Thursday, March 31, 2011

(More) Book Love

I know I recently shared some of my favorite fiction titles here: To add a bit more to that theme, I thought I'd share this post from my old blog archives.


An all too common sight:

Off with my nose in a book on our cabin get- away vacation a couple of years ago.

I love books. I even named a child after a book, for crying out loud! I love the way they feel and I love the way they smell. They are very important to my well being. I'm not a content person unless I'm involved with a book. I didn't get my college degree, but I know that through my love affair with books I can really say that I have gained an education. I like to have several going on at once. If you looked in my book basket you would probably find gripping fiction, something historical in nature, biographies, culture, parenting, education, self-help (especially simple living types), cooking, health and nutrition, poetry, and seasonal titles. Even in the age of the Internet where you can find information instantly, I think that having a book in one's hands is one of life's dearest pleasures. (I don't think I'll ever succumb to a Kindle, Nook, or any other new fangled i-pad type books. Call me old fashioned.)

Since Keith and I were married, we've collected quite a few books. There are books in each bedroom, cookbooks filling bookcases in both the kitchen pantry, as well as the music room, nice hardback classics, two sets of encyclopedias, Childcraft volumes, and how-to books in the downstairs family room, and our "library" that we felt was necessary on the main floor. When we moved here, we put up floor to ceiling shelving and now I can see it's time for more shelves as the paper backs are growing in number. The "library" also houses children's geography, science, history, arts and crafts, activity books, poetry, Homeschool curriculum, and education books. Magazines (The Friend, Kids Discovery, Ranger Rick, World) are also have their place on the shelves. There are also baskets scattered here and there; like the seasonal books by the fireplace.

Our "library" room bookshelves

As you can see, books are a big deal at our house. Library visits are made weekly and are necessary. So important, in fact, that we pay a stiff fee to access a much larger library than our own city one. It is probably the only place I go to regularly besides the grocery store and church. All the librarians know me as "the lady with loads of books in a stroller or wheeled cart". It's like Christmas to me, knowing I can come out with so many wonderful treasures. Many times I've gotten books that they don't have, through inter-library loans. Books have come from all parts of the country; tiny little obscure libraries that just might have the title I'm looking for. Using the library has saved me tons of money over the years. I buy books only if I absolutely love them or know that I really need it to refer to. Otherwise, we just check it out.

The children's picture book wing of our beloved library

Bookstores are another favorite place for me. I met Keith in a bookstore. (Of course.) It seems it's the sort of place where we end up at the end of our date night. (Him off in one corner, me in another.) I could spend hours there, (you'll find me sitting on the floor in some corner with stacks to peruse) and let's not forget used bookstores. I drool over vintage (pre-60's) children's books. Every birthday or Christmas gifting has to have books on the list.

One of the sweetest joys of motherhood has been reading to my children. I'm so grateful for that time we've had together, the memories we've shared, the laughter and the tears. Every morning you can find me reading on the couch with whoever is home. It varies with scripture stories, poems, seasonal picture books, history books, and then we are onto our "chapter" book. We have visited different countries, lived in different time periods, and learned about the lives of great men and women with our book adventures. We've also learned about ourselves. Lots of good discussion has been the result. Even as I see a messy kitchen and hear the laundry calling my name, I will never, ever, regret spending those precious hours reading to my kids. One of the best things I've done as their mother.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chinese. If You Please.

Things can change.

Jane and I talked about this idea the other day on our way to the big city to take part in a church gathering of 20,000 young women and their mothers. (I'm finding that time in the car allows for good conversation and talks with my teenagers.) She told me that she's been thinking a lot. College and the future are on her mind. Especially as she's finishing up the last quarter of her high school experience. She had a long talk with Gary on the phone the night before. After talking to him, her mind was settled. Now, she wanted to bounce her ideas and thoughts on me.


