Deep in the forest, you might hear playful music and tinkling laughter. If you follow it, you might stumble on a place crafted from intricately twisted branches, glossy emerald leaves, and soft petals donated by majestic blossoms. Boughs heavy with Spring gracefully arch far overhead, permitting golden sunshine to dapple the patrons below. Mothers smile as children laugh and play. Bards tell their tales of love and woe. Nymphs and dwarves and humans curl up on soft moss, buried in enchanting tales. Here, the spring water is always cold and the sweets are, well, sweet.

Welcome to The Lily Cafe.

 

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The Weekly Question #1

Last year I had two types of posts that I enjoyed doing: Getting to Know you and daily questions. Mostly due to lack of time, I ended up stopping both, but now I’d like to bring the spirit of them back in the form of a weekly question. Feel free to answer. I’d love to get to know you better!

Do you prefer physical books, ebooks, or audiobooks?

Reading is a huge part of my life, even now as a mom of two. My husband and I read to our kids at naptime and bedtime, so we always have to have books on hand. So, of course, a book question had to be first.

Physical books have a very special place in my heart. I love turning the pages and smelling a brand new book. I’m sorry, but the musty smell of old books just makes me want to cough. I’m a little sensitive to certain smells. I think being able to flip through the book and back to the beginning for the maps in fantasy books is my favorite.

But I had a problem. I liked the big, heavy books, the kind of book you have to carry around because it’s too big to fit anywhere else. Ebooks became a bit of an arm saver. I love being able to tote around hundreds of books (literally) wherever I go and not even notice the weight. Of course, I miss being able to flip through the pages, but at least I always have more than one book with me. Because I carried two books with me whenever I was close to finishing one. In high school, people I didn’t know knew me as the girl with the big books.

I’ve never gotten into audiobooks and have only listen to one, so, obviously, they are not my preferred method of enjoying a book. I really don’t think they will be, either. I ended up zoning out through half of the book I listened to. Not good.

What about you? Which do you prefer?

Raven, Chapter 13

The Thief Lords opposed my claim. But the followers kept coming. I rewarded and paid my people. I treated them like people, not servants. Two of the Thief Lords came for my head. But they lost their lives. Their followers quickly became my own.

-writing on the cell wall

 

Lady Almi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She couldn’t believe what she had been seeing. All she could do was stare into her daughter’s defiant gaze as the girl tried to explain what she was trying to do.

Tyala hadn’t answered when she’d been called for supper. Lord Almi had asked his wife to see what was keeping their child. Tyala never missed a meal. Slim as she was, Tyala could eat. Rolling her eyes and muttering that the girl was probably daydreaming again, she had gone to find her daughter, only to find her hastily pulling out all of her clothes and stuffing them into bags.

“What are you doing?” Lady Almi had shrieked.

Tyala had bolted straight up, not having heard her mother’s approach. Her mother’s cry had also brought her father to join them. He hadn’t looked surprised, but he did have a reproachful look, as though he knew his daughter’s plans, but couldn’t believe she was putting her mother through this.

“What is going on up here?” Lord Almi had asked in his deep, calm voice.

“I don’t want to be a part of this feud,” Tyala had said stubbornly. “So, I’m going to run away.”

Lord Almi had shaken his head. “You’re only sixteen, Tyala. Old enough to be married but certainly not old enough to live on your own. Where in Needle City would you go? Where would you go where we could not find you?”

Tyala had tilted her chin up slightly, the stubborn chin she had inherited from her mother. “We’re going to leave Needle City and go to Aunt Celycia’s home in Mercaido City.”

Lady Almi’s eyebrows had arched so high they nearly disappeared under her hairline. “We?”

Tyala’s slender body had jerked slightly at that and a flush had come over her face, but she remained silent, pressing her lips together. She took a step back and stared at her mother with silent reproach.

“Tyala,” Lord Almi said gently. “What do you mean by ‘we’?”

“That’s none of your concern,” Tyala had whispered.

Now they stood staring at each other. Lady Almi had collapsed onto her daughter’s large bed and Lord Almi had clasped his hands behind his back. Tyala had backed up against the window, he back resting against the cool glass.

Lady Almi shook her head. “But…why? Why, Tyala?”

Tyala looked away. “I don’t believe in this feud. I don’t want to be a part of it. It’s ruined so many lives, cut so many lives short. Lord Sarlik killed someone a few nights ago, someone who was probably somehow involved with this feud. Caidy is in fits over it.”

Lady Almi’s eyes narrowed. “Caidy? Caidy Sarlik is in fits? And how would you know this, Tyala?”

The girl’s eyes darted between her parents. Her father knew she didn’t want to be a part of the feud, but he didn’t know she was best friends with Caidy Sarlik. She found no sense of safety in her father’s face. Her mother was staring hard at her with anger flaring up in her eyes.

“Caidy and I are classmates at the Academy,” Tyala whispered. “You knew that.”

“But you are not in school right now.” Lady Almi’s voice sounded dangerous and it scared Tyala.

“No,” Tyala said, her voice quivering, “but Caidy and I became friends. Good friends. She doesn’t want to be a part of this feud, either. So, we’ve decided to run away to Mercaido City.”

Lady Almi stood up quickly. “You will do nothing of the sort,” she said, her voice sounding powerful, so powerful it made her husband flinch and her daughter cringe. “You will stay here and do as your duty demands.”

With that, the woman swept up her daughter’s clothes and bags and stormed from Tyala’s rooms. Lord Almi looked over at his daughter with sadness in his eyes.

“Father,” Tyala whispered.

He shook his head. “You brought this on yourself, Tyala. I understand your desire to not be a part of this feud, but to run away?”

With that said, he shook his head and left Tyala alone.

 

“What do we do?” Lady Almi asked as she and her husband rested in their bed later that night. Their children were already tucked in to their beds and they had locked the windows and door to Tyala’s chambers so the girl couldn’t run away. “We’ve essentially imprisoned our own daughter. But she has to carry on this feud.”

