Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Debts

I've never felt like I was good at the discipline of prayer. Am I doing it right? Am I doing it enough? Am I praying for the right things at the right times? This week I was reading in Matthew and came upon these timeless words, but since I had already been pondering prayer before I began reading, they resonated with me:

I'm blogging at Faithlifts today. Click HERE to read the rest of the post.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This Hobby Has a Name

When I'm angry or sad or happy or proud, invariably one of the first things I have to do is talk it out. I will sometimes share thoughts with a friend or two on the phone, but one of my best friends and I have more of an emailing relationship. There have been times that I have picked up the phone to call her if something seems very important to me, but writing it down and sending it and then reading her thoughtful responses seems to work for both of us. I am just now realizing that perhaps in many ways it even works better for me--that perhaps as much as seeking her encouragement or council, I am fulfilling a necessary urge to get the words out of me and into print.

When Amanda was diagnosed with a minor birth defect when she was a newborn that resulted in her wearing an eye patch and shortly thereafter eyeglasses, I wrote to sort out my feelings.

When a pregnancy ended in miscarriage at sixteen weeks, I had to write about it. I emailed friends and I journaled and I essayed.

It's a hobby, a gift, a pleasure. Like any hobby or passion, if the skills aren't honed, they deteriorate. When they are used and flexed, the muscle grows. My strength as a writer depends on my training, my focus. My skill may or may not improve, but the call and enjoyment of it will strengthen.

I can look back and see that it's always been something I pursued. When I was in junior high school, my friend and I had a journal that we passed back and forth. We were going to write The Great American Novel. When I had a job after college that had a lot of downtime, I sat at the computer and wrote stories. Other times I have set this interest aside for others. That's why I'm enjoying blogging so much. I started writing, and then fed by the feedback and interaction and inspiration from reading other bloggers, I have kept writing. It is a vehicle to participate in my hobby of choice. Just as I enjoyed scrapbooking more (and was more faithful to that pursuit), when I lived two doors down from my Creative Memories consultant and got together monthly with other neighborhood friends to work on our albums, adding the sense of community to writing, which is essentially a solitary pursuit, has enhanced it. Just as someone who begins working out might also become interested in better nutrition, the writing desire has also rekindled the reading desire. Words, in any form, are my leisure activity of choice.

Recently I wonder if blogging is keeping me from other writing that I want to do (for articles or stories), but I don't think that's what matters right now. What matters is feeding the urge and giving myself time to wear the title of writer. We think nothing of claiming names that go along with other hobbies: runner, scrapbooker, book-lover, even artist.

Are you a writer?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Some Picture Books with Wide Appeal

I recently purchased Scaredy Squirrel, the Cybils award winner in the picture book category. I brought it up to my son's room last night and called my daughter in as well. The cover appealed to him, and he was asking to read the "squirrel book" as soon as we sat down. As we read, Amanda laughed out loud on almost every page. Even though I would say that the content and text of the book is aimed more to Amanda's age than to Kyle's, he did not lose interest at all as we read. The drawings are clean and simple and kept his interest. The story loosely gives a lesson about not being afraid to try new things, but it is not at all heavy-handed or trite. I think that we will read this book often. I think that Amanda will pick it up on her own for a few laughs as well.

I am glad that I made it a part of my Read to Me goal to try to read to Amanda and Kyle together. I honestly hadn't even tried since their age range was so wide. However, Kyle has a better attention span now, and Amanda enjoys being a part of reading to and with him, so I think it will be quite easy and enjoyable for all of us.

When we were on vacation last week, the hotel had several children's books on a table in the lobby for the guests to enjoy. Because of this, and my goal to read more widely to Kyle (instead of rotating his, and my, favorites), we read two Dr. Seuss books: The Sleep Book and Horton Hatches the Egg. I'm not sure that I've read either of these books, although I am of course familiar with Horton the elephant. Both of these books are the characteristically longer Dr. Seuss books (some of the shorter ones are in our regular repertoire including some of his board books, which are often abridged versions). I think that it took us almost twenty minutes to read each of these books aloud. However, the wonderful rhymes and cadence held Kyle's interest the whole time and the tongue-twisting fun and humor kept Amanda's. I am definitely going to check out some more of the original full-length Dr. Seuss books the next time we go to the library, and use them to fulfill my goal of reading to both kids (and it's poetry, too!).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

(continued from this post)

The best thing about having to have surgery to repair my ACL is the instant jock-status that it gives me. People know I had it done, or see the scar, and wonder, "In what sort of athletically challenging activity was she involved in when that happened?" I am absolutely not an athlete, so I sort of like how it makes me sound. The worst thing is that being physically disabled is hard. I was on crutches for two or three weeks before the surgery and for at least a month after the surgery, and then had to wear a knee brace for a couple of months after that as well. I even had a temporary handicapped parking tag, which did come in handy while on crutches or slowed by a brace, while also keeping up with a four-year-old daughter. The funniest thing is that my daughter was well-aware of rules at that point in her life--not parking in the handicapped spots being one of them. At some point a few months after I was no longer taking advantage of that status, someone was talking about being handicapped or using the parking spaces, and Amanda contributed to the conversation, "My mom used to be handicapped."

Last year we took a little ski trip to Vermont. I chose not to ski. Partly, I was scared, but I also knew that with my skiing personality of taking a while to warm up to it and gain some level of confidence, it wasn't worth trying until I knew that I might be skiing regularly. With Kyle still being young, I wasn't going to be skiing regularly any time soon.

Last week, we took a family trip to Lake Placid, New York. Amanda had really enjoyed skiing for three days last year, and was really making progress. We wanted her to be able to ski again this year, if possible. Coincidentally, my husband, who is an athlete, was hurt in a challenging game of basketball and had to have his ACL repaired last June. The fact that he wanted to try to ski and would be willing to take it easy with me, that Amanda is at a level that I could ski with her (she will surpass me very soon), and that Kyle loves childcare type situations and will soon be old enough to ski on his own, led me to want to try to hit the slopes. I was a little nervous, but I did not feel the worry and fear that often gripped me on that first ride up the chairlift.

The first day, Terry and I hit the bunny slope while Amanda took a lesson. I felt okay. I wasn't scared. I didn't get frustrated. We went on a long beginner green run (that had two small hills that were more in the intermediate blue range). A couple of times I was going fast and did feel a little out of control, but in general I remembered what I was supposed to do, and I did it. When we broke for lunch that afternoon, I was very tired (as a result of still not using great form, and working hard to control my speed, and--oh yeah--being pretty out of shape). I sort of wanted to quit for the day. In fact, I told Terry that I would be really happy if I had brought a book to read, so that I could just wait for him. We took a nice long lunch break, and then skied again for a couple of more hours. Our last trip down was on the same run on which we had started, but the second steep blue-sy hill was all chopped up from frequent use. There were several skiers stopped along the sides, wondering, "How am I going to do this?" and one man was even walking down it. But I did it! It was hard, but I did it (without crying).

