A New Year Reflection

One of my dear friends, Jenni (she is a delight),  is a big proponent of choosing a word to guide her year. Last year, in January, I was certain I would choose a word too. I spoke at length with Jenni about her word (Last year’s was story.), and how she developed and determined which word she would pick. But, alas, I never did pick a word, and here I am on January 2, 2018, still thinking about a word for this year. (In case you are wondering, Jenni’s for this year is enough.)

It is really kind of funny, because I really didn’t think about having a word until this past Sunday, on New Year’s Eve. I was sitting in church listening to my (awesome) pastor (Pastor Jim) speak about new beginnings and renewing commitments to our faith and to God. (Which don’t get me wrong, I fully endorse and plan to do.) But that is not what struck me. What struck me is when he used this analogy involving Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol. (And, hello, I am nothing if not a sucker for an allusion to one of my most beloved Christmas stories.) If you don’t remember, Marley is Scrooge’s dead business partner who appears to him wrapped in chains as punishment for being greedy and selfish during his life on earth. What Pastor Jim said is, “How often do we wake up, and wrap our chains around us and drag them throughout our day?” And, I thought, Yes, I do that. I don’t know why. This pertains to how I show God’s love for my fellow humans and how I approach and react to the things that come up all day, every day. How many of us do that? Wake up. Wrap chain. Drag through the day. The point of the message was to let it go. Just stop wrapping the chain. Easier said than done, right?

So, now, here we are back at the point of this post. My word for the year. The message my pastor delivered is my starting off point. I know that there will be days when I drag the chain, just like good ole Marley did in A Christmas Carol. Days when I carry over the things that happened the day prior, and I just can’t let it go. BUT, I am going to strive to not do that. I am going to strive to be present, to let go of the things I cannot control, and embrace the positives. I am going to be intentional with my choices. I am going to be intentional with my actions (and, let’s be honest, with my inactions). Intentional will be my word for the year. So, many words ran through my head while thinking on this. Grace was a close second. (Maybe next year.) But, I think that being intentional in all the things will help me keep looking forward and not dragging all my baggage with me from day to day.

By now, most of you know that I use Instagram primarily for all things bookish. (Bookstagram is my favorite. And also smiling.) Intentional will help me so much in my reading life too. I am participating in The Unread Shelf Project 2018, which is a project (coordinated by Whitney (@theundreadshelf)) that simply encourages readers to tackle their shelves of unread books. I have 77 unread physical books. (I didn’t do an official count of my ebooks, but I think it is somewhere around 27.) My intention is to read more of the books I already have and spend less on books in 2018. (Honestly, I want to be more intentional in my spending overall.) So intentional just really fits, both in my personal and professional life, and also in my reading life.

Here’s to a wonderful and intentional 2018!

Do you make resolutions or set a word for the year? Let me know on Instagram (@meaningfulmadness) or in the comments below!

A Review HiLo: The Great Big Boom

Ok, Moms! If you are like me, I am constantly trying to find books for my kiddos. My son, who just turned 9, just became a true reader this year. His third grade teacher really pushed reading and especially CHOICE READING. This has been a game changer for him. Enter the HiLo series by Judd Winick.

Hi-Lo is a robot from a far away planet who comes to earth to help his friends and defeat his maker, whose goal is to get Hi-Lo back and take over the world. In Book #3, HiLo and The Great Big Boom, Hi-Lo and friends are attempting to help Gina who has been sucked into a portal. Hilarity and hijinks ensue.

My son LOVES these books. He has even created his own illustrations for HiLo, which I tweeted to Judd Winick. And guess what? He responded. I had one ecstatic third grader on my hands.

What I love about graphic novels is that they make content accessible to a broad audience. What I love about Hi-Lo is that the writing is smart, funny, and engaging. The illustrations complement the writing perfectly.

As a former English teacher, I am not the biggest fan of graphic novels; however, because my son is such a fan, I read HiLo: The Great Big Boom for him. And…I enjoyed it. I am so grateful for this medium that has made my son a reader, and I am grateful that Judd Winick has created a world and characters that my son loves and connects with. He is already begging me to pre-order HiLo #4: Waking the Monsters, which comes out in January.

Bottom Line: If you have reluctant readers, try HiLo. I give the series a 5/5.

Windmill fun for everyone, Post #1

My son is finishing his 2nd grade year, and it has been an amazing one for him. He has always loved science and been an inventor extraordinaire at home; however, this year his rock-star teacher has ignited a love of history in him. He has come home talking about Ancient China, Ancient Egypt, and more recently, Helen Keller. He is amazed by her story and cannot believe how much she accomplished (my word, not his. I am taking some liberties with paraphrasing.) in her life. He was particularly enthusiastic about an activity he did in class wherein he created a word in braille. This got me thinking about the summertime, when I have the great fortune to be home with the kids and activities we could do together. So, this activity is one that is not my idea, but one I became aware of when I taught eighth graders which I have adapted to meet the needs of my younger children.

Enter the remarkable story of William Kamkwamba, a then 14-year-old boy who was inspired to build a windmill in his Malawian village after seeing the devastation caused by excessive drought in his area.  I think my son will love this story. William reminds me of Helen Keller in the diversity he has overcome to be the success he is today.  So, the cool thing about this story is there are three different versions of this story to choose from based on the age level of the reader. There is the full version, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope, there is The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Young Readers Edition, which is recommended for grades 4-7, and lastly, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Picture Book Edition for younger elementary students.

My plan for my kiddos this summer is to do an interactive activity with them centered around William. I think my son especially will love it, but I think as long as there is an art component my daughter will buy in.  I am on a quest to find enriching activities for them this summer that do not cost a fortune. I will leave you with this for now, but I will be back with a second post to let you know what I did and how I did it with some pictures to illustrate.

Disclaimer: This is not an original idea. I happened upon this story and ancillary materials during a teaching conference; however, the activity I did at the conference was not very exciting, so I am going to try something new.  More to come on this in the future!