today in September

Today was a day off for Omar.

Today there were older two kids at a class, a girl at the grandparents, and a baby with us.

Today there was coffee.

And coffeecake.

Today there were drawing lessons and piano lessons with the grandparents in the afternoon. 

And a napping baby in their room.

This all equals a Curbside Gourmet lunch date for Omar and me.

I’ll have the buttermilk fried chicken sandwich with a side of crab cake sliders, thank you.

And together we talked books and kids and our town. 

This was all followed by an afternoon at my parents.

Kids scootering, baby drooling, turkey roasting.

I figured I should clear last year’s never-cooked turkey out of the freezer to make way for the next one. 

Then a crazy rainbow followed us home, and we saw half of our town out enjoying it.

Kids crashed.

Mama crashed.

And now there is chai, Bach, and my bed, which is surely the trifecta of something.

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hey, Tuesday!

You were waking with the sun.

You were coffee delivered in bed while the littlest stirred awake.

You were hours spent on the couch reading The Penderwicks to little people who offered to rub feet and brush hair in appreciation.

You were siblings arguing and fussing and forgiving. Repeat.

You were a friend stopping by to have a much needed 1/2 hour of adult conversation. Even if that 1/2 hour included holding my baby who gifted her with drool upon drool.

You were an extraordinarily napping Asa.

You were swim lessons and splashing under a cloudy sky.

You were cookies.

You were a girl who watched her brother suddenly stop screaming when put in the sling and said in all seriousness, “Well, that was magical.”

You were a completely below average dinner.

You were a boy feeling queasy who just needed to fall asleep on the couch. I think I believe him, but who plays around when it comes to queasiness?

You were that perfect mix of good and hard.

these are the days

of waiting for Asa
of being absolutely convinced I will be pregnant forever
of everybody, except that girl you see above, dropping like flies from one sickness or another
of introducing that concept of movie marathons (Harry Potter 1-3) to kids because of the above
of me reading to kids (everything from The Apprentice to Little House on the Prairie to Dragons Love Tacos)
of kids reading to me (I am loving this)
of me reading to me (Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith, 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Parenting With Love and Logic by Cline and Fay, Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller)
of not finishing any books because I started too many at once
of washing and folding little boy clothes
of working my way through recipes in Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons (make this oatmeal! and then make these muffins!)
of fitting in dates with Omar before Asa comes
of Swedish pancakes with butter and lingonberry jam breakfast dates
of Chinese food lunch dates
of corn and crab beignet dinner dates
of kind and generous family and friends helping with kids and meals and my sanity

2013’s advent calendar

Here we go. This year’s advent calendar. An advent calendar with little bags that allow me the option of filling them with a little wooden coin with an activity written on it or, on those days when doing any extra activity would put me in a decidedly UN-adventy mood, candy.  The cheap side of me wanted to fill ’em up with leftover Halloween candy, but since I’ve already eaten most of the good stuff, I figured I’d splurge a little on some special candies for them. As for the activities, they range from watching a Christmas movie to decorating their rooms. We’ve also been working with the kids on earning a commission/allowance for doing work around the house, so this year one of the activities will be for each of them to go out on a little mama/papi date and buy their siblings a little gift with the money they’ve earned. They’re actually really excited about this part.

The scrapbook paper circles and mini clothespins are repurposed from past years’ advent garlands. I couldn’t figure out how to mark the days until I saw a surprisingly similar calendar pop up on this blog. Of course, number stickers. And now we’re set.

This calendar is the treat side of our advent celebrations. We also read from a variety of resources during the season. This year I’ve got 2 new books to go through: Handel’s Messiah Family Advent Reader with accompanying cd and Elyse Fitzpatrick’s new book Counting the Days, Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional. Fitzpatrick’s includes daily readings for both adults and kids and one activity/craft per week. And each night we try to remember to read from one of the mini book ornaments that comes with The Story of Christmas. Evidently I have an advent book buying problem. For the past few years I buy a new one at the beginning of the season and then unearth one I bought on sale at the end of last year’s advent season. Some past reads are Nancy Guthrie’s Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas and Phyllis Tickle’s Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from the Divine Hours

We never do each thing every day. Some days life just goes by too quickly and on others I simply forget, though the fact that this year there is a possibility of getting chocolate, I’m sure the kids won’t forget to remind me about the advent calendar.

reads and links

links up first ::

Prufrock is my newest daily read. What is it?

