Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Big Deal

Today I needed to get a lot accomplished. The house had been neglected all weekend and it really needed some attention. I was determined to be focused and put all distractions in their place.
My 2-year-old was my little helper with chores the other day. It wasn't necessarily intentional. He woke up early from his nap. He followed me around the house like Pig-Pen, from the peanuts cartoon, in a cloud of dust.

As I was vacuuming one room, Bryce came in, sat on a chair and proceeded to shred a few corn chips with a butter knife.
I moved on to mopping the kitchen and he put his bare, summer-dirty foot in the water. He didn't just step on the freshly mopped, still wet floor. He stuck his bare, summer-dirty foot in the bucket of soapy water, splashed a bit and then walked around the kitchen.

At this point, I had a decision to make and I decided to love it. All things in perspective....BIG DEAL! So I make one more run with the vacuum or one more swipe with the mop. This little boy is full of discovery and exploration. Every part of his life right now is a grand adventure. I might as well enjoy the JOY of life with him.

Recently, my 9-year-old son joined me on my run. He rode his bike and I tried to keep up. Most of the run, he would pedal ahead and then skid to a stop. He would point out how long or dark or curved his skid marks were. He bragged about being able to turn while he skidded or how long the mark was when he was going downhill. He was thrilled with the whole process. Halfway through I had the mature, parental urge to explain to him that doing that much skidding was probably wearing down his tires and he'd probably get a flat sooner rather than later and then we'd have to buy new tires and new tires cost money. As soon as the urge came and those thoughts raced through my mind, they were followed with a brief memory of my own carefree childhood. Feelings I haven't known for ages. For a few brief minutes, I remembered what it was like to not have to worry about things like money and consequences and practicalities. So I held my tongue.

And I decided to love it. All things in perspective...BIG DEAL! So he wears out his bike tires and has to learn how to change a tire with his Dad as his teacher. This energetic boy of mine is so full of discovery and exploration. I might as well enjoy the JOY of life with him.

My children are growing up with a mom who lets them explore and to me,that is a big deal!

Reading list

Sterling is building some beautiful new shelves for me downstairs. I'm so excited. In the meantime, my books and other assorted items are covering the basement floor. I'm hoping everything stays in one corner until we're finished. Camille organized everything into nice tidy piles. But this morning, it looks like several children, ages 4 and 1, went swimming in them this morning.

I have book club tonight. This month we read "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. May I just say, it was AWESOME!!! I recommend it to anyone. Even Sterling is reading it. Can you believe it? The story is a true life story about a young man, who grew up a hellion and then focused his energy on running. As a record breaking,one-mile runner, his olympic dreams were put hold with the onset of World War II. His story is an amazing tale of survival as he survives his plane going down, sharks and weather in a raft, and POW camps in Japan. It is almost unbelievable what that man went through. Iin fact, I kept saying to Sterling. "I think some of this is made up. This cannot possibly be true. People just don't survive stuff like that. I'm not sure this is real." Its inspiring, that's what it is. Truly a must read.

Here are some of the other books I've been reading.

"Kira-Kira" is a Newberry Award winner. Its about 2 young japanese sisters and their struggles growing up in America where Japanese resentment is still strong post World War II. After reading "Unbroken" that takes on a new weight. Its a nice story but a little depressing. I'm not sure Sydney would enjoy it because its sad and a little slow moving.

"Book of Mormon", cuz its the best book.
"Founding Mothers".  This is the book for the library book club. The last one they chose, "The Last Cowgirl" was an interesting book but the language turned really bad the last 1/4 of the book. Rated R bad. I wouldn't recommend it. But I'm not talking about that book here. "Founding Mothers" I've just started and its a captivating look at the lives of the women who raised and supported the founding fathers. These women were extraordinary.

"Whispered Secret." I've also been reading the Leven Thumps books. I'm not in love with them. They are a little too outlandish for me and I feel like the story could be told in fewer words than 5 long books. I've made it through 3 and honestly, I'm not that compelled to finish the series.

