Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from my gruesome twosome!
It is also the eve of Nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month.  I have participated for three years in a row and completed the 50,000 words each time.  But, at this moment, I'm not sure if or what I will be writing for Nanowrimo.  For the moment, I'm too depressed to think about it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: A Monster Calls

My first introduction to Patrick Ness was when the cover of his first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy caught my eye with the enticing title, The Knife of Never Letting Go.  It was the title that did it for me.  I had to see what this was about.  Thus, I was sucked into a roller-coaster ride of an adventure in reading that series.  If you've never tried them, I can promise the first chapter will hook you and "never let you go."

So, when I noticed this book, A Monster Calls, I decided to give it a whirl, as well.  This is a book Patrick Ness was asked to write on behalf of author Siobhan Dowd, who died of cancer before she was able to write the book herself.  Patrick skillfully took her idea and created a story I am sure she would praise.

When a monster shows up at midnight, Conor is surprised that it isn't the monster he has been expecting, the monster from his recurring nightmares, the nightmares which started when his mother began treatment for breast cancer.  But the monster has come.  Even though Conor isn't frightened by it, the monster demands the truth in exchange for three stories.  The stories leave Conor perplexed, but in the end, he does indeed give forth the truth.

All I can say is that I wept huge tears at the end of this story.  It tugged at my heart so strongly, that I felt I had crawled right inside a teenager who is facing the inevitable death of a beloved parent. I have a friend who, when she was only fourteen, lost her mother.  Part of me wants to ask her to read this book to see if it resonates with her (how could it not?) and part of me is too afraid to suggest it because if it were me, I might not be willing or eager to go there again.

Siobhan Dowd died in 2009 at age forty-seven.  I have never read any of her books, but Patrick Ness recommends them highly.  I will have to keep an eye out for one some day.

For another review of this book, read Jessica Bruder's review for "The New York Times."

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book Review: Son

As I sat down to begin writing this review of Lois Lowry's conclusion to her powerful book, The Giver, I found myself wishing I had been writing my blog back when I read the second and third installments to this series (Gathering Blue, and Messenger).  I want to know how I felt after reading those two books.  I know that I absolutely loved The Giver.  It was a phenomenal book, with so much fodder for thought.  What I don't remember is how well I liked the other installments to this story.  Perhaps I should have read all three of them over again before approaching this final conclusive episode in the tale.

I have mixed feelings about Son.  On the one hand, Lois Lowry is such a fine writer that it seems wrong to say that this book could have been better, but that is somewhat how I feel.  I think the best review I read for this book was one written by Liz Rosenberg  for the Boston Globe.  I share these sentiments.

The book steps back in time to the birth mother who gives birth to Gabe.  In the dystopian world of The Giver, young girls are merely seen as "vessels" to carry a "product."  The leaders of society never anticipate the mistake of failing to put young Claire (the main character in this book) back on the pills which dull the senses from experiencing colors or emotions.  Thus, Claire, unlike the other vessels, feels an intense pull for her child, quite uncommon in that world.

I loved returning to the world of The Giver.  I feel that Lowry kept that portion consistent and clear.  However, this is just the beginning of the book.  After Claire learns that her son will be euthanized because he is not fitting the expectations of society, she is desperate to save her child.  The young "giver," Jonas, is the one who escapes with the child and Claire boards a ship hoping to catch up with him.  Instead she is washed ashore on a more primitive society.  There she is welcomed with love and nurtured until she is strong enough to go looking for her child.

This is the point where I began to feel not as drawn to the book.  The scenes of physical preparation for the challenge of leaving this primitive world (climbing an impossible cliff) were somewhat boring and mechanical.  I found myself wanting to skip over this bit and the part of the actual climb.

