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Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas Poetry

One of my favorite short verses regarding Christmas comes from Madeleine L'Engle.

This is the irrational season
Where love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.


Happy Holidays to everyone.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

On Not Posting

It's been more than a month.

I have no excuse.

Well, actually I do, but it's lame.

I've been busy. - Right - just like everyone else on the planet.

I've found that blogging is like anything else - if you fall out of the routine it's hard to get back into it - and when there are Christmas plays to go to and concerts to attend and cookies to bake and Christmas card pictures to take - other things tend to fall by the way side.

Perhaps my New Years Resolution will be to get back in the habit of writing (here and my fiction as well.)

But anyway, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth - in case anyone was wondering.

Merry Christmas from our House to Yours

Okay - so this isn't the picture we used for our card - but it does seem to capture the essence of getting ready for the holiday around here - everyone is excited and a little out of focus!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Poetry Friday - Friend Edition

Today I want to share one of my favorite poems - one whose imagery has stuck with me from the time I first read it in high school. And not only is it one of my favorite poems - but bonus - it was written by one of my favorite people.

I Saw God Today
by Liz B

I saw God today.
He reached down
With a hand of ribboned sunlight
Through dark forbidding clouds
To touch the earth.

The light rays pushed back the clouds
To reveal the sun
And its brightness filled me
Then my room
Making me smile inside.

I saw God today.
Gold filtered down
Encompassing the sky and earth
Like loving arms; and with that
He returned my smile.

Now - I'm not going to say when this was written (if Liz wants to share those details it's up to her) - but I do have the author's permission to use it for Poetry Friday. Thanks, Liz.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Simple is Best

The kids and I have been straightening the attic (I know based on the picture from the other day, maybe we ought to concentrate on other rooms - but so be it) and once we cleared a bit of space, they decided it made a neat club house.

Fine - go play in the attic - just don't fall through the ceiling is all I ask (there is not flooring over about half of the attic).

They found a shoe box up there that had remnants of toys from my youth in the seventies. I had looked in it yesterday - it was the flotsam of a generation - some Action Jackson clothes, a vest for a Flatsy doll, a wooden "Dish" from a "Cow Jumped over the Moon" mobile - and a plastic top that once came out of a box of Trix cereal. I had put the box aside to deal with later.

They came downstairs a few minutes ago and announced that they found the coolest toy.

"It's a Trix Top and it does tricks." They said, full of excitement. "When you spin it - it wobbles some and then flips over so it's spinning on it's other side. It's Soooo Cool."

They demonstrated the toy for me.

"You had the best toys," they said with a sigh and headed back upstairs.

They have computer games and stuffed animals that respond when you pet them. Trust me - they have lots of cool toys.

I guess it just goes to show you - sometimes simple is best.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Day After

So, yesterday I walked into the living room and this is what I saw.

It was like a candy store and a comic book store had collided with each other.

In case you can't tell - there's a second pile of candy under the piano against the back wall.

Oh well, I guess it's a kids paradise.

But - it did get cleaned up.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Holiday Creep

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. (cue music)

What? Don't tell me you haven't noticed all the Christmas decorations in the stores. And it's still not Halloween yet.

The retailers say they do this so that it will get people in the mood to spend for Christmas. And while I love Christmas and do buy presents, and it's fun to see the first decorations of the season - I don't want to see them in September.

And the same goes for other holidays (and big sales events too.)

For example putting Back To School supplies in the stores the week after the kids get out of school is just plain cruel. At least let them get a chance to sleep in a few days first.

And Halloween candy - it's been on display in our grocery stores since August. I'm not buying my Halloween candy in August - thank you very much.

The problem is that it becomes invisible to me. I have to ignore it because it is just so ridiculous. And then, it's October 20 something and I realize I still need Halloween candy. It becomes such a habit to ignore it that the fact that I do eventually have to buy it slips my mind.

Now, I'm not likely to forget that I need to get Christmas presents - but I would appreciate the first decorations of the season so much more if they were - you know - actually seasonal. Jack Frost nipping at the nose - the leaves off the trees - and ooh look there are Christmas decorations in the store. Instead I find myself sighing and saying "already?" And then by the time Thanksgiving rolls around the decorations are looking faded and old. We're tired of them already - and we still have a month to go.

Oh well. That's just my little rant for the day.

And Merry Christmas - oops, I mean Happy Halloween (so hard to keep track anymore.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Still Here

I haven't posted in awhile, because, basically I've had nothing too interesting to say. Hopefully that will change soon.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

That Grey Area

This evening, my husband was discussing something with me, and handed me an article to read on the topic. "It's a bit of a grey area," he said.

Our son piped up then, "of course it's a grey area, that paper is all in black and white."

So there.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Poetry Friday

In honor of the winds that blew in the cold temperatures last night, here's a little Robert Louis Stevenson:

Windy Nights
Whenever the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?

Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Apple Picking

A couple of weeks ago we took advantage of a relatively free weekend and took the kids apple picking. This has become an annual tradition. One that we've perfected over time. We discovered an orchard that uses dwarf trees and trains them on wires, like grape vines. It makes it so that all of the apples are easy to reach - by everyone. It doesn't take long at all to acquire forty pounds of apples - that's a lot of apple pies, apple cakes, apple pancakes, and just plain snacking apples.



The other part of our annual outing is to take a walk to Pennsylvania.

That's not as hard as it sounds.

We go to Washington Crossing State Park and explore a little history. The park is actually on both sides of the Delaware River, and there is a bridge there with a sidewalk on it. We wander the New Jersey side, discuss Washington crossing the Delaware, sometimes check out the Ferry House if it's open, and then take our walk to Pennsylvania, where there is a little shop selling Revolutionary era goodies - and cheap candy. The kids get candy and we explore some on the PA side before returning home.


The kids on the walk back to NJ.


This year we got a late start, the Ferry House was closed when we got there, and it started to drizzle when we got to the PA side, so the trip was shorter than most. But it was still lots of fun.

And my kids love history - one year we learned that George Washington's favorite candy was rock candy. Made eating it that much more fun.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Why do they save the hard questions till late

when you are too tired to think straight and just want them to go to bed? That was the scenario yesterday, when my son said, "I didn't know the church was a woman."

Okay, I thought of "Holy Mother Church," and I made some comment on how we tend to think of it that way.

And he continued, "because the priest is married to the church."

Right - well, that's pretty true, I suppose, and as the Church as the Bride of Christ was mentioned yesteray at Mass, I think. I said "Yes, it is like he is married to the church, but it is also like he is married to God in a way."

"But a man can't marry another man," he answered.

Ummm - yes, I wimped out on the answer. "Right, I said, now go to bed," I said.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Thanks for the Suggestions

We're off to the library to look up some of the books recommended for S both here and at Liz's place. Thanks to everyone. I'll let you know what ones he likes.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Poetry Friday - Harvest Moon edition

Last night I was washing dishes and looked outside and saw a beautiful full moon. Then I remembered it was the Harvest Moon. I called the kids outside to look at it. It was beautiful. My daughter, who is learning about weather in her Enrichment class said the moon was so bright because of the angle between the moon and the sun.

I decided to honor the beautiful sight with the following poem.

Under the Harvest Moon
By Carl Sandburg


Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.


The rest of the poem can be read here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Revision Progress Update

I finished my revision - now I just need to see if it needs any more sprucing up before the novel is out in circulation again and looking for a publisher.

Two things I learned during the process:

1) lots of good ideas for other projects present themselves when you can't work on them - and dissipate when you can.

2) don't read anything by Meg Cabot while in final revision - everything she does is so spot on, it makes me simply want to throw in the towel.

