Wednesday, June 13, 2012

25 of 30: Dinner with Anyone

If you haven't been following along from the beginning, click here.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?

Okay.. since this is my dinner party, I'm inviting two people. ;) Got a problem with that? Well, then, you're not invited to my awesomely awesome dinner party.

My first guest would be Nephi. Yeah, I know... what a church-y response. I've mentioned this before. I admire his strength, passion and tenderness. He courageously did what he knew was right in spite of peer-pressure and many, many other trials. His writings reveal a little bit about who he was as a person. Even though he was serious in his personal history, he was kind and forgiving, which means he must have had a wonderful sense of humor too. ;)
I think a conversation with him, person to person, would be inspirational and fun. Plus, he's supposed to be pretty buff and kinda cute (I imagine), so that's the reason for the other guest.. we can't give people the wrong idea, here! Ha! Ha!

My second guest would be Diana Wynne Jones, the author. She was a major influence in my desire to write. I found out several years ago that she was also dyslexic. I don't have a disability that directly effects my ability to write. If she can write dozens of books without dyslexia stopping her, I can certainly write my stories too!
Her sense of humor is charming as well as hilarious.

As for food, I'd really like to say that I would be so engrossed in my conversation with Nephi and Diana that I wouldn't care what we had for dinner... but, honestly, I'm too much of a control freak when it comes to hosting to do something like that.

I'm pretty sure that Nephi wasn't a vegetarian... yeah. Hunted with a bow and his brothers kept trying to kill him... I guess he was in the original Hunger Games. As for Diana, I have no clue, but we'll just assume that she ate meat.

So, we'd have fat, juicy burgers from the grill. We'll have a variety of toppings: bacon (was Nephi kosher?), onion, lettuce, cheese, grilled pineapple, pickle (not for me.. ew), tomato, sauteed mushrooms, avacado, etc... with all the appropriate condiments.

I'd make my bacon-stuffed cherry tomatoes. Everyone loves them.. it's too bad I can't claim the recipe as my own.

My mom's cottage cheese jello salad with mandarin oranges, pineapple and whipped cream! YUM!

I'd splurge on the drinks and get Henry Weinhard Root Beer, Cream Soda and Orange Cream Soda.

For dessert, we'd have warm chocolate chip cookies and milk...

Then we'd sit in front of the TV with a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream for each of us and watch a Jane Austen film... yes... of course Nephi would like it!

I'd cuddle up with........... Ben. Of course.

And it would be perfect.. :)

Next time: What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

12 More, 32 left... Sprinting for Home!

Here is the other half of the list of 24. After finishing these books, we took a short break. We read a few books off the list and signed the kids up for the summer reading programs with both of the local libraries.

51. Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems - (★) The kids liked this one a lot. It was easy to follow what was going on and the kids were very concerned for the little girl who lost her bunny. I love Mo Willems' books. They speak to young children in fun and simple ways.

52. Ladybug Girl by Jacky Davis; David Soman - (★) A friend of mine recommended the Ladybug Girl books to me several years ago, but I procrastinated checking them out and then forgot all about them. Lulu dresses up as Ladybug Girl and, when she does, she can be a super hero in her own way. We got one other Ladybug Girl book when we checked out the first one because I had a hunch that the kids would like it. Boy, was my instinct right on! We might just have to read every one there is!

53. Lemons Are Not Red by Laura Vaccaro Seeger - (★) This was another window book. On the first page was a plastic window shaped like a lemon, but the color showing through the window was red. It stated on the page that lemons are not red. When you turn the page, there is an apple there: But apples are! The lemon shaped window is now showing a color from the previous page, which is yellow. This continues through the book, explaining that fruits and vegetables are NOT this color, but this other fruit or vegetable is. This was a fun discovery-style book for my kids. I think I might check it out again some time to see if my kids (instead) can tell me what color is right and what fruit or vegetable the wrong color might belong to... ;)

55. Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney - (★) We love the Llama, Llama books in our house. We were given Llama, Llama Misses Mama as a gift from my mother several months ago and my kids love it. So, it was a no-brainer to check out this one as well. The messages are fairly subtle in these books, helping to ease the worries of young children. In this case, the little llama was worried that his mama left after he went to bed. My kids have expressed this same worry to us. I think this is yet another series that we will have to collect for our own shelves.

