Miniature Mussolini in a 5-point harness.

Here’s what is needed for us to travel across the state with 3 kids.

 - One large suitcase for the adult clothing.
 - One medium (hot pink!) suitcase for the kids’ clothing.
 - One small suitcase for the first overnight, with clothing for all of us.
 - a canvas bag holding our sleeping paraphanalia (white noise machine, alarm clock, nightlights, Adam’s blanket, sippy cup, & various stuffed animals, Leah’s blankie, sippy cups for the big kids) which all went into the small suitcase after that first night

 - reusable shopping bag with meal supplies (washable bib, dishes for Adam – used once, snack cups, bag of pretzels)
 - Pack & play (portable crib/playpen )
 - portable booster seat, which we have also been using at home
 - golf clubs, of course!
 - travel DVD player & DVDs
-  a backpack for each of the big kids
 - two bags of books for Adam

Anything seem unusual there?

Here’s the truly annoying thing about traveling with our sweet Adam: He refuses to sleep in the van.  No matter if it’s bedtime or naptime, I can probably count on one hand the number of times he’s slept while we’ve been on a road trip.

Oh sure, when he was a baby he slept plenty in the van.  And then he hit about 9 months old. Eeks.

His favorite carseat activity is “reading” books.  However, he is very particular about what books he’ll look at, and now with words at his beck & call, he yells out commands like, “Grover book! Elmo book!” or even just, “Nemo!” and no, we do not have a book of Finding Nemo – he’s referring to a couple of ocean books with pictures of fish that LOOK like Nemo.  But you knew that, right?

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but he also does not like to look at the same books over & over, not that I can blame him too much. Now we have a collection of 4 lift-the-flap books, which are great favorites, and also a Lightening McQueen book with sound buttons.  Add to these about 50 other books (Elmo, Little Critter, Berenstain Bears, Thomas the Train, etc) and you have an idea of what was doing for the many hours of driving – answering the cries of “BOOK!” from our backseat dictator.

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Fortunately, he is willing to play around with a Leapster (both Leah and Ben have them) for a while, and a few other noise/button toys also.  Watching the first movie was great, because it was already past his bedtime and he was so tired he just spaced out.  The rest of the trip, I discovered that if I just ignored his demands for books while a movie was on, he’d eventually forget and get sucked in by the movie.

I’m laying down the law, folks. ONE FORM OF DISTRACTION AT A TIME IS PLENTY!

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Anyway, we drove 6 hours west, and then about 2 1/2 hours south, and then back home again.  Everywhere we looked we saw luscious green grass and sometimes water in places where it normally is not.  For two kids raised in the drought-stricken western half of North Dakota, it was like something out of the Twilight Zone.

It’s always fun to visit Aaron’s family members (his parents & two brothers, and then a sister and her family), and we got to visit my parents and Grandpa Henry also, so I think it was a succesful five days!

We are headed back out (only 4 hours, this time) for Grandpa’s 90th birthday at the end of the month.  Should I unpack that small library or just leave it in the bags where they have been all summer?

What is the “must-pack” entertainment item when you hit the road with your kids or family?

This week brought to you by COFFEE.

There has been quite a bit of hub-bub around here lately.  Do I say that every week?  It feels like it.  I sure hope you aren’t bored with it, because I really don’t see things slowing down anytime soon.

For starters, my friend G and her family returned from a year spent overseas, and are staying with us for a week or so while they buy a house and get ready to visit family for a bit.  Their girls C & O are about 2 & 4 years older than Leah and have had very limited playmates for the last year, so they are all having a blast together. G & husband P are practically the perfect houseguests – Aaron and I tried to think of something to complain about the other night, and came up with nothing. NOTHING, I tell you.

Aaron was on call this weekend, which meant that even though work wasn’t as demanding as it could have been, he was preoccupied and in & out of the house, and I couldn’t just leave the kids with him in case he had to leave.  But like I said, it wasn’t too bad, and now he has today off!

Yesterday Aaron and P took all the big kids to Thunder Road for some mini-golf, and this afternoon Aaron took Leah and Ben to Cars 2.  Those kids are gonna be IMPOSSIBLE after all this excitement.

Thanks to G & P babysitting, Aaron and I got a little date last night.  We went to Sushi 101, and really enjoyed it!  Tasty, good price & portion size, and dishes marked with an asterisc if they contained the dreaded “raw fish”.  Then off to Tutti Frutti for dessert!  Lovely.

