Sunday, June 22, 2014

The McMaynor Summer of Reading Plan

It's time to start blogging again. It has a been crazy, crazy year with summer now upon us, and I'm excited to be with my family. Ice tea and gardening. Family projects and travels. Movies and books. And so many stories already. At some point at the inception of summer break, Max and Todd had an interesting interchange that has evolved into a family summer reading challenge.

Max, an avid reader, says to Todd, rather randomly: You know how you say you don't read very much, Dad? 
Todd: Um, yes?
Max: Well, maybe you should read more. I challenge you to read ten books this summer. If you read ten, I will pay you a reward.

Max is so much like Brian! We can lose him for hours, only to find him either with his head buried in an engaging book or in a delicious game of Minecraft. This challenge sparked quite the conversation, and it evolved into all four of us planning to read ten books this summer. In partners (Max-Todd, Briggs-Susan), we decided each will choose five books for our own and then five books for our partner. I decided to take advantage of this awesome challenge and work with both my boys on writing book reviews.

So our summer of reading has begun....enjoy the reviews. And stay tuned for more.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
By Briggs Maynor

I read the book Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. He also wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabaret, which I read earlier this year. Wonderstuck is about a boy named Ben Wilson, who was born deaf in one ear and lived with his aunt and uncle in Gunflint Lake, Minnesota. Ben really wants to find his dad and goes on this journey to try and find him. He sets out by himself and then he finds his grandparents and they help him. His grandmother tells him the story of the life of the father. This book actually tells two stories, one in words and one in pictures. I liked this book and would recommend it because it has a lot of adventure and has two stories in it.

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
By Briggs Maynor

I just finished this book called The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson. The Familiars are animals who have special powers. This book is about Skylar, a bird who has the power to make illusions, a cat called Aldwyn who has the power of telekinesis, and a frog named Gilbert who has the power to see the future when he is looking into puddles. The main story revolves around these animals trying to save their Loyals, who are children in magic training. I am usually not a big reader, but this book was really good. It made me read nonstop, as much as I could, because it was so exciting. I recommend this book because it has magic, and it has a lot of adventure.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Summer Swim

Todd has been in the water since he was four, with summer leagues, winter leagues, high school swim team, even lifeguarding. My boys, on the other hand, prefer playing at the pool in the summer, maybe with a few lessons thrown in the mix. This summer, however, we abandoned our safe little pool play and entered into the world of summer swim team.  Oy.

Last spring, Todd accepted a position to be the head coach at a local swim and tennis club, one that his grandparents actually founded. And part of the deal when he decided to do this was that the boys would have to swim on the team for at least one season. We explained to them that many of the swimmers swam year round and all had been on a swim team before. The boys were definitely the newbies. Fine, they said. We'll do it.

Early morning practices and lane rope set-ups; 50 free, 50 breast and relays; diving off the block and DQ's---so many new things to learn and new experiences to grow and shape us. All of us.

I consider myself a quasi-organized person, so when the first swim meet rolled around, I felt confident I could handle it. Boys were good to go; Todd had prepped them on what to expect. He stayed heavily focused on all the details of the swim meet so instead of bothering him, I figured it is just like any other game, bring some snacks (pretzels and bars) and drinks, a couple of chairs, and we would be good to go. So I did just that. I even threw in a couple extra snacks after I learned that swim meets were several hours long. How about some mandarin oranges? That'll work.

We arrived at the pool (an away meet so I didn't even know the facility) and parked, and as I'm pulling my little bag of snacks out of the trunk, I noticed that most of the families unloading cars had large coolers. Maybe they have a ton of kids??  Maybe they are having dinner??   The boys will be fine, I tell myself. Armed with our bags and chairs, we journeyed the long hill up to the pool into the sea of swimmers, spectators, coolers and chairs. I will interject a confession here---this type of setting gives me total anxiety. Put me in a big city where I don't know anyone, I'm happy, happy. Put me in a small school setting where I know people, I'm totally fine. Put me in a small setting where I don't know anyone? I feel all wooden like Pinocchio and super anxious like Rabbit. It's a lovely combination. I tried not to look like I had no idea what I was doing, especially since I was married to the coach. I don't believe I succeeded.  I ended up finding a spot only to find out (after I set up our chairs) that I was in the other team's section. After "repacking", I did find a place, about three people deep from the pool (I can stand) and next to a trashcan (it was at least a few feet away) and I set up for the meet. The boys had disappeared earlier to their team so at this point, they came to find me because they were hungry. Being so proud that I was completely organized, I handed them each a bar and a Gatorade.