57. Madlenka by Peter Sís - (★) My kids liked this book fairly well. I had difficulty reading it because quite a lot of the important bits were crammed into the perimeter of each page and were frequently sideways or upside down. It was a fun exploration of different cultures that can be found in a simple neighborhood. In the end, Madlenka tells her mother that she spent the afternoon traveling around the world. If it hadn't been difficult for me to read and explain the tiny details on the edges of the pages, I think this book would have been more meaningful to my kids.

58. The Mightiest by Keiko Kasza - (★) This book reads like an old folk tale. Several large animals find a crown in the forest with a sign saying that it is for "The Mightiest". The animals compete for the crown by seeing who can scare a sweet old lady the most... if you have read many folk tales, you can probably guess how this tale turns out. If you haven't, you should check it out. This is a simple tale that makes for a great introduction to this style of story-telling.

59. Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton - (★) I found this story slightly dull, since I am a bad person. My kids liked it though. Mike and his steam shovel attempt to finish a big job in one day. The big question is: Will they finish in time? Like I said, my kids liked it. My son especially likes any book about construction machines. :)

60. Moose Tracks! by Karma Wilson - (★1/2) The story's narrator tells a tale of how his house has many animal visitors but there are inexplicable moose tracks all over the place. The kids were just as perplexed as the narrator and I must admit that I wasn't quite sure what was going on until nearly the end. Cute story!

61. Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham - (★) The title of this story is rather misleading since Mr. Grumpy really isn't grumpy at all. In fact, he's an incredibly patient and kind man, inviting everyone he passes on his outing. It was a fun romp for my kids, completely immersed in this little book.

62. Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming - (★) This was super fun to read aloud. The gardener plants a garden and looks forward to eating the lovely vegetables. When the night comes, however, some little bunnies hop in and "Tippy, tippy, tippy, Pat!" they hop into the garden and "Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!" on the gardener's vegetables. The gardener goes to great lengths to stop the bunnies from getting to his garden, with little success. I shall repeat, this book is completely worth reading out loud. The rhythm was half the fun!

63. My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann - (★) Mouse and his friend, Rabbit are having fun playing with Mouse's airplane when it gets stuck in a tree. Rabbit enlists the help of many other animals to get the airplane out of the tree, much to the other animal's irritation. The pictures and story were simple and cute. It was easy for my kids to see how Rabbit's plan wasn't the best.

64. My Garden by Kevin Henkes - (★) We all liked this story quite a lot. The little girl featured in this story talks about the gardens that she can see, but then imagines what she would grow in her own garden. She would grow chocolate rabbits, tomatoes as big as beach balls, flowers that change color and seashells! The pictures are beautiful and imaginative. While Audrey knew that you can't grow chocolate rabbits in a garden, she was charmed by the story, nontheless! Very cute!

I have a few more that we have read since these, but I've let the kids pick out most of the books the last few times we've gone. I'll be getting back to the list very soon! :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Game Has Changed

I bundled my little family into the car and drove up north. I was on my way to support my husband, knowing full well that it could either be in celebration or commiseration. The drive was long, my children short of patience. It wasn't long before they wondered when they would get to see their dad. I anticipate answering that question frequently.

I missed the turnoff. A few minutes later, I rolled in and looked for a parking spot. I had been rushing, trying to get there "on time" without knowing exactly what "on time" really was.

They buzzed me in and scanned me for any dangerous substances. Audrey wanted to be scanned, too. When the lady obligingly did so, I knew the people in this place wouldn't be all that bad, after all. Henry folded in on himself, not at all interested in being scanned. This turned out to be okay with the lady, too.

She eased my worries with a few simple words as she showed me the lobby area. Everything with my husband was going smoothly and we would see him soon.

We got our visitor badges and sat down. The kids were handed gift baggies filled with things to keep a child entertained, for at least five minutes. Crayons, toy cars, stickers and paper-winged planes were scattered around in almost no time at all. At least they were happy...

Ben walked through, looking serious and busy, but had enough time to kiss his family hello before he had to run off again. Several minutes later, he came back and sat with us for a few minutes, cuddling the kids and whispering gentle words. It wasn't long before they called for him again.

I recalled the old adage: Hurry up and wait.

They finally called us visitors back and led us to the room where Ben was waiting with three others. They stood quiet and serious, facing the front of the room. The kids took what they felt was their place at their father's side.

I was most surprised by his refusal to even crack the smallest smile or allow the twinkle to reach his eyes. He can be serious after all.    (I wondered if he would get his uniform but, alas, he won't get that until Basic.)

