Monthly Archives: July 2014

Wonder is Wonderful

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I miss my mother/daughter book club.   It quietly dispersed when our then sixth grade daughters got busy with activities.  Now that the girls are entering eighth grade — the second year of middle school in our town — I wish our group could meet one more time to talk about a book I absolutely love – Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

This book should be required reading for kids entering middle school.  Its characters and situations are realistic. But the book is ideal for anyone, really, because it invites the reader to question how he or she would react to the main character, August “Auggie” Pullman and the various scenarios he finds himself in.  Auggie was born with severe abnormalities to his face, so people are generally taken aback when they see him for the first time.

Auggie’s mom has home-schooled him since he was born since he has needed numerous surgeries to address his medical concerns.  But she believes he is ready for more of an academic challenge and he is accepted into Beecher Prep School.  Mrs. Pullman believes the timing is ideal, since fifth graders from all over will be starting there for the first time and Auggie won’t be the only nervous kid. Auggie is very perceptive and he gives the reader a detailed analysis of the ways people react to him. Auggie dreads the idea of going to school and leaving his comfort zone provided at home.  It’s clear to the reader this is a highly intelligent kid who wants more than anything for others to look past his physical differences and see him for who he really is.

R.J. Palacio does a superb job of creating complex, believable characters.  Kids can be cruel – in this case, even one of the “role model” students the administrator chooses to help introduce Auggie Pullman to his new school.  But most kids, even those who feel the tug of peer pressure to hang with and act like the cool kids, feel compassion.  What they lack is the courage and ability to express it.

Wonder is easy to read.  It is divided into sections, each of which is told in the point of view of a main character.  Auggie, his sister Via, and a handful of his Beecher Prep peers are the storytellers, giving us an honest look at life in Auggie’s world from their perspective.

Auggie’s pretty sister Via, for example, shares with us that her brother has been the center of her parents’ universe since he was born. She “gets it” that he needs extra attention and protection.  She loves him so much, too.  Yet she’s secretly thrilled that at her new school she won’t immediately be known as the girl whose brother has a deformed face.   Via faces her own, typical adolescent issues but she stays strong.  I have a feeling it is Mr. and Mrs. Pullman’s unconditional love and encouragement that guides their two children to face adversity so graciously.

At times, the reader’s heart will break, but at times it will soar.  Kids will experience this, as will parents.  This is good.  We want our kids to feel compassion.  We want our kids to do the right thing even when it’s not the popular thing to do.

It’s common knowledge that the middle school years are all about kids forming friendships and that sometimes kids choose friends for the wrong reasons.  In the few short middle school years, looking and talking a certain way is, for most kids, more appealing than showing their true selves, including flaws and insecurities. Yet they all have flaws and, like Auggie, they all desperately want to feel loved and accepted by others.  If they could learn to appreciate each other despite their physical differences, imagine the possibilities…..

Wonder could open up much-needed discussions about acceptance and tolerance.  The winners in this story are the students who learned to look past Auggie’s physical differences.  They are the students who see the Auggie who is a good friend, a hard worker, and a funny kid.  I recommend this book to anyone who feels hopeful that some day soon bullying will be one of the few, truly unacceptable flaws.

 

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An Act of Kindness That Means So Much To Me…

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I am really excited to say I’ve been nominated for two blogging awards by “Mama Duck” whose awesome blog is http://5Power.org,  aka Family to the 5 Power!   Mama Duck’s writing has inspired me since I started blogging nearly a year ago.  Thank you very much, Mama Duck!

versatilebloggeraward                                                           sunshine award

 

As requested, I have answered the following questions about my “favorites” and nominated ten bloggers to accept these two awards as well.

Favorites:

1) What is my favorite food?  I have so many, but I really love salmon, chicken marsala, and steak tips.

2) Who is my favorite actor?   Meryl Streep

3) What is my favorite television show? I don’t watch much current TV but I do enjoy reruns of Seinfeld, What Not To Wear, and Friends.

4) What is my favorite “tear jerker”?  Father of the Bride

5) Tea or Coffee? Coffee!

6) What is my favorite sport? Hockey (Boston Bruins!)

7) What is my lucky number? 24

8) What is my favorite holiday? Thanksgiving

9) Twitter or Facebook?   Facebook… (I need to learn how to use Twitter).

10) What is my favorite Christmas movie?   Elf

I am nominating the following ten bloggers for the Sunshine Award and the Versatile Blogger award:

http://lifestoriesandbeyond.com/

http://virtuouswomanexposed.wordpress.com/

http://reesehendricks.org/

http://cynk.wordpress.com/

http://treasuringmoments.com/

http://decipheringteens.com/

http://5power.org/

http://luminousblue5.com/

http://www.itiswhatiteez.com/

http://francesanngreen.com/

I enjoy each of these blogs for their unique qualities.  Please check them out!

If you decide to accept these two awards, copy and paste the following 4 rules, your nominations, and the above 10 questions on your acceptance post.

The rules of acceptance for the Sunshine Award and Versatile Blogger award are:

1) Thank the person nominating you.

2) Place the award badges on your blog page.

3) Answer the ten questions listed above on your page.