The plan for day two is that we were all three going to ski together. Kyle returned to the nursery, quite willingly: "Play? Go play?" My legs were a little tired, and my "bad knee" was a little swollen. We went down the bunny slope a time or two to warm up and see how Amanda was doing. My confidence wavered. "My skis are slipping. I don't feel like I'm in control. I'm not really trusting this knee completely," I explained to Terry (without crying, but considering it). "You just need to get warmed up," he assured me. After a few runs, I indeed felt better. In fact, I even allowed myself a bit of speed, knowing that I could stop if need be, and even if I did fall (which I had done a few times the day before), I could get back up and continue.

At lunch I asked Amanda if she preferred being in ski school or skiing with Daddy. "That's a silly question," she answered smartly. "Why Daddy, of course." I plied her for more information, and she explained that Daddy was very patient and he was a better skier than the instructors and he let her go at her own pace. She is right. He was very encouraging and patient--both with her and with me. Note to self--in seven years let make Terry be the driving instructor.

After lunch, we did a few more runs, and I went back down to the lodge, where my book awaited. Terry had asked if I wanted to bring a book, just in case I didn't want to ski all day. I had already planned this, but I thought it was very caring of him to suggest. As with the day before, it wasn't that I didn't feel capable of continuing, it was just that I was done with it. I had enjoyed it, and I was ready to move on to something equally enjoyable: waiting with a book. I'm just not a athlete. While I enjoy skiing, I get the maximum enjoyment out of about 3 hours or so. I do not have the desire to ski from 9:00am until 4:00pm for three days in a row and cover the entire trail map. I do enjoy some other physical activities as well, such as hiking, swimming (having fun in the water) or water skiing (My dad accurately describes my aptitude in this area as "a good skier for a non-athletic person").

I have no idea why I didn't get rattled this time around. I think that part of the answer is that at the time of my attack, I was actually skiing fairly well for me. Perhaps another part is having survived the worst, so to speak. I not only had an accident, but I had to have surgery as a result of it, and I survived. I could choose to lead a completely sedentary life (instead of the mostly sedentary life that I now lead), or I could choose to try and join in with my family and be involved in an activity that we can all enjoy together.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Freedom Walkers


I read Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in my role as a judge for the Cybils Book Awards. We were asked not to post any reviews of the finalists while we were judging, so that someone wouldn't be able to predict the winner, so I have held off. Now that it was announced that Freedom Walkers did indeed win, and especially in light of the fact that February is Black History Month, I would like to share my thoughts on this book.

One might think that they've heard the story about the early days of the civil rights movement, and specifically the roles of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks as far as standing up (or sitting down, as the case may be) for what is right. However, Russell Freedman tells this story as a collective experience, from the points of view of the teenagers, men, women, leaders and followers who sacrificed for over a year in this boycott in order to bring about change. Yes, it lasted for over a year. How many of you knew that? I did not. It was the length of time and the full sacrifice that was made that really spoke to me from the pages of this book. A great wrong was being legislated in the city of Montgomery, Alabama, and all across the South, and a dedicated group of African Americans, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., finally decided not to be victims any longer.

As I read, the sense of the injustice settled over me heavily. It is hard for me to believe that this world existed only ten years before my birth. Hearing the quotes and seeing the pictures that were carefully selected proves that this story is not just a kind of legend or myth. It's not a pretty story, but this is a fair telling of these events. There are a few sympathetic Whites mentioned, but in general, there were not many who were willing to defend the rights of the minorities. I continue to live in hope that times have changed and will continue to change so that a time will come when color or nationality or creed truly doesn't make a difference. It was lack of knowledge, ignorance, that created the attitude of superiority and hatred of that time, and so I feel that it is my responsibility not to forget, and to learn about this time and those individuals and groups who have brought change, and to teach my daughter as well.

Is this book a downer? Not really. I was left with a slight feeling of incredulity at the actions and justification of the White leaders and the lengths that they went to in order to try to keep the Black citizens "in their place." However, it is the conviction and peaceful actions of the African American citizens, day after day, month after month, after living with a lifetime of unfair treatment, that left me with a feeling of hope. One person, or a group of single individuals, can make a difference. They have made a difference throughout history and each of us can continue to do so. Around the time I began reading this book, I came across a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. in my day planner. I also happened to be grappling with my response to a difficult situation. This quote inspired me to do what I knew was right, even though it would have been much easier to ignore the situation or try to forget it: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

What books or movies have opened your eyes to the role of race in our history and society? If you feel that it is your responsibility to learn and understand and teach your children, how is it that you do this?

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Click over to read other reviews, or link up your own review that you've posted any time this week.

Title: Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Author: Russell Freedman
Published by: Holiday House
Date: 2006
Pages: 113
Book Source: Review copy from publisher
Recommended for 5th grade through adult: those interested in civil rights and especially for those who do not have any interest in the civil rights movement.

Friday, February 23, 2007

My Old Football Injury

I have always been pretty timid on downhill skis. In fact, the first time I skied, having mastered the bunny slope, I went up a lift with my husband, father, his girlfriend Susan, and my cousin. We were going to take a beginner's green trail down. However, when we got up there, the green trail was closed, so we had to take the intermediate blue. Not fully armed with the ability to control myself, beyond a pretty lame snow-plow technique, I went way too fast. I couldn't slow down. That hill was very large and it didn't level off. There was no way I could do it. Add to this general wimpiness when it comes to all things athletic that I was early in my first trimester of pregnancy. The doctor had assured me that the baby was safe and sound and well-cushioned and beginning attempts to ski would not hurt her. However, I think it got into my head, and made me even wimpier. "I can't do this," I said, as I stood over to one side after purposefully falling to stop my initial descent. I ended up walking down. My husband was patient, although a bit annoyed with me. He was also helpful, carrying my skis and poles for me as I made it down the mountain slowly.

I believe that I skied again a time or two, on the easy green slopes, over the next couple of years. Several years later, we took a ski trip to Taos, New Mexico with another couple. I took a lesson, and began to feel a bit comfortable. However, after the end of the second day, I was so tired. I hadn't been skiing with proper form and it had taken a toll on my legs. That last morning, we sat at the restaurant by the slopes eating breakfast (delicious breakfast burritos with green chile). The guys left to do their manly no-holds barred skiing. Richele and I sat in the coffee shop. "I'm scared. I'm tired. I don't know if I can do it." Richele was patient. I began to cry. Crying is an integral part of my skiing experiences, brought on by general self-doubt and paranoia. My friend was surprised to see this side of me--different from my general air of self-confidence and willingness to do anything. We ended up skiing a bit, but I went back early and waited for them to come in.

The next year, we took a trip with another couple (our slow cooked friends) to Copper Mountain, Colorado. We each took a lesson separately, according to our abilities, and I ended up taking three consecutive lessons, because they were a great deal. At the end of those three days, I finally felt confident skiing, although I was still no expert or daredevil. It was our last day on the slopes--the first time that all four of us were skiing together, due to varying levels of ability and some lessons that we took separately.