Tonight is a book club reunion!  Tomorrow G & I are taking our kids (minus Adam) to Fiddler on the Roof Junior, and Thursday night I’m hosting a baby shower for Lindsay Erhardt and Sprouts!  Friday we leave to see a swarm of Aaron’s family for the 4th of July weekend.

Are you as exhausted reading that as I am trying to keep track of it?  Probably not.  But you get the idea.

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Fun side note for me:  I bought a Cricut (diecut) machine this weekend!  I got the smaller version (cuts up to 6″ designs) for $50 from a super nice lady on Craigslist, 2 cartridges (with different designs/fonts) for less than $20 each on Ebay, and some accessories (like the cutting mat & replacement blades) for 25% off at Joann’s!  I am so ready to play with it, and am getting all nerdy with ideas for using it with homeschooling this year.

Not-so-fun side note for me:  I also signed up for the first 3 of th 8 credits I need to renew my teaching license.  I’m a little excited about the classes I’m planning to take (one at a time): Boys & Girls Learn Differently (duh. I am pretty interested in the concept of single gender classrooms, esp for English & math.), Blogging for the Classroom (oh, you KNEW I’d take this one!), and Young Adult Literature and the Internet (friend G looked at me a little funny and said, “Don’t you already KNOW how to use the Internet?” Point taken.  But this class is about finding and using material in your lesson plans, and there is a LOT of stuff out there.  Should be interesting anyway.)  Hopefully I’ll get my license for another 5 years and learn some useful info at the same time.

ANOTHER funnish side note: A day before book club, neither G or I had read the selection that we are discussing tonight!  I ordered it last week from Amazon – no copies in the libraries OR Barnes & Noble -  but by Saturday evening it hadn’t arrived yet (STILL hasn’t, actually.) and the discussion loomed closer and closer.  I was just on the verge of having Aaron buy a digital copy for me to read on his Nook (and then G could read it after) when she offered to buy it herself.  And THEN she remembered that she has TWO Kindles, so we could share that copy and read it at the same time!  Sweet.  So that’s what we did last night – sat on the couches and read our book while our husbands meandered around aimlessly and went to bed early.

It was pretty fun to be reading it at the same time as someone else, especially when they start earlier and are impressed with how fast you are catching up.  Not that we were keeping track or anything.

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Tell me something soothing and relaxing that you did this weekend.  Also, tell me what dessert I should serve for this open house/baby shower on Thursday!  I have the PERFECT diecuts to go make now…

More of a Mountain Lion Mama

My cleaning binge today brought an unexpected treasure – I finally found the copy of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother that I borrowed from a friend!  Now that both my book clubs have discussed it and no one else needs to borrow it, of course.  And I know you are dying to know where I found it: under a couch in our “projector” room (YES, we have a projector & large screen, and we rarely go to the movie theater anymore.  That’s a post for another day!)  I’m blaming the kids for that one.

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There are two book clubs to which I belong.  One group is from my MOMS Club chapter, and we get together every other month.  Our meetings include the rugrats, so discussion is at a minimum and we read lighter, faster books.

The other is the one I blog about more often, since we meet monthly and read & discuss more deeply.  Of course, it helps that I am the only one with kids whose ages are single digits. All the women in this group are from our church, Salem EFC, but we read a variety of genres: historical fiction, non-fiction, adolescent literature, classics, Christian lit, and contemporary fiction.  The goal is to rotate through each genre twice a year.

I love it when I can get both book clubs to read the same book at about the same time! As you can imagine, this doesn’t happen all that often.  But recently we all decided to read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

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As I do frequently, here is a recap of the Salem book club:

Topics we discussed NOT related to the book (and color me surprised that ‘boobs’ isn’t listed!):

Traveling with kids – some had/have kids who pass out and sleep the whole time. NOT ME.
Wedding dresses – member KE’s daughter is getting married soon, and was fortunate enought to find FOUR dresses at a bridal shop that she liked, AND they fit, AND were under $200!
Tornados -  Wear your bike helmet if you have to take cover! Get in the tub & put a mattress on top!  Also, insurance companies will pay to have your carpet replaced if windows shatter.
Communication for college students – access to cell phones & internet have changed how students form relationships at school.  This also applies to foreign – exchange students.

Regarding the actual BOOK:

Overall, I liked the book and thought it was actually more amusing than expected –  and in some spots laugh out loud funny.  The exerpts published in other places and then criticized missed this aspect, as well Chua’s moments of self-deprication. 