Looking for Suggestions

My son is currently interested in the middle ages. I was wondering if anyone knows of any good boy adventure stories set in the middle ages that are at a middle grade reading level - but have a content appropriate for a first grader. He's read The Arthur chapter book "King Arthur" and the Magic Tree House book set in the middle ages. He's read the first two Harry Potter books, so is up for a challenge. Any suggestions welcome. Thanks

Friday, September 29, 2006

Poetry Friday

My daughter does not consider herself much of a poet. She is more of a prose writer - but in language arts this year she's going to have to write a lot of poems. I think her first effort for the year is a lot of fun, so I'm sharing it on Poetry Friday.

My Pencil
by KRM (age 9)

My pencil is tall and new
And unfortunately his brains are few.
I sharpen his dull head to a point.
Now my pencil is smaller,
Not taller.
He likes to write a lot.
Now my pencil needs to get smart.
He sharpens himself again.
If this continues,
Where will my pencil be?
As short as a short fat bee!
I'll try to add links later.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Banned Book Week

It's Banned Book Week - a week during which the ALA tries to raise awareness of books that have been challenged, mainly in libraries and schools.

Now banning books conjures up images of book burning and oppresive regimes.

And book banning is bad.

Okay - that said - this is really about books that parents or community members (usually a small group) don't want their children - or any children to have access to. Focus on the Family protests that calling this banning books is going too far.

But not allowing access to anyone because of a personal problem with something, is not right. No one is forcing you to read a certain book.

Ah - but what about when they are? Some books that are challenged are on required reading lists. If a parent thinks that a book is too mature for their ninth grader, do they get to have a say? Saying "I don't want my child to have to read this" and saying "I don't want my child or any child to have access to this" are two different things.

Unfortunately those two things tend to get lumped together - making it so that some people can point to extreme examples of children being required to read books that have extremely mature content - and others to say that people are trying to ban Clifford the Big Red Dog.

It's really two different arguments. Parents of elementary school children and young teens should have some say in what their children are reading. It's part of being a responsible parent. And notice I say "their children" and "some say". Notice I also said "young teens", I think older teens should be allowed to make their own decisions without interference.

However people don't have a right to say "I don't like this - no one should be allowed to read it."

There are a lot of different views of the world, and a lot of different experiences people have had. Reading about them is one way for our children, and ourselves to learn about the world. If you start restricting what can be read, you restrict what can be learned.

So celebrate banned book week - by reading a book. Any book - and be glad you have the right to.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fun at the Bookstore

Well, we had our adventure yesterday. The kids and I got to meet Jennifer L. Holm at a book signing. She was promoting her new book, Penny from Heaven, a wonderful account of one girl's growing up in the 50s in New Jersey. That girl, by the way, was based on her mother - who was there last night. Very cool.

We were late for the reading because a make-up Hockey game ended up being scheduled for last night - but we did get to hear the end of the question and answer session.

Jennifer has also written the Babymouse books, which my kids practically have memorized, they've read them so many times.

And Jennifer was so very nice and charming. She signed four books for us and posed for a picture with my son and daughter.

An added bonus was we got to see Liz. It's always a good day when that happens. And, since I was the one holding the camera - that's Liz getting her book signed last night.

So, thanks to Liz for telling us about this event and thanks to Jennifer for being so great and gracious. And thanks too to my Mom who went with us and informed me that the Barnes and Noble in Holmdel had moved to the other side of the street since the last time I was there.

Career Choices

It's always fun when kids tell you what they're going to be when they grow up. I remember when my daughter was about 3 or 4 and she announced she was going to be an artist (this was a kid who didn't like to draw) and a mountain climber. She was also going to be the President's helper. Why not the President? We already have one. Okay.

Later she realized that she could be an actor and also President - a la Ronald Reagan - so that was her goal.

Then she decided that she would be an actress and an author - like Julia Andrews.

I think that's where she still is - goal wise. She wants to be on Broadway though - not in movies. I say - go for it.

My son has also gone through his share of career goals. He watched the Tour de France and decided he'd be a professional bicycle rider - as well as a baseball player - of course. And he thought we should contact the airlines about getting his bicycle to France - I told him we had time for that.

More recently he told me he was going to be President (I'm glad my children aim high).

Yesterday the topic came up again. My daughter announced that she didn't want to work in an office when she grew up. "Good luck with that," I told her.

And then my son said he was going to be three things when we grew up. A publisher, an author and an engineer (an engineer like Dad).

He figures if he's both a publisher and an author it will be easier to get his books published. Sounds like good reasoning to me.

His sister immediately said that if he was a publisher he had to publish her books as well.

He agreed.

It's nice to have that settled.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Revision Progress

As of last night I've revised through chapter 11 and I have a total of almsot 33,000 revised words. Unfortunately I'm at a point where the revised story differs dramatically from existing story - so no grabbing stuff already written and using that. Hopefully more will get done today. We'll see.

Go to the Carnival

The Seventh Carnival of Children's Literature is hosted this month by Wands and Worlds. Go over and enjoy some good reading. I have something there too - my first carnival submission!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Poetry Friday

Sometimes there are lines from poems that just stick in your head. This is one of the ones that sticks with me.

From The Walrus and The Carpenter
by Lewis Carroll

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
And cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings."
For the rest of the poem, go here.

Some other Poetry Friday contributions: Jen Robinson brings us a little Shel Silverstein, Book Buds gives us some poems for peace and Blog from the Windowsill has a review of a monster poetry book for young readers.

Edited to add: A poem on moving at Here in the Bonny Glen, Michele at Scholar's Blog has a combined Poetry Friday/book review, Journey Woman shares a little Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Chicken Spaghetti brings us some poetry news. Little Willow give us a Nest Full of Stars, and Susan Taylor Brown brings us Christina Rosetti on Caterpillars.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

More Revision Progress

I stopped noting my progress - because I started over at chapter 1 again. But, I am making progress. Today I finished chapter 10 and wrote slightly more than 3000 words. So - progress is being made. But, no more tonight.

Making Him Happy

It was the first day of CCD today. For my daughter it was old hat. It was brand new for my son. He didn't seem too intimidated by it. He answered a question correctly at assembly (the answer was Jesus, I don't know what the question was) and got a googly-eye bookmark.

And for homework he said he has to practice saying the Rosary. We've done a family rosary once or twice - it's a habit I'd like to get into, but haven't yet. I said that sounded like a good idea. We could all say the rosary.

Then my son told me, he thinks he should say the Rosary even if it's not homework, "because it would pleasure God."

Yes, it would.

Monday, September 18, 2006

By Our Actions Shall we be Known

The second reading this Sunday was from the Letter of James, and in it we have James 2:18 - "Indeed someone might say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works." In other words, you can tell I have faith, because of the way I act.

We all like to have an image of ourselves - but it is the way we act that puts the truth to our image. Do we view ourselves as outgoing, but are uncomfortable speaking to someone we've just met? Do we say we believe in a healthy lifestyle, but yet go to McDonalds for lunch everyday?

We can say and think whatever we want about ourselves, but it is in what we actually do that the truth manifests itself.

So, the bigger question is, if people who call themselves followers of Islam, proclaim that they are a religion of peace, but yet, seem to be involved in a lot of violence in the name of that religion - what are we to believe? What we hear, or what we see?

I'm Just Saying

It seems to me that if you say "If you call me violent I'll kill you," that you are pretty much winning the other person's argument for him.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Poetry Friday - Weather Edition

Rain
by Robert Louis Stevenson

The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.

Guess what the weather is up to again. Sigh.

Other Poetry Friday entries so far:
Blog from the Windowsill offers an ode to her new goddaughter.
Jen Robinson offers an ode to Roald Dahl (one of my son's favorite authors by the way)
And Nancy at Journey Woman offers us a little Robert Frost.

