Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year


Happy New Year Dear Readers! Thank you for all you comments this past year. More writing to come....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hoping For Christmas Letters

Real. Something you can touch. Hold. I’ve been cheap these last two years, sending out e-mail Christmas letters and photo attachments, but this year I’m returning my old-postal-service-ways and spending way too much on a stamps.

My frugal tendencies may now be giving me what I deserve...not a lot of snail mail Christmas cards have come my way. My parents and I share a mailbox; I look with envy as each day they average three to five Christmas greetings. I am jealous of the older generation who has not completely given up on traditions in favor of Facebook efficiency.

My mother-in-law decorates the door frames of her house with their Christmas cards: glittery snow scenes, angel choirs, sleighs, and the babe in a manger. I have a mere three to tape around my door. I kept waiting for more to arrive, but finally decided to go ahead and put my meager assortment on display. Perhaps I should tape up some from the last couple of years, no one would ever know...

Christmas cards and Christmas letters, are they a thing of the past? Please say no. I find myself nostalgic for these items that took some time and effort on the part of the sender. I enjoy the letters just as much. Some people have strong aversions to long, Christmas letters, complaining that writer’s are bragging about their wonderful years. I’m sure others think there is no need: we read their status update daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

But my family is pretty big into Christmas letters. My mother faithfully typed them up. I can still see her pull down our heavy typewriter and painstakingly plunk out the yearly story. I remember how the keys would get stuck, several of those long arms containing the ink stained letters would bunch up near the white typing paper. My mother used whiteout when a mistake was made, or even just cross it out and kept going. (I wonder if my sons will ever purchase white out. Do they even sell it anymore?) Then my mother would run to town to make her photo copies. As a child I always liked hearing the paragraph devoted to me and my happenings. My sister would sit around her as she read us the finished product.

My grandparents stayed with us each Christmas, and one of my grandma’s pastimes when she visited was to sit in my mom’s green rocker and go read through each card and letter that filled a festive basket.

Letters, to us, are a time to reflect and be thankful. To realize how many blessings we have, and I find it personally therapeutic, so even though the price of stamps and printing has gone up, I march on with the dying tradition that continues to feed my soul.

I looked over at my husband the other night still trying to find ways to save, “Should we really keep sending out pictures and cards to some of the people on our list...like some of your friends who we never see or hear from anymore?”

He thought yes. They probably appreciate it, are glad to know.

I know I am. I know I am glad for the hello, the synopsis, the connection with something tangible and real. Something concrete to hang on my bulletin board.

I’m pleased when people come to my house and stop and look at the smiling faces on my wall. I’m proud to share my friends and relations with others.

So, what do I want for Christmas this year? A complete boarder of Christmas greetings around the door of my kitchen, I’m trying to be good. I’ve made my list and checked it twice. I’m bracing myself for the grand total at the postal counter. I’m forgoing the cheap, efficient electronic route. I hope it pays off.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Good Tradition





I like traditions, but I am also pretty flexible with them and know they are only for a season...especially with Christmas and the evolution of family.

One distinct tradition that we do right now is that I wrap roughly 10 gifts and place them under the tree...10 days before we leave for the grandparents. We never have Christmas in our own house, under our own tree. There is no Christmas morning for just us, so unless I think outside the box a bit our family wouldn't have any special Christmas memories for just us....around the concept of gift giving.

Each night the boys open one more gift until they get to number 10! This spreads out the joy and helps with their inpatients for the big day. I start very small and work our way up....many of the gifts are shared items. (Plus it helps them slow down and enjoy each one. When we open our items all on one day it is very exciting, but often gifts upstage each other.)

This is what we've unwrapped so far:

1. An ornament for each boy
2. Lifesaver books
3. Mini-white powdered donuts...my middle's favorite
4. Each received a new book
5. A new game for the older two and a spinning, light-it-up toy for the "baby"
6. Calendars for the older two and a puzzle for our youngest

Anyone curious what gifts 7-10 are going to be?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow.....

Being an Oregonian, I never needed snow to feel like Christmas had arrived, but now that I've been married to a man from the wilds of Northern Idaho for just a bit over a decade....I have the serious need for white stuff to feel merry and bright.

Here are some pics that we shot just before Christmas! My whole family was feeling happy and festive that day and it wasn't even officially the Christmas Season. Maybe if I post these we can get another glorious dumping. I use dumping loosely....you can see the leaves through the light dusting.




Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Popular Posts

Roughly a month ago I put on a new gadget, "Popular Posts." I and readers found it interesting....some or our favorites didn't make the cut. Sally noted that her favorite post ever was the one I wrote about Dutch Brothers, and I have to agree. I was in a very punchy mood that day and thought it turned out quite well.

I let you all know that I'd be removing that feature and then revisiting it to see if any new popular posts surfaced.

