You'll wish that summer
could always
be here!

Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Tales

A weekly peek at what we're reading.
Post your peek in the comments and share your favorite books!

Anne is reading
The Messies Manual by Sandra Felton

. . . the collecting impulse is hard to control because on the surface it seems so logical.  Why not keep that yarn?  Someday you may learn to knit, and it will be wonderful to have your own supply already!  (If you can find it.)  Why not keep all prescription medicines?  Someday your child may be ill in the middle of the night and the doctor may say that only one medicine will help him.  You'll look in the cabinet and find that you have that very medicine, even if it is ten years old.  The doctor will say that it is better to have ten-year-old medicine than none at all, and you will give it to your child and he will be saved.  So, you see, it is dangerous to throw anything away.

Holly is still reading
Lindsey by Chryssa Atkinson

"I'm so sorry," I whispered again.  I really meant it.  Miss Kinney sat back in her chair and sighed.  "I'm afraid that sorry is not enough to cover it this time, Lindsey.  You will be on lunchtime cleanup duty for the next two weeks.  And, right now, you will march down to the band room and apologize to Mr. Pingler."

Oh, great.

"And Lindsey," Miss Kinney said as I turned to leave, "I also called your mother."

Lily is reading
Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

But once the tree stood in its place,
Mr. Willowby made a terrible face.
The tree touched the ceiling, then bent like a bow.
"Oh, good heavens," he gasped.  "Something must go!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Tales

A weekly peek at what we're reading.
Post your peek in the comments and share your favorite books!

Anne is reading
The Goodnight Book edited by Alice Wong and Lena Tabori

The moon like a flower
In heaven's high bower
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.

-- William Blake

Holly is reading
Lindsey by Chryssa Atkinson

"Kids, your Uncle Bernie is coming to live with us."

Ethan let out a scream, tipped his chair over backward, and started rolling around on the floor, howling, "Nooooooooooo!"

Mom put her head in her hands and began to hum a tuneless song.  Dad got up, stepped over Ethan, and went to the kitchen to pour himself a cup of coffee.

Lily is reading
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

If Ivy had stopped to think she would have known she could not get her doll.  How could she when the shop was locked and the window was in between?  Besides, Holly was not Ivy's doll and had not even been sold.  A wise person would have known this, but sometimes it is better to feel a prickle than to be wise.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 15: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday

Racial barriers are tricky to discuss.  Children, in my extremely limited experience, seem to be color blind regarding other people.  My girls look at me blankly when I try to explain how things used to be, and how they still are -- no facts I relay or anecdotes I share correspond with their experience.  They have been surrounded since infancy by people of different races and nationalities, and they do not understand why that would bother anyone.  And that is what we celebrate today.

Unlike many holidays, which have become days of fluff and fun and department store sales, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday still has a serious undertone.  I like to begin our celebration of the day by reading Sister Anne's Hands by Marybeth Lorbiecki.  The lovely illustrations, which remind me so much of my own school days, are by K. Wendy Popp.

This is a gentle story about the arrival of an African-American teacher in an all-white Catholic school in the early 1960s, and how the children react.  Sister Anne helps the children overcome their fears and open their hearts a bit.  "One thing you're going to learn," she tells them, "is that some folks have their hearts wide open, and others are tight as a fist. . . .  For me, I'd rather open my door enough to let everyone in than risk slamming it shut on God's big toe."

Holly and Lily learn about Dr. King at school and are familiar with his most famous speech -- which makes today a great day to talk about dreams.  And so on this date I make dream pillows for them.  I let them choose the fabric from my small stash and I stick an herbal tea bag in with the fiberfill.  It's more fun to select individual herbs, but much easier to use something you already have in your cabinets.  This year we used Bigelow's Sweet Dreams herb tea, with its lovely mix of chamomile, hibiscus, peppermint, rose blossoms, spearmint, and orange blossoms.

And to further help everyone have sweet dreams, we have Dream Pie for dessert.  Here's the recipe, copied from a package of Dream Whip.


2 envelopes Dream Whip Whipped Topping Mix
2-3/4 cups cold milk, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 packages (4-serving size each) instant pudding and pie filling, any flavor
1 cookie crust

Beat whipped topping mix, 1 cup of the milk, and vanilla in a large bowl with electric mixer on high speed for 6 minutes or until topping thickens and forms peaks.

Add remaining 1-3/4 cups milk and pudding mix; beat on low speed until blended.  Beat on high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.  Spoon into cookie crust.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours.  Garnish as desired.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Holiday Shelf: Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday

Let's Dream, Martin Luther King, Jr.!
by Peter and Connie Roop

M.L. thought about the school where he and Christine went.  There were no white children there.  The white children wen to another, better school.

His mother told M.L. something he never forgot.  she said, "You must never feel that you are less than anybody else.  You must always feel that you are somebody!"

Still, M.L. was very angry.  He wanted to hate every white person, but he was too nice to really hate anyone.

Let's Read About . . . Rosa Parks
by Courtney Baker
illustrated by Robert Hunt

Rosa also wanted to help change another law, too.  This law said that a black person had to give up his or her seat on a bus if a white person did not have one.  Rosa thought this law was wrong.

Let's Read About . . . Ruby Bridges
by Ruby Bridges and Grace Maccarone
illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

In 1961, Ruby was in first grade.  Ruby's mother took her to the Frantz School.  Two marshals went with Ruby and her mother to make sure that they would be safe.

Sister Anne's Hands
by Marybeth Lorbiecki
illustrated by K. Wendy Popp

One night, after we'd been put to bed, Mom said in a whisper, "She'll be Anna's teacher."

