Friday, August 31, 2007

For the love of books

There was an article in the paper not long ago citing a "recent survey" that found that only 1 out of 4 Americans have read a book in the past year. I don't put a lot of stock in surveys, but I like that the question has prompted some discussion among bloggers about how our own reading habits fit in with these statistics.

Sometimes I think I feel about books the way my Italian friend feels about food and recipes. It's not just enough to try a book/recipe. You have to first give careful consideration to what kind of book/recipe you want to try. Then you have to make sure just the right ingredients are available. You enjoy the entire experience of cooking/reading the selection. And then afterward you discuss it in great detail so as to relive the entire experience.

Even though I'm currently a "reading snob" I can see how it would be easy to get out of the reading habit, and did so for a number of years. My love for reading started in the third grade with Charlotte's Web. After that, it seemed I always had my nose in a book, through grade school, junior high and high school. I developed the habit of picking up a book and, literally, not stopping until I had finished the last page. I guess in those days I was a fast reader and had the luxury of a lot of time on my hands. In college, I was so absorbed in required reading for history and English classes that I had little or no time for free reading and just fell out of the habit. If I couldn't read a book in just a few sittings, it didn't seem worth starting.

Later, at some point, I joined a book club, partly to get out of the house when the kids were little and partly to stimulate my brain to think about something other than diapers and pre-school literature. It wasn't until about six years ago, when I had foot surgery that I fell back into reading -- and finally learned to discipline myself to read a few chapters if that's all I have time for! My foot surgery turned me into a couch potato for about a week -- 24/7. And after that, I was on crutches for several months, so I still had lots of down time. I remember reading several books --Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time, is the one that sticks in my mind, and I realized how much I missed reading as a daily activity. Now, it's rare that I don't have at least one book going.

I grew up in a family that loves books. My parents were both readers, and our home contained numerous bookcases, including one in every bedroom. For my 10th birthday I received a bookcase for my bedroom and I was so excited! A place to put more books! We had a strict bedtime as kids, but were allowed an extra half-hour before lights out to read.

My husband always has a book going, though we read very different kinds of books. He reads every night before he goes to sleep. I am amazed, however, that when he's too tired to continue, he can stop himself mid-paragraph! When I get together with my family, the topic of conversation always turns to "what are you reading?" My aunt, mother-in-law and stepmom are always sources for a good book and we are constantly trading books among the four of us.

I think the whole idea of instilling reading as a habit in kids is one of those nature vs. nurture things. My oldest son has had a book in his hand since he was first able to grasp at anything. Even before he could read, he was taking books to bed instead of a blankie or a stuffed animal. Yes, being a first child, my husband and I were determined to do everything "right" and we read to him without fail, every single night. But we did with #2 also. And he rarely wanted a book read more than once. We would often have to coax him to sit still for a story. He was expected to do the same reading programs as #1, took him to story hour and to Barnes & Noble for a "treat" where he would (and still does) head for the games or music department. Other than the sports section of the newspaper, he just doesn't like to read. Child #3 got the same reading prep treatment though admittedly not as enthusiastically or consistently. She loves to be read to, and at the age of 10 has taken a sudden interest in the library, the book store and writing stories. I think that you can provide all the books and opportunity, but the love of reading is something that people often come to on their own.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Coffee break





It's quiet here in blogville today. I guess we're all busy getting back to fall routines and doing what we're "supposed" to do. Anyone feel like taking a coffee break? Just 15 minutes. I just dropped the kids at school, threw in a load of laundry and checked my phone messages for work.

Today is one of those "run around" days. Pick up Luke at 10:45 for an ortho appointment. Haircut for me at 1:00. Get an Rx at the pharmacy. Pick up Em at 2:45 from school. Back-to-school night tonight. One of the things that has really helped me out this week is that I FINALLY did a menu plan! I've been inspired by those of you who do the Monday Menus. In fact, last night we had Annie's Taco Meatloaf. You make it in the crockpot. Soooo, YUM! Tonight, we're having chicken with noodles and veggies. Tomorrow, I'll make up some spaghetti sauce -- enough that there'll be some for the freezer. Friday night is supposed to be burritos. But I just found out my niece will be in town playing volleyball, so I have a feeling I'll opt for grabbing McD's before we meet the rest of the family to watch her game. I'll save the burritos for Saturday. Such a load off my mind to have the meals planned this week.

