Friday, February 26, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Edgar, Allan, and Poe

So this first book pick was more for me, since my boys aren't that familiar with Poe and the Tell-Tale Heart....but I was and so I was very amused by it all. I used to teach 8th grade English, and we did a Poe unit; I would add this book to the mix if I were to get to teach Poe again. And it would lend itself beautifully into a unit on writing for children.

If you enjoy literature, this is a must read. It is called: Edgar, Allan, and Poe and the Tell-Tale Beets.

Do you like non-word books? Sometimes I do and so do my boys, plus they make great tools for asking questions and engaging in higher order thinking questions. There is a lot you can teach kids about inference from these types of books. That is why I would recommend Polo and The Dragon.

My last pick is beauty in words, Whoo Goes There. It has the perfect blend of onomatopoeia, repetition, and rhyme without overshadowing the story. I'm only a little sad that the owl never gets his dinner. I'm always happy when my boys ask me to read this book. It is very relaxing and peaceful. Who needs a spa day when you can get all that from a children's book!


Monday, February 22, 2010

Penguins Make Me Laugh

My oldest loves to laugh. Sometimes it is at annoying potty talk, but sometimes it is because of good literary humor like in the book Learning to Fly! Remember the book Waiting for Winter? Well, this is another excellent read by Sebastian Meschenmoser. Here is the link to that book review.

My other book pick was one that grew on me. It is one of those "in" books where they put the words all over the page, trying to make art our of the arches of sentences etc. The tone is slightly sarcastic, and I was sure my boys would not follow it, but they did; they liked it. They lugged it around, read it in the van, entertained themselves with this children's book. So, even though it wasn't my favorite, I would recommend it because it provided good entertainment for my kids....and it grew on me. I might check out another book by this same author in the near future. Boris grew on me.

Finally, a book to avoid: Mom and Dad Glue. Seems like a clever title, so without looking through it I tossed it in to the bag. Ooooops! It is all about a boy whose world is breaking and cracking. There are rips in all the pictures. His parents are divorcing and he's searching for glue to put them back together. In the end he finds the inner strength to accept it all, and suddenly all the pictures no longer have huge cracks in them. Well, not sure how I feel about this book, but it wasn't really applicable to my family, and I wasn't in the mood to explain divorce to sweet innocent boys. Plus, I'm not sure this book is really accurate.....or is that how it works? Do kids just decide to fix it within? Are they somehow made stronger through divorce? I guess they aren't given a lot of options, but I just wanted to boy to find the glue!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Call for Submissions Correction

Don't you love it when you make a mistake? Arg. So, here is ours....when submitting an essay for our anthology please send it to vs.

I do hope this hasn't been frustrating for anyone yet. If you posted our call on your blog, could you please note the correction?

How is the writing going?

Want to read more about the project?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Destined To Be A Classic?

(I write a monthly book review for my local MOPS newsletter. The reviews are always written after our book group gathering.)

Destined to be a classic, these were my inner thoughts and hopes. They were slightly dashed after our last discussion of the Kite Runner...but not completely. (I felt a little alone in my admiration of the novel.)

Yes, the themes were gripping and real. The characters full and consistent. It all fit. The plot worked, but still some were disturbed by “that one scene.”

So, why did I like it? (I hated the scene,but loved the book. Is that possible?) Why have others liked it? Why has it been on the New York Times Bestseller List over and over again? I’ll explain why I think so.

The author, who I don’t believe is a Christ-follower, observes and records Truth....notice the capital T.

1. We are all evil and capable of evil....not just the Taliban. (It is easy to see and point the finger at those we see as ultimate evil. Harder to point it back at ourselves when in comparison we seem so "good.") The main character Amir commits the great evil of silence. He does nothing. And like any sin, it eats away at him. He wants to hide his “nakedness” and so he does with lies and deceit. Still the sin grows and grows and ruins him from the inside. All the natural consequences occur to Amir because he is someone acting in self-interest...relationships are broken.

2. He does not experience freedom from his act of silence until he confesses his story to his wife. He holds this guilt from when he was an early adolescent until he is a young man with a wife hoping to become a father. This is his first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation. Confession. Then he must take steps of faith, risk his life, and find the lost son of his boyhood friend...the friend whom he wronged. It is when he meets his life foe face-to-face (a local Afgan Taliban Leader) that he completes his quest for forgiveness. He receives the punishment that he knows he deserved and wanted. Aren’t we like this? I remember being a child and wanting my mom to discipline me so I could move on.

3. I know “that scene” is disturbing, but it is supposed to be and needs to be to move our story forward and for the plot to hold together. If it wasn’t as evil as it was then there would have been no probable storyline.

