Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Player Piano Player

And if the uncles' stories weren't enough, Harry provided additional entertainment for the evening.

Thanksgiving - Day Two

Like the pilgrims of old our Thanksgiving feast tends to overflow to two days. The second day is at my cousin's house - and often is more crowded than the first night - this year it was actually less so - due to conflicting schedules. But there's something quite wonderful about sitting by the fire listening to your uncles tell stories about when they were young - and about their Uncle Will's Cider Mill during prohibition that just can't be beat.
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Budding Meterologist

Here's the video Pippi made at the museum

A Day at the Museum

This year, instead of going to the wonderful toy museum we've gone to for years on the day after Thanksgiving, we went to the Rochester Museum and Science Center. It was a blast with a lot of wonderful hands-on exhibits, inlcuding a hover chair and digging for dinosaur bones. The kids could make their own weather report and figure out how the locks work on a canal.
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Thanksgiving - Day One

It's always wonderful to get together with aunts and uncles and cousins and remember that family is really something you can be thankful for.
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Friday, November 28, 2008

The Blessings of Family

103 years ago Max and Rose got married.

Rose was the daughter of German immigrants.

Max's ancestor had come to America and lived with and worked for Miles Standish in the 1630s.

He was not a passenger on the Mayflower and hence not a part of the "first Thanksgiving feast" in Plymouth, but his close association with Miles Standish leads me to believe that he must have heard first hand accounts of that meal with the thankful pilgrims and the native people who where their neighbors.

Yesterday, as we do every Thanksgiving, a bunch of the descendants of Rose and Max gathered at their grandson's house to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving feast.

Like every year the day was filled with laughter and reminiscing and a little political discussion thrown in for good measure. And of course lots of good food.

When I was a child these gatherings often took place at my aunt and uncle's farm where in order to burn off energy us kids would go and run around in the hay - there was a rope you could swing from in the rafters of the barn too. Now the kids simply run back and forth in the house to burn off the energy (where's a good barn when you need it).

The most important time before any meal however is grace. And in our family we have a non-traditional tradition.

23 years ago my grandfather decided that he wanted to start a family tradition (now I know how that is done - someone with clout announces it will happen, and by golly it does).

Before the meal we gather and join hands and we sing:
Fill my house unto the fullest,
eat my bread and drink my wine
the love I bear I hold from no one,
All I have and all I do I give to you

Followed by the Great Amen.

This year we sang it twice (we had a rather fluid party - with people coming and going). The first time we sang along to my grandfather's accompaniment via recording. It was a blessing to hear his voice again - but I know I was not the only of there who got teary eyed at hearing his voice sing that familiar song again. The second time we sang it we left out the recording (it was easier on our emotions)

The one thing everyone could agree on yesterday - whether they were there for the champagne toast, the snacks, the dinner, the sandwiches later, or the whole thing - is that we are very very blessed to be a part of this family.

And I suppose we have Max and Rose to thank for it.

Note: the picture in the header is of Rose and three of her children, including my grandmother.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

No 'Writing Wednesday' post today - too busy getting ready for Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday's Proverb

A son who fills the granaries in summer is a credit; a son who slumbers during harvest, a disgrace. (Proverbs 10:5)

From the Elementary School Library

On Tuesday mornings I play librarian over at my son's elementary school. I check books in and out, shelve the returned books and try to direct the students to the books they are looking for. Sometimes this is easy.

Animal books? See the shelf where the rest of your classmates are standing. That's where they are.

Books about airplanes? look for the number 629

Joke books? Right here on this table - I've learned not to bother shelving them because as soon as I do someone else wants them

Thanksgiving books? All up on top of the shelves for easy picking.

But there were two questions today that I just didn't have an answer for.

1) Where's the whale book that Cainan was holding last week?

(note, not the one he took out - because then I might remember checking it in, but one he had in his hand - last week.)

2) Why is there no color inside this book?

This was from a little girl who after taking out a pretty pink book about Valentine's Day opened it up and discovered that the illustrations were all in black and white. She was so disappointed that the book had no color she returned it and found another book.

So - thank you to all the librarians out there who deal with this kind of thing all day, every day. I tip my hat to you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Interview

Beth Revis over at Writing it Out was kind enough to interview me for her blog. So go on over and check it out!

