Sunday, August 30, 2009

When Given Free Cubs Tickets....

you go! Mom and Dad graciously watched the children so Glen and I could spend the day at Wrigley Field. The sun was shining, the breeze, chilly and the game, disappointing. But we enjoyed it!
At the field
See - not a book. A scorecard. And, I filled it out. Just ask Glen.

Look at that beautiful sun!
Oh, and Fukudome at bat.
By the way, I now know he plays center field.
Aren't you proud?
Glen: "I have to admit, I am glad I wore jeans."
I wrote it down on my scorecard.
I even took a picture.
Glen is never chilly.
Honestly, I enjoy going to Wrigley and watching the Cubs.
I was just jealous of those who were sitting in the sun.
I was wishing I had worn my long underwear.
To a baseball game. In Chicago. In August.
Global warming anyone?
A very chilly and expensive place to play video games.
There were four of them, sitting all in a row.
Guess the other two left to find a warmer place to play.

Harry Carey. A legend.

We took the Wrigley Express.
Not fighting traffic in the city. Priceless.
We finally found the sun! On the bus!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Keep Reading

I was at the beach yesterday afternoon, taking advantage of every last good day of the summer. My kids (except Isaac) were swimming, and I was sitting in my camp chair reading. Gotta love the beach!

I pulled out of my beach bag, the Summer Catalog from Memoria Press, a classical education resource. It has articles in every catalog, which I enjoy reading.

The one that caught my eye was Stop Cleaning the Kitchen and Read a Book by Susan Wise Bauer. Well, that's a philosophy with which I can agree wholeheartedly! You can read the whole article here.

It is really an excellent article. While written for the homeschooling mother, I think the principles apply to everyone. It also made me realize that I tend to read too fast (I am a speed reader), and I tend not to reread books unless they're absolute favorites. I am also guilty of reading fairly easy books. I have not ever, for instance, read Les Mis or Crime and Punishment or much Shakespeare for that matter.

Recently, in fact, I find myself blazing through books as quickly as I can so I can write a blog post on them. Even when I want to find time to contemplate them, ponder them, discuss them with my friends or husband, I haven't because I've been too busy reading.

While I'm not ready to start on Anna Karenina tomorrow, I will start a reading journal. And I have started reading through a book off my shelf a little each morning - He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student's Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives. It's not a classic, but it is academic.

And since it's my book, I can write in it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis...

At the Future Leader's Reception at City Museum

Friday Night dinner at Union Station

Lisa and Beth

Me with my good friend Harriet

Me with my Shaklee sister, Shawna

Me with Kristi
We all have fun at convention!

Earlier this month, I went to St. Louis with some colleagues (including Beth above) for the annual Shaklee convention. It's a nice break from the day-to-day mom and teacher stuff, but it was more of a working vacation. Lots of sitting and lots of learning - as with any convention. But fortunately, there's still plenty of time to hang out and have fun.

As I was going through my pictures, I realized one of my favorite things about convention is reconnecting with my Shaklee friends, and meeting new ones. The trip down was fun - carpooling with Beth and John. I can't tell you how excited I was to see my friend Harriet again. And spend time with Shawna and Kristi. And meet so many fun people like Lisa, Kristi W, Ginny, Pat, Andrea, Christy and Carolyn. Most of them I had 'met' over the phone - what fun to put faces with the voices, hang out with them, and learn from them.

I would have never met any of these people if I hadn't been in Shaklee. And my life is richer because of it. Thanks Shaklee!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family

I happened to be browsing the shelves of our library when this book caught my eye. I thought it looked interesting - do you know a family which isn't frantic? - and picked it up.

The 3 Big Questions for a Frantic Family is a great book for any family which feels overwhelmed to read. Patrick Lencioni writes in a very readable fashion - it doesn't take much time and it sticks with you.

The book is in the form of a fable, following a frantic family who decides to adapt some business principles to their family life. It goes quickly through the business principles, and follows the couple who decide they need to make it simpler and easier for families to follow.

