Thursday, January 31, 2008

Will We Be Snowed In?

The forecast is for 10 inches of snow to fall tonight. ES is hoping for no school so he can spend the day snowboarding. It has started to fall - thick flakes. We'll see. Tuesday night, I wanted to enter my last two book reviews, but we lost power in the middle of dinner (a first experience for my two youngest). Thankfully, the power came back on later that night, but I didn't want to risk getting on since the winds had been up to 80 mph in spots. I don't know why the photo isn't showing up for my last book review. I'll keep trying to figure this out.

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid




This book was incredibly fun. My ES, who is not a reader, spent almost a week visiting his old best friend from IL during his winter break. It is the first time we've allowed him to stay at someone else's house for more than an overnight and I had a tough time with it. Imagine my surprise, when I called to talk to him and he informed me that he was reading a book there ... of his own accord. He told me the title, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I heard Michael in the background say, "Yeah, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by B---- H----(my son's name)." HA! I laughed. Apparently, every night when Michael went to sleep, ES stayed up reading for twenty minutes, so he could finish this 217 page book before he went home.


Well, now I know what drew my non-reader to read this book. On the cover, it declares it "a novel in cartoons." O.K., given the fact that all but three pages in the book have some sort of cartoon on them, I suppose you could consider this a picture book for the middle school set. Don't get me wrong; it is not a graphic novel. The text is enhanced by cartoon drawings. It made me think of my friend, Kyle, who now heads up my old writers group in IL. This is the kind of book I could see him writing some day.


Despite the fact that the graphics were probably what initially attracted my son, I have to say, it was DOWNRIGHT HILARIOUS. From the very first page, where we learn that the narrator, Greg Heffley, is following his mom's idea and keeping a "JOURNAL, not a diary... I SPECIFICALLY told her to get one that didn't say 'diary' on it," it is one humorous tale after another. He deals with bullies, girls, gym class and reading class ("They don't come right out and tell you if you're in the Gifted group or the Easy group, but you can figure it out right away by looking at the covers of the books they hand out." - picture of two books, one Einstein as a Child, the other Bink Says Boo.) He writes about Halloween, the school play, running for treasurer and writing Christmas thank you notes (such boyish truth!). My son was right, I read the book in two days. I couldn't put it down. It was entirely entertaining, even to a boy who has said to me "Remember Mom, I've told you before, books don't entertain me." He's been proven wrong and he and I are both anxiously awaiting the sequel, to be called, Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Roderick Rules. Highly recommended. One of the best books for boys I've read in a long time.


If you want to see more of this book which some have called "the funniest book in 2007" head over to http://www.gregheffley.blogspot.com/ or go to the author's site at http://www.wimpykid.com/. On the author's site it said that the sequel was released on Jan. 15th. This is one I might just be willing to run out and buy for my ES - anything to get him reading. Plus, I could use another good chuckle myself.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Book Review: Piper Reed: Navy Brat

This was another book that I picked up from the library to listen to in the car when my kids are with me. I'm guessing this is a book I would have enjoyed more if I had read it, instead of listening to it. It will definitely become a chapter book series (I think the author has already written two and the third is in the works). Kimberly Holt Willis is an award winning writer and her writing in this book was fine and colorful, with good character development. I guess for me, it kind of felt too formulaic. It reminded me of the Junie B. Jones books.

Piper Reed is the middle daughter, wedged between an older teenage sister and a kindergarten prodigy. Since her father is in the Navy, the family moves a lot. I selected this book because I moved plenty while growing up. Piper is a spunky girl and she will certainly get a following (a great book to suggest to a girl who is a middle child or is moving).

Perhaps, the book didn't appeal to me as much as I expected because it is in the 7-12 range and I tend more towards books in the 10-17 range - I don't know. I would recommend it to my sister's daughter, since they move a lot, but at 11, she's probably a bit too old for it, too. My MS enjoyed listening to it (the bits about getting a dog, a doorbell which played Yankee Doodle). I looked at another review of this book and they raved about the illustrations, so I'm really wishing I had read it instead of listening, this time.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I am a Different Person

Cardiogirl at http://www.cardiogirl.net has had me heading down memory lane these days. She did a meme recently about meeting famous people and I commented that I had the privelege of studying under Frederick Buechner while I was in college. It turns out CG's husband is a bit of a Buechner fan and so I tried to dig out my old syllabus and notebooks (of course, I still have them - I am a tremendous pack-rat, if you didn't know that already).

