wocket in my pocket

Looking for the unexpected in the mundane.

Thursday in the Life…

It was a thrill to look out at fairyland this morning after a restless night with a child who couldn’t sleep. Nothing is quite the same loveliness as a sticky snow.

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I packed my husband’s lunch, saw him out the door at 8, then dismissed my scholars for a late start at school, since we can’t seem to count on plentiful snowfalls anymore. It has tended to rain this winter, and the beauty of every surface outlined was inspiring for us all.

Our school started at 10, after morning chores, dishes, and a romp outside. I spent a few hours assembling my Usborne book stash for a party at school. Meanwhile my mom texted me to see if we want to come make donuts at her house. I ended up dropping the four younger children off with her while Alex helped me with my party.

The school children did a fundraiser where they got sponsors for a reading challenge: at least 30 minutes of reading a day for 2 weeks was the challenge. They blew me away with their diligence and tenacity in finding sponsors (suggested donation was 5cents a minute.) I promised prizes for anyone who got either 5 sponsors or raised $100. Out of 22 students, 14 of them hit one or both of those goals. The fun part was when the children got to make book choices equal to 25% of the funds they personally raised. It may have been a little chaotic for a bit, but there were root beer floats and salty snacks to tide over anyone who got tired of waiting while the book lady did the orders. ūüôā

It took me until 4 PM to wrap that up, then Alex and I joined the others at my folk’s place for pizza. The donuts had happened while I was gone. I asked Mom if it was a little nerve-wracking, and she conceded that it may have been. Just a little. Ha. There is a reason I hardly ever make donuts.

We picked up our mess and came home at 6. The roads were still a bit slick in the back country, so I was going quite slowly, maybe 30 mph, when a deer with a death wish tore out and took a flip off the Suburban hood. Bummer. Now we have another crinkled dent and some broken plastic. The deer ran off, seemingly only stunned. I wouldn’t have minded butchering it and chewing it, but maybe tonight it was best if it did survive.

We had to attend to the animals and finish up the household stuff, like folding laundry. I had forgotten about my yogurt straining in a colander in the fridge, which means it was more like a brick than Greek yogurt. After I whisked  some of the whey back in, it came out almost normal.

The children watched a movie while I entered the school children’s book order and¬†got happy feelings about how much they will enjoy their rewards. Now I have a headache and sore shoulders, (it’s that deer’s fault) so I will hie me off to bed with some peppermint oil on my temples. If we are fortunate, my husband will be home soon! His shift is longer than mine.

Just another Thursday. Good night, all.

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Winners and Celebrating, in Season and out of Season

I did the drawing for the winner of my giveaway. My method was convoluted and random, just like March weather, which has turned a little stinky cold, by the way. Still, this morning I awoke to only a dusting of snow instead of the three inches predicted for the first day of spring, so hope is alive and well.

Oh, wait, the winner. I looked at the entries and picked my favorite person. Actually, no, March might be that capricious, but I would never be. I love all of you who told me your favorite places and I wanted you all to win. I felt like you all deserved some books; I was really interested in how many of my friends are perfectly happy at home with their families. I did think that someone might mention the bathtub as their favorite place. Anyway, thanks for weighing in with your opinions.

usborne giveaway

The random drawing falls on the lovely Hillarey who commented:

“My favorite place in ‚Äúde whole wide world‚ÄĚ is : snuggled up with my man at the end of the day, kiddos fast asleep. It‚Äôs where I feel the safest and most loved.

My Alexei-who-is-three says, ‚ÄúI want dat train book!‚ÄĚ I unabashedly hope to win! And now I must go corral the Alexei-who-is-three because he is helping himself to a snack.

PS- Your kids are charming!”

I am glad that Alexei-who-is-three gets his wish, aren’t you? I will put in an unabashed plug for my Usborne business here, saying that I can facilitate lots of free books for you with a successful Facebook or in-home book show.¬†And no, I had no intentions at all of putting in an ad when I decided to do the giveaway. That just slipped in for your amusement. ūüėõ And books. I always give away books. It’s the loving thing to do.