“Against her best friend?” Lord Almi replied musingly as he stared up at the ceiling. “I don’t think either girl will like that.”

“But this feud has been in our blood for generations,” Lady Almi argued. “It can’t be ended just because two girls disagree with it. I was in her shoes when I was her age and look how I turned out. Tyala will come around. She has to.”

“I don’t know, dear. She seems to have made up her mind.”

“Then we’ll have to unmake it.”

“And how do you propose we do that?” Lord Almi asked dryly, certain that nothing could sway their daughter to stay and take her place in this feud. She was as strong minded as her mother.

That question silenced Lady Almi. There was no good answer to that. They could imprison her, but that would only make their daughter hate them all the more. They could forbid her from seeing Caidy again, but Tyala would become rebellious and find a way to run away anyways. She knew herself, so she knew her daughter. She recognized some of the girl’s antics, wondered if Tyala had been talking to some of the long-time servants who had served her family when she had been growing up.

“We have to keep her away from Caidy,” Lady Almi finally said. “Caidy is Sarlik’s only child. She will be taking up the feud after her father’s death. It will one day be Tyala and Caidy against each other. We must make them enemies.”

Lord Almi lifted an eyebrow and turned his head to look at his wife. “And how do we do that?” he asked, exasperation lacing his voice.

Lady Almi settled down, not quite sure herself of how to do that.

“We make Caidy take over her father’s place,” she finally said.

Lord Almi shook his head. “Wouldn’t she more likely proclaim an end to the feud in that case?”

“I hadn’t thought of that.” Lady Almi looked deflated. There appeared to be no way to make their daughter and Caidy turn on each other. It looked like they were going to lose their daughter, all because of silly childhood nonsense.

Her head beginning to hurt, Lady Almi kissed her husband on the cheek and then rolled over to fall asleep. But Lord Almi couldn’t follow suit. Of all his children, he loved Tyala best. She shared his spirit and values. They were like two peas in a pod. He would be devastated to lose her. He agreed with her that the feud had to end, but he didn’t want to lose his little girl.

And idea began to nudge at his mind. He knew it would only wrap him further into the feud, but it was the only way he could make his daughter stay. His wife was right; they had to turn the girls on each other. They had to make Caidy hate her best friend, no matter how much that would break Tyala’s heart. He had to find a way to make Caidy hate his daughter and have her turn on Tyala. And the feud was the only way he could do that.

Caidy had to take her father’s place. Yes, that could give her the opportunity to end the feud, but they could also infuriate her, make her want to retaliate for the death of her father.

Yes. That was it. Lord Sarlik had to die. Caidy had to take her father’s place. Caidy had to be infuriated enough to make her retaliate against the Almis. Then the feud would continue on as his wife wanted and Caidy and Tyala would no longer be friends. And Tyala would stay. His little girl wouldn’t run off, never to be seen in Needle City again.

He hated the idea. He hated having to ask one of the Thief Lords to murder a man, but that’s what they were there for. His wife would be pleased with him, but he knew he was going to go straight to the dark underworld lord himself.

Quietly, Lord Almi slipped out of the bed. His wife was a sound sleeper, so he didn’t worry too much about waking her. She had never been a light sleeper. If anything happened, he would have to work hard to wake her. So, he dressed quickly and threw on a dark cloak, pulling the hood up to cover his face.

Slipping out of the manor was easy to do. The children were asleep and his wife wasn’t stirring. The night was cool and dark, and it was well past midnight.

Lord Almi wasn’t completely sure of what he was doing, but he had to keep his daughter with him. He couldn’t lose one of his children. He only hoped that one of the Thief Lords could help him.

Nyana had talked about one of them. The female Thief Lord, she had said. Her name was Raven, but Lord Almi had no idea how to reach Raven. He only knew how to get to the slums.

Should I…Bookstagram?

Over the past year, I’ve seriously been struggling with social media. It’s been a combination of I don’t enjoy it and I don’t have time with a healthy dose of feeling eh about it all thrown in.

Except this thing called Bookstagram keeps whispering in my head.

Honestly, a year ago, I had no idea what it was because I was brand new to Instagram. But, over on WordPress, I was following a lot of readers and book bloggers and that word kept popping up. Bookstagram.

A year ago, I was also going through a really bad book slump, so I just filed it away and did nothing but try to figure out what to do with these social media accounts I’d created for my blog.

Signing up for NetGalley on a whim while my son was at playschool and my daughter was napping really got me out of my slump and I’ve gone barely a day without reading. My bookish life is going full steam ahead! Have you noticed I post a bit more about books these days?

Reading has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve always described myself as a reader. I read so much I’m books behind on reviews.

Bookstagram

I can’t get that whisper to shut up.

Since I started up this blog again last January, I’ve been adamant about not being a mom blogger. I’m a mom who blogs, but writing about motherhood is only one small part, so I hate calling this a mom blog. Despite the fact that a healthy number of my followers are moms.

But I won’t be a book blogger, either. I can’t just write about books. I could fill my schedule with bookish posts, but I’ll tire of that quickly.

That’s why I call The Lily Cafe a lifestyle blog.

But social media became a big problem. Simply trying to post about my reading-writing-baking-momming-eclectic life wasn’t working. And I was having zero fun.

Helloooo….Bookstagram…

I don’t know if this post even makes sense. But I’m going to give Bookstagram a shot, though I definitely won’t be posting over there every day. The blog will remain the same. Eventually I might figure out Twitter, but it’ll be awhile.

Motherhood is Magical: Redefining The Lily Cafe

Lately, I’ve been struggling with my motherhood posts. I’ve gotten caught in wanting to both fit in with other mom bloggers even though motherhood is only one focus of The Lily Cafe and with trying to talk about the kind of mom I am, which sometimes is at odds with what other mom bloggers write about.