They come up with three big questions for families to answer.

First: What makes our family unique?

Second: What is your family's top priority - rallying cry - right now?

Third: How do you talk about and use the answers to these questions?

The whole process to answer these questions shouldn't take more than an hour. To prepare for the process, you should probably read this book, or at least the last few chapters of the book to get context for the questions and come up with ways that your family can answer the questions. But reading the last few chapters and reviewing some real life examples shouldn't take more than a few hours at most if you're a slow reader.

Call it an investment in your family. In the book, Lencioni calls it context. A framework from which your family can operate and make decisions. It's easier to say no to things when you know what the top priority is for your family in the next few months. It's easier to know what to say yes to when you have that same knowledge.

The genius of this book is not only answering the first two questions, but the inclusion of the third. It's too easy to set aside something we've worked on in the bustle of day-to-day life. The answer to the third question gives accountability to actually take action on the top priority - and an easy way to measure areas which are going well, and those which need work. I love his idea of using colors to mark progress in accomplishing the top priority.

And when there's purpose to life, then life becomes more meaningful and deliberate than what's the next urgent thing which needs my attention? And that makes all the difference.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Princess Academy

My seven-year-old daughter brought me the audio book of Princess Academy this week when we were in the library. I'd never heard of it, but she told me her friend had told her that it was a really good book. Her friend is in junior high, so I thought I'd better read the book before listening to it with all the kids.

Princess Academy is a much quicker read than Inkheart, but that does not mean it is not good. In fact, I like Princess Academy much better than Inkheart.

The basic story line is that the girls from a mountain village are forced to go to an academy for an entire year to learn to be a princess because the priests in the capital said that the prince's wife will come from this village.

The girls do not read or write, most work in the mines. The story revolves around Miri, a young girl who's mother died when she was young. Miri's father does not allow her to work in the mines, which makes her feel useless. The academy comes, and she is forced to go.

Along the way, Miri learns the importance of education and reading, she learns how much she loves her village and really doesn't want to leave to be a wealthy princess. She learns to apply the lessons she's learned in the academy (the scene where she applies the Principles of Diplomacy is wonderful!), and learns a secret form of communicating she thought was only available to quarry workers.

Princess Academy is a wonderful, engaging story with great lessons for young girls - and boys (if you can get them to listen in or read it. There is plenty of adventure to keep them interested). I would recommend it for older elementary or junior high students. Miri talks about her feelings for her childhood friend and her conflict over wanting to be with him or be the princess with the beautiful dresses and houses. Good things to think about for older girls - I think my girls are a bit too young to be thinking about those topics.

In a few more years, we'll listen to this audio book as a family. I know we'll all enjoy it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


My kids have seen the advertisements for the movie Inkheart and have begged to watch it. The rule in our house is that I need to see a movie before they can watch it (well, as much as possible). I didn't feel like watching a movie, and noticed the book at our library, so I picked it up since the books are usually better than the movie.

Inkheart is a very long book. I enjoyed reading it very much, but I don't think my kids are ready to listen to the book or watch the movie. I was immediately pulled in to the story of the book, wondering what the mystery was, what the secret was, why Meg and her father Mo were hiding.

And I was scared. Inkheart is a very scary book. Perhaps it is scarier than the movie - I've not seen it - because of the images I create in my imagination. My children scare easily, and I do not plan on reading this book to them. I think my 11-year-old son would enjoy reading this book on his own, but not for several years.

One thing I really enjoyed about Inkheart are the little excerpts at the beginning of each chapter. They're taken from many different children's books, some of which I wasn't familiar. They set the emotional tone for the chapter and in some cases, revealed the inspiration of the events of the chapter.

The premise is that Mo can read characters and things out of books he reads aloud. He didn't realize he had this gift until one night he read an evil character out of a book, and his wife (Meg's mother) went into the book. This causes all sorts of problems, and in the course of the story, Meg realizes she has the same gift. The ending feels a long time coming, but is very creative.