However.  Those moments of self-deprication, in my opinion, went something like this: “See what horrible, crazy obsessive thing I did!  That was nuts!  But everything worked out and I was right to be crazy obsessive!”  So, not really so depricating at all. In fact, in some places it could be read as outright bragging.  But she’s also conflicted about some of her decisions – which is of course why she wrote the book and what makes her sympathetic and not a complete tyrant.

One thing we debated was the difference between a Tiger Mom and  Helicopter Mom. (The helicopter parent is one I’ve been meaning to address here, ever since I saw a friend on FB be PROUD of being considered a helicopter mom.  To me, it is ALWAYS a negative.  No one would label THEMSELVES as such, and if they do, they clearly don’t mean the same thing as I do.)

I explained my view of the difference with a situation that happened while I was teaching.  I received a call AT HOME from an irate father, who was ticked off that I had given his son (a junior in high school) enough tardies that he ended up with detention, which in turn affected his GPA.  Here’s how the different parents would react in that situation:
Helicopter parent - call teacher, blame her for tardies.  Then call school to complain about policies.
Tiger parent – shame the student for getting the tardies, accuse them of letting down the family, dishonoring the family name, forbid any extra activities that could be perceived as resulting in the tardies, drop of child at door of school for the rest of the year.

 I don’t want it to sound like the book was totally over the top.  Yes, Chua held her daughters to incredibly high standards, but those expectations and the amazing results (both daughters played at Carnegy Hall) would not have been possible without a combination of good genes for both academics and music, and the financial resources to pursue the music lessons and teachers that enable that kind of success.  And yes, we definitely felt that Chua resorted to extreme measures, some bordering on abusive.

But, there is something to be said for having high expectations for your kids and pushing them to do their best, even if they don’t WANT to.  Chua is right in that American parenting has started to lean too far towards giving everyone a 1st place trophy and letting kids quit an activity when it is no longer “fun”.  Chua says, “Kids don’t know what is best for them. If you let them choose what they want to do, they’ll sit on Facebook for 10 hours.” (loose quotation – and I’d probably do the same thing!)

Obviously not every parent can afford the kind of music lessons and trips overseas that Chua and her husband (both Harvard professors) can.  However, ANY parent can tell their child (as I recommended when I was teaching), “You will spend THIS amount of time studying every night, whether you have homework or not.”  It’s not about having your child like you at that moment, it’s about investing in their future, so when they look back they appreciate your energy and don’t wish that you’d made them work harder.

Another major issue we addressed was why it is that so few parents in our area (specifically Fargo, more broadly the Midwest) have expectations for their kids to attend the “right” colleges?  On the East Coast especially, it seems that if your child doesn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, they are a disappointment.  Is this an exaggeration or a stereotype?  There are SOME parents here who will fight for each GPA percentage and push for the Ivy League schools, but in general is seems that the state universities are the expectation.

Do the parents in the Midwest have too low of goals for their kids?  Or do WE have it right and THEY are expecting every student to be the top in their class?  I think a large portion of our attitude comes from the Scandinavian/German heritage that is so predominant.  These are practical cultures – I can just hear and German grandparent say, “Why pay so much and go so far away when you can get the same degree here?  Then you can help plant the fields in the spring!”  And I think that grandparent definitely has a point.  No Norweigen or German parent would take out a 2nd mortgage on their house for their child’s music lessons.

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In the middle of this discussion, I made my confession.  HERE’S a confession for you: It seems that I always end up making a confession at book club.  But anyway, my confession this time was that sometimes I want to be truely excellent at something.  Like this blog, for instance.

I told this to Aaron once, and he said, “But Liz, to be really great at something, that one thing needs to be ALL YOU DO.  And you like to do LOTS of things.” 

Isn’t THAT the truth?  When I started blogging, I had big dreams of someday being a “BIG” blogger – you know, one that gets sponsers to go to cool places, like Maggie.   But bloggers like that write as a full time job, and, well…I don’t WANT a full time job.  I want to be a stay-at-home mom who takes on various projects and hobbies.  Maybe at some other point in my life I’ll have time for excellence (I’d love to be an excellent teacher!).  But for now, I’ll settle for being “pretty good” at multiple tasks.

End of confession.

