Monday, January 5, 2015

Making Greg Heffly Disappear

This is what it's come to--I may ban books. Or at least hide them for a while.

We are a family of readers. On most days, my chief tidiness complaint is that my house looks like it's suffered a library explosion. Books and magazines are littered everywhere. Everywhere a child was last reading one, at least.

This is a wonderful problem to have. The problem is that I keep shelving the same books over and over and over.

I don't want to ban books because their themes are too advanced for my children. I want to ban them because they are too simplistic. The entire shelf containing the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate series is about to disappear. I might sweep away the rest of the graphic novels while I'm at it.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against graphic novels when they are one type of book in a person's reading repertoire. In particular, if a graphic novel gets a reluctant reader or a child who has difficulty reading to pick up a book, then I think it's a fabulous thing.

My children do not fall into those categories. They are good readers who love to read. Yet rather than choose new and complex material, they repeatedly read the same handful of off-color comics. We have shelves of books they've never read. Instead, they choose the same simple, funny ones they've read a million times. Day after day after day.

It's mind-numbing just thinking about it.

For a while, I justified the habit. Perhaps, after a day of school, they wanted something mindless that didn't require advance comprehension and vocabulary skills.

That justification was all well and good until they stopped reading everything else. I haven't seen a child holding a new book of prose that wasn't a school assignment in months.

It has to stop. They are missing so much. My elder child who prided himself on reading well above his grade level doesn't bother. My younger child with the extensive vocabulary almost exclusively reads books well below her aptitude level. When she reads anything slightly more challenging, she often doesn't finish it.

These are horrible reading habits for people who love to read. And they must be stopped.

I've waited for this phase to end, but it looks like I'm going to have to force its conclusion. If I confiscate their go-to books and replace them with quality books that are more challenging, will they take the bait?

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Should I continue to put the same books back on the shelf day after day until they've lost interest? They aren't going to take Diary of a Wimpy Kid to college, right? What would you do?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

We Do Christmas Trees

At the risk of bragging, our family has mastered one aspect of Christmas decorating. We have the whole Christmas tree thing down.

But only through trial and error.

2007 - We had a 13-month-old.

When we moved to New England with two little kids, I insisted we go to a tree farm and choose our tree while it was still in the ground. This is what New Englanders do. It would create a lifetime of happy family memories.

Except that it was always freezing cold. And we were all miserable.

And my husband and I have no more ability than our small children to determine whether a tree is the correct size for the room. So ceiling scratches became part of the tradition.

Surprisingly, we knew this was too big.

Then there was the year it was so wide that we had to cut all the branches off the tree before we could get it out of the house.

2009 - It was so pretty.

Until we had to get it out of the house.

Of course the tree fell down. More than once. (Fortunately, it seemed precarious from the start, so I'd hung all the fragile and meaningful ornaments on a tabletop ornament tree.)

In a feat of strength and coordination that still amazes me, I single-handedly picked up the tree and balanced it while tying fishing line around it and to eye bolts I'd inserted into the window and door trim.

The tree process was not good for marital harmony. Always good for the holidays.

Somehow, the bickering and the cold and the falling tree all seemed par for the course. It was the spiders that changed my mind.

My son was four or five the year he asked what all the little black dots on the living room ceiling were. I told him there weren't any dots. Since he didn't yet need corrective eyewear, his vision was better than mine. There were black dots. Lots of black dots. And when you stood on the furniture to see what the black dots were, it became apparent that they were spiders. Lots and lots of baby spiders that thought the warmth of our living room indicated the arrival of spring and had hatched from the egg sac concealed somewhere on that gargantuan tree we had frozen our butts off selecting at the tree farm.

We don't go to the tree farm anymore. Our family tradition is that we go to the garden shop near the grocery store, about five minutes away. We go to that shop--and only that shop--because they offer in-town free delivery.

2012 - Finally figured it out.

Every year, I (again) measure the height of the living room ceiling (8.5') before we leave the house. I tell the tree guy our ceiling height, he offers 1-3 selections, and we choose. The whole thing takes less than five minutes, including paying and scheduling delivery.

If we get one of the younger delivery guys, we tip him extra to bring it in the house and set it in the stand. Someone holds the tree steady while I tighten it. Then I take a long piece of fishing line, wrap it around the tree, and tie that tree to the wall.

But I still display all the fragile and special ornaments elsewhere. You can never be too sure.

That folks, is how it's done.

2014 - Impulsive grainy iPhone pic. But the tree is secure.