of a list organization system so that I can keep them all straight.

I know.  It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

But when I was depressed, this was how I viewed the world.

Healthy, happy Kelly doesn’t make lists.  I can’t.  I don’t spend as much time thinking about the things I need to do, and when I do, I recognize that it stresses me out, makes me upset, and actually causes me to accomplish substantially less than I would if I just got on with it.

So my list-making has gone by the wayside.  Maybe I’m not as organized because of it.  But maybe, just maybe, I’m better for it.



A History of my World in 100 Objects #2-6

It seems like a cheat, but of course, I cannot tell the history of my world without these 5 items. My girls and my boys. My daughters came first, then my nephews. Then encapsulate who I am. They cover the relationships that matter most to me in the world, even those not explicitly pictured here. They make me mother, wife, sister, daughter, woman…and those have been defining roles in my life. They always will be.

I cannot possibly paint the history of my world without them.



One thing after another

This week has been chaotic. Not only did all three girls end up really ill, but biscuit (our 5 month old puppy) spent a night at the emergency vet and we had a disastrous day with the big girls.

But we have survived and another week is upon us. It’s the last full week of summer vacation. With quite a few ups and downs, I have mixed feelings about the return to school. On one hand, it’s the return to schedules, routines, homework, and after school activities. On the other, thank goodness for just that!

So, I’m determined to slow down and enjoy this week with the girls. The week before I have a first grader and a kindergartener, the week before my babies are back to being big girls, and it’s the week before everything changes (again).

Here’s to one thing after another…and then another!