I ended up pulling out my college journals, as well, and have spent far too much time today walking down memory lane. What a curious thing it is to revisit our past through old journals. It brought all those old emotions and relationships right up to the foreground again. This is why I am a firm believer in journalling. I was such a different person then. I mean, I still see a lot of the core person, but life has rounded me out in such significant ways. Granted, I was a college student then. Typical life perspective from such a limited spere of existence. I had high ideals and intense spiritual yearnings. I sought hard after purity and genuine righteousness. But life hadn't really dealt all that many blows yet and I think my answers to life's questions were fairly trite, or at least, easily acquired.

Even now, I look at my life and realize that I haven't experienced much in the way of hardships when you hold my life up next to someone else's. I listened to a powerfully moving and convicting eulogy on You Tube tonight by a man named Rick Burgess, on behalf of his two year old son who drowned recently in their family pool. Then I look at the ideals and life goals I expressed as a young college student and I feel like I have not achieved what I sought to achieve. It was easy to have lofty dreams before life intervened with its roads less travelled and detours to the path I thought I was on.

I can remember talking with a professor in the last week of college and outlining what my plans were for the next five years. He commented that he wished he could see so clearly where the next five years would take him. He knew, didn't he, that there was no way in the world that my life was going to head off in the direction I planned for it, all nice and neat and tidy. He just couldn't explain that to me then. He couldn't communicate what only life experience can - that life often takes you in directions you never intended and brings along trials and opportunities you wouldn't have asked for. God's leading is mysterious and He works in ways that are so difficult to comprehend. He asks far more of us than we realize and He wants far more for us than we can grasp or attain on our own.

I wish I could be granted the opportunity to take Buechner's class again now. Perhaps I would get even more out of it than I did back then (and it was a phenomenal class - we read powerful literature and had deep conversations). In the summer following that class, I corresponded with a friend about Buechner and his books and his thoughts about the books that we had read. I discovered one of the letters this friend had sent me, tucked in my journal. He was trying to express the beauty of the way God reaches down to us and grants us grace in our weakest moments. Sadly, I hadn't had enough weak moments to truly know how weak I am. Reading his letter and realizing what I must have written to him made me aware of how different I am now.

It also made me aware of how different I wish I could be, even from the person I am now. I want to grow and become more than I am. I want deeper goals than I had back then. I want a richer experience of life and of God and of His purposes for my life. I want my faith to be founded on more than an autopilot mode. I want to read Buechner again and see his messages of the mystery of the way God works. I will have to write another post about this Buechner class because he taught us so much and the books we read were worth mentioning in more detail. For tonight, I had to reflect on my own journey and realize that God will never leave us standing still. He will take us into valleys and wildernesses and will make us a different person.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

As I was up writing a letter late tonight, my MS came groggily out to the living room and said, "Can you whistle for me the two screensaver songs?" I have no idea what he is talking about. I headed him off to the bathroom (no doubt this is what caused him to stir). On his way back, after hearing me say for the third time that I just don't know the screen saver songs, he said "that's o.k., I'll just whistle them to myself until I fall back to sleep."

ES made me laugh today, too. This afternoon, I headed off to the library to pick up a book which I had requested. It is called Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I had requested it because my ES, who HATES to read (can he really be my child?) actually picked this book up at a friend's house and read the whole thing. So, THIS ... I had to see. When I arrived home, with the book, ES came out of his room and saw the book on the table. He says, "Oh, you got the book?" I said, "Yes, I just picked it up at the library now." He says, "Have you read it yet?" HA! I might like to read a lot, but I haven't mastered the art of being able to pick up a book from the library and read it in the ten minutes since I returned home. Then, he asked me to read it tonight, instead of watching a movie with my hubby. Sorry, not a chance! We'll keep you posted on this MOST APPEALING BOOK.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Book Review - When Crickets Cry