I adore reading mom blogs. I’ve found honesty, funny stories, encouragement, and a plethora of ideas. But the more and longer I read them, the more I feel out of place. After trying to fit in last year, I decided to focus on my mom truths and write about how I raise my kids, even if it differs from what many other moms do because maybe there’s another mom or dad out there who does things the same way I do. And I’ve found them, and it’s made me feel less alone.

But I’ve been struggling lately. I somehow went from talking about my particular style of motherhood to getting so caught up in it that I feel like I’m just earnestly writing with no real goal. Am I simply telling my story? Am I trying to tell other moms there are many ways of doing things? Am I, goodness forbid, trying to get moms to do things my way? I’ve lost sight of what I’m doing.

So, I’m changing things. I’ve taken a hard look at who I am as a person because that informs how I parent. My values are the ones I’m handing down to my kids, so they guide me. I trust my instincts and my background in psychology to help steer me. I don’t have all the answers, but I have a lot of handy tools and knowledge.

At my core, I’m a dreamer. I believe in magic. When I was a kid, I had a doll I loved so much that I used to wish on a star that she would come to life. Of course, she never did. But, even today, my heart still hopes. As an adult, I see the magic life has to offer. It’s subtle, but beautiful, and it’s something I want to pass down. I want my kids to enjoy life and see how magical it is. It’s not always easy, but there’s something beautiful about a new sunrise.

Motherhood is magical. I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t hard sometimes. But I can’t help but see how magical it is. Having kids is a great excuse to return to childhood, to recapture the dreams I once had, the joy I once experienced, the imagination that still drives me into the pages of a fantasy book. Being able to remember my childhood and the sheer fun I had makes me yearn to give the same to my kids. I want them to have fun, to explore, to get messy and creative, and develop a larger than life imagination. I want them to believe in magic, too.

That’s the kind of mom I am. I can’t write about the hard days, the tough times, the days when my kids only seem to tantrum and melt down. I can’t because I can hardly remember them. I know I discipline them in the moment, I know I have sturdy boundaries. I know what I’m doing when they misbehave. But, at the end of the day, I only remember the funny things they said and did, the giggles and bright smiles, the excitement of doing something they don’t get to do everyday, the unmatched joy on their faces as they eat a piece of chocolate.

I’m sure I can relate to just about any mom. I’m sure I’m tired and just want a break. I’m sure there are days when I just want to cry because it was that bad. I’m sure there are times when I question myself as a mom. But I just can’t remember. So, if you stumble across this blog looking for this, you’re probably not going to find it.

I’m not seeking to fit in or not fit in with other mom bloggers. I’m going to make my own place and sit happy. I’m not going to give advice, how to guides, and write about all the baby gear you do and don’t need. I’m not going to try to sell you anything but books. This is where I’m going to write about who I am as a person and mother and how that informs how I parent. I’m going to write about how I do it, how I find motherhood to be mostly a breeze, and how glorious I find parenthood to be. I don’t aim to be the mom who talks about how wonderful motherhood is in opposition to all the moms who keep it real, because this is real to me. I can’t do the nitty and gritty because I just don’t choose to see and focus on it. Besides, do you really need another mom to keep it real, to tell it how it is? I also don’t want to be that mom that people point to and say she’s sugar coating motherhood. If I talk about how wonderful motherhood is and nothing else, it’s because that’s really how motherhood is for me. I can’t say it enough: I just don’t focus on the hard parts. My brain doesn’t seem to let me.

To me, motherhood is magical. I hope you embark on this magical journey with me, but I won’t take it personally if you decide to depart the Cafe. Here’s to many wonderful adventures on this journey called parenthood!

The Lily Cafe Digest, No. 2

This year, I’m doing a 6+1 blogging schedule of 6 weeks blogging followed by a one week break. Since it’s time for another Digest, it’s also time for another blogging break. Enjoy, and thank you so much for following!

A Look Back

Mother Mondays

Most of my Monday posts over the past 6 weeks have been on the serious side. Two of them seem to go against the grain, so to speak, but, to my surprise, got more of a response than I had expected. I know the norm is for moms to immediately seek out a mom tribe, but I chose to isolate myself from other moms and I think it helped me become the confident mom I am today. I was so glad to know I wasn’t alone! I’m also not the kind of parent to put a screen in front of my kids. They have free access, but devices are not allowed out of our home.

There are a few things I have going for me that helps make motherhood relatively easy. I have a background in psychology and child development, so I’ve started a new series called Parenting with Psychology and wrote about how Erikson’s developmental stages help guide me in raising my children. I have also given my kids reasons why they can’t or have to do something. It may make me exercise my tired brain more, but they’re more likely to behave and less likely to repeat bad behaviors.

But motherhood isn’t always easy. My daughter is almost 2 and still doesn’t sleep through the night. Fortunately (?), I’m often so sleep deprived that I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Those days can be tough, but there are a few things I do to help make those days easier.

Finally, for some fun, I wrote about the tongue. Having kids really made me learn a few things. I was surprised by what I learned about the tongue, but I definitely should have known it.

Raven

I believe we’re about halfway through of what I’ve actually written. Yup, that means this is an unfinished story. I know exactly how it ends. I just have to actually write it.

Raven’s life has been shaken up recently with the lose of someone very dear to her. There are also uncertain times brewing and all the Thief Lords need to be on guard. Oh, and a daughter will never look at her father the same way again.

Chapter 7|Chapter 8|Chapter 9|Chapter 10|Chapter 11|Chapter 12

Free For All Fridays

I think I’ve been plodding along quite nicely in my ratio baking journey. I’ve really enjoyed not having to use as much brain power to bake. Ratio baking is easier on my brain, and much easier to do than using a recipe with kids around.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading lately. I may have posted only 3 reviews, all 3 books courtesy of NetGalley, but I’ve read much more than that. I’m a big fan of self-published books, but am always sad when I pick up a very promising story only to find the book was poorly edited. I read for those gems, but my heart aches when it’s not executed well.