Edited to add: Michele at Scholar's Blog provides a poem by and biography of Gerard Manly Hopkins.
Little Willow gives us some of Tennyson's Lady of Shallot.
And Kelly at Big A little a has an excerpt from Poe's The Raven

Edited again: Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy, shares some Robert Browning.
And Melissa in the Bonny Glen shares the poem she named her site after. Now - is the site eponymous, or the poem? I'm never sure which direction to use that word.

I'm sure there are more, or will be soon - I'll check back later.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Perfect Childhood?

This past week both Book World and Big A little a posted on some articles in the British Press that were critical of the culture in which children were growing up.

Is childhood being destroyed by too much junk food, electronic gizmos and pushy parents?

I guess that depends on what you decide it means to be a child.

Visions of idyllic childhoods come to us from any number of places, primarily books and movies (though now that I think about it – in a lot of books, children have a substantially less than idyllic life.) I think it’s easy to picture the ideal childhood: children romping through meadows (as an aside, I was reading a book to my children the other day and in it the mother dog says to her pups “Go romp.” My daughter promptly said she didn’t think she’d ever been told to ‘romp.’ I figure they do enough ‘romping’ without being told.), girls with daisy chains in their hair, boys building forts and tree houses; kids going fishing or bike riding for hours on end. Pick-up games of ball in the vacant lot. Days at the beach or the lake with no one to answer to.

Did these days ever exist?

When was the perfect time to be a child? Was there such a time?

I think that everyone (providing they had a pleasant life) thinks that the time of their own childhood was just fine – ‘the good old days’ – but every age has problems.

The sixties and seventies were a nice time to grow up – provided you stayed out of contact with the drug culture and race riots.

The post-war fifties give us lots of images of “Dick and Jane” perfect childhoods – but what about the polio scares that kept people isolated and indoors for whole summers?

The first half of the forties was a time of war – a war that impacted very much on the home front.

The thirties had the depression – I’m sure there are children who have wonderful childhood memories – but some of those memories include having to get up before dawn to sell newspapers or apples, or work in fields.

They enacted child labor laws at the turn of the century for a reason – and it wasn’t because kids were being told to clean their rooms.

That said – what about now – are our children over-scheduled and over-burdened? Maybe some are. Sometimes the kids are in eight weeks of various summer camps because both parents work, and you can’t just leave a kid home alone all summer – and most jobs don’t give eight weeks of vacation.

Are there a lot more organized sports – and a lot less pick-up games in the vacant lots. Well, there are also a lot less vacant lots – and less kids home and available to play at any time (remember the kids in eight weeks of camp because the parents work?)

So, is childhood being destroyed? That depends? How do you define childhood and where can you find it?

Childhoods are as individual as children.

Should children eat less junk food, play less video games, spend more time exercising. Um – yeah – and so should adults.

Most parents want what is best for their children. What that is changes with the ages. Maybe in the fifties a child could leave home at breakfast and not show up until dinner. Now if a mother has no idea where her child is for the entire day, she is likely to be reported to child services for neglect.

Kids need to interact with other kids – if that means Thursday afternoon French class, then so be it. But they also need time to be alone. Time to be bored (Sandra at Book World goes into this) because it is when a child is bored that he gets creative (depending on the child this can be either a good or a bad thing.)

I don’t think we are destroying childhood. There are a lot of places in the world where ‘childhood’ as we know it doesn’t even exist. Childhood changes – with each new generation it changes – and there is always another generation of people looking back going – “things were better when I was young?”

But were they?

It's Good to Have Goals

During the school open house we also visited our daughter's fourth-grade classroom. Here we found on her desk a letter she had written to us, her parents.

It was long, rambling and full of excitement about the school year.

It also listed some goals she had :
"In fourth grade, I vow I will try to like math, live through health, stumble through social studies and pay attention in science. Language Arts will not be a problem."
What more can you ask for, anyway? (And I'm really glad she's going to 'live through health'! And as is evident from these two short sentences, language arts really will not be a problem.)

Sharing Love

Yesterday was Open House at my children's elementary school. We got to meet the teachers, see where the children sit, and see what's in their writing journals so far (after a week of school.)

Our first grader, on his first day of school, has a journal entry that starts off "My favorite thing is" (that was probably a writing prompt from the teacher.)

Here's our son's full sentence: My favorite thing is sharing love.

It's my favorite thing too - come to think of it.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Score!

Excitement at the street hockey game tonight. In the 5 and 6 year old division it was the Rangers vs. The Blackhawks. The score was tied 1 to 1. We'd had a time-out so the Ranger's goalie could go to the bathroom.

And then number 2 on the Blackhawks (aka my son), playing defense, hit the ball all the way from the Blackhawks goal line into the opposing goal. That crazy little orange ball just went past everyone.

Score! Amazed shouts! And one very happy little boy.

But we don't have to worry about him getting a big head about it or anything - no not him (ha). When we got home he said that at the next game everyone would probably want his autograph since he had made such an amazing shot - after all (according to him) pros probably couldn't even do a shot like that!

And although I wouldn't go so far as to say he outdoes the pros - it was a pretty cool shot!

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Day to Remember

September 11.

It's a date that evokes responses that are neither simple nor ordinary.

Like everyone else I remember that day very clearly. I don't need to share my feelings of that day - they are feelings shared by everyone who saw images of the towers collapsing and of seeing the clouds of smoke where the familiar outline of the towers used to stand on the skyline.

It is a day to remember, to reflect. To pray.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Comfort Reading

Some people have their comfort foods: chocolate, lasagna. I have comfort books. With a week that included two funerals I felt a bit in the need of comfort.

When that happens I turn to my collection of Norma Johnston books. In this case The Keeping Days series. It’s a series of six books (all out of print) which, over the years, I’ve managed to collect.

I’ve read them countless times (and I am not saying that metaphorically, I really have no idea how many times I’ve read them) and so know the stories very well. That’s part of what makes them comfort reading. No surprises.

There are no surprises anymore, but they are always enjoyable. The story of 14-year-old Tish and her family living in 1901 New York, with all the trials and tribulations that any family at any time may have, is always fresh to me.

Re-reading these books is like visiting old friends. Wonderfully reassuring and well, basically comforting.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bloggers Block

Why is it that throughout the day I can have all these great ideas for things to post - but when I finally get around to turning on the computer - they've all fled?

Maybe some of those thoughts will return tomorrow and consent to being written down.

I can hope at least.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Poetry Friday

In honor of my husband's Aunt Scotty, whose funeral we will attend today, I am posting a poem by Emily Dickinson.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death
Because I could not stop for Death --
He kindly stopped for me--
The Carriage held but just Ourselves--
And Immortality.

We slowly drove--He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility--

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess--In the Ring--
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain--
We passed the Setting Sun--

Or rather--He passed Us--
The Dews drew quivering and chill--
For only Gossamer, my Gown--
My Tippet--only Tulle--

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground--
The Roof was scarcely visible--
The Cornice--in the Ground--

Since then--'tis Centuries--and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised theHorses Heads
Were toward Eternity--


Later today I'll post links.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Why I Don't Need an Ark

It finally stopped raining (again) and I'm giving up on my plans to build an ark (besides the fact that the only thing I ever built out of wood was a box for my dollhouse that works best as a podium) because I won't be needing it.

But the real reason I don't need an ark is best illustrated by this picture from our vacation to Niagara Falls. The rainbow was a covenant from God to us that he would never flood the whole world again.

Rainbows were much in evidence at Niagara Falls, and each time we saw one it was an opportunity to remember God's promise (and to say - "Look! Another rainbow!")

