Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending the Old Year with a Bang?

We've added a dog to our household. This is one of Lulu's dogs that needed a place to crash for awhile. So we're not sure how long the dog is staying, but we're enjoying it. Yes, even Prince Charming, who for all his charming features is not normally a dog aficionado. He says this is the best dog ever.

At any rate, we know the house will be secure from the threat of...dastardly squirrels and marauding opossums. (Now we finally know why the possum crossed the road: to get away from Onyx.) So, that's good to know.

Further, we have been entertaining a lot. We love having people over. But now it appears our generous inclinations may have been too generous: we've also been sharing germs with liberal abandon. (Of course, this suggests that someone also shared with us, so it's all fair, right?) Despite the fact that we've all been fighting run of the mill colds, Sweet Pea has now been diagnosed with an ear infection and (ominous music here) pink eye.

Yes, conjunctivitis. That most icky and easily spread of all childhood illnesses. What are the odds any of us will avoid getting it? Not good. Not good at all, I'm thinking.

So this rules out my attendance at our annual "watch night" service tonight. And it probably means I won't be at Grandpa's house tomorrow. Exposure to toxic toddlers is the last thing he needs right now.

I'm trying to be stoic about this but self-pity really likes to smack down stoicism, so it's a definite battle. I don't want to start 2010 whining and complaining. I'd prefer not to start 2010 with another ear infection or illness, but I suppose that's not really something I can control.

I have been doing the usual planning and goal setting for the new year. (I dislike "resolutions", so I just call it planning. I love planning. And planners. And lists...) So at least I know what we should be doing, once this latest illness goes the way of 2009.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!

A re-post from last year, just because I love it:
O Simplicitas
by Madeleine L'Engle

An angel came to me
And I was unprepared
To be what God was using.
Mother was I to be.
A moment I despaired,
Thought briefly of refusing.
The angel knew I heard.
According to God's Word
I bowed to this strange choosing.

A palace should have been
The birthplace of a king
(I had no way of knowing).
We went to Bethlehem;
It was so strange a thing.
The wind was cold, and blowing,
My coat was old, and thin.
They turned us from the inn;
The town was overflowing.

God's Word, a child so small,
Who still must learn to speak,
Lay in humiliation.
Joseph stood strong and tall.
The beasts were warm and meek
And moved with hesitation.
The Child born in a stall?
I understood it: all.
Kings came in adoration.

Perhaps it was absurd:
A stable set apart,
The sleepy cattle lowing;
And the incarnate Word
Resting against my heart.
My joy was overflowing.
The shepherds came, adored
The folly of the Lord,
Wiser than all men's knowing.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Polly Turns Eight

Long, long ago, this was Baby Polly: Before we knew what had happened, we were celebrating her First Birthday: The next year she tried out the snow: Three year old Polly finally (finally!) had enough hair for pig-tails: By the next year she was, all of a sudden, not little any more: A year later she could help decorate the tree, sort of: Six year old Polly was, actually, a Princess: Seven year old Polly was quite sophisticated and too cool to smile: This year Polly turns eight:
And she's not too cool to smile. How else can she show off those adorable gaps in her teeth? Happy Birthday to my Polly. You'll always be my baby, no matter how tall you get.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Unbelievable Lyrics

Lets talk about Christmas songs for a minute. I love Christmas songs. I always wait until after Thanksgiving (Prince Charming insists on that rule or I would totally be listening to them earlier), but from two days after Thanksgiving (the day we drive back home) until January 2 it's almost all I listen to.

This year a few have been bugging me. And no, I'm not talking about the ever annoying Rudolph, Santa Claus, Suzy Snowflake type. Those are just lost causes from the get-go.

"Wonderful Christmastime". This song by Paul McCartney begs the question: just how stupid were the children around Sir Paul when he wrote this? There's a line in the song, "The choir of children sing their song, they've practiced all year long." Um, they practiced a Christmas song all year long? Who does that? I taught 50+ children three Christmas songs in three weeks for our Christmas program. And those kids are not geniuses. (Well, maybe a few of them are, considering my kids are included...)

"I'll Be Home for Christmas (If Only in My Dreams)". I know this song, which has been covered by pretty much anyone who ever released a holiday album, makes some folks nostalgic. But the whole thing is just a gigantic lie or, at the very least, elaborate self delusion. And I don't know about you but I can imagine my Mamaw's response if I were to tell her, "Sure, Mamaw, I'll be home for Christmas...if only in my dreams." I'm not exactly sure what would happen but I suspect it would the equivalent of a slap upside the head.

