Friday, February 29, 2008

Read Across America

General Info:

What: Read Across America

When: Around March 2, Dr. Seuss' birthday (officially Monday, March 3 for 2008)

Who: Promoted by the NEA for the last 10 years

Why: To celebrate reading, specifically for and to children

How: "In cities and towns across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and others develop NEA's Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. Governors, mayors, and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And teachers and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students' reading (taken from NEA FAQ about the event)."

Where: In schools and homes everywhere

Amanda's school did Read Across America today (updated thirty minutes after posting, as Amanda and Kyle are watching Gerald McBoing Boing--She informed me that she learned that this show was based on a Dr. Seuss story and award-winning short). I think she looks adorable (but at nine, I don't know that she would like that description).

Last night she made me so proud. I went upstairs to tell Kyle goodnight. She was reading Green Eggs and Ham to him. She had already told me that she wanted to wear black, red, and white for Read Across America day, in honor of Dr. Seuss's birthday, so I knew why she selected that book (there were two Seuss board books out too).

Kyle is lucky to have a sister who is sharing her fourth-grade knowledge with him. I am lucky to have a daughter who will take over bedtime stories on a day when I feel emotionally and physically spent.


You can read all about it HERE and find some great links, such as a preview of an interactive version of Horton Hears a Who.

When I was searching for info, I stumbled upon Seussville. Fun site. It also has a link to the Horton site, which has some info about the movie coming out in March. I think that's one that our whole family will have to go see. The Seuss site also alerted me that the Kohl's Cares for Kids promotion is Dr. Seuss, so we went today to buy our $5 hardcover copy of Horton Hatches an Egg, which is my favorite Seuss, I think. They also have Fox in Socks and Hop on Pop, and Yertle the Turtle, and some delightful stuffed animals, but I resisted.

Closing Questions:

Will you Read Across America this weekend or on Monday? What is your favorite Seuss?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

So Glad to Be of Assistance

Recent Google searches that landed surfers here on the blog:

Shoebox diorama Titanic -- you're welcome Cleveland

Should Catcher in the Rye be taught in high school? I don't know, savvy location blocking North American, but I did give my thoughts in this post.

The Shakespeare Stealer -- still get a lot of hits for this, which took Miami, FL to this post from over a year ago

A Chance to Die -- I get a lot of hits for this title as well. I hope my review was interesting to you, Austria, since you came such a long way.

email streaming throwing tomato -- well Heather was the only one who took me up on my offer, so maybe she could help you, commercial U.S. user

Someone in the San Diego schools was looking for symbolism in Broadway play Wicked. Oh, there's symbolism. There's nuance. Instead I chose to focus on John Stamos (no, no, I did get a little more detailed in my real review). What's really wild is that another person landed on my blog just minutes before searching for the Wicked novel. Interesting. Perhaps America (or in this case Middlesbrough UK) is crying out for more Broadway coverage. Don't tempt me.

This person seemed to be asking an awful lot of his google search: four kinds of love french monk scream free parenting. Will me repeating that string of words bring in some sort of odd French papal, C.S. Lewis reading, parenting book consumers?

More books: a few from the Penderwicks, which is common (and from which I still get about one request a week to share my discussion questions for a book club). It's such a good book if you haven't read it, and this spring there's another Penderwicks novel coming out. Can't wait.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

DVD Giveaways

Keep reading for a chance to win some DVDs here. . . .

I haven't been linking to all my posts over at 5 Minutes for Mom, but I thought I would point out that I wrote up a giveaway for Roxy Hunter and the Prince and the Pauper DVDs. Although I am fairly conservative about what Amanda watches, she is getting older, so she's moving towards more of the tween fare, and I'm okay with that. I recommend both of these movies for kids her age. They feature interesting kids, but not too bratty (I hate that attitude in some children's programming). So, you can click on through if you want to win. I asked the readers to weigh in on some of their favorites in the comments, so there's an interesting discussion there. Also as an update to that review, Amanda did watch it, and loved it.

