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the importance of kindness…

5 Mar

I just finished reading “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio.

wonder book cover

It tells the story of a young boy, August Pullman, who is about to enter the 5th grade and a mainstream school for the very first time. Now to most middle schoolers, the idea of starting a new school is intimidating enough. But for August, or Auggie, the idea is especially painful. Auggie was born with a severe facial deformity that even he knows is hard to look at. The story unfolds as Auggie learns to manage the world of middle school. It is very interestingly told not only through the eyes of Auggie but also through the perspective of several of the other pre-teen and teenage characters that come into his life.

One of my favorite parts of the book is that Auggie’s English teacher Mr. Browne gives the students a new precept to consider each month. The first precept the students are introduced to is: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

It’s a simple but powerful phrase. The message is carried throughout the whole book–in a very middle school way–and leaves the reader thinking about the ways we treat and talk about others.

“Wonder” is one of those books that sticks with you after you are finished reading. Many books do of course, but this book had me thinking about how important it is that we remind our children day in and day out of the importance of kindness. The book couldn’t be more timely, as bullying is a hot topic is schools and in the media. For me, it’s one of the things I worry most about as a parent…that others aren’t unkind to my children and that my children always practice kindness.

If you have or know a 4th, 5th or 6th grader encourage them to read this book. In fact most all of us could learn a lot from Auggie Pullman and the other pre-teen and teenage characters this story revolves around. Our world needs to hear its message of kindness.

But we can’t just stop and acknowledge we need more kindness.  The author certainly didn’t stop with writing the book. She is challenging readers to commit to choosing kind at every opportunity.

Check it out and take the pledge here. And just choose kind!

being a giver…

26 Apr

Monday night I had the distinct pleasure of being a “Book Giver” for World Book Night.

The idea was simple and powerful. I was given a box of 20 copies of The Hunger Games (yes, I was squealing like a teenage girl!) to give away to random people…reluctant readers, readers who might not necessarily be able to get their hands on a book, or whomever I thought might just need a random act of bookness as part of their Monday night.

First, let me tell you I love this book…OK, I’ll say it…I’m obsessed with this book and all things related to it. So how cool that I found myself  holding copies in my hand that would allow me to share something so exciting with others?!

(my box of books just before distribution...and look at the fun cover!)

What might be even cooler is that there were something like 50 people chosen to do this (with a wide variety of titles…check them all out on the website) all over Cedar Rapids. Think about that…1,000 books were given out on Monday night right here in my hometown. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. Cedar Rapids was, in fact, one of the top twenty-five cities in the world participating in this event!

My dear friend Sara (whom I’ve gone on literary adventures with before) was also a giver (handing out The Book Thief…another of my favs and a must read). We decided to make a stop at Foundation 2, a local emergency shelter for youth between the ages of 11 and 17, who are experiencing a personal or family crisis, which makes it necessary to temporarily live away from home. I’ve known about this organization for quite some time and value the work they do in our community. We thought those kids just might like a new book on a random Monday night.

As soon as we set foot inside the door and mentioned free books the teens swarmed us like tracker jackers (oh but not venomous and out to kill us…bad analogy!) Let’s just say they were eager to get a copy and it was such fun handing the books out. But the best part was they’d take the book from us–very graciously I might add–then plop down on the couch, flip it open and start reading. Right then and there. Magical! And exactly the point.

Next Sara and I stopped to visit our old high school English teacher and surprise her with some books that she could then share with others. She was delighted. As we chatted it struck me that it was a very neat moment to be sharing with someone who helped shape and inspire my love of literature, especially young adult novels (with strong female protagonists I might add.)

As expected the whole thing was an awesome experience and I can’t wait for the official World Book Night to roll around again.

Maybe next year you’ll join me!

c is for cabin and canoe

20 Sep

Last week our family took a mid-week break (because we all work really hard by golly!) and spent the night camping at Pinocon Ridge Park near Central City, Iowa. We stayed in a great little cabin (please, I’m not really the tent camping type) with two sets of bunk beds (which the kids loved but I can’t say were very comfortable.)

We grilled cheeseburgers, roasted marshmallows and stayed up late. It was a wonderful crisp fall night.

The next morning we got up and headed out on a canoeing adventure (which I consider brave with a three-year-old in the canoe!) The morning was a bit brisk but the sun came out eventually and it was a marvelous day. The water on the Wapsipinicon River was very low (we actually got stuck on the bottom a time or two.) And we were quite literally the only ones out on the water, except for the wildlife that is. I would say it was peaceful, but then again I was in a small canoe with a three-year-old and a six-year-old who have no concept of being quiet while observing nature.

Since I allowed Tom to miss a day of school (which I rationalized because it was only a half day) I told him we had to make a list of all the wildlife we saw on our two-hour tour so he could share it with his class the next day. And despite the obnoxious noises being made by my wildlife, we were able to spot a few creatures.

Here’s the final list Tom came up with…*

On Our Canoe Trip We Saw

1. Turkey Vulture

2. Elk

3. Bald Eagle (actually we saw two and they were amazing)

4. Crane

5. Blue Heron

6. A Squirrel (this actually swam all the way across the river…had no idea squirrels could swim!)

7. Minnows

8. Deer

9. Goats

10. Horses

11. Cows

12. Sand Piper

13. Geese

14. Water Bugs

15. Dragonfly

16. A ? Head (yes, that’s right. We kept seeing a mysterious head pop out of the water but it would always dive back under the water before we could get close enough–or quiet enough–to see what it was. I’m told Tom’s class guessed it was a great white shark or an alligator. Thankfully I think they were wrong.)