Those are my thoughts. I do think it is an excellent read, and I will continue recommending it. Here are general comments from the book group:

1. It gave us a new view of Afghanistan culture and countryside. Our images are mostly of dry, rocky dessert, but this story paints a picture of seasonal green and delicious pomegranate trees. There was a modern period when women wore western clothes and taught at the university....tasted freedom. War and absolute power changed all of that.

2. It made us appreciate the freedoms we experience as women in our own country.

3. We all agreed that the images of the kite fighting were vivid and will stay with us.

4. And we all loved the Hazara boy...what loyalty and sacrifice. Challenging and humbling.

5. We also agreed that our disturbance over children who have been wronged has greatly increased since having children of our own. Movies that we watched before motherhood, we can no longer stand.

Book group is fast becoming a place of safe sharing and for me a place of spiritual formation.

Monday, February 15, 2010

No More Babies!

One more month. That’s it. Then it is gone. The first year of baby will be gone...forever. Forever because we are done, done creating new. We are complete. We have our set. This past holiday season was perfect for me, our best yet. I concluded it was because all were present and accounted for. We will now have the same family memories and shared experiences.

But, this is also why I’m beginning to feel a bit on the older side. There is no more new life, babies, ultrasounds, appointments, showers, birth stories, anticipation...unknown. I think having babies kept me young. I know it did. I’ve done extensive research, surveyed all my close friends, and we all agree. The world of babies keeps you feeling young and distracted.

The other day I carted my youngest around Fred Meyer with complete ease and confidence. I was a veteran mom. I loved it. I felt so assured, unlike the first time. I was on edge with my oldest, so afraid he’d cry loudly in the freezer aisle. What if he never stopped? What if people noticed, gave glares. Now, I could care less if the glares come. Plus I realize I am not the center of the grocery store hubbub.

Instead I relished in the comments of, “Oh, he’s so cute. How old is he? What a sweet baby. Look at that smile. He’s a friendly one.” Yep, that’s right, and he’s mine. I love him. But guess what? It is going too fast. Did you know he’s growing up? Before you know it he’ll be three, then four, then in school, then on a sports team, then dating, graduation...leaving me....ah!

Then I will be old. This is what I continue to remind myself. I am, in fact, very young, and if I don’t think this...I will feel decrepit when I hit 40 and 50. Which is actually not old either. (That is a shout out to all my friends in their 40’s and 50’s.)

I have perspective. No worries. And I have hope. My grandmother told me once that her 70’s were her best decade. Awesome. I can’t wait. I’ve loved my last three, and if my 70’s can top these then my husband and I are going to have a blast. I just hope they include another round of baby the form of grandchildren that is.

Until then, I will relish these last few days of January, and revel in my son’s first birthday party--the last I shall ever plan.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Calling All Writers....

I beamed. It was working. I was a good mother and had taught my son well. There on the playground was a mob of preschool boys tying another boy around a pole with a jump rope. My son stood away from the group, a look of horror. He was not taking part. Sure, he wasn't standing up and defending the victim, but his choice of no action was pretty advanced for a four-year-old...or so I thought.

The teacher saw and intervened. I walked over to my oldest, got down to his level, and said, "I'm so glad you weren't doing what those other boys were."

"There wasn't any room left on the jump rope."

Reality. This wasn't a budding act of social justice, this was the stark reality of him being left out of the fun.

We try though, right? We strive to teach our children to love God and love others. This is especially hard in a world surrounded by so many other examples contrary to the Golden Rule and other shared Christ-values.

Just the other day my second son was quite upset while watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He hates "bad" guys. He hates seeing good people get hurt. I comforted him, "Don't worry, the bad guy gets it in the end." That isn't what I'm wanting to teach. I was mad at my response to gain the quick fix. I was angry I had allowed them to watch that movie. I want to teach forgiveness. I want my sons to know there is a final Judge, and they are not him.

Sometimes I think I do it right. Sometimes God is gracious to me as a mother. What is your story? What are your successes and what are the moments you've vowed to learn from and do differently the next time?

I'm so excited to hear and gather these stories. Melanie Mock and I are co-editing a book where we hope to do this very thing. Share. Encourage. Support.

We are working with Barclay Press on this project. Please click on the image above to read more about our writer's guidelines/call for submissions. Please e-mail me directly if you have any questions.

Also, if you have a blog we'd appreciate it if you'd spread the word and send readers back to this post through a link. I look forward to the comments and stories. All submissions are due June 1, 2010.

