Friday, September 7, 2007

Reading Explosion

My 8 year-old (third grader) is a big reader - so much so that it is often a problem at school. Last year his teacher often had to physically remove books from his hands to get him to pay attention during class. This year appears to be much the same. I have talked to him until I'm blue in the face. Usually my first question to him after school was "did you get into trouble for reading today?" Seems funny, doesn't it? He told me yesterday that he just doesn't hear his teacher when he's reading. Now that is escapism at it's finest, I think. To be so involved in a book that the world outside melts away. If it didn't happen in the middle of a math assignment, I'd be a bit more excited about it. Anyway, his reading list is an interesting one. He and I have read some of the same books, but his taste often differs from mine significantly (why I am surprised by this I don't really know). We both read Harry Potter - all the books. He read the Black Stallion and liked it, as did I at about that age. Last week he came home from school and told me he was reading Moby Dick. Ok, I read that book in AP English as a senior in high school - only because it was mandatory reading. I sweated through it and finished it, but it certainly wasn't one of my favorites. He loved it. After school on the car trips home all that week he updated me on what he had read that day. I honestly don't remember much from my reading, but had a few inklings of familiarity when he talked about Quiqueg, Ahab, and Ishmael. He loved the book, finishing it in about a week. I guess it's easy to underestimate the pull of a good book, even a classic - for kids. Sure he reads plenty of modern children's lit, but it's nice to know that I may be able to steer him in other directions too. I'm hoping he'll notice a copy of Johnny Tremain that I've stacked on the bookcase next to his bed, and tackle that next. We'll see.
There is a reading counts program at his school, they get points for reading books on the reading counts list and taking short comprehension tests afterward. I sometimes ask why he doesn't take out more reading counts books from the library, and he rolls his eyes at me. For him, reading is it's own reward. Another recent favorite of his is Runny Babbit, a Billy Sook, by Shel Silverstein. This was a loaner from his cousins. I was tickled to hear him on the phone the other day, with the book laid out in his lap, talking with his cousin about their favorite passages. I guess it's never too early to discuss great literature.
My husband and I are pretty conservative with our parenting. (Well, some may call it conservative, some may call it old fashioned). We don't have a videogame system of any kind. The kids watch TV, but I am very particular about which shows they are allowed to watch. We watch a lot of PBS and Disney Channel and Scooby Doo. This past week the boys have been on the computer non stop, playing games on two new websites - Pokemon and Club Penguin. I'm not really sure how I feel about this. I had hoped to prevent Pokemonitis as long as possible, but it looks like he has finally succombed. Along with all the time spent on the computer, I've noticed an increase in tempertantrums and hyperactivity (again, why am I surprised). We are going to have to significantly limit their computer time, even on the weekends. They need outside time to run off energy, to play and be normal, healthy kids. I'm a firm believer of this "green time". I also pay the consequences if they don't run off their energy because it comes out in the most uncharming ways otherwise. Anyway, tying this back to reading - I am hopeful that a little Melville will help balance the Pokemon influence, just like I hope the piano lessons will balance any exposure to Rap or other questionable music. I know I can't protect him from all the cultural experiences that I find objectionable. But there is always a hope for balance.

Catching up with my reading

Thought I'd spend a few minutes listing some of the books I've read most recently, as a continuation to the Bookworm post of a few months ago.

Books for Adults:

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini, author of Kite Runner. Kite Runner was a little too graphic for me. I liked Suns better. Still heartbreaking, but hopeful.

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte. A classic!

The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde. Very imaginative, and it was helpful that I had recently read Jane Eyre. That helped me follow the plot a bit better.

Eat to Stay Young - Catherine Christie and Susan Mitchell - both Ph.D./R.D. ok read.

YA Books

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien - we listened to this on tape as we travelled this summer. Some scary parts, but still a classic.

Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer, the third in the Twilight trilogy, it's as great as the first two.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling. Book 7. We even went to the bookstore at midnight and stood in unearthly long lines to pick it up.

No Talking - Andrew Clements. Been looking at his books for my oldest son, but this was the first of his that I read. Great book!

The Thief Lord - Cornelia Funke. Loved this book! I started another book by this author - Inkheart.

Surviving the Applewhites (or something like that) a loaner from my sister that I already returned.

