Friday, June 29, 2007

What were they thinking?

I've been working on a fun new pampering project that involves turning placemats into purses. The results are terrific and it's extremely easy and pretty inexpensive. I'll post photos and links to instructions down the road once they've been given away (most of the ones I'm working on right now are for gifts). Anyway, I'm always on the lookout for clearance placemats and I found some cool faux suede ones at Pier I the other day. When I went to cut off the tag I found out why they were on clearance. It said "DRY CLEAN ONLY".

What were they thinking??? Dry clean placemats? You've got to be kidding me! Who on earth wants to put a piece of cloth under plates full of food when it needs to be dry cleaned? I'd be having a heart attack with every bite my kids (or guests) took. And even if I didn't have kids, I wouldn't want to use them, unless they absolutely, perfectly matched my decor. Maybe. But could you imagine the costs? How often would you be taking them in?

You can see I'm too practical for this. But if I come over to your house and you have faux suede placemats, don't worry I won't spill a drop. I'll even skip eating if you want me to. That way I'll have my mouth free to ooh and aah at your perfectly coordinated dining room. And I'll understand if you're too busy to come to my house the next week because you have to run to the dry cleaners...again.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Summer Reading, Part 2

Isn't funny how we idealize things? I had this idea that summer would mean lots of extra time for reading. A holdover from my childhood, I suppose, when I would read for hours on end, uninterrupted. Now? Who am I kidding? I need that uninterrupted time for work these days. Reading? Rarely. Except in the evenings. Oh those blessed evenings when the house is quiet and I can sink into a good book.

So, lest you think my mind is rotting from fluffy intake, I'll have you know that I'm not reading only chick lit. Besides which, I'm not so sure all chick lit is that fluffy or escapist. Some of it is oh so real. And therein lies its appeal. Currently I'm reading SAHM I Am. Interesting so far. It's written as a series of online group entries and emails. It works to a point, but I'm not so sure how great the character development can be under those constraints. We'll see.
The other book that's majorly holding my attention? Anna Karenina. I know. WHAT WAS I THINKING?? 800 pages?! Hey, it doesn't work just for J.K. Rowling. Tolstoy has me hooked. We'll see if he keeps me to page 800, but given the fact that it's a classic has me determined beyond any level of interest. It is true literature.

As for non-fiction? I'm too entrenched in writing/promoting it to have time to read much of it. That is how I'm taking a reading break this summer. Back to the non-fiction come Fall.

Okay, a little aside for a factoid: did you know that Rowling's publisher only printed between 500 and 1000 copies for the first run of the first Harry Potter book? And look at where she is now! I'm not thinking I'll get past my first run (of 1,000 copies), but I'm hopeful.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Happy Birthday Dad!

It's my father's birthday today (not Musing Dad). I won't get to see him due to circumstances, but we had a fun time last night watching the Cavaliers drum corps at North Central College. It was a pretty cool show. If you haven't seen a live drum corps show, you really ought to. Nothing compares to it (the movie Drumline kind of gives you a taste).

A little about my dad today, in honor of his birthday:he's a retired government accountant, with a dry sense of humor and a penchant for puns. He's passed that on to his children and he'll be happy to know that his eldest granddaughter (Little Miss History) is starting to appreciate the subtlety of plays on words.

He's a good dad (and even funner grandfather). He built us kids a play set and allowed us to use the garage attic for a play house, drawing most of the neighbor kids to our house. My favorite outdoor creation of his? The Korean see-saw. It only lasted maybe one summer, but boy was it fun. The idea is that, unlike a regular seesaw, you don't sit. You stand. Circus style. In ancient times in Korean when girls were kept homes with high-walled yards, they would jump on a see-saw to see over the walls to the outside world. In modern times, we would jump just for the thrill. And the best was jumping with Dad because his size helped him to propel us littler ones way up into the air. Especially my younger sister, Christine. I'd crouch on the board and watch for his feet to hit the other end as he jumped. As he landed, I'd push off with my toes. If you didn't spring up on your partner's landing, they'd land with a jolt and you'd get knocked off backward. This happened a lot as we got used to it. But once we'd all learned...well, it was just a blast!

So Dad, thanks for some great memories! Seesaws and play sets, camping in the rain, biking 15 miles or more up and down the hills in Pennsylvania (ah yes, another one of Dad's antics - we'd ride a tandem together and he had only one rule: he'd pedal downhill, while I'd pedal uphill. But I had a secret: riding behind him I could put my feet up and then only pedal uphill, at least until he figured me out).

Happy Birthday! Hope it's a good one!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Whose Story Is It Anyway?

I've been learning a little about fiction writing lately, just for fun and a new challenge. One concept that has stuck with me (I'm pretty sure it was Randy Ingermanson who said it) is that to give depth to the story you have to consider all your characters as thinking the story is about them - even the minor characters. Hmmm... interesting idea isn't it?

The thing is, there's a universal truth to that idea. We all tend to think of stories as being about us. That wedding I'm going to? I've gotten a new dress and a hair cut for it. 'Cuz it's about me? Right? Okay, maybe not. But I'm sure the bride is thinking that and, well...she's right.

Anyway, my small group is studying Revelation (nice, light topic for summer, eh?). It's prophetic. It's about the end of our world as we know it to be. And so, of course, we think the story is about us. So what do we do? We try to interpret all the symbolism and story in light of ourselves and our world. Which is all good and well and even a little interesting. But, in my mind, it's futile to approach the book that way alone (and our small group is doing a good job avoiding that). Jesus even said that no one knows the day or hour (nor, I presume, can know).

