Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Excellent Writing

I am a reader. I read lots. Way more than any respectable homemaker/homeschool mom/mother of nine ought to read. There are many things I would like to accomplish, but don't. Instead I choose to read. It is my downtime. My emotional day off.

That said, here is a snippet from a recent read that is an example of such excellent writing that I just had to share it with you. It is from Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum book, Twelve Sharp. (A little caveat. These books are not prim and proper. There is blood and guts, coarse language, and a paragraph or two or occasionally even a page of "smut." More than I like to see. But throughout, they are filled with wonderful humor and with jewels of colorful prose.)
We moved onto I-95 south, and I tightened my seat belt. Driving out of D.C. into northern Virginia is like NASCAR on a flat straight track, racing bumper-to-bumper six wide, twenty miles deep. And attached to that is another identical race going six wide in the opposite direction. Two-story-high sound barriers rise out of the breakdown lanes and form a cement canyon filled with wall-to-wall noise and insanity. We hurtled forward to the appropriate exit, catapulted ourselves down the chute, and peeled off toward Springfield.

Isn't that great. I love the image it conjures. Notice the details in the first several sentences. She just puts the reader right on that stretch of highway. Then the use of "hurtled," "catapulted," and "peeled" in the final sentence is the icing on the cake. Few things in writing bug me more than colorful writing that tries too hard. But Evanovich makes it work.

I haven't read much contemporary fiction. A simple mystery once in a while for candy reading. I like Lillian Jackson Braun's Jim Kwilleran and the Mrs. Pollifax mysteries. And although not contemporary authors, I have read most of Agatha Kristi's books several times and the same with Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. My nine year old, Elsie, is hooked on Sherlock Holmes and it is fun to converse with her about our favorites.

Generally I prefer to read classics and non-fiction. I also really like to read historical fiction, but preferably if it is recommended by a source I trust. I guess I feel like the time I spend reading is like a vacation. And I want to either learn something from it or really enjoy it. It is too much of a risk when I don't know anything about a book first. If a book has not stood the test of time or been recommended, it is too easy to get one that is worthless or cheesy or just way to much smut. But my friend, Kristi, put me on to these Stephanie Plum books and, sorry to say, I am hooked.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Through the eyes of children

There is a farm near my house through which the road meanders. It is not the main road, but a back road. I don't drive it much because I always feel like I am invading this little farm. It must be several families or various extended family living on the same site. The road takes three or four quick turns back and forth and there are farm buildings and houses all along, some right up near the road. In a few sections there are windbreak trees, mostly poplars and spruce, right along the road.

Yesterday on the way into Oklee, I was running ahead of schedule so took the extra time needed to go to town the back way. As we passed this particular farm place the wind was scattering the golden poplar leaves in our path. The road was strewn with them. The sun was sparkling on them.

My seven year old, Clara, pointed out, "Oh, how beautiful. It looks like glitter!" And it did.

Another anecdote:

This morning our four year old, John, came hollering up the stairs, "I found Sophie's ten dollar bill." Now Sophie is five and all of her money is supposed to be put away so he had my attention. As far as I know none of us is rich enough to leave ten dollar bills lying around the play room. But I had to laugh when he came into the room, repeating the phrase again, "Mama, I found Sophie's ten dollar bill," and holding out a coin. As he got nearer, I could see a bit of copper showing between his fingers from the penny he had in his grasp.

A Good Day

Today was a good day. Although every day is a blessing and therefore good, some feel better than others. And today I was given a day that felt good.

As I am sure every housewife, mother, home school mom knows, sometimes days like this can be few and far between. We learn to mark success on a different ruler than "average" people. Maybe that is the big challenge of motherhood. Figuring out for oneself what the ruler is that means success.

I have made it a tradition to revamp the kids' chore schedule each fall when school starts. Everyone gets a change and there are always additional responsibilities added on to reflect a news year's worth of age and maturity. This year I was late with it, so we just started the new schedule this week.

At the advice of my good friend, Julie, I am trying something new. Instead of dividing up the various household jobs among the various children, I am dividing the rooms up by day. Each day has a certain room or area assigned and we all work together. Of course those rooms that are too small for a group are still assigned individually, so there are still a few chores for everyone to work on independently.

In the past I have also divided up the table/mealtime chores by child. Sometimes rotating daily or weekly, sometimes having the assignment for an entire year or a segment of a year. These are also now shared.

I am hoping that this new arrangement will allow me to more closely work with the kids to train them well how to accomplish the various responsibilities. I have always managed to assign the chores, but the actual training and checking has not always happened. I can't be in three or more rooms all at once, right?

Well, three days into things, we are doing well. My house is cleaner than it has been in several months. It is still nowhere near perfect but progress is being made.

Also, our school day was good. After we tackled the morning chores, I had a period of time during which the older three kids were working independently and the younger four were doing puzzles of various difficulties and otherwise playing/working nicely together. And the baby was asleep.

I made hot breakfast today and we had two good meals besides. No wandering around the kitchen wondering what to make.

So that is a successful day.

Introducing Me and Mine

Hi, I'm Mary.

I don't really know why I am starting this, but I guess I just want to try something new. I am a stay at home mom and sometimes just want to say something "adult." And I guess I want to have a place to talk about my great family.

I am first and foremost a Christian woman. More specifically, I am a Confessional Lutheran. People sometimes ask what that means. I guess to me it means that not only do I attend a Lutheran church, but I also subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions as the true interpretation of God's Holy Word.

I remember promising to adhere to the Lutheran Confessions as a 13 year old confirmand. But with the exception of Luther's Small Catechism, I really did not know what the Confessions say. I am trying to learn more all the time and the more I learn, the more I see that those old guys who wrote the Confessions really were on to something. The more I learn the more it all seems to hold together.

Secondly, I am the wife for 18 years of my wonderful husband, Joe. He is a Lutheran pastor of four smallish congregations in NW Minnesota. Joe is also a Hebrew scholar and at one time was a third degree tae kwon do blackbelt. He still dabbles in self-defense things and we share a mutual interest in survival type stuff. One never knows when the grid will fail, right?

And last but not least, I am a mom of nine wonderful kids ranging in age from 3 months up to 14. I home school all but my oldest. Jeremy is attending a charter school in SW Minnesota and so is currently living with his paternal grandparents. He is in 9th grade.

I will not give a child by child intro at this point, but will introduce them a bit at a time as they engage in something amazing or embarrassing.

My 3 month old needs me now.