Sunday, September 30, 2007

Aahh, the joys of siblings

Jonas stood facing the window nearest his carseat in the minivan and stubbornly said, "Don't look out my window."

Owen, sitting behind him in his seat, shot back, "I'm looking out your window."

"Don't look out my window!"

"I'm looking out your window!"

Oh, brother!

Friday, September 28, 2007

He's figured out what separates the kids from the grown-ups

Sitting at dinner tonight, Owen had an epiphany, "Me and Jonas do what we want to do and you two (pointing to Jack and I) do what you have to do."

He happier, she's less so

This headline in The New York Times caught my attention. So, after all our efforts to grant women equal rights, we've ended up more stressed. Read all the way to the end and you'll see why I want the author to come to my house.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bob into reading

The timing couldn't have been better. I write about Owen beginning to read a few words, then I get this opportunity to review the Bob Books by Bobbie Lee Maslen and John R. Maslen. Perfect!

Our set arrived on our doorstep, which is always an adventure. It's like Christmas for the boys when packages arrive at the house. Who cares that we get deliveries much more frequently than only the chaotic month of December because I'm in love with free shipping on Amazon, it's still exciting. So, I definately had Owen's attention when I opened the big brown box to find our little blue box inside.

"Is it for me?" Owen yelled while practically jumping as high as me.

"Yes, these are books just for you. Books that you can read yourself."

"I don't know how to read, Mommy"

"You're learning. You can read cat and hat. I think you can learn to read these too."

So we cuddled up on the couch and opened the first of 12 miniature paperbacks. Together we sounded out the words through the simple eight-page booklet. As soon as we were done, he wanted to read it again. And again.

That night when Daddy came home, Owen met him at the door proudly exclaiming, "Daddy, I read a book today." Of course, Daddy was full of praise and couldn't wait to hear it. We shared a parental look of pride over the top of our firstborn's curly head.

These beginning readers with their simple stories, cute line drawings, and gradual advancement of new words, are the perfect first books. They give the child confidence to progress to the next book, and the next book and the next.

There are five sets in all, each providing a progressive level of difficulty. I'm already anticipating getting set two on my doorstep.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Homeschooler says no to Harvard

Great story about a kid who was homeschooled and the options he chose.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Book club: Eat, Pray, Love

I'm part of a monthly book club and I thought I share our reads with you. Each member takes turns choosing a book so we get introduced to new books, some of which we may not have picked up left to our own devices. Some we love. Some we hate. There's even a few that fall in the so-so category although we usually have stronger opinions than that. We read biographies, memoirs, novels, Christian literature and even an occasional romance here and there.

This month's pick is Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert. So far I only know what's on the book jacket. And that tells me that it was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. For me, a more stirring endorsement comes from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, who says, "A wonderful book, brilliant and personal, rich in spiritual insight.

If you would like to join me in discussing this book, check back on Oct. 4 and share your thoughts.

Friday, September 14, 2007

On Borrowed Wings

It's the 1930s and young girls, particularly poor ones, have few options. Adele, raised in the dust of granite that her father cuts, can barely think beyond her beloved town of Stony Creek although she rebels at the idea of an arranged marriage her parents are sure to make for her. Then her older brother dies unexpectedly and suddenly Adele has a choice. She cuts her hair, binds her breasts and puts on pants to attend Yale University under her brother's identity.

When I first started reading On Borrowed Wings, a historical fiction, I noticed the impressive writing, plot and character devleopment. I like Chandra Prasad's vivid descriptions and analogies. She's developed a well thought-out character in Adele who grew throughout the book--always a must for me to like a novel. Although the idea of a girl pretending to be a boy has been done many times, (Shakespeare's As You Like It and Barbara Streisand's Yentl come to mind) it's still an intriquing concept. Then there's added layers of interest in the mother-daughter relationship, the coming-of-age story, and the societal pressures and expectations for gender and class of that era.

What particularly captured my imagination was pondering what women could do given their limited options of the time. And as always, when I read books related to this subject, I wonder what I would have done had I lived then. Would I have had Adele's courage to try a different life? Would my hunger for knowledge and equality enable me push through boundaries? Would I have been depressed or suicidal? I am so thankful for the women who have gone before us and fought for the choices that I am allowed today.