Then the book begins to lean towards a more magical side of life with the reappearance of the Trademaster (from one of the middle two books) who puts a spell on Claire.  I know this was necessary to add conflict and to reintroduce characters from the previous books, but it didn't seem satisfying to me.  Plus, Claire lingers on the edge of society without really introducing herself to this son she has been so thoroughly desperate to find.  It is only when Jonas (a weaker version of Jonas than we see in The Giver) intervenes that Claire is reunited with her son.

I liked how the book wove together all of the aspects from the other books, but still didn't think it was quite up to the level of mastery that Lois Lowry has displayed in the past.  Of course, it would be very difficult to be in her position, with the whole world awaiting the final conclusion to an absorbing series of books.  I still say that The Giver is my favorite book in this series and it is worth reading by itself. However, this book did make me want to go back and reread the earlier installments, so it certainly achieved success in rekindling my interest in the series.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

With Boys Come Broken Limbs

I am truly amazed that we've managed to go this long without having some sort of bodily harm befall us.  I anticipated something happening to Bryce, since he is playing football.  Instead, Sean brought our first broken limb.

Sunday evening, Hubby had taken the two little guys over to their school's playground for a while.  When they returned, Trevor burst in the door saying Sean had possibly broken his arm.  John wasn't sure and thought, perhaps, Sean was just being a baby about it.  But when we asked him to try to raise his arm, it was obvious to me that something didn't look right.

I was in the middle of baking cookies and John decided he would dash off with Sean to the emergency room (not really a brief dash when it takes you a half hour to get to the nearest hospital) and I would follow after putting Trevor to bed.  I was thankful to miss the traumatic moment when he had the IV inserted (ever since his kindergarten shots went wrong, he's developed a fear of needles).  I arrived in time to comfort him before he headed in to surgery to correct the bad fracture of his elbow joint.

Here is a picture of the x-ray:

I've been very grateful for our recent purchase of a new couch and matching recliner.  He fits perfectly into the recliner with enough room to prop the arm above his heart with his fingers elevated above the elbow.

Trevor was so worried about him.  He made him a t-shirt and asked me to bring it to him.  It was a god-send, because the extra-large size allowed the sleeve to go over the temporary splint (he gets a more permanent cast on Friday).  Trevor drew a picture on the shirt of some computer character called Slender.
He is such a sweet patient.  He will ask me to bring him water and then will say, "Thank you, Mommy, for bringing me this water."  His biggest complaint is the heaviness of the splint.  At this point, he still wants me to help support the splint when he moves around.  Thankfully, he is young and his bones should heal quickly.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review: The Sins of the Father

The Sins of the Father is the second book in a series called "The Clifton Chronicles," written by Jeffrey Archer.  As soon as I finished listening to the first book in the series, Only Time Will Tell, I checked our library's holdings and discovered they did have the second book, in audio form, as well.  I snatched it up, eager to answer some of the questions lingering from the first book.

In the first book, Harry Clifton decides that, in order to escape consequences of possible family lineage, he will assume the identity of an American man, Tom Bradshaw, who dies beside him after the two were plucked from the sea.  It seems like the best solution, until police officers approach and arrest him for the murder of Adam Bradshaw.  The second book picks up this story line and traces the lives of Harry and the Barrington family members after his arrival in America.  Emma Barrington, who cannot believe Harry is actually dead, travels to the United States in an attempt to free Harry from his new-found entanglements.

Once again, I enjoyed listening to this intriguing tale of the Barrington family saga.  Archer employs the same technique of introducing the story gradually through the varying perspectives of each important character.  He weaves twists and turns into the tale clear to the end of the second installment, which again ends with a cliffhanger.

I will agree with several other reviewers on Amazon who stated that this wasn't up to the same caliber as the first book in the series.  It definitely felt like filler in spots.  Plus, the conflict is belabored a bit too long and isn't even resolved at all in this installment.  I ended with the same questions I started with.  It also felt more difficult to keep track of the time frame for each of the characters in this one and since it was an audio book, I couldn't exactly go back over and review the dates mentioned.  Still, I did enjoy listening and was just as sucked into the story as I was with the first book.