5 Minutes for Books this week features a memoir by Felicia Sullivan--The Sky Isn't Visible from Here. You still have a chance to win that one. In that column, I also explore the genre a bit. I really have enjoyed reading memoirs this last couple of years.

And finally, I have 2 DVDs to giveaway here. The folks at Sony included two Storm Hawks DVDs with the other movies, and Kyle's too young for them, and Amanda's not interested, so if you want to win both of them, leave a comment here. I'll draw a winner March 7.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Veggie Pasta and Salmon

When Kyle climbed up into his booster seat and saw the plate waiting for him at the dinner table, he said in his most earnest three-year-old voice, "Oh, thank you Mother for not making anything yucky for dinner." Yes, he has taken to calling me "Mother," but that is not the reason for this post. With such a ringing endorsement from him, Amanda's request for seconds, and Terry's thumbs-up, I thought I would share the success that I achieved in my kitchen last night.

We like to grill salmon, but my grandmother gave me one of those grill pans, and the last couple of times I've used that with great results. An hour or so before I cook it, I squirt some dijon mustard, honey, and soy sauce on it and spread it around.

Then I cut up my veggies. Last night I used red bell pepper, sugar snap peas, carrots, and broccoli. I usually add onion (to anything), but I didn't have any. I sauteed the veggies in some olive oil while I boiled the pasta (I used farfalle). I sprinkled them with a little of Paula Deen's house seasoning (kosher salt, pepper, and garlic powder). When the pasta was ready, I added a little chicken broth, a couple of tablespoons of butter, and the juice of one big lemon (it's important to add this right before the pasta and after the other stuff or it will evaporate away). Then I added the pasta and mixed it together. It is rather dry, but the veggies really absorb the flavors.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sometimes I pick my books, and sometimes they pick me

One of the luxuries of vacation is time to read. I always make time to read, but on vacation, I am able to indulge my hobby with less guilt. The dust accumulating isn't mine, the phone doesn't ring, and in this case, there was not even the distraction of my laptop. My devotion to reading always begins in the car where my husband prefers to drive. I finished Midwives shortly before we reached our destination.

Anticipating the expanse of time I was going to fill turning of pages, I brought several books with me--one of Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals, The Right to Write, and an advance copy of a novel that I plan to review.

Upon arriving at the house we were renting, I noticed the bookshelf. I could have snatched up Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, or Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier or selected a Maeve Binchy paperback, but a black and red striped spine jumped out at me shouting, "Read me! Read me, now!" I felt that I had to seize the opportunity that this stocked bookshelf offered me to read an acclaimed novel that has been on my master list of books that I would someday like to read. The actual order in which these books get read--or if they get read at all--is due to a number of circumstances. Having a book sitting on a bookshelf in a house that I will leave in four days immediately catapulted it to the top of the list.

Within the first few pages, Water for Elephants had me hooked. Author Sara Gruen impressed me with her insight into human nature. Perhaps this particular observation fell on open ears because I have been struck with exactly the same problem since October when I turned 37 years old:
I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.

When you're five, you know your age down to the month. Even in your twenties your know how old you are. I'm twenty-three, you say, or maybe twenty-seven. But then in your thirties something strange starts to happen. It's a mere hiccup at first, an instant of hesitation. How old are you? Oh, I'm--you start confidently, but then you stop. You were going to say thirty-three, but you're not. You're thirty-five. And then you're bothered, because you wonder if it is the beginning of the end. It is, of course, but it's decades before you admit it.

People always ask me how I have time to read. I can give a variety of reasons, ranging from "My house isn't very clean," to "I don’t watch as much TV as I used to," or lately since I've undertaken a weekly review column, "It's my job." But I think I have another answer to add to my arsenal: "When a book calls to me, I answer it." You may finish it off in two days as I did on vacation, or it may take two weeks. When you've finished that one, open your ears so that you'll hear the next book that is waiting to be made yours and you'll always have time to read.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hitting the Slopes

This week the family and I will be in Lake Placid.