I now wish I had paid closer attention while the officiator was speaking. I was too busy taking pictures and keeping my children quiet to listen carefully. He answered in unison with the other three the officiator's questions with a sharp barking reply. I was startled, awed and almost instantly felt a little silly.

He solemnly swears he is up to no good. ;)
I couldn't resist.

Will I ever get all the flags straight in my mind?

Proud Dad. Proud kids. Proud Mom.

On the way home, the tears leaked out of their own accord; sometimes brought on by a surge of emotion, sometimes by no apparent reason at all. If Ben noticed, he didn't say. Something clicked into place for me. A part of our lives belong to the faceless entity of our country, but the rest of our lives have suddenly started to make a lot more sense.

The game has changed.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

12 titles, 44 left.. More than half-way!

Okay, so, I've had to split what we've already finished reading into two lists, just to make the blogs easier to handle. I actually have twenty-four books that we've read since last time. When I looked at that list, I decided that no one wanted to read about twenty-four books all in one go!

You're welcome! ;)

38. The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster - (★) I realized after we read this that the author of this book also wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, one of my favorite childhood books. It was a fun little story about a little girl who visits with her grandparents, and one of their traditions is the Hello, Goodbye Window. They can wave to each other, see the stars, see their reflection on a dark night and see the garden through this window.
I personally did not like the illustrations, in spite of the Caldecott award. The kids seemed to like it, though.

39. The Hoppameleon by Paul Geraghty - (★) The kids really liked this book, and the adults liked it too. It's about a "strange" creature who doesn't know what he is. (He's a tree frog!) In his journey to find out what he is and to find a friend like him, he notes the similarities between himself and other animals. I won't spoil the fun of revealing his ultimate guess on his name! The kids, especially Miss A, were engaged and frequently tried to tell the frog that he was a frog! Very cute!

40. How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long - (★) A little boy plays on the beach when he discovers a pirate ship just off shore. He tries to bring it to his family's attention, but they're all too busy to notice. So, the pirates take him on an adventure! It's almost too good to be true for a little boy! He doesn't have to brush his teeth or take a bath. He doesn't have to eat fruits or vegetables. He doesn't even have to go to bed until he wants to. But, when he's ready to go to bed, who will read him a story and tuck him in? Certainly not a pirate! This was a good story for my kids. It was interesting and amusing.

41. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child - (★1/2) A little girl is charged by her mother to feed her younger sister, who must be the pickiest child on the planet! The older sister must get inventive in order to compel her sister to eat anything at all. Audrey seemed to take in stride all the older sister's made-up foods. She knew they weren't really called those silly names. This is an issue we've dealt with in our own little family, but instead of making up silly names for food, we simply insist that they taste everything, even if they are just convinced they won't like it. ;)

42. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff - (★) My kids love all the "If you Give a..." books. We were lucky enough to inherit this book from my sister a couple of weeks ago. The illustrations are colorful and amusing and the cyclical story-telling style is so much fun. My kids have almost got to the point where they can anticipate the final line of each story.

43. If You’re Hoppy by April Pulley Sayre - (★1/2) This story takes the basic idea from the song, "If You're Happy and You Know It". The pictures were cute and the kids loved looking at the animals' antics. I only give it a lower score because after the first one or two "verses", the rhythm became harder to apply to that of the song. I struggled with that for the remainder of the story. I'm not completely sure that my kids realized the connection to the song for that very reason. They did enjoy the book, however!

44. I’m Not Cute! by Jonathan Allen - (★) This story was completely adorable and reminded me of my own little boy who frequently insists that he is not cute (or handsome). A baby owl is consistently accosted with hugs by all the other forest animals because they say he is so cute! He insists over and over again that he is not cute, but a deadly night hunter! His mother, of course, knows just what to say to make him feel better! ;)

45. The Imaginary Garden by Andrew Larsen - (★) I enjoyed the encouragement of imagination in this book. A girl's grandfather moves to the city and can no longer have a garden. So, the two of them create their own garden on the roof of his building. As they add more and more details, the garden comes alive. The final details are added by the little girl, herself. The pictures were lovely and the story completely sweet.

46. In My Backyard by Margriet Ruurs - (★3/4) The first picture of the backyard is grayed out but, as each part of the backyard is described and the plants and animals described, the picture comes into full color. This was a very simple, informative book that kept the interest of my children. I, personally, would have liked a little more variety and description of what can be in our own backyards, encouraging discussion with my children, but it was a good book, nonetheless.