Jane has wanted to be a nurse her whole life. Her Nana was a huge role model and inspiration for this dream. She even did a nurse shadowing experience during these high school years to see for herself if this was something she wanted to pursue. Since her accident this past summer (she fractured a vertebrae jumping off a high dive) and the subsequent pain resulting in it, we both have wondered if she would be physically able to meet the demands that a career in nursing might involve; being on her feet a lot, lifting patients, etc. Now in the car, she said, "Mom, do you think it would be okay if I decided to change my mind about nursing. I think I really would like to major in Chinese."


I was quiet. Surprised, (but not really) I allowed this idea to sink in. Warm tears starting to fill my eyes. "Yes, this just feels right."


Now, let me back up a little. She formed some really special friendships throughout her high school years with some Asian foreign exchange students, especially with her Chinese best friend Xiaoyi. This year, she decided to take Chinese, just for the fun of it, even though she didn't need the credit. This class has opened up a whole new world for her. She can't believe how much she's loved all of it; the language, the culture, the speaking, her relationship with her wonderful Chinese teacher, Ms. Ma. It's just come so easy. Such a delightful discovery about herself. In fact, she was selected by her teacher to represent her school in a state Chinese competition at the nearby university in a couple of weeks. She feels such a connection.

Jane and Xiaoyi

She proceeded to tell me some her thoughts. I told her that she didn't need to prove anything to anyone and that this decision isn't letting anyone down in any way, especially me and her dad. She, alone, should make this decision. That's what these years of high school and even the early years in college allow--time to discover ourselves, our interests, our gifts, and our talents. Even then, things can and will change. Whatever you choose, I told her, should be something you feel drawn to. It should be your life's passion.


The whole thing has left me thinking:


1. I've been able to see a connection between my own talents, loves, interests, and strengths in what I've emphasized in our homeschooling experience and now those same interests (in one form or another) are being manifested in my kids.


2. If Jane's accident wouldn't have happened, would this have played out differently? I believe that there are no coincidences in life. Things, even tragedies, happen for a purpose, are meant to teach us something, or open up doors we wouldn't necessarily open on our own. I believe we each have a destiny or life mission to perform and sometimes, circumstances change to allow those things to happen.


3. You might never know another world of happiness and opportunity, the "what else is out theres", unless you get a taste of something that's out of your comfort zone. Give things a try. Even if it's "different" or out of the norm.


4. Listen to those whisperings, those feelings, those things that attract something within yourself to open those doors of discovery and possibility. To find the true you. Then ACT on the feelings.


5. Have I chosen a life's path that's made me happiest? (I think I have.) What else is out there for me that is yet to be discovered?

Chinese foreign exchange students who joined us in our at home Chinese New Year Celebration

**(these little ~'s I have to insert in between paragraphs are so annoying. Yes, they are random quirks that I have to use when Blogger won't let me put spaces in between paragraphs. That happens sometimes. Sorry. GRRRR...)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Late Afternoon Ponderings

observing:: on and off snow flurries almost all day long. Sunshine intermittently.

laughing:: out loud when Jane told me the latest drama happening at school today. A boy dropped and shattered a Costco industrial sized glass jar of jalapeno peppers (including all the juices) all down the main (brand new carpeted) hallway during lunch break. The chaos, and subsequent smell, caused quite a stir.

making:: coconut- oatmeal cookies to enjoy for a treat later tonight. (I couldn't wait. I indulged. They're tasty.) Also, Renee's baked beans are slowly cooking away in the oven for tonight's supper. The house smells heavenly.

enjoying:: my mug of honey chamomile tea this afternoon.

listening:: to this annoying dad sitting behind me in the school carpool lane, cranking up his pounding music super loud for everyone to enjoy. Even with the windows all rolled up. In all my years sitting and waiting, this was a first.

giving:: Isaac today's spelling words: indispensable, issuing, forcible, consensus

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Oompa Loompa Look or Just a Healthy Glow?

This is a little embarrassing to acknowledge to all you folks, but I'm turning a little orange-ish.


When Sam sat down on the couch next to me this afternoon and grabbed my hand, interlocking our fingers to hold it (which kind of melted this mom's heart), he said something like, "Oh, my gosh, Mom. Did you put tanning lotion on or something? It's, like, all over your hands!" If he thought about it a little longer, he would have remembered that I'm SO not this type of woman.


