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Thou Shalt Not LEGO (registered trademark)

30 Nov

Let’s get two things straight right up front:  I love God.  I love LEGOS®.

Goodness, writing that makes me think that God deserves all-caps and a registered trademark, or something.  Greek, maybe?

Despite my love of these things I’m a little cautious about the combination of the two.  As it stood, the LEGO® Star Wars™ Advent Calendar stretched my understanding of the building blocks of the liturgical year far enough.  But then my children brought this home from the library.

Cover

The book is by “”The Reverend””  Brendan Powell Smith.  Please note the double quotation marks, I just want to make it clear that I am simply quoting his quotes.  I do not think that punctuation mark means what he thinks it means.

The Reverend

Mr. Powell Smith has a “calling” (once again, his word, not mine) to illustrate Bible stories with plastic bricks.  He’s done over two hundred, but despite his expertise, it would seem that even this self-ordained expert finds some limitations within his medium.  For instance, festering boils appear to need the aid of a photoshop physician.

Festering Boils

And animals must be tricky.  Most four-legged creatures in the stories bear a close resemblance to Dr. Who’s K-9.K9 Passover Lamb

But somewhere along the line “”The Reverend”” got his paws on a Lego cat, because Pharaoh’s kitty nudges her way onto multiple photo spreads.  Maybe Hermione’s Crookshanks somehow apparated on the scene.

Pharaoh's Cat

He does get bonus points for his creative use of the drowning horse that I bet he assembled using that elusive piece from the Godfather Lego Set.Horse Head

And I don’t think this falls into the animal category, but, are those dragons on top of the Arc of the Covenant?

Ark of the Covenant

He probably should have considered adding a PG-13 rating to the book for sexual content, nudity and violence.  Transparent red bricks flow on many a page.  True Old Testaments artists don’t shy away from blood and guts.

Blood

And the yellow flesh is shocking.  First,  Pharoah’s daughter is bathing in the river.  I hate to throw around labels, but can you say ‘flat chested?”

Naked Bath

Later she gives Moses back to his mother for a little topless nursing.  Uncomfortable, and not just because they are squarish plastic objects.

Nursing Moses

And, I’ll admit, talking about the sixth commandment with children is always awkward, but I don’t think this helps.

Sixth Commandment

But it’s not all bad.  The bright side of this book is that I will never again feel compelled to sweep the kitchen on Sundays.

Sabbath Slay

Even if it means I have step on a LEGO® or two.

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Or . . .

30 Apr

I know we usually reserve bookish blog posts for Friday, but sticking to a schedule hasn’t been our strong point lately.

Shoot, posting hasn’t been our strong point lately.

But here I am.  On a Monday.  Posting.  About a book.

I have a good reason, though.  Here it is:

We first encountered the Modern Mrs. Darcy when reading Pride and Prejudice over at A Classic Case of Madness.  Then I found out she was hosting this nice carnival, and since I prefer my carnivals free of overpriced fried foods and death-defying buckets of bolts, participating seemed like a lovely idea.

My first impulse was to write this post for our book blog, but I couldn’t pick one of the books.  So instead, you should go read Adriana’s post about The Well-Educated Mind.  She gets it.  And, she has clever, beautiful pictures to accompany her clever, beautiful words.

I, on the other hand, am floundering to pick a book, forget photos and carefully crafted prose.

I could write on something spiritual, like, say, Spirituality of the Cross.  Gene Veith wrote this simple book on life in Christ that made me say, “Oh!  Of course that’s what I believe!  Now I get it.”

For that matter, Music Matters by David. J. Elliot shaped my entire philosophy of music education and drove my college career, I suppose that’s pretty life changing.

Speaking of careers, the Lutheran Service Book is at the core of my career and my prayer life, so it probably deserve a little coverage.

But maybe I should tell you a romantic story.  For instance,  I fell in love with my husband while we were reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy aloud to one another in the first weeks of our relationship.

Or how about when I fell in love with him all over again as he read aloud Charlotte’s Web to our infant son?  Maybe e.b. white wins the honor.