More generally related to lifestyle, I finally got around to talking about the KonMari method and how it fits into my family’s life. Well, actually, how it doesn’t fit. I grew up with a dad who collects furniture, so I found her method appealing, but completely impractical with my family.

Book reviews: The Psychology of Zelda|The Emerald Queen|The Perfect Assassin

Looking Forward

Mother Mondays

There are many things rattling around in my head. I’m really trying to focus on the way I parent and am achingly aware of how it seems to differ from the vast majority of how other moms do it. But it’s what I do, what works for my family, and I’m happy. There are times I’d like to fit in more with mom bloggers, but I’ve never been one to follow the crowd. I’ll have another installment of Parenting with Psychology as well as how I’ve become a put-together mom. I don’t expect any of my planned posts to be popular since I tend to diverge from what so many moms actually do, but it’s what this mom does and maybe there are others.

Raven

Not much to say here. I won’t spoil anything. But, as Jennifer Zeiger commented, the fall out should be interesting. I definitely had a few arguments with some of my characters, and I think they’re much more stubborn than I am, and I’m a Taurus (I don’t actually follow astrology, but people like to note my stubbornness must come from being a Taurus)!

Free For All Fridays

I’ll of course be continuing my adventures in ratio baking and my life between the pages, though this time I’ll be focusing on what I think about cover art. And you can definitely count on more book reviews. They’re still stacking up.

Other News

I’m planning on making a few changes to the blog and it’ll probably touch on everything. I’ve already changed the logo and tagline to better reflect what I’ll be focusing on from here on out, or at least until I change my mind again. I’m notoriously indecisive. For now, I’m taking a more…magical approach and adding a few new items.

Favorite Posts from Around the Blogging Community

Mostly because I feel self-centered about writing a whole post about my own blog, but also because there are so many lovely blogs I enjoy and want to share them with you. Here are some of my favorite posts from the last 6 weeks. I do hope you check them out and give them a follow.

How to Overthrow “The Man,” According to YA Lit by The Cozied Reader: I can’t tell you how much I loved this! It’s exactly why I don’t enjoy reading YA books. She has also written similar How to Guides and I tend to think they’re very accurate. So, whether or not you enjoy reading, take a look around her site and give her a follow.

Imparting Emotions (Magicooking!) by Andrew Mowere of The Association of Merry Makers: One of three writers who run the blog, he wrote Adventus and is currently writing another book in the same world. I’m quite interested in this one as it involves food and cooking and I enjoy a good cookbook, especially a magical one. Too bad it can’t cook for me. I especially enjoyed this snippet he posted and most sincerely wish the eggs he wrote about were real.

So You Wanna Help a Mother, Do Ya? by I Didn’t Want to Be a Mother: Being a mom is tough. No mom will ever say it isn’t in some way hard, even me. Especially here in the States, we lack support. This mom gives an all too realistic look into what motherhood is like, and lets you know exactly how you can actually help a mom out. So, whether you’re a mom or know a mom, read this!

Cut the Cord by Better Than Fine: Written by a mom and Kindergarten teacher, this post really struck a chord in my heart, especially since my oldest is rapidly approaching his Kindergarten start date. She writes about the effect technology has on the kids she teaches and, frankly, it scares me. I’ve definitely cut back on suggesting my son’s tablet when he complains he has nothing to do.

Just the Way You Are by Brooke Cutler: Quite possibly one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever encountered, Brooke isn’t just a lovely mom, but also an all-around beautiful person. Her outlook on life is infectious and I can’t help but see the beauty and magic all around us. Her posts always touch my heart and make me smile and see a little more of the sparkle that life exudes.

The Voice on the Other End of the Phone by The Glorious Train Wreck Mom: This mom does something I could never, ever do. She works in customer service. You know, the people others like to belittle and scream at whenever something goes wrong. You know you do it, and she’s here to say cut it out. Just because they’re in customer service doesn’t mean they can solve all of your problems, doesn’t mean they have all the answers, doesn’t mean they have the answers you expect, and doesn’t mean they don’t deserve your utmost respect. After reading what she deals with, I definitely think customer service representatives should be saints. So, be kind.

“That Mom” vs “Bat Mom” by Early Childhood with Ms. Jane: This is one of the newest blogs I’m following and I can’t wait to read more from her. She’s been in early childhood education for years and is a fountain of wisdom. And guess what? In her eyes, if you’re really paying attention to your kids and don’t want to be that mom who goes talking to the teachers and principal, you’re already a superhero. So just do it.

Thank you so much for reading!

With much appreciation, kat

Raven, Chapter 12

Aven and I worked hard to bring in loyal followers. They were shy of following a girl, but I proved myself to them. I was a good leader, kind, but firm, giving, yet demanding. My followers were steadfastly loyal. Finally, it was time to face the remaining Thief Lords to establish myself as one of them. It was Aven who gave me my new name. He put an “R” before his own name, to signify I came from him, and called me Raven.”

-writing on the cell wall

 

She couldn’t sleep. The sun had risen, but she couldn’t sleep. No matter what she did, she just couldn’t sleep. So, she took Onna and Salaida and Kythi to the bath house. A good soak might do her body some good, and it helped that the water was warm.

Raven was furious with herself. She had just barely missed murdering Sarlik as he slept. She had just barely missed feeling his blood on her hands. She had just barely missed getting her revenge for Aven’s death.

Onna was wary of her mistress. Raven was stewing, but she wouldn’t speak. She guessed that Raven’s mission had failed, but she didn’t know how or why. Raven never failed at a job.

Now, Raven was sunk down up to her neck. Her eyes were closed and her head was leaning back on a rolled towel. Onna could see her body was tense and her lips were pressed in a firm line. Raven was very displeased.

Salaida and Kythi kept their distance, following Onna’s silent instructions, communicated to them through subtle gestures. The two young girls were to keep their distance and serve Raven silently and quickly. She didn’t know what Raven’s mood was, but could tell she was tightly coiled.