Tammy got hit first. This man dressed in a lime green ski suit came down the mountain and cut over the tops of her skis, causing her to fall. This made his descent even less controlled and that's when he made contact with me: full-on in the middle of my back. I tumbled head over heels, skis and poles went flying--mine, his. I was surprised at the suddenness of the stealth attack. When I feel out of control, I make sure that the skiers downhill are aware of it, because I like to assume that they are more skilled than I and could get out of the way if needed. Not only was he mute as he careened down the mountain, but as my husband come over and collected both of our things for us, he was still silent.

"Are you okay?" my husband and friends asked him and me. I don't remember hearing his answer and when my answer was, "I don't think I can get up," I certainly don't remember hearing any concern. My knee was Jello. I just wanted to sit in the snow. I knew that my knee wasn't going to hold me up, and certainly wasn't going to carry me downhill. My husband convinced me that I had to get up out of the snow, and at least try. He pulled me up, and I stood on one leg. "I can't bear any weight on it." The culprit got up and left when Terry told him that we were waiting for the ski patrol, who my friend had called using the emergency phone right downhill from us. Fairly quickly a snowmobile and a snow boarder wearing jackets emblazoned with the red first-aid cross came to us. I was strapped into the stretcher, my knee was supported, and I was cocooned in for the cold ride down. "You comfortable?" he asked. "I guess so," I replied and readied myself for the headfirst ride down the whole mountain, since of course this travesty happened at the top. It felt like we were going fast. Later, my husband told me that he could barely keep up as he tried to ski down beside the snowboarder who was pulling me. I will never think of snowboarders as showboating, edgy, slope-hogs (although, I have always felt a bit wary around them since I'm not sure what their pattern going downhill might be). This guy did a very good thing for me.

The first-aid station had given me crutches and a brace and some pain pills. When I returned home, I saw a doctor and it was confirmed that I had torn two ligaments in my knee. Surgery to repair the ACL followed a month later.

To be continued. . . .

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Opportunity for Families with Kids from 5 - 9

I was contacted by a new company recently. My shipment is on the way, and I will report how it works out for me and my family, and they've asked me to spread the word:

Do you love books and want to share that love of reading with your kids? Would you like to contribute to the development of a breakthrough product by providing feedback about your experiences? If so, then we’d like to invite you to try out an early version of an interactive read aloud product called Readio.

Readio is a software program and web site that takes parent and child read-aloud to a whole new level. Readio is not yet commercially available, but we are inviting qualified families to participate in the Readio Network Pioneer Program. The Pioneer Program consists of families across the country who have a passion for reading with their children and in interest in new technology. The program has been up and running for a few weeks and will continue to run until April 2007.

For more information and to register for the program, please CLICK HERE to be redirected to their site where you can fill out a short survey that will determine your eligibility.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vacationing with Kids

When we travel with our kids (aged 8 and 2 1/2), we really try to get some type of accomodations other than the standard hotel room: a two-room suite, a two-room condo, or even a house (especially if we go with another family). This way, it really is a relaxing vacation for all. We certainly don't want to go to bed by 8:30pm each night (well, maybe that would be nice), and if the kids don't get some kind of regular sleep, then being around them isn't exactly a picnic. With more than one sleeping area, the kids can go to sleep, and we can stay up. The same goes for arising in the morning.

Although it may seem to be an unwarranted extra expense, we have found it to be worth it. We will select a slightly less luxiourous hotel, and trade it in for extra space, and end up paying only slightly more. Also, if you pay more for a condo or upgraded room and have a kitchenette, you will inevitably save some money on meals. If you really can't afford the extra splurge, you can get creative. Last summer, the hotel had a balcony with chairs set up outside. We had only the one room, but we would put the toddler in his pack and play and sit right outside the room until we knew he was sleeping (that place also had WIFI, so we could bring the laptop out). Once he was out for the night, we could turn on the bedside lamp and read. When our daughter was a preschooler, she slept in a few closets on our travels. We would bring her little sleeping bag and tuck her in. She loved it! Incidentally, we had a very large walk in closet in one home, and when we had visitors, they would use her room, and she would sleep in our closet at home, too.

Want more tips? Click over to Rocks in my Dryer each Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spiritual Adultery

Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of marriage. So then, if she marries another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress, even though she marries another man.

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:1-6
This was a big a-ha for me when it finally sunk in. This is the second time that I have studied Romans in BSF, and I've studied Romans through other means over the years as well. The part about dying to the law has always been clear to me. Because Jesus died on the cross, His undeserved death pays the debt for all my sin. So, in spite of the fact that I have sinned and will continue to sin, I am promised eternal life with a holy God. Thus, God's grace reigns, as opposed to the law's penalty. My last Romans post was a thorough look at being Dead to Sin, which helped me work through the idea of belonging to only one master (even though it seems that since I still sin, sin still has dominion over me).

If I choose to be dominated by sin by allowing myself to be controlled by sin, then I bear fruit for death. If I accept Jesus' death and atoning work (His sinless life paid for my sin), then I belong to Him. The fruit I bear belongs to Him. Fruit is a term that refers to changes in you that are a result of you belonging to Christ, for example the power to share Christ with someone else, possibly resulting in their salvation or new choices for them, mastery over areas of sin in your life, a changed character such as a peaceful outlook in the midst of trying circumstances, newfound love and compassion for others, or a more giving outlook.

God wants all of us. He wants us to be faithful and loyal brides. He doesn't want most of us, or what's left after we give of ourselves to our husbands and children and of course take all that "me-time" that we deserve. If you told your husband that he had 90% of your heart, but that 10% was still reserved for that high school sweetheart or the fantasy of the perfect husband, that wouldn't be acceptable. God desires the same of us. Just like we wear many different hats, and give our attention to other people and things (children, hobbies, a job, friends, ministry), we truly only belong to one husband. We are bound by law and by life to that one person. Although we are unfortunately pulled in many directions, including our own temptation to sin, we can still make sure that by circumstance and by our life that we belong only to Jesus. If you've made the choice to align yourself to Him, to submit to His lordship, and to grow in Him, then I think that you are spiritually wed to Him. If you are wavering, in forsaking something that you know you should forsake, or in making a full commitment to Him, then you are committing spiritual adultery. Remember that you are His bride and your true allegiance should be towards Him.

I don't have all the answers, by any means, but if you ever have any questions about any of this, feel free to email me or leave a comment and I'll get back to you in the comments. We are heavy into Christian doctrine--the whats, hows, and whys, and it's not easy.



Monday, February 19, 2007

The Read to Me 2007 Mission

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me.

From, "The Reading Mother" by Strickland Gillilan

The big day is here (please note that you can still link up through Saturday February 24)! I hope that all of you have considered your goals of reading to your children, as well as how you are going to accomplish them. The recap of the Hows and Whys are here in my introductory post. You can also find the code for the small picture if you want to display it in your post or in your sidebar (although this is not at all required).

To leave a link, please insert the address to your specific goal post (not your general blog home page). I know that some of you posted your goals last week when I first announced the program, and it is fine to link to that post unless you want to make a new post with more detailed information.

