Saturday, October 25, 2014

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

I loved this book. Loved. This. Book. Go out, right now, and somehow get this book in your hands because it's phenomenal. I couldn't put it down and am ready to read the next book, Forge, as Chains ended with a cliff hanger!

Chains is about a young girl, Isabella, who is a slave during the Revolutionary War. I've read about slavery during the Civil War, so this intrigued me. Right in the beginning, she is being sent/sold to a new household. You can read about the plot on Laurie Halse Anderson's website. See those awards on the book cover? They are there for a reason. It's an excellent excellent book.

What I want to share is why I found myself crying on the treadmill at the gym as I read Chains. I fell so in love with Isabella. I've always been drawn to books that held these themes and plots. In fact, if I had not gone the English teaching route, I would have just done English with African American Lit emphasis. But Isabella spoke to me in a way that other characters haven't yet. And I think it's because of my own family. I couldn't help but imagine Callie during some of these scenes. No, luckily she was not born during slavery. But I think of her family history. Chances are extremely high that slavery was a part of her biological line. And that breaks my heart, deeply. I thought of Callie being treated in some of the ways Isabella was and it made me weep. Isabella also has a sister, Ruth, who she tries to watch over...the best she can anyway while she's doing all her work. We find that Ruth has epilepsy and the seizures hit randomly. And I thought of Sammy, naturally. Just as Isabella is the protector of her sister, Callie is the same for Sammy in many ways. And the book became very personal.

It is so well written. Anderson shares a fantastic story while introducing beautiful characters. I loved it. I may just have to buy this book to have on our bookshelves.

Read it. Have your children read it. Then talk about it together.

Friday, October 24, 2014

as a child

We carved pumpkins on Monday for family night. It was fun. Priscilla and Alex came over and brought some pumpkins to carve up as well. I didn't get pictures of us with the pumpkins. In fact, we really didn't document the night at all. But, this is what did happen...

Pumpkins were carved as per tradition
We laughed
We ate tortilla chips and bean dip
Alex and Callie jumped on the trampoline
Micah joined in
Sammy finally made it over there as well
Callie drew the jack o lanterns and pulled out the pumpkin guts
Priscilla spent the evening slowly carving her pumpkin while we talked
We talked a lot
And we watched while we spent TIME together

We also caught Micah being so kind with Sammy. As she sat by the table close to us, she watched as we carved. Micah ate chips and must have noticed Sammy there. He walked over and began to feed her some chips. He was right. She wanted some.

He was gentle. Kind. Patient.

He was being a brother.

I was reminded that it's the small things we do everyday that make who we are. The big things are...big...and noticeable. There is value to those big things. But what forms our character are the daily acts we perform. It's what we become.

I feel so blessed to have perfect examples surround me everyday. Their tenderness and love teaches me to be better...teaches me to become as a child.

“I have found that it is the small things, every day deeds from ordinary folk, that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”
The Hobbit

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Uesugi Farm 2014

As tradition would have it, we spent a Monday night family night at the pumpkin patch.  We went down to San Martin and went to Uesugi Farm.  For some reason I thought it was the one we went to last year. It wasn't. It was ok, but I preferred the one we went to last year. I need to look that up and see where that was. But, I'd say Pumpkin Patch 2014 was a success nonetheless.

Callie kindly led Micah around.

Possibly my a favorite picture of the night.

Callie and Micah waited with much anticipation to get on the train!

Or, this could be my favorite picture.

The train was a huge hit! Sammy loved it. Callie and Micah felt all grown up in their own seat.

I have this love for sunflowers lately...well, over the past year or so. They aren't my favorite flower in terms of beauty necessarily. Don't get me wrong. There is a lot of pizazz in a sunflower and I love the vibrant color. But the sunflower has become so symbolic to they always face the sun.I loved the sunflowers at the farm so was taking a couple shots when this bee started working. And the symbolism became richer. So I took a picture hoping to capture the memory and thoughts I had during the visit at the farm.

Rows of fall flowers that Micah loved running through.

 I thought the carousel would be a fan favorite...for sure. Callie and Sammy loved it. But Micah was terrified. He would NOT let me get him on his own horse ~ or any animal for that matter! He and I ended up sitting on a bench and just going around and around. He held tight and put his head down. It wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be for him, but at least it wasn't traumatic.

I'm not sure what's funnier...Sammy's toothy grin or Callie in the background!


Playin' the pumpkin drum. What a goof.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sweet Dreams

Once a week I go to a park with my friends and their kids. We don’t always stay long, but we try to make it as often as we can. Today we talked about the rigors of bedtime. My friend mentioned that it was the worst part of her day! I think many mommies would agree.