Off on a tangent here . . . This month's Catholic Digest features Mike Piazza on the cover -- former Mets player, currently with the Padres and the greatest hitting catcher of all time. I only know this because he's one of my son's favorite baseball players. I was so thankful to see him featured in Catholic Digest, with an entire article on what his faith means to him. It is very timely, as I've been fielding a lot of questions of late and "why do I have to go to church?". Now that there isn't the influence of parochial school and weekly mass, I've wondered how will I keep God's presence in my freshman's day? It's like a priest once told me, what makes you think it's your job to change someone's heart? That's God's job. He works through us. And I guess he's working through Mike Piazza, too! (Thanks, Mike:)

Emily and I are reading Little House on the Prairie in the evenings. She reads for 30 minutes, then I read to the end of whatever chapter we're on. I love hearing the story in her voice:)

There's a book challenge coming up that I can't get off my mind! Since I'm in two book clubs and have a stack of my own TBR, I was going to swear off book challenges. But this one is too good to resist. It's In Their Shoes -- reading memoirs and biographies and autobiographies. My favorite genre, being that I'm so nosey:)

Okay, coffee break is over. Have a great rest of the day!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Reflections




The new school supplies were carried to school in backpacks on Monday, and the kids have their first week of classes under their belts. This year is one of those turning points for our family. We have no kids at the parochial school where all the kids began their education. It's bittersweet -- hard to leave good friends, but exciting for what lies ahead.

Emily is adjusting to the change and has made some nice friends at her new school. She has decided that having a male teacher for 5th grade is okay, he is actually pretty nice.

Luke is in his first year of high school. After going kindergarten through 8th grade at the same school, he loves being in a BIG new place with lots of new faces (but lots of familiar ones, too, meeting up with friends he knows through community sports and around the neighborhood).

Joe is a senior, counting the days until he finishes his course work in December. He and Luke drive to school together in the morning, and even shared gym shoes one day this week, when Luke forgot his. Way to look out for your little brother, Joe.

I had my much-anticipated "back-to-school" coffee with my friend Kathy (bff since 7th grade) on Friday. We breathed a collective sigh of relief to have our kids back at school, and wondered how we got through the entire summer with only one pool date!

Last night, four of us went to the Rockies game (Go Rockies!) Here is a photo that Luke took with his cell phone. I'm smiling because the Rockies are winning and also because Dan fixed the kitchen faucet yesterday and now I get more than 3 drops of water at a time. It's so great, it's like Niagra Falls when I turn the faucet on. I know, doesn't take much to please me (SOMEtimes), but the car and the kitchen sink -- two major tools of my trade. How am I supposed to function without them?





Thanks, hon!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Let freedom ring. . .

Let me preface this by saying that I love my children. I.love.my.children.
I also love the First Day of School. Public education is one of the most glorious instutions in this great country of ours. I respect and admire people that homeschool. It's wonderful that we have choices. However, for the safety of my children, I could never do it.
The First Day of School became a holiday of sorts in my family way back when my brothers and I were kids. Like most families in the 60s, my mother was a stay-at-home-mom. She loved being a homemaker. She loved us kids. But after weeks and weeks of summer heat and close proximity with kids -- her own and the rest of the neighborhood -- she celebrated when that marvelous day finally arrived: The First Day of School.
In jubilation, she would run to the hall closet where the American flag was kept at the ready for every national holiday. In a flourish of enthusiasm she would unfurl it and stick it in its bracket by the front door. "It's time to hang out the flag, she'd say, one of her favorite expressions for marking an occasion of great significance.
"That's disrespectful to the American flag," we would protest. "It's unconstitutional."
To which she recited, from her handbook on Care and Use of the American Flag, "The flag is hung in times of patriotism and celebration." We couldn't argue with her. My mother was as patriotic as the day is long.
For years, we'd hurry out the door on the First Day of School, past Old Glory and my mother on the front porch, waving good-bye -- a bit too eagerly I always thought. Eventually, our next door neighbor joined in when her kids became school-aged. In confusion one year, another neighbor hung his flag, too, probably scratching his head trying to figure out what the holiday was.
Now, as a mother myself, I understand my mother's thinking. In fact, the tradition has spread to my generation. On the first day of school as I bid my kids good-bye, the flag is flapping in the breeze. Two blocks down from me, my cousin has her flag flying when her four kids rush off to catch the first bus of the season. Even my Australian sister-in-law displays the stars and stripes on her day of emancipation.
The more things change, the more things stay the same. A mother's joy on the First Day of School is one of them. Don't let those tears at the kindergarten door fool you. By next year and the years that follow, most mothers are whooping with glee

Sunday, August 19, 2007

How nice!