Revision Progress

Well, I'm on chapter four. I wish I could say I finished it. But I didn't. However, since chapter four turned out to be completely new material, I do have a word count. Slightly over 2000. So, I'd say today was fairly successful. It would have been more successful if I'd finished chapter 4. I suppose I could struggle on - but I'm tired and thinking tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Where are those Ark Directions?

It's raining again.

I don't think I can take much more.

Nose to the Grindstone

The kids are at school. The house is quiet. It is time for me to get down to the business of writing. Nothing like a few uninterrupted hours to get some revision work done. If it wasn't for the fact that I'm revising something right now, I'd post here how many words I'd written a day - that would be motivating! I will say this - in my revisions I'm on chapter 3. Maybe each day I can post what I'm working on. That could be motivating too!

Monday, September 04, 2006

The First Day Should be Good Anyway

My son is looking forward to the first day of first grade. He says it will be exciting. But, he's a forward thinker, and told me that while the first day would be good - the second week of school would probably be boring.

Last Day of Summer Vacation

It's Labor Day, and around here that means that tomorrow school starts again. It's a big year for us, my son starts first grade, and so will be in school all day now.

The rain finally stopped sometime late Saturday night, and despite the fact that Tropical Depression Ernesto destroyed the gazebo (see Teddy Bear Picnic photo for undamaged gazebo - the picnic by the way was last Thursday, before the storm) it's nice to be outside again.

So there was some outside playing, some bike riding, some computer games, some Harry Potter DVD (it's the last day of summer, they can do what they like) and we made cookies.

I thought about making cookies as a way to welcome them home from school tomorrow - but I thought they'd like it a whole lot more to be involved in the process.

We got out the cookie cutters: school bus, flag, question mark, music note and others. Some of the cookies broke - that's okay, it means they can be eaten sooner. Now they are decorating them. (While my son sings "And I Shall Raise You Up" - not sure why). Then they will get to chose which ones they want in their lunch boxes for tomorrow.

Pretty soon we'll put some meat on the grill and get dinner going. And then, it's going to be back to old routines. After all, tonight is a school night!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Teddy Bear Picnic

"If you go out in the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise"... so begins one of my favorite kids songs, "The Teddy Bear's Picnic" and in homage to that song, for the past six years we have held our own annual Teddy Bear Picnic.

This year, the girls were busy being "Nuts" - let's see, we had cashew, and pistachio, and walnut and peanut. And there was my daughter who said "I'm not a nut, I'm a corn" (acorn... get it).

The boys were skateboarding in the driveway.

This picnic has evolved into a tradition that my kids expect to happen every year. The idea is simple: I let them invite whomever they want (while I hope that at least some people will be on vacation - last year, no vacations, 23 kids in relatively small backyard!). The kids bring their own sandwiches, but I supply drink and snacks. We have games (with candy for prizes) and a craft - and this year for the first time a drama center (as you can see it was a big hit.)

The craft this year was making God's eyes using popsicle sticks and yarn, last year we did sand art - one year they decorated plastic visors with foam stickers.

Games include the perrenial favorites - throw the bean in the jar (dry Great Northern Beans, mason jar - this is actually pretty hard) and sticker tag (give everyone a handful of stickers. The goal is to stick your stickers on other people without getting any one yourself). We also had games my kids invented like the Teddy Toss (pairs toss their bears from one to the other - if Teddy hits the ground the team is out) and Teddy Bear Freeze tag - a complicated variation of freeze tag that was nonetheless a lot of fun.

This year it was too cold for our traditional water balloons and sprinkler play - but everyone had fun just the same.

I started the Teddy Bear Picnic because both of my kids birthdays are in the winter - and indoor parties mean the guest lists have to be kept relatively small. Also, I found that birthday parties are imbued with a certain anxiety. As the birthday boy or girl you want to make sure that your very best friend is there. You want to make sure that everything is perfect - and when things go awry it is so much more than just a minor snafu - it's a ruined birthday (or so it can seem.)

The Teddy Bear Picnic comes with no emotional baggage. Whoever can come comes. People have fun. No one has to bring a gift. No one has to be the center of attention.

It's become a great tradition in our home and we will continue until the kids no longer want it. Though - they tell me that I have to keep having this picnic every year until they're in college. We'll see about that.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Now Where'd I Put That Gopher Wood?

If it doesn't stop raining pretty soon - I'm going to seriously think about building an ark!

My First Babysitting Job

In thinking about and remembering Michael (1970-2006) I realized that he was the first child I ever babysat for.

I was about seven. So he would have been two. He was napping. His mother had to go out (possibly to pick up his older brother from somewhere, I'm not sure.) She didn't want to wake the sleeping child. So she asked the seven-year-old neighbor girl to come over and stay in the house with the baby.

I felt so very grown up and proud of myself. I went to their house. Michael, of course, was sleeping the whole time. I sat at their dining room table facing the picture window. Their picture window faced the picture window in my dining room - at which my parents stood and watched me during the whole ten minutes that I was there.

For doing my job so well, I earned a quarter. I was able to use that quarter as my wampum money for Indian Princesses that night, where I proudly told the story of my first babysitting job as I deposited my dues.

Words to Live By

Today I went to the funeral of a childhood friend. It is hard seeing the family struggling and suffering with the loss of one so young. He was a good man and will be missed by all who knew him.

At the funeral service the minister told how this young man's father had given him and his brother copies of Desiderata. They have strived to live by its precepts and from all evidence have largely succeeded.

Desiderata was found in old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore, dated 1692.

In honor of Michael, I copy it here.

Desiderata
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.


In rememberance of Michael Wheeler 1970-2006.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Poetry Friday

Okay, so it's been a couple of months since I did this. And, I almost forgot today was Friday. There has been a certain feel of fall in the air around here lately (or maybe it's just all that darn rain) so in keeping with the feeling, I present:

Autumn Fires
by Robert Louis Stevenson
In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

Of course in suburban New Jersey they frown on burning your leaves, but I like the imagery anyway.

Climbing the Walls

We've had a spate of rainy weather here in New Jersey. This has resulted in some kids without enough outlet for their energy.

Especially my son.

He's been climbing the walls.

Umm - I mean that literally.

He puts one foot and one hand on each side of the doorway between dining room and kitchen, and he climbs up to the ceiling. It's only a little disconcerting.

So, climbing the walls isn't simply a metaphor. Neither is bouncing off the walls. I found that one out with my son also. In the winter, when bad weather keeps him too confined, he runs at the living room wall, and then jumps so that he can kick off the wall with his feet.

Right now, both my children are upstairs practicing some sort of an act that involves a lot of jumping and the singing of the word "read" over and over.

I'm looking forward to the performance.

Hiatus Over

It's the first of September. School starts Tuesday, and it's time to get back in the swing of regularly posting here.

So - the unscheduled summer break is over and I'm back.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

An Awesome Evening

We took the kids to "Plays in the Park" last night. This is an outdoor theater program near us. They put on three shows a summer. It costs five dollars for adults, children are free. You must bring a lawn chair.

Last night the weather was perfect and the park was crowded. And the show was fantastic. We saw Seussical: The Musical. How fun. What a great show for kids. So much music and energy - and of course, it's based on all the Dr. Seuss books, so it's easy to follow the story.

After the show was over, my daughter announced. "I didn't like it, I loved it!"

My son one-upped her. He said. "I awesomed it!"

Me too!

Summer Blogging

I thought that once summer got under way, I'd fall into a routine that would allow me to do even more blogging than during the school year.

Ha!

There is a certain routine to our days. But blogging doesn't seem to get high priority.

Let's see - how do the days go?

After breakfast the children go across the street to the playground. During the summer there are counselors there, so the kids go and play. They come home for lunch. While they are gone, I try to get some things done around the house.