There you have it. Just a lazy fall day on the river in Eastern Iowa with the Giorgio family. I’ll leave you with my favorite photo from our adventure.**

*Please note: I tried to scan the list Tom wrote up but it didn’t scan well. Which is unfortunate because it shows off his wonderful 1st grade penmanship 😉

**Again please note: Lucy is not actually scared in this photo. She is ULTRA dramatic and was just acting for effect 😉

school traditions…

26 Aug

Oh, joy! We have officially kicked off the new school year here at the Giorgio household!

I love this time of year for lots of reasons…but a big one is the annual first day of school photo. It’s such fun to take the photo each year and then look back at years past and see how big the kiddies have grown.

Here’s this year’s entry (please note: we typically take this photo on the front porch but there was a quite a thunderstorm the morning of the first day of school so we had to use the entryway)

Tom is in 1st grade this year (woohoo!) And Lucy will be starting preschool (although she doesn’t technically start until next week we let her in on the fun this week!)

I appreciate this tradition thanks to my mom. Every year she lined up me and my siblings in our cute little school uniforms. Here’s a gem from 1988. I was going into 2nd grade, my brother Joe was going into 1st and cute little Andy was starting preschool.

Joe gets the award for looking most excited!

It took a little photo digging at my mom’s house (I’ve inherited her lack of organization for family pictures unfortunately)to find this picture but it was totally worth it.

And I decided that I love these first day of school photos so much that I plan on following my children around all the way through college just so I can capture these great moments.

Here’s to a lifetime of learning!


summer days…

29 Jul

So all summer I keep wondering what is making it all go by so very quickly. I mean it’s almost August for goodness sake! But as I sat down now to write today I thought back on all that I have done in just the last week. And it started to click that while we haven’t done anything grand and vacationy this summer, we’ve been doing plenty to make the days fly by.

Last Thursday I enjoyed a night at The Classics at Brucemore…outdoor theatre featuring Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I have to admit I always enjoy the food, drinks (cucumber vodka and water please!) and gals I go with more than the actual performance (not that we don’t have amazingly talented performers in this fine city). It’s just that it’s all so picturesque and fun.

Then I spent the weekend taking part in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival in Iowa City. I participated in a picture book writing workshop where a fine group of aspiring and accomplished writers gave me very valuable feedback on my manuscript. (Now I just need to make time to implement changes!)

Then came a trip to the pool, a trip to the dentist (least favorite activity for sure), writing several stories, being assigned several more, swimming at our friends’ house, turning in our reading program materials at the CRPL, checking out a new spalshpad (are you sensing the water theme here? It’s been darn hot!), a parent association meeting (school is on the horizon) and a most enjoyable evening at Brucemore’s Outdoor Children’s Theatre. Such fun!

And those are just the highlights! I do have to keep up with the laundry and sweeping up all the hair the darn dog is shedding and grocery shopping (OK I haven’t been the best about keeping up with this lately!)

When I look at it this way I know why we’ve had such a busy–and FUN–summer.

Of course there’s more fun to be had (including an upcoming trip to St. Louis to meet my new favorite nephew!) and I fully intend to soak up every last minute. But I’m about to go break it to Tom that there are 24 more days left until school starts back up.

Wish me luck!

irish every day!

17 Mar

There’s no doubt St. Patrick’s Day is a grand holiday! I’m game for celebrating all things Irish. But I must say I am most proud to be Irish through and through…all year long. And you won’t catch me drinking green beer today (or any day for that matter.)

Anyway, I figured today I should dedicate a blog post to my Irish heritage. And instead of writing something new (hey, I’ve got corn beef and cabbage to cook!) I am simply sharing a link to a little piece I wrote with me sister two years ago. It explains well what we love about being Irish.

Katie and Maggie’s Favorite Things About Being Irish

And so, as the Irish say, thanks (well they pronounce it more like “tanks”) very much.


what’s the lime?

12 Jan

Today’s post is coming to you live from St. Lucia!

It’s true. The picture above is one I took from the beach (on the Caribbean Sea) looking up at our resort. Lucy and I were on a hunt for shells and rocks (one of her favorite collectibles even while I on vacation) and I couldn’t resist the view of the bright white villas against the lush green vegetation. Pure beauty that just screams sit back, relax and grab a strawberry daiquiri (of course I’ve had my fair share so far!)

St. Lucia is a beautiful island and the people here are incredibly friendly. In talking to the resort staff I discovered some local lingo (which I am always fascinated by.) “Lime” or “what’s the lime” is a phrase you hear often when talking about making plans for the evening or going out to enjoy yourself. This is a loose definition I was given of course, because the phrase has adapted and is used in many different ways by the people of St. Lucia. (It’s the name of the cell phone provider for example.)  

This local language discovery reminded me of my time spent studying and living in Ireland (totally different feel on that island!) But as a student one of the first things I was taught was that if someone asked “where’s the craic” they weren’t looking for drugs. “Craic” in Ireland is a term very much like “lime” in St. Lucia. It’s all about having a good time.

And so in the spirit of the island, I’m going to sit back and just enjoy the lime…

See you back stateside!