Prufrock is a daily newsletter on books, art and ideas, edited by Micah Mattix. It contains links to the best reviews and most worthy literary news items, a daily essay with relevant responses, and a little bit of literary smack. Best of all, it’s free!

And here is a link to a sample for you to enjoy. I read about Mattix in Rod Dreher’s article Story Lines, Not Party Lines: Why Conservatives Must Master the Narrative Art, also a great read.

– This video is spot-on. It would’ve been even more spot-on had they worked in a way to have the restaurant only serve small plates, but you can’t win ’em all.

– And then there is this – From Pony to Person: the Disturbing Evolution of My Little Pony, in Photos. AAAHHHH! this stuff kills me.

and the reads ::

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Sci-fi books about young boys training to fight the next alien invasion aren’t usually at the top of my to-read list, but this one kept popping up on various book lists. I really enjoyed it, but when I cracked open the next book in the series my eyes started to glaze after the first two pages. I think one sci-fi book per year (or decade) is enough for me.

Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry by Kathy Keller. This is perhaps the best, most concise defense for gender roles in the church. I appreciate her tone and approach. The only downside is that it’s only available in ebook format. I’d love to have a stack of these to hand out.

Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education by Stratford Caldecott. Here is a book on the educational model of the Trivium. Caldecott approaches the Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric stages as stages of Remembering, Thinking, and Communicating. I connect with his way of approaching and fleshing out the Trivium using these terms.

Overdressed: the Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth Cline. Our clothes are cheaply made. Changes in styles and fashion happen shockingly fast thus pushing many to purchase more cheap clothes at an alarming rate. Sweatshops are horrendous. These are things we know, and most of what Cline discusses is nothing very new or shocking. But to have all the stories and data gathered together in book form drives her points home a bit more. It’s a good and quick read, and on her website she has a shopping directory of brands/designers that strive to combat much of what she discusses in her book.

top five :: school time

I could easily list the Top 5 books we like or my Top 5 curriculum choices of the moment. But since the kids themselves are an integral part to this whole homeschooling thing (ha), I figured it would be good to consult them and ask what they enjoyed about school. Here is the blended list of all our opinions:

1 :: Sonlight’s Read-Alouds. This is our third year using Sonlight’s suggested read-alouds. It’s basically just an age appropriate list of novels to read to the kids, but the kids have loved almost every book. Many book lists include books that kids read to themselves, but I love that with Sonlight’s suggested books, they are being exposed to stories and language that are more advanced but still not too over-their-heads.

2 :: I love geography. I love maps and globes and random facts about countries. My kids enjoy it, too, but they especially love it when it’s taught using Little Passport’s Sam and Sophia. Each month they get a package in the mail with contents about a specific country from travelers Sam and Sophia. They get stickers for their world map and little suitcase that comes with the initial package, a country sticker for their passport, a letter from Sam and Sophia, a postcard or picture, and a little souvenir. It’s simple but quite effective for my kids, and they love (LOVE) anything that combines mail, stickers, and postcards.

3 :: Writing With Ease. I’ll be honest. This choice for the Top 5 is more mine than Elisha’s, but this writing curriculum is one of those things that clicked for both of us. He enjoys writing (in small amounts), and I wanted something that combined copywork and narration and dictation using real books. This is a great fit for us right now. The amount of writing is not overwhelming, he’s not forced to come up with his own words or ideas, yet, and each week focuses on a different fairy tale or novel. To read a great intro to the philosophy behind this kind of writing, click here and scroll down to the Writing With Ease Instructor Text PDF sample.

4 :: SAINTS. This is essentially p.e. for homeschool kids. And they absolutely love it. And I absolutely love it. I drop the kids off once a week for three hours of everything from archery to capture the flag to dodgeball.