I swore it didn't do any such thing. He wouldn't believe me. This odd coloration isn't all that bad, mind you. Just kind of apparent in my hands and feet. I thought I might be imagining it. I had heard and read that when your diet is full of fruits and vegetables, especially ones that are high in carotene, sometimes one takes on a "healthy glow". Holding my hands up with the family pretty much confirms this idea.

See for yourself. What do you think?

I guess it's pretty obvious to tell which hand is mine. I checked out what Google had to say. The conclusion: It's harmless. It's not like my eyes are jaundiced, like one with hepatitis. Overall, I'm feeling way good.

It's not like I'm turning into one of these guys.

(at least I hope not!)


My mom reminded me that babies often get this look when you give them sweet potatoes and carrots. It's just a condition called "carotenemia", where excess vitamin A that your liver can't store gets dumped into the skin. Most apparent in fair skinned folks; manifesting mostly in the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. Another theory is that it's from the excess bile from cleansing your liver. I guess it does get dangerous when one overloads on vitamin A in supplemental form.


Anyway, just an interesting, albeit strange phenomena that's going on with me since upping my fruit and veggie intake.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Social Leadership: What a Cool Idea for the Youngsters

Just got done with a six-miler. Sweaty buzz right now. Nice.

Yesterday was a good day. Keith had the day off, after representing his computer software company as a judge for two days at the state science fair. He helped organize that, plus gave away a big scholarship to a grateful teen. Anyway, it was nice to have him around. We took some time to talk about plans for Spring Break. Jane will be heading to California with her school orchestra for the majority of the week vacation. After sticking around here "spring cleaning" every year, I thought it would be fun to take off somewhere. We toyed around with going down to the southern part of the state where it's a tad warmer, but looking at fairly inexpensive accommodation prices, we determined it would cost us close to $600 just to stay for 4 nights. Just not worth it. We decided to put it towards our big summer vacation and maybe spend the night in the big city for a little exciting getaway with the kids. Museums, planetarium , swimming in the motel pool...That's all we need.

Keith took me to dinner, too, last night. Macaroni Grill (Italian). We always like that. Especially dunking that yummy, hot bread in some good olive oil and balsamic. I was kind of anxious about finding something to eat- I'm still going strong with my vegan thing. I was interested to know if I'd be tempted with all the meat and fish, and cheesy offerings. I can honestly tell you that I wasn't. All I want, really, are vegetables. That's what I crave. Seriously. I was very satisfied with my big salad, the bread (of course) and my "Make Your Own Pasta" option. Whole wheat penne with a basil tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms, raw spinach, and roasted whole garlic cloves. It hit the spot, and didn't weigh me down. Can you tell that I'm loving eating this way?

Then we headed off to Eliza's school "Social Leadership Culmination Ball". This has been such a neat tradition in the charter school the our kids have attended for 7-8th grades. Since the beginning of the year, maybe about once a month, a parent committee holds after school classes for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders (This school is very small and has 20 kids per class. One class per grade.) where they learn manners- table and formal meal etiquette, how to make an introduction, engage in social conversation and graces, etc. They also were taught traditional dances like the fox trot, swing, cha-cha, waltz. It's not only has been a wonderful and very educational idea for the kids, but every single kid I know has a great time and has loved the whole experience.

So, last night Eliza got all glitzed up. She looked beautiful and all grown up. (But not too grown up, if you know what I mean.)

A group of moms got together to make the corsages and boutonnieres. The girls had old- fashioned dance cards that were filled out before hand by eager dance partners. The moms also prepared a fancy meal that was served to the kids and their dinner partner. (Chosen by the committee.)

We got there just in time to see the rotating partner waltz. The funnest part was watching the kids (especially Eliza) cutting loose with the "macarena" and to music from "Napolean Dynamite's" assembly dance. Seeing the kids smiling, dancing their hearts out so joyfully was so fun. Keith and were impressed that all the kids made an effort to include everyone. If the girls didn't have a partner, so what? Just dance with another girl. One boy in Eliza's class who has autism was holding back and I loved how Eliza went up to talk to him, and then another girl went up to ask him to dance.