"This award is for those bloggers who are nice people; good blogging friends, and those who inspire good feelings and inspiration. It is also for those who are a positive influence on our blogging world."
I've always heard that it pays to be nice. I try to be nice, just because it's nicer to be nice than not (huh?). But when someone lets you know that they think your nice. . . well, it does feel rather nice:) Lynne and Bev were both so sweet to think of me with this pretty, pretty blog award. And I all I have to say is "right back at ya," because they are both as nice as can be.
I get to pass this on to 7 more nice people. That's a tough one because I'm so fond of all my friends who visit my blog! But, I do want to spread this pretty icon, and I pick Christi, Becky, Kim, Kris, Xandra, Gail, Stacy and Tristi. Okay, that's 8, but better to know too many nice people, don't you think?

My Summer Vacation

In keeping with the tradition of a My Summer Vacation back-to-school essay, here are just a few reflections about some accomplishments of the past 10 weeks worth noting:
  • I read some awesome books. And I won a prize drawing from the Adult SummerReading Program at our library -- a $25 gift certificate to the mall!
  • Found a new home for the cat. When we were away on our first trip, she was very insulted to be left behind, and did some very naughty things. When it was time for usto go away again, I looked into having her kenneled. Cost: $100 to have her shots up-do-date and $150 for the kennel fee. Let's see, $250 for a cat that poops on my carpet and claws my furniture. The kids won't feed her because the food smells "yucky." (I reminded them, I attended to them for years and they smelled pretty "yucky" at times.) OR. . . $50 relinquishment fee at the Humane Society. Gee. . . . . tough decision.
  • Gained back 8 of the 12 lbs. I lost (ouch).
  • Got a terrific tan. Yeah, I know it's vain, but it looks great and helps camoflauge the 8 lbs. (I hope).
  • Re-newed my love of cooking, because I hardly cooked all summer. Great for my family. (Not-so-great for my resolution to lose those 8 lbs. again.)
  • Traveled 2,900 miles in a car with my family of five and we all arrived home in one piece. No broken ribs, swimmers ear and I didn't throw any crayons out the window this time. (Someday, I'll write about that trip).

All-in-all it was a pretty darn good summer. Granted I didn't get my scrapbooks caught up. I didn't get the powder room painted. In fact, I pretty much forgot my list of to-do's that I made back in June -- I should look at it again. But, I think it was what summer should be -- lots of ice cream with the kids, get-togethers with family and friends, time in the water and reading. That is how I spent my summer vacation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Trip's log

Luke is off for his first day of high school. It's freshman orientation day. Wow, our summer vacation just butted right up against our first day of school. I haven't even finished all that laundry yet. Yesterday, I registered Emily for her new school and took Luke to buy school supplies.

Part of me is still hanging on to our trip. Yesterday was the first day in forever that I've been grocery shopping and fixed supper.

I still have pictures of Lake Powell and our road trip floating in my mind. Like this:



Lake Powell is located in the southeast corner of Utah and the northwest corner of Arizona. One hundred forty miles of lake with over 2,000 miles of coastline, it was formed in the 60s when the Hoover Dam was built in the Colorado River. I remember as a little girl, my family traveled from New Jersey to Arizona where my dad worked in Flagstaff for several summers. One year we went home by way of Colorado, and saw the dam when it was brand new.

My favorite part of visiting there is taking the speed boat and exploring all the canyons, where there are still remnants of Indian ruins and paintings on the wall, and some of the coolest rock formations! My kids love the water sports -- tubing and wake-boarding.

We spent 5 days at Powell, then headed for Sacramento, staying the night in Sandy, Utah. My sister-in-law was totally surprised when the whole family showed up to celebrate her 50th birthday!

(Suprise, Carol!!)
It was priceless! We had two full days to spend with her, visiting a winery and antique car show one day, and taking the "kids of all ages" to a fun center the next. Race cars, bumper boats, and putt-putt followed by lunch at In-and-Out-Burgers -- yes, it does have the best hamburgers I've ever tasted. And the fresh peaches,plums and figs, right off the trees in Carol's yard were scrumptious.

The road trip went very smoothly and surprisingly quickly. Dan, Joe and I broke up the driving. Luke and Em watched movies, and during breaks from driving Joe chatted with friends through text messaging, Dan napped and watched movies and I knitted or read books.