Here's the thing:it's not really about us so much. We're just minor characters. It's about God. It's HIS story. When I began thinking about it that way yesterday, it suddenly became so much more interesting and not nearly so freaky frightening. After all, I love God. He loves me. And in the story of Revelation? He wins. The bad guys lose. When the focus is on God, the when and how aren't so important. Then we can see that yes, these things must happen to support the nature and character of God. And who likes a story where the bad guy goes free? Nobody. We want to see justice done. And, when you look at it as God's story, that's what happens in Revelation.

Okay, I'm no theologian, so feel free to disagree with me. I'm just a writer. That's my story...and I'm stickin' to it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Enjoying Life

How to explain my absence in blogdom? We're off enjoying summertime! We've been to museums, watched a bed race, gone to a minor league baseball game; been swimming, bike riding and just having fun. Summer can be awesome.

This summer also contains three major events for A Musing Mom and her family, so there are a lot of preparations consuming the time we aren't out having fun. A wedding, a conference and a book launch within one month's time mean lots of little details to see to.

But back to fun: for Father's Day we bought these water shooters (which my girls discovered at the Llama household - Llama Mama has got a line on fun water toys). Then last Sunday we sent a Musing Dad out back to putt discs, while we loaded our shooters out front. Then we split up and went around both sides of the house to ambush Musing Dad. He ran and found our hose out front and returned our volleys in an uneven fight until we convinced him it would be better if he turned around and found the shooter we'd left him. The water fights continued all day long (with breaks for snacks and naps). I think it was a good Father's Day for Musing Dad. And it's a good summer for the kids so far.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Learning to Read

The first day of summer break I had my girls write out what they'd like to learn this summer (we spend an hour or so each morning on school work during the summer. Kind of like homeschooling...but not). Timid daughter asked to learn "math about money. How to read. How to tell time on a clock (meaning not digital). And math". And so we are. It's mostly fun. I give her several worksheets to do, we discuss things together and find other teachable moments during the day to continue learning. What she's asked to learn is completely within her grasp, so I think we can reach her goals this summer.

But some of it is painful, especially reading. Sitting listening to your child read verrrry sloooowly through a simple book, while exciting in concept, is torture in practice. If the payoff weren't so great, I'd stop. In fact, I'm starting to realize that at least the reading portion of her learning is going to have to come through the aid of more than just one teacher. Because if I have to sit through another half hour of that any time soon...

Okay, there you have it. I'm a bad mom. And this is why I don't homeschool full time (that and I have not been called to homeschooling). I love that my daughter is learning to read, truly love it. And she is doing so well. But it's still painful. I'd much rather listen to her tell what she thinks the words say the way she used to so wonderfully do. But there's no going back. So I guess I'm asking: is anyone willing to come listen to my daughter read for a half hour each day?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Going Buggy

It's the summer of the 17-year cicadas. Only there haven't been any in our yard. Or our neighborhood. Or, it would seem, our entire fair city. I know. My children have searched. High and low, under rocks and leaves, in every corner of our yard. The week the cicadas were supposed to have emerged they searched along the block as we went to school and in the school yard. No cicadas.

Then we dropped by their old preschool to register the uber-princess for next year. And, what luck(!), one of the students had brought in a cicada for each child in her class and there happened to be a few left over. So we looked at one. Buggy red eyes, huge, translucent wings and all. And it was...ugly! Completely ugly. Horribly, creepily ugly. So they wanted to bring it home. I'm a mean mom. I said, "no!". I didn't want to ride in a van with that thing, even if it was safely ensconced in a Dixie Cup with plastic wrap on the top. I saw those huge wings. And I knew if that cicada wanted to fly across the van and lodge in my hair, it would. I couldn't take any chances.

Once they got over their disappointment at not having a pet cicada, they just enjoyed talking about seeing one. They were especially excited to tell their Dad about seeing a cicada in person. But I couldn't help feeling at that point that they'd been gypped, not out of having a pet cicada, but out of the whole cicada invasion experience. Seeing one cicada in a Dixie cup, albeit an up close experience, does not equal the skin-crawling experience of seeing hundreds of them - buzzing in the air, crunching under foot, shaking the air with their loud chirping. My kids were missing out this time and now I felt bad.

So this week I took them to Dzedo & Grandma's house, right smack in the middle of 17-year cicada territory. And they had a blast. They went out in the yard and crunched over cicadas, watched them crawling out of their exoskeletons, heard them buzzing and humming loudly in the treetops. And they collected cicadas. Half dozen or so apiece (except for the uber-princess who just picked up one). They loved learning how to pick them up (by the two top wings because there are four and you can't grab the two underneath, or with a stick, if you'd rather). And Grandma was kind enough to give them each a plastic baggie to tie them in to take home. Some alive. And chirping.

This time I wasn't a mean mom. I knew how much it meant to them to bring home a part of the cicada experience. Especially a living part. A living, flapping, shrieking insect part. The driving was rough. I jumped every time one shrieked. Actually it was always the same one. He took to flapping his wings loudly against the bag too. But my girls assured me he couldn't escape.

And so we came to have a few cicadas in Naperville. Who knows, 17 years from now there might be hundreds. And my daughters will only have themselves to blame.