Cautiously, Onna dared to approach, swimming to join Raven at her side. After all, she was the young woman’s adviser. If she couldn’t get close, who could? Aven had trained her well and she knew he would have gone to her side. Of course, she wasn’t Aven, but she was hand-picked and trained by him to take his place. That had to count for something.

Raven felt a disturbance in the water as Onna slowly approached her. She barked out a laugh, startling the girl. “Aven would do the same. He trained you well, Onna,” she said without opening her eyes.

“He did select me, Raven,” Onna said quietly, cautiously. “If you can’t trust me, who can you trust?”

Slowly, Raven blinked open her eyes and turned to look at Onna. The girl was almost blown away from the depth of Raven’s grief evident in her dark eyes. Raven was far beyond tears; now her eyes were just veiled, but the overwhelmingly sadness could not be masked.

“I left him to die,” Raven whispered. “I left his body to others. I should have brought him home. Why didn’t I bring him home?”

“You did what you had to. You did what Aven would have wanted you to.”

Raven turned away from Onna. She couldn’t stand the look of sympathy on the girl’s face. Aven would have just told her things happen and she had to take them, otherwise why should she call herself a Thief Lord. He was hard on her, but he knew just how far he could go. He had always pushed her, pulled her, stretched her. There was no one else who could do that for her, not even his hand-picked successor.

“Leave me, Onna,” Raven said, her voice tired.

Raven took in a deep breath and then closed her eyes and leaned her head back. Onna looked at her for a moment, watching her breathe and mourn, before turning away and rejoining the bath attendants.

“Is she okay?” Kythi asked in a hushed tone. The petite fourteen-year-old was new and had been taken in to be a bath attendant, a protector to Raven. She was still in awe of the young Thief Lord.

Onna turned to look over her shoulder at their quiet mistress. The water was hardly disturbed around her body. She almost appeared to be dead. Onna remembered how they had lost Sasha here just a few weeks before. But Aven’s death was hitting her harder. Never had Raven lost so many people in so short a time. It had to be weighing heavily on her.

She turned back to Kythi. “I don’t know,” she admitted.

 

A smile spread across Corinn’s face as his lookout reported what he had seen. This was just the icing on the cake after the news of Aven’s death. He wasn’t completely sure of what it all meant, but it did point to an unstable Raven. She was devastated, as the boy was telling him. It had been days and she was still in deep mourning.

Raven wouldn’t be thinking clearly. She could be impulsive and have her guard down. Of course, she could be reacting differently and be even more sharper. She could make many mistakes, or work flawlessly. The woman had never before lost a member of her following to another’s hands. Of course, Aven had had to execute a handful for disloyalty, but that had been on her orders.

No, Raven had never lost anyone that close to her before. And now to lose her closest friend and adviser? It was also rumored that the man had been Raven’s lover. There was no evidence of that, but he didn’t doubt it was true. They were too close to not be lovers.

He didn’t know how Raven operated while grieving, but he was sure it would put him at an advantage. Her mindset would be different and it might be easier to get at her and stab a knife through her own heart.

Corinn pulled out a silver coin and flipped it to his lookout. The boy turned it over with awe. Never before had he ever been paid for any of his work. He couldn’t believe he actually held real money in his hands.

“Good work, kid,” Corinn said, turning away from the boy and dismissing him with a wave.

Only the sound of footsteps told him the boy had left. Like Raven and Deryk, he was based underground. His network wasn’t as extensive as Raven’s, but it was mostly because his following was smaller than hers, so they required fewer caverns and less space.

Quin emerged from the shadows he usually hid in. He was a silent one, and that’s what Corinn liked about him. He understood all his orders and only offered his advice when Corinn demanded it. The man followed his words to a T. That had been a problem with his last adviser. Pyner had been too focused in the “advising” part of being his adviser.

“What do you think?” Corinn asked, not looking at his adviser. “Do you think now would be the time to go after her, attack her, bring her down?”

“The woman is unstable,” Quin said, his voice soft and silky, not   too different from Corinn’s own oily voice. “She could be capable of anything.”

Corinn nodded. “Yes. That is true. I thought the same.”

“Would you like my advice?” Quin asked.

Corinn turned to him and blinked. “Yes. I would, actually. What would you do?”

“I would survey her a little longer, perhaps another day, but no longer than that. We cannot give her too much time to recover. If we are to strike, now would be the time. Of course, we must be careful, so we must have a closer eye on her.”

The Thief Lord nodded and folded his hands over his lean stomach. “I thought that, too. We cant’ wait too long, but we do need more information. Quin, it’s been far too long since you last served as a shadow.”

A smile spread across Quin’s face. “I would be happy to follow the woman.”

Corinn nodded. “Good. Keep watch for her and follow her closely whenever she exits her caverns.”

Quin bowed to his master and murmured, “As my Thief Lord wishes.”

And that’s exactly what Corinn loved so much about the man.

 

They met at the Angelic Church, their cloaks covering them from head to toe. It was late afternoon and there were people milling around in the Town Square. Most wore their cloaks, but few had the hood up. They feared they looked suspicious, but, for the most part, everyone ignored them.

Caidy and Tyala had requested a private meeting with the Bishop. The old woman had agreed, and the girls were close to being late to their meeting. It had been harder than Caidy had thought to get out of the house.

Last night, someone had attempted to murder her father. She didn’t know who it might have been or why they were driven to kill him, but the attempt had occurred. Her father had stepped up the security around the manor. The City Guard took attempted murders quite seriously, apparently.

Caidy had been concerned about her father, but suspected it had occurred because of the feud. Tyala had agreed, and they were still in firm agreement that the feud had to end.

Tyala waited while Caidy paid her respects to her mother. Tyala, herself, said a silent prayer to the late Lady Sarlik. She remembered Caidy’s mother. She had only known the woman from a distance, but knew her friend’s mother to be a good woman with a golden heart. She had married into the feud and had disagreed with it, but her husband was master of the house, so she followed him. She had, though, imparted her beliefs to Caidy, and now the two girls were working hard to end the feud.