Charles Martin's When Crickets Cry is a novel which takes place in Clayton, Georgia. It is the story of two intersecting lives: one, a 7 year old girl with a fragile, diseased heart; the other, a man who is hiding from his past and living with a broken heart. Because the novel deals with intricate matters of the heart and heart surgery, it is not a fluff novel. At times it was a bit of a heady read, but the story did keep me wanting to read to the end. The characters were well-drawn and the location was described in great detail. In fact, the details in this novel were amazing. I have a feeling this author did a lot of homework before he began writing. It was a tender story and an enjoyable read; however, I did have some issues with the book. Towards the end, it seemed like the pathos became too thick. The climax of the book included several disastrous turns in the story and there came a point where the "willful suspension of disbelief" was stretched too thin. There were moments where I found myself talking to the author out loud, saying "Yes, but wouldn't she have done this ... in that situation ... she had a cell phone," or "You can't expect me to believe that both of these bad things happened within a few days' time, do you?" So, I count this book as an educational experience for me, teaching me not to overwrite or try too hard to make a stirring denoument (I can still hear Ms. Karsh saying "day-noom-wahhhhhh"). I suppose I would still recommend it, but with reservations.

Actually, the book profited me in two other ways. First, it reminded me of another good book which I will recommend and may try to re-read this year: The Gift of Pain by Dr. Paul Brand. When discussing the heart and the amazing things that can be done in transplantation, it made me think of Brand's book because Dr. Brand really drove home the magnificence of the human body and how awe-inspiring God's workmanship is. As he said, (my own words - not a direct quote) it is not amazing that things go wrong with the human body, but amazing that more things don't go wrong. It is amazing that a human heart can be lifted from one body and packed in ice for several hours, then be placed into another body and resume beating. That is "A GOD THING!" And that brings me to the second benefit of this book. I am determined, when I finally get my IN license (sometime soon, I can't keep putting it off) to make sure that I have clearly noted that I would be an organ donor if anything were to happen to me. What an incredible gift people give when they die and leave someone else another chance at life!
If you purchase this book, When Crickets Cry, a heart-care fund has been set up so that a certain portion of each sale goes towards the cause of heart health in children.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Comments Welcome

Several of my friends and family have sent e-mails saying they could not post a comment on my blog without joining google. This was because, new to this venture, I specified incorrectly in the settings stage. I have since changed it, so if you try to comment, you may comment anonymously and merely add your name to the end if you wish. Hope to hear from you if something I write resonates with you.

Privileges Meme - Borrowed

From What Privileges Do You Have?,based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

I saw this on http://www.arewethereyet-davisfarmmom.blogspot.com and thought it would be fun to include on my blog, since I've never done a meme before. Consider yourself tagged if this one interests you! Bold the true statements.
1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
9. Were read children's books by a parent
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
29. Owned a mutual fun or IRA in high school or college
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
31. Went on a cruise with your family
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

Here are five things not included in the list that I think were primary advantages for me:
1. I grew up with many brothers and a sister
2. We took vacations each year to many places around the United States
3. We moved every two or three years
4. We were expected to be a leader and an example in our church
5. We were brought up to know, love, and serve God

Note: Because my parents were Salvation Army officers with five children, we never really had much money, but now I can see how DEEPLY PRIVILEGED I was!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Review: Belle Prater's Boy

Tonight I finished listening to another great audiobook, Belle Prater's Boy by Ruth White. I think my ES even enjoyed the moments he heard during our drives to wrestling practice and back this week. It is the story of a cross-eyed country boy, named Woodrow, who has come to live with his grandparents in Coal Station, VA, after his mother disappears one morning. His cousin, Gypsy, lives next door and the two twelve year olds become friends. Gypsy, like her mother, is a beauty with long, golden hair. Woodrow somehow manages to win the entire town over with his mild manner and witty stories. Each seems to think the other has it made, but as the book clearly shows, "appearances can be deceiving." What I loved about this book is that it told a fun story with great depth and meaning. I searched for more information about Ruth White and discovered an on-line interview with her just hours after she had completed writing this book. It was interesting to learn that she intended the book to be a comedy about Woodrow and Gypsy pulling a prank on the whole town, but as she delved into her characters she discovered the deeper story that needed to come out and in the process created a story with great substance. This book was delightful and inspiring and I would highly recommend it as a read-aloud to children between the ages of 9 and 12. I fully intend to look up the sequel to this book.