"Midnight Pearls" and "Wild Orchid". These are re-tellings of The Little Mermaid and Mulan. I love fairy tale re-tellings. Love them. And these are good, quick, entertaining reads. Sydney is currently reading "Midnight Pearls" and is really enjoying it. I think she like the love story. :)

"Linger" is the 2nd in a series about werewolves. What can I say? Fantasy, anyone? The whole time I'm reading the first and second books I'm thinking, "Haven't I already read this story?" It kind of feels recycled. Its interesting and I must finish the series because at least its a strong enough story to make me want to know how it turns out, even if I don't think the writing is that great. But I'm weary of the high school/young adult love fest where you can't survive without each other. Life stops and all hell breaks loose if you have to be separated for more than a day. Give me a break. Life is bigger than that. And the protagonist guy is always writing lyrics to songs and sharing them with us. Boring. But, like I said, its a good enough story that I want to know how it turns out.
"Death Cure" is the much anticipated finale to the "Maze Runner" series and it is fantastic. I couldn't stop reading. I read it in 1 1/2 days. My only regret is that I didn't re-read book 2 before I started book 3. Dashner didn't do much background to catch me up to date so I'm sure I missed out on some of the intensity. But it was awesome. Exactly what any science fiction book should be. LOVED IT!

"Elements of Style" and "Bird by Bird".  The final two are just books about writing and I'm wanting to explore that talent and interest a little. Bless my mom's heart for encouraging and getting me these books for me for my birthday. I'm just now starting to think about opening them. I've scanned through them already and they look fantastic. Much more interesting than I thought they would be.

So there you have. My book list as of late.

Do you have any suggestions I should add?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bedtime Prayers

Raising boys is not my forte, I must say. It is a struggle for me to understand and accept the noise, dirt, mess, jumping, throwing, yelling and general windstorm of raucousness that is termed "BOY." I'm slowly learning to not battle the natural disposition of my boys so much anymore. But it’s hard. I feel like I'm failing regularly because I feel like I'm losing my cool regularly. I don't like to feel either way. Many nights I lay in bed, looking at the ceiling, confiding to my husband that I have no idea what I'm doing. And the things I am doing don't appear to be making a difference...

...until I pray with my boy. Suddenly this busy, little body, who hasn't stood still long enough for homework, reading or dinner; who has made his sisters cry and picked on his little brother; who consistently "misses" in the bathroom; who leaves a trail of dirt, food and stinky socks in his wake, takes my breath away with his prayers. As he prays, his walls come down and he asks for help to be better in ways I didn't think he realized he was lacking. He has yet to offer a rote or routine prayer. It is always sincere and specific. He asks for help to be nice to his sisters. He asks for help to listen to his teacher in school. Last night he asked for help "to not be so hyper." Simple requests but heartfelt to the core.

I don't say bedtime prayers with all my children. Mostly with Parker because he insists on it and I am so grateful he does. I know I'm missing out with the other kids and that needs to change. It’s so easy to overlook those quiet, heartfelt moments and let them pass without much thought. They are as elusive and fleeting as a gentle summer breeze. Unless I am deliberate in capturing and appreciating the moment, it’s gone before I can even recognize it. The following three ideas have helped me hold on to tender moments before they’re gone.

Slowing down to enjoy special moments with my children is often like trying to stop a sled on a steep, iced over hill. But slowing down is exactly what it takes to make the most of the short time I have with my children while they are young. I was once challenged by a friend to not say, “hurry up” to my children or to “hurry” them through activities. Often times I am usually rushing from one chore to another and from lessons to games. Then it’s on to dinner and homework. As I accepted her challenge, it was hard to not hurry them into seatbelts or hurry them through snack or lunch. I had to hold my tongue while they brushed teeth and put on shoes and finished coloring their latest work of art. As the day wore on, I found that much of the contention I usually expected as we transitioned from one activity to another had disappeared. I firmly believe that was because I wasn’t constantly in hurry mode. I slowed the pace down and the tension level followed. This slower pace allowed me to be more present in the moment and to enjoy my nurturing role as mother.

My nurturing role as mother sometimes gets lost in the business of being mom. Someone has to make sure meals are prepared, assignments are finished and commitments are kept. However, making sure the family is managed doesn’t have to mean we can’t have fun. The other day I let Parker listen to music through headphones as he finished his homework. He didn’t realize how loudly he was singing along. I stood back and watched as he would shout out words every now and then like, “it makes me feel good” and “like its dyn-o-mite.” Soon enough, he was out of his seat, shuffling his feet, still with pencil in hand. When he noticed me watching, he gave me an unapologetic grin and sat down to finish his homework. Much to my surprise, he finished in record time. I don’t let him listen to music every time he does homework, but sometimes we just have to have a little fun.

