Friday, August 31, 2007

Summer Reading Wrap-Up

I am very pleased with what I accomplished in my literary life this past summer, thanks to intentional reading. A few books were added here and there; a few books didn't make the 'finished' list, but that's okay. The point is, a deliberate choice was made in my life: reading is important!

For ChocLit Guild:

Little Pilgrim's Progress~finished

Down the Garden Path~finished

The Richest Man in Babylon~finished

(added later) Uncle Tom's Cabin~finished

Just For Me:

Much Ado About Nothing, Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare~finished and enjoyed the live performance; the original play is on my autumn reading list

Cultural Literacy~finished

The Closing of the American Mind~didn't get to, due to adding Uncle Tom's Cabin to my list; will push it forward to my autumn list

North and South~still didn't get around to finishing it; maybe I'll enjoy the second half during a rainy week in the next few months

Anne of Green Gables~currently enjoying

I wasn't as consistent with my daily selections as I would have liked...

A Tale of Two Cities~behind schedule, but plugging away

A Year with C.S. Lewis~also behind schedule, but plugging away

Lord Bless My Child~didn't get to this very often, it needs to be higher on the priority list!

Bible~not often enough, needs to be highest on the priority list!

Reading Aloud With Levi:

A Pioneer Sampler~we've been enjoying this one here and there, along with the projects, and will finish it this fall

Pioneer Girl~finished

Little House in the Big Woods~finished

The Borrowers~finished

(added later) The Penderwicks~finished

The Moffats~currently enjoying

I will post my intentional reading list for the autumn season soon. Please consider joining me! I would love to post links to other lists. If you're interested, leave me a comment with a link to your reading list post.

Moulin Rouge

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901)
Moulin Rouge: La Goulue, 1891

I paint things as they are. I don't comment. I record.

I have tried to do what is true and not ideal.


Moulin Rouge in Paris, France.
Photos by moi. Grin.
(Moulin Rouge is French for Red Windmill.)

My sister, Shannon, and mom are heading to France in a couple weeks! They will be seeing the sights of Paris and Provence. Hopefully they will return with lots of great photographs that I can post in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When Insomnia Pays Off

After our experience at Night Glow, we didn't really have any intentions of visiting the lift-offs scheduled for the next two mornings. Luke, however, was experiencing insomnia very early on Sunday morning (and, by extension, were his parents). Russ had taken the second shift, beginning sometime around 4:30 AM.

Apparently, after a 'slumber party' on Luke's floor and bowls of cereal in the breakfast nook, the two 'boys' took off for a hot air balloon chase. I happened upon these pictures while searching the memory card for other photos. Looks like they had a fabulous time!

Speaking of insomnia, Levi woke me up the other night. He often talks in his sleep (not enough time in the day to meet his word quota), and on this particular night he told me, 'Someone turned out the lights.' I thought that was a rather funny statement at 3:30 AM, but quite fortuitous considering the fact that I was then reminded of the total lunar eclipse occurring at that very moment. I stumbled out to the front yard and spent a few solitary moments gazing at the darkened moon. Thank you, Levi.

Now, I am a person who craves sleep. A lot of sleep. Somehow I gave birth to three boys who didn't receive that memo. But how is it that Levi and Luke are both at their sweetest, softest, dearest disposition in the middle of the night? Luke can be awake for hours, snuggled up against me in bed...holding my hand.

Levi called to me a few nights ago. I drag myself next door to his room where he sleeps on the top bunk above Luke. I let him know that I am there, and he says, 'Mom, will you comfort me?' Not sure if I understand what he is asking for, I rub his leg and say, 'Like this?' His reply...'Yes. Thank you,' in a sweet, soft voice. And that was it. Those are the moments that make life worth living.

Intentional Reading

This past spring and summer, I have participated in the reading challenges presented by Janie at Seasonal Soundings. She is no longer available to host the challenges, but, as I have found that intentional reading lists have dramatically improved my reading, I would like to continue with a fresh list for this fall.

Next week, I will post both my wrap-up for the Summer Reading Challenge and my Autumn Intentional Reading List. If anyone would like to join me, I would love to see your intentional reading lists! It doesn't matter if the list is long, short, simple, or ambitious. The point is to make reading a deliberate choice in our lives. Let's encourage each other!