I'm sure there are more but I have other things to be doing. (Wrapping gifts, cooking, shopping, preparing for a big birthday party tomorrow, etc.) So I'll just go turn on the radio and get back to work.

Oh, and Christmas Radio Stations? While we're at it: The Peanuts Theme Song is not a Christmas song. Never has been, never will be. So stop playing it.

What We're Up To

I think this holiday season is going to be known as "the one where we forgot the camera".

Children's Theatre? Yes, we did that. But no camera.

Downtown train display? Yes. Still no camera.

Shopping at the mall? Check. No camera.

Riding the "North Pole Train" at the mall? Did that. Without the camera.

Christmas party with friends? Yep. No camera.

Hm. As there are still roughly 31,224 cookies to be made, maybe we'll get some pictures of that. Otherwise you just have to take my word for it: we are busy, happy, and up to our ears in unwrapped gifts.

And considering the fact that we have to return a few gifts today, it's just as well that they weren't wrapped. Procrastination pays off again!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Favorite for this Year

Favorite Christmas song, that is. Sara Groves' version is sweet and has that extra poignancy because she is a mother herself:

And there's this version, by the incomparable Nat King Cole (and no, I have no idea what the image on that video is. Just ignore it.):

If I shiver when I hear this, it isn't due to the sub-freezing temps. The only version that will never make it onto my Christmas play list is the Vince Gill one. No song is beautiful enough to withstand that kind of abuse.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Importance of Driveways

For various reasons, Thursday has somehow become the Charming family day of rest. We don't have to get up early for any reason (usually), we keep outside obligations to a minimum, and so on.

This morning Prince Charming and I had really been looking forward to sleeping in. Oh, I know, poor us. I'm not really complaining, I'm just setting the stage. After several early (for us) mornings, our regular insanity inducing children's ministry Wednesday, etc., we thought a good lie in was due.

Have I ever mentioned that we live on a narrow street? A very narrow street. Which becomes even narrower because people park on it. On both sides. We don't, of course, as we have been blessed with two driveways. (On our street, this amounts to an embarrassment of riches as some folks don't even have one.)

I know I've mentioned (once or twice or a million times) that we homeschool. As homeschoolers, we have no need for the local school buses, naturally. If we did, however, Polly would have near door-to-door service because the school bus stops right in front of our house.

It comes quite early in the morning. I don't know if you can tell where this story is heading (maybe nowhere fast, like the bus this morning) but as my beloved and I were snug in our bed (wow - it sure was cold last night!) I heard the school bus pull up. But it didn't leave. I was vaguely awake at this point but Prince Charming was still dead to the world (metaphorically, of course).

Then there was a knock at our front door.

Have I ever mentioned that our front door opens into our bedroom? Prince Charming jumped out of bed (probably still not quite awake) and yanked open the door.

"Hey, could you move your truck? The school bus can't get through," I heard someone saying.

"That's not my truck," Prince Charming mumbled. "It's my neighbor's. He lives over there."

"Oh, my bad," the man said. And then he, mercifully, went away and Prince Charming closed the door against the arctic air infiltrating our room.

Yes, our neighbor parks his huge, unsightly truck in front of our house. And yes, last night he parked about a foot out from the curb, thereby hindering school buses, salt trucks, and generally anyone who might want to drive down our street. And no, he wasn't around to move it this morning. (He owns several trucks. I'm guessing the old one wouldn't be his first choice to drive here considering the current temperature.)

I watched out the window as they backed up the bus and went a different way. My only question: why didn't they just do that first?

This doesn't bode well for any future snow plows, does it? We may just get snowed in for the duration this year. All for the lack of off-street parking.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

5 Things That Shaped Me Into the Mom I Am

Amy tagged me for this post a few days ago. I've thought about it on and off since then. How confessional should I be? Should I just skip it entirely? (sorry Amy) Seriously. What 5 things did shape me? [was that a squirrel?!] Sorry. ADD kicked in there for a minute. What was I doing? Oh, yes, listing things that shaped me as a mom.

1. My parents. I'm not saying I do everything they did (or do), whether good or bad, but they set a good example. Unlike some children, who grow up to reject all their parents represented, I wanted a life very similar to what my parents modeled: I married a preacher, I wanted to be a stay at home mom, I wanted to homeschool, I wanted a family of more than two children, I wanted to raise my children grounded in faith. So far, so good.

2. Books. It's no secret: I love to read. And I think I've read just about any parenting book you can think of, most of them not worth the paper they're printed on. If you are looking for a common sense book to read, I recommend anything by John Rosemond.