Lunchtime - they come home for an hour to eat. The counselors have a lunch break too and aren't there from 12 to 1.

Of course at 1, the kids go back to the park. They are there until 3. Then, if it's a nice day, after they come home we go to the town pool for an hour.

Twice a week, in the morning, my nine-year-old has tennis lessons.

And of course there are the trips to the library - at least once a week.

Somewhere in there I have to fit the grocery shopping and any other little errands that need to be run.

It's a good summer routine.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Minuses

I finally got the pictures from my sons disposable camera developed. He was particularly interested in the negatives. "They gave us extra film," he said. So I explained about negatives and how you could use them to make more pictures - provided you didn't get fingerprints all over them.

A couple of days later, while he was putting away some of his things, he says to me. "I want to keep the minuses, okay?"

me: "what?"

Him - holding up negative strip: "the minuses."

Well, sure, he knows from his sisters math homework last year that negative numbers have minuses in front of them.

It all makes perfect sense now.

An Ah-ha Moment

In Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, there is a point when Meg Murray, in her attempt to understand the tesseract gets it. "I got it! For just a moment I got it! I can't possibly explain it now, but there for a second I saw it!" she says.

I had that kind of experience in Mass today. So often, when I go to Mass, I'm just passing time. I try to concentrate, to really be there, to experience, but there are other things on my mind, the children act up or something else distracts me.

But today, I had an experience like Meg Murray. I got it. I understood God's love for us. I understood why Jesus had to die. I understood what it all meant.

I understood it with the heart, not with the head.

Just for a moment.

And like Meg Murray, I couldn't possibly explain it now.

But for a second there - I got it! And how wonderful it was!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Summer Reading

This isn't going to be a post about all the great books there are to read this summer. There are plenty of places to go for that. It's not going to be a post of reviews of books I've read. Or even a treatise on whether or not there should be summer reading assignments for schools.

This is just going to be to say that my children love to read - and since summer vacation started a week and a half ago they've logged many hours of reading time. How do I know this? Because for our library reading program, they get to check off one box for every fifteen minutes they read. Prizes are awarded for every two hours read.

The only problem I have with this is trying to keep track of how much they've read. They don't always tell me when they start and stop (my daughter is getting pretty good at keeping track of her own time). So, it's a constant question of when did you start reading? when did you stop? did you check off the boxes (you can make new boxes as needed, they are often needed.)

We're also taking advantage of the wonderful Barnes and Nobel summer reading program - read eight books, get a book for free (selected titles). The kids each got a free book today.

So, when we're not at the pool, or doing some other fun summer thing, we're reading - me too. But, I don't have to keep track of my time (thank goodness.) More reading I guess means less blogging - but hopefully as we get into some sort of a summer routine here I'll have some time to post a few things.

Happy reading.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Poetry Friday - Proud Parent Edition

Both of my children have been represented in their school district's writer's magazine this year. So in honor of Poetry Friday, which I know I missed last week (oops), I present the following:

Cowgirl
by Katie (3rd grade)

I just saw
a cow-poking,
yodeling,
wailing girl
in stylish cowboots
running to lasso
a whild horse and miss.
She lassoed a cactus instead.


And, although it is not a poem:

My Magic Pencil
by Stephen (Kindergarten)

I write with my pencil. It is a magic pencil. I do not have to write the story because the pencil writes it for me.

Here are some other Poetry Friday contributors: A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, A Fuse #8 Production, Big A little a, Blog from the Windowsill, Book Buds, Bookshelves of Doom, Here in the Bonny Glen, Jen Robinson's Book Page, Once Upon a Time there was a Girl Who wanted to Write, Scholar's Blog, Chicken Spaghetti and Little Willow.

Monday, June 12, 2006

All the Colors in the Sky

My grandfather was an amateur artist. This doesn't mean he wasn't good at being an artist - he was - it just means it's not how he made his living.

He once taught me how to paint. Now, just to set the record straight: I am not an artist, I can not draw (okay, I can do daisies and funny looking rabbits). But what he taught me was more important than how to draw.

He taught me how to see all the colors in the sky.

I had my oil paints, and I was going to paint the sky. Blue. That's what color a sky is. With fluffy white clouds. But he stayed my hand. He said "Look again, the sky is not just blue. The clouds are not just white."

And I looked again. And he was right.

And now, whenever I look at the sky, and notice the various colorings that make up the sky and the clouds I think of my grandfather.

He taught me something much more valuable than how to draw. He taught me how to notice things.

Thanks grandpa.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Send Us Your Spirit

On this eve of Pentecost, I had a small revelation. At Mass tonight, the priest mentioned that wind and fire were symbols associated with the Holy Spirit.

And I thought of the pillar of fire that guided the Israelis out of Egypt. God was in the fire then. He was leading them.

But on Pentecost, a flame was visible over the apostle's heads. God was no longer simply in front of them, leading them. He was there, within them, in the guise of the Holy Spirit.

What a wonderful gift God gave us when he allowed the Spirit to dwell among us!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Poetry Friday - Birthday Edition

How Old Are You?
by H.S. Fritsch

Age is a quality of mind.
If you have left your dreams behind,
If hope is cold,
If you no longer look ahead,
If your ambitions' fires are dead --
Then you are old.

But if from life you take the best,
And if in life you keep the jest,
If love you hold;
No matter how the years go by,
No matter how the birthdays fly--
You are not old.

So, I may be 40 today, but I'm not old!

Other Poetry Friday contributions: Kelly at Big A little a offers us a crooked little nursery rhyme, The Scholar's Blog offers a sea-faring theme, we get a little Shel Silverstein from A Fuse #8 Production, Blog from the Windowsill reviews two poetry books, Bookshelves of Doom brings on the Jabberwocky, Melissa at Here in the Bonny Glen offers up some Seamus Heaney and Jen at Jen Robinson's Book Page treats us to a poem by Emily of New Moon.

Edited to add: Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to write, Chicken Spaghetti, Book Buds, and Farm School.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Now There Are Two

Last week we finally spotted the ducklings. There were two sets - one of five and one of six.

Today, after dropping my kids off at school, I spotted one of the mother ducks. She only had two ducklings swimming with her.

I know that the life of a duckling is rather fragile. There are muskrats down by the creek, that probably consider a duckling a fine dinner treat. Perhaps, the other ducklings had just gotten momentarily separated from their mother and so I didn't see them. But, honestly, usually when you see the mother duck the babies are pretty close at hand.

Not that long ago in this country - and even today in many parts of the world - childhood was a time fraught with danger. It wasn't at all unusual for a woman to have 10 children but to only see two or three of them grow to adulthood.

Today we (at least in most parts of the modern world) are pretty lucky. When we have a child we can expect to see that child grow up. Naturally sometimes horrible things happen and that isn't the case - but the point is that those are more aberrations than the norm - and we really do plan to be able to see our children graduate school - where once mothers wondered if the child would celebrate a sixth birthday.

The mother duck had five or six ducklings. Now she has two. My heart breaks for her. But maybe ducks understand how fleeting their existence is and she's happy to still have those two.

Can we remember to be happy about what we have, and not worry about what we no longer have? Sometimes.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

They Got One!


The fish in question was about five inches long, and it has been released back into the wild.

Apparently catfish are big fans of hot dogs. Who knew!

And my daughter is beside herself with joy that she actually caught a fish!

Her very first!

Gone Fishin'

My kids know how to enjoy a beautiful Saturday. They're heading to the creek to do some fishing.

I don't expect them to catch much - they're using hot dogs for bait (the fish do actually nibble at the hot dogs). The fish in the creek are all fairly small, the kids' fishing poles have hooks that are rather big.

But catching the fish isn't the point.

Fishing is the point.