I thought about how bedtime has changed a lot for our kids over the years. It once used to be, what I considered, horrendous. But it’s changed as our kids have grown and matured. It seems that their little minds and bodies now understand that sleep is actually a good thing. Phew!

And I got to thinking about our bedtime routine last night. It came to my mind in snapshots, and it was a beautiful picture.


An evening out with the family.
Train ride.
Smiles and snapshots.

Walk in the door. Commence bedtime routine.

Change into jammies.
One last cookie…pleeeease?”
Pick out clothes for tomorrow.
Brush teeth.
Change diaper #1.
Change diaper #2.
What? Go brush your teeth again. No more cookies. Seriously.”
Make lunches for school.
Potty for child #3.
Another cookie is missing. (Um, yep, that was me.)

Family Prayer
Family Hug


Callie went into her room to read some books while I laid Sammy down for bed. Sammy was pretty wired after a fun evening, but quickly molded into my body as I sat on her chair in the corner of her room. She wiggled and squirmed at first, but the Sandman accepted the invitation and came in as I brushed her hair to the side. She was quiet almost instantly and her breathing was heavy and deep. I held her longer than necessary so I could just capture the moment and relish her beautiful spirit.

Afterwards, I went into Callie’s room. We talked about the day, laughed a little, and I softly scratched her back before kissing her head and walking out the door. My heart was overflowing with love for her. See, no matter how rough our day has been, bedtime has become one of my favorite times of day. It wasn't always that way, but it is now. And actually, our days are filled with a lot more peace than they used to be as well. So it's nice to cap the day off with a beautiful reminder of the day and how much I love my little girl.

I put Micah to bed about an hour later. He’s two and still my baby. After brushing his teeth, we give Daddy a bedtime salute and walk down the dark hallway to his room where I sing a song of his choosing and kiss his forehead. I then use the spray bottle containing lavender oil onto his bed and over his head. He giggles. He loves being sprayed with the lavender and will ask for it if I forget. I shut the curtains, lay him down, and quietly say “I love you” as I walk out. Just before I shut the door, I hear “I love you” in a soft whisper. And I melt. He’s two. He’s crazy busy during the day. But bedtime is always calm and precious with this boy. It always has been. 

I remember when bedtime was frustrating. When kids got out of bed. When kids would cry. When it seemed there were endless trips to the bathroom. And endless need for a drink of water! When I dreaded bedtime because it tested my patience when my patience was already spent. And now…now it’s one of the highlights of my day because after the busy-ness of getting ready for bed, there is a tenderness that kisses our cheeks goodnight.

After that, my sleep is rewarding and sweet. 

I've thought about how certain trials can often feel like, well…the bedtime routine. It’s hard. Sometimes tortuous! We don’t look forward to it. We dread it. We want it to just end already. But there is hope. It will change. When? We don’t know. But after the struggle is over, there is a layer of frustration/despair/anger/hurt that is removed and we are filled with even more love and compassion and beauty than was previously there.

Maybe it’s a weak comparison, especially depending on the trial that is being faced. But hey, some people have REALLY challenging bedtimes!

I think of Samantha's disabilities. I think of my worries about some of Callie's struggles. I think of working through the adoption process again...glad we're on the path, but in a constant state of mild anxiety over not knowing. Some of the trials we have may never end in this lifetime. But the pain of them can end when we learn to hand them over to the Lord. It takes practice, because sometimes, I've been known to hand pain and sadness over to Him, and then take it back! How dumb is that?! But I'm learning. And when it's passed off, I am filled with a tenderness and light that fills my entire body and spirit. I feel lighter.

And at the end of the day, my sleep is rewarding and sweet.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

She Had a Fish

Most likely, we will never have a dog (unless I can wear Marcus down).  Truth be told, on paper, I don't want a dog.  They are expensive, take a lot of work...I'd rather devote to energy to another child...not a dog.  But, deep deep down, I really really really want a dog.  Not only would I love it, but I see how Callie is with her cousin's dogs.  She adores them.  And I see how those dogs are with Sammy.  It melts my heart.  Gus sits by Sammy on the couch, just cuddles up to her, and she likes it.  I can tell.  Gus patiently sits as she "pets" his back -- ok, it's more like plucking the hairs out of his back, but it's soft.  She's trying.  I love it.  But, again, on looks like a headache.  Right?