3. The Internet. I don't know what parents did before the Internet. When one of my kids has a fever or the sniffles or a "come look at this crazy rash" or whatever, Google is my best friend. Or what if we need to know the hours at the zoo? Or how long exactly it takes to drive from our house to Aunt Lulu's house? What if I'm going stir crazy and can't get out of the house? That's what blogs and Facebook are for. Thank you, Al Gore, thank you so much.

4. God and the Bible. I know, I know, this should have been first. I'm just writing these in the order they come to me. Actually, I don't know how children can be raised any other way. I need something larger than me, some purpose to my parenting. I have to believe the sacrifices matter, and will continue to matter long after I've moved on to my eternal home.

5. My kids. I've been around children my entire life. I like kids. I've worked with kids since I was barely taller than they were. I've entertained a lot of theories about how to raise children (some pre-Polly, some post-Polly). Nothing throws away the theories like a stubborn two year old standing toe to toe with you. No theory (other than Bible based thinking) can help you when your child is crying because someone hurt her feelings. No legal precedent comforts when you think about the horrible things some monsters do to children. These three girls are my children and I have no doubt whatsoever about how I will protect them as long and as far as I am able. Even if that means continually revising my theories.

Thanks for tagging me, Amy. That was quite a workout!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Books of 2009 - November

Well, after a big reading month in October (and big sickness month, incidentally), November was quite different. It started with a family wedding and never slowed down after that. Enough with the excuses, here's what I managed to finish:

1. Endgame 1945: The Missing Final Chapter of World War 2. Nonfiction by David Stafford. This hefty tome was actually quite readable. Stafford balances individual stories with the "big picture" in a way that makes me somewhat envious (as a writer). Read as research.

2. A Long Time Ago & Essentially True. Fiction by Brigid Pasulka. I couldn't put this one down. At times brutal and haunting, this book is equally hopeful and charming. An admirable first novel.

3. Soldier From the War Returning. Nonfiction by Thomas Childers. This book deals with an aspect of human cost of warfare that we often skim over. Childers tells three distinct stories (one of them his own family). This approach is earnest but at times irritating because it feels like yet another Baby Boomer working out his own "issues". Read as research.

4. Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe. Nonfiction by Mark Mazower. Thorough, not to say tedious. Took me what seemed like an inordinately long time to read, but I think it was worth it. Read as research.

5. Miss Buncle's Book. Fiction by D. E. Stevenson. Charming and witty, this bit of vintage British fiction was a nice change of pace. I wouldn't mind owning this. (Hint, hint)

6. Miss Buncle Married. Fiction by D.E. Stevenson. Almost but not quite as good as the first. Still very funny.

7. Mr. Monk & the Dirty Cop. Fiction by Lee Goldberg. Did you know that there's a series of mystery novels inspired by the television show (one of the few enjoyed by my family)? Neither did I, until now. Funny but not quite as good as the show.

8. Album of the Damned: Snapshots from the Third Reich. Nonfiction by Paul Garson. Pictures taken of and by Germans from 1939-1945. Haunting doesn't come close to describing them. Read as research.

Fiction - 4
Nonfiction - 4

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An Incomplete but Nonetheless Thorough

List of things (in no particular order) that I am thankful for this year:

A - America's Armed Forces, art, air conditioning, aunts, alone time, good advice
B - Bible, brother, books, babies, blogs, baking, bubbles, bridges
C - Children, cookies, chocolate, cousins, cake, creativity, choir, cocoa, cosmetics
D - Dad, daughters, dreams, dairy products, delight, easy decisions, doctors
E - Energy, education, electricity, England, elephants (just because)
F - Faith, family, friends, fun times, fluffy clouds, flying, the future, fruit
G - Grace, grandparents, gentleness, generosity, growing, gifts
H - Harmony, Home, honesty, houses, humor, hot water, holidays, hugs, history, hot showers
I - Intelligence, ice cream, the Internet, irony
J - Journeys, joy, juice, jewelry, jets, juice glasses, inside jokes
K - Knowledge, kissing, knights in shining armor, enchanted kingdoms
L - Love, life, liberty, long talks at night, laughing, listening, learning, lunch, love letters
M - Mom, music, money, modern medicine, midnight, the moon, movies, memories
N - Nephew, nothing to do, novels, nurses, new books, notebooks
O - Optimism, Oreo cookies, objectivity, originality, open doors
P - Philip (Prince Charming), pianos, poetry, paper, pens, puppies, parties, pools, pen-pals
Q - Quips, quilts, questions with answers, quizzes, quiet time
R - My Redeemer, reading, roses, being right, relatives, rainbows, refrigeration, reminiscing
S - Salvation, sisters, stories, singing, sleep, Sundays, stars, sunshine, sunscreen, soap
T - Trust, trying again, triumph, trivia, toothpaste, colorful tights, travel
U - United States, umbrellas, unity, the universe, an understanding ear, uncles
V - Voting, virtue, victory, vim and vigor, visiting
W - Writing, worship, wisdom, witticism, walking hand in hand, wishes, whispering, weddings
X - X-rays (they come in handy), eXcellence,
Y - You, yarn (although I don't know why), yodeling (because it's funny), yawning
Z - Zeal, zero things on my schedule, zippers, zingers, zebras (black & white = cool)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Just In Case You Thought My Life Idyllic