I suppose even Mary Pope Osborne deserves some credit, because the day that same first-born child really “got” reading was when he picked up her Christmas in Camelot.  His independence and enjoyment in the book filled my heart with joy that we were rearing a reader.

Or, I could tell you how completing Don Quixote with my two dear friends gave me a high I can only imagine equals that of completing a marathon, minus the achy limbs and chafing, of course.  With pages coming in at nearly a grand, I knew finishing that book made me a Reader, and possibly a little crazy.  Together with those friends, we have made our way through at least 3886 pages of the classics, using The Well-Educated Mind as our road map.

And Susan Wise Bauer didn’t just change my life by opening the classics.  Through The Well-Trained Mind she and her mother are instrumental in teaching me how and what to teach my children.

Maybe The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society deserves the credit though.  Not only did it bring me immense enjoyment, it is the book that turned my non-reading, sixty-year-old mother into a Book Addict.  I’d call that life-changing.

And I don’t want to leave out The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency and These Is My Words: They Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine.  Mma Ramotswe and Sarah are two of my very best friends.  I introduced Sarah to my sister, and my sister introduced Precious to me.  We’re all bosom buddies.  They should be on the list.

Anybody have any good recommendations for a book on decision making?

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It’s Vertical

20 Apr

Way back in March it was Dr. Suess’ birthday.  March of 2011, that is.  There was probably one this year, too, but 2011 is the one that was mentioned in the pre-blog e-mails.  And, as you’ll soon see, the boys weren’t begging to put this holiday in permanent marker on the calendar.

So, enjoy this belated homage to Theodore Geisel, and if you’re free tonight or tomorrow night, pop over to West Michigan Lutheran High School and see their production of the Seussification of Romeo and Juliet.  I hear there will be Seuss related concessions, surely more appetizing than what you are about to encounter.

Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them Sam-I-am?
Do you like them in a pan?
They look funny in a pan.
Would you like them in a bowl?
I would not, could not, in a bowl.
I do not like them in a bowl.
I do not like the way you roll.
I do not like them on a plate,
I will not smile or celebrate.
I do not like the way they look.
Why, Dr. Suess?  Why write this book?
I do not like them next to cheese,
I will not eat them, if you please.
I cannot try them, they’re not da bomb,
I DO NOT LIKE THEM, MOM!  I’M THOM!

Author’s note:
They’re pretty good with New York Cheddar,
But Eggs Benedict taste much better.

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C E B S B A L R

13 Apr

No books to see here today, folks, but lots of words, because –

It’s National Scrabble Day!

Okay, so I wouldn’t have known that today was the 113th birthday of Scrabble creator Alfred Mosher Butts had it not been for my ever-on-top-of-it friend.  So, thank you, Jeannette.

In light of the holiday, (I’m not throwing that word around too loosely, am I?) we utilized the “Mom’s Choice” time-slot to learn the fine game.  Mom’s Choice is the period from 1:00-1:30 when then children don’t know what to expect out of our homeschooling schedule.  Will it be a read-aloud?  Maybe an art project?  Baking time, anybody?  A walk around the block?  Shoot, they’re just happy when it isn’t picking up their room, or trip to the grocery store.  For that matter, I’m pretty pumped when it isn’t one of those two things, as well.

The boys learned this classic board game, and I also learned a lesson or two.  I’ll share those with you.

1.  A lot of spelling, phonics, adding, multiplying, and counting can be accomplished without ever using the words spelling, phonics, adding, multipying and counting.

2.  The opposite of a Winning Game is a Losing Game.  Neither is desirable when pitting a Reader against an Almost Reader.

3.  Nonreaders are not affected by the Winning vs. Losing aspect of the game because the Nonreader is also a little foggy on numbers.

4.  The Nonreader needs to review counting to seven.

5.  When aided by the Nonreader in cleaning a shaker’s worth of pepper off the table so you can begin play, remember to have said child wash his hands before rubbing his tired eyes.  Failure to do so will increase the child’s necessity for naptime and shorten the game dramatically.