The greatest gift is the passion for reading.
It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites,
it gives you knowledge of the world and
experience of a wide kind.
It is a moral illumination.
~Elizabeth Hardwick

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Individualist

free enneagram test

"The introspective, romantic type. Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melacholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences."

Not sure I wanted to know that. Wry grin. I'll have to work on the inspiring, renewing and transforming. I think I prefer my Myers-Briggs personality type, the ISFJ. What are you?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Disappointment and Fond Memories

I try to avoid complaining or venting here on this blog (my husband will attest to the fact that I don't hold out nearly so well in person) because I feel that focusing on what is beautiful and uplifting about life actually contributes to it being so, but I really am disappointed.

I have been looking forward to taking my boys to Night Glow at our local Art and Air Festival all summer. In the past, several hot air balloons have inflated in the park after dark. The flame causes the balloon to light up. It really is amazing to behold. The whoooosh of the flame is a fabulous sound and quite loud if you've never been up close to a hot air balloon. When six or eight balloons are in close proximity, the effect is stunning.

We made a fair effort to get our whole family to the park where the crowds were much larger than in the past. We struggled to meet up with my sister and her children. We waited. And waited. I'm not sure what held up the proceedings, but they started much later than in the past. The crowds were a little more, oh, rowdier? than we've been accustomed to at the park concerts and such. The young, pregnant mother of a toddler directly behind us was smoking as were a few others in the vicinity. Language was a bit more coarse. And when the balloons finally lit up, well, there were only two. Sigh. It was a long walk back to our vehicle.

So, I am recalling fond memories in an attempt to bring back the magic. Last year, Russ went with Levi and Luke to the Night Glow and took some wonderful pictures which I am happy to share with you. The next morning, as the sun was rising, 40 hot air balloons lifted off from the park, and Russ was again there with the boys. (The year before, we sat bundled up in a blanket on our front porch in the cool, quiet, crisp morning air and watched all 40 balloons drift over our house with no sound but the intermittent whoosh of the many flames. Magical was the only word to describe the moment. Levi and Russ then hopped in the car and went balloon chasing.)

Night Glow:

The next morning:


Eyre Crowe
Slaves Waiting for Sale--Richmond, Virginia (1861)
Oil painting, exhibited at the Royal Academy, 1861
Slaves Waiting for Sale, Original Sketch, 3 March 1853,
Published by Crowe in With Thackeray in America

Harriet Beecher Stowe created a passionate, heart-wrenching, balanced, well-rounded masterpiece when she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin. This is a book that every American should actually read in its entirety, rather than assume he or she knows the main parts of the story. Yes, it is tragically sad, sob-inducing, and will stick with you long after you have returned it to the bookshelf, but it is a story we must all know.

One of my favorite aspects of this brilliant work is the variety of characters and situations. The author presents good hearted masters, cruel slaves, clueless members of society, and everyone in between. She doesn't gloss over the real difficulties faced when freeing slaves. She doesn't portray abolitionist Northerners as blameless.

The most difficult passages for me to read involved the stories of the slave mothers and their children. My stomach twisted into knots. I then kissed and held my boys so tightly; they didn't understand what came over me. Oh, how much we as a nation have to answer to before God!

pg. 47-48

But stronger than all was maternal love, wrought into a paroxysm of frenzy by the near approach of fearful danger...

The frosty ground creaked beneath her feet, and she trembled at the sound; every quaking leaf and fluttering shadow sent the blood backward to her heart, and quickened her footsteps. She wondered within herself at the strength that seemed to be come upon her; for she felt the weight of her boy as if it had been a feather, and every flutter of fear seemed to increase the supernatural power that bore her on, while from her pale lips burst forth, in frequent ejaculations, the prayer to a Friend above, 'Lord, help; Lord, save me!'

If it were your Harry, mother, or your Willie, that was going to be torn from you by a brutal trader, tomorrow morning--if you had seen the man, and heard that the papers were signed and delivered, and you had only from twelve o'clock till morning to make good your escape--how fast could you walk? How many miles could you make in those few brief hours, with the darling at your bosom--the little sleepy head on your shoulder--the small, soft arms trustingly holding on to your neck?