Last year when we went, I shared my reluctance about skiing due to a past skiing accident. If you haven't read it, it's a post I'm proud of. I also blogged about my victory on the slopes (another post I can recommend without wincing).

The plan for this year is two days of lessons for Amanda (after which she will undoubtedly surpass me--if not in ability in adventure). The third day Terry, Amanda and I will ski together. The first day Terry and I will ski (together some, and separately some, I would imagine). Kyle and I will take the second day off. That will give me time to rest, and give him a nap day, which he will probably need after playing in the nursery all day.

I am glad that I looked up my posts about last year's trip, and that I did make the decision to take the middle day off. It also reminded me that I need to bring a book so that I can occupy myself if/when I decide to knock off early in the afternoon.

Unless I pick up some wayward WIFI signals floating in the air, we won't have internet access. I'm sure that I'll survive. I'm sure that you will, too. Enjoy your week.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pure and Faultless

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

I finally did it. I have sponsored a child through Compassion. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I haven't done it before. No, not almost, I am embarrassed. I live above middle class in a country where even the lower classes would be considered wealthy in other nations. I have watched the commercials. I have heard the strong testimonies at Christian concerts. I know how well the money is used by that organization. I have studied God's commands about poverty, helping others, and giving of my time and money. I have heard friends share about how it helps their children learn to help others and to give and to see how much they possess.

And yet I had never signed up to look after these children who are poor and forgotten by many. I have clung too tightly to my comfortable existence and am quite polluted by the world.

Yesterday that changed. I signed up for what I hope is my first Compassion child. A six-year-old girl in Uganda will now have the necessities that are considered luxuries in that country--schooling, food, clothes.

If you haven't been following the Compassion blogging trip to Uganda, click over and read the accounts and look at the pictures. I've been living vicariously through the experiences of Sophie, Shannon, and Shaun. I am glad that they were open to taking this trip--to leave behind their own families and their own comforts to not only be forever changed themselves, but to affect change for those--like me--who are reading their words.

If you want to sponsor a child, in Uganda or another country of your choice, click here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Before I opened up my laptop and began clicking the keys over the background noise of the hum of the computer and the twitter of all the processes running in the background, it was very quiet here.

Amanda is sprawled in the oversized chair reading her book. Kyle is napping in his room upstairs. Awaking from a little catnap on the loveseat, I whispered to Amanda, "Is your dad sleeping?" She craned her neck to see through the opening into the library, where he had been reading on the sofa. "Yes," she whispered back.

Quiet comes in many forms. This lazy Saturday afternoon, quiet exists because there is also peace. We are fortunate to have no responsibilities or worries that impede our ability to read and rest--the silence broken only by the ticking of the big clock on the wall, the rustle of a page turn, or a deep sigh. The companionable silence that is a result of sharing a room and the same activity--separately but together--is something I treasure.

In the novel I was reading before I set it aside to "just rest my eyes," a different kind of quiet came upon that household:
After B.P. spoke, did the living room grow so quiet that we could have heard a pin drop? Rooms are often that still, and the floor of that particular room was hardwood painted gray. We could have heard a pin drop most days and nights. No, the stillness that overtook the three adults and me, the stillness that fell upon our house was very different from silence. It was not the silence of thought, the quiet of meditation.

It was the stillness of waiting. Of preparation. Of anticipation tinged--no, not tinged, overwhelmed--overwhelmed by gloom.

from Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, p. 153

It is writing such as this that drew me in to Midwives right away and has kept me riveted to the halfway point of the book. The story is somewhat interesting, but not necessarily creative or revolutionary. The characters are comforting in their stereotypical predictability, but the writing balances the present, flashes of the past, and allusions to the future with such evocative writing that I am captivated.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Old, Rugged

When I visited Mammaw, we always went to church. I often chose to attend the "old lady Sunday School class" instead of the class for my age group, since I didn't particularly like to go into a room full of children I didn't know. The old ladies welcomed me, and I felt more comfortable there with my grandmother. One thing that they did was sing. I don't remember who taught the class, but I remember the lady who played the piano (perhaps they were one and the same?) and led the hymns. She was young in comparison to the octogenarians who made up the class -- probably in her sixties. I sang the hymns with them, sometimes holding back laughter, and later my sister, cousin and I enjoyed playfully imitating the old shaky voices.