Resurrection Garden

In other news, I have daffodils blooming in a vase on my kitchen windowsill and baby broccolis and tomatoes sprouting and 12 rows of wrinkly little pea seeds in the soft dirt of the kitchen garden. We also have a resurrection garden with green moss growing over the little flower pot tomb. We put a flat round stone in front of the tomb’s opening, ready to roll it away so we can¬†put a lighted tealight inside on Easter. I was firmly under the impression that Easter was yesterday. At church I was so bugged that we didn’t sing a single resurrection song when it should be¬†such a glorious celebration. Then we had some friends over for lunch and they said, “But it’s not Easter today!” So I rest my case that¬†I am losing¬†my mind. You may note that I am not “loosing” my mind, therefore all is not lost.

Our church choir gave a special program last night and I sat there with tears dripping down ¬†my cheeks as I let it sink in again, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us. How about you? Do you have special Easter celebrations that point to the empty tomb?

 

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Because You Are So Nice: a Giveaway

I promised a giveaway back in the middle of February on the day after I skipped a post. It’s a penance and appreciation gift, as well as a celebration! Because we made it through the rough part of the winter and I had a collection of pretty fabric and an idea. Because I have so much (so many books) and I love to share them. Because you all are so kind and tell me about yourselves and how you look forward to reading what I write after I mention my insecurities.

This is a giveaway open to anyone, but if you are a man, I hope you have a woman in your life who wouldn’t mind you carrying a floral bookbag. Better yet, just give it to her.

First I will show you my Addy and her petalled skirt sewed onto a chipper spring shirt. She dances and twirls through her days (and tumbles and flips). This child is all-out, fizzy and full of pop. She can handle a skirt with many colors just fine. This photo was taken during a 5 second lull.

Addy in petal skirt

Here is the first book bag I made, unabashedly copying one I saw in a Craftsy ad. I decided to keep this one for myself since it was experimental and the one blue stripe is a little too dark, as my sister kindly pointed out when I asked her if it seemed odd. It needed wider straps too, to match the strips on the bag. These small anomalies are not a problem with 3 little bag ladies in the house. “Yook, it’s camofyaged with my dress!” (I will mourn the day the child learns to say “l”.)

Addy with bag

Then I made a small carry tote for Olivia to carry her Bible and Sunday school book, pencils and tissues, etc. to church. And an even smaller squat bag that Rita uses for treasures and bags of apple snitzes she likes to have on hand to sustain her in case she gets hungry. I am down to the last strips of these fabric patterns. There is enough to make something small and cutesy for a doll. The projects were so much fun that I neglected a lot of other things just to work on them. I hope we get to sew in heaven.

In the photo below Olivia holds the one I made expressly to give away. As you can see, it has the wider straps and when you sling it over your shoulder, it fits precisely under your arm at the side unless you are not grown up. Then it hangs down lower and you can dig in it while the strap is still over your shoulder. Inside it I sewed a special pocket so that you don’t lose your cell phone in¬†the bowels of the bag while you are at the library. There is space for keys and a library card too. I am naming it Sprightly Spring Satchel.

Addy, petal skirt

As you can see, this particular bag will be stuffed with some goodies. I am just delighted to share some of the books I have collected from Usborne, those wonderful publishers of children’s literature. I will show you three books that will be in it for your enjoyment, but there will be a surprise title or two, depending on the interests of the person who wins.

usborne giveaway

Would you or someone short and cute in your life like to own these books? All you have to do to qualify for the drawing is comment one sentence describing¬†your favorite place in the world. If you want to write an essay length comment with many sentences, great! But you don’t have to. If you feel shy about posting your real name, you can make up a pseudonym. But you can’t be anonymous. Just don’t forget what you called yourself! Anyone living outside the U.S. can enter the drawing as long as they have an address of someone in the lower 48 to whom I can send a package should they win.

The drawing will close on Saturday, the 19th of March, at noon. Let’s hear from you, my friends!

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How to Raise a Reader

All my life I have been fortunate to have access to good books. I totally took it for granted when I was little. The daily story time with my mom when it was nap time, the sets of pricey Uncle Arthur’s Bible Stories and Bedtime Stories bought from the traveling salesman, where my mom and dad conferred in hushed tones about whether they were worth buying and we begged and they said, “O.K. We will take them.” Those are my earliest bookish memories.

My dad bought box lots of old books at estate auctions. He brought us library books too. We loved it, because he would bring huge tomes of photo journalists’ collections as well as Dr. Seuss stories or¬†books on wildlife. In our mailbox we got Time, Family Life, Smithsonian, Wee Lambs, Highlights, National Geographic. (My mom would check through it first and use a Sharpie to draw clothes on any unsuitably naked Aborigines before we were allowed to read the magazine.) We got Guideposts and Reader’s Digest too. That’s where I collected my Drama in Real Life grizzly stories.¬†There was always something interesting to read or something coming in the mail just any day.