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Chua demanded excellence of her daughters, in academics and in music, specifically piano and violin.  And to accomplish excellence, that is ALL. THEY. DID.  And, for better or for worse, they acheived excellence.

What saves the book from leaving a bad taste in your mouth for Chua and her parenting strategies is the fact that when her second daughter Lulu rebells…and rebells, and rebells, she realizes that she needs to choose between sticking to her parenting guns and possibly severing her relationship with her daughter or giving in and letting Lulu have her own way.

And she gives in.

As readers, we breathe a sigh of relief, and decide that maybe we can like Amy Chua, and that she’s human and not a Cylon. (Sorry, we are immersed in watching Battlestar Gallactica right now.)

In excerpts from the book that have been published elsewhere, there is no mention of the sweetness that Chua also shares with her daughters – cuddling in bed, lavish birthday parties, high praise for their successes.  Chua does an amazing job at compartmentalizing her life, and this book is solely about the Tiger Mother  – not her relationship with her daughters, not about her marriage or how her husband feels about her pushing…she says that is HIS book to write.  And I hope he does write the book.

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Have you read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?   Did you have any sympathy for Chua, or did you think her daughters must be psychologically damaged?  The jury is still out on that last part, since her oldest daughter is just starting college (after being accepted at Harvard AND Princeton, I believe.)  But it sounds like they will be just fine.

Bonus

Was going to cover 4 chairs today, but thanks to the fabric’s width and the plaid design, only have enough for 3 of the 4.  Oopsie.

Designated one wobbly chair as the first to be discarded. Problem solved.

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Cleared out some books & rearranged the ones left on the shelves.  They are now organized by theme: ones I haven’t read yet but really should, impressive-looking hardcovers, poetry, Aaron’s books, ones that are intended for the kids (Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl), parenting, Bible studies, and…others.

Made a couple of piles to put in other places: the garage sale pile and in our memoribilia boxes. (My favorite one here is the album of my youth group our previous town of residence.  Totally not interesting to my kids…or anyone else but me.) In the “to sell” pile are these three books: Reviving Ophelia, Odd Girl Out, and Please Stop Laughing at Me.  Trying not to think that this may destine Leah to being the victim of bullying – and then I won’t know how to help her!

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In the quest to have a basement worthy of a kid playroom, we met a new milestone today – banister installed (by a professional).  It’s not quite done, but almost.  Will share photos soon.  Aaron is busy painting – which will take for-EVER, since he has decided that he needs to paint all the doors and trim white.  Six doors. Yikes.

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In between my compulsive checking of Facebook, I also vacuumed and mopped the kitchen/dining room, vacuumed the entire main floor carpet & laundry room, put away both mine & Aaron’s laundry, and washed dishes.  Plus that book reorganizing mentioned above, which also included dusting those shelves front to back.  This is just to remind husbands that if their wives are on the computer, it does NOT mean they are being lazy.

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I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and cut the hair off the brush of my stick vacuum.  First time in three years.  Vacuum, I’m sorry for the neglect, but thank you for working so much better!

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What was YOUR bonus today?

Literary Sexism

If you are new around here, you may not know that I used to be an English teacher.  For three years, I taught 7th and 8th grade in a Minnesota public school, and loved every (well, ALMOST every!) minute of it.

One day I was in another teacher’s classroom after classes were done for the day, and we somehow got on the topic of Moby Dick, the classic novel by Herman Melville.   Neither of us had read it, although we both felt like we SHOULD have.  Another lady teacher strolled in and agreed – hadn’t read it, felt she should have.  I commented that you must need a Y chromosome to read that thing, and the next teacher to drop in (another woman) agreed.  The next visitor was a guy, so we tested our theory.  Sure enough, not only had he read it, he even ENJOYed it.  Hypothesis PROVED.

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Last night Aaron and I had a little discussion about books, prompted by the variety of free books that I downloaded onto his Nook.  Apparently he’s read Anne of Green Gables?!  But not the whole series, probably because, as I pointed out, he’s not a girl.  But just the fact that he read ONE of them earned big brownie points with me.

I told him about a Facebook survey I took regarding children/teen literature.  A still-teaching-English friend of mine took the same quiz and got 48/50 – and the two she’d missed, neither of us had ever heard of.  Me?  I…failed.  Terribly.  As in, if I had had a student with my score, I’d be asking them if they were EVER awake in class.