Now I am left with the sad state of waiting with bated breath for the final three installments.  If they take three more years to appear (as I believe Archer mentioned in the author interview at the end of the audio version of the first book), then I will be very discouraged.  He has hooked me in and I want to know what happens in the lives of this interesting family.  Truly the mark of a great book!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book Review: Zen and the Art of Faking It

Somehow I didn't like this book as much as the other two of Jordan Sonnenblick's books which I have read (Notes from the Midnight Driver and Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie).  I will say that he has once again provided a male protagonist with a story sure to appeal to pre-teen and teenage boys and he nails the teenaged angst.  There are not enough authors writing good books for boys out there, so I still applaud Sonnenblick for this endeavor.

When San Lee is forced to move to a small town in Pennsylvania (after his father is abruptly removed from the picture in his life), he must choose how to present himself in his new environs.  He has already adopted different persona in the various locations he has lived.  This time he decides to present himself as a Zen master.  He is eager to win the affections of Woody, a guitar-strumming beauty who is intrigued by his wisdom and quirkiness.  Unfortunately, Woody's home life isn't any better than San's.  As San goes deeper into his deception, he increases his chances of losing the one girl he might actually be attracting.  How long can San maintain his fictitious persona and will he get the girl or not?

The characters are strong.  The idea is believable (teens are often trying on different personas while trying to find the one that fits).  The pages did turn fairly quickly, but the ending didn't hold the conflict to a crisis point.  It sort of simpered to an end.

Perhaps it was the whole Zen spin that didn't appeal to me.  I don't know.  The story was cute enough and pretty standard fare, but I just didn't come away with as strong a connection as I felt to Sonnenblick's previous books.  I'm not giving up on Sonnenblick yet, just saying this wasn't my favorite book by this author.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: To Heaven and Back

Mary C. Neal, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon who writes of her experience dying, going to heaven and then being sent back to her body to resume her life's purpose here on earth.  In 1999, while kayaking on a river in South America, Neal's kayak became wedged under a waterfall where she was submerged beneath the water for at least 15 minutes.  Eventually, her legs broke (bending her knees in the opposite direction) in order to allow her body to exit the kayak.  When she appeared bobbing in the water, her fellow boaters pulled her from the water and began to attempt to revive her.  Their efforts resulted in sporadic breaths and further silence, until eventually she regained normal breathing and returned to them.  At that point, two individuals (who were later unable to be identified or located) led the rescuers out of the terrain and to a road where an ambulance happened to be standing.

Dr. Neal recognizes her experience as miraculous and credits God with determining that she still had unfinished business on earth to attend to.  Her tale bears similarities to the stories given by Colton Burpo in Heaven is for Real and Don Piper in 90 Minutes in Heaven.  Like Colton's experience, heaven is dazzling beyond comprehension.  Like Piper's experience, Dr. Neal went through a period of depression upon returning to this physical plane and would have preferred to remain in heaven instead of being required to continue living.  Moreover, she doesn't really provide more than a brief glimpse of heaven.

I don't know why I've been drawn to these kinds of books lately, but I did enjoy reading of her experience. I agreed with her assertion that God is interested in our maintaining joy despite our circumstances and that His presence in our lives is more important than any other thing we experience or encounter.  It was a very well-written book (perhaps better written than the other two mentioned books).

Once again, though, I feel it necessary to indicate that I don't really require evidence from someone else to affirm my belief in an afterlife with Jesus in heaven or in the existence of angels who assist God by intervening in our lives at certain moments in time.  So, while I enjoyed reading of Dr. Neal's experience and her interpretation of what occurred in her life, my beliefs are firm with or without her testimony.  Many of the naysayers to books affirming the existence of heaven, likewise, start out with their own firm beliefs and will not be persuaded to alter their perspective based on the story of an individual who sees the miraculous in a common life.  Still, this book would be a comfort to any believing Christian who has recently lost a loved or is facing a terminal illness.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book Review: Only Time Will Tell

I discovered this audio book through the recent acquisitions at our library.  I have long been a fan of Jeffrey Archer's short stories. He has a real gift for turning the end of the tale with a twist.  I had never attempted one of his novels and didn't really realize when biting at this one that I would be getting myself into a five book series.  And, with Archer's skill, I am certainly hooked for the whole shebang.