Vision Forum Gift Certificate

Tonight I was reading a review of Passionate Housewives Desperate for God and followed a link to http://www.biblicalwomanhoodonline.com/blog.htm If you go to this site, they are offering a chance to win a $100 gift certificate through http://www.visionforum.com . I purchased a three-man slingshot for one set of nephews and a single slingshot for an older nephew, from Vision Forum, as Christmas presents this past December and I think they were a huge hit. My ES decided to purchase the three-man slingshot for himself, since we had already made our purchases for his gifts. He loves it. It came with water balloons which he and his friends can shoot up to 150 yards away. If you have boys, their catalog certainly contains many things they would enjoy and who would turn down a chance to win $100?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Boys Thrive on Love, Discipline and High Expectations

Last night, after being woken by YS at 4 a.m., I could not get back to sleep. Isn't that a kicker - even when the boys aren't crying, or needing comforting, my brain latches onto an idea and won't let it go. What was I thinking about for an hour? My son's wrestling coach. Now, before you run off to all sorts of silly conclusions, let me explain ...

Last night, I attended a parental meeting for my son's wrestling team. The coach wanted to go over the basics before the meets and conferences begin. It was primarily a discussion of requests for donations of snacks, food allergy questions, meet dismissal instructions and the like. However, what I came away with, was an hour-long-middle-of-the-night-rumination on why I'm pleased with my son's wrestling coach. I have only met the man twice, first when I ran in to deliver the mandatory physical form to one of the earlier practices and second, last night at the meeting. But, I have experienced the results of his great character. After the first practice, my son got into our vehicle and looked like he had been run over by a truck. In fact, he barely spoke after each of the first three practices. Apparently, they did a whole lot of running and sprinting and leg lifts and push ups, etc. The first practice he attended was on a Friday evening. The following Thursday night, ES informed me that he had lost 3 pounds (He's not even 100 lbs., so 3 does make a difference). After one practice, ES informed me that they certainly don't want to make the coach try to beat the push-up record (which is 600 push-ups in one two hour practice). That particular evening, the team had to do 250 push-ups. They did these in 10 sets of 25 throughout the evening and with every push-up they called out "Thank you, John Doe (o.k. - it was a kid's name, but I thought he should remain anonymous to my readers)." You see, John Doe had mouthed off to a teacher in class that day. Another method I've heard of, is the educational questioning during leg lifts. They have to hold the leg lift until some member of the team can answer the particular question posed. Education in the midst of training - I love it!!

This guy is really working these kids to whip them into shape. At the end of the meeting, I mentioned to the coach that my son is really impressed with the hard work they do. In fact, my son was laughing because a few days ago, their gym class was asked to do some light running and every other student was complaining except for the two who happen to be on the wrestling team. Both of them hadn't even broken a sweat. When I shared this, another parent piped in, "Oh yeah, my son goes out for wrestling and soccer, but he always says soccer is a walk in the park compared to the wrestling training."

The team practices four nights a week for two hours and then on Sat. mornings for two and a half hours. The coach invited us to observe a practice. He warned us that he yells a lot and pushes them hard. The coach also wanted to clarify one of his big pet peeves. He explained that he will not allow his wrestlers to flinch, whisper, or move during the national anthem. He expects them to show respect and he has been disappointed in the past when a few parents have tried to speak with their boys during such times. High expectations and discipline are great and boys really do appreciate the men who hold them to high standards. But, I also know that love is an essential ingredient here as well. If the coach were yelling at them and berating them and throwing chairs - it would accomplish nothing. During the entire meeting, the coach's 5 year old son was standing at his side and the coach repeatedly rubbed his shoulder and stroked him. He spoke affectionately of the students and his desire to protect them from injury. You have heard of "speaking the truth, in love," well, it is clear, in watching him and in hearing my son speak of him, that this coach works-them-to-the-bone, in love.