On the way home, we took I-80 through Wyoming and stopped at Ft. Bridger. The kids were good sports -- they were so anxious to get home, but first we dragged them through most of the buildings, buying bottled Stewart's sodas at the little gift store to quench the heat, and snapping photos.

Historic trails marker -- Oregon Trail, Pony Express route and Mormon Trail, all passed through here.

And, the best part of vacationing is coming home. We were so happy to see our dog, Abby, who had a little vacation of her own. Our good friend brought her dog, Winnie, over to house sit. She broke all the rules by letting Abby sleep with her and Winnie in our king-size bed. I have to say, Abbs looked pretty happy, but thrilled to see us just the same.

If you've lasted this long, you should get an award. If not, no worries. I'm thinking that when I'm old and gray and in a home somewhere, I'll enjoy reading my blog. By then, I will have probably lost the rest of my mind, so it will be a brand new story!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Photo album

Home at last. I should have plenty to blog about, but after 2,900 miles (yes, almost 3,000 miles! from Denver to Lake Powell, Utah, to Sacramento and back to Denver), I am brain dead, as well as knee deep in laundry. Besides that, the cupboards are bare and I have three kids that will be starting school in the next few days. So for now, here are some photos. I look forward to catching up with everyone real soon!

View from the front deck:








Home away from home. My brother's boat aptly named, "Miss My Money."







Fun on the water.













Hiking the canyons at Powell.







Friday, August 3, 2007

Smoke Screen

It's just me, pushing buttons, turning knobs and dials, and flailing my arms about, trying to get this show on the road and attempting to fool everyone that I have it all together. As my family knows, I tend to create a lot of noise and steam and smoke when I get like this. They're not fooled a bit.
Tomorrow, we leave for a 10-day trip, and not only am I getting my family of five vacation-ready, I'm also getting the house ready for a housesitter. I've never had a housesitter before. In fact, we hardly ever have overnight company. Our families all live within a few hours drive from here and since we don't have a guest room, we rarely get more than an overnight stay from anyone. So now. . . the idea of someone living in my house for 10 days. . . suddenly all the things I've put off are glaring at me, smirking at me, putting out their tongues at me. Grimey floors, unweeded gardens, piles of ironing, sticky fridge. It's too late for a complete makeover, but I do want the place to look presentable. It would be nice to work a bit of magic and get it all in shape. But, for now, scrubbing the bathrooms and giving the rest a cat-lick and a promise with have to suffice.
In twelve hours we'll be on our way to Lake Powell, Utah, where we'll spend the week with my brother and his family. My kids will get to play water sports and I'll get to relax and enjoy the sun and exert myself just enough to dig through my bag for the next book to read. Then we're going to California for a few days to surprise Dan's sister for her birthday. It will be a long drive, but I caved into family pressure and we have a double-screen DVD player for the car. I drew the line at the video games. I told them if I had my way, we would be listening to Great Expectations on audio tape, and to be happy with the DVD player. As it is, they will be much more content watching movies and between trading driving with Dan, I will be knitting away in hopes of getting the other sock finished for a pair.
Looking forward to catching up with you all when I get back!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Magazine giveaway

Robin at Robinznest is celebrating her 100th post by having a drawing for a free magazine subscription. Go here to check it out.
If it's a magazine, I'm all over it. There's nothing like a bright, glossy cover touting the answers to everything I ever needed to know, to get me to open my wallet in a heartbeat. I'm a sucker for articles that promise to get me organized; reduce my make-up routine to 3 easy steps, and look like Catherine Zeta-Jones in the process; or outline my meal planning for the next six weeks and make grocery shopping a snap. I just know that the next magazine I buy will be the one with all the answers.
My favorite of all time is Mary Englebreit's Home Companion. Oh, someday, I'll have a craft room that will produce beautiful things and look like a designer project itself. Then there's Simple Meals. I just know that if I can master the recipes in one of those magazines, everyone in my family will agree on the same menus for supper. Picking up the newest copy of Woman's Day at the check-out stand just puts a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. I know when I get home and unload the groceries, then it's Me Time and I get to put on the kettle and sink into my favorite chair with a brand new magazine. I don't know what's better, buying that little surprise at the grocery store or finding it, unexpectedly, in the mailbox one day.
I guess there are worse things in life than being addicted to the latest issue of Good Housekeeping. Not being one to hoard years' worth of periodicals, when I'm finished with my reading -- if I haven't clipped the bajeebers out of them -- I take them to the next doctor or dentist office that is in need. So everybody wins:)