Tag Archives: books

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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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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Going on Book Tour

16 Dec

I’m supposed to talk to you about a book today, judge it by its cover, and give you the whole entertaining scoop.  But, things are very messy around here, and I can’t seem to focus on a book.

Okay, let’s be honest, I can’t seem to focus on much of anything.

So instead, let’s start off Christmas Vacation with a tour of everyone’s favorite death tourist trap, our house.  We’ll even make this fit our Friday theme and make it a Bibliotechnic Tour.

Shall we begin?  Please watch your step.  No seriously, don’t stub your toe on the potato bin the Twins rolled into the living room or pierce your foot on that Imaginext guy’s sword.

Our first stop is the dining room.  Here, underneath our table is our collection of Christmas books.

Some people may prefer to keep their seasonal books under the tree, but then again, they don’t display them in such a classy box, either.  Many of the Christmas books aren’t in here.  In fact, let me thumb through these quickly . . . yes, just as I thought:  These are the ones we haven’t actually read yet, which means that there are approximately 37 other Christmas/Snow/Winter/Santa/Arctic Animal books elsewhere in the house.  Please try not to slip and fall when you step on one.

Next let’s head towards our school area.  Yikes!  Please avert your eyes as we walk past the dining room table.  It looks like the babies have been at it again.

Ah, here’s our eldest, Simeon.  He has one final math review to finish before officially enjoying Christmas Break.

Don’t worry,  “phone a friend” is not an acceptable method of math tutoring at our house.  Talking through your math problems on a toy cell phone in an imaginary conversation with your cousin Owen and good friend Daniel is, however.

And see these?

These are worth three cheers.  Ready?  Hip, Hip, Hooray!  Really, that’s all the better cheer I can get out of a virtual tour group?  Lame.  Well, let me tell you their significance, and maybe I can hear some all caps out of you yet.  In August when I sat down to do long term lesson planning for the year it was my goal to finish these math, astronomy, and ancient history texts by Christmas.  We made it!!!  Can I get a HIP, HIP . . .

Oh, well.  On to my desk.

This stack of books has been edited by some clever elves who wish to keep Christmas presents a surprise.  So now, aren’t you wondering if you are one of the nuts to whom these books will be gifted?

The kitchen is home to many recipe-free books at our house.  Here’s a smattering of what we have on our counters.  First, a hymnal.

I had a bit of work to do this morning, so it’s hanging out here by the computer.  You can tell by the dirty spots on the second page that this hymnal is no stranger to close encounters of the kitchen kind.

While we’re here, please note that we begin observing The Great “O” Antiphons tomorrow.  It’s a great way to count down to the Holy Day.  Also, and get ready because this is a little soap box I like to stand on, the Twelve Days of Christmas actually start on December 25 and carry on until January 5.  We are not in them right now.  That is all.  Rant off.

Under the hymnal is another tome that is rarely out of arm’s reach for me this December.

I’m nearing the end, see?

Will I make it in time to enjoy Christmas Present?

Then there’s the back side of this little work.

I tend to agree with the author of A Series of Unfortunate Events. But, I might be speaking out of turn about ASUE, I only read one volume, and that was nearly eight years ago when I was operating on a touch of baby blues, and only a pinch of sleep.  Maybe they aren’t as dismal as I remember them.

Nah.  They’re bad.  But, on his Aunt’s advice, I will be allowing my son to try them on for his own dismay.

Let’s see, where to next?  How about we wrap up our little tour in the living room.  Did you ever wonder where the books go when you put them in the book drop?  Apparently, right here:

See that book about Petunia.  She wants a pet skunk.  It’s funny stuff.

If you look immediately behind you, our half decorated Christmas tree would be happy to illuminate the room, except, well, we can’t keep it plugged in while the babies are awake.

Our final stop on today’s tour is a book on top of the piano.  This is where, in the context of singing our morning prayers, we read the actual, real life, straight from scripture, Incarnation of Christ, Christmas story.  It’s a Must Hear.

This is a page from the wonderfully helpful resource called Bible Stories for Daily Prayer by Karl Fabrizius.  If you’re looking for a great question/answer/devotional format to read through the Bible with your family, and have Christ illuminated through all of scripture, you should definitely check it out.