And that's what's going to happen today.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Poetry Friday

I'll say this for Poetry Friday, it's sure got me looking at poems a whole lot more than I was recently. So, thank you to Kelly at Big A, little a for getting this started.

So, without further ado:

The Whole Duty of a Poem
by Arthur Guiterman

A poem should be, as our best ever are,
Golden of heart like a rose or a star.

A poem should be, like the brook that you hear
Sing down the mountainside, lovely and clear.

Yet in it's music a poem should hold
That which is felt but may never be told.

Other contributors this week include: Melissa at Here in the Bonny Glen, giving tribute to the poem that inspired the title of her new blog. Book Buds gives us a little e e cummings. Jen Robinson shares the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (I love that poem). Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy gives us a little baseball (I just read that one to my son last night). The Scholar's Blog got a jump start with Poetry Thursday. Bookshelves of Doom speaks of poetry controversy. Chris Barton brings us a book review. Little Willow opens us to the realm of possibilities and Chicken Spaghetti shares some Julia Donaldson.

I'll add more contributors if I become aware of them.

Edited to add, MotherReader and her Ode to Mo, and and ode to wild geese over at Blog from the Windowsill.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Ascension of the Lord

... as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem...
Acts 1:9-12
Did you ever think about that scene? Jesus - who was dead (He had definitely been dead, they were sure of that) had come back to them. It had taken a little while just to get their minds wrapped around that. But he's dead - no, he's not - he's here. So he was back. Okay - get comfortable with the thought, start thinking long term - what will we do next and all that. Then they go out on a mountain top with him and the next thing you know Jesus is being lifted up into heaven.

And angels have the nerve to ask why they are staring up at the sky. Of course they are staring at the sky! They were probably completely dumbfounded. I can see them nudging each other and muttering "Did you see that?" "Did that just happen?" "Where did he go?" "Is he coming back?"

And the angels answer that. He's coming back the same way he left. Now I bet, based on that information, they kept their eyes heavenward for the rest of the day - maybe even the week, expecting him to come back down the celestial elevator at any minute.

When he didn't return, and instead the Holy Spirit came upon them, they were finally able to understand (as well as anyone can) what happened, and fulfill their mission.

Bet they kept looking up though!

(photo from FreeFoto.com)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

It's a Cool Job - Really

Once upon a time, in my former life, before being a stay-at-home Mom, I was an editor. Not the kind of editor who gets to pick out the next great best seller. Not the kind of editor who has her name on the masthead of a trendy magazine. No, I was an editor for travel trade publications. No getting rich or famous there. Although, I did become known as an answer person in the cruise industry for awhile, while I was the editor of the Official Cruise Guide.

Generally when I tell people I was an editor, they mumble something about "how interesting" but don't sound too interested.

But, my nine-year-old daughter is learning the basic of editing in language arts. She's learning some of the editing symbols, and learning to read and look for mistakes. As I was going over her paper with her, she told me. "It's so cool to have a Mom who was an editor." And she genuinely sounded impressed.

Wow - it's all worth it now!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Swimming Lessons

The geese that we see while we are on our way to and from school are growing bigger. The one set is maybe middle school now, and the younger set 1st grade. Soon they'll be teenagers. (We like to put things in terms we can understand)

We saw the geese having swimming lessons last week. The older set was swimming with its parents, and the parents were flapping their wings while in the water. Demonstrating an important goose maneuver I'm sure. Anyway, after the parent geese did it, the little ones copied them. The parent goose stood in shallow water and flapped its wings full out. The little ones did it too - very cute, because the little ones only have tiny wings.

Everything the parents did, the children copied. The children also had some moves of their own, diving under water and swimming under the parents for example.

When some of the other geese in the creek came too close to the family, one of the parents swam toward the intruder in a menacing way, and hissed and stuck his neck out low. It was very clear that in goose language this meant 'back off'. Now, I can't tell a male Canada Goose from a female Canada Goose, but my son decided that the one protecting his family was the Dad.

So, lessons learned? Children learn by example, and Dad's protect us. Good lessons all around, I think.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What I've Learned from Watching T-Ball

I must admit, I've never been much of a sports person, but my son is, so I'm learning.

This is our second year of t-ball, and I've learned a lot I didn't know about baseball. For example:
  • Baseball is a tackle sport. If someone else from your team has the ball, then do whatever you can to get it from him or her.
  • The one with the ball wins. It's not so much who hits the ball, or runs the bases, it's all about who ends up with the ball in the field.
  • Running the bases in the right direction is optional. If you head the wrong way, someone will turn you around.
  • The fastest is the best. When running bases, and it's the last hitter and everyone gets to run home, don't worry about passing the people on the other bases. First one home wins.
Now, I know these are 4, 5 and 6 year olds. And they'll get the hang of it as they grow. They'll eventually learn to throw the ball to a teammate (some of them understand that now). They'll understand that only one person in the field is required to get the ball, and the rest don't have to chase him down. They'll automatically head to first base when they hit the ball (and leave the bat behind too.) They'll learn that it's not a foot race and you can't pass your teammates while running bases.

They'll learn all that, but it won't be nearly as amusing to watch.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Poetry Friday

Since my six-year-old son has to sit still for several minutes at a time (not an easy task) while using his nebulizer, we've been entertaining him with some poems from Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne.
This is one of his favorites.

Us Two
by A. A. Milne

Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going to-day?" says Pooh:
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.

"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh.
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.)
"I think it ought to be twenty-two."
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh.
"It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what it is," said Pooh.

"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh.
"Yes, let's said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few--
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh.
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what they are," said Pooh.

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!" -- and off they flew.
"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."

So, wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said: "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two
Can stick together," says Pooh, says he.
"That's how it is," says Pooh.

Over at Big A little a, Kelly has a Spanish edition of Poetry Friday this week, and Book Buds features a tribute to Ogden Nash, Jen Robinson's Book Page features TS Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock, Little Willow speaks of little mice and Here in the Bonny Glen highlights Children Selecting Books in the Library. There may be more contributions, but I usually find them through A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy, and Liz is away at Book Expo this week, so I've had to search on my own. Sorry if I missed anyone.

Edited to add: A Fuse #8 Production has appeased the Poetry Friday Gods by reviewing a charming rhyming picture book.
Other contributors: Blog from the Windowsill, Bookshelves of Doom, Mungo's Mathoms, and Chicken Spaghetti.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Testing its Wings

The baby bird we've been watching grow up outside our front door is gone. The nest is empty. Nothing sinister has happened, the bird just grew up. Perhaps it will come back to the nest to sleep. Perhaps not. Where do birds sleep? It has only been a couple of weeks since the egg first hatched. And although the bird is not full grown, it is apparently ready to head out into the world.

I'm glad I'm not a mother bird. Children grow up fast enough - but two weeks!? That's just crazy.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Baby Bird

The Robin family decided that the holly tree directly next to our front door was a fine place for their home.

There were three blue eggs in the nest, but so far only definite evidence of one baby bird (though my daughter believes there are two.)

The baby robin, hatched only a week or so ago is really growing quite big, as you can see in the picture.

What I love is when the baby decides it wants food. It opens it's mouth wide, pointing straight up in the air and makes a little chirpy noise.

Now the bird does this whether the mother is anywhere around with food to give it or not. Sometimes I think when we open our front door the baby thinks her mother has come back. Because that is when she (he? who knows) starts to beg for food. (I couldn't get a picture of that, I wasn't quick enough.)

But the bird has total faith that if he (she?) opens his mouth and asks for food, food will eventually be provided.

Ask and ye shall receive. I think I've heard that somewhere before.

