Tuesday, January 26, 2010

That's Harsh!

In order to encourage Polly to develop the daily Bible reading habit we have her read one Proverb or one Psalm every day. Those are manageable passages (well, OK, maybe not Psalm 119...) and keep lists of names or hard to pronounce words to a minimum.

However, the other day I realized that every so often we ought to have her read her scripture portion aloud to us, just to minimize confusion. Polly came to me with her Bible and asked,

"Mom, why does the Bible say it's better to live in the wilderness than with a conscious woman?"


"Um, honey, it doesn't say that," I assured her. I'm pretty sure I'd remember that. So I explained her pronunciation error and what the verse meant.

She was greatly relieved.

(And for those of you who are still wondering what Polly was reading, it's in Proverbs 21. Check it out. )

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A 33rd Reason

Last year I gave 32 reasons why I call him "Prince Charming". This year, since those are all still applicable, I'll just add one more:

33. He's a wonderful uncle. He loves our nephew almost as much as I do. And he can't wait to start teaching Fen everything there is to know about board games - maybe once Fen stops putting everything in his mouth.

Happy Birthday, Philip!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In Which I Am Introspective

I went to an estate sale today. Alone. (Just pause to ponder that for a moment - Karen left her house all by her own self!)

The sale was in a little, tiny really, house. With steep stairs up (bedroom and attic) and treacherous stairs down (surprisingly spacious basement). This house is no one's immediate visual of an "estate". It was, quite obviously, a grandparent's house. Someone who survived a Great Depression, at least one World War, and who knows how many personal hard times.

How do I know this? The stuff. Oh, the stuff. It was everywhere. There was barely a path to walk from room to room without stepping on stuff. Ancient boxes of groceries. More aluminum foil than one person could use in a lifetime. Bottles of shampoo. Magazines from thirty years ago. Beautiful china and...not so beautiful things. Things that are now considered collectible right beside things that should be tossed into the nearest dumpster.

I walked into the house and immediately felt sad. Wall to wall people pawed, generally quietly, through dresser drawers, cardboard boxes, and laundry baskets. My fellow estate-sale-goers speculated aloud to themselves about the former owners. We wondered about the family whose burden this had become.

"Oh, Lord, help me not to leave my family this kind of mess," I thought to myself. Stockpile? Yes. Hoarding baking soda? No. Buying new dishes? Yes, sometimes. Saving all the old ones? Nope. Keeping precious keepsakes? Yes, of course. Keeping everything? Not a chance.

And yes, because I know you are wondering, I did buy a few things: 1 pack of vintage Christmas bulbs (they were cute), 25+ old fashioned wooden clothespins (the non-spring kind), 5 LPs, 1 tiny glass bottle, 1 old pan (to carry my clothespins, not because I wanted it) and 1 beautiful china blue and white Wedgwood teacup to replace mine that, ahem, someone broke not too long ago.

A man watched me sort through all the records. "Trouble is, no one has a turntable any more," he said. "I do," I told him. He looked me over again. I could see what he thought. "You could buy one at Target, if you want one," I said (ever helpful). He walked away before I could wax rhapsodic on the wonders of my beloved Crosley.

When I filled my little pan with wooden clothespins a woman said to me, "Do you hang clothes on a line?"

"Yes, in the summer," I told her. She smiled at me. "I didn't think anyone did that any more."

Ah, yes, vintage-loving, frugalite, young-ish person here, guilty as charged. But I hope none of the things I collect, use, and love ever end up owning me rather than the other way around.

After all, it's only stuff.

Friday, January 22, 2010

But We Love Each Other Anyway

Tigger sat beside me on my bed today. She was examining me. Closely.

"You have big teeth," she finally said. I stared back at her.

"And they're crooked," she added. More staring from me. I know I say I prize candidness, but this was a bit ridiculous.

"Well, blame the dentist that told us my teeth weren't 'bad enough' to merit intervention," I said.

"And your ears are big, too." My, Tigger was just a truth-tellin' machine today. (Side note: I've never felt my ears were particularly big. Lopsided enough that having glasses fitted is always torture, yes, but never oversize.)

I wondered what flaw my middle child -a child I carried for not quite 40 weeks, who I nursed for a YEAR, who I comfort when sick, whose every hurt I kiss, the child I discipline with love - would point out next. (Moles? Dry skin?)

"I love you," I told her. (Yes, a shameless attempt to change the subject)

"I love you, too," she said. "'But your teeth-." I stopped her before she could finish. I can tell you my first reaction: give Tigger a little piece of my mind concerning some of her own less desirable traits.