Still, Coffee tops the list. That is funny to me. There must be some browser related to coffee that is sending readers my way. Is that how it works?

But, there are some new ones that are making their way in the blog popularity contest: Conversations , I Finally Have A Hero, and I Did The Unthinkable.

I am a sucker for top tens and end of the year reflections, so in the coming weeks I will have to do a recap for the year and let you all place your vote on your favorite from the list, my list vs. Blogspot.

Hope you are all enjoying the holidays.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Crazy









The Saturday after Thanksgiving starts our Christmas Crazy....in basically this order: decorate the house, get the tree, start playing Christmas tunes, make sugary yums, begin the advent calendar, last minuet shopping, make a gingerbread house, make x-mas crafts, wrap presents, and begin unwrapping them.

Because we never get Christmas at our house, with our own family, we have created our own special tradition.

The boys begin opening one present each night, 10 prior to leaving for Poppy and Grammy's. They love it, and so do I. It spreads out the fun and makes the waiting game a bit more bearable, especially for my middle son who loves gifts and giving. This morning he was just sitting under the tree looking at all the gifts....I actually had empathy for him, but not enough to let him open a present. (Pst, the gifts starts small like an ornament or pack of white, powdered donuts.)

The other plus to this arrangement is that each night they having something exciting to do, and subsequently, usually, something fun to play with.

These pictures should give you a hint to why I haven't been posting very much lately.

Too much fun!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hollywood Family




I've been envious of all those family pictures I've seen over the past few years...you know, the ones which make the families look like famous, good looking movie stars...taken on location is aesthetically pleasing settings versus the Penny's Studio. And I am feeling like we, my family, are in the prime window for cuteness. I mean, my boys aren't going to get any cuter being they are currently all under five, and my husband and I aren't getting any younger.

So, we took the photo shoot plunge....it was stressful. First my niece was coming with us and was being dropped off by a friend who was over an hour late. Then we got on the road and ended up in game day traffic. Not sure why none of us remembered about game day...oh, and it was homecoming on top of game day craziness. My middle was having a panic attack over the pictures, but thankfully took advantage of the traffic jam by falling asleep. He woke up a bit better and somehow pulled it together when I bought him candy. (Oh my husband decided to go to some soccer thing that morning and also did not show up at our house in time to leave, so instead texted me that he'd meet us there....and swing by Freddy's to buy something to wear.....)

Knowing all this, you should be very impressed by the shots that were pulled off, but the stress is not over for me. Which one do I blow up and place on that one monumental wall. This is our forever picture, I feel. We will never ever look this way again, and I'm sure I will never replace this family photo once I place it in the frame.

You tell me...remember, it is going to be blown up rather large, so keep that in mind when you give me your feedback.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Not That Tune Again!

Sometimes I think I might die if I have to listen to any more songs about elephants and their trunks, or about ducks hatching from classroom incubators. Sometimes I wish I owned an iPod so I could plug myself away from my children’s favorite travel music. I remember being grateful when they loved Paul Simon, but if I have to listen to “diamonds in the soles of her shoes,” one more time I think I might throw my shoes, or myself, out of the moving mini-van. American Girls by Counting Crows is a bit of a breather for me, and for that minor obsession of my oldest I am grateful. I have to agree that it really does have, “Good bass.” But still, I wouldn’t mind listening to the rest of the songs on the CD, all the songs after “American Girls” versus “American Girls” over and over again.. But the three rockers riding behind me have promised to start a riotous mosh pit if I deviate from their music preferences. I believe them.

My husband looked at me on our way home from church and said, “Why don’t they make it so that you can play two different listening selections at once, one for the back and one for the front?” And? I agreed. We miss our Sunday afternoons with Prairie Home Companion. Steve from the Marvelous Day soundtrack isn’t the same as clever ads for catsup.

It could be worse, probably will be. In about eight years I’ll be wishing for these days of sweet Jesus songs when my teenage boys are listening to dark, depressing rants against authority figures or whatever it is they like in their independent, searching-for-self-years. The major difference will be that the boys will probably each own their own personal listening devises, and I will be the one left out. At least now we are all listening together. I’m included, not excluded.

I won’t know all the annoying lyrics to their favorites or know which songs have the best bass unless I force myself into their worlds and subject myself to genres I would never personally enjoy. I remember spending way too much birthday money on a rap CD that I didn’t really like, but thought I should because everyone else my age liked this particular group. I remember my mom not exactly enjoying the bad Christian rap, but I pretended I thought it was brilliant even though deep down I agreed that it was annoying. She allowed us all to be tortured and we listened to the whole thing, her showing her skills at tolerance and me showing my skills at acting.