It made me think of one of my favorite teachers in high school - "Harsh Ms. Karsh," as we called her. I had her for English and Creative Writing. She expected a lot and gave tons of homework. Yet, she was one of my favorite teachers and the one who first inspired me to become a teacher. So many of her assignments had a distinctive creative flair. When studying call and response poetry ("Come Live With Me and Be My Love, and We Will All Earth's Pleasures Prove"), we had to write our own call and response poems. I remember somebody wrote call and response poems between Superman and Lois Lane. For Creative Writing, these poems had to be set to music and I wrote mine as one gang inviting another gang to a rumble and presented it to some West Side Story music (that was too funny because my classmates were shocked by my poems ... not what they expected from a reserved, pastor's kid). I suppose Ms. Karsh, like the wrestling coach, knew that to get the best, you must expect the best.

I've been pleased to see my ES rise to the occasion of this vigorous training. He is working hard and enjoying his accomplishments. I found myself thinking that I want to be sure to consistently demonstrate these three ingredients to my son as well, in my parenting. I want him to know that he will be loved, disciplined and held to a high standard. If he wins some meets, too, why that will be just "extra."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Thankful

Tonight, I had headed over to Dawn Meehan's blog at http://www.mom2my6pack.blogspot.com and read that Julian (a boy she had been mentioning several times on her blog) has gone to be with the Lord. I decided to visit his web page which is called Julian's World and is on www.carepages.com. I spent almost an hour and only skimmed the surface of Julian's last several months here on earth. I watched a video of Julian from the moment they learned of his cancer up until around Halloween. I cried and I wanted to send words to this family, but don't really know what words to say. But I am so very thankful for the blessing of technology and the internet. It is so easy to get caught up in our own little world and our own little woes. When I go on-line and visit other people's lives, I am reminded to be thankful for each moment I have with my boys, even the frustrating ones. I was complaining to my mom tonight about how my MS keeps getting out of bed on the pretense of needing to go to the bathroom "just one more time." This is a boy who has, in the last four months, begun waking two and three times a night with nightmares and requests to be rocked. I always manage to get enough sleep eventually, but it is just the repeated nights - for months on end - of INTERRUPTED sleep which have been hard. And, I should say, there are many nights, when I am thinking "Man, this is such a blessing because there will come a time when he will reach the age of ES and will no longer be able or wish to be rocked or comforted." I enjoy every cuddle and middle of the night need. I love watching these little boys grow. I love seeing a pair of pajamas go from fitting fine to suddenly stretched to the limit. And, I think, how quickly this time passes. Who knows how many days God will give me with these boys? I want to enjoy every moment - even the ones where they are up at night or sick and whiny. What a blessing to be given the gift of their little lives and the opportunity to see them spread their wings and fly on their own. As I write, YS is now crying. I will go cuddle him and love him back to sleep and will then head to bed myself full of the knowledge that I am richly BLESSED.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Words to Live By

My cousin Karin is one of those "the glass is half full" kind of people. I am always so encouraged by her words and the way she lives her life. She has had plenty of trials, but she always has good things to say. I must share with you the way she closed her latest e-mail to me. I think this quote is perfect and good advice for anyone to consider.

"Never regret a day in your life. Good days give you Happiness. Bad days give you Experiences. Both are essential to life. Keep going..."

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Only Time a British Accent is NOT Appreciated

My friend Sarah, who blogs at http://www.ilsters.blogspot.com came over to check out my new blog. It was great to hear from her and to know that she is now aware of her role in my blogging venture. She commented on my love of the British accent. How right she is! At her blog I can link to a site where I can actually listen to her delivering sermons and then hear it translated into Latvian.

I love hearing a Brit speak. I love it so much that I have been known to be downright aggressive with reticent Brits I meet in passing. There was a British woman who substituted once for the kindergarten teacher I worked for. She was there one day and I spent roughly two hours with her. But after those two hours, I felt this insatiable desire to get to know her better (or maybe just hear her accent more), so I left a little message on the desk saying, "It was lovely to meet you ('lovely' -now that is an appropriate word to use with a Brit) today and if you are ever interested in getting together for coffee (I don't even drink it - while living in Britain they were only successful in teaching me to drink tea the way they serve it to children, with lots of sugar or honey and milk), give me a call." Not only did she NEVER call, but every time she subbed in our building again, she seemed to go far out of her way to avoid looking or walking in my direction. Ah, we forward Americans. Too bad, too, because I really did want to know more about her. What made her decide to move to America and then ... stay?? Another UNSOLVED MYSTERY!