It appears that I am very low on children’s classics.  Most all of them I’ve seen the movie of (Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), or maybe read, but don’t remember clearly enough to count on a checklist (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz).  Some of them I OWN and haven’t read (Number the Stars). Others have been published since I’ve left the classroom (Diary of a Wimpy Kid).  And a couple I know I’ve never read, but having read a ton of book reports on them, feel like I have (Hatchet).

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But that still leaves a long list that I just have no excuse for.  Maybe if I’d less time re-reading the Little House on the Prairie books, or the Anne of Green Gables series, or every Agatha Christie novel I could get my grubby hands on, I would have read more of these at the proper age.  I’ll just have to try to re-live those childhood novels by reading them with Leah.  Oh shucks.:)  And I’m not going to include links – you’ll just have to Google it yourself.

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory
Matilda
Pippi Longstocking
Stuart Little
The Adventures of Robin Hood
(seriously, he’s on of my fictional heroes, and I haven’t read his BOOK?)
The Phantom Tollbooth
Winnie-the-Pooh
Just So Stories

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And then there are the “boy” books.  Just as I was surprised that Aaron had read about Anne Shirley, I would be equally surprised if young girls had read the following novels – but of course that would be PLEASANTLY surprised.  I had to Google most of these just to see what they were about.  That should tell you how unfamiliar I am with them.

Dandelion Wine (by Ray Bradbury.  Need I say more?)
Ender’s Game (published in 1985 – Aaron, not sure if that makes you right?)
Monster
Rip van Winkle
Treasure Island
The Odyssey
(not sure if this is really a kid’s book or not…not sure if I read it in college, either!)

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This gets to the heart of one of our more minor marital discussions – Aaron has always been a big reader, also, but just as we didn’t watch the same TV shows growing up (he is 3 years older than I am, but his family got rid of their TV when he was about 7 years old – just about the time I remember any shows!), we didn’t read very many of the same books.  He was much more into science fiction, although obviously he wasn’t too picky, hence the Anne of Green Gables exposure (I’m guessing from one of the older sisters).  He’s rather frustrated that I haven’t read any of his favorite books, and to be perfectly honest, don’t show much interest in changing that.  He even gave me a very nice collection of some of them (The Invisible Man, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Time Machine) which I, uh, can’t seem to locate right now.  And here’s some more “boy”classics that I’ve yet to enjoy:

Robinson Crusoe
Swiss Family Robinson
Kidnapped!
Doctor Doolittle
(gonna brag here and say that while she was sick, Leah read abridged versions of BOTH Peter Pan and Doctor Doolittle – in a day each.)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Aaron is a big fan AND I bought him an edition for Christmas…)
I, Robot (by Isaac Asimov, another of Aaron’s favorites)

I found this fun site with a whole lot more book suggestions for boys, if you are looking. Ironically, I’ve probably read more of these than from that Facebook survey I failed!  So maybe I don’t feel SO sexist in my reading choices.

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After this conversation with Aaron, and finding out that he HASN’T read Emma…or any other Jane Austen book…I suggested that we start our own book club this summer!  He’d read Emma(my fav of J.A.’s) and I’d read whatever he chose!  Great idea, right?

Aaron:  But I’ve seen the movie of Emma like, three times!

So, yeah.  That plan failed – unless I can think of a book that I haven’t already made him watch with me the movie version.  Suggestions are welcome – and then you will see what a patient, loving husband I have, to be subjected to THAT MANY chick flicks in a mere 13 (including dating years) time period.

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Are there any other classics that seem to you to be “girl” or “boy” books?  Any from the opposite gender that are on your list to read?  Have you ALREADY read them?  Did you like them?  I’m interested in this stuff, people.

By the way, of course I didn’t list all the books from that original survey that I HAVE read, so there are lots, like the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter that you don’t need to suggest.  I consider them equal-opportunity books, since I’ve read them.  It’s all about MEEEEE!

I’ll take books however I can get them, basically.

The other day Aaron went out and bought a Nook.  But don’t think that was an impulse buy.  OH NO, not from my cynical, cautious husband.  No, he (ok, WE) have spent that last several months debating the pros and cons of both the Nook and Kindle.  But I am not going to talk GBs or weight or battery life…because I just don’t generally talk about that stuff EVER.  As far as I’m concerned, I’ll agree with Dave Barry (who wrote a humorous but not-so-helpful welcome article) – they shrunk lots of really fast typists, put them in each Nook, and they are in there typing away. 

