Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Reading Goals

So apparently today is the first day of fall, and thus the first day of Katrina's Fall Into Reading Challenge.  Since I'm a book reviewer (at, it's been hard for me to make lists, because I don't know which books are going to land on my doorstep and that I'll be reviewing 3 months from now.

That said, I've also made a goal for 2012 to read more books "just for me." I set a goal of 12, roughly equivalent to one per month, and I've read 8 so far. I'm also in the middle of 3 that are also "just for me" picks, so I don't think I'll have trouble reaching the goal. That said, the spirit of the law was not to finish them as quickly as possible, but to make time for reading for myself, specifically within the realm of Christian non-fiction. At least half of the titles have fallen in that category, as are the 3 I'm reading now.

Why am I reading 3 books right now? Well, because I'm weird, I guess (and to be honest, I'm really reading FIVE books right now). The 3 personal books I'm reading now are on my FiRC list to finish:
On top of those books, I'm reading a novel and a project memoir (both for review, so I won't mention them here). So that makes five, and it doesn't sound THAT weird, right? In addition to finishing those three, here are a few more personal goals:

  • The Vow: The True Events that Inspired the Movie was also a DotMom swag bag goodie. I've been wanting to watch the movie, so I might as well ruin it thoroughly by reading the book first, right?
  • I was thinking that I needed a good personal pick in the Middle Grade/Young Adult range, and though anyone who's followed me is tired of hearing this goal, I think I'll actually finish up the Harry Potter series. Yes, I've read the first six, and in fact finished the 6th at least 3 years ago. So I'm putting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on my list (AGAIN -- though to be fair I've left it off for the last year or so). Since HP is now available on the Kindle, and are part of the free lending library for Prime members, I'll probably forgo the tattered paperback (that my daughter has read at least twice), and use my Kindle Fire.
  • Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything by Anonymous -- I had seen this book while browsing amazon just last week, and lo and behold it too was in my blogger goodie swag bag from B&H Publishing, so I'm definitely going to read it. Check out the cover. You can't beat that:

So, take a minute to link up your own list and link it up at Callapidder Days. *****
I invite you to follow me on twitter @jenndon or subscribe to my feed

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wrong Words

This is one of those songs with which I just can't help singing along:

Oh, I'm running to your arms; I'm running to your arms.
The riches of your love, will never be enough.

Wait -- scratch that. That doesn't sound exactly right. In fact, it sounds exactly wrong if I'm singing about the sufficiency of God's love. I don't know why, but I've always sung it incorrectly. The "never" naturally comes out of my mouth.

As you probably know, and can hear in the video of the song above, the correct lyrics go something like this:

Oh, I'm running to your arms; I'm running to your arms.
The riches of your love will ALWAYS be enough.
Nothing compares to your embrace.
Light of the world, forever reign.

I've had to sort of train myself to stop singing the wrong words. And when I sing them -- so loudly and without a shred of shame (or dignity) -- usually in my car, alone -- and yet so incorrectly, so opposite of their intent, it makes me think.  What do I really believe? Do I really believe that nothing compares to the riches of God's love? Is it enough? I hope it is, and hitting that "always" hard, with conscious effort, reminds me, that yes, it's always enough. Always means always: through loneliness, through busyness, through uncertainty, and disappointment.

It also means it's always enough, and incomparable in the light of success, and riches, and friendship, and personal hopes and dreams.

I know I didn't do it consciously, so I'm not going to over-analyze the opposite-inducing effects of singing the wrong word. In fact, I think I used to sing the whole line incorrectly as "The riches of this world will never be enough," which is in fact a true statement, or should be anyway.

The point is that when I saw a wrong -- in my sung theology in this case -- I corrected it. It took effort, but I did it. For me it was obvious. I was singing the exact opposite of the Truth. But I think there are other ways that we find ourselves forgetting Truth, forgetting who we are. And because they are so deeply ingrained into our culture of self-sufficiency and self-importance, they are harder to recognize and correct.

I invite you to follow me on twitter @jenndon or subscribe to my feed

Monday, September 17, 2012

You've Just Invalidated My Entire Existence

Last weekend the kids and I were enjoying what will probably be one of the last swims of the year. We were just floating and chatting a bit. Kyle summed it up nicely by saying, "We're just having relaxed family time. I like that," as if we are generally uptight and rigid.  But anyway. . . one of the benefits of spending quiet times like this, as well as those many hours in the car going to and fro, is that kids tend to talk.

Somehow we ended up talking about Amanda's future. I think I made some sort of reference to the fact that she had joined Key Club and Speech Club, which happened to be the same things her mother joined.