In order to be eligible for the drawing for a $10 amazon gift certificate (and possibly some other books or other mention at my discretion), you must link a post here no later than Saturday, February 24, as well as linking a post with your results the week of March 19.

I will be posting encouragement, resources, and reviews throughout the month, so please feel free to check back in occasionally. If you have a chance, visit the other participants to see what their goals and strategies are. Many are including specific titles, so I'm sure that we could all get some new books for our to-be-read list for us and/or our kids. I can't wait to read the results at the end of the month. I am genuinely excited about each and every one of you who is choosing to make this effort with me.

As promised, here are a few links to lists or encouragement or instruction on reading aloud:

Mindy at Propernoun blog wrote a great post with some recommended resources, and several books that are excellent read-alouds for all ages. She also linked to Jen Robinson's post, which I really enjoyed when she first posted it, and one that was new to me from the Miss Rumphius Effect, (who even reads aloud to college students). The The Read-Aloud Handbook is every bit as good as you might have heard (those links reference it). I thought it was probably aimed at a younger audience, but there are recommendations for young readers up through middle school.

Soli Libri posted a great list of her favorite read-alouds by age.

Jennifer, at Life is Not a Cereal, also has some really great suggestions for reading aloud.

And from my own archives:
Tips on Reading with a Young Child


Read to Me 2007--My Goals

As I've said, this mission is designed first and foremost for me. If I have held myself up to be some super-Mom who reads book after book at each child's request, while doing crafts and whipping up a healthy meal, then I apologize. I know that all of these things are important, and I want to give the time that it takes to do them, but I often let other things get in the way. I am hoping that making a concentrated effort for a few weeks will honestly change my habits. I want to set some concrete goals and then evaluate how I achieved success, or why I did not.

With Kyle (age 2 1/2):

He's a busy boy, but sometime after he turned one, he really began enjoying books, so I would read to him at bedtime, of course, and occasionally make an effort to read more to him throughout the day. With this whole mission in mind, I have really been consistent about reading to him at bedtime and naptime. I usually read three books each time. I am happy with this process, but to stick to it over these last few weeks, it's involved change. Instead of just rushing up to naptime and tossing him in bed at the last possible minute, I've had to make sure that we have the ten minutes or so that reading requires. Ten minutes--that's nothing really in the grand scheme of things. So I want to continue reading at least three books at naptime and nighttime. I would also like to read to him more throughout the day. I think that I may reinstate our TV Free Tuesday, which was always good for more reading (for both of us!).

I also want to incorporate more variety. I would like to complete a couple of the units from Picture Book Preschool which has weekly themes, incorporating quality books centered around a different topic each week.

For Amanda (age 8):

I got some great ideas for short novels for kids from the The Read-Aloud Handbook (this book is as good as everyone says it is, in content, but especially for the lists of recommended ages, from picture books up through teens). I think that by reading a few short novels, as opposed to one long book, we will both stay excited. We might read a Mary Poppins sequel as well (my review is linked there--it was a GREAT read-aloud book). She is such an avid reader, but as she herself told me, reading together is a tangible reminder of my love and care for her. I love the connection it creates between us. But because she enjoys reading on her own, and because bedtime is such a rushed time, it's something that usually happens three or four nights a week, instead of each night. I would like to set a page goal, so that if reading at night isn't occurring with regular frequency, I'll make it a priority during other times throughout the day. I would like to read 280 pages over the month. That's an average of 10 pages a night, which is probably no great stretch, but it's the consistency that I'm striving for. It would also be nice to incorporate a bit more variety with her, as well, such as reading a great juvenile biography together.

As a family:

Since there is such a gap in their ages, it's hard to read to both of them together. I've been wanting to read more poetry to Amanda, since she's begun to show an interest (in Shel Silverstein, specifically), and it occurred to be that the sing-song rhythm of poetry could be a great thing for both of them. I can choose content that is more interesting for Amanda, but Kyle should be able to listen and enjoy as well. I think that a good time to read to them together would be after Amanda returns home from school in the afternoons. I have already ordered the Cybils winner in the poetry category, Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets from the Meadow, and it's on the way, so I will begin with that. If anyone has any other poetry recommendations for a third grader (that a 2 year old would listen to), I'd love to hear them.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

From the Kiddoes



All of us here in the Snapshot house are gearing up for the reading mission. Over the last several weeks, in anticipation of the mission, I have already tried to improve upon my reading habits.

Yesterday when I told Amanda about the Read to Me blog thing, I asked her if she had any tips. She is my daughter, so if you ask her, you'll get her opinion (and if you don't ask, an opinion still might be forthcoming). She gave me a couple of thoughts. The first was for choosing a good book for an older (8) child:

Not too long so that the child gets impatient and bored with it, but not short either. Well, sometimes picture books are okay. You could try mysteries, or maybe something that you have read before if you think that they would like it (I have loved sharing with her books from my childhood, so I was touched that this was a good thing in her book). It should be something exciting, where things happen all the time (this is very important to Amanda), because, you know, we are older now and can't just read boring books.

And the clencher, when I asked her why reading out loud is still important (for kids her age):

Because then the daughter knows that you're still her Mommy, and she's still your little girl. Because you used to read to her all the time--different kinds of books--but when you still read to her now, then you both still know.

Kyle is nearing three, and he still loves a good daily nap and sleeps ten or eleven hours each night. However, he is two years old, so when naptime or nighttime comes, and there's something exciting going on, he pitches a fit. Last night we had friends over, and we had just had ice cream and was hoping for more ice cream, so it was a big fit. We got into his room, and the wailing began to subside a bit as he asked, "Read? Read a book?" "Yes, I will read to you. Let's pick some books." After three books, he was calm and gave into his physical body, which was telling him that it was time for sleep.

Later that night, at 10:15pm, our friends had left. Amanda was in her pajamas. "Will you read to me, Mom?" Normally on a late bedtime such as this, the answer is absolutely no. I don't read, she can't read--it's lights out. But the request was so sweet, and the mission loomed, and we had a bag full of books from our library trip that day, a few of which I had chosen specifically for the mission. So, I took ten minutes and read to her. . . And knowing that she is still my little girl and her knowing that I am still her mommy is just icing on the cake.

Tomorrow I will post a list of links and resources for selecting books to read aloud. The Mr. Linky will also go up so that you can link to your specific post anytime next week, which includes your goals for the mission.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Worst Hard Time

The Worst Hard Time first crossed my radar when I read that it had been awarded the National Book Award several months ago. The subtitle of the book continues, "The Untold Story of Those who Survived the Great American Dustbowl." My grandmother left Texas, where she was born, and moved to Mississippi during the Depression to get away from the Dust Bowl. I only recently learned about this when she was telling people about herself when she visited us here in October.