Pollyanna

My daughter just finished reading Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter. And she was so "glad, glad, glad" to have read it. I first read it to her a couple of years ago - from an old 1913 edition that is truly falling apart. Pollyanna is a wonderful read-aloud book. The character of Pollyanna is very fun. How can you not love reading about a character who says, shortly after we first meet her (at the train station, when asked if she has a trunk with her):

"Yes, I have," nodded Pollyanna, importantly. "I've got a brand-new one. The Ladie's Aid bought it for me -- and wasn't it lovely of them, when they wanted the carpet so? Of course I don't know how much red carpet a trunk could buy, but it ought to buy some, anyhow -- much as half an aisle, don't you think? I've got a little thing here in my bag that Mr. Gray said was a check, and that I must give it to you before I could get my trunk. Mr. Gray is Mrs. Gray's husband. They're cousins of Deacon Carr's wife. I came East with them, and they're lovely! And -- there, here 'tis," she finished, producing the check after much fumbling in the bag she carried.

After we read it that first time we rented the 1960 movie starring Hayley Mills. I remember enjoying that movie as a child, but it so totally paled in comparison to the book. If your only experience of the Pollyanna story is one of the movies - give the book a try. Read it aloud to your child - you'll be so glad, glad, glad you did.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Poetry Friday

In honor of Mother's day.

Nobody Knows But Mother
by Mary Morrison

How many buttons are missing today?
Nobody knows but Mother.
How many playthings are strewn in her way?
Nobody knows but Mother.
How many thimbles and spools has she missed?
How many burns on each fat little fist?
How many bumps to be cuddled and kissed?
Nobody knows but Mother.

How many hats has she hunted today?
Nobody knows but Mother.
Carelessly hiding themselves in the hay --
Nobody knows but Mother.
How many handkerchiefs willfully strayed?
How many ribbons for each little maid?
How for her care can a mother be paid?
Nobody knows but Mother.

How many muddy shoes all in a row?
Nobody knows but Mother.
How many stockings to darn, do you know?
Nobody knows but Mother.
How many little torn aprons to mend?
How many hours of toil must she spend?
What is the time her day's work shall end?
Nobody knows but Mother.

How many lunches for Tommy and Sam?
Nobody knows but Mother.
Cookies and apples and blackberry jam --
Nobody knows but Mother.
Nourishing dainties for every "sweet tooth",
Toddling Dottie or dignified Ruth --
How much love sweetens the labor, forsooth?
Nobody knows but Mother.

How many cares does a mother's heart know?
Nobody knows but Mother.
How many joys from her mother love flow?
Nobody knows but Mother.
How many prayers for each little white bed?
How many tears for her babes has she shed?
How many kisses for each curly head?
Nobody knows but Mother.
Other poetry Friday contributors: A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy, Blog from the Windowsill, Book Buds, Farm School, Jen Robinson's Book Page, Little Willow, and Scholar's Blog.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Goslings are Here

Every spring, one of the big events on our walk to school is when we finally see the new baby geese. We saw three goslings this week. There will probably be more soon - last year there was one little family of 12!

We walk along a creek to get to school, and that is where the Canada Geese and some ducks live (year round.) Anyone who has lived near where Canada Geese congregate know that they can be a messy nuisance. You must constantly watch your step. But when those first little yellow fuzz balls are spotted, all that is forgotten.

Every day we look to see if we can find the goslings. And before you know it they get so big it's hard to distinguish them from their parents. Last year, my daughter observed sadly, "they grow up so fast."

It's true - by the end of the summer, these goslings will be full grown geese. Children grow fast too (can my daughter really be nine years old?) but at least we get to keep them small for a lot longer than the geese do. There's definitely a blessing to be had in that!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ponderances

Sometimes the importance of a story is not just in it being written, but it being read as well. With this in mind, I've decided to post some short stories and medititations, based on people or events in the bible, in a new webzine I created called Ponderances. Right now there is one story posted. As more are available, I'll make that information known here. Enjoy.

Friday, May 05, 2006

National Day of Prayer

Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer. I didn't really set aside any extra time for prayer yesterday.

But this is what I did:

I volunteered at my children's school library and helped 1st and 2nd graders pick out books to read, as well as shelving books and organizing the shelves so books could be found.

I spent the afternoon at the park with my son while he and his friend played on the jungle gym and rode their scooters.

With my children, I watched a mother robin feed her baby birds (in the nest she built in the holly tree directly next to our front door).

And of course there were the other things the cooking, the cleaning, the getting people to and from school.

Isn't all of it really a prayer? Isn't the way we live our lives a way of communicating with God?

I pray frequently too, either just in conversation with God or by using regular prayers (by which I mean the Our Father, Hail Mary, etc.)

So, yesterday was the National Day of Prayer. But really, every day is a Day of Prayer?

Poetry Friday

Another Friday, another poem.
This is from Now We Are Six by AA Milne. This is one of my favorites, and one of my daughter's favorites as well. In fact my daughter read it to her class when she was in first grade.

The Good Little Girl
By A. A. Milne

It'’s funny how often they say to me, "“Jane?
"“Have you been a good girl?"
"“Have you been a good girl?"
And when they have said it, they say it again,
"“Have you been a good girl?"
"“Have you been a good girl?"”

I go to a party, I go out to tea
I go to an aunt for a week at the sea
I come back from school or from playing a game;
Wherever I come from, it'’s always the same:
"“Well?
Have you been a good girl, Jane?"”

It'’s always the end of the loveliest day:
"“Have you been a good girl?"”
"“Have you been a good girl?"
I went to the Zoo, and they waited to say:
"“Have you been a good girl?"
"“Have you been a good girl?"”

Well, what did they think that I went there to do?
And why should I want to be bad at the Zoo?
And should I be likely to say if I had?
So that'’s why it'’s funny of Mummy and Dad,
This asking and asking, in case I was bad,
"“Well?
Have you been a good girl, Jane?"”
Poetry Friday was started by Kelly at Big A little a. So far I see a contribution from Farm School. I'll add more when there are more to add.

Edited to add these Poetry Friday contributors.
A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy, Blog from the Windowsill, Chicken Spaghetti, A Fuse#8 Production, Here in the Bonny Glen, and Scholar's Blog.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Hey, No Fair!

Even very young children have what seems to be a natural sense of fairness. They are very quick to point out if someone has one more piece of candy than they do, if someone got an extra turn, or if someone took their blocks away. And then you hear it: Hey, no Fair!

So, children, from a very young age understand that there is a right way to do something and a wrong way. No cutting in line, take turns, don't take something that doesn't belong to you.

When does that sense of rightness and wrongness fade away? It seems that every couple of months there is another article in a news magazine about the proliferation of cheating in the schools. Reader's Digest had an article about it just this past March.

Once kids think it's okay to do whatever it takes to get ahead - where does it stop? Maybe it doesn't. This past week when the story of the Harvard- student-with-the-great-book-deal,-but it-turned-out-she-plagarized-some-of-it broke, it brought cheating to the headlines again. Because plagarizing is cheating - no two ways about it. Liz at A Chair a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy had a great post on this, and since I can't say it any better, I won't try.

And then, not to get embroiled in the illegal immigration debate - but isn't coming to this country without going through the proper channels - simply another way of cheating? Couldn't the people waiting on line to get the paper work and approval they need call out "Hey, no cutting in line?"

Just two more thoughts on the illegal immigration debate. People say that these workers do the work Americans won't do because the pay is so low. Why is it a good thing to have a class of people who are relegated to work at jobs that don't pay a living wage?

And people who are here illegally are subject to all kinds of indignities. Such as this story from the Newark Star-Ledger about undocumented Mexicans who were forced into prostitution. Without the benefit of being here legally, they probably felt they had no choice.