I like hymns. I'm not afraid to say it, although today they are often criticized as being stuffy, irrelevant, and completely out of sync with today's culture. We once had a visiting preacher who was on the board of our denomination say that while he loved the new praise choruses, he hoped that hymns wouldn't be phased out all together, because in learning hymns, we learn doctrine. I heard another leader say once that hymns are all about God, while praise choruses tend to focus more on our experiences with God.

One thing that I appreciate about BSF is that we do sing hymns. The hymns are intentionally chosen to teach and go along with the lesson, adding to the weekly lesson. For me hymns are not stuffy, not irrelevant. Singing them and hearing them is beautiful, worshipful, and relevant to my experience with God. This appreciation of hymns and the fact that I actually know hymns, which fewer and fewer people do since they are sung less and less frequently, led me to volunteer for my church's nursing home ministry.

Each Sunday a team goes to a nursing home and provides a church service for the residents. Most of them are in wheelchairs. Some of them are blind. Others can't hear well. Their minds are confused. But when the piano begins to play, they sing. Men and women who can't remember that their spouse has been dead for ten years remember these songs.

I joined the team on Sunday. We began the service by singing a few hymns. A short message was given, and then we closed with four or five more hymns. One of the last that we sang was "The Old Rugged Cross." Even when it was played as a prelude while the residents were filing in, they could not stop themselves from humming or singing along, so when it came time to sing it, their voices were strong.

They love this hymn.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
I sang along with them, and this time I didn't have to suppress a giggle and I didn't poke fun later on in private. I wish that this present life didn't hold me back from clinging to that cross for all I'm worth. I'm going to keep singing and keep watching this generation who is once again able to have the faith of a child that Jesus Himself praised.

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Matthew 19:13-14

Monday, February 11, 2008

You've Got. . .a Favorite Movie

My friend Lori tagged me and our other friend Katrina for the 4 Things Meme recently. I noticed You've Got Mail popped up on both of their lists, and quite a few others I've seen around as one of the "4 Movies Watched Over and Over." I didn't include it on my list, but it is one of the few movies I own, and I have watched it over and over (it would probably be in the 5 to 7 range on my list).

It was on Fox family channel last night, so I tuned in. I was reminded why I (and many others) watch it over and over again. Why? Well, look at the subject matter. It's not only about books, but about two people for whom books are not only an avocation, but a true vocation! Email figures heavily in the storyline, and email is just about my favorite method of communication. Tom Hanks, as Joe Fox, exemplifies love. When he finds out that the woman he's been writing and emailing is the woman who's been campaigning against his new book chain that is going to open up around the corner, he waits. Instead of dashing her hopes and removing the comfort and joy she's found in this online friendship, he woos her. He waits until she comes to like and appreciate Joe Fox before revealing himself as NY159. He treats her with respect and kindness, and guides the relationship with his own hand. What's not to like?

Actually, there is something that has always bothered me about the movie (and many other romantic comedies): both Joe Fox (Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Ryan) are involved in serious, committed relationships when they begin their online chatting. This, along with other types of opposite sex friendships, has become so common that the term "emotional affair" is now applied to them. There's no physical breach of a relationship, but there is an intimacy that should be reserved for one's significant other.

I am careful about what I watch--both what's shown on the screen and the worldview behind it--but in watching this movie last night I began to realize that the fact that they were not married freed them to see that those partners were not their ideal and to keep searching until they found the right match. They did each break it off with their partners for the promise of what else might be out there.