I should explain, too, how I met Sarah and why I'm so thrilled that she is still willing to get together for tea or coffee (even though we can't because she lives in Latvia - groan). In the fall of 1987, after graduating from college, I secured a student work-visa and lived in South London for six months working at The Salvation Army's International College for Officers (this deserves many more blog posts). I also attended a local Salvation Army corps there and met Sarah that first Sunday. She was so effervescent and spunky that we were like two Magna-tiles. We had to get together. Her family blessed me to the tips of my toes when they offered to have me in their home for Christmas, since I could not afford to return home for the holidays. They bought me "prezzies" and even gave me a pillow case stocking. It was one of my most memorable Christmases to date and for a long time after, we would take turns calling each other on Christmas day. I returned to the US on Easter morning (after Sarah's wonderful father, David, fulfilled my great need for a life-long routine and took me to a sunrise service on a hill near their home).

A few years later, Sarah came to visit me in the States. I was eager to show her as much of the mid-west as I could. I took her to Starved Rock State Park and we climbed the trails together to look out on the river below. This was her favourite, I believe (another side note: I also seem to enjoy using British spelling for things. When I was in counselling, my counsellor thought I was just misspelling, until I explained that I spell things with the British spellings from time to time). I wanted to give her a real flavour for American life. I decided to take her to a special concert at the music camp in Wisconsin which I had attended during my teenage years. It was a Salvation Army camp and I knew that she would enjoy meeting other Salvationists here in America. Well, I gave her more of the flavour of American life than I intended to.

On our way to this camp, I was so busy enjoying our time together that I failed to pay attention to my speedometer. As we pulled away from a small town on the road we were travelling, I noticed flashing lights in the rear view mirror. The police officer kindly informed me that I had resumed the speed of 55 mph while still within their small town limits. It was my very first ticket and Sarah had the privilege of observing the whole process "go down," shall we say. I was mortified, but doubly so when Sarah took this opportunity to give me a lengthy dose of her British narration. She must have read the entire ticket out loud for my benefit (if I knew how to do that whole cross out over words thing, this would read: to totally tick me off - or as the Brits say, "wind me up"). That has been the only time in my life that a British accent was NOT THOROUGHLY APPRECIATED!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Lingo

Tonight my ES was telling me about his wrestling practice. He explained that the inexperienced wrestlers had to wrestle the experienced ones. Then he said "I didn't know the moves they were teaching tonight, so I was one of the inexperienced ones" (I know he thought I was thinking of him as an experienced one). He went on to add, "The guy I wrestled was incredible. He TOTALLY OWNED ME!" "Owning" something, I have learned, is to master it or beat it completely. He also uses this phrase when referring to his newest Playstation Game, one called Guitar Hero, which allows him to play on a plastic guitar and try to cover the colors on the strets (is that what they're called?) at the appropriate time. I have to admit the game is challenging. He let me try one of the easy songs and I only completed 90 percent of the song (Ah, my competitive soul was showing though, because I kept urging him to get Dad to try so that I could see if my percentage is better than his - HA!). Unfortunately, for most of the things in his world that I try right now ... they TOTALLY OWN ME! and not the other way around. Groan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Should Have Been Cleaning

Today, I spent much of the day reading, instead of cleaning. Sadly, I should have been cleaning. I finished Elizabeth Berg's book, Range of Motion. I picked up this book at a Barnes and Nobles for only a buck (who knows how long ago). I suppose I'm glad I didn't spend any more on it. I think perhaps I bought it because I have a friend whose last name is Berg and have noticed other titles at the library by Elizabeth Berg, but never read anything by her. The reviewers inside the cover stated that it was "a story so compelling ... you wish it would never end" and "hard to put down and impossible to forget." One reviewer recommended that you read it this year and next year re-read it again. It is the story of a woman whose husband has been tragically hit by a falling piece of ice and has fallen into a coma. The main character continues to interact with him by bringing things from home and the familiar scent of spices to his bedside. She is determined in her belief that he will awaken and she is bouyed in her spirits by the friendship of her neighbor, who has some of her own issues. The single thing driving me on to finish the book was the nagging plot question of "will he or will he not awaken from the coma?" But, after a while, I started to think to myself, "I won't be satisfied with either ending. If it ends tragically, I'll feel depressed that she held so strongly to her belief and made so many efforts to draw him back. If it ends favorably, then I'll feel like it was a too-tidy ending ... too happy to be believable, I guess. Well, I won't tell you how it ended (just in case you want to read the book), but I was disappointed. I was also bothered by the fact that the author chose to intrude on the story from time to time with vulgarities (little side stories of things that would be shocking, merely for the sake of shock value - I don't think these little vulgarities added anything to the story). I can't say that I'll be picking up another Elizabeth Berg book in 2008 or recommending this one either.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Another attempt to add a photo of Magna-tiles


