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Octobers October 5, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 8:34 pm

I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn’t it? (from Anne Of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)

Yes. Octobers.

Today was the perfect October day. It was cool and cloudy and full of the warmth of friends. We filled our kitchen with the smells of baked things and bacon. We filled the seats around our table with neighbors.

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We filled our stomachs with good food and we enjoyed the sounds of many children playing. We held babies. We laughed and we made plans and we worked puzzles with the kids and we just had a lovely morning.

Then we went to the pumpkin patch because…October.

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The kids ran around trying to pick up pumpkins while we ran after them trying to get good pictures. They rode a little train pulled by a tractor while we nervously prayed they wouldn’t tumble out and wondered about the driver who appeared to be about pre-teen age. But they just seemed to be having the time of their lives so we held back our fear a little and let them enjoy their childhood.

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Then it started pouring cold, heavy raindrops and we ran to our cars laughing, leaning over seats to get the kids buckled without getting soaked. In Texas you don’t ever complain about rain. You just laugh and enjoy it and tell the kids you’ll buy pumpkins another day. Then you spend the afternoon resting and playing board games and just enjoying October.

 

 

To be forgiven October 3, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 9:17 pm

It gives you a lovely, comfortable feeling to apologize and be forgiven, doesn’t it? (from Anne Of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)

You can expect quite a few Anne quotes this month because fall just puts me in an Anne-ish mood.

I thought of this one today because this week at our house has been all about apologies and forgiveness. We have our most important family rules posted on a wall where we see them often. The family rules are for all of us, not just the children. The one that I am most often guilty of breaking is “Answer gently.”

A couple of days ago my son left the bathroom door open and our 17-month-old got in there and emptied the contents of the diaper pail all over the floor and tub. It was disgusting. I lost it.

Not only did I not speak gently, I actually screamed at my son for leaving that door open. Screamed. I was scary. And I had to apologize to this four-year-old for my extreme overreaction, for showing him such anger. We both cried a lot and there was lots of cuddling. While I scrubbed the bathroom with bleach, my husband fed the kids dinner and I just cried and prayed my son wouldn’t remember me that way. I prayed he would not learn this from me instead of all the good things I have tried to teach him. And I told myself that this one episode would likely make a much bigger impression than many months of kindness. I texted a wise friend because I needed another mama to pray for me and I knew I could trust her. She told me to remember that showing humility to our kids when we apologize is also teaching them a great deal. And I thanked God for the extreme grace of that truth. Benjamin forgave me and my friend helped me forgive myself.

This morning I went to take a shower and I reminded Benjamin to keep the bathroom doors closed, that mommy was going to be in the shower for about 10 minutes and he needed to be very sure that June couldn’t get into any bathrooms. While I was in there he knocked on the door and asked if he could get something from the pantry. I answered through the door to please wait and make sure the outer bathroom door was closed. He didn’t. When I came out a few minutes later the outer door was open and I could tell June had opened a drawer but it didn’t look like she had gotten anything out. About two hours later we were cleaning up for lunch and I picked up a towel from the living room floor and saw a jolly roger drawn in red lipstick on the cream colored carpet. This was not June. She doesn’t know how to draw jolly rogers. I was absolutely beyond angry but I kept my cool. We talked and I scrubbed (which didn’t work). He lost privileges (all of his pirate toys are locked up in the shed now) and he apologized and admitted that he knew it was wrong when he did it. And it was my turn to forgive him. You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to find forgiveness in your heart for a four-year-old but we have lived here for only three weeks and it’s RED lipstick on CREAM carpet. Seriously. And I wasn’t completely convinced that he felt the full weight of what he had done. He just didn’t seem as contrite as he should have been. But the level of his contrition is not relevant because forgiveness isn’t something you earn. It is gifted, not earned. It is grace.

To apologize and be forgiven is lovely to the soul and to freely forgive is as well. Someday I believe he will cringe and laugh as I remind him of this red jolly roger, cream carpet incident and maybe by then I will be ready to laugh about it too.

 

No harm October 2, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 1:58 pm

I meant no harm. I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got. (from The Lorax  by Dr. Seuss)

My family is on a journey, taking baby steps as we go, and our ultimate destination is to live fairly in this world. We have learned a lot over the past couple of years about the ongoing problem of slavery worldwide. In fact, most experts say there are more people in slavery now that at any other time in history. This shocks and saddens me and the part that keeps me up at night is that my own culture has such a large hand in this. We drive the supply with our demand for more, more, MORE. I am not here to tell you that my family has arrived. I know we still use products with the footprint of slavery, but we are taking steps and eliminating our part of the demand. It is a journey. Some changes have been more difficult than others, but less difficult than sleeping at night when I know that our luxuries have come at the expense of another’s freedom.

Today, because it is October, and I know that many of you will stock up on Halloween candy this month, I want to gently urge you to join us on this journey and use your dollars to support ethical candy makers. I don’t really see any reason to re-invent the wheel and other writers have done a great job of explaining the enormous problem with West African chocolate and slavery. If you would like to learn more about it, Rage Against The Minivan has an excellent post from last year. In the post, she also links to resources for an ethical Halloween. So I’m not going to tell you the statistics about chocolate, but I will share a little bit about my own feelings and actions.