6.  Scrabble is not designed for Nonreaders.

7.  Timers help you pass the time, especially when you find the game “not that interesting.”

8.  There is no apparent audible difference between the words ‘scramble’ and ‘Scrabble.’

9.  Team Scrabble lends an added challenge to the game.

10.  Everyone should go play Scrabble right away.  Cecilia said so.

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I forgot one thing. Nope, two.

23 Mar

The other day when I typed up the list of super-duper-life-changing March events I knew something was missing.  It didn’t hit me until I was listening to NPR today, and they were talking about the Health Care Bill and all that hoopla.  My memory immediately skipped to that warm March day two years ago when I watched President Obama use no less than twenty pens to put his John Hancock on the historical document.

What?  Your’e having a hard time believing that the signing of the Health Care bill was really that important in my life?  Well, you’re mostly right.  The bill itself, well, let’s just say we will not be lauding or debating it here at this blog.  In case you haven’t noticed, that’s not really the kind of ship we run around here.

But it is important to me, because I have vivid memories of sitting in the waiting room at St. Mary’s Hospital watching the live news feed and thinking that it would be an interesting historical memory to share with my future son or daughter.

I was wrong.  But only about the word “or.”

A few minutes later the ultrasound technician showed me this:

and our lives changed forever.

I remember more tiny details about that day than any other.

I remember that when I asked the tech if I could call my husband while she changed the paperwork to reflect twins she said, “I don’t think I’m going to be able to stop you.”

I remember that the first word out of my beloved Jerry’s mouth was, “Interesting.”

Aha! It's Friday, and this is a book. I did manage to work it in!

I remember that I had to repeat myself several times before either my mom or sister would believe me.

I remember that I went to Blimpie and bought myself a 12-inch sub and could hardly keep myself from announcing to every person in the restaurant that I was having twins.

I remember explaining to the Simeon that we were having twins, just like the ones in the Beverly Cleary book Two Times the Fun, even though there was a set in his Kindergarten class, and others at church he knew.

I remember saying the word “Twins” outloud over and over trying to make it seem real.

I remember showing the ultrasound picture to everyone who would look.

I remember understanding the concept of being so excited I couldn’t sleep for the first time in my life.

And yet somehow I missed March 23 in my list.  I ‘ve been forgetful ever since.

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Not the Eddie Murphy version

9 Mar

We have a new obsession at our house. It’s The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting.

Oh, what joy the digital pages of that free download are bringing my boys. I’m telling you – public domain books are where it’s at.

Not only is it a charming little read with fanciful ideas and interesting characters – reading it via Kindle for iPad (if you want to get specific) is super super fun. Yep. You read that right. Super. Super. Fun.

See, the book is packed full of all sorts of geographical and zoological references. Some real. Some less than so. For instance, when the Purple Bird of Paradise flew over the Azores we could immediately Google both. Azores: real. Purple Bird of Paradise: less than so. Photographs of the beautiful localle now flood our mind while images of a swooping feathery wonder flood our mind’s eye.

Another tidbit learned whilst researching: The Fidgit Fish is a creation of Hugh Lofting, whereas the little guy’s most frightful nemesis, the Dogfish, is a creation of God (read: REAL). Imagine how hungry the Dogfish has been all these years searching for his make-believe snack!

My suggestion is this: Get yourself a Kindle (advertisement endorsment, please), or an iPhone (pretty please), or an iPad (Apple, do you hear me?), or a really relevant set of Encyclopedias that follow you around as you read, and sit down with this classic. Its fusion of fact and fantasy is fascinating. Find the stuff at your fingertips and Flash! – fiction fun.

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Life’s a Fillet of Fish

10 Feb

Yes, it is.

It’s been one of those days.  You know the type, where every time you turn around there’s spilled milk, pencil writing on the wall, toddlers plummeting off desks, odd literary cakes to bake, leaky dirty diapers, second graders who can’t remember long vowels, knitting stitches that don’t add up, 467 small stones spilled on the floor of the unheated sunroom, and the clock reads just 10:32.