So, to sum it up. Play by the rules, we all knew what they were when we were three: don't take what doesn't belong to you, wait your turn, and so on and so forth. The rules haven't changed, just the stakes.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Poetry Friday

I've been meaning to be a part of this ever since Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy got involved. It was started by Kelly at Big A little a. But, I never remember to post a poem on Friday.

But today is Friday, and I found a poem to post. It's one I copied down from somewhere when I was in High School. It's short and to the point.

Outwitted
by Edwin Markham

He drew a circle that shut me out -
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday, the second Sunday of Easter is also now known as Divine Mercy Sunday. This was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 2000. The concept was revealed to St. Faustina, a Polish nun, whom Pope John Paul II canonized in 2000.

I think that some places are still not used to the fact that there is a specific feast here. While several churches in our diocese are having special services on Sunday afternoon, our priest said nothing about it during the vigil mass today. Which is a shame.

It's a shame because the concept of Divine Mercy is such a hopeful one. It is a reminder to us that God loves us and that his mercy is infinitely great. All we need to do is ask.

One way to ask for mercy is to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It's really quite simple and easy to learn.

There is also the Divine Mercy Novena. Which in revelations to St. Faustina, Jesus asked be said starting on Good Friday, culminating in Divine Mercy Sunday.

We said the Novena this past week in our household. My husband and I had decided to do it, and we asked the kids if they wanted to participate. They were eager to. So for each day, starting with Good Friday, we got out our rosary beads, sat together and prayed the novena. On a day when the children were going to spend the night at Grandma's, my daughter was concerned about when we would say the novena. But since my husband comes home at lunchtime we were able to do it then. I was thrilled that she cared enough about it to worry about that.

Saying the novena has been a positive experience for our family, and I hope to find other devotions we can do together as well.

But right now I want to say another word or two about his Divine Mercy. God loves us, and he wants to forgive our sins. He is not up in heaven with a tally sheet saying - oh he forgot to confess that one, or boy, I've got her, that's a sin and she doesn't even realize it. He's not out to get us. He loves us and wants us to love Him.

He wants us to love Him. That's the key. And if we love Him, we want to be good - we will not want to commit sins. And if we've done bad in the past - and if we are imperfect and are still committing sins, we just need to ask for God's mercy: It's infinite and He wants to share.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pope Benadryl

It was a little over a year ago now, when the world found out that we had a new Pope. I remember I was driving someplace with my son, who was five at the time. I heard the news on the radio, and I told my son the news - didn't know how much he would really care, but I figured he ought to know.

A little later, when we were going to be getting my daughter from school, I asked my son if he wanted to tell his sister the news about the new Pope.

He did.

I asked him if he remembered the name of the new Pope.

He told me he did.

"Pope Benadryl."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Easter

When my darling daughter was 4 I was going to tell her the story of Easter. She told me she already knew it. And proceeded to tell me this story.
When they laid Him down they wrapped Him up in cloth and then they prayed for Him. Then they made a table for His family and they laid Him on the table. The table was made out of stone. Everybody was sad because they would miss Him. And then on the third day the two Marys (not the ones that were Jesus’s Mommies, only two Marys) then the two Marys said where is Jesus. The Angel said (he was a boy Angel) – the angels said “Don’t worry, He’s outside the cave waiting for you to tell His whole human beings.” So they went to tell His human beings about Him and then they told everybody in the city of Egypt. Then Jesus went to Egypt to see His men. They wrapped Him up in purple robes and everyone laughed. Then He looked and then He went over to the two Marys and everyone was happy.
Have a Happy and Blessed Easter.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rejoicing in the Lord

I believe in transubstantiation. I believe that at the consecration during Mass the bread and wine becomes Jesus. So, why, after I receive communion am I not jumping for joy with the fact that Jesus has allowed me this closeness with him?

I was contemplating this the other day at Mass and decided that I really need to internalize that belief more. It's one thing to believe intellectually, it's another to truly internalize that belief and live on it.

And do other people experience the joy that should come with having just received our Lord in communion? Judging from the faces of the people coming back from receiving communion, it doesn't seem so. It's just another thing to do, just another ritual.

But there was one young man, a man who appeared to have some mental disabilities, being led up the aisle by his father. And after he got communion, and was on his way back, he literally jumped in the air and shouted for joy - three times - before his father caught up with him.

And I thought. He gets it. He's the one who gets it - out of all these people here, this one young man is the only one who is truly getting the joy he should out of receiving communion.

We could learn a lot from him.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Of Devils and Angels

I think the devil was after my daughter the other night.

I know that sounds bizarre, but this is what happened.

My nine-year-old daughter was saying the rosary in her room, in bed, with a small light on. She says she got to about the 30th Hail Mary, when she suddenly forgot how to say the Hail Mary. Which, she acknowledges was a little strange, because she had just said so many of them. So she got out of bed, got her prayer book, looked it up, re-memorized it and continued.

But then, all the things that were red in her room began to seem like they were glowing. And she heard screams in her mind - like the sounds you might hear in Hell.

She was scared, bhe kept praying the rosary. And by the time she had said ten more Hail Mary's, she had the picture in her mind of an angel coming to her. The angel took her by the shoulders, and kicked the devil, and the devil slunk away.

That's when the tears came, and she came to tell me about it.

I told her she did absolutely the right thing. The devil can't stand our prayers. He must leave if we tell him to, in the name of Jesus.

I also suggested, that since her guardian angel seemed to be on duty, she should ask his/her name.

The next morning she told me a name popped into her head, but she's not sure it's right: Anna Garabaldi. I don't see why it's not right - though I didn't know angels had last names.

It's very good to know that when evil is around the angels are there to protect us.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Reading and Having Read

I just re-read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I say I re-read it, because I remember reading it before. But no, I remember having read it. I remember saying "I've read that book." I remember the tree. I remember Brooklyn. I remember the book was in the attic bookshelves at my mother's house. I remember looking at the cover and thinking "I've read this."

But, having just read it this week, I can honestly say I don't remember any of it. Did I actually ever read it before - or did I intend to and then think I read it?

I thought perhaps I was losing my mind, or that this was a phenomenon unique to me. Apparently, it is not. Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen has remembered reading books and yet - when re-reading them found the experience new and enlightening.

She beautifully captures the experience of re-reading The Great Gatsby:
I might as well have been reading for the first time a book I'd only heard vague hints about. The language, the richness of it, was wholly new. I had no memory of tasting those phrases and images before. It was like trying some kind of food, like chocolate or lobster, for the first time. No matter what one has heard other people say about it, the exact flavor is indescribable because it is unique. It, in fact, forms a basis of comparison for other foods. I could say that some other book has a Gatsby-like quality, but I can't say Gatsby tastes like anything else I've ever tasted before.
And she references a post she read at Book World, about how long a book stays read. There, the author stated:
I know the story lines and names of some of the characters in [these books] because they are themselves well known, and have passed into the wider common culture outside the novel itself. But I'm reasonably confident that if I went back and re-read them I would find the books themselves almost unrecognisable.
So, how many books do we not read because we read them before?

There are so many wonderful new books out there. There are so many wonderful old books out there. If we keep re-reading the same few we miss out on so much.

But, how much do we miss, by saying "I read that already." Especially when talking about books that were read in High School.

In a book discussion group I belong to, we read both Fahrenheit 451 and To Kill a Mockingbird. Both books I read in high school. Both books I enjoyed reading in high school. And I remembered the books. But what a rich and new experience it was reading them as an adult.

Should I just re-read everything. Some books that I hated I would probably love. Some I loved, maybe I wouldn't care for anymore. And then there are all the new books. Who can keep up?

I still don't know if I really ever did read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn before. (And, by the way, I absolutely loved every minute of that book.) But, after reading Melissa Wiley's blog, I'm thinking I should re-read The Great Gatsby.