...How the touch of those warm arms, the gentle breathings that came in her neck, seemed to add fire and spirit to her movements! It seemed to her as if strength poured into her in electric streams, from every gentle touch and movement of the sleeping, confiding child. Sublime is the dominion of the mind over the body, that for a time, can make flesh and nerve impregnable, and string the sinews like steel, so that the weak become so mighty.

pg. 356

Is there anything in it glorious and dear for a nation, that is not also glorious and dear for a man? What is freedom to a nation, but freedom to the individuals in it? What is freedom to that young man who sits there with his arms folded over his broad chest, the tint of African blood in his cheek, its dark fires in his eye--what is freedom to George Harris? To your fathers, freedom was the right of a nation to be a nation. To him, it is the right of a man to be a man and not a brute; the right to call the wife of his bosom his wife, and to protect her from lawless violence; the right to protect and educate his child; the right to have a home of his own, a religion of his own, a character of his own, unsubject to the will of another.

pg. 358

Oh, what an untold world there is in one human heart!

Harriet Beecher Stowe is a captivating study, herself. My appetite whetted by the introduction in my copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin, I purchased Harriet Beecher Stowe and The Beecher Preachers by Jean Fritz to add to my reading stack. Harriet was raised in a household in which her seven brothers were trained for the preaching profession, and the daughters were trained to never speak in public. She wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin while tending to her five living children and expecting her seventh. What, I ask myself, is my excuse?

Uncle Tom's Cabin was August's book selection for ChocLit Guild. We had a delightful evening, meeting at Poet's Garden with a fire in the fire pit, candles in the lanterns, blankets and pillows on the grass, chocolate dessert on our plates, lavender lemonade in our glasses, and the stars gradually coming out to preside over the lively discussion.

One question offered up is this: What tragedy are we so immersed in today that we can't see it clearly? What societal ill would be glaringly obvious to several generations before or after us that our brain-washed souls cannot see? Any thoughts?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cruise In

Grandpa Ron's Rod:What did I tell you about Leif and being in control?
He's got the driving thing down!

Uncle Casey's Truck:
He's put a lot of time and energy into this project. (Casey is on the right.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wet, Gray, Lazy Days

Occasionally it is nice to get gray, rainy days in the middle of the summer. It is an excuse to put on long sleeved shirts and 'snuggle in.' I'm just thankful the storm held off until the night after Leif's birthday party. I awoke at 2 in the morning to the sound of the rain pounding on the roof.

We had an incredibly lazy day yesterday. Either I win the negligent housekeeper award or the funnest mom award, because the big boys had a sensational time building a fort in the front room with the couch cushions and anything else they could find. The jungle gym kept them busy for hours, while Leif had his morning nap and I read Uncle Tom's Cabin (which I have got to get finished before our book club meeting!).

I have wonderful childhood memories of building blanket forts with my sisters in our family room. (Although mom's memories are likely not as fond as ours.) Maybe that is why I get a big grin on my face watching the boys. (And, yes, they are jumping on the cushions...bad mom!)

We had a big clean-up session before lunch, and then Leif and Luke both had afternoon naps. Levi spent an hour in the bathtub (he seems to find it very relaxing) while listening to his newest Jim Weiss CD, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I would have used Jennefer's great idea for our rainy day, but then I would have had to clean my floor. Nah. We'll save that for another day.

The sun peeked out this morning and the boys headed outside in their jammies and bare feet to find some mud puddles. (I know. Bad mom.)

What do you do on wet, gray, lazy days during the summer?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Messing Around in Boats

There is nothing- absolutely nothing-half so much worth doing
as simply messing about in boats.
-Ratty said to Mole in The Wind in the WillowsDad is such a sport!
It didn't take Leif long to figure out the steering wheel.
He is a boy who likes to be in control.
Great-grandpa got the short end of the stick.
Not sure how he ended up with the guy who couldn't reach the pedals!

Birthdays in our family are always an excuse to party. Lately, we don't get the chance to entertain nearly as often as we would like, so when a birthday rolls around we play it up!

Leif's first birthday was just such an occasion. Running with the Wind in the Willows theme, we started out the bash with a little paddle-boating! Not quite the same as rowing down a river, but it was jolly fun.