Basically we chose the Nook because it has borrowing capabilities with the local library system.

Now, as to why even get an e-reader in the first place…

I’m going to blame it all on Aaron.  He has been making some improvements in his lifestyle lately and reading more is on the agenda.  Aaron has always been pro-reading, but it is not very often that he gets his own material.  In this case, I am the hunter/gatherer, and he is the scavenger.  It is only a problem when we end up trying to read the same book and the same time.  Then we may have words.  Angry words.

He figured that the combination of a selection of books at his fingertips AND a new gadget would be good motivation for more time spent reading – and less spent watching TV. 

Since getting the Nook on Saturday, he’s already read a whole book.  This could really be my undoing, since he spent his whole day off reading – and not doing my bidding. DARN TECHNOLOGY!

In addition to the attraction of gadgetry, Aaron says it’s easier to read than an actual book, especially while lying down.  Not that reading a book will ever be considered a high-impact activity, but pressing a button IS easier than holding a book open with one hand and turning the page with another.  In the same way that sipping from a straw is easier than raising a cup to your mouth and holding it.  We are talking increments here, folks.    I would imagine that an 800 page book would be a breeze to read, instead of potentially causing a hand cramp.

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Shortly after getting to know his Nook (which is still happening – there is only the one book on there, and we haven’t figured out the lending thing yet) Aaron said, “I just don’t see how we’re going to get away with just having one of these!”  And after seeing Leah’s eyes perk up (which is saying something, considering the fever she was running all weekend) at the idea of lots of books in one little computer, we may end up with 3 – which Aaron almost committed to by saying we should get Leah’s homeschool books on Nook.

But I had to put my foot down there.  “I want her to get to know REAL books – to love reading the honest-to-goodness paper versions before she gets wrapped up in the digital versions.”  And then my loving husband told me not to turn into a grandma.  Silly.  I’ve been a grandma almost my whole life!  (Figuratively, dears.  No weirdo skeletons in the closet – at least not THAT kind.)

So I’ve promised Leah that I will try to find The Wizard of Oz at the library for her so she can finish reading it – after starting it on a Kindle the other night at Best Buy.

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I am not totally selling out to the e-reader.  Definitely it has benefits, and if I can get a copy of a book cheap, or free (most books 50 years old or more are free, and I read a lot of classics) or even borrow them, I will.  But pay more than $5 for a book that isn’t even a REAL book?  That I can’t see on my bookshelf?  A REAL bookshelf, not a virtual one?

No.  I will borrow REAL books from the library or from a friend, and continue to scour garage sales for gems.  My books are good friends, and I like SEEING them physically.  I like being able to hand them to a friend to borrow.  But I also like not being limited by their size when I take a book on vacation, as I did for our recent trip to Arizona.  Basically, I looked for the smallest book I owned that I hadn’t read yet.  Not the ideal way to choose your reading material.

However, if I do happen to read a book (real OR digital) and I happen to loooove that book – I’m going to buy the REAL book, not the digital version.  That’s just how I roll.

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What about you?  Are you into the gadgetry of an e-reader or do you like the old-fashioned “grandma” books?  Or maybe, like me, you want the best of both worlds?  Do you already HAVE an e-reader?

I’m realizing that I’m a tactile person – I don’t think I’ll ever give up traditional scrapbooking for digital either.  Is there anything that you prefer specifically the digital over the traditional or vice versa?

Genetics win again!

We have become a family of readers. THANK GOODNESS.  When Leah was a baby, I realized that if she did NOT turn out to be a reader, how on EARTH would I be able to connect with her?   Almost all of my childhood & teen memories revolve around books in some way…at least, the goodmemories!  Laura Ingalls Wilder was practically a real friend, as I read the Little House on the Prairie books – the whole series – every summer for about four or five years.  Then it was Anne Shirley that I loved and devoured the Anne of Green Gables books multiple times as well.  And yes, I do own copies of them all.

The other night Leah dove into the books I checked out for her at the library.  (I’ve decided that the library is a very good friend indeed to the mother of  a reader of this age.  There is such a small time period that kids read these basic chapter books, and with two boys following, we don’t need to own a whole bookshelf of books about princesses and kitties!)  As soon as she got her hands on the book about the mermaid Ariel, she was effectively gone for the evening.  I even leaned over her shoulder and did my best imitation of a lonely kid:  “But I waaaant to PLAAAAAAAY with you!” and there was nada. zilch. NO reaction from her – except maybe the corner of a grin.