I know it's nitpicky--but as married women we have to be careful to guard our hearts and to be content where we are. Think of your favorite romantic movies. In how many of them does this scenario figure prominently? We are kidding ourselves if we think that it doesn't pervade our thoughts, which can lead to a discontented attitude.

I'll never again feel that twinge of first love, or the wonder of getting to know someone from the inside out, but I'm convinced that what I have is much better. I have someone who already knows me inside and out, who's seen me at my best and at my worst and loves me anyway. I am able to see love that had grown and stretched over more than fifteen years--through two children, new jobs, lost jobs, surgeries, sickness and lots of health.

When I get an email from my husband, I am still excited to see what he has to say. I know it holds the promise of a new adventure, perhaps a bit of the mundane routine, or some sort of surprise.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Soup's On!

I love making a big pot of soup in these winter months. I'm not sure what I appreciate more--the easy integration of vegetables into a healthy meal, the warmth, the ease, or the abundance that results. All are appreciated. Over the last couple of weeks I've tried out several recipes that I really enjoyed. Two of them came from the Better Homes and Gardens Recipe Card Series Slow Cooker, October 2004 that I picked up in the free pile from my library (donated books that are not saved for the annual book sale).

Shrimp Creole
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes.......................2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 oz can chicken broth............................ 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 cups chopped onions...........................1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup chopped green pepper........................ 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sliced celery........................................1/8 tsp hot pepper sauce *
1 6 oz can tomato paste................................. 1 bay leaf
1/3 cup sliced green onions......................... 1 1/2 lb peeled cooked medium shrimp*

Combine undrained tomatoes, broth, onions, sweet pepper, celery, tomato paste, green onions, garlic, paprika, black pepper, salt, hot pepper sauce, and bay leaf in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Remove bay leaf and discard. Stir shrimp into vegetable mixture; heat through. Serve immediately over hot cooked rice.

*Jennifer's notes: I didn't have hot pepper sauce (Tabasco style), so I used cayenne pepper instead. I used frozen cooked shrimp, thawing as directed first. I also added some smoked link style sausage.

Mexican Minestrone
2 cups diced red-skinned potatoes
2 14 oz cans vegetable broth*
2 cups frozen cut green beans*
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
2 cans Mexican style stewed tomatoes*
1 cup salsa

Combine potatoes and frozen green beans in slow cooker. Add black beans, undrained tomatoes, broth, corn, garbanzo beans, and salsa. Cover and cook on low for 9 to 11 hours or high for 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours.

*Jennifer's notes: I used chicken broth. I'm glad I bought the frozen green beans, which I don't generally use. They held up much better than canned and added a great flavor. I don't know if I found the particular kind of tomatoes, but used the green pepper and onion variety. I also threw in some spices: cumin and a bit of chili powder. This was SO good and enjoyed by all in the family. I just finished off the batch today, and I think I'll make another one soon.

This recipe came out of a book from which I've made quite a few delicious soups and stews, Jump Up and Kiss Me: Spicy Vegetarian Cooking. Seeing it out on the counter, always leads Amanda to question, "Are you going vegetarian?" I assure her I am not (although I love a great vegetarian meal and if my family were more open to it and I had someone to prepare delicious vegetarian meals, I think I could). If we happen to go out to dinner and I order a salad or a veggie pasta dish shortly after I've answered this question it fuels her theory, "See you are going vegetarian!"

Spicy White Bean Soup with Tomato
2 cups dried small white beans.........................1/2 tsp ground fennel*
1 yellow onion, cut in half..............................1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 celery stalk..................................................1 can tomatoes, diced, with juice
1 bay leaf..........................................................freshly ground black pepper
2 T olive oil..........................................................2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped yellow onion................................1 tsp dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped.............................1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Rinse beans and soak overnight. Drain beans and cover with 2 qts water. Add halved onion, bay leaf, and celery. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until beans are soft. Remove the onion, celery, and bay leaf. Salt to taste, puree half the beans in a blender*, and crush the other half with their liquid. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the fennel and cayenne and cook a few minutes longer, until aromatic. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir the bean mixture into the tomatoes and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes. Season liberally with pepper. Combine the parsley, garlic and thyme and stir into the soup just before serving.

