Monday, August 30

Book Review: Winterdance

I recently finished reading the book Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod. It was chosen by my book club as our August read and I still haven't gotten over it. Have you ever read a book and grieved when it ended simply because it meant you would not be able to read it any more? This book did that to me and I'm not really sure why.

I checked the book out from the library and it is not a new book (I believe it was written in 1995), so the cover was not exciting. Yes, I judge books by their covers - I'm shallow like that. But, that being said, I don't (always) let it keep me from reading the book. I will admit, I wasn't excited about reading this book and it sat on the table for about a week after I had checked it out before I made myself start reading it.

Once I did, it wasn't like other great stories that don't let you put them down because of the suspense. And the writing wasn't terribly eloquent. It was just that it was fascinating stuff! I couldn't believe why someone would subject themselves to the things the author had subjected himself to in training for and running the Iditarod. And yet, his stories somehow drew me into his crazy world of dogs and snow and sleeplessness and moose attacks. I found myself relating everyday occurrences to the book, as in "that's how it is on the Iditarod" as if I have any idea what it is like on the Iditarod.

I became addicted to the stories he told. I fell in love with the lead dog. I held my breath when he told of running on bad sea ice. And I cried when the author, after being diagnosed with heart disease and ordered by the doctor not to run dogs any longer, had to call someone to take his dogs away before he got home as he couldn't stand to see them go. It was a great read.

And now I must see Alaska.

Sunday, August 29

Happy Birthday Katherine Mae!

Kate turned 5 this week and it seemed like we celebrated the entire week! Her birthday fell on Tuesday, so I took cupcakes (which she and James made - props to Daddy) to her school so she could celebrate there. That day I had lunch with her at her school and then took her and a school friend to the movies to see Ramona and Beezus and then home to play. Tom and Laura came over that evening and we opened presents. Some of the highlights were a castle for her miniature Disney princesses, a strawberry shortcake remote control car, and a canopy for her bed.

After opening presents, we went out to eat to celebrate Kate's birthday as well as her Grandfather's birthday, which was the following day. Kate had requested macaroni and cheese for her birthday meal, and she and Owen both love the mac and cheese at Puleo's (where kids eat free!) so we headed there and then back home for some cake and ice cream.

And that was only Tuesday.

Wednesday, a package came from Aunt Carrie. Thursday a package came from Grandma and Grandpa. Friday was spent preparing and shopping for groceries and party essentials for the big day on Saturday.

Saturday, we had a few girls over for a girls only dress-up tea party (but Daddy, Grandfather, and Owen were invited at the last minute because Kate wanted her Daddy to be there).

I didn't think to get a picture of all the girls together all dressed up, but they were cute. Everyone came dressed up in princess attire (how else would a girl dress up?) and they really just played together for a while and then we ate. Then they played a little more, changed clothes and then went outside to play. It was a pretty low-key affair, but still fun for the girls.

I was glad when the party was over and we could stop celebrating! But, I was also a little sad to think that my little girl will never turn five again and won't really be a "little girl" any more.

Monday, August 23

My Little Redshirt

Kate started pre-k on Friday and seemed to enjoy it. She didn't appear to be nervous going into her class and she was just fine when I left despite the fact that the one girl she knows in the class wasn't there yet. When I picked her up, she said she had fun, though she was a little confused as to why her friends from last year weren't there. Prior to this year, she had attended the same "school" (Mother's Day Out) for four years, so I guess she expected everyone to move on with her, even though we had talked about the fact that most of them would be going to kindergarten or other schools.

Kate's class is a transitional class for five-year-olds (which she will be tomorrow!) at a preschool very near our house. We decided to give her one more year before sending her to kindergarten. Lots of people have asked her if she was excited about kindergarten in the past few weeks, unaware that she wasn't going this year, but she hasn't asked any questions about it.

The New York Times published an article this weekend about people waiting to send kids to kindergarten. They called it "The Littlest Redshirts..." which I think is pretty clever - if you're not familiar with college athletics (I know my mom is asking herself what a redshirt is...), the term comes from the practice of postponing the participation of college athletes in competitive games so they are freshmen on the team when they are actually sophomores in school. If you're interested, you can read the article. It takes a pretty good look of the reasons parents choose to have their kids "sit out" one more year and the some of the affects this has on other kids.

I was a little concerned about how she would react when the five-year-olds at church with her moved up to the elementary class this summer, but Kate didn't care that she did not move up and seems very comfortable to have stayed where she was. She always seemed to get along better with the kids who were a little younger rather than older than her.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to this school year. It's going to be a busy one for us with Kate and Owen in two different schools with different schedules and Owen in speech two days a week!

Friday, August 20

Hablamos Espanol

Over the past few weeks, several little instances have led me to the decision to teach my family (and/or learn with them) to speak Spanish.

A local Hispanic church congregation plans to start meeting in our church building in September and the minister of the church will have his office there as well. I am hoping that our congregation will form some relationships through this partnership. Our church has also taken several family mission trips to Mexico to serve a family and church with whom we have a relationship. To help build these relationships, two of our ministers were recently discussing the possibility of holding Spanish language classes for our congregation. In addition, a woman at our church, who teaches ESL in the local schools, has also recently begun a ministry to provide the Hispanic population in Knoxville with information and resources and just to help them where needed and I think it might be pretty awesome to help out with that.