The tradition to end the ball was having the parents dance the waltz with their child. So sweet.

All in all, a very memorable and worthwhile thing these kids get to experience as part of their middle school years. The energy in that hall was fantastic. I think it's something all kids should get to experience.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

it's about time for a little update...and a good thought

I finally updated my Reading, Perusing, and Viewing sidebar notes if you're interested. Geez. It's been since December.

Also this new quote. (Mostly to review and remind myself.) I have it tucked in my scriptures and I think it's worth sharing:

"Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don't judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone's differences, weaknessness, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn't handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another's weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other."
~Marvin J. Ashton

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

being needed

when I heard him coughing
with that terrible croupy bark I fear.
(We were just talking yesterday, as we drove to school how he hasn't missed a day-
it was a jinx.)
I put him in my bed,
brought juice and toast,
filled the humidifier, the diffuser.
Eucalyptus rubs on chest and back and feet.
Nurturing those little ones comes
so naturally.
But I'm finding that these children of mine
who have passed me in height
still need mothering.
"Can you come pick me up, Mom?"
Earache and sinus infection
I give and he takes, willingly,
remedies, juice, antibiotics.
A mother's concern and
love made visible.
Waiting for me
while talking on the phone
to her dad, a judge at
the state science fair,
another daughter
patiently waits.
"Can I talk to you, Mom?"
Her heart opens.
I give advice. She listens.
While I make them their dinner
her sister, let down
such a huge disappointment.
I reassure. I stroke her hair later
in the quiet of the bedroom.
"Things will work out. Do the best
you can."
Now, tonight. Long talk and sharing over
the phone.
I listen.
Living in the moment. This is now.
Plans, hopes, conquering
He needs me to just listen.
That I'm here
for him.
To be needed.
To nurse, to nurture, to listen, to touch, to talk.
To love.
It's enough.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

Let's celebrate! Let's frolic!

How do some very fresh, very light, and very tasty SPRING Rolls sound? You totally have to have some peanut dipping sauce to dunk them in.

Oh, my.

I never tried making these until tonight. Actually, they didn't sound very appealing to me until lately. Pretty boring and tasteless. I thought.

Boy, was I wrong.

You just take the hard, plastic-y looking round wrappers (you can find them at Oriental markets and health food stores) and let them soak in a pie plate full of warm water. It only takes a minute for them to soften up.

Then, the fun begins. Let the kids help. Choose what sounds good. I thinly sliced some Romaine lettuce, shredded some carrots, cooked some rice noodles, and steamed up some beautiful asparagus.

Asparagus is totally spring. I love how the gentle steaming pulls out that glorious green. (Be sure to rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and to keep that color.)

Place all the goodies, about 3 tablespoons or so in the lower part of the wrapper. Fold in the sides and start rolling, tucking firmly as you go. The rice wrapper will adhere to itself, so don't stack them on top of each other.

Now, you've got a salad-in-a-hand!

You just have to have strawberries this time of year, too. Don't you think? On my trip to Costco this morning, I couldn't resist these beauties.

To me and Jane said Sam this afternoon: "These strawberries are on steroids! Yeah, just like 'Berry' Bonds!"

He got a kick out of his own impromptu joke. We all did, actually.

Another sign of spring:

I start turning into a cleaning freak. Well, not really. There's always wishful thinking.
Actually, I do get urges to clean and organize. More at this time of year than any other.

I'm sure it's genetic. Most women have this in their blood. I guess it's just a rite of spring.

When I got home from shopping, I decided, with all the groceries still on the table waiting to be put away, to just clear out the kitchen freezer. It was so random. Not a deep clean, mind you. I should have wiped things down and done a proper job. But there was so much old food and crap bugging me. I couldn't wait any longer.

I put all my nuts and seeds and yeast in one bin. Cooked grains in the other. The sliding drawer (meant for ice trays) now holds bags of cooked white beans. Another sliding drawer holds tortillas and pita and a few other things I want to have nearby. I'm lucky to have another fridge with it's own upper freezer, and a standing chest freezer out in the garage. These things in here are what I want to have a little more handier.