I do not consider myself a history buff, although I've become more interested in histories, and certainly biographies. I'm a people buff. I love to read about how people respond to challenging situations. I think that this can help me understand others who have had similar experiences better (specifically my grandparents and those of their generation). This book is straight non-fiction--no doubt. If you don't enjoy non-fiction, at all, ever, don't even attempt to read this book. However, if you are fascinated by the Depression (as I am--I mean, what is it that enabled people to go on, year after year, with no hope at all?), or if you are interested in the early American homestead movement, specifically in the great plains of Texas and Oklahoma and Kansas, which is covered as an introduction, or if weather patterns intrigue you, then I invite you to tackle this informative and entertaining book.

Tim Egan tells the story mostly through a group of people who settled in Dalhart, Texas. The reader experiences the worst hard time of the dust bowl through the farmers, teachers, pioneers, newspapermen, doctors, husbands, wives and children who lived it. For a story that some might see as dry, and one that is certainly packed with informative details, there is a definite narrative thread throughout. I learned about the static electricity that was so great that people couldn't shake hands because it knocked them down. I heard about dust drifts that buried cars that were useless because there was no money to put gas into them. I discovered why soil conservation is so important and why the government had to get involved.

I don't remember if Timothy Egan said it, or if he was quoting someone, but this book is a story of "the Boom, Bust, then the Dust." If you can't tell, I really enjoyed this book. It was my first audiobook listen, and while it was sometimes hard because I couldn't take notes or mark passages that interested me, I think that it is a good genre for me to enjoy listening to, as opposed to reading. It took eleven hours, and I finished it in around a month, taking advantage of that driving time in the car and housekeeping (OK, mostly driving). If I had been reading it, as interesting as I found it, I'm not sure that I would have stuck with it. As I was choosing the book I was going to download next, I explored The Great Influenza (really, it is supposed to be wonderful--has anyone read it?), and The Wisdom of Crowds, but finally settled on Every Mother Is a Daughter which is memoir written by a mother and a daughter. This book actually is increasing my housekeeping time, because I want excuses to plug in and listen. Review coming soon. . . .

Title: The Worst Hard Time
Author: Timothy Egan
Published by: Houghton Mifflin
Date: 2006
Pages: 352 (but listened to the audio version: 11 hours)
Book Source: Audio download from audible.com
Recommended for those interested in straight history (early American), specifically the 20's and 30's, farming or agriculture, or the history of Texas and Oklahoma.

This review is linked up to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Link up any review that you've posted on your own blog this week, or just click over and see what everyone is reading.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Entertaining Presidents

No, this isn't a post about having the President (of the PTA, the Company, or the USA) to tea. This is a list of some fictitious Presidents who I find entertaining. So, in honor of the long weekend in honor of Presidents' Day, I give you a list of my favorite movie and TV Presidential portrayals from TV and the movies to consider. I also wish you much free time to while away the hours in front of the TV. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments:

The West Wing--Yes, I know that I am not supposed to like it because it had sort of a liberal social agenda, but the writing was smart and the characters were charmingly fallible.

24--No spoilers! I'm only on season 5 (the current is season 6). A year or so ago, we started watching on DVD. We will watch a whole season within a month or so, but then we have to take a break of a few months before starting on the next season to get our heartrate back down to normal.

The American President and Dave are such wonderful movies, in my opinion. They are both touching and funny, and when I was searching for a link for each of them, I found that you can get them both on one disk for only $12.99. Apparently I'm not the only one who loves both of these movies, and sees them as similar--I guess because they are both relational, not political, views of the White House.

The Sentinel--I am not on the cutting edge of movies, either cinematic releases or DVDs (because most of our DVD watching time is spent on 24 in 4 hour blocks), but we did just see this new release, and I really enjoyed it.

Guarding Tess may be unknown to some of you. It's really a First Lady story, but we have to include at least one woman behind The Man, right?

Independence Day--Will Smith--need I say more? And I think that Bill Pullman is an even more endearing President than Michael Douglas (probably because I find him more endearing in general).

I was going to include some Presidential biographies and books as well, but I'll let these gems stand on their own and post some great books later this weekend.

This and That--the Blog Edition

I don't know if I have read "This and That" on someone's blog somewhere, but I like it. If I'm stealing it from someone, it's unintentional, so just be flattered at the imitation. Since I am seem to be having lots of inspiration lately, and thoughts that I must share, I thought I would try this format for those deluges. Since I cannot manage to weave the random thoughts in my mind into a literary posting like Katrina does (how does she do that?), this will sort of serve to pull the randomness together.

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Heads up to Barb for pointing it out this week (I've seen it before, but it struck me today, and I loved my results). Do you want to create your own? Click my image to go to the site. Here's a tip--for your website address, cut and paste the address from your January archives. Otherwise I think it just looks at the first page. I got better results from doing it that way.

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I finally, finally have restored my personal blogroll on my sidebar. As an explanation, these are my "Top 10" blogs. These are the ones that I always read. I read many others on a less regular basis (weekly or twice-weekly usually), including most of you who visit me. In order to introduce some of those other blogs, I will rotate blogs, by some sort of category--weekly I hope.

As a Valentine's week cyber Valentine, Code Yellow Mom (who is also a regular read), challenged us to link up to some blogs that we like--sharing the love, as it goes. So in my first rotating spots, I will feature some of the newer blogs (or new to me) that I am enjoying lately:

Come to the Table

A Spacious Place
Seedlings in Stone
Lori's Comfort Zone
Home Sanctuary

My Can't-Miss Blogs:

A Chelsea Morning

Big Mama
Boomama
Callapidder Days
Enjoy the Journey

I'm an Organizing Junkie
Jen Robinson's Book Page
L'Chaim
Raising Five
Unfinished Work

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Commenting on Comments

I don't mind people lurking at all, and even though I'm a big mouth, I do lurk occasionally myself. However, I do love your comments--hearing a related thought that my post brought to your mind, or what you enjoyed. I occasionally will respond to a comment or a group of comments within the comments, but do you really check back to read that? I know that I don't (on other blogs), even though I mean to sometimes. If a comment is personal or if there's a question raised, I love to just shoot off an email in reply (obviously I can't do this all the time). But I find that only half, or fewer, of you have your email listed in your profile. If you don't mind, will you check the box?? Click the link to read Katherine's post if you don't know what I'm talking about. . . .

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What Are You Waiting For?

There are leaps to take into the pool---even in my ugly skirted bathingsuit. There are fine art museums to discover, and concerts to attend. There are new haircuts to try, and friends to call. There are blogs to read and there are moments to journal. There are songs to be sung and hot baths to take. There are moments to cry and then there are moments to hug your loved ones. There are arts and crafts galore just waiting for you to try.
This is a quote from a post Lindsey wrote about just living your life. I highly recommend that you read the whole thing (scroll down to February 12). It's passionate. It's heartfelt. And it's true.

Most of us have things that we have to do. We wait for just the right time. We wait to take that romantic beach vacation with our husband until we look good in a swimsuit. Put on that skirt and jump in. One thing I've learned from my many trips to beaches, is that no matter what you look like, there will always be lots of bodies there who look better than you, and lots who look worse than you. Trust me on this one if you've never witnessed it for yourself.