And to top it all off I’m bookless.  There is a giant void in my life where a book should be.   It’s very uncomfortable.  So this Friday you’ll have to settle for a movie/soundtrack/DVD post.  Can we all agree to dumb ourselves down for the day and let that happen?  Whew.  I’m glad.

Yes Thomas, it’s time to start the music.

Several weeks ago we checked out some old Muppet Shows from the library to occupy the hour or so of screen time that makes it possible for me to prep supper, fold laundry, talk to my sister, and visit the restroom in peace.  Go ahead, call the Good Mommy Police,  because at about 5:00 p.m., solitary confinement sounds cozy to me.

Kermit and his gang were an instant hit.  And since my tolerance for Imaginex and Planet Heroes DVD’s sometimes wains, this was a huge score.  I don’t mind having  Harry Belafonte, Julie Andrews, Paul Simon, and even Fozzie the Bear accompany my evening ritual chant of “Serenity Now!”

We kept riding that Muppet bandwagon and purchased Simeon the soundtrack from the new Muppet Movie for his birthday.  Also an instant hit. It’s been blaring out of the stereo singers (Thomas only calls them speakers if he’s playing on audiobook) during every free moment of the day, and some moments at night.  You see, the boys and I are still in negotiations about when night ends and morning begins.

My dear nephews first introduced us to the soundtrack over Christmas break, but at the time, I was blinded by a bright flashback to fourth grade.  Because on this fabulous CD is “We Built This City” by Starship – song so popular in 1985 that Stacy and I knew it.  And what that means, is that this song was really, really popular.

Our little school, all seven of us, made up a recess dance routine to perform while we belted what I now know were the incorrect lyrics across the barren corn fields.  We leapt out of swings, jumped over teeter-totters, circled the propane tank.  The song was awesome, the choreography was awesome, we were awesome.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone to contradict me – those cows are long gone.

I haven’t taught the kids the routine yet.  Hmmm . . . maybe that’s a solution to my day.  We seem to already have our own soundtrack, maybe all we really needs now is a dance number.

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No Questions Asked

27 Jan

We’re big audiobook fans at our house.  Big.  Fans.

I don’t think I’m giving Lana Quintal too much credit when I say that her portrayal of Junie B. Jones may have been the only thing that prevented our children from burning down the house while I slept off an entire Twin Pregnancy.

And while there is a current Junie B. Audio Ban due to psychosomatic relapses of acute nausea, many others have since filled our 5-CD changer.  The latest is the fourth installment of Harry Potter.

Yes, we’re Harry Potter fans.  I won’t confuddle the issue by trying to defend it, but I’ll happily point you to a smart, faithful Pastor who has his finger on the pulse of this story-line.

So, back to the Triwizard Tournament.  It is right up the boys’ alley.  They love it all – the secret tasks, the obstacles at every corner, the points awarded to their favorite Champion.  They spent three days listening during every spare minute they could convince me to allow the stereo to be on.

And then they got to the end of the last task, and I said something like, “Hey boys, let’s finish the book tomorrow instead of right before bedtime.  They end is kind of sad and scary.”

I didn’t have to convince.  I didn’t have to ask twice.  I didn’t have to nag.  I didn’t have to power down on my own.

Nope.  Up they popped, raced to hit the stop button, and not another word was spoken.

That was three days ago.

Three days without a single request to finish the book.  Three days without mention of Harry Potter.  Three days without the slightest query into the outcome of book four.

In their minds Harry and Cedric tied and will share the spotlight as CoTriwizard Champions.  The End.

These boys definitely belong to me.

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Tying Knots with Sticks

20 Jan

So here’s something you may or may not know about me:  I’m a knitter.  Well, right now I might be better known as a person who knits, but here’s a little proof that I once was a knitter.

Yup, that’s my super cute sister wearing a sweater vest I KNIT FOR HER!  See those cables?  See that ribbing?  See the fitted shape?  That is the work of of a knitter.