I supposed that if I could feign interest at 13, I can probably find a way to endure future music choices. I really hope rap is not one of them, or hip hop, or heavy metal. Do you think there is any chance they’ll like folk music? I like folk music. I’m good with Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline. Didn’t Johnny Cash’s last CD do phenomenally well, you know, the one that came out after he died? Wasn’t that because a bunch of teenagers discovered just how cool he really was? Or maybe my boys will discover the grunge music their father listened to? I like that stuff. It’s sort of nostalgic for me now.

Which is probably how I’ll feel about our current music of choice, there will come a day when I’ll miss the innocence and awe of this current musical season. Since being in this mothering thing five years now, I’m learning that all things pass, and when they’re gone there is no going back.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lose Blog Traffic....Really?

I enjoy reading my copy of Writer's Digest, and this last issue had an article titled, "How to Lose Blog Traffic and Alienate Readers."

I discovered that I do some of the no-no's that were described in this article. Then I thought, "Well, maybe I should ask my readers what they think of these tips and taboo blogger moves.

1. Post too infrequently. The writer, Monica Bhide pointed out that if you blog too little you lose readers. This makes sense, and is why I decided to write three times a week, with one of those posts being the Friday Photo. But sometimes I wonder if that is even too much.

2. Post too often? Do I? Is three times a week too much? Should I post once or twice? If you blog, how often do you post? If you read, how much is too much to keep up with?

3. Turn off comments. Check, those are on.
4. Being overly snarky...well, I don't think I'm too sarcastic in tone.
5. Choosing poor photos...well, my photos aren't as fabulous as many of my blogger friends like My Three Sons and ShutterbugandtheSweetLife, but I am more of a writer than a visual artist.
6. Chatting it up about too many different topics. OOOPS, I think I might do this. I tend to write about books, my kids, and then my Friday photo....but then I do slip in a political thought here and there or a random rant about school shopping etc. So, am I too random? Do you like certain post topics over others?
7. Neglect to read other blogs....I do keep up with reading a few faithfully (see my blog roll), but sometimes I guess I should break out and search for new writers.
8. Writing too much.....OK, so do some of you click on my blog and see that the post is too long and then decide just not to read it?
9. Promote yourself through other blogs, FB, etc.....I do post on FB, but I don't want to be that annoying FB friend who is always sending that annoying link to her blog.....

OK, so here are my questions for you to respond to:

1. Do you like the three posts a week or should I do less?
2. Am I too random in my blog topics? Please list your favorite topics that I write about in order of preference:
a. book reviews
b. my kids/Graphic Columns
c. friday photo
d. spiritual thoughts
e. writing
f. school
g. food, farming, and season
h. that random political thought

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Maggie's Ball


Maggie's Ball by Lindsay Barrett George is fast becoming my new favorite, mainly because it has captivated the attention of my 20-month-old son and also holds the attention of my older sons, so it is a book we call all read together. Love that!

I've caught my youngest sitting all by himself on our couch reading this fascinating story of a dog who has lost her ball. Where did it go? It has rolled into town. Maggie searches, wonders if it might be the yellow lemon at the grocer, nope. In the end Maggie finds her ball and a friend...a little girl who plays with her in the park.

I'm going to order this for his Christmas present. Each year I buy my sons a book, and this is the perfect one. If you have a child between a year and two-years-old, this is the perfect match for them.

(Also anything by David Shannon is great for this age group, and I recently discovered Babyberry Pie which also has held my young reader's attention.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Finally Broke 100!


I really wondered if I would ever break 100 followers, and I did! Thank you for your lovely reading support. All comments are a huge encouragement to me. Right when I am ready to quite this whole blogging thing, something happens that keeps me going....like breaking 100!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Star Island


This is from a review I wrote for the MOPS group I'm affiliated with:

Star Island received unanimous thumbs down from our fabulous group of reading ladies. The reason we are fabulous is because even though we all grew tired of the read, we were still able to have a good discussion.

Star Island is about the paparazzi and a young child singing star named Cherry Pye. We all grew tired of her antics, her self-centered, destructive lifestyle. We were frustrated by her parents who obviously made career choices for their daughter not out of her best interest, but out of their own greed.

There wasn’t one “good” person in the book. The author, Carl Hiaasen, claims that good characters are boring. He also was critiqued for being a good writer of situation versus storyline. I would agree. Some of his situations were quite bizarre....like the one in which one of his despicable characters poops in another despicable characters washing machine.

One writing technique that we all thought was clever is that Carl Hiaasen uses characters from previous novels and reintroduces them into other book plots. But this wasn’t clever enough for us to say the book was worth reading.

Our discussion turned to actors, and those actors that seem to do it for the art and career of acting versus those who seem to be in the business of fame. Some of the actors we mentioned that we appreciate because their personal lives seem to stay out of the tabloids were: Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, and Will and Jada Smith. There were others named, but I should have taken better notes to remember them all.

We contrasted these named stars with the likes of Angelina Jolie, Lindsey Lohan, and Brittany Spears.

We also concluded that none of us have any desire to get out kids into singing our acting careers, and that there is great value in a normal, obscure childhood.