“Ready?” Caidy whispered as she rejoined her friend.

Tyala nodded and they hurried down a narrow hallway towards the Bishop’s meeting room. Their footsteps echoed as they hurried along, but they didn’t really care. The further they went, the further away they came from the sanctum. There was no one here to see them and wonder at them.

They were a little out of breath by the time they burst into the meeting room. But the Bishop only smiled in welcome at their rude entrance and bid them enter and approach her.

The meeting room was a rather small chamber with a single window to light the room. There was a small table amid a cluster of chairs. Dainty cookies and a tea tray sat upon the table and the Bishop served each girl as they took a seat before her.

“What ails you, my children?” the Bishop asked softly.

“You know about our families’ feud,” Caidy began, being the braver of the two.

The Bishop nodded. “Yes. I am well aware of it from what I hear and what you both have told me. Have you made up your minds?”

Tyala and Caidy exchanged looks before Caidy said, “We’re going to run away. Tyala’s aunt lives in another city. She wants nothing to do with the feud, too. I think we would be safe there.”

The Bishop folded her hands on her lap and looked from girl to girl. “In time, this feud will end. I fear it will be in a very unexpected way, but the important thing is that you have made a decision.”

“But is it the right one?” Tyala asked nervously, scrunching up her cloak in her hands and wringing it with her sweaty hands.

“I can’t tell you that. You know what is right and wrong. You know what is best for you. It could mean running away or it could mean staying and standing your ground. I can’t make your choice for you. I can only help you come to a choice.”

Caidy and Tyala traded looks again. They had hoped the Bishop would tell them their plan was the right one. Instead, they were being asked to determine for themselves what was the right course of action.

“What do you think?” Caidy asked her friend, her voice quiet, but not so quiet the Bishop couldn’t hear.

“I still say we leave,” Tyala said, dropping her eyes to her nervous, shaking hands. “My aunt wouldn’t send us back here. She would take care of us. Besides, shouldn’t we be allowed to choose for ourselves whether or not we want to be involved in a feud?”

Caidy nodded in agreement. “I would think so. My father makes me think I don’t have a choice, but I know I do. This feud is getting out of hand. My father was almost killed last night because of this feud. I don’t want my life to be similarly endangered. I’m with you, Tyala. We have to leave.”

Both girls swung their gazes to the Bishop, but she appeared to be smiling in her sleep.

Tyala leaned over to her friend, her eyes wide. “She hasn’t died, has she?” she whispered.

Caidy shrugged, her face turning ashen.

Abruptly, the Bishop gave a small laugh. “You have made your choice, girls. Now go carry it out and live with whatever consequences and rewards that choice brings to you.”

Thoroughly spooked, the girls had never left the Angelic Church faster.

Parenting with Psychology: Erik Erikson’s Stages of Development

I spent a lot of time in psychology classes. I guess that’s what happens when you decide you want to be a psychology major and then get a higher degree in it. Though my focus was on clinical psychology with the goal of working with people with psychiatric disorders, I was more interested in children than adults. Developmental psychology was everywhere in my education. Erikson, Freud, Piaget, Vygotsky…

My favorite is Erik Erikson. He aligned with Freud, but departed from him when it came to human development. According to Erikson, we progress through 8 stages throughout our lives. Each stage spans a certain amount of time and involves a crisis that needs to be resolved and a virtue to be gained. Successful resolution of each crisis provides a building block for the next stage.

Since his stages go from infancy to old age, and since I’m obviously nowhere near old age, I’ll just be focusing on the first 4 stages.

0-18 months: Trust vs. Mistrust

18 months-3 years: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

3-5: Initiative vs. Guilt

5-13: Industry vs. Inferiority

Trust vs. Mistrust

This first stage starts as soon as a child is born and lasts until they are about 18 months old. It’s fairly simple: either the child will learn to trust their caregivers or they won’t. The virtue that is to be gained when trust is established is hope, hope that there will be someone to take care of them.

When I was in grad school, my psychodynamic psychology professor told us, “You can’t spoil a child.” At the time, we were studying Freud’s theories, but those words stayed in my head. I always knew motherhood wasn’t going to be easy. Raising a small child into a responsible, contributing member of society is not easy. Caring for a newborn who wasn’t going to sleep through the night wasn’t going to be easy. But my tiny squirmy babies needed me, were completely reliant on me to meet their every need. You can’t spoil a baby. All they have are needs.

For those first 18 months, my babies would be dependent on me to take care of their basic needs. They would either learn to trust I would take care of them or learn I was not trustworthy because I couldn’t or wouldn’t meet their needs. It wasn’t always easy, but ensuring my babies successfully resolved this conflict was important to me, especially since it’s the first. That meant I breastfed on demand, didn’t sleep train and instead responded to every cry, scheduled my days and activities around the schedule they naturally developed, soothed them when they needed it, and followed their lead. They learned to trust I was going to be there for them and know they can always turn to me when they’re hurt, fearful, uncertain, and nervous.

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

From 18 months to 3 years of age, children learn to be autonomous in their activities and develop willpower. How many parents are laughing right now? It might be a laughing matter, but there appears to be a developmental reason for why it’s called the Terrible Two’s.

According to Erikson, starting around 18 months of age, children start to learn they are able to move around in the world on their own. They discover a wide world ready for their exploration, and they want to do it on their own. They want to test their limits and see what they’re capable of. As parents, it’s easy to say they’re not ready and take control, but that strips them of their sense of independence and autonomy. Instead, they feel ashamed of wanting to do something Mom and Dad think they cannot do and doubt their own abilities and ideas.