Most importantly, I need to take the time to give my time. There are countless ways I would like to spend my time. Unfortunately, time can be as fleeting as those special, quiet moments I crave with my kids. All too often, I’m required to make a choice in the way I spend my time. My greatest rewards come when I am able to spend one on one time with each child and they are able to open up. Those moments come in many forms, like a car-ride, a late night talk on the edge of the bed or spontaneous karaoke in the kitchen. Regardless of the circumstance, it is up to me to find the time and willingly give it over to my children.

If I had not taken time to pray with Parker, I would not have the same insight and understanding I have now. What a difference it makes to get a glimpse into his heart and the way he really feels about things and people and actions. As I pray with him, I realize how hard he is trying to improve himself. I also come to recognize his unique spirit more as I see him pray with confidence and sincerity. Suddenly everything that irritates me about little boys dissipates as I peel away the mortal mask and see him truly for who he is. And when he closes his prayer with, "thank you for my mom," I couldn't love that little boy more.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book Review: Savvy

Image result for savvyHave you ever wished there was something special about you.  Something special that set you apart and made you different.  Have you wished for a gift or talent, perhaps, that no one else has?  That is what Mibs is looking forward to on her 13th birthday.  On that special day, Mibs knows she will find her Savvy and she can't wait.  But as best laid plans often go awry, her life takes an unexpected turn of events when her father is in a tragic car accident the day before her birthday.

"Savvy", a Newberry Honor book, written by Ingrid Law, is a delightful, young-adolescent novel.  Mibs (short for Mississippi) comes from a long line of ancestors who have a variety of "savvies."  While most grandmothers can peaches, Mibs' grandmother cans music.  One brother can influence water and wind so much as to make a storm appear out of nowhere.  Her oldest brother influences electricity, blowing out light-bulbs and TVs, and powers the family car.  Mibs is desperately hoping her Savvy allows her to wake people and things up because now her father in lying in a coma in the hospital.  When Mibs, and a few others, stow away on a pink, bible delivery bus, the adventure begins in earnest, as she discovers her savvy, friendship and how to be true to herself.  

Ingrid Law has a lot of fun with language and descriptive passages that are a delight to read.  The simple and free use of words kept a smile on my face throughout the story.  The eclectic group of characters are fun and down to earth.   Mibs is a character most young girls will relate to, in the middle of growing from a child to a teen-ager, dealing with the drama of girls in jr. high and discovering who she really is.  Mibs comes from a strong, supportive family, which is a relief, when so much that we see on TV or in movies depicts broken and/or disfunctional families.  There are also a couple of sweet, romantic relationships that develop which are completely appropriate for the age of the intended reader.  I can't wait for my 10 (almost 11)-year-old to read this book.

There were a few ideas that I have thought about long after I finished the book.  When that happens, I know I'm glad to own the book and have it on my shelf to lend to others.  

*  One of those ideas is basically the idea of what a savvy is.  Mibs' mother explains it by saying that "lots and lots of ordinary folk have a savvy, but most simply don't recognize it for what it is."  She continues with examples of different talents or strengths, such as making the best strawberry jam, getting called a whiz kid or being able to talk anyone into buying anything at all.  So I've been wondering lately, what is MY savvy?

*  Mibs' savvy (without giving too much away) is being able to hear what others are thinking or feeling.  As she learns more about her savvy, she also learns more about the impact of the thoughts we allow into our minds.  She says:
"Maybe we all have other people's voices running higgledy-piggledy through our heads all the time.  I thought how often my poppa and momma were there inside my head with me, telling me right from wrong.  Or how the voices of Ashley Bing and Emma Flint sometimes got stuck under my skin, taunting me and making me feel low, even when they weren't around.  I began to realize how hard it was to separate out all the voices to hear the single, strong one that came just from me."

The end is especially touching when Mibs wishes her savvy would work in reverse so everyone could know how she feels because she can't find the words for her emotions.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  Although it is definitely written for a young group of readers, the little golden nuggets of self-awareness and growth were wonderful and kept me thinking long after I put the book down. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Blubber

Image result for blubber blumeI was perusing the books at Deseret Industries and came upon a book by an author I remember enjoying as a child. Judy Blume, ever heard of her? In particular, I remember reading “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” and the “Fudge” books that followed. “Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great” and “Freckle Juice” were fun to read as well. 
 So when I saw “Blubber”, by Judy Blume, on the shelf for .50 I promptly put it in my cart thinking Sydney would like reading it. The setting is 5th grade, Syd’s grade next year, and judging from the back cover, the book is about a little bit of bullying. That’s a topic all children should know about and I thought this would be a good jumping-off point for some timely discussions.