Here’s another example.

Fair Isle in fingering weight.  This mitten dates back to 2009.  His partner in crime, is, well, suffering from a severe case of SSS.  That’s Second Sock Syndrome for those of you nonknitterly types.  That’s when finishing the first sock (or mitten) is thrilling, and yet the very idea of starting all over again and knitting virtually the exact same thing is a total drag that you can’t face.

This is a severe case.  Although I’m happy to report that over Christmas break I did pull the 1/4 inch of left hand out of storage and extended it so that at least my lower palm is covered.

I didn’t invent SSS.  It’s been around for hundreds of years.  But I’m not even the one who came up with the first diagnosis.  That honor is bestowed upon Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.  You might know her as the Yarn Harlot.  Or you might not know her at all, and that would be a shame.  Go read her blog, she’s a fantastic writer and clever knitter.  Or visa versa.  The adjectives are interchangable.

But it’s not her blog or the frost bite on my left pinky that has me picking up the needles again these days.  Nope, it’s a book.  Her book.  Her latest book  (she has other equally entertaining, educational, and enjoyable reads.)

It’s super cute, isn’t it?  Even if you aren’t a knitter, doesn’t it just look like a pleasant, cozy, not-at-all scratchy read?  Listen to what the Library Journal has to say about Pearl-McPhee.

. . . a sort of David Sedaris-like take on knitting – laugh-out-loud funny most of the time and poignantly reflective when it’s not cracking you up.

That’s the kind of stuff I want people, not to mention librarian people, saying about me, so it’s certainly the stuff I’m going to read when I have a spare moment or two.

And that is when I’m reading this, in my spare moments.  It’s my current “toothbrush book.”   You know, the book that you read while you brush your teeth, or put your socks on, or wait for the gas tank to be filled.

That is, unless I’m knitting.

In case you’re worried, the book isn’t all chock-full of *k1, p2, k2tog, YO, k1* that will make your head spin fast enough to whip up a skein of 3-ply merino.  Sure, it is centered around knitting, and knitters, but there are whole stories that we can all relate to, like the death of her beloved washing machine.  Now come on, that’s a timeless tale.

Plus, it might inspire you to learn to knit.  Face it, you know you want to.

And if you already love knitting, or even love a knitter, this book will make you make sense to yourself, or make sense of that knitter you love.  Promise.

So what have we learned today?

1) You should probably learn to knit.

and

2) If knitting is too fiddly for you then you should at least throw on a sweater, pick up some chopsticks and click them together serenely while reading the Yarn Harlot’s book.

* I’m sorry, those aren’t asterisks directing you down here, just more knitting jargon.  Please carry on.

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I’ll take your advice

13 Jan

Do you know what I love? Book recommendations. Love them. Do you know why? Because if someone is passionate enough about something to actually recommend it then it must be worth at least a glance. Don’t you agree?

For instance, the book I’m reading now, To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis, was a Facebook status recommendation. One of my friends just threw it out there. So I picked it up. Why not? The only thing I knew was that this particular friend liked it. What didn’t I know? I didn’t know whether she and I had similar literary taste. She’s an intelligent gal and she doesn’t give a book recommendation every other day, so I felt like this book deserved my time. And let me tell you, a charming read it is. Wonderful. Clever. Interesting. Makes me chuckle. Great recommendation.

Now, I suppose that not every paperback plug is going to be as wildly successful as the one I just mentioned. But what I love about taking a literary suggestion is that I’m bound (get it?) to stumble upon at least SOMETHING interesting because SOMEONE found it just that. Hey, I may even glom onto a new genre obsession. How great is that? Expanding my horizons and that whole bit? Good stuff.

So that’s it. Tell people what you love to read. Make a suggestion on your status. Tweet about it. Recommend something to your pew-mate. Carve your favorite book in a bathroom stall. Buy a billboard and use that. Pass out “I ❤ Atticus Finch” buttons.  We can all benefit from a little reading recommendation.

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