The other day my sister sent me a belated birthday gift, a book called Moon Lists: Questions and Rituals for Self-Reflection. It’s basically a thoughtfully guided journal, which seems like something that I would take to immediately. I love clear instructions, parameters, boundaries, frameworks; that’s where I thrive. It’s also just the right amount of woo-woo to match my sensibilities. But as I flipped through it I had some big feelings that made me feel like maybe it wasn’t for me. There was just enough ambiguity to leave me unsure of the “right” way to proceed (I know, I know, but it’s a thing for me). On top of that, the book provides examples for a variety of the pages/prompts, and the examples are painfully and intimidatingly highbrow. I’ll give you an example:
Who is the you of now?
A survey of present interests, curiosities, recurring themes…a space for a short list of some front-burner items:
- Puglia, Italy
- Orange blossom in the air
- Sparkling water
- Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” duet
- Mono no aware
I don’t even know what that last one means. I had to google it. I brought the book over to K and said, “Kira bought me this book for my birthday, and it’s such a thoughtful gift, but I don’t think I can do this.”
Let it be known that my sister is an incredibly thoughtful gift giver. It’s her love language. I’m currently wearing a stylish pair of blue light glasses that she begrudgingly (but thoughtfully) picked out for me for Christmas because I’m boring and a nerd. But this book was suddenly making me feel like I was simply not interesting enough to keep up. “I don’t have five new interesting ‘me’ things per month,” I told K. “And not only that, but there’s this page:”
A space for scraps
A space to preserve. Tape or insert something (or things) you’ve acquired this month, a tactile reminder of the present.
I showed Kristin. She gestured to the bottle of cheap wine on the counter. “Trader Joe’s….whatever that is. And what about those yogurt tops the kids are always leaving on the counter? You can tape those in.” I began to laugh and somehow immediately felt like maybe I could make this my own.
So with that, here we go. The me of now. “A survey of present interests, curiosities, recurring themes…a space for a short list of some front-burner items.” My moon list for the month. Maybe I’ll even keep this up and do it on a monthly basis. You won’t have to Google anything, I promise.
I’ve been sewing a lot lately. After making Jonah’s Halloween costume out of stretch crushed velvet I decided that it might be fun to try to make a knotted velvet headband like one K got me for Christmas a year ago. They’re cute but pricey and I thought I could do it for less (I can). Then recently I decided to try to make a simpler tie-style from the same brand, and discovered that they’re much easier and much faster. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no master seamstress. They’re a little bit crooked and the stitching isn’t perfect, but once you tie them that’s all unnoticeable. A few of my girlfriends have admired the ones that I wear so I decided to make them each one for Valentine’s Day. So now I guess we’re a velvet headband mom gang.
I grew up skiing, and I have absolutely magical memories spread across years of my childhood from those adventures. I loved skiing with my sister and our good friends and having so much freedom to just take off down the mountain and go where we pleased. When I was in middle school I was part of ski club and my mom would bring all of my ski gear to school (always packing my favorite candy bar in the pocket of my bag) and on a Thursday night a school bus would take us out to the slopes where they would let us loose with little more than the imperative to return by 10:00 p.m. or be left behind.
When Jonah came home from school this fall and announced that he wanted to join ski club I was surprised. I’d taken him once last winter and it wasn’t an instant success. But I was glad he was interested so we both signed up. We’ve had a practically snow-free winter, but we’ve been out on four Friday nights now and watching him learn and improve and fall in love with this sport has been magical. Even the drive there and back, just the two of us listening to music and talking, has been wonderful. One of his best friends from his class this year is learning alongside him and their friendship is so much fun to witness. The first night out they both begged to keep skiing until closing time. And as of this past Friday they’ve both conquered the chairlift, giving them a whole new sense of pride and enthusiasm. Who knows how long kids will stick with or love any activity, but something about this is giving me a glimpse down the road to some of the magic I loved as a kid, and I hope it plays out that way. In the meantime, I’m just loving the quality time and getting back on skis after roughly 25 years away.