Above all, children at this age just want to know it’s okay to be them. It’s okay to want to explore. It’s okay to want to have crazy ideas. It’s okay to do things their own way instead of the way Mom and Dad insist is right. They’re discovering new things every day and are anxious to try it out on their own. It’s often a battle of wills between child and parents. As parents, we see a tiny child who shouldn’t or can’t be capable of doing certain things, but the child wants so hard to just try.

Before becoming a mom, I had heard quite a bit about the Terrible Two’s and Three’s. I was ready. I braced myself. I was prepared to weather the battles, the tantrums, the meltdowns. Except my oldest turned 2 and was the sweetest child ever. Sure, he had his tantrums, but, when I explained why he couldn’t do something, he seemed to understand and we somehow managed to head off tantrums. It might have also helped that he had a speech delay and didn’t really talk until he was 3. We played 20 Questions a lot, but he never seemed to get frustrated. He knew we would eventually figure it out and was patient with us. He also had a terrible fear of time outs, and is still scared of punishment.

I also understood he was growing up fast and wanted to try things on his own. When it was safe, I let him. I let him explore. I let him learn and practice new skills. I encouraged him to try new things, but never forced him if he wasn’t ready, and was always ready to offer help when he became frustrated. He was always prepared to let me know if he wanted to do something on his own or if he wanted me to do it.

My daughter is at the beginning of this stage. She’s already very independent, vocal, and dramatic. I don’t know yet if she’ll display the typical signs of a Terrible Two’s child. She throws her fits, has her tantrums, but always knows a hug from Mommy makes things better. She understands when I give her reasons, just like her brother. She’s happiest when I let her do and try things on her own. I always hover over her just in case she needs me, but, as long as I don’t interfere, she’s as happy as a clam. I just have to remember to give her the same freedom as I did her brother. With two kids, sometimes I feel a little rushed to get things done, but I still have to remember she’s learning new skills and needs time. I don’t want her to be a willful child, but I do want her to have willpower.

Initiative vs. Guilt

From about 3 years to 5 years of age, children learn to take the initiative and find purpose. Otherwise they may feel like a nuisance and feel guilty and as though they can be nothing more than a follower. They know they are capable of doing things, so now they learn to become assertive and take the lead in order to accomplish things on their own. They develop purpose in their actions.

At this age, many children are in preschool. They’re developing friendships and social skills. They’re learning to be apart from their parents. If they have successfully resolved the previous conflict, they will know they have autonomy, they know they are capable, and they will be able to take the initiative. They become capable of starting their own games and are increasingly able to draw others in to their play.

My son is towards the end of this stage. He’s definitely needed more than a little push to take the initiative. His happy place is letting others take care of him and it’s been a bit of a struggle to get him to do things on his own, to develop his own ideas, and decide what he wants to do. He knows he’s capable, knows he can. He just lacks the desire. So, I give him the space to develop his own ways of entertaining himself. I let him become bored so he can find new things to do on his own. I encourage him and provide ideas, but I let him take the lead. When he says he wants to do something, I do my best to accommodate him, to show him his ideas are interesting and he should follow where they lead. He definitely has no problems with taking the lead when he’s playing with his sister. But sometimes it’s tough because she’s learning to be independent at the same time.

Industry vs. Inferiority

From ages 5 to 13, children learn to be industrious and develop a sense of competence and accomplishment. They’re capable of figuring how they stack up against their classmates. Otherwise they’ll feel inferior to their peers and incapable of performing at the same level.

At this age, children are in school. They’re learning to navigate academics and developing a social life. They spend much of their waking time learning, often away from their parents. Grades enter their lives and their progress and knowledge are tracked in a way they can follow. They know whether they are deemed to be productive or not and whether or not they are actually learning. They also have a good idea of how their peers are performing and will start to measure their abilities against those of their classmates. If they do not feel they are measuring up, they will likely develop a sense of inferiority.

Sooner than I’d like, my son will be at this stage. He will be off to Kindergarten, whether or not he’s ready to start his academic life. He’ll learn everything the curriculum has to offer and will have to do homework (though his preschool already assigns it at the end of the week, so he should be used to having it). He’ll learn to be productive every day and the value of active learning.

During this stage, my parents had my siblings and me doing workbooks every summer to keep our brains working and to help us retain what we had learned. I have every intention of doing the same with my kids. I aim to teach them to work hard, learn everything they can, and feel accomplished and competent in what they do. I can’t stop them from constantly comparing themselves to others, but I hope to ensure they are on the same level and can still feel pride in what they are able to accomplish.

 

It’s not easy being a parent, but I like to think I have Erikson’s stages as a guide. It makes it easier for me to understand my children’s behavior, reminds me to be patient and that it’s my job to help them learn based on where they are and what their abilities are, and helps me guide them towards adulthood so they stand a good chance of being successful in whatever they choose to do. Erikson might not be for everyone, but he’s definitely for me.

And if you’re like me and fall between 18 and 40 years of age, our conflict is Intimacy vs. Isolation.

Winning the Lottery! Part II

Happy Friday/Saturday Everyone!

So, I thought I’d continue on the topic I started writing on some time ago. It’s something my wife and I are dealing with now. The lottery that I was really trying to allude to was the school lottery for our son! We have entered our son into several charter school lotteries. These schools are some of the best schools that our son could attend.

It is sad to say, but the school that our son is zoned for is not one I would want him to attend. However, I have found this process to very much impacted by socio-economics! I’ll address part of this as I continue. My goal now is to discuss what we have learned in this process. I went to public school in NYC. However, I went to one of those schools that segregrated high achievers from everyone else. Looking back at this experience, I feel that while I was fortunate, this type of segregration impeeds the learning of others, as well as, my learning experiences when I was younger. I think my post is also little more relevant in light of the college admission cheating scandals that are in the news…though honestly I’m quite certain that these types of shinanigans have been going on since the beginning of the idea of college. The “founding fathers” neglected many things in their desire to create a new government. They were of course contending with slave owning states and the property rights of the wealthy landowners who in fact were the framer of the document we know as the constitution. In their massive societal experiment, the framers did not believe that education was important for masses, or that women, Native Americans or African Americans had any rights to vote – because let’s face it their underlying premise was that INFACT we are not all created equal. Complete and utter hypocritical material that got signed by whole bunch of wealthy, landowning, slave holding, white men.  Oh and I’ll provide something to stoke the fire with a little evidence that our first President had issues: Ona Judge. There is “picture” evidence of this in a painting by Junius Brutus Stearns. I should write a post on this. Ok…now I’ll start.