The reason I love our group is because no matter what the book, we always have a good time and have good things to think about and discuss.

Our next book is First Comes Love, then Comes Malaria. I’m in the middle of this humorous memoir about a woman’s time in the Peace Corps. She is nothing like Cherry Pye!


(One member of our book group was completely disgusted by this read, but would probably like me to mention that Carl Hiaasen’s young adult book Hoot is quite good....and clean.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Fareed Zakaria


Fareed Zakaria is fast becoming one of my new, favorite columnists. Of course, Joel Stein will always win my vote when it comes to wit and humor, but Mr. Zakaria, thank you for joining Time.

I thoroughly enjoyed his article on restoring the American Dream, and his latest thoughts on the 3rd Republican Revolution were excellent. I feel like he puts my rambling thoughts and ideas into one, concise essay.

I remember my grandmother staying up quite late during the 1st Republican Revolution. She stayed up way past her bedtime, biting her nails, and placing all her hope on the new republican congress that would put a stop to the evils of the Clinton Administration.

I've read that my generation doesn't put much faith in politics, that we've never had a politician on a pedestal...has something to do with the exposure of the Nixon Administration etc. But it is true, there has never be a holy, good politician in my memory, nor have I put my trust in one party to save my ideals for the country.

I kept my blog silent on all issues of politics during this last election, but I did have my own personal thoughts on many candidates and issues. But instead of voicing my own, I just thought I'd encourage you to read someone who just happens to be a slightly better writer than I am. :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

I Did The Unthinkable

If you had asked me ten years ago if I would ever encourage my kids to join Awanas, I would have laughed, "No way."

This might shock some people. Others not. And I still have mixed feelings, but overall I feel at peace about my decision to sign my son up for the Christian version of Boy Scouts.

The thing is, I'm pretty much ignorant when it comes to all things Awanas. I didn't know about the vests and patches, Cubbies, Sparkies, car racing, points, red team etc. I didn't know that I would be spending so much money either. 9 dollars for the book, 10 dollars for the vest, and 15 to cover award costs. This bothers me. It bothers me that I'm giving my child rewards for bringing their Bible, going to church, inviting a guest, and memorizing scripture.

But it bothers me more that without Awanas we weren't really doing any of the above mentioned things. It also bothers me that we have church friends and school friends, but there isn't any faith crossover. We drive a good 30 minutes to get to church, and while we've made great connections there, my son spends most of his time at school where none of his church friends go.

I don't want my son's faith to be segregated. I want him to know that there are other boys and girls in his class that believe that Jesus is real, and that the Truths that Jesus lives/lived matter...mean something.

A little boy in his kindergarten goes to Awanas. They are becoming good friends; I wanted to foster this relationship. So, last week we went.

I was a bit uncomfortable during the scripture memory time, which seemed forced and dry. Here were these little Kinders being forced to sit perfectly still and repeat lines from scripture that they didn't have the foggiest idea what they meant. How could I tell? One little boy had obviously not been working on his memory verse and was guessing on what line to say next. He was inserting all the coined phrases he'd obviously learned in previous weeks, "Christ the son of God? Christ the Lord? Because of Christ? Because Christ saves us?"

The instructor was sweet and very encouraging, but the teacher in me wanted to implement some sign language, motions, and explanation for the phrases this young guy was desperately trying to regurgitate.

Thankfully, this session didn't last long and off the little kids were to story time. This part made me smile. Just a story. That's all. A story from the Bible. Good visuals. Good teacher. Some songs, ones that I remembered singing as a child. I loved it. I loved that the Bible story drove the lesson versus some theme like, "God made families" or "God made things we can smell." This was what I had been looking for.

Then it was off to recreation time. This is when my son gave me a very mean look, "I want you to go home." He'd noticed that no other parents were lurking in the background, so I had to hide myself in a hallway and act like I didn't want to watch my son compete in game and sport.

At the end of the night, there was a winner announced. Yep, all night the kids had been competing in teams and were getting points for behavior, verses, songs, and games. The green team won, not my son's team, but he still felt like a winner because he got some candy for visiting.

We got into the van. "Well, did you like it?"

"Yes, I want to go there again. I want to learn my verse. What is my verse? I know the first part is John 3:16."

He loved it. He's been working on his verse everyday. Not because I'm making him, but because he keeps asking if he can work on it with me. It is the first time he's tried to memorize a scripture. He's very motivated. One evening he was in tears because I wasn't letting him go to Awanas, and his daddy had promised him he could go again.

"Honey, Awanas is once a week. You have to wait. I'm going to let you go, don't worry."

And so we wrote it down on his calendar all the way through the end of the year.