Here's a partial reckoning of what my youngest (alias "Sweet Pea") has gotten up to today:

1. Did not take a nap at nap-time.

2. Instead, broke a piece off one of Polly's collectible birthday girls.

3. And then dumped her piggy bank out.

4. In her bed.

5. And then carried her change around in a baby food jar.

6. Thereby leaving coins all over the house.

7. Closeted herself in the bathroom. Quietly. (Should've been my clue to start searching)

8. Coated herself and the counter, toilet, floor, etc. with my new "for sensitive skin" face lotion.

9. And unrolled half a roll of toilet paper. Apparently in an attempt to clean up the lotion, 'cause every square was also lotion coated.

10. Did I mention she had an accomplice in the above escapade? It was Tigger. Who has lotion coated hair now.

So. Could I interest you in two slightly sticky little girls? They probably have enough change stuffed in their pockets for bus fare.

From the Commonplace Book

Seize the day, yes, but do not live as if every day is your last. Live as you wish you had lived yesterday. - Jennifer Michael Hecht
I love this concept. Trying to imagine each day is my last would be enough to depress me and therefore, any good intentions I might have.

However, thinking about each day as compared to the one before - now that I can do!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Children Are Exceptional

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman tell us in their book NurtureShock:
Observational studies have determined that siblings between the ages of three and seven clash 3.5 times per hour, on average. Some of those are brief clashes, others longer, but it adds up to ten minutes of every hour spent arguing.
Trust my children to be exceptional, even in this respect.

(Picture of sword fight taken this summer. Seemed to fit the post somehow...)

Did You Ever Hear The One

where Little Bo Peep, Anne Shirley, Madeline and Winnie the Pooh spent the evening together?I have no idea what the punchline is. I just thought I'd set up the joke.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Candidly Incomplete Guide to Raising a Reader

1. Be a Reader yourself. Your kids need to see you reading. A lot. And yes, there is a difference between being able to read and being A Reader.

2. Read aloud to them from the time they're born (or even before). Babies can tell the difference in how your voice sounds when you read from when you speak. Read board books, make up stories from magazine pictures.

3. Have lots of books around. I know, duh, but it's that important. And magazines, and things printed off the computer, and...but you get the idea.

4. Use audio books. We use these at our daily "quiet time". My girls have listened to many different books this way (starting with "easier" things like Winnie the Pooh and moving on up to Don Quixote recently). This allows you to introduce your child to wonderful, unabridged literature long before she could read it herself. Long road trip coming up? Skip the portable DVD player and choose a book on c.d. that everyone can listen to (our entire family really enjoyed The Scarlet Pimpernel this way).

5. Limit television. Really, really limit it. Be selective with what shows and videos you allow. Better yet, just get rid of it altogether.

6. If you do have a TV around ( and we do), be vigilant and don't let your child watch a movie adaptation until they've read the book themselves (or you've read it to them). Don't cheat their imaginations by showing them another person's vision first. This means no Narnia movie (old BBC or newer) until they've enjoyed the entire written series. And for goodness sake, no "Little House on the Prairie" TV show until you've read the incomparable books. Trust me.

7. Show them how to use reference material and let them see you use it frequently. Sure, Google is easy. But it isn't really that hard to pick up a dictionary or encyclopedia. Actually, my husband and I have had races for this very thing and I can find something in our multi-volume encyclopedia set just as quickly as he can type something into Google and find the link he needs. Makes for cheap entertainment at the very least!

8. Don't be afraid of series literature. Sometimes it seems we're supposed to look down on these types of books, but as long as you're careful which series are being read, these books go a long way to raising a Lifetime Reader. Series (or "formula fiction") encourage early readers: the characters are well loved, the style is already familiar and the child can just lose themselves in the latest adventure. Around our place we've enjoyed all the American Girl books, The Boxcar Children, Encyclopedia Brown, the Ramona Quimby Books, the Henry Huggins books (OK, pretty much anything by Beverly Cleary), Trixie Belden mysteries and Nancy Drew mysteries, among others.