Laura quoted Peter Walsh as saying, "Stuff that keeps you in the future (things you might need someday) or the past (memory clutter) means you don't live fully now in the present." I don't want to hold so tightly to things of the past or so expectantly to things in the future that I am not living my life today. I know that stuff and clutter affects me (it makes me feel as though I can't get anything done), but I didn't quite relate it to this subject. It does make sense.

Don't wait for something to happen in the future before you can act. Don't refuse to act because of something that has happened in the past (good or bad). I think that women might be more guilty of this than men, but we seem to have a running list in our heads of when the exact right time to do something will be:

I will--buy a house, quit the job I hate, move to a place I love, take a great
vacation--after I get married.

I will--quit the job I hate, make good friends, feel like I've accomplished something--when I have kids.

I will--invite people into my home more when I--have a nicer home, have a husband, know people better, start getting invitations from others.

I will--pursue my dream vocation, go back to school, read more, sew more, scrapbook more, spend more time with friends--when my kids are in school or on their own.

There are several problems with following this pattern of thought. One is that those things that you are waiting for might never happen. Another is that if they do come to pass, you may have missed your shot to do what you wanted to do long ago, either because the opportunity is gone or the fire has burned out. The third is that you simply stop living life, because you're waiting for the next best thing.

Is there one thing that you are waiting to happen before you do something else? Is there something from your past that is holding you back from doing something right now? Will you think about just taking the plunge, right now?

This and That--the Book Edition

When I got a Bassett catalog in the mail a couple of days ago, I immediately thought of THIS PICTURE that Jen posted a while ago. Well, I was astounded when I saw that it seems to be a trend. I can't seem to copy this picture, so just check it out here. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about home decor, but tell me--am I just wrong, or is this just pitiful (and a little creepy)?

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It's awards season, right? I don't know much about the Grammy's or even the Oscar awards, but it's finally time for the winners of the first annual Children's and Young Adult Blogger Awards--the 2006 Cybils. I'm especially proud because I was a part of this inaugural year. I was proud to serve on the Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-fiction judging committee. A nominating committee had already narrowed the nominees down to five finalists when we received them after the first of the year. We all read through the nominated books and tried to share our initial thoughts without being "contaminated" by the thoughts of others about the book. We were working independently, but conversations began to emerge about kid appeal, target audience, and the integrity of the work. A week or so ago, we came together on a conference call and we made a decision. After that call and coming together to make a decision, we really felt like a team. The weeks of discussing books online didn't really bring us together, but the action of making a decision together certainly did.

Please click over and see who we selected and why, along with the winning books in all the other categories.

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FREE BOOKS:

Chronicle books is giving away a basket full of some of their best kids' books. They hope to do similar contests monthly. They'll keep me updated, and in turn, I will keep you updated.

I'm giving away a free book from my aStore in the Blog Party from 5 Minutes from Mom, as a thank you for using my aStore and my amazon links. Check out all the details at their site about how you can be eligible.

I'm also giving away a $10 gift certificate from amazon.com as an incentive to participate in the Read to Me mission. Thanks to all of you who have posted links and introductory posts already. Don't forget to come back the week of February 19th to link up to be eligible for the prize.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day: Past, Present and Future

Kathleen Marie posted about her first romantic Valentine's Day and challenged us to do the same. I can't remember any schoolyard crushes that produced the ultimate show of elementary school love: the giant Hershey's kiss. The first Valentine's Day that stands out to me occurred when I was about fifteen, I think. I don't remember the whys or hows, but I went out to dinner with my dad to Red Lobster. My parents were divorced, and Dad and I went out to dinner quite frequently. I don't know what my sister was doing, or my mom and step-dad, but it was just the two of us that Valentine's Day. We wondered what people might have thought--that I was a poor girl without a mom or something. I certainly was a poor high school kid without a date, but I don't think I cared too much about that. We had a nice time.

This year, Terry and I have already celebrated. Last Friday night we went out with three other couples. The fact that we all managed to find babysitters and get out of the house for a few hours was nothing short of amazing. Tonight, I will prepare a delicious themed family dinner. I have little gifts for the kids and everything. I will leave a note to Terry in our Love Journal (which has been sort of neglected lately).

I can't help but wonder what the future brings--those days when Amanda will bemoan her lack of a Valentine or worry us with the presence of one. We're safe for now. She has had one small crush, on a boy in her class last year. She wouldn't admit to it, but she got all starry-eyed when she talked about him. She did NOT like talking about it. At all. Ever. She has some friends who are brother-sister twins. They recently had a party with both sets of friends and "he" was there. When we left, I asked if she had any "special feelings" for him. "No, mom," she answered, still not wanting to talk about it. I asked if there was anyone else who she had special feelings for now, and she quickly answered, "No! thank goodness." That sits just fine with me.

Whether you have a "special someone" or not today, remember that you have friends and family who love as well and can give you a real-life hug or smile or Valentine's Day greeting. I can also assure you that God loves you, and if that doesn't bring you comfort on this day for lovers, let me encourage you to really think about the lover and overseer of your soul and what He has done for you. It's not just a pat answer. It's Truth, and Comfort, and Security:
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
I Peter 2:24-25

Amazingly Simple Home Remedies


My friend forwarded me this email and I thought that these tips were too good not to share with the tip-hungry Works-for-Me-Wednesday crowd:
  1. If you are choking on an ice cube, don't panic. Simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat and presto, the blockage will be almost instantly removed.
  2. Clumsy? Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.
  3. You can avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat just by using the sink.
  4. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use an egg timer.
  5. A mouse trap placed on top of your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.
  6. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives. Then you will be afraid to cough.
  7. Have a bad toothache? Smash your thumb with a hammer and you will forget all about the toothache.
  8. Sometimes, we just need to remember what the rules of life really are: In life, you only need two tools - WD-40 and Duct Tape.
    1. If it doesn't move but should, use the WD-40.
    2. If it should not move and does, use the duct tape.
Some of these tips might not suit you, or your particular style of housekeeping. However--a good belly laugh? That certainly works for me!




I'm blogging at Faithlifts today, so click over to learn how I practice Guarding My Way.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How Do I Love my Library?