This was the pattern for all of my dad’s family. My unmarried uncle gave us Ranger Rick subscriptions for Christmas and my Grandma sent us classics like Hans Brinker or Little Women. When the Schlabach’s got together they would all sit quietly around the living room with magazines and newspapers and if someone thought of something to say, they said it, politely taking turns.

That is the first thing that comes to mind when trying to raise a reader: the process of surrounding children with reading material. Sooner or later even the most resistant ones will find something that interests them if you give them choices. When I was about 10 years old my parents invested in a shiny new set of encyclopedias. They were expensive, with really good bindings and color pictures. We sat around for weeks, I am not kidding, reading those encyclopedias. Recently I inherited that same set for our homeschool room and now my children do the same. They are still endlessly fascinating. My brother Nate and I read the dictionary for fun too. I realize now how impossibly nerdy that is, but we turned out fairly normal after all.

There is another equally important factor in our childhood that turned us out to be readers. We didn’t have TV. We didn’t have radio. We didn’t have movies. We had books and audiobooks and and the outdoors when it was nice and games to play with each other when it was not nice outdoors.¬†This is how all Amish and Mennonite children were raised. We were not an anomaly in our small world. If we went to the neighbors’ and they had Sesame Street¬†turned on, we sat and enjoyed it for as long as our mom visited, but we didn’t feel the lack of those programs in our everyday life at all.

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Once when I was younger I had a conversation with a very educated lady about killdeer chicks and I used the word “precocious”. She said, “How do you know that word? I mean you only went to eighth grade, didn’t you?” I¬†can’t remember for sure, but I might have told her I read the dictionary when I was bored. Haha.

As homeschoolers, our main strategy for teaching the¬†children to love learning is to teach them to love reading. We¬†want them to be lifelong learners, curious about things, actually looking them up in¬†real¬†paper books! In order to facilitate getting lots of really good nonfiction books on our shelves, I signed up to sell Usborne books last year.¬†The educational experts recommend 100 books per child in the home, and updating them as they outgrow them. Last week I decided to do an inventory of the books on our¬†shelves. I came up with 1,500 titles, over half of them children’s literature.¬†I believe that is what some¬†Uzzies would call shelf-righteous. Pardon me, but I am following my parents’ example and it is working. Ours are all turning out to be readers.

There are some stunning statistics that I will share for you to chew on. They are not just Usborne propaganda. You can look them up on many different websites and find the same numbers. I checked because I find it hard to believe.

Literacy statistics, 4th grade

 

literacy stats

Folks, this is scary. This is really scary. You know that quote up there about adults who think? This explains why so much senseless decision making is going on in our country. We don’t want to raise our¬†children to be lemmings mindlessly running after what someone else is telling them. Let’s raise them to be readers and thinkers!

 

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Why I Love Children’s Literature

We were on the road, running errands. The eldest son broke his glasses. Again. For the third time in a twelve-month.¬†We needed to pick them up, deliver some books ordered at an Usborne party about 45 miles distant, visit the cousins, do a little shopping because the French press¬†had a mishap in the dishwasher this morning, and then at last come home. It was about two hours of driving time on a cold afternoon, sitting bumper to bumper in the vehicle. What could have been really boring flew right by because we did it with Ribsy on audio, cavorting along, getting lost and found repeatedly. I laughed as heartily as the children when Ribsy chased the squirrel that came to school in a show-and-tell box. We all agreed that obviously, this author has a dog. She described¬†in minute detail how dogs beg and grovel gratefully when they get attention. She even narrated¬†what Mother says when Ribsy wants to ride in the new car with the family, “Don’t pay him any attention! Henry, don’t even look at him!” The children giggled gleefully and said, “That sounds like you, Mama!

When we read, my children don’t have any concept of gaining insight into human nature or relationships, but that is what happens in great fiction. I just read a study that indicates that people (including children) who read fiction score significantly higher on the empathetic scale because they are constantly walking in another’s shoes while they are reading. Conversely, children (and adults!) who have unlimited screen time score much lower in simple tests designed to identify¬†another person’s emotions using facial cues. It’s not that they don’t care at all, but they simply haven’t been practicing while staring at a device. (That’s just my little Free Rant Bunny Trail for the day.)