Of course, I did not. I'm the adult and she's the child. Our little family loves each other proverbial warts (and literal ones too, if any of us had them) and all.

I will be working with Tigger on the inadvisability of discussing such things so frankly with anyone outside the family circle. But if you should ever meet Tigger, considered yourself forewarned.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

From the Commonplace Book

Perfection is not attainable in any aspect of human life but does that mean we should turn imperfections into virtues? - Thomas Sowell
Obviously the answer is, "No" but our culture seems to make a regular practice of turning imperfections into virtues.
Preferring productivity over leisure is a hallmark of successful people. - Amy Dacyczyn.
The usual caveats of what exactly is productive or successful apply, of course. But just as one example, have you noticed that the happiest retired people are the ones who keep busy?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Reason #271 Why I Love Children's Ministry

Tonight in Prince Charming's lesson to our 1st-6th grade group (70 kids or so) he asked how we know what a year is.

One of the younger kids piped up: "Because the ball drops!"

Not quite the answer he was looking for and the little girl didn't know why everyone laughed but it illustrated once again just how fun it is to see how a kid thinks.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

From the Commonplace Book

Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing. It's when you've had everything to do and you've done it. - Margaret Thatcher.
And a bonus for today (a reminder I need frequently!):
Tact is the unsaid part of what you think. - Anonymous

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Which I Describe My Non-Resolutions

I didn't make any new years resolutions. So, do you want to hear how I'm doing on my non-resolutions?

1. De-clutter / Organize. A mania for this type of activity occurs a few times year for me. Post-Christmas is a huge one. The stuff: it must go. Only hitch so far is that things are not actually de-cluttered when they're still sitting in my bedroom in bags. Sure, they're in bags and ready to go, but they're not, you know, gone.

2. Eating better. Check. We've had salmon two times in the last two weeks. How much healthier can we get? I kid, I kid. Still, I've noticed some improvement in our eating habits. Of course, compared to the holidays, how could it not improve?

3. Exercise. Nope. Except for walking the dog around the yard (she's ever vigilant about squirrels, 'possums, and goodness knows what else) and a little Wii playing (I rarely get a turn. And anyway, even the five year old is closer to making pro than I am), I have not been exercising.

4. Writing. Not a word. I've hit a research snag and that is serving as an excuse not to do anything in this respect.

5. Spiritual life. I've read my Bible every day. I'm trying to be more deliberate about my prayer life. We've re-started family devotions at the supper table. (Not every night, I must admit). This is the one non-resolution I don't want to let slide.

Now I'm off to referee a game of bowling. What? You didn't know that bowling requires refs? It does at our house.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Books of 2009 - Review*

Total fiction read: 69 (nine more than last year)
Total non-fiction read: 77 (eight less than last year) Yes, I am ashamed of this.
Total: 146 (one more than last year)
Average per month: 12.16
Month with most completed books: October. (Also known as "almost died of pneumonia" month)
Month with fewest completed books: tie between September and November.

Favorite series fiction
: Ladies' #1 Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith. I read the entire series in '09.
Favorite series runner up: The Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd. (5 read in December)

Favorite novel: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows. Read in September. (Incidentally, the only book I asked for as a gift that I actually received for Christmas)
Favorite novel runner up: A Long Time Ago & Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka. Read in November.
Number of Dickens' novels completed: 5
Favorite Dickens: Barnaby Rudge. Read in December.
Favorite Dickens runner up: Nicholas Nickleby. Read in October.
Least Favorite Dickens: The Old Curiosity Shop. Read in December.

Best Classic I've Been Meaning to Read: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Read in February.
Most Difficult Classic I Finished: Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy by Sigrid Undset (translated by Charles Archer & J. S. Scott), read in February.

Best Classic Re-Read: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. Read whilst in Great Britain!
Best British fiction Grand Prize: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Read in July.

Runner Up: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winnifred Watson. Read in August
Runner Up #2: Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson. Read in November

Best Book / Movie Combo: Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Read in October.

Best Austenesque: An Accomplished Woman by Jude Morgan. Read in June
Worst Austen tie-in: Pemberley by the Sea by Abigail Reynolds. Read in April. Casual s*x replaces romance, conservative politicians replace Lady Catherine = bad idea.

Most Influential Non-fiction: Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris. Read in January (a great way to start a year!)
Best Christian / Theology Book: Miracles by C.S. Lewis. Read in January.
Thought provoking: Already Gone by Ken Ham & Britt Beemer. Read in July
Thought provoking runner up: NurtureShock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman. Read in October.
Thought provoking but annoying: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Read in June.
Most Important Political Work: Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin. Read in July.