Let me count the ways:
  1. Free books--that's a no-brainer.
  2. It's a suitable outing for my toddler and me, looking to get out of the house (and again--a free one at that, not counting the petty fines that I've usually racked up).
  3. Libraries promote the love of books. Both of my kids accept the library as a fun outing, which means that they equate books with a hobby and an activity. They come by this honestly. Terry and I love to browse bookstores, and even browsing amazon takes up a good deal of my web time. I want books to be a lifelong love for my kids. Please, please go over and read Adrienne's post about toddler storytime which addresses this point beautifully. I just discovered her blog and am hooked so far.
  4. Libraries employ librarians. Librarians get to read books as a part their job. Many librarians blog about those books that they are reading. We should love our librarians as well. (All that constant alphabetizing and Dewey Decimalizing is brain-taxing. I've also learned from the four hours I month I spend volunteering in Amanda's school library, that reshelving books is a bit of a work-out--bending, stretching, carrying and hauling piles of books.) Here are a few librarian bookblogs that I've been enjoying:
  • Betsy at Fuse 8 tackles many genres as well--picture books, young adult fiction, and everything in between. She's entertaining and was a judge for this year's Newberry award!
  • Mindy at propernoun writes well--about many genres of kids' lit, including non-fiction, poetry, and fiction.
  • At Swarm of Beasts, Emily gives her honest opinions on books in many genres, heavy on fantasy, but including all sorts of books, with great labels on the side to find what you are looking for.
  • Marcia keeps a blog for the books she reads as a Middle School Librarian. OMS Book Blog is a thorough resource if you have a child between the ages of 11 and 14 and are looking to get them, or keep them, excited about reading.
Heads up to Rona, via a comment at Susanne's blog, for the announcement that it is Library Lovers' Month! There are so many cool ideas and resources on that site--films featuring librarians, bookmark downloads, and another link to ways you can love your local library.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Will You Read to Me?



If you're looking for the Mr. Linky page so that you can join in, it's RIGHT HERE.

I've said it before, and I've said that I'll say it again, so I'll say it again: If you don't have a target, you're sure to miss it.

WHAT:

Read to Me 2007 is a mission to encourage reading to children. Most of us know that reading to children is a good thing. Most of us are busy. Most of us are selfish with our time (alright, I won't saddle you with that, but I will admit that I am selfish with my time). Goals are important to me, and accountability is important to me, too. So, I'm going to set some goals for reading to my children and I'm going to invite you to do the same.

WHO:

Anyone who thinks that reading to kids is important and is looking to change their habits in some way, be it reading more or reading differently. This could involve a classroom teacher, moms and dads, grandparents, aunts, or caretakers.

HOW:
  1. Share your goal: I want each of you to think about where your desire lies in reading with your kids and how your actual output matches that, and if it's lagging, what might you do to improve it? A goal should be a realistic stretch, but also attainable. If you aren't reading at all consistently, don't commit to reading six picture books a day. Do you have a certain subject you'd like to tackle with your children? Do you have certain books you'd like to read? Maybe you'd like to work more variety into your regular lineup, in genre or authorship. Perhaps you have done a great job of reading with your younger children, but you'd like to tackle a family read-aloud or a book just for the tweens and teens in your life. How are you planning to make these goals happen?
  2. Read. The mission will open on February 19 with a Mr. Linky for all participants to post their goals on their own site and link up and will close the week of March 19. Hopefully after participating for at least two weeks, a new habit will be borne.
  3. Report back. You can post throughout the mission with achievements and struggles, but be sure to link back the week of March 19.
THE PRIZE:

If accountability and goals aren't enough to keep you focused, I will be awarding one $10 gift certificate to amazon.com. The prize will be random, based on all those who post an intro post and a reflection post at the end. However, I may have some prizes for those who have made the most change or read the most, or at least an honorable mention here on the site.

I will be posting more on the WHYs later this week and throughout the mission as motivation and encouragement.

I have Katrina to thank for my perfect icon. I found the picture at istockphoto, and she made it beautiful. If you'd like to spread the word, feel free to grab this code for a sidebar icon, or to include in a post (I fixed it, so it should work now).

<a onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://jennifersnapshot.blogspot.com/2007/02/will-you-read-to-me.html" target="_blank">
<img style="margin: 0px auto 10px; display: block; text-align: center; cursor: pointer;" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_eJOWpbJ4HeY/Rc_EimvVIrI/AAAAAAAAAJs/d5kbc_lIWXU/s200/RTMsidetest2.jpg" alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5030455407589794482" border="0" /a>

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A Chance to Die (Amy Carmichael's Biography)

Elisabeth Elliot wanted to profile one to whom she felt she owed a great debt. It was through the writings of Amy Carmichael that Elliot first understood the great message of the cross, the sacrificial Calvary love of sacrifice. Before reading this book, all I knew about Amy Carmichael is that she is revered as one who surrendered her life completely to Christ. After reading her biography, now I know why. A Chance to Die is aptly named. Elliot recounts the many occasions and many ways in which Amy Carmichael chose to die--to self, personal desires, family and societal convention. The biography looks at her early childhood, her domestic service and projects, her call to foreign missions, and then details her life's work of establishing the Dohnavur Fellowship in India as a refuge for children whose lives were in danger.

Elisabeth Elliot, as one who is to many the model that Amy Carmichael was to her, was the perfect one to write this story. She writes about Amy with obvious respect, but also seeks to bust the myth that she was perfect, striving instead to show her high standards as something that could be attained. The depth of Elliot's own Christian experience comes through in the telling, even though there is no personal account, other than what is in the preface. Her research was thorough, including reading Carmichael's own published writings as well as personal papers, in addition to interviews with those who worked with Amy, and at least one visit to India.

"Books not only about military heroes, but about mountaineers, explorers, and great educators strengthened Amy Carmichael's determination always to aim high in the training of the children committed to her care" (p. 251). Reading this book definitely strengthened my determination to seek areas in my life where a more sacrificial love is called for. I also enjoy biographies as a means to experience things vicariously which I will never experience in this life. Learning more about the personal histories of those who shaped history is another reason why I find this genre interesting. Elisabeth Elliot expounds about why she wrote this biography, and I speculate that she is also sharing why she herself reads (p.16):
In spite of much that militates against quietness there are people who still read books. They are the people who keep me going. I write especially for those who bring to their reading a mind not hidebound by the sensibilities of our time, but prepared to contemplate the Eternally Relevant; to seek in this book specifically the truth and the hidden meaning of a single life.

We read biographies to get out of ourselves and into another's skin, to understand the convulsive drama that shapes, motivates, and issues from that other life.


Title: A Chance to Die
Author: Elisabeth Elliot
Published in: 2005 (but first issued in 1987)
By: Revell
Pages: 381
Book Source: Given to me by a friend
Recommended to: Biography readers, those interested in India, missions-work, or learning more about the process and practice of sacrificial love

Check out my other reading recommendations in my astore.

This review is linked to Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

The Two Become One


Click the banner to read Kathleen Marie's idea for linking to poetic, prosaic and artistic expression each Saturday (and to read her beautiful poem). The more I unlock my mind to writing, the more that thoughts sometimes come to me in the form of poetry, which I certainly don't normally publish. I appreciate Kathleen Marie providing this forum for us to publish (and view) others' work in this way.

This is just a little thought that came to me this week:

The Two Become One
Will you? Yes!
Consecrated, celebrated, officiated love
Who gives the bride? I do. . . .
'Til death do us part. . . Will you?

A shared home, a shared bed,
Shared joys, shared sorrows,
New places, new faces discovered together
Room for two in this shared home.

Changes come in these years
Growing up and growing older
New friends, new fights
Drawn closer still as changes come.

Two became three when the time felt right.
So many doubts until the day arrived
His eyes, her hair-- their child
The two are still one, but two became three.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Dead to Sin?