That may not be a complete list, but it does include the stand-outs. Have a good day!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Top 10 ways you can tell you are lonely for your soldier

Here's my own top 10 list-
You know you are lonely for your soldier when:

1. You experience a strong gravitational pull toward anyone or anything in a uniform. - I remember when the younger kids and I were Christmas shopping at Toys R Us at the same time the Marines were there collecting toys for their Toys for Tots program. Several of them were in their dress uniforms. The kids and I couldn't shop, we just stood there watching them.

2. The kids want to jump on and wrestle with every adult male they meet. (Luckily, I'm a little more restrained).

3. You can't get to sleep because the house is too quiet after the kids are in bed.

4. You check e-mail several times a day.

5. You become so unused to attention that holding comversations with other adults makes you giddy and you sound like a total goof.

6. The kids' arguments make sense.

7. The phrase "Go talk to your father" is automatically paired with a gesture toward the computer.

8. You look forward to going off and on post for the conversation with the gate guards. (at least they are adults).

9. You check e-mail several times a day.

10. You start to wonder where your life has gone, if you'll ever get it back, and if anyone but you would notice.

24 shining stones

I really don't feel much like writing. It's been one of those not so good days, when I wish I could have stayed in bed. It's not like anything really went wrong, I must have just rolled out of bed on the wrong side. Well, which is the good side when there are 3 children in bed with you? I didn't even have a "side" of the bed to sleep on, more like 6-8 inches. But every so often I have a day when I'm sure I am going to lose my mind - when I'm sure I can't take another day of this. I'm tired, I'm lonely, I need an adult to talk to. So, tonight I read from the book of Ether in the Book of Mormon. For those of you who aren't familiar with this story, the Book of Ether is about a separate group of people at the time of the Tower of Babel, when the Lord confounded the language of the people so they couldn't understand one another. It was a consequence of their wickedness (to think they could build a tower tall enough to reach heaven!). Anyway, Jared, his brother, and their families and friends are preserved by the hand of the Lord and are preparing to cross the ocean to get to a promised land. The Lord instructs them to make vessels that are tight enough to keep out water (but also air and light). The people are afraid to travel such a long way in the darkness, and come up with a solution. The brother of Jared cuts some clear stones and asks God to touch them to make them shine so the people have light on their trip, which He mercifully does. There's a whole part of the story that goes with this encounter, but I'm skipping it to keep this generally brief. Anyway, the voyage takes 344 days. Can you imagine being trapped inside a ship, on the ocean, without seeing the sun often (they had a small hole to let in air, which they had to keep plugged some of the time because of storms and tall waves). Could you imagine doing this in total darkness? Luckily, they don't have to make the trip in total darkness because of the light from the stones. Anyway, the people miraculously don't complain, and when the reach the land, they get out of the boats (probably kiss the land), and thank God for his tender mercies. 344 Days of rolling, stormy seas, and they were uncomplaining and grateful after so long? Tracy has been in Iraq 341 days. We have our own stormy days too, days like today. There is a very well known Conference talk given by Elder Bednar on this topic, the Tender Mercies of the Lord. It is all about the small and simple ways the Lord shows his love for us. For Jared, his brother, and their families, he was merciful enough to give them light for their journey. He didn't miraculously whisk them straight to the promised land to spare them pain or suffering, but he gave them the small miracle of the stones, a reminder of who was really in charge of their safety and lives. Similarly, for us these past months, he hasn't taken away the fatigue, or the loneliness, or the stress of this deployment, not totally anyway. But he has given us many little miracles to help us get through day to day. We have wonderful, loving neighbors and friends, hugely supportive family (who always seem to know when to call or send care packages). We have friends from church. This past Sunday I was reminded of all the support we get from our church friends. One of our home teachers (who was passing the sacrament at the time) returned my kids' waves and smiles. Emma went to sit on the bench between her favorite two babysitters, and TJ sat with our neighbors. I sat in the back with Nathan (and a few extra friends who wandered over) and was grateful for the sustaining love I feel from all the people around me. It's good to have a reminder, even on the bad days, that God is really in charge. That even though I can't see his plan for my life, He knows the plan he has for me and for our family. Now, with the end in sight (we're under 20 days now!) it's my turn to come through this deployment voyage with a grateful heart, thankful for the tender mercies of the Lord.