4) Pay it forward! Nominate ten deserving bloggers for the same awards.

Who’s The Adult Here Anyways?

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My daughter didn’t sign us up for parent orientation at her college. It was happening simultaneously with freshman orientation. For a very small fee, parents could stay in dorms on campus, eat meals in the dining hall and attend informational sessions for a day and a half.

Maybe it was an oversight. Maybe my daughter decided optional meant my husband and I wouldn’t be interested. Most likely, she wanted to spread her wings and drive the 2-1/2 hours solo to freshman orientation. She has always been comfortable doing things that even now, I need reassurance doing. When I was 18, I remember heading to my own freshman orientation with a little knot in my stomach — and it wasn’t even an overnight event.

I’ve come a long way since my college days, but on certain occasions I’m hit with the realization that I truly am an introvert. I was determined to get a spot at this highly informative parent orientation even though I knew my husband couldn’t join me. But what I neglected to consider was that this experience might be a day and a half of feeling like my 18-year old Nervous Nelly self. 

The goal of arriving on campus and being separated immediately from your freshman was to give parents a taste of what it will be like, come August, when we say our good-byes. A session on letting go explained this: Give your child a kiss, say good-bye and be on your way. It helps your freshman get on with things.

It doesn’t necessarily help the solo mother who expected to meet up with her daughter at some point and is assigned to spend the night with two strangers. Thank goodness for upperclassman suites. Each of us could enjoy the privacy of our own bedrooms.

I arrived first, followed by my first roommate. Hi! I say with my warmest smile. Are you on your own, too? Yes, she says pleasantly, then drops her belongings in her room and heads out to meet up with other moms from her home town, I discover later.

Roommate #2 finally arrives while I’m unpacking my few belongings. She disappears into her room so I decide to wait for her in the living room, reading the only piece of literature I have – the parent orientation agenda — until I have it memorized. Is she taking a nap? She finally emerges from her room, cheerful and receptive to me. We chat about our kids and our families. I have a friend. Yes!

We join a large group of parents for a tour of the campus, but halfway through it my roommate tells me she has a raging headache and will return to the room. I follow along with the other parents, straining to listen to the various types of dorms. At the campus bookstore I purchase a college sweatshirt for myself. Another mom from our town calls to me in the crowd. We’re 2-1/2 hours away from home, not 2-1/2 states away, but I’m thrilled to see a familiar face. She’s alone too but spending the night at a local hotel. She’s my new buddy for the tour and for lunch in the cavernous dining hall.

In the late afternoon, my hometown friend says she’s had enough of the sessions and will head back to her hotel to read and maybe sit by the pool. I’m disappointed and tempted to blow off the day and go with her but I head back to my room with no pool and no TV. As I ponder why I am not thoroughly enjoying this peace and quiet that all busy moms dream about, my roommate pokes her head into my room. She’s feeling better. Would I like to join her for the session about academic advising? Absolutely!

We learn about tutoring as well as all about choosing a major for about 30 minutes when she whispers to me she feels sick to her stomach. (She has shingles and this is her medication’s side effect). Good-bye, roomie.

Dinner is next. At the dining hall I make my way to a table with a tray full of enticing ravioli, salad and garlic bread. I pretend not to care that I know no one sitting around me. I scan the room in a mild panic, convinced I am the only parent without a partner. I check my almost dead cell phone for messages from my daughter. Not one. Are people staring at me with pity or is it my imagination? I quickly shovel food in my mouth so I can get out of the place. I should have skipped orientation. People next to me are laughing about something, completely at ease.

My cell phone dies and the only charger is in my car. I drive to the little college town a few miles away to give my cell phone time to charge. I purchase a magazine to read in the suite. A special parent event is scheduled to take place in the gathering area. We are invited to make posters to cheer on (or perhaps embarrass) our kids the next day as they parade through the campus one last time, to the dining hall. Yes, this is silly, as is the DVD of Saturday Night Fever chosen for any interested parents to sit and watch on the comfortable lounge furniture. But I realize I’m not alone in feeling awkward. Others don’t know what to write on their posters. We end up chatting about the college and how much we miss our kids even though it hasn’t even been a full day since we separated from them. The day ends on a happy note.

After checking out the next morning, I head to breakfast and bump into some of the poster-making moms. I reach out to invite another mom from our floor to join us, and she is visibly relieved. My hometown friend finds us as well. Life is good. More sessions take place and then the parade. My daughter and I easily spot each other. She is smiling happily in the middle of the pack, then laughs out loud at my poster which sports one of her childhood nicknames in big bold colors.

On our ride home, she shares all the bonding activities of the past two days. She’s looking forward to August when she’ll see some of these people again. How was your time? she asks me. She’s loving everything about her new school, I can tell, and I don’t want to spoil it for her. I learned quite a bit, I say. My daughter may be an extrovert but she, too, will be wandering a campus full of strangers in September. It may be uncomfortable for her at times, at least initially. This is all part of life.  It continues for some of us, even in our forties.

At a recent graduation party, I spotted my daughter inviting a quieter, second cousin to join her at a table full of teenagers. (It’s what I needed in that dining hall).  I couldn’t be prouder of her.