Only Time Will Tell, is the first book in a five book series, "The Clifton Chronicles," covering the life of the main character, Harry Clifton.  Told from seven different perspectives (the seven primary characters in the story) it spans the 1920's to the early 1940's.  Harry has been told that his father was killed in the war, but knows this cannot be true, given the date of his birth.  He is convinced that he will go on to lead a similar life to his father and uncle, working on the docks in Bristol, England.  However, he discovers a new life opening up for him when he is recognized for his stupendous singing abilities.  Entrance to the choir leads to a scholarship to attend St. Bede's, where he meets his two best friends, Deacons and Giles Barrington.

Harry Clifton's hard-working mother does all she can to keep him in attendance at the finest schools, with the goal of his eventual attendance at Oxford University.  Old Jack Tarr does all he can to assist in Harry's education and encourages him to stick with school, despite the typical harrassment Harry faces from one cruel prefect.  As the story progresses, the actual events of his father's death come to light but bring forth further questions as to his parentage and his place in the world, even possibly shattering his chances at love.

This book held me riveted chapter by chapter.  I enjoyed the use of a variety of perspectives.  I marvelled at Archer's ability to carefully weave the story so that bit by bit the full picture emerges and sucks the reader into a maelstrom of character conflicts and plot shifts.  Archer is, indeed, a master storyteller.  I knew that the ending would hold some unexpected twist and that it would compell me to search out the second in this five-part-series. 

I raced to the library this morning to pick up the second installment (also in audio form - because I delight in listening to the marvelous accents), The Sins of the Father.  I'm expecting this second book to be as appealing as the first and cannot wait for Archer to complete all five books in this lengthy journey, which will, as the back cover proclaims, "bring to life one hundred years of recent history to reveal a family story that neither the listener nor Harry Clifton could have ever imagined."

You can visit the Macmillan website for the books to listen to an audio snippet from this first novel in The Clifton Chronicles.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Book Review: Plain Truth

This was another book club selection.  Although I have read and enjoyed one other Jodi Picoult book (The Pact), I sort of shied away from her books after attempting to read the first novel she wrote, entitled Song of the Humpback Whale.  I couldn't even get through that book, but cast it aside about a year ago and hadn't sought out a Picoult book since.  She has definitely grown as a writer and this novel, Plain Truth, was an engrossing read.

The book tells the story of an eighteen-year-old Amish girl, Katie Fisher, who has given birth but doesn't remember any of the circumstances of that birth or of the subsequent death of the newborn.  Ellie Hathaway is a disillusioned attorney who has come to Paradise, Pennsylvania, to get away from a dead relationship and the pressures of her job.  When she learns of Katie's murder charge, she finds herself jumping in to defend the girl.  I found it a bit unbelievable that a lawyer would be allowed to be the client's guardian under bail conditions, but it certainly set up interesting character dynamics to have the lawyer living in the home of this Amish family (a family fraught with its own interesting dynamics and skeletons in the closet, including the earlier death of the youngest child and the disowning of the oldest son for his interest in pursuing a college degree). The reader gets to watch both Katie and Ellie change and grow.