Well, I can't let Callie know my secret desire for a dog because she REALLY wants one.  Since she' knows it's not in the forecast for, well, anytime soon, she's been wanting a fish.  A harmless little fish.  She used to pray for it even.

A couple weeks ago, her fish was granted.  Prayers were answered.  There was a street fair at church and she won a fish.  Oh boy was this girl ecstatic! 

 She appropriately named him Fishy.  Or her?  I can't remember what we decided.  But it was a real, living fish.

 She did a good job taking care of him.  She fed him and we changed the water...once.
Marcus and I decided that if Fishy lived past a week, we'd invest money and buy a bigger bowl.

At the week mark, Fishy didn't look his/her/its vibrant self.  Nope.  See Fishy in this picture?  He was alive then.  One week.  She was sad, but not devastated.  But she's ready for another one, this time ready to change the water more than once.  (I actually think that was the problem, maybe?  Who knows?)

Though we didn't expect him to live long, he lived longer than I expected.  I was sad when he died.  I mean, Fishy was a living thing.  And it died.  It's just sad.  And I feel bad if I was somehow involved in his death.  Seriously.  

Last week Marcus asked Callie what she wants to ask Santa for Christmas?
A fish.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This book?  Incredible.  And I just found out, right now, that a movie is coming out in December!  Whaaaat?  What a great Christmas movie.  It better be good!  Seriously though, hands down one of the best books I've read.  I put it on my Top 10 list (which I don't have because really, how can anyone possibly begin the daunting task of limiting their favorite books to only 10?  I assure you, it's impossible!).

When we were in San Diego, I did some book talk with my sister whilst we laid poolside.  At the time I was reading 12 Years a Slave.  Loved it.  Great book.  She then told me about Unbroken.  She warned me it was long, but convinced me it was well worth my time.  Honestly if anyone else had recommended it to me, I probably wouldn't have jumped on it so quickly.  I have the attention span that's good for young adult literature.  Get to the story, keep it moving, make it snappy.  If the actualy book is too thick, I'm immediately turned off.  My professor referred to it at the Big Mac.  If a book is bigger than a bite from a Big Mac, no kid will want to read it.  I won't read it either.  I need to be REALLY convinced.  But since anything my sister tells me becomes canonized in my mind, I acted promptly.  (Definition of 'promptly' -- before finishing my other 2 books, I purchased Unbroken on my kindle and had it ready to go.  It helps that with a kindle I can't truly see how close to the Big Mac size it is.)

My sister's status remains up high on that pedestal because this book, holy freakin' cow, did not disappoint.  I loved it.

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Before I jump into the story, let me talk about the research necessary for a book of this caliber.  Laura Hillenbrand is incredible.  (She also authored Seabiscuit.)  Many may not know this, but apparently Hillenbrand struggles with illness, sometimes to the point where she can be bedridden for weeks at a time.  Sometimes she can't write for many days.  She is extremely thorough in her research, and because of her situation, often takes a very long time to publish a book.  However, when she does publish, it's golden.  I have a habit of reading the Acknowledgments section in the back of books.  I think it's because I hope to publish a book one day, and I would hope that, perhaps, that section has meaning to it.  Come on people, it's the Acknowledgements section.  Let's acknowledge people.  And let me tell you, I was amazed at how many people were involved in this book.  The research is impressive.

So, let's talk story.  Louis Zamperini, punk kid, turned Olympic athlete, turned bomber and defender of freedom, turned war prisoner in Japan.  The things he survived is beyond incredible from sharks to disgusting abuse and down right cruelty in various POW camps.  And when he finally gets home (this isn't a spoiler people...he gets home), the effects of those experiences start taking a toll.  How do you go on after living in Hell?  How do you function?  Where do you go from there?

I could go on and on, but all I want to say is this: I did not want to put the book down.  I stayed up way too late...into the wee hours of the I could keep reading.  I haven't done that in a very very long time.  I was captivated.  I was inspired.  And I believe my own faith was strengthened.  Zamperini's faith, humility, resilience, and plain character...maybe that's the real story.  And it reminds us all that there is always hope.  Always.

So worth the read.  Put it on your bucket list.  It's that good.

*** I just saw that Louis Zamperini, at age 97, passed away this past July.  He worked with Laura Hillenbrand when she wanted to write his story, and then worked with Angelina Jolie when she wanted to direct the movie.  He won't live to see it on screen, but he lived it.  And he lived it well.  People like Louis change lives.  So glad I read his story.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Making Plans for Tomorrow

While Micah plays, he also apparently is making plans for tomorrow.  I hope Grammy and Grandpa are available, because he plans on seeing them.


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