Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Reading 2013

This summer the books I chose for my son and I to read together were, "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame, and "Ribsy" by Beverly Cleary. The former, a classic fictional story, the latter, a book I read as a child that I knew he'd enjoy because of his love for our new pup. We are still in the middle of "Ribsy".

"The Wind in the Willows" took us about 4 weeks to read due to various camps and summer fun. It is a very sweet book about friendship and devotion, and includes some very fun characters and plots (why, oh, why did Disney have to deconstruct Mr. Toad's Wild Ride?). It can be very descriptive and abstract at times, which would sometimes lose my son, so I would have to check in with him every now and then to make sure he was following the story. As a warning, the animals often call each other an "ass" (kind of surprising, but I believe that was not a curse word at the time), drink beer, and smoke. Makes for some good discussion.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from "The Wind in the Willows":

Mole, on leaving work behind to explore above ground-
"It all seemed too good to be true. Hither and thither through the meadows he rambled busily, along the hedgerows, across the copses, finding everywhere birds building, flowers budding, leaves thrusting- everything happy, and progressive, and occupied. And instead of having an uneasy conscience pricking him and whispering 'Whitewash!' he somehow could only feel how jolly it was to be the only idle dog among all these busy citizens. After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself, as to see all the other fellows busy working."


Water Rat, the unapologetic homebody, not understanding a desire for change in migratory animals-
"O, we're not off yet, if that's what you mean," replied the first swallow, "We're only making plans and arranging things. Talking it over, you know - what route we're taking this year, and where we'll stop, and so on. That's half the fun!"
"Fun?" said the Rat; "now that's just what I don't understand. If you've got to leave this pleasant place, and your friends who will miss you, and your snug homes that you've just settled into, why, when the hour strikes I've no doubt you'll go bravely, and face all the trouble and discomfort and change and newness, and make believe that you're not very unhappy. But to want to talk about it, or even think about it, till you really need--"
"No, you don't understand, naturally," said the second swallow. "First, we feel it stirring within us, a sweet unrest; then back come the recollections one by one, like homing pigeons. They flutter through our dreams at night, they fly with us in our wheelings and circlings by day. We hunger to inquire of each other, to compare notes and assure ourselves that it was all really true, as one by one the scents and sounds and names of long-forgotten places come gradually back and beckon to us."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Exactly how large is the demand for greeting cards containing naked bottoms, girls in bikinis, middle fingers, and swear words? Judging by the large percentage of these cards in the greeting card aisle, I would guess that it's pretty big. It's sad when buying a birthday card with your kids requires a defensive strategy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Great Minds Think Alike

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.

-A.A. Milne

Monday, July 15, 2013

I'm Only One Woman!

"We are told that women of America have much leisure time but I haven't yet met any woman who thought so! Here the mistress of the house must do all the work that the cook, the maid and the housekeeper would do in an upper class family at home. Moreover she must do her work as well as these three together do it in Norway."

-Gro Svendson, Norwegien immigrant, 1862

This quote has made me ponder a lot about the expectations we place on ourselves as homemakers. Should we be able to do to the work of a cook, maid, and housekeeper (not to mention nanny) as well as the four, or is that plain unrealistic? 

Certainly we enjoy a lot of luxuries that homemakers did not 150 years ago (i.e. dishwasher, washing machine, indoor plumbing, etc.), and there are a lot of chores they we do not have to worry about (i.e. candle making, spinning, etc.). On the other hand, modern circumstances brings its own unique difficulties (i.e. balancing schedules, deadlines, junk mail, monitoring children outdoors, etc.).

Certainly I believe that housekeeping is an important job that helps contribute to an atmosphere of order, peace, and love at home. But what are realistic expectations for a housekeeper? And in a DIY culture, is it weakness/laziness to hire help?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I'm Not Worthy

Here is an essay my son wrote in school that I found amongst a pile of work he brought home on the last day.:

"Have you ever felt like giving something special to someone you love? Then you feel just like Rosa from the book A chair for my mother, by: Vera B. Williams. It is about a girl and her mother and her grandmother. They save for a chair, for her loving, caring, working mother.

"The book A chair for my mother reminds me of how hard my mother worked just to buy a puppy. She was constantly on the computer looking for the perfect puppy. Eventually 3 or 4 weeks ago our dog Pepper (the miniature schnauzer) was adopted.

"I think this book teaches a good lesson on how no matter what familys will always back-up eachother when something goes wrong."

I thought I had shielded my children from the obsession that overtook me while hunting for a dog, but apparently I failed. I wish I could revel in my sweet son's compliment, but I don't feel worthy. The juxtaposition in this essay is blinding! The behavior of one of these moms seems a bit less noble and a little more neurotic than the other. It just goes to show that no matter what, family will always back-up each other when something goes wrong.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th of July!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills.
My heart with rapture thrills
Like that above!

Our father's God, to thee,
Author of liberty,
To thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom's holy light.
Protect us by thy might,
Great God, our King!

-Samuel F. Smith, "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" vs. 2,4

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Swinging on a Star

This is a song that I often heard my Grandma sing when I was little. It's got a great message, a catchy tune, and has been sung  by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and others:

Would you like to swing on a star,
Carry moonbeams home in a jar,
And be better off than you are?
Or would you rather be a mule?

A mule is an animal with long, funny ears
Kicks up at anything he hears.
His back is brawny but his brain is weak.
He's just plain stupid with a stubborn streak.
And by the way, if you hate to go to school,
You may grow up to be a mule. 

Or would you like to swing on a star,
Carry moonbeams home in a jar,
And be better off than you are?
Or would you rather be a pig?

A pig is an animal with dirt on his face,
His shoes are a terrible disgrace.
He has no manners when he eats his food,
He's fat and lazy and extremely rude.
But if you don't care a feather or a fig,
You may grow up to be a pig.

Or would you like to swing on a star,
Carry moonbeams home in a jar,
And be better off that you are?
Or would you rather be a fish?

A fish won't do anything but swim in a brook,
He can't write his name or read a book.
To fool the people is his only thought,
And though he's slippery he still gets caught.
But then if that sort of life is what you wish,
You may grow up to be a fish.

And all the monkeys aren't in the zoo.
Every day you meet quite a few.
So you see it's all up to you,
You can better than you are,
You could be swingin' on a star.

-Johnny Burke