I loved the characters.  I loved the setting and pace.  It was a real page-turner and I enjoyed every minute of this book.  Jodi Picoult is a master storyteller and knows how to weave in appropriate bits of information to keep the story moving.  I did guess the twist at the end, but wondered throughout whether or not my guess was accurate or not.  I think I would have handled the twist differently, just because it lacked some credibility, but overall, I still enjoyed the story line and the interactions of the characters.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Book Review: In the Bag

What a delightfully cute little novel.  I will admit that I am a big fan of Kate Klise's children's books.  Many of them are written with journals, newspaper articles and letters.  This novel, for grown-ups, chose a similar style with a more sophisticated story line (a small amount of bad language and a more casual view of sex than I care for).

In the Bag tells the story of four characters whose lives briefly intersect on a flight from Chicago to Paris.  Andrew Nelson and his teenage son, Webb, are headed for Madrid to work on an art display Andrew is designing.  Daisy Sprinkle and her teenage daughter, Coco, are headed for a week of vacation in Paris.  When Andrew accidentally spills wine on Daisy's expensive outfit, he is both mortified and taken with her.  He decides to slip a note of apology, mixed with an invitation for a date, into her purse before exiting the plane.

Coco and Webb's lives intersect when the two accidentally mix up bags.  Webb ends up in Madrid with Coco's clothing and Coco ends up in Paris with a pair of work boots, t-shirts and dirty jeans.  Thankfully, Coco has tucked her e-mail address into the side of her bag, so Webb is able to contact her via e-mail.  This begins an adventure of correspondence and leads to a clandestine meeting in Paris, unbeknownst to the two parents who are also beginning to strike up their own tangled relationship.

The novel was an easy read, full of humor and relational angst.  The cover describes it as "a tale of two suitcases, three cities, four people, and one big mix-up..."  I loved it.  I read this book in a little over a day's time.  It was a pleasant diversion while watching my youngest jump and play at a birthday party Saturday night and a great Sunday afternoon leisurely read.  I hope Kate Klise continues to come up with her light-hearted, entertaining stories for both children and adults.

The inspiration for this book came when Kate Klise herself found a note from a fellow passenger in her carry-on bag after a long flight.  It just goes to show you that you never can tell where or when the germ for a good story might come your way.  Thankfully, Kate followed up on the story idea even if she might not have followed up on the passenger's note!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Book Review: Honeycomb Kids

I found Honeycomb Kids: Big Picture Parenting for a Changing World ... and to Change the World on the shelves of recent acquisitions at our library.  The endorsements and book descriptions on the back and inside the front cover hooked me.  It says the author, Anna M. Campbell, is "a sustainable living educator, public speaker and beekeeper who has helped thousands of people discover the joy of sustainable living.  She and her husband are having loads of fun and facing lots of challenges raising their kids 'honeycomb' style."

The premise of this book is good.  We live in a rapidly changing world where our future holds many questions.  My husband and I are equally concerned about the lives our children will be asked to lead when the current economy looks shaky and politicians and big companies are more interested in the bottom-line than in the health and well-being of individuals.  Like the author, we wish to do our best to prepare our children for the future.  We wish to raise citizens, instead of consumers.

The author presents her ideas in the context of examples from beekeeping.  She encourages the reader to confront the "stark realities our children are confronting now (the power of advertising, instant gratification, poor nutrition, toxins, terrorism, etc") and will confront in the coming years (global population growth, technology issues, resource depletion and more)."  I agreed with everything presented in the first section of this book, which presented the big issues.  Our world is indeed facing a variety of challenges like population growth, climate changes, food shortages, energy supply issues, health issues (like the genetically modified corn I mentioned in a recent post), and technology-driven issues.

It was when I got to the second half of the book, the primer for raising 'honeycomb kids,' where I began to feel both overwhelmed and a bit put-off.  On the one hand, I began to hold my own family up against these examples of endless conversation starters and recognized my own shortcomings in preparing my family to live sustainable lives or lives free of the traps of persistent use of technology. 