5 :: Spotify. This might seem like a random choice, but our days are filled with music. Most mornings start off with something along the lines of classical music. They have their own preferences and requests for when they are drawing or having snacks. If we are talking about a certain song or instrument, it’s a great resource for tracking down specific music. And the Jim Weiss story productions are listened to almost daily.

And to end, my boys make up stories all the time. Sometimes they make sense and other times they are random and creative thoughts. The little boy who narrates this video by a film student would fit in quite well around here.

(via The Wine Dark Sea)

the books of 2012

2012’s book tally was 51. O’Brien’s The Island of the World, Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace, and Redmond’s The God of the Mundane are some of my favorites of the year. O’Brien’s book is actually on the top of my “favorite books ever” list. You should add it to your 2013 to-read list. On the bottom of this year’s list? Ozma’s The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared, Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, and Still by Lauren Winner. I also included all the novels I read to the kids this year. Charlotte’s Web was a reread, but it doesn’t feel right to list it on a book list and not encourage anyone who hasn’t had the chance to read it to do just that (even if you don’t have kids). I get teary-eyed every time, and the end is just about perfectly written.

The Island of the World by Michael O’Brien

Strangers and Sojourners by Michael O’Brien

Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture by Makoto Fujimura

Tinkers by Paul Harding

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression by Bruce Barnbaum

The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper by Kate Ascher

Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living by Craig Goodwin

The Best Old Movies For Families: A Guide to Watching Together by Ty Burr

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading by Lawrence Goldstone and Nancy Goldstone

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox

The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon

Living Into Focus by Arthur Boers

The God of the Mundane by Matt Redmond

Doc: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Innocent by Ian McEwan

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

Evangellyfish by Douglas Wilson

Wheatbelly by William Davis

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half by Steve and Annette Economides

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller

The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs

Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel

Everyday Talk by John Younts

Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls-Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental Toxins by Leonard Sax

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

Joy For Beginners by Erica Bauermeister

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories by Rosemary Wells

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

The Light At Tern Rock by Julia Sauer

Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

A Grain of Rice by Helena Clare Pittman

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Little Pear by Eleanor Francis Lattimore

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

november fourteenth

i love it when i remember a holiday at least a few weeks before it happens. this means that we can actually find some quality library books about that holiday before the shelves are cleared out and only the dregs are left. and it means we have time to talk about it, craft about it, and eat about it before it passes, too.

i sort of failed in the thanksgiving department for the last two years, so today i tried to make up for it by whipping out all the thanksgiving books, printing off coloring pages, baking turkey-shaped cookies, and serving up egg nog to a table full of egg nog-loving children.

but i think i still have work to do. my two years of thanksgiving slacking have left one boy still wanting to call the holiday in november easter and the other boy trying to remember either the word cornucopia or phrase horn of plenty and instead jumbling the two so i get a good laugh.

joy at the book stack

sometimes my book stack grows and grows because of my indifferent feelings towards the books in it, and i start yet another to try and find something i want to finish. then there are those times like now where i have several great books going at once and never know which i should try to finish. here are a few from the stack.

New York: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd – three weeks from today we’ll be wandering around new york city, so i figure that now is as good a time as any to pick this back up after i started it a year or so ago. the book traces the history of new york city over three centuries, and i am almost always up for a (hopefully) good historical fiction story.

The Best of Shakespeare: Retellings of 10 Classic Plays by E. Nesbit – i want to write more about what we’ve been doing school-wise, but this book has found its place in our morning school time. i had been wanting to incorporate plays, specifically shakespeare, into our school week but hadn’t figured out how or when to do it. and then i came across two posts written by angelina stanford on her personal blog and on the circe institute blog addressing just this topic. if you run into asher, ask him to give you a run-down on hamlet.  death and ghosts and kings – the boy loves it.

