Ravenclaw, Ambition and Family Life

J and I are 31, which means we were about Harry Potter’s age when the books debuted, although we were engaged and 21 when his story ended. It’d be an understatement to say that the books were a big part of our adolescent years, and we’ve known for certain that ours was a mixed marriage from the beginning: an ISFJ Hufflepuff to a handsome ENTP Gryffindor.

Except, we recently took that 20th anniversary Time Magazine Sorting Hat Quiz and both got Ravenclaw.

Wait, what?

Neither of us would describe ourselves or each other as particularly ambitious, we admitted, discussing the highly scientific results as we walked the kids to the park after dinner on a recent evening. Geeky, sure. Bookish, each to our own varying degrees. But aren’t Ravenclaws supposed to be pretty driven?

I mean, maybe in college. J double majored in math and computer science and racked up accolades racing bikes. I nerded out on Great Books and English lit, and for awhile, entertained ideas of a PhD in English.

But these days? Not really. I wrote a friend recently that I particularly value jobs with very low stakes. I’d love to someday to work another Tiny Job, and I found teaching at homeschool co op last fall to be surprisingly rewarding. But I made it clear in grad school and to my library directors that I had no real ambition to join their ranks someday, and it would be a-ok with me if I never worked a traditional 9-5 job.

J, on the other hand, is absolutely terrific at his job, best I can tell, but chose a job based on work-life balance and geography, not prestige, and doesn’t intend to job hop if we can possibly help it. He tries to do enough to do right by his colleagues and students, but doesn’t obsess. I love that about him.

On our walk, J pointed out he’d been reading a biography of Eli Musk, and could see how he’d love that kind of intense work environment if he didn’t have a family. Sure, I agreed. When I was applying for Tiny Jobs and awaiting Pippin’s birth, I’d often come across 40-hour youth services library jobs that appealed to me — if I wasn’t already expecting a rather time-consuming tiny human.

Ultimately, we decided our ambitions have just shifted as we grew older. We’re not go-with-the-flow on everything: we know what we want for our family, and work for it, from building a family culture to enduring long seasons of illness to welcome tiny new members. We try to be deliberate about all our choices: whether to continue being a one-car family, how to arrange bedrooms in our house, how to steep our family in faith. That means toning down some of the other outlets into which we’ve traditionally poured our energies. It’s not Hufflepuff peaceableness or Gryffindor careless bravado, but selective Ravenclaw ambition after all.

So, hello, fellow Ravenclaws, I guess.

Drinking my daily Ensure while morning sick and nursing because ONWARD AND UPWARD

Constructing a Family Crest

This semester I’m teaching fourth graders art for our local homeschool co-op, and totally in over my head, but that’s beside the point. The theme of the course is two-dimensional art inspired by art in history and I took a fundamentals of art and design class for my photography minor in, uh, maybe 2006, so yeaaaaaah, obviously I’ve got this.

Anyway, and fortunately for the kids, most of the assignments are inherited from past teachers. (We might survive after all.)

The kids’ first assignment is to design a personal crest using the symbols of heraldry and also lots of colored markers, and this has sent me down an Internet rabbit hole of beautiful modern family crests which will be absolutely no help to my students, but does tie into my abiding interest in building a family culture.

The closest we have to a family crest is the lovely screen print my sister made us as a wedding present.


Can you tell I cleaned up the mantle special for you? J/K I snapped this picture when I was supposed to already be out in the driveway. Oops.

Some people specialize in creating family crests, and their work is just lovely. I’m partial to the floral ones, but I also especially like the ones that feature the material objects that a family considers definitive for them.


Off the top of my head, for us, that would be: books, bacon, bikes. Catholicism. Scary math symbols? (That’s just J.) “The Owl and the Pussy Cat” was a poem we used a lot in our wedding planning, and those guys often figure into our doodles for each other, though my owl infuriatingly always looks like a penguin. We also used a lot of tandem bicycles in our wedding stuff, and now we have one on out mantle (see above). And now we have the added family symbols of a peregrine feather for Pippin (Thomas Joseph Peregrine) and a mockingbird feather for Scout.

Here is my nap time doodle.

Those are a cat (with glasses) and an owl. Not that it’s not super obvious. (Look, I’m much better at drawing dancing pizza.)
What would feature in your family crest?