We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer (Romans 6:2b)? For we know our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin (6 - 7). In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires (11-12).
Do you feel like a slave to sin? Do you feel dead to sin? I would venture to say that most of us feel as if we are somewhere in between. I am certainly not free from sin, so I can't say that I am dead to it. When you are dead to something, it has no control over you. At times, I feel like I am enslaved to sin, because I keep getting pulled into behavior that I know is wrong. No one makes me sin. It is I who sin, however if I was really dead to sin, then it would have absolutely no influence in my life.

Can we still struggle with sin, and yet claim freedom from it?

Let's look at the slavery example. Think about what you know about slavery: it is not a life one chooses, one has no control about for whom they work or what they do, there are no wages or no privileges that go along with it. Even if a master is "good," one is still unhappy with their life, because they have no freedom. The master has complete control over the slave's life. We are not really slaves to sin, because we do have a choice and though it is hard, we can control our sinful impulses.

But then I think I began to understand when I asked myself, what does freedom entail? Here are a few definitions:

2. exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. the power to determine action without restraint.
5. personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery.
6. exemption from the presence of anything specified
7. the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc.
15. the right to enjoy all the privileges or special rights of citizenship, membership, etc., in a community or the like.

Romans 6:14 explains, "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace." Even though I give in to sin, it no longer has a hold on me, because it has no authority or power. The grace of God brings forgiveness and complete absolution of that sin. So my freedom comes as I exercise my right to look beyond the letter of the law to the heart of grace.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I can indeed claim to be free from sin, primarily because I believe that the Bible is true, and Romans 6:22-23 (above) tell me that I have been set free from sin. Beyond that, I can look at the fruit. Even though I still sin, I can fully recognize that there is no benefit to it. Indulge my mind with tantalizing garbage? The garbage starts to rot and pollute my thoughts. Indulge my flesh with food--too much food, food with empty calories, food that my body does not need? Yes, it's good at the moment, but that food weighs me down (literally), and the lack of self-control spills into other areas of my life as well. Say what I think? Claim my "rights?" Everyone is not entitled to my opinion and I don't really have any rights (to be treated a certain way or always do what I want to do).

The realization of all of this leads to holiness. The fact that I feel guilty over those same sins that I've been committing for years proves that I am moving one step closer to holy living. The eternal life is just what it says it is--a gift. It's not to be earned by perfection. If it was, Jesus would not have had to die on the cross for our sins. He was perfect, and I'm just trying to follow in His footsteps.

Now that I cleared all that up, I'll be tackling the subject of world hunger next.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Recipe for Friendship

Our closest friends from Texas visited last weekend. We were remembering old times and thinking about how our friendship developed. We first met in our adult Sunday School class at church. Our class used to get together every month and play games. We got to know them a little better at these get-togethers. We ate at a certain Mexican restaurant (Oh, how I miss you, Del Pueblo!) at least twice a month. Once or twice we ran into these friends there. Somehow, a couple of months into our casual, but growing, friendship, we started talking about summer trips. Less than six months after knowing them, we planned a family vacation to Destin, FL. Yes, we went for a week-long vacation with some people who we thought we liked along with their 7, 5, and 3 year old children and our own 3 year old.

Amanda and her new friend that first year
(They aren't as angelic as they look)


Well, the rest, as they say, is history. We all had a great time. It became a Saturday tradition to meet up at Del Pueblo ("Table for 8, please."). We enjoyed another great trip to Destin the following summer. The next two summers were out, unfortunately, since they had an infant that next year and I had an infant the year following. Then we moved. We stay in touch through visits (my family is still there in Houston), and I think that another family vacation is in our future. The friendship is of the slow-cooked variety.

Friendship Stew
Ingredient list:
Others in your same stage of life (age, family, or location)
Sharing common values
Sharing interests
Available

Preparation: You can't just look at the recipe and think that it sounds good. You have to go out and find the ingredients. This is easier said than done, while juggling children's activities, work schedules, and family, but it can be done if you have an appetite for it.

Cooking Time: You have to turn on the heat. Looking at the ingredients that you've already bought, or flipping through all the great magazines full of recipes doesn't get dinner on the table. Take a plunge and invite someone over or meet for dinner, or take a vacation with some acquaintances (Okay, this is a little risky, like trying out a new recipe for the first time for company, and I'm sort of joking, but it has paid off for us. Two or three different times, actually).

If you're lucky with the recipe, you end up with leftovers and can eat on it again and again. We have. It was great to see our friends and remember old times, see how the kids had changed, and create some new memories together. When they left, I had a tangible reminder of their visit. My friend left me one of her favorite new recipes, so I bought the ingredients the day after she left and I made it last night. It's a keeper!

The recipe for the Chalupa Dinner Bowls is saved here at Southern Living. A few notes on the recipe: I also wanted to confirm that the two teaspoons of salt it calls for is not too much at all. It also wasn't at all spicy (my two kids ate it without any trouble). I did use the green chilies, but instead of the Rotel with lime juice and cilantro (which I didn't find), I used petite diced tomatoes and squirted in some bottled lime juice. Also, it makes a LOT. I have the regular sized crock pot, and it was full to the brim. This will feed our family three full meals. On the site, they give some great suggestions for how to serve it. I actually just served it over rice this time, and will make burritos next time. I was actually thinking that it would make a good tortilla soup if you thinned it out with more broth and added some corn tortillas or chips.


Click the banner for more recipes for your Slow Cooker.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Valentine's Day Dinner for the Whole Family

My husband and I usually go out to dinner for Valentine's Day. We usually avoid the crowds on February 14 and go on the Saturday before or after that date. A few years ago, I made my first special family dinner to celebrate the Love Holiday. Amanda was a preschooler, and any excuse to celebrate was welcomed heartily by her (sorry, pun intended). I stretched my mind and went all out. Unfortunately, I apparently did not capture the event on film.

The Menu

Sweetheart Meatloaf (individual hearts)
Mashed potatoes, tinted pink with food coloring
Pillsbury breadsticks twisted into a heart shape before baking**
Green peas (I tried to use the tin heart cookie cutter to mold these into shape, unsuccessfully)
Brownies, baked in a pan as usual, and cut out with the heart shape

We ate in the dining room, on china, by candlelight. I think that there was a little gift beside Amanda's plate. That same year, I tried a green-themed St. Patrick's Meal. I will caution you that green tinted cream gravy for chicken fried steak and green mashed potatoes aren't quite as cute or appetizing as pink ones.

Traditions are fun. Taking time to celebrate is worthy of the effort and planning that it requires. The truth? I did do this meal as described. Once. Three or Four years ago. My promise? I'm doing it again this year.

**Incidentally the Pillsbury website has some fun ideas to make the day, or week, or month special.

Are you the family's designated celebrator? Read this essay (or click the link and you can hear it as I did--surprise--on my podcast subscription to This I Believe).

Click over to Rocks in My Dryer today for all sorts of tips on love, sweet love!