All the things that made my adult cynicism cringe, really connected with my son. And the best thing that connected with him was all the faces he saw there that he also sees every day at school. I kept hearing, "Hey, there's Gunner....there's Alayna....there's Isabelle....there's Austin....." That part made me feel good. There was a connection made, a sense of community. He doesn't feel like he's the only one who knows this man named Jesus. And so I will overlook any cultural bag age this might create in my son because the alternative, to me, is a greater risk to take.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dog and God

My oldest gasped. I stopped reading. “Mom,” he pointed to the word dog on the page, “if you put the g in the front and the d in back, then the word would be god.”

I was slightly impressed. Then I sighed knowing his daddy must have taught him this trick, his daddy: the crossword enthusiast. I

“Did Daddy show you that?”

“No, I just figured it out,” he informed me.

“Wow honey, I think you’re learning stuff at school!”

“Yeah, I’m getting really smart.”

School, so far, has been a complete hit. He’s eager to go and happy to be home. He anticipates his school friends and is happy to get home to his younger brothers. He doesn’t miss me, but beams when I help out in his classroom.

He’s observing too. He has a challenging classmate with obvious special needs. My son came home after the first day of school to point out that this little boy is still in a pull up. I hear about this child almost everyday: how he can’t keep his hands to himself, how he ends up in the time-out chair...the list goes one. My oldest doesn’t think any less of this wiggly boy. How I wish the innocence of kindergarten lasted a bit longer. This little boy can be a bit frustrating at times....to classmates, teachers, and assistants. I know, I helped out for the first time last week. But I had total empathy for him. He was working really hard to behave properly, and I thought, “Wow, if my son can learn to work with this little boy, that will be a huge social-skill-accomplishment!” And his classmates seem to take it in stride and accept him for who he is.

He’s even encountered a bully on the playground, but not to worry, he was playing with his buddy Ryan and they both figured that the older kid was much bigger and concluded that they didn’t need the ball anyway---they’d just go back to playing vampires and bunnies. Sounds fun to me.

At the Saturday morning breakfast table my middle son shouted for some more juice, “Um, you don’t yell like that when you want something. You raise your hand nice and quiet.” My oldest told his eager-to-please younger brother. Ah, love it! My oldest is passing on his new found knowledge.

I can still remember when my older sister would come home from school and teach me new, amazing things. Like the night that she and I laid on our bedroom floor, and she taught me how to carry and take away. Addition and subtraction appeared, to me, to be the most wonderful magic trick I’d ever encountered.

I feel we are evolving, moving out of the Ice Age, into the Stone Age. But since I still have two more preschoolers at home, I still get to linger in the era of play dates, indoor park, and MOPS, but not as carefree as last year, because we have to remember to pick big brother up from school.

Many moms have asked me if I cried on that first day of school. I didn’t. They did. I feel a bit heartless, but then I realize that while I may not have been tearful I was still full of emotion on that first day, but they were all happy ones: anticipation, eagerness, excitement, and joy. I was ready for him because I knew he was ready. He was ready for the next big thing.

We did it! We did his first five years well. I have absolutely no regrets. We did all the things you do when your child is one, two, three, four, and five. Now we are focusing on doing a bang up job with six.

Each night after I put the boys to bed, I crawl back into the oldest son’s room and lay next to him. I let him talk. He tells me all about his day in the night’s darkness. (Hey, mamas out there, studies show that boys/men will verbally process more in dimly lit rooms.) And it is good. His world is expanding: mine is too. I’m not reliving my childhood through his, but rather watching him start to make his own life choices. I’m glad to be doing this parenting adventure.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Popular Posts

Has anyone noticed the new little feature I chose to show to the right of my blog page? I thought it was interesting to see what pages have gotten the most hits. Funny, all my favorite blogs never make this list. Of course, by having this feature on here, I wonder if these posts will continue to be popular because people click on them etc. So, I'm going to try an experiment and make it disappear in a few days. I'll give it a week or so, and then put it back on to see if any new posts appear.

Wish me luck!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Remembering

I've been doing a lot of remembering. I've been remembering throughout this entire year. But really, I've been doing that for a while now. I didn't wait for my grandpa to die to replay images, memories, and stories from our lives together. My family is very good at verbal process, so we process everything over and over and over. We relive moments. Christmas isn't just about that one moment beneath the Christmas tree. We can live off of that day for weeks. My sister, mom, and I all take turns calling each other and reliving the highlights, affirming each other in our gift choices, and food contributions.

Still, there is something significant about that first year without someone. Each sensory emotion is a reminder of who they were and how they are no longer with you in flesh on earth.

This is the month my grandpa left this life. I think it is fitting since it is fall, and he was affectionately called The Great White Hunter.

I also think it timely that I came across a picture of him holding me as a baby, which looks very similar to a picture of him holding my second. I love it. The gift of him continues to give.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Am I The Ugly Duckling?