Jonah and Vivienne started Karate back in early September. I found watching them to be so captivating and the art and discipline of it to be so interesting that I longed to give it a try. I bought a three-month Groupon and showed up for my first class in early December and it was probably the most humbling thing I’ve ever done. Every time I show up for class I have a vague sense of embarrassment and dread, but while I’m in it I always have a moment of clarity in which I’m reminded, “I really do enjoy this, and these people.” I said earlier that I’m all about rules and instructions and specifics, and karate is nothing if not that, yet I’m clumsy and unable to remember it all and make my arms and legs do what I want them to. But tiny Mrs. Thompson (a badass blackbelt and owner of the dojo who is probably nearly 80 years old and tough as nails) is patient and kind and laughs when I should know better but don’t. I love working with her to improve, little by little.
Not only that, but it’s been important for me to model for the kids that sometimes learning new things is a struggle, but hard work pays off bit by bit. That said, it’s expensive, and I think that when my three months are up (very soon) I’ll probably call it quits. But I’ll miss it, and feel a tiny bit guilty when I see the teachers at Jonah’s lessons. But hopefully I’ll never forget what it feels like to be terrible at something and to show up and do it anyway and keep on trying. It gives me a lot of empathy for my kids who are always learning so much, sometimes easily and sometimes through struggle. And maybe that makes me a better parent.
I’m under a rock most of the time these days, pop-culturally speaking. When a friend told us a few months ago that Jonah looks like Billie Eilish I had no idea who he was talking about. It took some time for me to look her up but when I finally did I discovered that he wasn’t wrong (it’s Jonah’s, “I’m not here for it” look, plus the lips and eyebrows and haircut). I showed Jonah and went down a You Tube rabbit hole checking out her music. Pretty soon Jonah was a fan and so was I. We listen to her in the car on the way to ski club, and while I’ve had some concerns about the appropriateness of it for a seven-year-old, I discovered at the school Valentine’s dance that he’s not the only first-grader requesting “Bad Guy,” and plenty of their moms are into it right along with me. Maybe I needed a little pop music in my life.
The Billie Eilish You Tube rabbit hole got me thinking (again) about the multitude of ways that children are raised and educated and what gives them the greatest opportunity to discover things they’re passionate about. She and her brother were home schooled, which presumably gave them oodles of time to do what they loved, and that turned out to be making music. I’ve wondered on and off whether not having our kids in any sort of intentional music education is depriving them of the chance to discover something they might love, but K always reassures me that it’s not necessary. After digging into the question once more I talked to a good friend (who was raised in a home with a five-years-minimum rule for music instruction) and decided that while we may not need to run out and sign them up for piano this instant, maybe we could build in some room for self-discovery by having an instrument or two around the house.
Over a decade ago I decided that I wanted to learn to play the guitar. My parents bought me one for Christmas and I signed up for a few rounds of adult-education guitar classes in the basement of the local high school. I never got very good at it and haven’t touched the guitar in years, but Jonah recently shared that he wishes I knew how to play it. I’d heard about Loog, a brand that makes cool kids guitars, months ago but never did anything with the information. I looked them up again and decided to buy the kids a guitar for Valentine’s Day.
It’s honestly very cool. It’s a kid-sized three-string guitar (tuned to the first three strings of a six-string), and it comes with chord flash cards and an app with video lessons. It’s enough to get me excited about learning how to play, and the kids seem excited about it too. Jonah sat with it today and went through two or three video lessons, and has enjoyed practicing chords with the app to check to see if the sound he’s producing is the right one.
Our kids may never discover a huge passion for music and maybe I won’t either, but it’s one more creative non-toy for them to experiment with as they wish and that’s never a bad thing. If nothing else, it’s one more opportunity for me to model for the kids that sometimes it’s fun just to try something new and see how it shakes out. I also can’t get enough of these pictures of them during their respective first “turn” with the guitar. Could they be any more uniquely them? If it fuels nothing more than imagination and pretend play, that’s fine with me.