So here, in our messy house littered with pages and pages of words, and in our even messier sin-littered hearts, comes The Word to dwell and leave us clean in His forgiveness.

This concludes our tour.  Please stop by the gift shop, and wrap a few items for me while you’re there.  I hope you enjoy the rest of your vacation.  We plan on doing the same.

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Boy Review

25 Nov

Our house is in turmoil.

Angst ridden boys are littering the floor.

We left our book in Ainsworth.

Horrible stuff, I tell you. Makes me shiver. But, lucky for you it leads to this post. Hurrah! Our current family read-aloud is the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. If you haven’t read these books, you should. They are riddled with adventure, conflict, danger, friendship, Greek Mythology, smatterings of humor, and big splashes of really cool monsters. But don’t take my word for it! (Did I just quote Levar Burton???? Butterflies are currently residing in the sky AND my stomach!)

This is what my boys had to say when asked why they love this series:

Owen: It’s just, it’s a book about myths. There’s so much adventure and action.There’s lots of monsters. It’s awesome.

Joseph: I love Percy Jackson because he is awesome. The books are so awesome, because they are so awesome. I love Percy Jackson.

Charlie: Because I do.

So there you have it, folks. Obviously the books are “awesome”. Obviously they are must-reads. So do.

These are them (in case you want to judge them....).

Save the Books

4 Nov

I have a problem, and I’m not afraid to admit it.  I’m a book hoarder.

Have we ever told you that Stacy and I fell heir to an entire elementary school library?  We did.  Granted, it wasn’t a very big elementary school, but in it’s hay-day, and there is a lot of hay near that playground, I think Raven (for that was its name) might have had three rooms.  And I’m not counting the bathroom and porch.  Three classrooms.  That is super huge in the world of one room school houses.

Well, in the last ten years that world has gotten smaller.  Significantly smaller.  As in, there are no more country schools in the county where we grew up.  But Raven held on for a long time.  My childhood friend Amanda was the teacher in those waning years.  And on Raven’s final academic year just she and one student occupied the classroom.  Yep, you read that right.  One student.

When the pair final made their way to Town School (for that is not its name, just what we call it) the contents of the building were up for grabs.  I’m not really sure how all the details fell in place, but it seems that no one wanted the this old school’s library collection.  The Town School and the Public Library already had the titles and didn’t need to incorporate duplicates, and so these dear, beloved tomes were teetering on the edge of destroyment (to borrow a word from my super-smart, well-read nephew.)

Pastor Williams – our good friend, childhood Shepherd, and Rachel’s Father, hereafter known as the Reader’s Rescuer – gathered unto himself the volumes nearing their imminent demise.  He invited our families into his living room to sort through them all, choose whatever we liked, and then forward the remaining works to other voracious readers.  So while our oldest sons still wanted to digest books orally rather than aurally my sister and I fostered a new love, and addiction to literature.

There were plenty of books judged by their covers that day.  The older, dingier, and most frayed covers won immediate spots in our “keep” boxes.  Anything resembling an award or medal also went straight into our possession.

There were also lots of covers that didn’t make the cut. With no regret biographies of Tara Lapinski and Fred Savage continued on their journeys to find that perfect big haired, leg-warmer wearing reader that needed them.  But I still experience guilt pangs for gems that might have been lost due to our ignorance.  Did some classic slip through our hands because a publisher chose to give it a dorky, glossy cover?  Every time I put another title into my library’s search engine I wonder to myself, “Did I once hold this hardcover in my hands only to deem it unworthy of our overcrowded basement bookshelves?”  It haunts me.

That uneasy question is always followed by this one:  “Do we already own this book?”  There’s a good chance.  I have absolutely no idea what books we own anymore.  There are thousands of them.  And while I once had an ambitious week when I decided to catalog the collection in librarything.com,  my efforts were quickly thwarted when I hit their free limit of 200 entries.  (On a sidenote:  if you have any recommendations of ways to organize this mess, I would love to hear them.  And even better yet, if you want to come over and do it for us, that would be great.  I’d give you a free library card.)

And that, my friends, is the story of how our library came to be.  So, now I bet you’re anxious to hear what cover has been chosen to be judged today.  Sorry, I just couldn’t find one.  I think I’ll be heading GRPL now.