Best Classic Non-fiction work: A Thousand Miles up the Nile by Amelia Edwards. Read in April.
Best Biography: Abigail & John: Portrait of a Marriage by Edith B. Gelles. Read in October.
Books read as research for my novel: 16, most in latter half of the year.
Favorite research read: Since You Went Away, WW2 Letters from American Women by Judy Barrett Litoff & David Smith. Read in October.

Books about homeschooling or education: 13.
Best education book: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Re-read in March.
Diet books: Only 1. The Baby Fat Diet by Monica Bearden & Shara Aaron. Read in April.

I wish I would've read more non-fiction. And I wish I would have worked in a few more classics too (although my "read through every Dickens' novel got off to a good start). A few more numbers for you:

Books already completed in January: 3
Books waiting on my bedside table to be read: 9.

2010 is off to a great start!

*Reminder: I don't list books not completed, magazines, books I read aloud to the girls or, usually, books listened to on c.d. or tape.*

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Books of 2009 - December

Here's what I managed to finish in December (year wrap-up to be posted soon):

1. A Test of Wills. Fiction by Charles Todd. I saw another blog discussing this series of mysteries. They're set just after WW1. And - I freely admit it - I devour books set in Great Britain. Especially WW1, between the wars or WW2.

2. The Old Curiosity Shop. Fiction by Charles Dickens. I don't really understand why this one is considered to be a "classic". The narrator disappears after the third chapter and, well, I wasn't remotely curious or entranced about any of it, especially Little Nell.

3. Wings of Fire. Fiction by Charles Todd. Book 2 in the series. Stronger than the first, which had such novice writer problems as jumping POV and suddenly omniscient characters.

4. Of Sheep and Men. Non-fiction by R. B. Robertson. A memoir of living in Scotland in the 1950s. Quite funny at times.

5. Search the Dark. Fiction by Charles Todd. Book 3 in the series.

6. Barnaby Rudge. Fiction by Charles Dickens. The very first Dickens that I couldn't put down and ended up really enjoying. One of the lesser known works but maybe it's better because of it.

7. Legacy of the Dead. Fiction by - yes, you guessed it - Charles Todd (pseudonym for a mother-son writing team).

8. Watchers of Time. Fiction by Charles Todd. These books somehow leave me unsatisfied and still anxious for the next one.

9. Food Not Lawns. Non-fiction by Heather Flores. So not what I was expecting. Avoid unless you're into communistic-conspiracy theorists.

10. Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon. Non-fiction by Mark DiVincenzo. Handy little guide for when to buy, sell, or do pretty much anything.

11. Let's Go Outside! Non-fiction by Jennifer Ward. Ideas and games for encouraging our children to spend more time in nature.

Fiction (books by authors named Charles): 7
Non-fiction: 4

Not really a stellar literary ending to my year, but I did enjoy finding a "new" mystery series and a Dickens' novel I actually liked.

Monday, January 4, 2010

In Which I Confess My Internet...Dependence

Sometimes we get a bit of help with our goals (or resolutions, if you like). Today the girls and I started back to regular school days. (Regular? Ha! But um, I mean, as regular as they get for us.) And my nephew, the ever adorable Fen, arrived early (I'd say bright and early but that would be a lie. Nothing bright about it.) because we borrow him on Mondays and Wednesdays.

So, in the understanding that we needed to get off to a good start, I had purposed in my heart to get up when Fen arrived (instead of taking him with me right back to bed the way I have been known, on occasion, to do), to get on with our morning chores, and to start school in a timely and cheerful fashion.

Yes, everything went as planned. I know you're doubting me right now but it is absolutely true. However, it turns out that some resolutions get a little help.

You see, part of doing school work in a timely and cheerful fashion meant my staying off the computer, specifically the (ahem) social-networking features. Even I wasn't sure I could avoid just "dropping by" to check my email.

I shouldn't have doubted myself. This morning and actually well into the day (until about 30 minutes ago, actually) our Internet wasn't working. Wasn't working! At.all.

I'll give you a minute so the horror can sink in...

Consequently, other than Prince Charming's slight attitude problem over the whole thing (true story...) today has been quite productive. At a certain point this afternoon we had five children and one dog in the house yet everything was rolling along as it should. And we'd been done with school for hours.

I plan to avoid the computer tomorrow morning too. But it really isn't necessary for the Internet to disable itself and thus assist me in this. Really.