More cleaning and organizing projects will ensue forthwith, I'm sure.

I can't leave this "Welcome Spring" post without showing the first daffodil that popped out just today.

This cheery little fellow makes me so happy. Even as the snow was falling and the wind was howling.

What are you noticing in your neck of the woods that says SPRING to you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Cool Creations From the Kids

~Just want to express a heartfelt thanks for all the sweet comments you left about yesterday's "Enchanted World of Eliza" post. I called her over and had her read every single one and I know those kind and generous compliments gave her a happy boost. You are such nice friends!

As promised, here are those Iroquois longhouses I wanted to show you. Eliza and Sam made them about three or four years ago when we were studying Native Americans in our homeschool. Projects like these make the learning come alive. The kids had a ball planning, collecting, and putting what they envisioned in their minds into formation. Good old Mom (that's me) was designated the official glue-gun go-to guy.

(Blistered fingers aside.) These hands on learning experiences are the types of things that made our homeschooling journey so memorable and fun. I could fill a book about it all.

(This is before I understood the power of natural lighting. The dang flash killed all the details. Sorry.)

I can't resist showing you some more of Eliza's nature figures.
These are some pages from her nature notebook. She went through a phase where she would find leaves and flowers and then construct clothing for her drawn fairy figures. She'll turn 13 in May and I think she was about 9 or 10 when she did these. (As well as the dolls near the end of this post.)

These were some of the "early period felt wee folk"

Autumn Forest Folk.

Don't you love the acorn caps for hats? I love the sweet look on the face of the little boy.

Mermaid Lady
She comes out each year for the August sea-side themed nature table.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Enchanted Fairy World of Eliza

After showing you some of the artwork and creative genius of my daughter Eliza a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd follow up today by letting you take a peak into her big "Natural Fairy Tree House" project of last summer, and her most recent "Fairy Apartment" (above). These creations are so unique and truly imaginative. She's taken things she's gathered from the yard, the woods, the scrap bag, the beach, and cleverly put them together to make her own enchanted world. I wish I could do it justice with my photography. Truly, you really have to see it in person to truly appreciate the craftmanship and creative ingenuity.

She started the "treehouse" with a recycled Indian longhouse (I'm going to show you that tomorrow. It's worth seeing.) that she and Sam constructed a few years ago. When I asked her if we should just toss them last spring when I was cleaning out the basement, she said that she'd like to do something with it. That got the ball rolling. When school let out last summer, and now when she gets a delicious block of uninteruppted time, we most likely will find her busily creating away in her hideout in our library, garage workshop, and now in her new bedroom space with the door shut. (That's so key.)

I love her eye for detail. I love how she can look at something she's picked up outside or something forgoten and tossed aside, and just know how and where it will work.
Wouldn't you love to drift away in such a romantic attic retreat? Or curl up with a good book in that little gourd nook?
The detailed pantry shelves and hanging "artwork" add so much interest.

Here's a little winding staircase.

Here's the almost completed "Fairy Treehouse" last summer.
(Today, the completed one is sitting in a dark corner of the garage. It's quite a feat to carry it inside for good lighting. I do need to take an updated picture, though.)

Lovely little writing desk with chair. I love the touch of the tiny letters and fountain pen.

Canopy bed for the master bedroom

Bedroom dresser and lamp (I wish I had a lamp like this.)

Some furniture for the living room

Nautical themed bathroom

Another desk and stool. Notice the abundance of bunny touches.
(She keeps real bunnies.)

Furnishings for the study

These are some of my favorite creations~ miniture dresses, hats, and nightie for the fairy ladies, complete with little wire hangers to hang in the closet. I'm so amazed how she comes up with these things...
Hope you enjoyed seeing these beautiful, natural creations. I'm in wonder. I'm really thinking that these could be shown in a book, in an exhibit, library, or school. Don't you think?

*Check back tomorrow for Native American Iroquois longhouses!