Abraham, Rachel, Soren and Liam. Our life together in Smalltown, Idaho.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Reviews

So, yo, I'm supposed to be doing dishes, folding laundry, and paying bills, but I haven't posted in a while, so I'm going to rebel for a minute and review some books.

Gravity vs. the Girl
by Riley Noehren

My darling friend Holly, whose blog I would link you to except that it's one of those gosh-awful secrety ones, loaned me this book. It was actually authored by one of her former college-roommates, which makes me feel all famous somehow, particularly since it was a good book: well-written, well-crafted, funny, insightful. Gravity vs. the Girl is the story of Samantha Green, a young, attractive, single attorney who, after quitting her job and spending a lonely year wearing PJs in her Seattle condo, is awakened by the ghost of her six-year-old self, who makes her get out of bed. The six-year-old is soon joined by more ghosts: Samantha the teen, Samantha the college student, and Samantha the attorney, who follow around the living, breathing Samantha and, between their own quibbles with each other, help her find her footing again. It sounds weird, but I promise...it's a sheer delight.

How Children Learn
by John Holt

John Holt, in case you didn't know, was an educational philosopher whose ideas and thinking help support the concept of "unschooling." Holt was a brilliant individual who cared deeply about learning and children. After teaching in private schools for many years, Holt began working to reform the contemporary educational system. Holt ultimately decided that schools couldn't be reformed into the places of learning he had once imagined and, during his later years, he began putting his energies into encouraging child-directed homeschooling. But anyway, How Children Learn is one of Holt's earlier works, and it is a charming book-- describing, in a sweetly simple way, his observations of children learning and growing. Because I had already been doing quite a bit of reading about "unschooling" philosophy, this book didn't take me by storm the way I've heard it's done for some people; however, I do intend to read more of his works. Next on my list: Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better.

The Lilac Bus
by Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy is like an Irish Anne Tyler: her writing highlights the drama in simple, everyday lives in a very charming way. The Lilac Bus tells the story of several people who travel every weekend from Dublin to their small hometown on the same lilac-colored minibus. Each chapter is an exploration of the lives and feelings and experiences of each individual on the bus. Each section is crafted enough to stand alone as a short story-- but putting them together adds another layer of delight, because it is fun to observe how the others' perceptions of each other differ from reality, how everyone's dramas run quietly parallel while they share such close quarters, and how the stories connect in unexpected places. A lovely read.

Nineteen Minutes
by Jodi Picoult

This isn't my favorite Jodi Picoult novel. It was uber-depressing, the story of a small town that's turned upside-down when an angry kid shoots up the local high school and kills a bunch of students. As is protocol with Jodi Picoult's books, the story was told from the perspective of a variety of people involved with the shooting: a shooting survivor, the defense attorney, a judge, the detective, one of the survivors' mothers, the offender's parents. I didn't particularly like the book, but I read it from start to finish because the way she writes books (kind of backwards, in a way-- starting at the end and then slowly unfolding the back story) keeps me interested. I wanted to know what had happened to motivate the kid to do such a horrible thing. And I knew that there would be some sort of twist-- and I wanted to know what the twist was. So I read it all. And there was a good twist. But I don't know that I would recommend it. It contained a lot of fairly graphic teen sexuality and some pretty foul language. I'm not usually too terribly prudish when it comes to these things, but a lot of the content of the book make me a little uncomfortable. Try another of her novels before you pick up this one.

by Jean Sasson

This, however, I would recommend. Princess is the memoir of a Saudi-Arabian princess, as shared with an American friend in the early nineteen nineties. By sharing the story of her life, Sultana (her pseudonym) provides a glimpse into the struggles and experiences of women who live within a culture where females are often devalued and exploited. There are a lot of heart-sickening anecdotes describing the ways in which wives, daughters, and servants are abused and misused by the men who have been given power over them. Reading this book made me so grateful to be an American-- and also made me want to go fight for women's rights in the Middle and Near East.

Friday, March 12, 2010


There's something ridiculously cute about a little kid at bedtime. Maybe it's because at bedtime you can see the finish line directly ahead and, being thus freed from worrying about how much more your exhausted spirit will be able to endure, you can more fully appreciate the sweetness of your children. But then again, maybe it's just that there's something naturally heart-warming about little people padding around in fuzzie feetie jammies, gigantically round glazed eyes, insane overtired giggles, the smell of slightly damp, freshly washed hair.