I think I need to begin to briefly discussing what is the difference between public, private and charter schools. I won’t be going to much into private school – honestly because we’re not doing this as it is not financially feaseable for us! This whole topic may be somewhat controversial. However, I am definitely a fan of school choice!

Private school is different from both charter and public schools because of one fact: both public and charter are funded by government money whereas private is funded by other means. I don’t really want to go over the privatization of things that are in the public’s interest. However, if you are interested in this sort of thing I’ll encourage the Harvard Business Review article written on this very subject. President Obama (GOD I MISS HIM) was a fan of charter schools, but not a fan of vouchers! He was such a fan of charter schools that he signed ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) into law in 2015. Charters are not much different from public schools except in the following ways:

1. While public schools are ran by the district/school board, charter schools are ran by separate groups that can be either non-profit or profit. They can also receive donations. For both public and charter schools there is no tuition.

2. Public schools have union contracts for teachers, while charter schools hire and fire teachers based on performance. (Not all charter schools are good and it’s important to research as much as possible and determine what the needs of your child are and who your child is.)

3. Finally, students can enroll via ranom lottery.

With that in mind, there are many websites that we had to research into to acquire the most comprehensive picture of the student demographics, vaccination %, teacher to student ratio, and overall rating of the school including comments from current parents. In addition to this we went in person to the open house for the charter schools. We spoke with the administration and the teachers. And this was on a Saturday! We got to meet some of the teachers, and having been in education for such a long time, We were able to glean a lot of information from our interactions with the teachers.  Suffice it to say that I was super impressed with the teacher’s background and general approach to each student.

Are charter schools better than public schools? I’m not sure how to answer this question. However, there is a study from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University that indicates that students from charter schools do a little better in reading but about the same in math when compared to public schools. I think that there is still quite a bit more data out there for us to read and learn. However, this is the jackpot!

We really want our son (and eventually our daughter) to attend one of these charter schools! We’ve seen the environments and can already see the differences in the students and teachers. So, these lotteries are the ones that we are really interested in winning.

I think I have my next post set too based on the beginning of this post! On that note…that’s all folks. Take good care. Have a great weekend and week ahead! Until next time. Same bat time. Same bat channel!

-The Husband.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The KonMari Method Won’t Work in My Household

I grew up in a cluttered house. My mom did her best to keep it tidy, but it wasn’t easy with 3 kids and a husband who collected furniture (we once had four tables and desks in the family room, not counting the coffee table). I wasn’t the tidiest kid and my closet was where a tornado lived. But, as I got older, everything started to have a particular place to live. There was still a lot of stuff, but everything had a home.

I still carry that with me. Everything has its own place, and I’m not happy when it’s been moved. Just as my husband when he moves the salt shaker 6 inches. I like to keep things tidy, and it helps everyone know where everything is. So I try my best to keep our home tidy. I find a place for everything and put them back where they belong.

I’m constantly drawn to minimalism and am interested in learning more about Marie Kondo’s method. But…I live with three pack rats. My husband stores old journal articles in multiple boxes and has textbooks from two decades ago that he’s keeping for when our kids are older. My almost 5 year old screams whenever we mention getting rid of his baby toys. My almost 2 year old has a fond attachment to trash. Kondo’s method works best when everyone is on board. I don’t think having only a quarter on board is going to cut it.

Besides, I think I’ve already decluttered my own stuff. If I get rid of anymore, I won’t have anything left.

In theory, I love the KonMari method. It sounds like a lovely way to live in a home that brings one great happiness. It’s also a fantastic way to declutter and tidy up, and ensure everyone knows where everything is. It makes for a lovely home that, in theory, is much less maintenance than a home full of clutter that has nowhere to go.

But there are also things I’ve read about it that doesn’t make me want to convince my family it’s the best thing for us. First of all, having to sit with something and contemplate whether it sparks joy just sounds time consuming. I have two kids to play with, discipline, run after, and feed all day every day. I don’t have time to sit with everything and ask it if it brings me joy. Besides, joy is more of a transient feeling for me. There are some things that will never spark joy in me. But there are a great number of things that go in and out of being joyful to me. In the summer, my Christmas decorations spark no joy, but, once December hits, I’ll be joyfully decorating and singing “Deck the Halls.” I have books that don’t spark joy until I’m in the mood to re-read them. But my biggest problem lies in everything having a home. I already do this. Ahem, I try to do this. I do this, but I’m only a quarter of this household. What’s the point of everything having a home if I’m the only one who knows it’s address? It’s exhausting to get everything home by myself every day after it’s taken a few wrong turns and wandered into something else’s home and taken up residence.

In the end, the KonMari method is appealing, but will not work with my household. I live with three pack rats. Only recently have I been able to convince my husband to give up things he’s had from before we met a decade ago (things that he hasn’t used in at least that long). Not only do these three people keep everything (and they’ll say it sparks joy), but they clean by tossing. I can never find anything because they see a space and toss something, anything, into it. And no one ever listens to my cleaning instructions. It’s exhausting to constantly clean after they’ve cleaned up. Sure, I have my kids clean up when they’re done playing and they listen, but only one of them currently understands cleaning up. The other thinks it’s a game and will dump it back out.

What I really need is a 7 letter word. S-T-O-R-A-G-E. Boxes, baskets, tin cans. At this point, I don’t really care. I just need storage for all this stuff three-quarters of my family can’t stop collecting, can’t figure out how to clean up, and won’t toss out.