9. Encourage discussion about books. Sure, you could have a special subject in school for this (we call it narration) but it's even more important that as you talk about what you've been reading (you do talk about it, don't you?) you encourage your children to talk about what they've been reading. This means not being annoyed when your seven year old wants to talk about Ramona Quimby's crazy antics when you and your husband are discussing your own latest reads. (Yes, this has happened at our house.)

10. Keep trying. Read aloud to them until they grow up and leave your home. There's a book (or two or a million) about any subject and any interest. Don't worry so much about grade levels and prestige - finding the genre that makes your child ask, "Are there more books about this?" should be its own reward.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Books of 2009 - October

October was a good reading month. It wasn't good in many other respects, so at least I can say I got a lot of reading done!

1. Oliver Twist. Fiction by Charles Dickens. This is actually my first Dickens re-read since I read this one many years ago. The story is, of course, familiar because of all the movie adaptations and allusions in popular culture. I can't say I really love it (query: is Oliver that stupid? Or just that naive?), but it was a quicker read than Pickwick.

2. Abigail and John: Portrait of a Marriage. Nonfiction by Edith B. Gelles. I love John and Abigail Adams. He's one of my favorite founding fathers and you can't begin to understand him without first studying Abigail. This book is well written and accessible to anyone who'd like to know more about the Adams.

3. Cincinnati Goes to War. Nonfiction, released by the Cincinnati Historical Society. Read as research, especially enjoyed the pictures.

4. Free Land. Fiction by Rose Wilder Lane. Rose is the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I've only read one other book by Lane and I thought I should give this one a try (mostly because I heard the main character is based on her father).

5. Music of the World War II Era. Nonfiction by William & Nancy Young. Read as research. Thorough, if a bit dry. In a book like this it would be nice if a cd were included.

6. Nutureshock: New Thinking About Children. Nonfiction by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman. Prince Charming reviewed this book here. Thought provoking and interesting. I recommend this as an antidote to most parenting magazines.

7. Nicholas Nickleby. Fiction by Charles Dickens. The first book in my "Dickens in chronological order" quest that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think a better title would have been "Newman Noggs" because, lets face it, he's the real hero of the piece.

8. Britain Under Fire: The Bombing of Britain's Cities 1939-1945. Nonfiction by Charles Whiting. Read as, you guessed it, research.

9. Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls, & Consumption 1939-1955. Nonfiction by Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska. There is no reason why anyone would read this book, unless as in my case, for research.

10. Since You Went Away: World War II Letters from American Women. Nonfiction by Judy Barrett Litoff & David Smith. As opposed to the above title, I think anyone would appreciate this book. Occasionally sad but always hopeful.

11. Stardust. Fiction by Neil Gaiman. I like the movie and I enjoyed the book but I think the two are quite different (no surprise there). I have to say that I prefer the movie ending to the book, which just goes to show you, there's a first time for everything.

12. Allies in War: Britain & America Against the Axis Powers 1940-1945. Nonfiction by Mark Stoler. I'm no fan of FDR and I'm a huge fan of Churchill, but I still thoroughly enjoyed this book. I'm a self-described Anglophile, so I have trouble understanding how the US could have treated the UK so shabbily at times. This book reinforced my perception of Eisenhower being one of the main reasons the Allies won the war. Very few men could have balanced all the dueling personalities, agendas and so on that he did.

13. The Lost Art of Gratitude. Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. The latest in the Isabel Dalhousie series. I don't like this series as much as the books about Precious Ramotswe or 44 Scotland Street, but it's still a fun little read.

14. The Man in the Brown Suit. Fiction by Agatha Christie. I read this one all in one night after I took some medicine and couldn't sleep. Engaging characters and exotic location (South Africa) what more could you need for escape?

15. Rekindled. Fiction by Tamera Alexander. I've almost completely given up on Christian fiction but I picked this up at the library sale and hadn't read it yet, so I read it during my illness. It's better than most, I thought, but that may be the proverbial faint praise condemnation.

16. Battle Station Sick Bay: Navy Medicine in WW2. Nonfiction by Jan K. Herman. Read as research.

17. They Called Them Angels: American Military Nurses of WW2. Nonfiction by Kathi Jackson. Research, again.

18. Just Doing My Job. Nonfiction by Jonna Doolittle Hoppes. A collection of personal second world war stories. Not really useful as a research read, but interesting in " the greatest generation a la Tom Brokaw" sort of way.

Fiction: 7