Luckily, I read the book myself first. Call me na├»ve, and you’re welcome, but I was not prepared for the harshness of the text. The reviews on the back cover describe the story as “entertaining”, “An inside look at how obnoxious some well-to-do, suburban, fifth grade children can be”, and “a good family story as well as a school story”. The type of bullying I read in this book I would never describe as entertaining, obnoxious or a good family story.

The story is told from Jill’s perspective. She seems to be your typical 10 or 11 year old. She joins Wendy, the ring-leader of several students, in bullying Linda. A slightly over-weight girl who doesn’t seem to have any friends. I just couldn’t believe the cruelty of the girls’ actions against Linda. It went way beyond name-calling and pushing. Most of the bullying was pre-conceived and well-thought out by Wendy and supported the rest of the class. It was almost too much for me, as an adult, to read. Maybe I’m a softee, but yuck. I kept thinking this has to get better. There has to be a refuge for her or a friend or sympathetic adult, at least. But the adults and teachers were all completely clueless and unsympathetic. When the tables turn and Jill is the target, the most sympathetic thing she hears is from her mother who says, “It’s rough to be on the other side, isn’t it?” There is also some language from Jill and quite a bit of cigarette smoking by her mother.

“Blubber” was published in 1974 and times have changed. I think we have more of a “no tolerance” philosophy after some of the school violence episodes we’ve seen unfold. I was just totally unprepared for what I read. There was no cushion. It was all raw realism. Perhaps that’s what Judy Blume is known for. I just didn’t remember any of that rawness in her other books. 

So I guess my final thoughts are, I’m not going to suggest that Sydney read this book. I think it would worry her. It would be a good jumping off point for a discussion on bullying, but I’m not sure now is the time. And one other thing is for sure, I think I’ll keep reading the books she is reading. I’ve always thought this was a good idea, but now I’m quite certain. Not that I’ll censor what she reads, but I would like to be able to discuss it with her. Especially important topics like bullying.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Book Review: The Hero and the Crown

Image result for the hero and the crownI remember reading “The Hero and The Crown” by Robin McKinnley, as a young girl, pre-teen if I remember correctly. I loved it. I loved it because it could have been about me. . .if I lived in a place where magic was real and dragons harassed neighboring villages. Which I did not. These things I did not have in common with Aerin, the young misfit daughter of the King of Daria.

But I did live in a place where I sometimes felt out of place, where other girls my age were sometimes mean and I desperately wanted to know that I was something or someone of value. These things I did have in common with Aerin.

And so I guess such things may be common to all young girls, which makes Aerin a relatable and enjoyable character. She is self-conscious and insecure, yet inquisitive enough to be determined to find answers to her questions. This determination leads her on an adventure of self-discovery as we see her come to know herself better as she discovers her destiny and rises up to face what fate demands of her.

The relationships between characters throughout the book were heart felt. Aerin’s father was well-drawn by McKinnley, as was the young girl’s antagonist at home, Galanna, full of jealousy and petty pranks. Tor, as the love interest, was strong and full of heart and heroism. And Luthe, well, I’m still figuring him out but I must admit, I rather enjoyed his relationship with Aerin as well.

The action scenes were well-written but at the same time, they sort of came upon me unawares. I always felt like I was surprised we were already at the climax of a certain adventure. And at times, I was confused by some of the magic (time-travel, mages, etc.) But I was not disappointed in the end. It was a grand adventure.

I would have to say that the highlight of the book for me was the coming of age of Aerin. Her discovery of finding what she is good at and then embracing it, even though it is against the common opinion of the society she lives in. I loved seeing her grow and understand and mature into the role her destiny required of her. 

As a young girl, I loved the idea of doing something no one had done before. Nowadays, even as a grown woman, it seems like I’m always watching what other people are doing or what they expect of me. What kind of mother, wife, sister, friend, should I be? Well, if I follow Aerin’s lead, as I hoped to when I was young, I might turn out to be someone marvelous, that I never knew I was