It brought to mind many families that I admire.  These families have made drastic changes in their diet (focusing primarily on raw foods and avoiding processed, packaged foods) - a goal I embrace but seem to find difficult to fully put into practice.  These families encourage their children to take responsibility for benefiting their community - another thing I would like to do, but somehow fail to really pull off with my own children.  These families also respond to life's issues as a never-ending opportunity for conversation about how one should live.  I fail and fail again.

But, the book also seemed quite unrealistic.  I don't think many families fall into that ideal frame.  Most families, like mine, recognize the areas for improvement, but are also realistic about expectations.  This book lacked a healthy dose of realistic expectations.  My biggest beef had to be the endless suggestions offered at the end of each chapter.

I'll give you an example of several of the ones I felt went over-the-top:

- "Have an electronic-game free month at least a couple of times a year.  Leave your children to their own devices without their devices!  Plan some fun family activities.  After they go cold turkey and the whining stops, notice the changes in your children and the mood of the house - you might just make it an electronic-game free year after that!"

- "Take a month off to travel as a family to find out who you all are free of the influences of TV, computers, work, school and peers.  Don't head to a fancy resort and throw the kids in childminding; travel frugally within a three-day radius of your home.  Try rock climbing, gold fossicking, hiking.... Visit all the libraries you come across.  Along the way apprentice your family to an indigenous person, woodworker, farmer or artist.  Volunteer at old peoples' homes and animal shelters and see where the road takes you."

All I can say is "Yeah, right!  Dream on!"  Plus, the suggestions began to take on an air of arrogance.  The author seemed to imply that now that she had altered her own way of living and parenting, she had found life's solution and it was her duty to share that with the world-at-large so that everyone else could benefit from her boundless knowledge of improvements that can be made.  It is not that the suggestions for conversation starters were bad, it was just that the presentation was a bit offensive and over-the-top.

I still hope to do a better job at preparing my children for a changing world.  I will look for areas where I can find teachable moments.  But, this book, in the end, left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a lingering question: "Who takes care of her bees while she is gone from the home for a month teaching her children to bond and develop greater community perspectives?"

Monday, October 8, 2012

Book Review: Whitethorn Woods

Many years ago, my mother introduced me to a beloved writer, Maeve Binchy.  She is a wonderful story weaver who is able to make a reader feel like they have literally stepped into the lives and locations of the characters.  Like the stories of Alexander McCall Smith, where the story itself is made more rich when you can listen to someone read it in the intended dialect, Binchy's books are perfect when consumed in an audio format.  Thus, after learning of Binchy's recent death, I made a point of selecting one of her novels for my listening pleasure recently.

Whitethorn Woods, like so many of Binchy's books, introduces the reader to a cast of interesting characters all connected to the tiny town of Rossmore, Ireland.  A new road is set to run through Rossmore, cutting through Whitethorn Woods and threatening a local shrine to St. Ann.  Opinions are divided on the merits of the road and the importance of the shrine.  Various characters are introduced in one story line after the next until they all become a full-fledged community and take on a larger-than-life feel for the reader.

Binchy has certainly maintained her trademark skills in this novel (although some may find it a bit more difficult to get into than some of her other novels since each character is almost a separate entity or short story, linked together by the common attachment to this local shrine).  I am saddened to think that we will no longer have access to further stories from this master storyteller.  One more novel, A Week in Winter, is set to be released in 2013, but after that, Binchy's repertoire has been set.  Thankfully, I haven't exhausted her entire repertoire yet, but fully intend to.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Beaming 'Cuz the Boy Can't Wait to Read

My last post about Trevor was one of embarrassment.  This post is one of pride.  He has made me one happy momma this morning.

Last night, I was beat.  I had stayed up until almost midnight the night before helping Bryce type up a paper for his American History class.  Thus, I left hubby in charge and headed to bed early (around 8).

This morning, John informed me that Trevor did two things that would make me smile.  First, he drew a picture for his big brother (who was away playing football last night).  It was a picture of Bryce in his football uniform, with his number and name on the jersey, throwing a football.  He left it, along with a note wishing him luck, on big brother's desk.