Thanks Beth!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm Honored

Easter has presented me with this very cool award! I am very honored.

Now I know I have to pass this on to a few people so:

Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy,
PJ at Roots in Myth
Kelly at Big A little a
Margaret at Minnesota Mom
Karen Edmisten
Beth at Writing it Out

Because I think you are all really cool. I think lots and lots of blogs are cool - but I did need to limit myself a bit here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's Almost Thanksgiving

It's come to my attention that next week is Thanksgiving!

How did that happen? Didn't October just end? And Christmas is little more than a month away? Sure I've been hearing Christmas songs on the radio with a disturbing regularity and the Christmas trees and decorations have been up for weeks in some of the stores. I know the kids have been back at school for awhile but I think I've been laboring under the assumption that it's still early September or something.

And you know who I blame (not me for not paying more attention, let's not be silly here). I blame the stores. They put their decorations up so early that I simply ignore them. "Oh, there are the Christmas trees, I'm wearing short sleeves - yeah, whatever." But I get so good at ignoring all the signs of the impending holidays that I get sideswiped by the holidays themselves.

Now, I knew Thanksgiving was next week. I have our hotel reservations up in upstate New York where we go to visit relatives, I have some surprises for the kids for in the car. But the reality that it was a week away hadn't really sunk in.

I don't have to cook for the holiday. But as I wandered around the grocery story tonight (buying milk and decongestants) I saw the yams and the marshmallows and the pie crusts and pumpkin filling, and sugar on sale and flour on sale and all of a sudden something in my brain clicked and I realized that Thanksgiving is next week!

So - here's hoping everyone has lots to be thankful for!

My First Interview!

Today over at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, Liz B has an interview with me discussing the first steps in my road to having a book in print!

As she mentions in the interview we have known each other since fourth grade. It's great to have someone you've known for that long. We've been reading each other's stories since then. What she doesn't tell you is that it's because of her that When Mike Kissed Emma got written at all. She was reading a draft of another story I had and she said "Um, Chris, don't kill me, but I think you have a whole story within a story here". She then proceeded to pull out the pages that had that story line, put them all together in one file and show me where I had the complete story arc of an entirely separate story.

Many edits and revisions later it all came together! So Thanks Liz. You can truly say you were there at the beginning!

cross-posted at Simply Put

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Talking about Bookmarks

Come on over to Simply Put and tell me the strangest bookmark you've ever used.

Tuesday's Proverb

The slack hand impoverishes, but the hand of the diligent enriches. (Proverbs 10:4)

Monday, November 17, 2008

One plus One equals... um One?

I have two children. And it's interesting to see how two children who are in some ways so similar are so different.

For example - they look very much alike. Okay, true if you compare the 11 year old girl with long hair to the 8 year old boy with a buzz cut it's a little harder to see the similarities. But compare pictures from the same age - especially when they were babies and had no hair... let's just say I had to make sure I labeled all the baby pictures. I joke that they are my twins separated by three years.

They are also both intelligent, funny, musical and love to read.

But... they are opposites in funny ways.

Band-aids and Boo Boo Cream
When they were little Pippi loved Band-aids. Any minor blemish on her skin needed a Band-aid. But don't put any boo-boo cream on. Just a Band-aid, thank you very much.

Harry on the other hand hated Band-aids. Didn't matter how much blood was pouring out of him - all he wanted was some boo-boo cream and he'd be on his way. Band-aids when applied (because when there is blood coming out as a mother I want a Band-aid there) it would be removed as soon as he got the chance.

(they've both moderated on this one, and will each accept what is necessary, be it bandage or cream or both)

This is one of the funniest. When Pippi was three she didn't like to say the numbers four and five. She would count: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 - sometimes coming back to four and five later.

In fact she resisted saying the number four so much that one time I was reading her a number story book - (a story for each number) - and I made her say the number first. When we got to four she wouldn't say it. She just wanted me to read the story. I kept coaxing and cajoling. "What number is this?" She clamped her mouth shut. "I won't read the story until you say it," I said. "Now, tell me, what number comes after three?".