I can't help it, certain classic children's stories make me cry. I always get weepy when I read Are You My Mother, and I can't help but become emotionally invested in any telling of The Ugly Duckling. Is this because we can all relate to the Ugly Duckling? Anyone else get sappy while reading this classic tale?

I found a version of the Ugly Duckling that is just the right length and word choice to hold the attention of my sons ages five and four. It is by Sebastien Braun, who is an illustrator.

What are some children's stories that make you tear up?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Zany Cats and Windy Days

Sometimes I want to read a book that rhymes, sometimes one with a good story, and other times I'm looking for a short read because I am so tired I don't want bedtime to last any longer. The tricky thing with some short books is their lack of imagination and entertainment. And the tricky thing with rhyming books is their lack of a driving story. And the trouble with books that tend to have good stories...they can be too long for that night time read. That is why I found three winners which fit well in the categories above:

Rhymes, but isn't annoying:



Short, and still clever:

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Interesting story, and just the right length:



Monday, October 11, 2010

Love That Dog



My father has two best friends: his dog and his tractor. Actually, the dog is ours---technically. Our dog Oscar rewards loyalty. My parents and I live 100 yards apart, so he sleeps on the porch of the last person who just spent time with him.

Since my father spends most of his days outside, as does Oscar, the dog can most often be seen on their porch.

But we have no hard feelings. We know Oscar loves us too. He and my youngest were pups together. They still spoon each other in the backyard. My baby, 18 months old now, likes to wrestles Oscar, pretend to ride Oscar like a horse, and mutually exchange lick kisses.

Each one of us loves our best friend Oscar; each one of us feels like we have this canine’s undivided love, but, my dad does win the prize of the most reciprocated love and affection. Oscar makes sure he is present every morning to help my dad put on his work boots, getting in the way of the laces with his eager excitement. Oscar loyally stays in the woods all day as my father cuts and stacks firewood. (This brings my worried mother some comfort in case my father should ever get into any trouble---falling trees at 70 years old. Dad refuses to utilize the radios we bought him two years ago for Christmas.) This best friend rides next to my father in the blue Chevy. We joke that my dad has a new blonde girlfriend; Oscar is a yellow lab. No former dog has ever been allowed in the cab; Oscar is privileged.

I just got my teeth cleaned and found myself bragging about our wonder dog more than my own litter of boys. The dental hygienist breeds labs, so I wasn’t totally off my conversation mark by swapping dog tales.

I wowed her with Oscar’s obedience and trainability. Oscar never chases or harms our chickens, leaves our cat alone. Oscar never crosses the line of our back door, knowing his rightful place as an outside dog, and Oscar obediently walks to the dog chain with one simple flick of our hand.

I impressed the hygienist with my dog’s athleticism and instincts: regularly catches snakes, never knew we had so many on our property; lays dead birds on our back porch; and once pranced proudly around the property with the head of a freshly conquered nutria between his doggy jaws.

Oscar is the best dog we’ve ever had. I well with pride when I think of his love and loyalty. In our area we’ve had an increase in Cougar sightings. In fact, six have been tracked and killed because they were attacking local sheep farms. The other day when I was picking blackberries, I knew if a scary mountain lion jumped out at me through the briars, Oscar would----without question----lay down his life for me.

There is just something about a dog. I think dogs were created for us as much as we were for them. There is a unique bond forged between man and mutt. My late grandfather knew this. Grandpa too was a boy who loved a dog. Before Grandpa passed away this last November, he always wanted updates on Oscar. I think Grandpa lived a bit vicariously through the sense of freedom and adventure he heard in the tales of our dog. Oscar kept Grandpa feeling still like a young boy who had a four-legged best friend.

Oscar brings us all a lot of joy and pride. And that is why I smile when I hear my father starting up the tractor and see that yellow streak sprint across the yard, not to be left behind. There is enough love to go around. Sharing Oscar just makes the joy of dog ownership that much better.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Happy Birthday Dear Friend



The other night my son told me that an older boy (2nd grade) had laughed at him when he slipped off the monkey bars. I asked him if that hurt his feelings. He shrugged, "Maybe a little bit, but my friends told him that it wasn't nice to laugh. And I tried again and made it all the way across." I am so happy that my son has a group of friends. Friends give you all the confidence that you need. Sticks, stones, and words don't hurt quite so much when you have a sense of belonging with your peers.

I had this from a very young age, what a blessing. Much of my confidence in myself came from my best friend. We knew each other from before we were born. I think she was supposed to be born a few weeks before me, so the story goes, but she was very late in coming, way over due. Even at age three, when we were supposed to be at a certain dreaded babysitter's house, we escaped out the bedroom window together, walked down the street, and back into her house where our mom's were visiting. I would never have done this without my friend.

I remember my sister asking my mom. in middle school, why she didn't have a best friend. I said a prayer of thanks that I did have one. I understood her desperate desire. I couldn't imagine surviving junior high without mine.

It has been 33 years of friendship now.