But the biggest thing involved getting in trouble.  John put the boys to bed at 8:45, but when he popped in to check on them at 9:45 he found Trevor reading a book under the light of a Halloween decoration behind his bed.  The name of the compelling book?  The Strange Case Of  Origami Yoda.  (He's really feeling his oats this morning, because he just came by and corrected me, telling me that instead of italics, I must underline it because it is a book!)

I cannot begin to tell how happy and proud this makes my momma heart feel.  I love books.  I have craved the experience of having a child who loves books with equal passion.  Bryce has nothing but disdain for books.  He cannot begin to tell how much he loathes them.  Groan.

Praise God for books that are enticing to boys!  Praise God for a child who knows the thrill of hiding under dim light to finish a book that is just aching to be read!  May this wonderful experience happen again and again, perhaps without the disobedience next time.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Accepting Parental Failure

Trevor is knee-deep in Cub Scout popcorn sales right now.  I have actually been amazed at how much he's been able to sell, since we don't really know very many people to approach and we're not the kind to run out going door-to-door.  We won't make the $600 goal, but we're over half-way there already (after two weeks of selling, mostly to family and people at our church).

So, last night I went to a storage shed to pick up some more product from the director of the sales, a woman who calls herself the "Popcorn Queen."  They are very serious about this fund-raiser.  I think she and her husband and sons have sold around $1000 each week.  They will be getting the cool prizes.  Us ... not so much.

As I checked-out, she informed me that they have a nick-name for Trevor.  They call him "Blow-torch Boy."  I asked why and she said that they came to our house to sell popcorn two years ago (when Trevor was 6) and Trevor came walking out of the garage carrying a blow-torch, followed by his father.  (When I mentioned this to my husband, he remembered the day and said that they were just getting ready to start a bon-fire.)  I went on to tell her that we have another blow-torch story for Trevor as well.

From the time I started driving home and all through the night, I have been kicking myself for sharing the extra story.  Will she report us to someone for neglectful parenting?  Will my children be taken away from me because he slipped out of my realm of supervision for a moment and gave us such an intense scare?

I was agonizing over my parental failures.  In fact, I've been reading a book about raising "resilient, capable, caring kids" (book review soon to follow).  This book offers a myriad of suggestions of ways to turn everyday events into teachable moments and I can see how far I fall from that ideal.  We are not bringing up conversation starters every time we turn around.  We are not doing our best to raise well-rounded, responsible kids.  We are not teaching our children "the joy of sustainable living."  I know that we could be doing a better job.  I know that we have failed our kids in so many ways.

But, it doesn't help to get down on myself and to berate every little failure I have made in the parenting department.  The blow-torch incident wasn't the first time I've failed to provide enough supervision and it probably won't be the last.  Frankly, it's hard to supervise so thoroughly that nothing harmful ever befalls your child without hovering like a helicopter parent.

Now, my job is to stop being so obsessed with how other parents might be judging me and to focus on doing it better, if I can.  I will continue to read books with parenting insights (even when I think the writers go over the top a bit and take examples to extremes).  I will continue to recognize my failures and to make efforts to correct those failures.  But I will also try to cut myself some slack.  What parent doesn't make failures in this all-important role from time to time.  No parent is perfect.

As we reflected back on the blow-torch story, we marvelled again at how blessed we are that God chose to protect Trevor from his curiousity and errant behavior, and from our failure to supervise better and keep dangerous tools properly stored.  We are indeed fortunate that nothing worse happened.

I still have a niggling worry in the back of my head over what others think of me, but I'm trying hard to turn the worry into proactive steps to guide and direct my sons in a better way.  I'm human.  I fail in so many ways.  Thankfully, as others have said, "God's not finished with me yet," and when I do fail, He very often fills in the gaps.  (Here's another blogger who really nailed what I'm trying to say.)