Our family's evening routine is a well-worn path. Every night is pretty much the same: after dinner and bath time (if it's a bath night), Mommy declares that it is time for jammies and teeth brushing. Soren generally freaks out at this prospect, screaming that he's "'gared of lions" and/or that he "can't sleep." While one parent chases Soren around with his jammies and forces him into a diaper change, the other changes the ever-placid William. Then the Designated Soren Parent supervises tooth brushing ("supervision" ranging anywhere from offering a quick follow-up brushing to hosting a full-bore hold-'im-down-and-scrub-'is-teeth-while-he-screams wrestling match). The tooth brushing event is followed by "Song Prayer," wherein--surprise!--a song is sung and a prayer is said. (As an aside, Soren's prayers usually go like this: "Dearheavenwyfawther, Bissbissbiss, bissbissbissfood, NameajesuskystAAAAMEN." Also, Soren prays every night, often multiple times in a row, whether or not it is his turn, and regardless of whether someone else is simultaneously saying the official prayer). After Song Prayer, Daddy takes Liam downstairs, where he reads the news online with the little chubster flailing around on his lap. Chubby's movements gradually slow down, his eyelids grow heavier and heavier, and pretty soon his head is tilted loosely against his shoulder and he's breathing loud and heavy. Meanwhile, upstairs, Mommy and Soren have moved to Soren's bedroom.

Tonight Soren came to bed with his big dump truck (Sting), his little dump truck (Shwann), and two large foam letters: B (for big) and F (for ferocious). I had told him that B and F would protect him from those scary lions; the dump trucks were his own random addition to the Lion Protection Crew. We settled down on a pillow and blanket laid out in front of the door, as the child flat-out refuses to sleep in his bed, and I told him two stories. Tonight the stories were about Sting and Shwann, the big and little dump trucks. In the first story, Schwann got very sick and Sting worked extra hard to help Schwann carry his load of dirt at the construction site. In the second story, Schwann turned up missing and Sting searched everywhere for him, only to find that Shwann had fallen asleep under his bed at home. After two stories, Soren and I and Shwann and Sting moved to the rocking chair, where I told Soren he could have one more story and one more song and then it would be time to sleep. When I mentioned sleep, Soren immediately asserted, "But I'm 'gared!" "Soren," I reminded him, "You have B and F and Schwann and Sting. There is nothing in the world to be scared of!" "Oh, yeah!" replied Soren, and he settled against me for another story. In this story, Shwann and Sting helped Soren bring home a pot of gold so that Mommy and Daddy could pay off the mortgage and their student loans. At the end of the song, Soren said, "Now I want a song!" I asked him what song he would like to sing, and he said, "A song about me!" So I sang "Soren once was a little child," set to the tune of "Jesus once was a little child." (As I sang this, I pondered the possibility that this might be some sort of sacrilege, but then decided that "Jesus Once Was a Little Child" was a stupid song anyway and that its message that all children should be "humble and meek and mild" was damaging and that, even if I was desecrating the holy tune, it was an okay holy tune to desecrate.) At the end of his song, I told Soren it was time to climb in bed. "But I'm 'gared!" I reminded him again that Schwann and Sting and B and F had his back. This seemed to bring him comfort, as he climbed off my lap, settled Schwann and Sting and B and F near his pillow, lay down, and allowed me to stack blankets on top of him.

"Oh, sweetie," I said, kissing his warm little cheek, "I love you so very much."

And a little muffled voice came up from under the pillow and twined itself around my heart:
"I wuf you so merry much too, Mommy."

Good night.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A Conversation

Rachel and Abraham are standing in the kitchen after church. Rachel opens a can of tuna fish.

Abraham: Mmmmm...delicious tuna fish smell.

Rachel: I think it's kinda nasty.

Abraham, inhaling deeply: Nonsense! That..that...is the smell of our ancestry.

Rachel simultaneously imagines a fish walking out of the primordial soup and catches a whiff of the tuna. She gags.

The curtain falls.


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