When it was my birthday she did a tribute to me and our friendship, and so I'm returning the love. One thing she pointed out was that we need some recent photos. I was sure I had some, and guess what....I don't. I have photos of our kids together. Seems like I've stopped taking pictures of adults. I'll just have to drive down and see her and take a few pictures ASAP.

Does it help that her daughter looks just like she did and my sons favor me quite a bit? Does that count?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Time for Writing

I know I should be writing, but I'm struggling to find the time. Currently my middle son is climbing all over my lap and computer chair. It seems we are all trying to find time with each other.

My husband has entered some alternate universe, which revolves around his soccer schedule. My oldest is in full-day-school and my middle in preschool. This means my skills as carpool director are being exercised. The thing is, I'm not sure I'm that great of a driver. I keep noticing too many close calls when I drive. The latest example would be the woman who I didn't see walking in the crosswalk as I turned right....right in to her. I got a very dirty glare. I also took a friend to book group; she was noticeably tense due to my ability to appear distracted when I drive. Now, in true random, blog fashion: back to the main point of this entry.


I keep hoping things will get into a rhythm once soccer is over, and the rains come, and we are all forced to be bored and inside. I'm not sure I could continue at such a frantic pace.

Tomorrow should be less hectic. My only real plans, other than dropping kids off and picking kids up, is running in to Costco to use my coupons! I'm excited that it will just be with my baby boy. He definitely gets the attention shaft. So I'm happy to spend some one-on-one time with him tomorrow, searching the selves for really good deals.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Photo



Does this really even need a caption?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What A Gift!

So my "BFF" of all time did a tribute to me/us on her blog yesterday.....because it was my birthday. How thoughtful is that!? Plus, she made an easy post for me. I'm just sending you her way. There are some excellent pictures of mullets and spiral perms.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Help! Need Books

It has been a while since I've posted any kid book recommendations. This is because we got out of our library routine, but now I'm back at it. However, my last visit did not bring many books I was ready to rave about.

There was one that struck a chord with my middle. I didn't particularly love it, but he did, so I will go ahead and give it a thumbs up.

It is I'm The Biggest Thing in the Ocean, which is told from the voice of a bragging Giant Squid. Each page shows him pointing out how much bigger his is than yet another sea creature until he gets swallowed by a whale. Then he in the belly of the whale he noticed that the whale just swallowed everything he was boasting about being bigger than. He gulps and then shouts, "I'm the biggest creature in this whale!"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Conversations


Miracle! My son is talking to me about school, and I think even more than his peers are to their parents. This is based off of conversations I've had with other moms. The trick is knowing how to work with my son's communication style.

1. Never expect him to tell you anything on the ride home from school.
2. Little bits come out from 4 pm until bedtime.
3. It is best to listen to him talk one-on-one without distractions of toys and brothers. This is best right before he falls asleep.
4. Know what to ask. Never ask, "What did you do at school today?" Rather ask, "Who did you sit with at lunch?" Be specific.

So, here is what I've gathered about his first week of school.



1. He loves his friends and has a group from preschool that he always plays with on recess! I'm feeling very good about my choice to send him to preschool. Social success!
2. They play vampires vs. rabbits. The boys are the vampires attempting to eat the rabbits' bones. (girls) {Why is boys chasing girls a universal, timeless? We (me and my classmates) played cooties, cops and robbers, oh and with my Mennonite neighbors: Anabaptist vs. the Indians. Wow, how inappropriate was that game. The girls were the Anabaptist and the boys were the Indians.}
3. They have to be at school so long because they learn so much.
4. They are learning all their letters and sounds, but it is different that the ABC song I taught them.
5. He loves his teacher.
6. They all counted to 30, but their teacher can count to 100.
7. He is in the yellow table group.
8. They have music and he loves it. They listen to songs and when the songs stop they have to stand like a solider.
9. They have library and he read a book about alligators and next time he's getting the book called Ice Age.
10. In PE they get to play with the scooters. They have four wheels and they are square.
11. Their class is really good, but you can hear the loud 1st graders through the wall.
12. It is not OK to blow other kids' hair.
13. There is one little boy that pokes people and my son and his buddy are super fast and can run away from him.


I thought that was pretty good.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Asked For It..East of Eden


Steinbeck is in no way a Christian writer, but he is a studier of people, behavior, and the Truth observed in and around him. East of Eden is an allegory loosely based on the story of Cain and Abel and the concept that we all have the capacity for evil or for good; that we have the ability to choose. That is where our power lies.

I’ve read the book four times now. The first time I read it, I tried to make it fit the Genesis account perfectly. I kept finding characters who I thought were Cain, Abel, Adam, the Serpent, Joseph, Moses etc. I found my read a bit frustrating because more than one character embodies many of the Biblical persons above.