I gave up trying to entice her to interact and started reading my own book.  Then she came over and cuddled up next to me  and we read “together” for a little while.  I think she took pity on me.  But I’ll take it.

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I did say “a FAMILY” of readers – and there are two other boys in the family.  They are readers too!  Ben loves to have me read books to him – 3 or more at a time, if he can get away with it.  He often listens to Leah read outloud her books from school, and likes to sit and “read” books on his own as well.  Adam is much the same.  In fact, if we can’t locate him immediately by his yelps & growls, he’s usually back by the bookshelf surrounded by a pile of board books.  He chose one the other day to be his security object and dragged it to church and back, and then all over the house.  I only had to read it three times – but I think Daddy had to read it a few as well, and then Grandpa got to the next day!

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The kids have been listening to books on CD since they stopped taking regular naps.  In this way, they have been exposed to a ton of Beverly Clearly and lots of other great children’s books and authors.  But there have been a few I’ve been protecting: Charlotte’s Web, and my beloved Little House on the Prairie.  Since I loved these books -  I still do! – I really want to experience them WITH Leah.  My rather idealistic plan was to read them outloud to the kids.  Here’s the problem with that plan: 1) I think if Leah gets her hands on them she’ll read ahead and 2) Reading outloud is NOT my favorite activity.

Several of my friends read outloud to their kids, either at bedtime or on road trips.  But I just see myself dropping me end of the deal and leaving Leah to read it on her own anyway.  Our bedtime routine is super-streamlined and takes about 5 minutes (without showers).  We seldom have time to read even our “usual” Bible story, much less an entire chapter from a novel.  And road trips?  A minivan does not make reading outloud very convenient. 

Yes, of course I DO read outloud to my kids – storybooks.  And I even read to my middle school students when I was teaching – for about 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class.  It’s not my favorite for the same reason that I think Leah would read ahead – it’s too slow! 

Of course I read all these books on my own and turned out to be an avid reader who likes to talk about the content, so surely it won’t hurt Leah if her mom is a bit of a slacker in the read-along department.

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So here’s my plan.  I’ll give her the books and read them ON MY OWN, but with her.  I’ll get through them faster, of course, but at least we can talk about it and she can ask questions.

I can’t wait.

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Do you or DID you read outloud to your kids once they could read on their own?  Did your parents read chapter books to YOU?  What is your experience and/or plan for your kids’ reading?

What books are you especially looking forward to sharing with your kids? (or have you already?)

Yet another exciting blog post about…books. Woot!

I keep a reading journal.  The first year that Aaron and I were married, I was a substitute teacher.  If you’ve ever subbed, you know that the job has long gaps of boredom.  I did a LOT of reading while on the job, and sometimes it even helped my classroom management.  For instance, the 7th grade math class was very responsive when I said, “Guys, I’m not going to be able to help you with this stuff.  If you have a question, quietly ask your neighbor.  If you still need help, make a note & ask your teacher tomorrow.  Now, I’m reading The Great Gatsby, and it’s a little hard to read, so I’d appreciate it if you are all quiet so I can concentrate.”

Two months into the year I couldn’t remember what I’d read the month before.  To keep track, I started my journal. It’s very basic – just title, author, # of pages, brief summary, and what grade level it is appropriate for.  I also note if there is any sex/swearing/violence in the book, since you tend to forget that over time!  And then, because I am a tish competitive, I keep track of how many books I’ve read that year.

It’s fun to look back at those numbers, and each year’s totals tell a story.

2000 – 55 books.  First year subbing.  Lots of free time.
2001 – 33.  Long term subbing job for most of the first half of the year.  Moved.
2002 – 26.  First teaching job.  Only is that high because I was reading a lot more adolescent lit. (short books!)
2003-  17.  Again, mostly adolescent lit.  Teaching full time, instead of part time.
2004 – 6.  Wowzers! Wait a minute…that was the year Leah was born.  And we moved again.
2005 – 17.  Joined a book club!  Maybe two?
2006 – 8.  Benjamin born.  Good thing those book clubs gave me motivation!
2007 -  16.  So consistent!
2008- 16
2009- 16  Did I mention consistent?  Yes, Adam was born that year, but he was born the latest in the year.  Gave me a head start.

2010 – 19.  WOOT!  Okay, that was thanks to more adolescent lit.  Whatever, they are STILL BOOKS.