These were the photos I tried to upload previously to include with my post about the Magna-tiles (I guess I was too greedy - I wanted to upload five photos). This gives you more of an idea of what they look like. Our set has squares and three different kinds of triangles. The possibilities are endless and we have enjoyed hours of play already. If you purchase these, let me know (I'm not getting any kick-backs or commissions, but would be thrilled to know that we passed on a fantastic toy suggestion). Thankfully, with boys, they never get too concerned when what they build is immediately smashed by another brother. They take it in good stride and start to build again. I remember my ES had a babysitter with two young daughters and they couldn't understand why he tore down everything they tried to build. Hello, testosterone!!

Audiobooks

Several years ago, I took a job teaching GED courses in a nearby town and the commute was 20-30 minutes each way. As a result, I fell in love with audiobooks. I had used audiobooks before, but primarily when going on trips with my ES. We would listen to Hank the Cowdog episodes (numerous to choose from and absolutely hilarious to listen to). Our local library where we lived at the time had almost every Hank the Cowdog tape ever made. Back then, with only one child, I made numerous six hour jaunts to visit my brother and sil, when they lived in MN. We listened to other gems, too (which I will probably comment on more extensively in future posts), by Kate DiCamilla and Richard Peck and many others.

But, when I had the car all to myself and almost an hour two nights a week - it became such a treat to begin a new audiobook. My old library (where we lived in DeKalb, IL) had wonderful selections to choose from. Prior to our move, I actually went to have a last nostalgic look at the titles of books I had heard from tapes and CDs in their collection (many of which, I cannot find here in IN). There are some series of books which I will only read if I can hear them read aloud on an audiobook. For example, the #1 Ladies Detective Agency books, by Alexander McCall Smith, are too perfect with the narrator they have chosen. I get the true feel for Precious Ramotswe's Botswanan character by hearing them read with an accent. The same is true of the Shopaholic series, because the British accent is fantastic to listen to. I have listened to several by Maeve Binchy for the same reason. But, oftentimes, I will pick up an audiobook from the children's/young adult section of the library (since some of my own writing has been young adult fiction). I can listen to these when my children are in the vehicle, without any concerns.

My first book for 2008 was an audiobook by Lois Lowery called Gossamer. I have been a big fan of Lois Lowery for several years now and really enjoyed her trilogy (The Giver, and its two sequels) on cd. This one was not as good as the trilogy, but in a similar vein. It is the story of two dream-givers who bestow dreams on an old woman and an angry young boy. It is a very simple story and I enjoyed the lyrical tone which Lowery uses. She has a gift for words. I once read a short story (in a book I can't even remember) which she had written when she was very young and I was absolutely blown away by the depth of her writing at such a young age. It was a story about a stable boy. I will have to dig it up (I copied it and saved it - if only I were more organized!). It had such a strong impact on me. Gossamer wasn't one of her best, but it was enjoyable to listen to and a good one to read aloud to a class if you are a teacher and have any students whom you feel might be struggling with child abuse issues.

The opportunity to read aloud to students (or my own children) has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. When my ES began 1st grade, I took a job as an individual assistant at his elementary school (despite being a trained high school English teacher). A few teachers there allowed me to read-aloud to the students and it was always a tremendous joy. I read The Inkdrinker Series to a 3rd grade class and they would leap to the circle when Ms. M announced "Time for Inkdrinker." The 5th grade teacher I worked with allowed me to do almost all of the read-alouds for the year (something I will always cherish). The connection you make with students when you read a good book aloud is PRICELESS!