She looked at me and smiled and said "quatro". Yeah, she won that round. She got the story and she didn't have to say "four". (once she turned four she was okay with the number)

Harry on the other hand - when he started counting - started with four and five. Don't ask me why.

One of the meals I make is a German meal consisting of Sauerbraten (a marinated beef) and Spaetzle (homemade noodles). Pippi would only eat the meat. Harry would only eat the noodles.

A summertime salad we enjoy has both tomatoes and olives in it.
Harry takes the tomatoes - won't touch an olive
Pippi is the other way around.

Math/Language Arts
Pippi recently finished an enrichment program in the district for 3rd thru 5th graders where the students are 1 year ahead in math and 2 in language arts. Two days a week they get together with the other students in the program and are taught those subjects - the rest of the week they are with their own class and have "packets" for language arts and math. Harry is in the program now.

For three years getting Pippi to complete her math packet was a struggle. If something was wrong she'd be convinced she couldn't do it and much angst would ensue. The language arts packets went swimmingly - she breezed right through them.

And you guessed it now Harry is doing the same work. Well, the math is always done. But getting him to sit down and complete the language arts (if it wasn't done in school) becomes a challenge involving all kinds of threats and incentives.

As I sometimes tell them, if we were just to combine the two of them we'd have one normal kid. (or at least one who would count all the way to ten in order)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

When Mike Kissed Emma

Coming Soon to Wild Rose Press!

I have a cover!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Guess the Logic Works... Kind Of

When I told Harry that he might have to miss one of his basketball games due to a scheduling conflict he was okay with that.

Harry: "That's good. 'Cause that would probably be the game where I got hit in the nose with a ball. Every season I get hit in the nose with the ball."

Me: "So you figure that would be the game it would happen at and if you're not there you won't get hit with the ball this season."

Harry: "Yeah."

Um. Okay. I guess that works.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Writing Blog

I've decided to divide my blogging into two parts. Here at Simple and the Ordinary I will continue to talk about any of the simple and ordinary things that make up my life and at my new blog: Simply Put I will blog about writing.

It's still a work in progress, and for the meantime I will be publishing any writing posts in both places - but in time, I hope you will find a reason to regularly stop by Simply Put and see what's up with me and my writing life.

Writing Wednesday - NaNoWriMo continued

I haven't been blogging a lot because I've been writing a lot - plowing ahead with my new WIP for National Novel Writing Month.

And you know what? It's fun.

I've had this idea for a story brewing in my head for many years. I started it once way back when, started it a second time a bit later, but I never got into the meat of the story. And the thing about this story (unlike so many ideas that pop into my head) is that I knew how I wanted it to end.

The middle was a little unclear. But that's okay - that's where I am now - and I'm figuring it out as I go. The story took a few twists I didn't expect. And I'm thinking in re-writes there are some factors I need to explore more deeply. But the great thing about NaNoWriMo - it forces you not to worry about the re-writes yet. You think this part or that part could be better? Great - you'll take care of it next time around. For today - just plunge ahead. And I've been plunging.

The goal for NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words in the month of November. I'm up to 32,000 so far and trying to figure out at what point I start the downward slope toward the end of the novel.

I'll confess that I love revisions. I love knowing a story so well that you can really focus on making it the best it can be. But this is the second first draft of a story I've written this year - and I'm really enjoying this part too.

What can I say - I love it all!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

I can't let this day go by without a special word of thanks to all the men and women who have fought the wars that have helped keep this country free and safe. War is never good and people who fight them know that more than anyone, but sometimes it's necessary - and the people who step up to do their part are truly heroes.

But there is someone else I always think of on Veteran's Day and that is my Aunt Florence. She died a few years ago, but today would have been her 98th birthday. See last year's post to find out how 8 year old Florence felt when the Armistice was signed on her birthday!

Tuesday's Proverb

The LORD permits not the just to hunger, but the craving of the wicked he thwarts. (Proverbs 10:3)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Visiting The Lady

It started to rain just as we left Ellis Island and headed to the ferry to visit The Statue of Liberty. But there are definite advantages to visiting Lady Liberty on a rainy November day.

No crowds.