Here are a couple books that I’ve especially enjoyed over the last year:

The Hunger Games trilogy.  We read the first book for book club, but I devoured the next two also.  So, so good.  Can’t wait for the movie version to come out.  Maybe then I’ll finally get around to hosting a special book club discussion!

Romancing Miss Bronte -   I totally caved to marketing pressure.  I saw the cover, read the title, and went for it.  But it was good!  Especially if you like Jane Eyre, my favorite classic novel. 

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Do you keep track of the books you’ve read?  Tell me about it!

Have you read a great book lately?  How about a book written in the last few years that doesn’t have copious amounts of swearing/sex/violence?  I can handle a little, but if there is a ton, and it’s gratuitous…yuck.  I won’t bother.

If only someone else would clean my house.

Once again, it is time for an update on the doings of my book club.  This is the type of post that most of my family skips, I’m sure, since it won’t contain any references to my kids.  And to them I say: ONE POST A MONTH. Love you guys, and thanks for reading here despite my brattiness!

This month we chose Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi as our non-fiction selection.  I’m not going to summarize it here, so you’ll have to go check out the link.  Then I don’t have to worry about getting anything wrong!

We triedskyping with our dear friend G who is overseas for the year, but the video part was less than satisfactory.  Once we turned that off, the audio worked a bit better.  It was good to hear her voice again!

Member IA shared that she had seen Lolita on Oprah once.  We asked, “Um, Lolita WHO?  The author of this book?  WHAT?” Eventually we figured out that she had seen the Long Island Lolita, Amy Fisher! 

Topics discussed regarding the book selection:

- Why read fiction? (addressed by Nafisi in book) – it gives us a human experience without actual personal experience.  This helps us extend grace to others by adding to our knowledge of why people act in certain ways, and what influences them.

- Men in this book are trying to “protect” women by forcing them to wear a veil.  But because the husband’s rights include beating his wife (and she can be punished for leaving him), it’s not protection for HER sake, but for the sake of her husband and father’s reputations.

- No joy allowed?  That canNOT be an actual part of the Islamic faith, but rather a rule created by the ruling party to control the people.  Joy is a natural human emotion, and no religion who actually banned it would last long (in my very humble – but grandiose- opinion.)

- Almost all of us enjoyed the book, with member KE going as far to say she “loved” it!  Which probably means she might have read all the pages, contrary to her usual reading style. (Love ya, KE!) 

- In addition to reading about a culture that I don’t know a lot about, I really enjoyed the literary aspect of Nafisi discussing the novels.  I felt like I was in a college class again, and in a good “learning-something-new” way, not a “up-all-night-writing-a-paper” way.

Other topics discussed:

- Some little girls are too aggressive towards little boys.  Have they been abused in someway or are they just kinda dumb regarding social cues?

- Pat-downs at international airports can be quite a bit more invasive than what we are used to in the US

- “liking” Jesus on Facebook – or posting faith-based status updates – personally, I avoid all of that.  Is this denying Christ before men?  Is participating being a pharisee preaching on the street corner? 

- practicing self control with Facebook comments.  Several of us admitted to writing, and then deleted, comments.  Probably better that way.

- I would like to arrange a special book club meeting for those of us who have been obsessed with The Hunger Games trilogy.  This meeting would include any students who are interested if me telling them their opinions are wrong.  KIDDING!  I’ll just mock you a teensy bit.

Next order of business: Choosing our next selections.

October 24th: Daisy Miller by Henry James (classics selection)  This book is a whopping 47 pages long.  But after the 800 page tomes of Middlemarch and David Copperfield that we’ve read recently, we deserve a break.  Also, this novel was discussed in Reading Lolita in Tehran, so we have some knowledge of it already.  

November: Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (historical fiction)

December: possibly House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (adolescent lit selection).  Another challenging read at 110 pages, and is a collection of vignettes.  It is a little bit older of a book, so if there is anything more current that is a “must-read”, please let us know.  In the past we have read the first books of the Twilight and Hunger Games series.

Also chosen but not scheduled:

Contemporary fiction: Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout

Non-fiction: Red Pearl (bio of Pearl S. Buck) OR The Zookeeper’s Wife (Holocaust book)

Still need a Christian literature selection – suggestions welcome! 

And don’t forget the Harry Potter movie parties that I am hosting for the next six weekend leading up to the release of Part 1 of the seventh movie!  I may be addicted to hosting parties.