I enjoyed many parts of the book, but then some scenes that seemed thrown in to elicit strong reactions for the sake of reactions and not for story or character development, turned me off. It's kinda like adding gratuitous flesh or violence in a movie to get an R-rating. That's just not my cup of tea.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Piano lessons

You would think with all the money my parents spent on music lessons and the years of practice I put in, that I would be a pretty decent musician. Not so! I took organ lesson from the age of 9 until I was about 17. Then I took a quarter or two of piano in college, and almost a year's worth of piano lessons sometime after I was married and while I was pregnant with Owen. I used to think that he's musicial because I played the piano while he was in utero, but a couple months of Kindermusik convinced me otherwise.

Anyway, since having children I've hardly had a chance to practice. Whenever I've tried, little fingers find their way to the piano keys and bang away. Or worse, they pull down the lid on their mother's fingers.

Today while browsing the book aisle at Costco I came upon The Library of Easy Piano Classics and decided I'm going to practice again. Afterall, there is more music in the world than Vegietales jingles. I bought the book.

I am extremely rusty. This arrangement of Debussy's Clair De Lune is easier than the version I used to play and I can't even get through it. How sad is that? Still, I'm going to try. I'll never be a great pianist, but if I can passably play most of the pieces in this book, I'll be happy.

What really matters

As we're entering the fire season here in southern California, I remember the first time we lived through it about four years ago. This photo shows the view from our back yard. By nightfall, the flames glowed through the smoke.

Watching the fire from my second-story bedroom window, I could see the bright orange-red flames outline the ridges. Every time I looked out the window, the fire seemed to be getting closer and closer. Then I heard that the homes higher up the hill than mine were being evacuated. Our street, only a few blocks south, was under voluntary evacuation. Jack was working late and I called him to come home. The police were guarding all the streets into our neighborhood and would let people leave but not to enter. Jack left his Jeep at the police barricade and snuck past them to walk the couple of miles to our home. We decided to pack our necessities into our car so we could be ready to leave if the authorities evacuated our street as well.

As we went through our house to grab what we needed, I realized that the things that I would pack if I were leaving town for the weekend—clothes, diapers, toothpaste, and such—was not the things I wanted to pack now. I wanted our family photos. I took the wedding photos off the wall—the ones that instantly transport me to that day when I looked into my husband’s eyes and saw the depth of his love as he recited the vows he wrote for me. I grabbed the photo albums that contained pictures of fun times with our friends, images of grandparents that had passed away, and portraits of our families throughout the years. I gathered up the discs that had all the digital snapshots we had taken the past year documenting Owen’s life.

It turned out that our street was never evacuated and no home on our part of the hillside was lost. Many weren't so lucky. Several homes and thousands of acres of woodland was burned. But that experience continues to serve as a poignant reminder of what is truly important. First, the safety of my family. I would have watched those precious photos burn rather than lose my husband or my son. Second, since we had time, we chose to save the most important items we had, and those were not the most expensive items we owned, but the most meaningful—our family photos.

Everything else is replaceable

Monday, September 10, 2007

Our first camping trip

We joined our church group for a camping trip in the mountains this weekend. Thanks to a borrowed tent and stove, we made it. The boys enjoyed running through the trees with their friends, and Jack and I enjoyed the luxury of their prolonged entertainment so we could chat with our friends. And, of course, being in nature always makes me feel rejuvenated--like I can breathe deeply again and not worry about things in the normal hustle and bustle of life. So, even though the air mattress we slept on made me feel as if I was on a boat about to capsize in the waves, and even though it was so cold at night that when Jack returned from the bathroom and wrapped his frozen self around me I was thinking about mutiny, we will definately go camping again.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I do it myself

Yep, Jonas was so proud of dressing himself in his jammies he had to show them off.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Its tough being a kid

I stiffled a giggle when Owen said this and instead said, "Yep, sometimes it is."

We were playing Uno on the family room floor and I had just suggested we switch places so I could lean against the couch. Hunching over the cards for the past hour was enough to make me wish for a personal masseuse who makes housecalls. Look, the boy had spent three house of bliss at the neighborhood pool, had played numerous games of Uno where, I might add, he had won more games than lost, and now when I asked to switch places to rest his pregnant mother's back he pops up with this its-tough-being-a-kid thing.