Monday, February 8, 2010

No More Roosters

Not even their pleading eyes could sway the heart of the old farmer. The oldest went out. Then the middle. They pleaded their case. Let him live! I asked him if Grandpa heard. "No, he did not listen to me." Yes, he looked them in the eye, but his heart was not moved. And so the axe sliced the life out of Favorite Lightning Squeak. Yep, our special, unique chicken is no more.

He was the leader, always first out the door in the morning. He lead his brood from one tasty bug feast to the next. He clustered his hens to him. They gathered warmth from his feathers.

But, no one likes the idea of fertilized eggs and this was soon going to become a reality. More than once this last week my boys noticed some strange chicken fighting, so I guess the best was done. (We did have a good discussion about monogamy and divorce from this and how animal don't get married. Good times.)

We promised my oldest a duck. They both seem fine and hardly jaded from death of their beloved pet. I think I was the one who wanted it to be their "beloved" pet while they had not really bonded with the guy much at all.

I'm still not going to eat him though. When my husband placed his butchered body in the sink I just couldn't do it. I put him in the freezer, but I think he may be boiled and served to the cats. I know, too much information.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Free Range Chickens....Tender and Tasty

Our chickens love their lives. They have to be the happiest chickens around. They can go where they please, hunt and peck in any flower bed or leaf pile. I can look out any window of my house, and I may catch a glimpse of one of these white beauties.

We ordered 25, got 27. We were supposed to only get one extra one....a rare bread. Guess mistakes happen in the chicken business. I ordered a straight run, to save a few pennies. My destiny of boys continues even with the chickens. When we are all done butchering I will only have six chickens left, the hens. Not a very good rate. I should have just paid a bit more for a straight run of hens. But I had this idea that it would be fun and yummy to eat our own chickens. Good thing I have a large, upright freezer for all those birds.

The first Saturday that we butchered the boys were quite intrigued, so was our dog.

My middle son comforted me after the first head rolled, actually it flopped and was promptly snagged by our dog Oscar---swallowed in one gulp.

It is quite the process. Chop head on stump. Dip bird in hot water. Pluck feathers. Cut/Butcher. Place whole birds in cold water in freezer chest. Disinfect knives several times after the day of work is done. Stuff whole birds in freezer bags. Place in freezer. Scour pots. Scour freezer chest.

And even though I know that our chickens are so much better, cleaner, and healthier....I feel a bit grossed out by the yellow skin. Then I am grossed out that the skin of chickens from the store are white. I tell myself it is a breed issue. Right?

Now my kids know that when we say we are eating chicken, we really are. I'm hoping this transfers to beef and fish. I do like that my kids get food and get where it comes from. I'm glad that my cupboards are full of summer canning and that the pears they ask for come from our trees. I'm happy to feed my baby applesauce I prepared.

I'm also happy to let you all know that in no way has this seemingly "violent" act scared or harmed my children. They like our chickens. They like to hold them and take care of them, and .....enjoy them in soup.

They know the difference between hens and roosters.....girls vs. boys. My oldest is always determined to hold a hen since they were the clear minority and more of a challenge to catch. However, after this last round the hens should be easier to capture....we are planning to keep one rooster, Favorite Lightning Squeak. He's the rare breed that the boys actually named.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Writers Write....Oh So True

Writers write. Readers read. Writers read. Readers write. Fight. Fight. Fight. Go Team!

The whole point is that I got out of the rhythm of writing, and I blame it completely on my poor Internet service. No Internet Saturday. None on Sunday. Spotty on Monday. Finally on Tuesday at noon.

But if that is my excuse, that means I can only write when I'm on-line? Scary. I used to write in journals. I have stacks and stacks of them, but now if I were to write that way my hand would fall off, and even I would have trouble reading what I had written....bad handwriting issues.

I used to also write on a typewriter which is where I composed a novel about a mom who had 16 sons---sure to be a classic. I'm glad that wasn't prophetic; I stopped at three. After that my mom moved us up to a word processor with the blinking cursor and the ability to see a whole five lines at once.

In college I received a laptop, all the freshman did. We all sat giddy playing solitaire and writing our papers on the big screen. I could use spell check! Still, I wasn't too tech savvy since I found it always necessary to print and edit on paper vs. straight on the screen.

Whatever my excuse, I didn't write creative thoughts for three days, and now I feel very unmotivated to write. Maybe because I have too many projects and too many deadlines. I really need to get going on my Graphic columns for February, blog posts for this week, a book project in the works, and then my own little fictional project I do for kicks.

But instead what I really want to do right now is stretch out on the couch and take a little snooze.

I made really yummy cookies. Might just eat a few.