And Dad replied, "I don't know how a woman of her color is going to survive."

Of her color?  I wondered.  What color could she be?  Purple?  Green?  Orange?  That night my dreams were full of teachers as colorful as birds.

The Reference Shelf: Mrs. Sharp's Traditions

Mrs. Sharp's Traditions:
Reviving Victorian Family Celebrations of Comfort & Joy
by Sarah Ban Breathnach

There were four main areas in which celebrations, traditions, and ritual played a part in Victorian life.  First, in the art of daily domestic living; second, through rites of passage such as birthdays, baptisms, weddings, and funerals; third, by annual customs revolving around calendar and religious holidays; and fourth, by pastimes associated with the four seasons.

But like any fine needlepoint tapestry, the vibrant colors and threads of each category blend together to create the complete fabric of our lives, so that once we have mastered the joy of celebrating, it is difficult to see where one category ends and another picks up the stitch.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday Tales

A weekly peek at what we're reading.
Post your peek in the comments and share your favorite books!

Anne is reading
Saint Gianna Molla by Pietro Molla and Elio Guerriero

The certainty that divine Providence predisposes and accomplishes everything for our good made you admire and appreciate more the gift of life, of families, and of creation. You truly knew how to admire joyfully and rightly the charm of mountains and their snow, trips and concerts, plays and parties.
You demonstrated to me that we can totally fulfill the Lord's will and become saints without renouncing the fullness of the best, pure joys that life and nature offer us.

Holly is reading
Rules for Secret Keeping by Lauren Barnholdt

The thing is, I did give Emma the note.  I gave it to her after lunch.  And I didn't read it.  I obsessed about reading it, but somehow, I was able to control myself.  It was very hard.  Especially when she started opening it as she walked away down the hall, and I probably could have looked over her shoulder and tried to sneak a peak.  But I didn't.

Lily is reading
A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

We built a ship upon the stairs
All made of the back-bedroom chairs,
And filled it full of sofa pillows
To go a-sailing on the billows.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Keeping Christmas: The Tenth Day

Tuesday Tales

A weekly peek at what we're reading.
Post your peek in the comments and share your favorite books!

Anne is reading Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore

I turned to Martha Ann and she held me tight.  "I don't know if I can do this without you," she said.

"Yes, you can," I told her, whispering in her ear.  I felt so guilty leaving her behind.  Maybe she really did need me to stay.  I wondered if this was how Mama felt when she got to heaven, happy to be there but sorry she had to go.  God, I wished Gloria Jean were here, pushing me onto that bus.  She would tell me that I had to go, that Martha Ann was going to be just fine, that she had some dreaming of her own she needed to do.

"I'm not going to be far," I said, and kissed her on the cheek, stepping onto the Greyhound without looking back.

Holly is reading Pokemon Visual Guide by Katherine Fang and Cris Silvestri

There are facilities known as Day Cares that are devoted to the care of Pokemon eggs and baby Pokemon.  One place where Day Cares proliferate is the rural town of Eggseter, located in a lush area of Johto with ideal weather.  The area has long been home to Nesters, the people who care for baby Pokemon and Pokemon eggs, and visitors will see a variety of Day Care facilities as they travel through the area.

Lily is reading Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell

"Come inside," Kind Ox said.

"There's always room for a little one here."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Keeping Christmas: The Eighth Day

New Year's Day 2011

Happy New Year!  The image above is a postcard from my collection -- in my B.C. life ("before children") I collected antique postcards.  I purchased this one, with its sweet and shivery finches and bluebirds, for $1.50 in 1994.  It's postmarked 1908 and is still vibrant and pretty.

I've heard that some families make family resolutions on New Year's Day, although we don't.  We enjoy watching the Rose Parade and every year I mention that someday I would like to attend it in person. 

We have a couple of festive after-dinner traditions.  For years now we've had Christmas crackers -- obviously, it's New Year's Day, not Christmas, but that's what I call them.  Years ago I planned to have them after our Christmas dinner, and in all the excitement of the day I forgot about them!  So that was the first year I brought them out for New Year's, and I've stuck with that ever since. 

I make the crackers myself, so moving them to the week after Christmas makes my life a little easier in mid-December.  They're easy to make -- I just cut paper towel tubes in half, fill each with candy, silly riddles, and a small toy, wrap in pretty paper and tie with ribbons.  You can even buy the special strip that makes the "popping" sound, but I've never bothered.  Usually I wrap the crackers in a variety of papers and let everyone pick one, but this year I used the same paper and we played a game from The Penny Whistle Christmas Party Book by Meredith Brokaw and Annie Gilbar.  We each held a cracker and I read the following story.  The crackers were passed to the left or right whenever the words "right" or "left" were read.

This is a story about Mr. and Mrs. Wright.  One evening they were baking cookies.  Mrs. Wright called from the kitchen, "Oh, no, there is no flour left!  You will need to go to the store."

And so on.  At first it was funny but it got annoying quickly, so I think next year we will either skip this step or I'll come up with an abbreviated version of the story.

After the crackers we have Fortune Cakes for dessert.  These are cupcakes (homemade this year, but not always) decorated with good luck symbols taped to toothpicks.

Each cupcake has two wrappers, and hidden in between the wrappers is a coin.  You get to keep whatever coin you get, and whoever finds the shiny penny gets a prize -- a small bag of gold-wrapped chocolates!  (By the way, if you are all out of shiny pennies, soak one in vinegar for a bit and it will brighten up.)

And every year we end this first day of the new year by watching the New Year's Concert from Vienna on our local PBS station, grinning and clapping through the Radetzky March.

Best wishes for 2011!