47. It’s a Secret! by John Burningham - (★) The little girl in this story wonders where her cat goes when he leaves at night. One night she says up to find out and he carefully explains to her that she can go but she must keep it a Secret! Honestly, I was a little nervous about this book to begin with. I know that secrets are an exciting part of the world of children, but with some of the "secrets" adults force upon children, I'm a little sensitive to anything that even hints in that direction. I'm not trying to imply anything about this story. It was a cute little story, if a little strange and had a vague, gently sinister quality to it. Perhaps it was the dark quality of the illustrations that put me off.

48. The King’s Taster by Kenneth Oppel - (★) The narrator of this story is the dog who belongs to the King's Chef. The dog always tastes everything before the King to make sure that nothing tastes bad or is poisoned! But the old King dies and the new King doesn't like anything the Chef makes! The child-king finds crazy and inventive ways to express his displeasure about the food. The Chef and the dog travel the world to learn new recipes to serve the King, but in the end, something else is spoiling the King's appetite!   Yet another great book about letting kids try a variety of food! The pictures were great and the story was fun. The kids really liked it a lot.

49. The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn - (★) I loved this story so much and, yes, it even made me a little teary-eyed. A little raccoon must go to his first night at school and doesn't want to leave his mother. His mother teaches him a way to remember her and feel that she is close by. This was a sweet, tender story that I really enjoyed reading to the kids. I think they really enjoyed it too. Audrey is old enough that stories about love make a deep impression on her. If I ever find this book in the store, I'm buying it!

Monday, June 4, 2012

24 of 30: Family Dynamic

If you haven't been following along from the beginning, click here.

Describe your family dynamic of your childhood vs. your family dynamic now.

My family is large. There are seven of us kids spanning thirteen years. So, it goes without saying that there was a certain amount of chaos in our house with all the comings, goings, tantrums, fighting, hurt feelings, rowdy playing, et cetera... It wasn't as bad as it sounds and, most of the time, I really wasn't aware of how busy everything always was. It just WAS. We sat down to family dinner every night. We went to church every Sunday.

For me, what I remember of my childhood was idyllic in many ways. I didn't have to worry about anything except the teasing of my siblings or getting into trouble for the myriad of idiotic situations I would get myself into. I always had playmates, whether I wanted them or not. I don't remember feeling bored too often. I used to think that boredom was impossible while we lived in California, but I have come to realize as I've grown older that there was simply so much going on all the time. It also helped that we had a pool. ;)

Some of my siblings have said that our parents weren't "around" all the time. I think they were trying to say that my parents, trying to stay out of the chaos, often sequestered themselves in their room/office areas. I think I felt that way for a while, too. Now, when I think about it, I think they were always around (except when Dad was at work). I seem to recall that they were always somewhere in the background. There is a distinct immaterial wall between childhood and adulthood. I was aware of my parents enough to know that they were there in case anything happened that needed their attention, for good or ill. But, in my infinite world of play and pretend, they simply did not figure. They were the all-powerful, vaguely disinterested Watchers over all us kids.

As I grew older, the wall surrounding childhood started to fade and grow thin. I was more aware of my parents as real people with their own interests and feelings. I became keenly aware of the impact of my behavior on my family, especially my mother. I could tell when I irritated or disappointed her. As a young child, it wouldn't have made an impact on me at all.

Things are different now in many ways. All us kids, for the most part, have become peers as well as siblings. We've come to the point where the youngest can say something just as important as the eldest without fear of "What do you know? You're just the baby." We've grown up... mostly. We are learning to move past the bruised feelings of childhood and getting to know our siblings as people. It is surreal in many ways to be surprised by someone you spent your whole life knowing. Shouldn't we know each other inside and out? Apparently not. I'm still learning.

Our parents still have our respect as our parents. The wise ones. The ones who cared for us while we were young. But now, they are no longer the Disciplinarians, the Rule Enforcers, the Because-I-Said-So's.... They are the Loving Grandparents, the Wise Council, the We-Can-Laugh-Together-Now-Because-Spanking-Is-Impractical....

Family gatherings are even more chaotic now. When you figure in spouses and children, a complete family reunion can see about forty people. The grandchildren range from adults (18+) all the way to newborn babies. Some people in the family are still thinking about increasing their own little families. Some of the grandchildren are starting their own.

We aren't all in the same stage in life, nor should we be. We have different strengths and weaknesses. We can help each other with our personal experiences and knowledge. At the core of it all, and the thing that never changed, is the fact that we are bound together by family, love and friendship.

Next Time: If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?


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