The best children’s books are simple themes, with masterful descriptions that take you right to the scene and leave you breathless to figure out what will come next. There is a trend in modern children’s books that tends to dark and heavy topics. I hate it.¬†Stories for young children should be wholesome, real, not burdening a child with a load they aren’t meant to carry. That will come soon enough.

I can still see Jimmy and the Jam Jars and that incredible mess he made when he was sneaking the fresh jam in the kitchen. I can recall holding my breath as Peter Rabbit ducked into a watering can to hide, of all places! and of course he had to sneeze! I can walk the trail with Little Bear when something went pit-pat, pit-pat behind him on the path. These are the books that are a delight to read aloud. Rarely do I read books to my children that bore me. If the illustrations are beautiful, I can manage it, but otherwise just go get another book, Sweetie.

This week we cracked open some brand new books. I got a set from Usborne titled¬†¬†Anna Hibiscus. Olivia has been spending all her free time in Africa, amazing Africa, with Anna Hibiscus and her extended family that lives in a compound with goats nibbling outside the door and aunties sewing cool dresses and braiding everybody’s hair. The twin brothers, Double and Trouble, are doing what all toddlers do best, getting into constant mischief and Anna is supposed to watch them!¬†These books are genius, and I do not say that lightly. Olivia doesn’t know that she is learning to love a culture that is vastly different from her own, but she knows that a¬†little girl from rural Pennsylvania wants to go to Amazing Africa.

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Here is another favorite from an author that delights without fail: Mr. Putter and Tabby, by Cynthia Rylant.

Mr. Putter has always wanted to write a book. He wakes up to the perfect book writing day, sits in his comfortable chair with his companionable cat and thinks of a title that fits his plot. It is strenuous going and he needs a snack to sustain him. The snack takes a few hours of time, after which he needs a nap. This goes on for days until he decides to just write a list instead of a book. I, a 38 year old woman, love this children’s story.¬†¬†Wonder why?

That’s the thing: children’s literature is about life and all of us. It may be told from the vantage point of the beloved family dog or a tiny tugboat in an impossibly crowded harbor, but it is easy enough for anyone to understand and say, “Yes, that’s how it really is!”

Tomorrow I will tell you a little more about how my parents raised us to be readers.

 

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Things to Do

Guess what was the first thing I did in the new year, right after supervising the gun-shooting boys in the backyard? It wasn’t drinking bubbly or eating cheesecake, not by a far shot! Oh well, you will never guess. The first thing I did in the year of 2016, 12:01 AM? I helped clean up a puddle in the basement made by a very excited dog who couldn’t hold her bladder in the blasting excitement of the shotgun. I am not superstitious, but it did irritate me a little.

It’s all fresh this morning. It is snowing! At last, at last the precipitation is coming down in acceptable form. We had omelettes for breakfast and French vanilla tea and coffee from Honduras. The dishes are cleared away, the husband went to work, the dog is outside, wistfully looking in, the children get the day off school, and I have a witty memoir to read. All is well.

I have no plans for complicated anything today. I may need to settle some fights and feed a few people and I do hope to clear out the boxes that are stacked in my reading room where the chair is supposed to be. Nine. Nine! Boxes of books for the refugee children. Not to crow, or anything, but you folks who so generously supported my fundraising dream deserve to see what we have done together. There are beginning English flashcards and ABC wipe-cleans and First Hundred Words in English and First Thousand Words in English. There are Thing to Spot and Mazes and sticker books and story books. There are dot to dots and doodle books and lots and lots of science readers full of bright pictures. I took them all out of the boxes and stroked them lovingly. I prayed over those books, and now I am sending them along up the chain. I have no idea what will happen with them all, but thank-you, thank-you, all who shared!

refugee books

There are a few things I want to do this year. Topmost among my goals, of course, is being a keeper of our home. Keepers (think zookeepers) feed and water and clean out stinky stuff and make habitats that are welcoming. I see this as a life work, with no apologies to anybody who thinks it is impossibly restricted and limiting. It is harder than you think. Can I hear an amen from the mothers present? Yesterday my little girls drew pictures for me:

This is how they see life right now and it makes me very glad. I am not raising my children in a bubble of happy, where nothing nasty ever happens. I show them sad pictures in the news and we pray for homeless people and broken situations. They know that these things are possibilities. But I am fighting fiercely for their innocence, for their purity, for their emotional stability. I am working toward kindness and honesty and no name-calling.