Like all Steinbeck books you must love place and setting and be someone who gets attached to land and earth. Place is central to all his works. Place defines characters and their choices and motivations. “The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay....”

Adam Trask heads to the Salinas Valley with his new wife, Cathy. Cathy, who clearly embodies the idea of a great deceiver/serpent, “Her hair was gold and lovely; wide-set hazel eyes with upper lids that dropped made her look mysteriously sleepy. Her nose was delicate and thin, and her cheekbones high and wide, sweeping down to a small chin so that her face was hearth-shaped. Her mouth was well shaped and well lipped by abnormally small-what used to be called a rosebud. Her ears were very little, without lobes, and they pressed so close to her head that even with her hair combed up they made no silhouette.”

Cathy has no intention of staying with Adam, but uses him to escape a former life full of lies and murder. Once the twin boys, Cal and Aron, are born she leaves Adam and hides as a prostitute in Salinas. (A feared prostitute who manipulates men of power through blackmail.)

Disillusioned, Adam raises his two boys with little affection or attention. Any parenting the boys receive was done so by Lee their Chinese servant. Spiritual guidance is also found in Samuel Hamilton who helps Adam break free from the hold that Cathy has over him. Adam is stuck in his misfortune and is letting his past control his future.

But there is another character that must break free from Cathy and that is her dark son Cal who always feels the struggle between good and evil within himself, always feels like the evil son in comparison to his brother’s, Aron’s, perceived goodness.

When Cal discovers who Cathy really is, the twins have been told that she died, he feels defeated. If his mother is such a notoriously evil woman, then he must be destined to follow in her path of manipulation and deceit. But the best scene is when he goes to visit Cathy and realize that he is his own person and Cathy actually has no power to control him. It is a scene of sweet victory, and from that point on Cathy spirals into her own pit of destruction. Fitting, right?

There are so many layers to this story. Each character is full. Each scene has purpose. It truly is a great work of literature, an America classic. It not only tells a spiritual story, but also captures the American mind and spirit as our nation went from the 1800’s into the 1900’s.

There is a conversation in this book between Lee and Cal over if there is any good in the world...sometimes it is so much easier to see all the evil. Lee points out that if there were no good, then evil would have full reign, which it does not. For me this is affirming in my own faith. When I was in high school I would try and understand the existence of God and fail, but had no trouble believing in the existence of pure evil or Satan. I would talk myself out of my seasons of doubt by noticing that if there is evil and only evil then our world would be a horrible place, and yet there is much hope and life here.

East of Eden has a solid place in my spiritual journey. It is a story of people overcoming evil, overcoming the chains of their past, and breaking free. I happen to be a sucker for that story line, time and time again.

I'm sure there are many East of Eden experts out there, who would read my analysis and guffaw, but this is how I read the book and what it means to me.
________________________________________________

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Photo-



He loves to cook! Since he was two he's been letting us know that someday he'll own a restaurant named Kimbee. It'll be the biggest restaurant in the world and will serve pancakes and waffles. Here we are making applesauce.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time, A Must Read

I crave my delivery of Time magazine like I anticipate my morning coffee. The afternoon it comes to my mailbox is a vacation. I put aside all my house duties and lounge on my couch and read. I read it cover to cover. I get half done by the time my youngest wakes up from his afternoon nap, and then I finish the rest right before I fall asleep at night. I renewed my subscription with a sense of pride and duty. I gladly paid the fee to support quality reporting. I prefer tangible news to virtual.

And this last issues was particularly good. First it feels good to read real reporting, held up to journalistic standards vs. opinions on blogs or from a poorly construction e-mail forward, with little or no fact finding invovled. And so I encourage you to pick this latest issue up. You don't have to agree with all the opinions, but the will get you thinking and conversing for sure.

Points of Interest:



Tony Blair's piece on his time with our last two presidents, Bill and George, was so well written and articulated. He made me proud to be part of our American system. He inspired me to continue to strive for goodness in our government. Go Tony. Impressive.

The cover story on Israel was very interesting especially with the current peace talks. I found myself wanting to book a flight and have coffee with the people interviewed, in Tel Aviv. I guess I'm weak when it comes to beach towns. Sounds nice. Plus the fact that Israel's economy is strong and has not been effected by this last recession/depression. And, they are surrounded by those who are not happy with their location. You can follow this link and read the article on line.

I am always intrigued by politics. I guess that is the "geek" in me. I was a social studies major in college, so it is in my blood. But the article about Obama no longer being Mr. Popular was very interesting especially because of the elections coming up this fall.

And lastly, Gibbs' column was quite good on religion and our political leaders. Did you know that Dwight Eisenhower was raised as a Jehovah Witness? That Taft was Unitarian? I think we all know by now that Jefferson was a deist. Anyway, she posed some good food for thought on the topic of our Presidents and their religions of choice and how comfortable that makes us feel, or not etc.

Let me know if any of you pick up a copy!