Overall, Inkheart is a good, but scary book. I'd recommend it for an older reader who can handle scary books.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

48 Days to the Work You Love

I heard a very short snippet of an interview with Dan Miller on the radio last month, and it was enough for me to search out his book 48 Days to the Work You Love. I felt I needed a new perspective on work, and some guiding questions to help me evaluate my professional life.

In 48 Days to the Work You Love, Miller provides just that. He discusses the definition of work - and our culture's perspective of work. I especially enjoyed his discussion of the differences between vocation, career, and job.

After the more philosophical, yet very readable, discussions of work, Miller moves into very practical applications of finding work. He gives tips and samples of resumes, introduction letters, follow up letters. He talks about the interview and what an applicant can and should do to prepare for it. He takes us through a step-by-step job search process not focused on the classifieds (in print or online) and destroys myths we believe about the job search process.

He also has a couple of chapters on starting your own business - what to think about, answering common questions, and giving words of warning about scams. He encourages us to stretch our thinking - and to do something with our ideas.
"Most great business ideas are not new and revolutionary. They are simple but done by someone who just did something! A good idea will not put money in anybody's pocket, but combined with a plan of action that good idea can give you time control and unlimited income."

Dave Ramsey (of Total Money Makeover fame) sets the tone for Miller's book in his forward. He says, "The difference between successful and the troubled is not error-free living; it is that by discovering and implementing a life calling, the successful stand on their pile of trash while the troubled sit under theirs. ... This is a book about implementation, so do it!"

I would recommend this book to anyone feeling discouraged, disappointed, or is searching for a job. Putting into practice a few of the things in this book will help you climb to the top of your trash pile, instead of sitting under it.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Day for Dreams Fulfilled

Papa and Nana (my parents) plan a very special trip with their grandchildren on very special birthdays. For the boys, it's a trip to the Lego store when they turn 10 (a rather arbitrary number that happened because Nathaniel, their oldest grandson, turned 10 shortly before Anna, their oldest granddaughter, turned 8).

Eight is a very magical number for girls because that is the day they are officially old enough (by package labeling) to own an American Girl Doll. I'm fortunate that it was my mother's dream for her granddaughters to own and enjoy at least one American Girl doll. Because otherwise, they wouldn't.

It just so happened that 2009 is the magical year that two of their granddaughters turn eight, within six weeks of each other. So, they planned their trip (poor Papa!) for downtown Chicago and the American Girl Doll store.

This is what I imagined their day would be like. Nana (and Papa) enduring while two little girls squealed and hugged and generally expressed their unparalleled enthusiasm for such a trip. I cannot believe Papa caught this moment on the CTA bus.
Mom says it was really quite enjoyable. I mentioned to her that my friend asked if we were going to see pictures chronicling this big day in the lives of Priscilla and Lydia. Mom says she glad I did, because she remembered to take pictures. The only picture we're missing is the one of Priscilla curled up in a chair in her daddy's office downtown, feeling too sick to move. Lydia decided that they should give Priscilla the morning to see if she could feel better so their trip wouldn't have to be canceled. Papa and Nana took her to Millenium Park. She was a trooper - she walked many "thousand-millions" of steps (as Isaac put it) that morning. And they got some cool pictures.
After patiently waiting (I'm sure it felt like eons!), they went to the restaurant and there was Priscilla - back to her normal, chipper self! Lunch, and ice cream, with Papa, Nana, Uncle Troy & Aunt Carrie at the Frango Cafe in Macy's. Wait. Why wasn't I invited?

Then, finally, mecca. The American Girl Doll Store!

As if the day couldn't be any more special, Papa & Nana invited Lydia to spend the night that night.Elizabeth (Felicity's friend) has not left her side since then. She behaved very well, according to Lydia, during her first church service and Sunday School class. But she had to stay home and take a nap when we went to the beach this afternoon.