Recently we had a discussion about secret sins, Gabe explaining to the children that this is when we do things that we think nobody will find out. Like cheat on homework, or sneak someone else’s chocolate, or poach things out of the fridge when Mama isn’t looking. We all looked at Rita and grinned and she said, “Oh, yeah, I have secret sins. I mean, no, I just have secrets! Plans and stuff.” Those plans do include my sewing scissors oftener than I like. There is still much to do this year!

I want to write more. When I started selling Usborne books in August, my writing and reading took a hit, which is kind of ironic. I missed it. And I didn’t even read to the children as much anymore because I was busily getting books into other children’s hands. I love selling the books, but I am setting up some parameters for myself, having established the fact that we will never get rich from what I am doing, judging by the numbers at year’s end. It’s a part time job for me, one I love, with a steadily accumulating stash of wonderful books in my reading room. But I am not willing to let other creative outlets be stifled, so I signed up for two things to aid all of us in the house.

The children are doing a 31 day Read Aloud Challenge in January. It’s not too strenuous, but we will probably take some extra trips to the library. They are fondly hoping to win a Kindle, or at least a $20 Amazon gift card.

I signed myself up for a WordPress writing challenge in February, which coincides nicely with my annual daily posts in the short month. I am also continuing my daily diary entries. I actually made it without skipping one day last year, although sometimes I had to catch up a week at a time. Most of the days were not brilliant, but they got a record anyway.

That is life, isn’t it? I think the past is like a compost heap: The bumper crops are represented by piles of husks and peelings. The weeds that got pulled out are thrown in there too, all decaying together into something that becomes very useful indeed when applied to the gardening efforts of the present. It all matters when we recycle the past and learn from what went right and what went wrong. The future will be richer and wiser, the crops better for the organic matter gained by experience. With that inspiring analogy, I will add just one funny story.

I was at Goodwill with Livvy, standing at check-out behind an elderly grandmotherly sort of lady. They were running a special, an extra 20% off for anyone over 55. ¬†The cashier asked, “So, do you qualify for our sale today?” Obviously, yes, I thought. Then it was my turn. “So, do you qualify for our sale today?” I couldn’t help it. I laughed in her face. No. Obviously, no. But I am getting there as fast as I can!

 

 

 

 

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More on the Books

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I have to share these photos with you, because they just thrill my heart. These are the children, the ones with the eyes-that-have-seen-too-much, that are benefitting from the books sent to the refugee camps in northern Iraq. David Godoy, who volunteered there in the fall, took these photos of some of his English students with the beginner science readers we hastily scraped together to send along in a suitcase. It was about $300 worth, a pitifully small offering for so many, many children. I made a big goal this time, to raise $2000, which Literacy for a Lifetime will match by 50%. So that is 10 times as much, and with some donations received privately, not through the website, we are over half way to the goal!

I asked David¬†to describe his¬†classes, then put his story on the Youcaring site, but it deserves a wider audience. Nearly all of the donations have come from you kind, generous folks who read the blog. I feel very humbled by this, so I am copying David’s words here for you to read just what it means to receive a book, with pictures, with fresh ideas, with new things to learn about the wider world in it.

¬† ¬†“Writing about the time I spent with the Yazidi children in Kurdistan,¬†Iraq could possibly fill many pages with various happy, sad, or¬†whimsical occurrences that I experienced. My aim with this is not to¬†get carried away with many details but rather to condense several¬†weeks into a few paragraphs in the hopes of influencing your mind to¬†understand the need there among not only the adults but especially the children.
I taught English classes to the village boys ranging from ages five to
fourteen or fifteen. The day started around nine o’clock with the five
to seven year old boys. After going over the alphabet, the colors of
different objects, shapes, and so on for about an hour the children
from all the different classes would meet in a courtyard area and sing
children’s choruses at the top of their lungs. It was always enjoyable
to listen to them and also to sing with them and perform the motions
to many of the songs.
After two hours of classes in the morning school was adjourned until the afternoon. It seemed to me that along with the dry, 100+ degree weather a Middle Eastern summer afternoon brings the 15 ten to twelve year old boys of the first afternoon class also brought along to school their heated tempers and everything else that made the
afternoon much warmer due to the rise in frustrations. One would think the heat alone would bring a calming affect but it was quite opposite.