Tending the Heart of Virtue: How Classic Stories Awaken a Child’s Moral Imagination by Vigen Guroian – amazon now has this available for kindle. thank goodness because my only amazon drama happened with this book and a used copy that never found its way to my doorstep. i’m always on the lookout for enriching stories for my kids, and then consider it a bonus when i find a book like this that helps me dig a bit below the narration surface when it comes to talking about them with my kids. guroian’s chapters include Love and Immortality in The Velveteen Rabbit and The Little Mermaid, Friends and Mentors in The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web, and Bambi, and Evil and Redemption in The Snow Queen and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The Best Old Movies For Families by Ty Burrbethany posted this on goodreads and fortunately, our library had a copy. i loved old movies as a kid, but i think having two boys first made me a bit hesitant to pull out my old favorites. i’m not sure why, though, because they’ve loved the ones i have shown them. but now i have lists of movies and amusingly written explanations of why my kids might like (or not like) them. thank goodness he puts gone with the wind on the “don’t watch” list. i remember watching it as a kid and questioning why everyone talked about it and feeling guilty i didn’t like it/slept through part of it. but i will force them to watch someday if only so they will appreciate carol burnett’s went with the wind parody (scroll to the 3:24 mark). love it.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang – this book is a history-meets-memoir about a woman and her mother and grandmother in 20th century china. i am fascinated by the story and am ashamed about how absolutely little i know about the history of china, but chang’s book is changing that due to her clear and moving account of life in communist china.

Blessed Are the Hungry: Meditations on the Lord’s Supper by Peter Leithart – following omar’s lead, i’ve been reading this more as a devotional. in his introduction leithart writes:

At the Lord’s table, we receive an initial taste of the final heavens and earth, but the Lord’s Supper is not merely a sign of the eschatological feast, as if the two were separate feasts. Instead, the Supper is the early state of that very feast.

it can be hard for me to approach the Lord’s Supper with such a frame of mind, but i believe he is right, and these 28 meditations have been a blessing and a challenge in helping me see this.

focal practice

the newest Mars Hill Audio volume (113) is worth the price of a whole year’s subscription. there is so much great stuff on it that i could spend posts and posts talking about it all. here is what host ken myers wrote in the intro to the volume:

The magic word for this issue is PRACTICES.

The new issue of the Journal is relentlessly practical. Each of the guests has thoughtfully addressed the way our embodied selves engage creation and culture. They are each interested in the interaction of practices, affections, and beliefs.

Science, technology, community, food and farming, place, and teaching: these are the springboard subjects that launch some compelling conversations, conversations heard on the Journal and forthcoming conversations with your friends and colleagues.

the timing of this volume felt providential. we have moved. we are in a new place that requires rethinking our daily practices and habits and rhythms. one of the interviews is with arthur boers about his new book Living Into Focus: Choosing What Matter in an Age of Distractions.  boers uses the language of developing focal practices – a practice that is centered on something meaningful. it is something that takes skill, effort, thought and time and cannot be manipulated or consumed. boers is a fan of technology and what it can offer us but:

We must pay attention to what is supplanted by our habits of technology usage…What concerns or distresses one about technology is its tendency to destroy or displace things and practices that grace and orient our lives. p19

his examples are numerous: hiking, gardening, playing an instrument, sewing, singing, worship, etc. reading and listening to him made me realize how easy it is for me to not cultivate focal practices. i wouldn’t say that it is because i am being constantly distracted by the computer or technology, but i would say that it is mostly because technology has disrupted by sense of focus on the whole. i feel i get distracted more easily by the idea of moving on to something else. whatever that else is.

this afternoon the three kids headed out the back door into the yard after quiet time, school time, and snack time. they ran and played and created and explored. i sat by the window and realized that i was watching one of the reasons we moved – we wanted space for them to run and play. and then i realized i was sitting on the piano bench and that the piano was next to the window that let me see everything that was going on back there. so i played for close to an hour. it was rusty and my fingers started to hurt, and i was distracted numerous times and thought that perhaps i should get up and move on to something more “useful”. but the kids knew i was sitting there. they could hear me. they commented on what i was playing. asher and i had a conversation about learning music and how it can be frustrating and not so lovely sounding. we were engaging – engaging each other, creation, and culture.

now go subscribe.