Running Away with My Imagination

21 Oct

Like their aunt, mother, and cousins my boys are adept at choosing books based on their covers.  Hence, the entire Mr. Putter and Tabby section of our local library was cleared yesterday afternoon.

The cover of these books didn’t used to strike their fancy until our good friend, fellow other-blogger, and renowned Little Boy Whisper Mrs. Mueller brought them over for post-math reading every Tuesday.  The boys soon became Putter Devotees.

If you’re not familiar with series I’ll give you a quick overview.  Mr. Putter is an older gentleman with a fine cat named Tabby, a next door neighbor Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog, Zeke.  They do things and stuff happens.  And it’s all very funny.

As they loaded the extensive collection of books into my holey library bag one book was waved wildly in front of my face with the caveat that this particular title was “for you, Mom.”  Which book could it be?  Mr. Putter and Tabby Bake the Cake?   Pick the Pears?   Spin the Yarn?   Spill the Beans?  All likely candidates, but no.  The answer was:

That’s right.  Mr. Putter and Tabby Run the Race.

As you’ll note, it was not I that ran a race last weekend, it was the green-clad, medal-wearing Kid’s Marathoners you see happily enjoying the book.  But, I have to admit after reading it that I probably have more in common with Mr. Putter than my speedy offspring.

In fact, I’m thinking of using this book as my new training guide.

To begin his marathon training our pace setter takes four days to find his sneakers.  I’m all over that.  Four days sorting out our entryway closet?  Easy-peasy.

Then he attempts some toe-touching.  He can only reach his knees, but no sweat.  Literally.  And that’s probably fine.  Keep touching your knees ten times a day.

Mr. Putter’s unique take on running gear has some appeal as well.  And his message about not being intimidated by the show-offs who can touch their toes really speaks to me.

And lest you think this training method will never work, please take note:

Plus, it’s either that or follow the plan in this book:

That seems less fun.

I’m conditioned to read pretty books.

14 Oct

Let me introduce to you a book that I chose to read based solely on its cover. See, in my husband’s office sat a box of discarded high school literature (a gold mine!). I had recently finished my book. (The Star Garden by Nancy Turner. Christina or I will write to you of her whole Sara Agnes Prine series someday. They’re divine.) So, I needed something to read. The bold, uncomplicated cover caught my eye. It was elegant in its simplicity (much like Penn State’s football uniforms), so that’s where it started.

I’m not going to pretend that I hadn’t heard of Brave New World before. I had. Well, at least I’d heard allusions to it and I was excited to be “in on it”. Boy, having absolutely NO inkling of this classic’s story line was a bit unsettling. I should have been prepared. It kind of whapped me on my head with social satire. Heavy stuff for a Thursday afternoon. I guess I don’t know what I expected. A story about a planet of warrior mimes perhaps? Anyway, if you’ve read it, you can imagine my, well, surprise, I guess. I won’t review it for you or even give you a summary. (Google it, please.) That’s not to say that I don’t have opinions about the story. I’ve got loads of ’em. Oodles. That Huxley was some thinker, he was. But, as I am not one to incite controversy on the pages of this blog, I won’t get into it. I really wish I was part of a book club that automatically followed my literary whims, finished all reading on my schedule, and was willing to hang out in my toy and laundry-riddled living room while I served water and generic gold fish crackers. In that setting I would get all SORTS of controversial on your mugs.

Let’s get back to it, shall we? Okay, so the book refers to the conditioning of humans on a rather large, startling, and well-thought-out scale. So, I’ve really been honed in to conditioning ever since. Exciting, huh? I know. I’ve been thinking about all the ways that AJ and are conditioning our wee tribe. What beliefs and activities will they see as “natural”? I’ll give you the list:

  1. Pop A capella is important. Really important. This art form must be studied, enjoyed, used, studied some more, and shared with the general public. One must listen to every tune on the air waves for its relevance and possible use in the Pop A capella genre.
  2. Hip Hop dancing is amazing. Watching hip hop on YouTube is essential. The LXD is a household name for everyone.

And that’s about it.

Now that you’ve learned absolutely nothing about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (and a tish too much about our household) you should go out and read it. Then you should put on some sweatpants, come over and we’ll talk. (But not about the book. I’m totally over the book. Let’s talk about The Sing Off.)