They would hoot and holler through the alphabet at varying speeds,
climb around on the desks and each other, spill water so they would
have the joy of splashing it around, get into fights, steal each
other’s pencils, and do everything except sit like good boys who are
trying to learn what a circle is, and that orange is a color and not
the fifth letter of the alphabet.
The singing after that class was always held by ourselves in our class
room as the other classes were similar in student attitude and would
have been next to impossible to maintain structured singing period.
After the dust settled and the room was put back into a presentable
state my last and favorite class would come in. There were usually
only four or five of them and they were the most advanced in English.
They could very easily recite the alphabet and could read small easy
phrases. The comprehension may not have been there but they are off to a good start.
All this being said there is one tool that I found extremely helpful
in the different things I taught them. Two weeks into my stay in Iraq
a wise and generous person donated a few of these tools to the school
over there and some of them were accepted very happily as a gift for
excellent learning by some of my students while I used the remain onesin my teaching.

What was this tool you may ask? It was a book! Yes, a book. Something¬†that here in America I have taken very much for granted and have, to a¬†degree, lost touch with the immense value and information that even a¬†simple child’s picture book can bring.
Charles Darwin in his skewed philosophy was able to influence and
change the mindset of millions of people all through the power of a
book. And when the age group is too young to comprehend the stages of evolution, artists come up with the most absurd pictures

illustrating the process of evolution staring from a standard ape and transitioning into a creature I hope never to meet then finally ending with a human.
The sad part of it is all that information is taken in and processed
by many school age children shaping there minds into believing a lie.
Why did I mention this?
The same kind of approach can be taken with the Iraqi children. But
instead of pumping their heads full of artists perspectives of
nonsense wouldn’t it be better for them to see in detailed pictures
what the steps of a metamorphosis are? Or what the Himalayas look
like? Or what the earth looks like from space? Or how many continents there are?

If a Yazidi child can look at these things and process them in childlike manner they may begin to see that outside their torn apart

lives exists a bigger world, a world that is also looking for answers in
their desperation for the true meaning to life. The children may
slowly begin to understand that maybe there is a higher power that
created the world they live in, maybe there is forgiveness, and that
the Light and Love they sing about does really exist.

A book can go a very long way in influencing a child’s mind. Even if
they are taught from a reader, what they learn will form words in
their mind giving them the ability to one day comprehend the Book that has the key to eternal life.
I will always remember the uncontainable smile the gift of books
brought to my little students. The way they proudly shook my hand on the way out of the room that last day of school helped me to see

that one little picture book may be one tiny stepping stone in the walk way towards a better life. But if eternal life is gained through the small gift of a book, I would give every last book I have.

I look back over¬†my time spent in Iraq and am greatly humbled by the fact that God uses¬†all sorts of ways to show His love to the precious people of Iraq.”

There you have it, the cause that I feel passionately about: the children and literacy. When I see those little faces in the news, I think that they will grow up to be either the next generation of fighters or peacemakers. So much depends on now, on the influences that come into their lives. As David so eloquently pointed out, books can introduce a child to a whole other world. (I want to sincerely apologize for the fomat of the quote. WordPress is giving me fits tonight, no matter how much I edit. This is a problem with blogging on a budget, also known as free blogsites. : } You don’t get so many pretties. )

Many of us cannot volunteer to go to the camps, but we can share. I thank you. Some day, I believe, there will be children who have received Love and they will thank you. I put more of the photos on the sharing site, if you would like to take a look. When you go there, read the comment from a little girl named Ellie. It brings tears to my eyes and a nod to some wise parents who are raising their children to be kingdom-minded.

If God moves your heart to help us  (<Click there, obviously) reach the last half of our fundraising goal, I thank you in advance.

Liquid Eyes.JPG

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What Have I Been Doing?

I looked at the calendar recently and thought, “What have I been doing?”¬†I can tell you what I haven’t been doing pretty easily. I haven’t been sitting around reading a lot and I haven’t been writing. I can honestly say that I missed the writing bit pretty much every day. One sentence in a diary doesn’t scratch the itch at all. I sat around just enough so that I wouldn’t miss it too severly. Haha.

We had days and days and days of rain in late September. It was cold and the dog stank and there was mud in our classroom every day. I started burning candles and plugged in air fresheners.