2012 book list

i really thought i would get around to this sooner. in past years, i was good about creating a loose to-read list for the following year. it didn’t happen this year. so this year’s list will track only what i’ve actually finished. in the past six months there have been some excellent books (The Island of the World by Michael O’Brien), some truly disappointing ones (Still by Lauren Winner), and many in between. i’ve also included novels/chapter books i’ve read to the kids (many of them read during mealtimes because if there is food in their mouths, there is less talking, and in theory, more listening).

i’ll post this as a separate page and (hopefully) keep it updated throughout the rest of the year. happy reading.

The Island of the World by Michael O’Brien

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson

The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression by Bruce Barnbaum

Year of Plenty: One Suburban Family, Four Rules, and 365 Days of Homegrown Adventure in Pursuit of Christian Living by Craig Goodwin

Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner

Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox

Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

The Innocent by Ian McEwan

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler

Evangellyfish by Douglas Wilson

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller

Girls on the Edge: The Four Factors Driving the New Crisis for Girls-Sexual Identity, the Cyberbubble, Obsessions, Environmental Toxins by Leonard Sax

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories by Rosemary Wells

James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

The Light At Tern Rock by Julia Sauer

Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop

The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne

spring reading

lately i’ve been alternating between books and realtor.com’s property search map. for a few weeks realtor.com was getting more of my time than books, but now i’m thrilled we can take the realtor app off the ipad.

reading these days:

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. the big (and depressing) takeaway from this book is that most of the extra virgin olive oil marketed in the world is not, in fact, pure olive oil. mueller goes into depth on the scandals in the world of olive oil. it was an interesting read but the appendix is worth the price of the book. he lists sources for reputable olive oil producers/sellers and what to look for in an olive oil. a reputable olive oil shop is supposed to be opening around here in the near future (as i learned from mueller’s site), but i’m still a bit jealous of kathy as i can’t just drive a few miles to the nearest local olive oil producer. sigh. the last issue of Garden & Gun did inform me that there is a new-ish olive oil producer in georgia, but that’s more than a quick drive.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson. i was a fan of larson’s book Devil in the White City and was impressed with his ability to weave the true story of the chicago world’s fair with the unfortunate biography of a serial killer who used the fair to target victims (sounds creepy, i know, but the book is really quite good). i recognized a similar formula when i heard about In the Garden of Beasts: widely known historic event (this time hitler’s pre-war rise in berlin) paired with lesser known historic figure (american ambassador william dodd). it didn’t work this time. the most interesting parts were the sections where dodd was absent. i appreciated how larson clearly shed light on the great deal of anti-semitism in america at the time and the tone of pre-war berlin. but i finished the book feeling as though dodd was basically an inconsequential man in history who unfortunately thought more of himself and his position than he should have. he also had a promiscuous daughter who showed no discernment in picking friends or lovers. if someone were to ask me what kind of picture i got of ambassador dodd from this book, i’d have to say that my lasting impression of him is a man who was out of place in the world of berlin politics, who ignored his daughter’s foolishness, and who preferred to leave meetings and parties early in order to go home and drink milk and eat stewed peaches before bed. oh my.

lastly and lightly, i’m reading The House At Pooh Corner to the kids, and we’re all loving it. i was a little nervous about it because omar and i couldn’t handle the original Winnie the Pooh. have you read it? rabbit’s crazy. we couldn’t get past the whole bizarre scene of rabbit basically stealing roo from his mama. but we’re loving this one. rabbit is still wacky, but i can handle it this time. the boys have been in stitches several times. i’m also loving that when omar gets him they like to tell him, amidst giggles, what happened today in the book, and then at night they like to run to me and tell me about the chapter omar just read them in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. so great.

she made me love cabbage

tamar adler’s book An Everlasting Meal: Cooking With Economy and Grace is inching its way up to the top of my favorite’s list. i love a book that uses language like this:

“Our daily bread” means food. It is also called the staff of life, which I like: bread there, all life leaning against it. Our lives don’t lean against it anymore: we’ve decided that bread is bad for us. Our staff has broken, and that is part of why our diets seem so hard to get in balance. p79