My ES no longer appreciates it when I share good literature with him (his shame, really), but my MS is just beginning to request more than picture books and has a voracious appetite for read-alouds. Last Monday, we started Little House in the Big Woods and finished it today. I plan to keep a log of the books I read in 2008. I would love to keep a list of books read with MS and YS, but I'm worried that it would be too time-consuming to list all the books we read. So, for now, I will keep track of mine and merely mention the little boys' books from time to time. To all my new blog readers (all two of you, so far, whom I have mentioned this to), have a lot of happy reads in 2008!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why I blog

A few years ago, my friend Sarah started a blog. I met Sarah in England, while living and working in South London twenty-some years ago. She then moved to Latvia, married and had a child. As soon as I began reading her blog, I wanted to blog. But I thought, "Who would want to read what I write about? I'm not a missionary. I don't have astounding news to keep people posted on." Then, my brother's daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. In an effort to keep us all up-to-date, their family began a blog with the CaringBridge site at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ameliagorton . It has been a phenomenal experience watching this cancer journey unfold and feeling the support of many who visit their blog. Then, a friend sent me an e-mail with a link to a crazy E-bay auction for Pokemon cards and I became hooked on Dawn Meehan's blog at http://mom2my6pack.blogspot.com and this led to others blogs which I frequent now. I'm hoping my friend Cardiogirl at http://cardiogirl.net can help me figure this process out, since I tried to upload photos to my post on Magnatiles and it didn't work. Thanks for your patience, readers, as I learn to navigate the blogging process.

Boys Love to Build and Tear Down

Today was a day of building and tearing down. We spent most of the afternoon playing with one of the most amazing toys I've ever seen. They are called "Magna-tiles" and they offer hours of entertainment for all ages. I was introduced to this toy by my friend Laura. Her daughter and my MS had so much fun playing with the tiles this past summer that when Christmas rolled around, I had to ask her how to get them. She warned me that they are fairly pricey, but well worth it, because they will see a great deal of use (don't you hate it when you spend money on toys and then your children fail to ever play with them). She also warned that the smaller sets tend to leave kids frustrated because they will really want to build a lot and 30 or 40 pieces just aren't enough. So, when my mil asked what she could get the boys for Christmas, I suggested the 100 piece clear Magnatiles set. (Laura said her kids favor these over the opaque because they can put toys inside the buildings and see them.) What a fabulous toy! Why haven't they marketed this more? They are safer than many of the other magnetic toys on the market because there are no tiny magnets which could be ingested or lost. We have been absolutely thrilled with this gift. I love to sit with the boys and build. Today, we built several towers and DESTROYED every one, too! So if you are in the market for a pricey, but enduring gift for any child over 2, I have to put in my own plug for Magna-tiles.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Of Boys and Soap

Last Thanksgiving, my sil introduced my son to scented soaps from Bath and Body Works. She brought some Warm Vanilla Sugar soap to my in-laws and my middle son fell in love with it. He called it "Aunt Bernie's Banilla Soap" and wanted to wash his hands all the time. So, of course, I ran out and bought 3 bottles, despite the fact that at 3 for $10, it was the most expensive soap I'd ever purchased. Oh, how he loved that soap. This Christmas, she brought "Sweet Pea." I think part of the appeal to this one is that he gleefully explains to everyone that he washed his hands with "pee." He is all BOY! She sent this bottle home with us. Another part of the appeal is that this one is a foaming soap. He loves the foam. So much so that at the end of naptime yesterday, he came out to inform me that he needed to use the bathroom. I was on-line and engrossed, I guess. Anyway, about 10 minutes later, the oldest son says, "Hasn't he been in there for 10 minutes? What's he doin' in there?" Good question, I think to myself, but still fail to investigate. A few minutes later, he finally emerges to explain that he "cleaned" the sink for me. He was anxious for me to "come see." (Why do I always shudder when one of them says, "Come see"?) There is now one half inch of foaming soap left in the dispenser and the sink was still bubbling over as of this morning. I'm sure the bubbles were a tremendous joy to him. However, he will be very sad when this dispenser is empty and I refuse to dole out another 3-5 dollars for his precious "Sweet Pea" soap.