All of these things had already gotten me thinking about brushing up on my Spanish. I took five years of Spanish in junior high and high school - actually four if you take into account that I actually skipped Spanish 4 - so I wouldn't be learning the language from scratch.

Then I recently stumbled on a blog that I really like, so I was going back and reading a few of the past posts. The blog is written by a mom who is homeschooling her children, including teaching them to speak French. That's when it hit me - I could teach my kids to speak Spanish! I don't really know why we all need to learn Spanish, but I have heard that young children learn second languages pretty easily. Plus there are numerous language, literacy, social, and cognitive development benefits.

Besides, it just seems like God has something up his sleeve...

So, I'm getting ready to do some digging to figure out how this will work for us. I hope it doesn't end up just being frustrating and time consuming. I'll definitely need to find some fun resources. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 16

I love my kids

I have really enjoyed my kids this weekend. Do you ever have times like that where you just soak in the things you love about the people around you? I tried to do that with my kids this weekend. That's not to say it was a blissful weekend that I spent reveling in them 24-7. It was a pretty average weekend with some standard housework and home improvement projects - which were surprisingly not terribly difficult to tackle with small children running around as I would have thought. But the thing is that I was able to step back and admire them at several points throughout the weekend. And really, I've been trying to do this for the past week or so. I am finding that it changes my perspective overall and helps me to be more patient them when they are having not-so-admirable moments.

Owen cracks me up. He's a funny little guy and he's starting to get that certain things are always good for a laugh - like singing happy birthday to the potty or answering a question with a pondering "maybe...". He loves the sound of his own laugh, especially a deep growling chuckle and we both end up just laughing at the laughter. He dances like no one is watching - especially when there's a good beat. He is a sweet natured boy (despite his raging temper) and is always giving me kisses or patting my arm when he sits next to me.

Kate loves to expand her vocabulary. She often surprises me with the words she uses - correctly. She loves being read to. She puts together some wild outfits - the turquoise ankle socks she wore with her white shoes and Sunday dress yesterday were actually pretty tame in comparison. She is very loving and nurturing and is about the best big sister Owen could ask for, even if I do have to remind her that she's not his mommy now and then. She loves to make cards for us that say "I LUV U MOM DAD" often in the shape of an oval that was trying to be a heart.

I love these guys!

Thursday, August 12

Whirlwind Wednesday

So this is how my Wednesday went: Early Intervention visit in the morning, after lunch took Owen to the doctor for a 1:40 appointment to treat his double ear infection (during naptime, of course - why would a sick kid need a nap?), on the way home stopped by the library to pick up a book on hold that was about to expire and by Walgreens to drop off Owen's prescriptions, home to drop Owen off with Nana for a late nap while I went grocery shopping for the first time in weeks on Senior Wednesday, home to put groceries away while listening to the songs for worship team practice later, headed to church for dinner late and hitting every red light along the way, scarfed down some dinner, worship team practice (the highlight of the day), headed home to put the kids to bed late stopping at Walgreens on the way home to pick up Owen's prescriptions and cough medicine for Kate who seems to be coming down with something, applied medicines, put kids to bed. I thought I would sleep well last night, but I was actually awake for a few hours in the middle of the night, during which I paid bills and filled out the kids' school forms.

Today will be a down day! There will probably be some laundry and housework to do, but otherwise we're going to stay home and rest. Hopefully everyone will mend quickly - and I won't get sick!

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:29-31

Tuesday, August 3

Mission Indy

James and I are home and nearly recovered from our week away. We are sponsors/teachers for the middle school class at our church and this past week we went with them and the youth ministers to Indianapolis for a mission trip. The program we attended is called Mission Indy. This was my second year attending Mission Indy and James' first. What an awesome program! Groups come to Indianapolis to help with various construction-type projects while being encouraged and motivated to find ways to serve God and others when they return home. I was really challenged throughout the week through the daily devotionals and speakers to find ways I can further God's Kingdom here in Knoxville. I really like the model of Englewood Christian Church where we stayed for the week - several groups worked on homes owned by the church that were only one or two blocks away. Other groups worked on converting an old school building next door to the church into a residential facility for people with special needs. Being in an urban neighborhood, the needs are sometimes a little more obvious than those in our neighborhood. In fact, as I write this, news is coming out about a fatal shooting in a neighborhood only a few miles from where we were. However, things aren't perfect in our area, the problems just look different here.

Anyway, my group worked on gutting an abandoned house (actually one unit of a duplex). This entailed removing the furniture as well as paraphernalia left by squatters, one of whom I hear came by to remove some things while this work was being done. Then we removed carpeting and flooring before being assigned to tearing down the walls - primarily plaster walls with wooden lathe boards underneath. This was very physical work involving lots of hammering and prying. One night, I woke up and realized I had been hammering in my sleep! James was with the other part of our group, who worked on re-hanging plywood and Tyvek on one side of a house to prepare it for siding. They then dug, framed, and placed gravel subbase for a walkway along the side of the house to prepare it for concrete placement. We all ended the day filthy and exhausted, hit the showers, and then stuffed ourselves on outstanding food prepared by the host church. Dinner was followed by worship and then group discussion and games. It was a great week of learning, serving, and fellowship. I can't wait to see what God has in store for our church and how He leads us to serve here in our community.