Stale bread cannot be bought. It must be waited for, which gives all dishes containing it the weight of philosophical ballast, as well as dietary and budgetary ones. p85

Salt is food’s mouthpiece. Acid also helps food find its voice. p192

i was a bit skeptical about her style the first few pages in, but i soon recognized it as endearing and honest. she talks about the simplest of things: boiling, bread, eggs, beans, underappreciated veggies. and it’s the ideas i’ve taken away from this book more than the recipes she includes (which seem wonderful, too).

the cooking with grace part comes through naturally in her style of writing. i can see how she would be graceful in the kitchen, but it is not pretentious. she is quick to admit her kitchen faults and failures.

and as for the economy of her cooking style, it definitely is. she saves everything: onion skins, bean broth, the oil from sauteing anything and everything. her ideas for leftovers, especially rice, make me want to keep a pot of old rice in the fridge. there are so many ideas and suggestions she gives that sound delicious, simple, and, perhaps best of all, cheap. i’ve read few books that i know will help lower the grocery bill and this one does so without setting out as that being its main goal.

she’s gotten me looking at the kitchen and cooking differently. she’s gotten me looking at leftovers differently and more economical cuts of meat differently. and she’s given me courage to think that perhaps i can find something interesting and edible to do with huge bag of csa turnips in the fridge.

school time reads

i’ve mentioned before that it is easy to put off things i enjoy doing until kids are asleep/occupied/away so i can concentrate. this includes reading, but i’ve been trying more and more to read my own books while they’re running around me. i want them to see that i love books and reading and that this thing we’re doing called “learning to read” really does get less painful and will open up a whole world to them. so i’ve been reading a page here and there during their school time. or as in the case of the first book i mention, i get so engrossed that i read many pages, forget about the kids, and then 45 minutes or so later realize they’ve moved on to bigger and better things. on the recent school time stack:

The Island of the World by Michael O’Brien. if i have run into you in person over the past month, i will have found a way to mention this novel. i hesitate to use language like “my favorite book ever” but i can’t quite think of one that tops this at the moment. topping out at over 800+ pages, it’s a beast of a book, but this story of a boy who becomes a man in war torn yugoslavia is just heart-breakingly beautiful. it left me quiet and teary-eyed (let’s be honest, i sobbed at one point). never has a novel made me look at/evaluate my own life and my relationships with others so clearly. i can’t recommend it highly enough.

Still: Notes on a MId-Faith Crisis by Lauren F. Winner. oh my. i’m still not quite sure how to write about this one, and for some reason can’t bring myself to do a full book review. this is a book that i would love to talk about in person with other people who have enjoyed her other writings. here the reader has found a woman who has journeyed form judaism to christianity to marriage to divorce (which seems to have occurred because of a profound unhappiness on her part. she is never critical of her former husband or admits that there was a biblical reason for divorce.) to a spiritual middle of questions and despair. and here she is, in that middle and writing about that middle. she says that the book is not a memoir or a book about her divorce, but I’m not sure how you can make such definite statements. the book is about her, her dealings with life crises, and her faith. in the Q&A section at the end (which i would recommend reading first) she states that she affirms scripture’s authority, yet realizes she did something that contradicts scripture. running through my mind the entire time i read the book was, “what would it have looked like to submit to that scriptural authority she says she affirms?  what would the journey out of the dark night of the soul looked like if she would have stayed married?” i’m still curious about the timing of the book and the wisdom of writing it at this point.

Reading Magic by Mem Fox. on a bit of a lighter note, the book is a quick read on the importance of reading aloud to our kids. i know most people are aware of this fact but fox writes with a light and encouraging style. her explanation of “whole language”/”balanced literacy” and using stories children know and love as an entry way to reading was especially helpful to my mind which tends to focus solely on phonics. she is able to clearly explain the need for a blended/balanced way of teaching children to read and above all, waiting until they are able to do so. and on a side note, she has a hilarious comic/illustration of the three wise men bowing down with gifts before baby jesus, and jesus is turning towards mary saying, “i was hoping for books.” ha!