I'm sorry this picture is blurry - it's from the museum. That lady has one big face!
And really big feet.
And then we walked up the pedestal to the base of the statue. 165 steps. That's a lot of steps. Once there we could go outside on the observation deck and look up. This is what we saw.
Once upon a time you used to be able to climb inside the statue itself. Not anymore. Personally, I'm okay with that - because I remember climbing that spiral staircase when I was a kid. And all I can say is once was enough. You can look up and through a plexiglass window see up inside the statue - and see the staircase that I no longer have to climb.
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Coming to America

Imagine if you will. You've been on the ship now for weeks. In steerage. You've sold everything you had to pay for the passage. You've fit everything you treasure in two trunks a large basket and a cloth bag. It's all you and your family have to start over again in a new land. America.

Then finally one day you see her - the Lady in the Harbor. The glorious beacon to freedom. You have arrived. The promised land is before you. Soon you will see for yourself if the streets are really paved with gold.
But not so fast. Although the first and second class passengers will be processed on board the ship, the steerage passengers are to be put upon ferries and sent to Ellis Island. The name sends dread through you. You've heard of people not allowed in, sent back home because they have a bad cough or an eye disease, or are simple minded or don't have enough money. You know you yourself are not simple minded. But you don't have much money - is it enough? And the baby has come down with a cough? Will they let you in? What if they won't let the baby in? What can you do? A baby can not be sent back across an ocean by itself.
You get off the ferry and enter the building, following the scores of others and trying to figure out what to do next, where to go. You are told to leave your baggage on the main floor - to check it in. Leave it? It's all you have in the world. No, you decide you'll simply keep it with you. Your son is big, he can help with one of the trunks.

Then up the stairs to the reception room. It's large, so much larger than anything you've seen back home. And it is full of people and benches. A man in a uniform directs you to one side. You wait, you hope. You sweat it out.

Most people were processed through Ellis Island with no problems. Their paper work was in order, they showed no signs that they would be a burden on society, so they were released and ferried over to the train station in Jersey City or to New York to continue their journey and start their new life.

Some however had to go through medical exams, legal hearings and competency tests. Some people stayed for days or weeks on Ellis Island in the dormitories that slept 300 in beds stacked three high.

Today the island is a museum. And it is where we spent out day today. There are wonderful displays about immigration through the ages - and specifically to Ellis Island. Very informative and very interesting as well.

One interesting thing is the language tree - showing what language some of our common words come from. Pippi likes the word Caboodle; it's Dutch.
And this sea gull sitting on the piling by the ferry dock just seemed like he wanted someone to take his picture. So I did.
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Writing Wednesday - NaNoWriMo

Okay, I decided to plunge ahead and do NaNoWriMo this year. Not familiar with it? It's National Novel Writing Month. Yes, that's right. The goal is to take the month of November and write a 50,000 word novel.

It's first draft territory - no worrying about editing or making sure every word or every scene is perfect - just getting the words on paper (or on the computer screen in most cases).

Unfortunately I can't commit for the entire month, so I have to try to finish 50,000 words a bit earlier than that. I'm not sure I'll meet the goal. But what the heck, I can try anyway.

The best thing though is that NaNoWriMo has a Young Writer's program. And Pippi has signed up (under the name Jinx, if anyone wants to be her buddy). She is totally into it. Kids get to set their own word goal - and for sixth graders the recommended goal was between 6,000 and 12,000. She chose 11,000 since she is 11. Seemed reasonable. She already has over 2,000 words (she's ahead of me!). She may update her goal. She's been involved in the forums and is really loving this. She's always loved to write and I like how this is really focusing her attention on one project for awhile (which of course is largely the whole point of NaNoWriMo)

So are you doing NaNoWriMo?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Day at the Science Center

The graffiti wall (don't worry, it's just a computer image using light in a "spray can".

Diagnosing the patient with a little help from Nurse Ammy.

Scaling walls

Balancing high in the air.

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Tuesday's Proverb

Ill-gotten treasures profit nothing, but virtue saves from death. (Proverbs 10:2)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All The Saints

In honor of All Saints Day (yesterday) and All Souls Day (today) I bring you once again "As The Saints go Marching In" as understood by Pippi (from a few years ago)

Oh when the saints go marching in
Oh when the saints go marching in
Oh how we will be outnumbered
when the saints go marching in.