*Jennifer's notes: I made this on the stovetop, but it could easily be adapted to a slow cooker. Also, as further proof that I am not "going vegetarian," I used chicken broth, since it's what I had on hand. I do not have fennel in my cabinet. I didn't even know that there was such a thing as ground fennel. I probably through in some cumin instead. I often skip the puree step (and did). It probably would have been better, but my shortcut step is to take a potato masher and just crush some of the beans. This was not an all-time favorite, but I enjoyed the kick and it's quite different than other white bean soups I've made (I posted a recipe for another one I liked last year), so I'd probably make it again.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fitting In

About six months ago, we left our church. Making such a big change was difficult and only happened as a result of clear direction from God. Deciding on a new church was hard as well. We had to take into consideration our children's needs, our own needs, and of course spiritual direction.

For about five months, we've been at a new church. There are things that we love, and problems that we still have--mainly that there is not a church in our immediate community that fits our needs--so we still have a bit of geographic distance and disconnect. There's always a time of adjustment when you make a change like this.

The first few months are difficult, because it's hard being new--not knowing people, places, procedures. Then you begin to know your way around a bit and form a few superficial connections. This is the place we've been now for the last couple of months. This middle-stage is almost worst than the complete newness of a situation, because I begin to see glimpses of what I need (close relationships and familiarity), and yet it's still out of reach.

That stage is also the hardest to move through. It does require some work and action on my part, otherwise I will just stay there--unhappily. First, I prayed about it. I really was feeling unhappy and hopeless about getting out of that rut. When I prayed, God did comfort me, but also showed me how I could break out of my pity-party by focusing on others. Instead of wondering why no one was being chatty with me, perhaps I should initiate a conversation with someone. God was so faithful to answer those heartfelt cries for help. The next week, someone came in and asked me about my week, and we had very nice talk. Another woman joined in, admitting that she's had a hard time connecting since she moved here recently. That week one of the women issued an invitation to me and my husband for an upcoming weekend. The following Sunday, I had a wonderful conversation with two other ladies in the class.

We accepted the invitation, and had a nice time of fellowship with a few other couples. I have also been praying about where to serve, and God has confirmed that, so I acted on God's confirmation. I have listened to wise counsel, namely my husband's, who encouraged me to join the ladies' Bible study that just started this week. It was a wonderful experience for me.

Amanda's been wanting to jump in as well, so we are trying to encourage her involvement by sacrificing a night at home so that she can participate in the ongoing weekly kids' ministry. She went last night and had a ball. When I was dropping her off, I exchanged friendly greetings with a few acquaintances.

It's not easy, and it's not instant, but that feeling of fitting in is happening.

How have you helped yourself to fit in--to a new church, a new town, or a new group? If you are still floundering, what step can you make to help yourself fit in?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Eternal Conversations

"Mom, what do you think I'm going to be when I grow up? What would I be good at?"

"What do you like about me, Mom?"

Amanda has been asking me these questions lately. In fact, she asks me one (or both) of these questions almost anytime we are alone. I am so thankful for our trips to and from BSF each Monday night. Being in the car alone on short trips are perfect for these types of soul-searching conversations.

How do you answer these questions?

I always try to turn it back to her "What would you like to be? Have you asked God?" while also encouraging her with one of her positive quality traits.

"You are friendly. You're funny (this is very important to her lately). You're a good big sister."

Hearing these affirming observations always results in a little self-conscious smile. Sometimes my direction such as, "Maybe you'll be a mom like me," get a response like, "No, I think I want to have a job" (as did I when I was nine years old). However, I think it's important to remind her--not only that it's an option, but one that I am glad I chose.

