Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

10 Bits of Magic

Mondays are a little rough around here these days. Getting back into the weekly routine seems to be a painful transition for Mom and kids alike. So I thought it would be nice to start the week remembering some magical things and moments from the week before, remembering that grace and wonder abound if I’m willing to see it:

1.  Youngest learning to pronounce the word "lunch" perfectly
2.  Fresh basil
3.  Hunting for arrowheads with my husband and kids
4.  Male black-winged damselfly
5.  The smile on Middle's face when she got baptized
6.  Hugs from new friends
7.  The wet, green color of the sky before a thunderstorm
8.  White hair
9.  The way Oldest drapes his arm around my shoulders
10. The sound of a late-summer night in Missouri

What bits of magic did you see or experience last week?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The 39 Apartments of Ludwig van Beethoven

The 39 Apartments of Ludwig Van Beethoven
by Jonah Winter, pictures by Barry Blitt, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2006

Jonah Winter starts with the facts: Beethoven was born in Germany in 1770, he became a great composer, he owned five legless pianos, and he lived in 39 different apartments. Then he tells us, “But now things get fuzzier,” and continues with a playful blending of fact and conjecture about why Beethoven moved so often and how he moved those legless pianos around. As Winter explains in the author’s note at the end of the book, Beethoven’s eccentricities may have had something to do with his many moves, but there’s a lot we don’t know. I think this book would work best in conjunction with other books about Beethoven, but that said I really enjoyed the fun this author had asking “What if?”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I had many plans for this summer. Plans for the house, my writing, activities for the kids, planting a garden, getting in shape, organizing my life—you get the picture, right? I knew going in that my “to do” list was too long, and I tried to be realistic. But I also figured that this summer was a great opportunity to get some things done, get my life in order, accomplish some goals. Even if I didn’t get through the whole list I wanted to have some goals. I didn’t want to miss any opportunities.

Of course, these were my plans for the summer. And clearly God had other plans for me. Because of illnesses and deaths in the family (and one high school reunion), we have spent a considerable amount of the late spring and summer traveling and recovering from travel. My husband has been gone even more than I have—I just figured out that in the last 9 weeks he has spent 34 days out of town (that leaves 29 in town.)

Then ten days ago I had all four wisdom teeth removed (another day trip since there are no oral surgeons in town), and honestly, I’m frustrated to still be in recovery mode. It hasn’t been the worst experience, and I didn’t get dry sockets. But I feel out of commission, both physically and emotionally. My brain feels mushy. My motivation to get ready for school in the fall, or teach violin, or write is really, really low. My head aches. The stitches in my mouth, which are supposed to dissolve on their own, are rubbing against my cheeks and gums and creating sores. I was complaining loudly to my family, wondering who in the world thought it would be a better option to give somebody stitches that would dissolve on their own only after three weeks and a lot of discomfort rather than simply take them out. And my son, who is not quite ten, said, “Mom, people are just really unreasonable.” Which is true. That pretty much covers it.

What I’m trying to get at is that my kids are starting to come up with little bits of wisdom. They’re even giving me advice once in a while. Last week Middle counseled me in choosing yarn for a sweater. She was incredibly helpful and supportive; I’m glad I listened to her! My kids are growing. Other things in my life, too, are bearing some fruit. After years of working hard, only because I was convinced that it was what I was supposed to be doing, I’m seeing some little rays of light. Not that I think I can say, “I did A, and now B is happening,” like I can take credit for all of it. I just feel like I’m getting some confirmation, after what feels like a long period of silence and wheel-spinning, that I’m actually in the right place, doing what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s making a really difficult summer look like a summer of miracles.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Poetry Speaks to Children

Found a new gem at the library recently:

 Poetry Speaks to Children (Book & CD) (Read & Hear)ed. by Elise Pschen, illustrated by Judy Love, Wendy Rasmussen and Paula Zinngrabe Wendland, Sourcebooks, Inc., 2005Poetry Speaks to Children (Book & CD) (Read & Hear)

This is part of the Poetry Speaks series, and it’s a really enjoyable collection of poetry. There are classics included, but also a lot of work by contemporary poets, making for a delicious mix of styles. The highlight for me, though, is the CD of poets reading (mostly) their own works. I know how I hear things when I read them, but getting to hear how the poet hears the same thing—I don’t know, that just really appeals to the musician in me. Somehow it brings everything to life. This stuff is for performing and sharing, and then for thinking about and sharing some more. (If you think poetry is boring, I would say you just haven't found the right poetry yet--dig in!)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Book Love

Oldest, who will be ten in September, came into the bathroom a few nights ago while I was overseeing our three year-old’s bedtime routine. I think his face was actually glowing. “Mom, I love reading so much I could die!”

I know the feeling. And I’m so thankful we share it. All five of us, in fact, get awfully excited about books. We get so geeky and excited at the library or at a good used book sale—I personally think it’s beautiful.

We each have our own particular ways of loving books and of sharing them. Oldest reads me passages that make him laugh. Middle retells entire stories and passes along little bits of information she’s discovered. Youngest “reads” in bed every night just like everybody else, and is thrilled with the idea of learning to read. And—this may say more about my housekeeping skills than anything else—every bed in the house has a mess of books around it (or on it) that must not be touched because “I’m reading that!”

Anne Lamott says it so beautifully in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Lifewhen she explains why the work of writing is so important:

Because for some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life—wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.

Friday, July 2, 2010

On Fabulous Intentions

I’m curious—what book are you trying to slog through that you just can’t bring yourself to finish? Why do you want to read it? And when do you decide that life is just too short to keep reading this particular book?

For me right now, there are two books:

1. Parzival, by Wolfram von Eschenbach. I’m on page 148. Here's the thing:  I want to read medieval narrative poetry and be entranced by it. The story is fascinating, and Parzival is an interesting character. I want to know and love this book! But the style is daunting, and the effort it takes to keep going is starting to overshadow my desire to be able to say I’ve read the book. Even if nobody ever asks. I haven’t given up on it yet, but I keep finishing other books first.

2. The Shack, by William P. Young. My mother-in-law was curious to know what I thought of it. Honestly, I didn’t like it. (She didn’t either.) Sorry. I know there are lots of people who love this book, and it’s supposed to be life-changing, but it really, really, really didn’t do it for me. I got annoyed enough with it to quit reading it.

How about you?

On a related note, is there anything floundering in your stack of books to be read that somehow just never makes it to the top? How come?