"Well, I'm not going to be an English teacher like you. Or just a Mom for my job."

I responded quickly, "You've just invalidated my entire existence."

We both laughed. Though she was firm in the conviction behind her statement, she wasn't being mean. We've had this conversation before. And besides, she's a teenager.  She has to develop her own identity.  I think the first step in doing that involves seeing herself as completely different (not to mention wiser, but time will change that!).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kids' Picks, September

Kyle (8) has begun to use reading as an excuse not to do his homework. As of yet, I haven't heard about any sort of home reading requirement. In the the past, he's had a home log to keep track of his 20 minute nightly reading assignment. I do know for certain that the 3rd grade has opted not to use AR testing. For Kyle, the challenge was finding books that were on his required level, because it was above his grade level, so we had to find books that interested him and that were appropriate, yet also fell in the range. It also motivated him to read more, because they kept track of the points. However, on the flip side, I am glad that he can read what he wants without constraints of level.

Just like last month, he's still enjoying the Hank Zipzer series and the Garfield comic collections that are hand-me-downs from his sister. But the pick that makes me happiest is that he finally decided to give Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms a chance, right at the end of our August vacation. He wanted to take a break with some less-challenging reads, but he did move on the second book Horten's Incredible Illusions which is the book that is currently keeping him from his homework. He agrees with me that this one is even more exciting than the first one.

As for Amanda, she also read one of my favorites, The Fault in Our Stars. She really wanted to read some John Green, and of the two I've read, I thought that was the most appropriate. As I said in my review (linked above), I think that readers should be in high school to enjoy this one. There is some language (though not nearly as much in the other John Green book I read) and also some "mature situations" for these 17-year-old characters. She loved it, and is ready for more John Green, but I need to read some others to see what I could recommend.

Fortunately (or un-), she's so busy with school, that she does not have much time for pleasure-reading.

See more Kids' Picks over at 5 Minutes for Books.

Monday, September 03, 2012

One down, 37 to go

Image credit: CollegeDegrees360
My kids are students. Homework is their labor, so on this Labor Day, I couldn't help but think what this year might bring. They've finished their first week of school, and discounting holiday weeks, have about 37 more to go.

Kyle is in 3rd grade, and he's excited. I don't see any big hurdles, even though this is the year of memorizing multiplication tables and learning cursive. However, I do think that in May I will be looking back at the physical and emotional changes. 

Amanda is jumping right into her high school career. She's determined to put her best foot forward as far as keeping up with homework and striving for grades that will help her to have choices in this ultra-competitive Texas college market. She's done a great job. She's slow and distracted when she's doing her homework, and she often chooses to multi-task, so what I think should take her an hour and a half often takes two or three hours, but she doesn't complain. I'm very proud of her.

She's also joined up, which is not just a transcript-booster, it's who she is. She knew she wanted to do Key Club. It's pretty intense, but I think she'll enjoy it (and it does look good on her transcript).  She was worried when she decided not to do marching band this year that she didn't have "a thing." She does art, and will be involved in competitions with that, but she said that didn't count. When we were at the electives fair and freshman registration meeting in the spring, I told her I thought she'd like/be good at Speech club. I explained to her that she'd be able to present pieces from books and that sort of thing.

She saw the poster about the informational meeting and decided to go, so she's going to give that a try. When I suggested it, I forgot that things have changed in the twenty-five years since I was in high school (Seriously? Yes, 25 years. I'm moving on from that topic quickly). One can't just dabble. One has to commit. She's supposed to stay after at least twice a week to prepare for the meets. I honestly think that this is more for debate, which does take that sort of time, but that seems a little extreme for the preparation of a couple of speech events.

She said that when she went and said she was interested in speech that she was told it wasn't as competitive, that most people are doing debate, so it makes sense that the guidelines would be applicable to that. But it still seems excessive, and it's part of my beef with how things have changed, but I'll commit to the two or three meets each semester that she's "required" to attend in order to be stay an active member of the "team." Again, I'm not sure if this is geared at debate, which I do think is a different animal, or if it really matters.

She'll decide if it's what she wants to do or not, and if it is, then I'll support her. In this case, my support means picking her up at school twice a week, and waiting for the bus to return her to the high school parking lot at midnight. I'm reminded that my primary labor is that of Mom, and that means encouraging both of my kids to do what will benefit them in the short-term or on the long-haul. It means making sure that Kyle learns his multiplication tables and making sure that Amanda doesn't shy away from trying something new. It means a lot of driving. And a lot of encouraging, even if that simply comes in the form of writing checks for entry fees and dropping off or picking up when necessary.

I've linked this post up to the 5 Minutes for Mom Labor Day Link Up.