Last Sunday when we picked her up from Sunday School, the teacher was talking to her. I asked her why, and explained that there was going to be a foster child there next week and she wanted Amanda and another girl to be sure to welcome her.

I asked her Monday if the girl had come to church. She hadn't. I told her that I was proud of her for being asked and for being willing. I explained that it's a way she can serve God. She asked how that was serving God, and I explained that it's using her God-given personality strengths to help others. If a new person comes to church and is welcomed and enjoys herself, she might want to come back and learn more about God.

So, seriously, how do you answer these types of questions from your children? How do you encourage them to purse their gifts and talents, or how to figure out what they are?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Unfinished Conversations

I am a person of many words. So many in fact that I often end mid-thought as my bunny trails, asides, and clarifications obfuscate my true point--even in my own mind. A friend has pointed out that this habit rears its distracted little head even in emails. When writing a long newsy email, I feel as if I'm sharing a conversation. I will be in the middle of sharing one thought when I think, "Oh, I need to be sure to give her that book title she asked about." If I was having a real-time conversation, I would simply say, "Oh, before I forget, the book you asked about is called Keep Your Focus," and then I would go back to my previous thought.

But with email I can actually stop mid-stream, hit return a couple of times, and begin a new thought, which will later be read as the next logical thought, not an interruption. Ideally, I go back to the original paragraph and finish it, but sometimes I forget, which leaves a paragraph reading like this: I was so proud of Amanda for

Today I thought I would focus on finishing several conversations or threads that have been started here.

Most recently--I spoke too soon about the crying. Just after writing the School Days post, Amanda was working on some word problems involving long division which resulted in some crying about how it was too hard, and also some criticism regarding the way I was suggesting that she solve the problems. I know that there is much more to come on that front. In better news, she brought her diorama home to complete this weekend. By complete, I mean start and finish. I was pretty sure that the "doing it at school" routine was too good to be true. However, it wasn't near the struggle that I anticipated. I think that I may encourage her to add a title, "the Titanic" on the sky portion with some stick-on letters, but other than that I think that we (she) did a great job:

The post about my hair got a lot of feedback--both on the blog and from friends and family who read the blog wanting to know, "What did you decide about your hair??" Thursday I got my hair cut. The stylist was new (to me). As I took my hair down from the clip (It was wash and style day, but there was no way I was going to spend time washing it and styling it when I was going to be paying someone to do it at 10:00am. Is that just me?), he said, "Great hair. Do you color it?" I answered in the negative, and he said, "I can tell. It's really healthy and full of body."

I actually get this response almost every single time I get my hair done (by different people each time because I go to a hair academy to get my hair cuts). This is one reason that I have never wanted to treat or process my hair. If it's so uniquely healthy and "great," why do I want to mess with that? Instead of a flat negative answer, I have begun saying "I've never colored or highlighted it at all, but I'm going to have to do something soon, because I'm getting more gray hairs up there." But this time my buddy Luke replied, "No, not yet. I would hold off as long as you can." So that's my game plan for now.

Even longer ago, I posted an entry into Laura's Fall Organizational Challenge. I never posted a wrap up entry, because the week that it was over was incredibly busy, and the deadline sort of slipped by me. Also, even with a few tips and organizational strategies, I'm never going to be an organizing champ, and I'm okay with that. I have made two changes that have been really great. I had looked and looked to no avail to find some sort of box to slide into the cubbies to control the clutter. Laura herself had even tried to help me. Nothing was the right size or finish. At Target, I came across these two-drawer boxes. They were exactly the right width for the cubbies. So, I bought three of them and used the drawers for the cubbies. It would be better if they were taller, but this is a huge improvement.

The other change I've made is to use the basket on the floor (with a lid) to throw things that I'm not ready to deal with. I know that the cardinal rule of living an organized life is to only touch something once, but if it were not for the basket, I would end up throwing things on the desk, so it's a starting point.