Thursday, September 11, 2014

On parenting, distraction, and dreams

Being a mom and writer can have moments of... juggling. Sometimes my creative moments happen right as I put lunch on the table. A story plot lends itself to resolution and in between milk refills and wiping up messy faces, I grab my pen and paper, and write it all down to explore later when they're safely tucked in bed for the night.

This does not escape my eldest son. I might laugh when he deduces the mother in Knuffle Bunny must be staying home while the father and child go off to launder clothes because she's an author and needs time to write but I also feel guilty that he notices the time and space I need to create.

Guilt is part and parcel of motherhood, but with writing it can feel doubly so, particularly when it involves a Saturday morning writing while the kids are with their dad at the park, or a Friday afternoon while they run around the basement and I sketch out a character perched on the treadmill because that character only now decided to speak. I feel guilty my attention can branch off like it does.
I learned something in school today, my eldest said today.

He sat down at the kitchen table and requested paper, crayons, scissors and tape.

Immediately, he went to work: folding, pressing, cutting and taping. He drew through his skype session with nani. He colored while he ate his quartered peaches. And then, he requested my help with writing his name. Not just first name. The last name too. Because this wasn't just an art project. 

This was a book. This was his book.

Climbing into my lap, he read me his book. Hotel Art. He shared the different hotel renderings, some beach side, some in crowded city districts.

Do you like my book? He asked me. It's my first one.

We read the book a few times. He shared his other book ideas. Books for nani. Books for Abu. Books to read with his baby brother. I realized in that moment as he sat in my lap telling me his dreams for when he's all grown up that in order to make a dream come true, it can't hurt to also see how dreams come true: through working, brainstorming, practicing, and failing but trying again anyways. In living and sharing my life with him, I realize today, I am doing just that.

Yes I get distracted, and yes, he's watching, but today I realized it's not necessarily bad for him to see this. It's okay for him to see I have dreams of my own. Perhaps in seeing that he will nourish and grow his own. The thing about kids is they're all watching you. They watch what you say. And they watch what you do. And following and cultivating the pursuits of his heart? That is among my biggest dreams for him.

Friday, September 05, 2014

On my book, Barnes and Nobles, and a give-away coming soon!

When Written in the Stars became available for pre-order at Amazon a few months ago, it felt amazing-- but today when someone e-mailed me that they pre-ordered my book from Barnes and Noble's site- well that nearly made me topple my chai! It may just be their online store, but just knowing it's at Barnes and Noble in any capacity makes it feel that much closer to the brick and mortars, and to being something I can hold in my hands.

As the date to release inches closer, I'm planning a give-away close to release date, but with a twist. Instead of just a book give-away[which I hope you will support anyways] the give-away book will also be a supplement to the actual book with handwritten notes from me with behind the scenes on the writing process and other fun facts in the margins. I am working on getting this together now and if you're interested please be sure to follow along with this website via e-mail [on the right], my newsletter, facebook, or twitter. Any one of those will keep you up to date for when I do post the give-away closer to release date!

But, the reason I post this today is because as I get ready to mark up my margins, I want to know: what sort of behind the scenes would you love to read about? Anything specifically or generally? If there's interest I might mark up a few books to give-away! [And thanks as always for your support!]

Monday, August 25, 2014

Homeschooling and a sneak peek into our fancy schmancy curriculum

As many of you know, we've been debating the whole homeschooling versus regular schooling thing for some time. We checked out the four-year-old's local preschool a few months back and put him in the lottery with 80 other kids for 24 slots [and of course, he got in] but ultimately we decided to skip preschool this year which always leads to the question by friends and family of "what are you doing?" which leads to me say we're homeschooling even though the word makes me giggle just a little because, well, he's four. Georgia doesn't even require you to file an intent to home school until a child is six.

But because preschool is so much the norm. Because preschool is almost now viewed by many as mandatory as kindergarten [which also isn't mandatory in the state of Georgia], keeping him home is perceived as going counter-culture. And so, in response to whether he's in school, we tend to say we're homeschooling because it's just simpler than the real story which is he's four and I'm lucky enough to be home with him so why not let him just enjoy and have fun and learn along the way without borders and schedules and the monotony of routine just one year longer?

Yeah- that's a mouthful. So homeschooling it is.

That being said I'm aware there are expectations on the wee ones in preschool and that my kiddo will be thus expected to also reach those goals so I do keep my eye on state goals and standards, but making a curriculum? I checked out some homeschooling resources sites like the much touted Starfall series but the truth is [for me] it's great to have thematic lessons and worksheets, but minute by minute instructions and what to say and how to say it.... if I'm going to follow something like this why not put him in preschool?

To be fair, we do have some routine! It's not just peace, love, and play dough up in here. [I was a teacher. You can't just chuck all that training]. Each morning over breakfast we go over letters, sounds, and numbers. We explore a word family through dry erase and magnetic tiles left over from my teaching days. We talk about the date, the day, the time, the weather. We even do worksheets once in a while because the kiddo loves them. He also goes to a part-time twice a week program at a local nursery school to hang with buddies, play, and get a sense of routine.

But the rest of the time? We're learning in our own way. Through visiting the library with our caterpillar bags and stuffing them with books.

We read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, search for butterflies in our backyard, and discuss the miraculous nature of metamorphosis. We learn about idioms and slang in Amelia Bedelia and try to retain the skills of bilingualism by alternating our reading of books with Urdu and English.

We play soccer and discuss technique. We build sand castles and read about real ones. We read about owls and bats and learn the concept of diurnal versus nocturnal. And we hike. We bike. And examine roots and how water makes its way to the leaves. We encounter a fallen tree and ask, what might have happened? And explore the possibilities, realistic and imagined.

We draw. We stamp. We trace. We sticker.

We visit aquariums. And museums. We discuss paintings and sculptures and explore the amazing jobs out there, like ones where you create dream cars. [His reaction to learning that you can get paid to do this:]

We explore an island in a book. We find one on a map. We draw them. We paint them. And now, we know what islands are.

But what is it like to stand on one? What is it like to travel it's circumference?

We dream about it.

For us that's what preschool is about. It's about asking questions and then, asking more questions. It's about dreaming about all that we know and all that we want to know and all that we will never know. Which is essentially what life is about in many ways.

So there you have it. Our "homeschooling" curriculum, which is to say: there's not much of one though you'd be surprised at how much we're managing to learn just the same. Is there ever any anxiety that I'm not doing the right thing? I'd be lying if I said I didn't have moments of doubt [and there's that selfish bit that whispers at how much writing I could get done with kiddos safely in full-time school] but I think no matter which way you go on parenting journeys, there's always the question- it's part and parcel on wanting to do right by them- and knowing there many roads to right-- but right now? Right now, I'm loving it. Right now, he's loving it. And right now it's working quite beautifully for us.

Mandatory disclaimer: Just as the breastfeeding debate, and the stay-at-home or work outside the home debate, there is no one answer that fits all. Different things work for different families and create the diverse world within which we reside. My right may not be yours. Your right may not be mine. But I think we can still in our own different ways still do right by them.