I only knew about three moms of swimmers, and I knew all of them before summer because our children attend the same school. One of the moms sat nearby to me and I noticed that she was writing on her child's arm with a Sharpie. A bunch of numbers. She noticed me and turned and said, "Do you need a Heat Sheet? The other team has them available for $1" What in the world is a Heat Sheet?? And cash?? I never have cash. Maybe there is a Sharpie in the car.  She must have noticed my complete ignorance, and quickly explained how it all worked--the Heat Sheet, the Sharpie, the whole thing. Okay, so maybe the swim meet is not really like just any old game with snacks and chairs. Pride swallowed once again. Todd had a couple of dollars, I borrowed a Sharpie, and my boys were all set up with their event info on their arm.

It wasn't long before the boys were back over asking for more food. I gave them the bag of pretzels, the mandarins and water, because the Gatorades were gone. After an hour or so with one event under our belt, I had two more starving boys and this time I didn't have much to give them. I noticed that several moms were pulling out sandwiches, wraps, bins of fruit---okay, I get it. The regular snacks won't work. Looks like I need to invest in a cooler.

The rest of that evening, I had many, many aha moments. I replaced my anxiety with humility and peace, asked lots of questions, made new friends, and watched all my boys make great accomplishments. Both boys swam their events without getting DQ'd (disqualified), Todd coached his first swim meet as head coach, and no one fainted from hunger. We did hit McDonald's later---Briggs said it was the best chicken sandwich he had ever eaten! (He has them all the time---thinking it just hit the spot that night.)

Redemption once again prevailed on our road of sanctification. I left that night both humbled and wiser. Before the second swim meet, I bought a new cooler, new chairs, ice packs to keep sandwiches cool, put Sharpies and $1's in our swim bag, and even offered to take pictures at the swim meets, because I figured that would be a great way to meet people. The boys, at that first meet, only swam one event (they were nervous) and didn't dive off the block. Now, two swim meets later, they swim at least three events and dive off the block. And no one goes hungry.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Birthday Surprise

The past few weeks, I've had the absolute pleasure of editing my son's fifth grade recognition video. We were brand new to this school last year, and it hasn't been the easiest year of our lives. Adjustments, navigating through change, making new friends--it can be taxing, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. We've grieved being away from "home" and our community in St. Louis. We've reminded ourselves over and over again of God's calling on our lives, that He wants us here, and we are to be faithful to His calling. Like Isaac. Like Abraham. Like all those before us who stepped out in faith, even when it didn't make sense to anyone except God. Being the new kid myself at the school, I had no idea who was in charge of what, and somehow, because God truly does know our hearts, the whole video landed right in my lap.

As I've edited this week, watching baby pictures morph into school pictures and listening to beautiful songs about dreaming big and being in the hall of fame, I'm reminded of how amazing it is to be a mom, to walk alongside my children as they grow and experience this broken world. I don't know many of the kids in the 5th grade this year. I don't know too many of the families. And we don't have memories from parties, projects, and field trips. But, we all have one thing in common--our love for our children. We passionately love who they are now and who they are becoming.

I'm so blessed to be the mother of Max and Briggs. I can only imagine God, in His glory as He planned the world, designing our little family and the story that is ours.  My guess it was a creative, colorful mess of a design!

Today is my birthday, and my two not-so-little boys surprised me at 5:30 and "kidnapped" me to take me to breakfast. A few days before, Todd and the boys had gone to Panera and bought a gift card with just enough money to take us all out to breakfast. The boys insisted they wanted to "pay" for breakfast. Max predicted and calculated what everyone would order and the cost. Briggs picked out the card, and Todd tended to all the details of the morning.

Yep, kind of makes my heart melt (even at 5:30 a.m.)!

Thank you, dudes. I love you like a circle!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Happy 9th, Briggs!

Dearest B:

Your twinkly eyes delight us.
Your endless chatter entertains us.
Your feisty spirit challenges us.
Your artistic hand blesses us.
Your compassionate heart encourages us.

What a gift you are to us. 
We love you like a circle--endless and always. 

Mom, Dad, and Max

I remember our summers in the sandbox as if they were yesterday.... are growing into a tender warrior.

Monday, March 18, 2013


"Mom, can we play the iPad?" The daily question.

"Mom, please don't interrupt me and hear my reasoning. I think we should play the iPad because..." Well, I did teach them to present an argument with at least three reasons.

"Mom, I figured out that PhotoStory app and I really want to work on my story, so can I use the iPad?" Ummm...problem-solving, creativity, and story design.

"I'm just going to check the weather....." For the 10th time today??

"May I practice my math facts?" Which translates into can-I-practice-for-five-minutes-and-then-play-Minecraft.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Mom.  Check your e-mail. We sent you our cards."