During the long wet I sewed dresses for the little girls so that we could coordinate somewhat for a family photo shoot. Then I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what I would wear to coordinate with everybody else. Shall I just admit that I got three sweaters at Boscov’s so that Gabe could help me figure out which one to wear because I really just don’t have a good sense for that sort of thing? And that, of course, I wore the simplest, most unassuming one and took the other two back? At the last minute I decided not to wear the charcoal skirt after all, but the grey dress. Why was that decision so hard to make in the store? I did not consult Pinterest, which is what other people do when they can’t figure out what to wear, because I don’t get along well on Pinterest. ‘Nough said.

We had an anniversary, our 14th, and it was the first sunny day after all that drear. I dug out our love letters and we read a bunch of them, laughing a bit at ourselves, reminiscing and agreeing that 14 years has taught us a few things about loving each other, even though sometimes we lose track and forget to appreciate the one we love. Which is why we took a day off and went biking Rails to Trails without the children. No eavesdroppers in the vehicle! And just for a day it was nice not to have to settle any fights or wait for the slow ones. We ended the day with dressing up for a fancy meal out, then descended gratefully back into normal life. After all, back in the day when we had dates every weekend, we yearned to live normal life together, more than anything. And here we are, doing it!

Gabe has lived with me long enough to know the kinds of books I love. For our anniversary he got me¬†blink¬†(you have no idea how hard it is for me to write a book title with a lower case letter) by Malcolm Gladwell, subtitled “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”. It is packed with¬†insights into what makes people¬†decide things: those split second impressions that affect our choices. For the first week or so after he gave me the book I only had time to stroke the cover, but by now I have read enough to know it is just as interesting as The Tipping Point, which I discovered a few years ago.

Once the weather turned clement (is that right? the opposite of inclement?) our friend Michelle Fisher took the photos. I knew she had lots of experience in posing children because she has nine of them and they always end up with really sweet family pictures. Want to see a few? I think you will agree that she did a good job on them. When these were taken, the children were 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4. This only lasted for one month, but it was kind of fun to say. ūüôā The 10 turned 11 yesterday.

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My friend Caroline and I spent a forenoon together, picking up a large meat order about an hour’s drive away. Either one of us could have gone alone, but it just so worked out that we could team up. I was supposed to be the navigator, since we didn’t have GPS. Even with a¬†Google Maps printout, I stink at navigating. Let’s just say we saw a lot of beautiful countryside and enjoyed our extra time to visit. It was nice to be with someone who didn’t get uptight about the unmarked roads and was game to try routes that appeared to go in the right direction. Not to mention someone who didn’t run out of interesting topics of conversation, especially with no eavesdroppers in the van. ūüėÄ

The next day I texted her that I had just been running some errands in a nearby town and had to turn around three times, so I think I do need a GPS because of all the stuff in my head that isn’t down on the earth. She replied, “Well, I just read, ‘Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.’ With that mindset you might lose your way driving every now and then.” She is witty like that. The thing is, I am pretty sure I was thinking about that meat we hauled home and how it needed to be canned, as well as these apples I am picking up and how they also need to be canned.

I have 2 1/2 bushels of apples still sitting on the front porch and some frozen tomatoes that I have to process and after that I put my foot down. No more! Today I tilled the gardens one final time and sowed a cover crop of rye. I love summer so much, but at this point it is only sensible to move on, wouldn’t you say? For the first time we put in a bed of garlic. Some bulbs in and some bulbs, like the dahlias, out. Gardening is endlessly fascinating. And time consuming. I hope to have more time to write now that the outside stuff is getting wrapped up.

Last, but not least, I have been industriously starting a small book selling business. I signed up to become an Usborne consultant and am still learning the ropes. So far the most rewarding thing has been to be able to send really nice books to refugee children in Iraq. I also was thrilled¬†to get our church school a lot of free merchandise through a book show. ¬†I genuinely like connecting anybody to a source of educational books like these. Someday I will do a whole post on this topic.¬†I have been having a blast with this, especially when the boxes of books come and I can sort out orders and stroke the covers (I know. I have a problem. But it isn’t a bad problem.) But there. The final and biggest reason why I have not been writing. I am still figuring out how to fit this business, not into every crack of spare time, but into reasonable hours. My children don’t mind. They drool over the catalog and revel in all the new books! I am systematically turning them all into bibliophiles (That’s not a bad thing either. After the dishes are done.).

Gabe is back on an evening schedule, which means he will be home around midnight. It has been a pleasure chatting with you kind folks while I wait up for him.

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