We don’t buy chocolate from any of the major companies (Mars, Hershey, Nestle, Cadbury). When we buy chocolate that is not certified organic or certified Fair Trade, we take the time to look up the company’s website and find out where their chocolate is sourced. If it’s sourced out of Belgium or Venezuela, we feel good about buying it. If it’s sourced out of Ghana or the Ivory Coast, we do not buy it. This is the decision we’ve made based on the reading we have done. When we crave, as we sometimes do, something we used to buy that we now know is tainted by slavery, we find a way to make an alternative ourselves. I have made chocolate hazelnut spread (instead of Nutella), chocolate covered peanuts (sub for peanut M&Ms), chocolate peanut butter cups (Reese’s Cups), hot chocolate mix, and homemade brownies and cakes to avoid unethical chocolate. I don’t grill people at parties to find out where the chocolate they used was sourced and I will eat something someone gives me, but when possible I sign up to bring chocolate items to events or parties so that I can control the sourcing.

I am not a blind optimist. You may be thinking, “Do you really think it will make any difference?” Will the chocolate companies notice a difference in their sales if a few families stop buying their product and opt instead for the Fair Trade alternatives? I don’t honestly believe they will notice the difference. I think it would take an awful lot of consumers changing their spending habits for this to show up on the radar of Hershey or Mars. So why do I still do it? Well, it makes a difference to me. William Wilberforce (who I admittedly only know of because of the movie “Amazing Grace”) said, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” We are taking these steps and changing our spending habits regardless of the effect it has in the world, because we believe in the effect it has on our own souls. I can’t eat a Snicker’s bar in good conscience when I know how it was produced. And now that I have told my children about this, I can’t let them see me eat that.

My children are young, so it hasn’t been a huge adjustment for them. Except for chocolate milk. My son LOVES chocolate milk and most specifically he loves Nesquick powder. He asks me every time we go to the store if we can please buy some of the chocolate milk with the bunny drinking out of the straw. And every time I say no I think about saying yes for just a moment. I think about how it’s really not going to make a difference, about how I made my own chocolate milk powder and it was expensive and he didn’t like it. But then I think that somewhere in west Africa is a mama who has a son not much older than mine and she doesn’t see him much because he is doing the dangerous and exhausting labor of a child slave in the cocoa fields. And I tell my son no and then I tell him why. And he accepts it. The next time we go to the store he will probably ask again and we will have the same conversation again, but for now he accepts it.

In my son’s room I mod podged a huge world map onto a board to hang on his wall. Before I got it all glued down, he used a crayon to embellish it. I didn’t want to leave the crayon markings there because the map was kind of expensive and I think we might be able to re-sell it someday when he has a different kind of decor in his room. So I cut a bit of paper into a fancy shape and wrote a verse from the Bible in calligraphy to cover it. It says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Benjamin noticed it immediately and asked me what the words said. When I read it to him I explained that it would be a reminder to love the people of the world more than we love ourselves. He likes to point to different parts of the map and ask me “Where’s that land? Do we know somebody that lives there?” It’s really fun to talk to him about the world this way. I pointed out Ghana and the Ivory Coast the other day and I told him that’s where they make children work too hard for chocolate. I said that one way we could love the children of the world better is to not buy chocolate made by people who hurt kids. He said, “Well, mom, maybe we could find another map sometime, just like this map. And then you can write the words about love one another on that other map and we can send it to the bad people who hurt the kids and then they will know better. If they know better they won’t do it anymore.” I love his innocence. I love that he assumes once we know better we act differently. That’s why we don’t buy slave chocolate even though I know that realistically it won’t make a big impact on the chocolate industry. I know better so I should behave differently.

There are many other products and industries tainted by slavery and it seems every time I turn around I am learning about another one. I am doing the best I can with the information I have and trying to give myself and others a great deal of grace where the changes are slow. I haven’t completely transferred all of our spending to fairly sourced products but I’m working on it little by little as we learn. I hope you don’t feel lectured or condemned but I do hope you’ll stop and think for a minute before you buy that chocolate and choose instead something that has been made by free hands fairly paid.

 

True friends September 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 9:19 pm
Tags: ,

True friends never owe each other anything. (from Bear Circus by William Pene du Bois)

Let me start this by saying that my husband and I have never really moved in the traditional sense of the term. When we got married, I was living with my parents and he was living in a dorm. Several months before our wedding, we decided we would rent a house from his parents once we were married. That house was vacant at the time and they gave us unlimited access to it, so every time we had a wedding shower we would just take the gifts over to the house and put them away in their places. At some point we took a couch in, at another point other furniture, stretching out the process of moving our pieced together hand-me-down furniture over about five months. It was so easy. A day or two before the wedding we moved the bulk of our clothes over to the rent house and the last of the things we hadn’t yet moved. We got married, we started living there, and we lived there for nine years.

Until a couple of weeks ago when we moved into the home we have been saving up for. It was a completely different experience. First of all, before moving in we set aside two weeks to peel wall paper, paint, change light switches and outlets, and do other general repairs to our new home. Jon has a full time job now, we’re nine years older (read nine years less energetic) than when we married, and we have two small children. This made working on the house every day for two weeks a bit trickier than that time I unloaded brand new plates from wedding gift boxes and took a minute to hang up curtains in the rent house with no children to chase. This time we were arranging for Jon’s mom to watch the kids, making daily trips to Lowe’s, working as fast as we could in the two hours we had between Jon leaving work and the kids’ bed time, and basically living off of fast food. It was fun and exhausting and would have been absolutely impossible without the incredible help of a few great friends.

What can you say about the kind of friend who also works for a feverish two or five hours painting your living room paneling? What do you say about the moms who take your children every single day and don’t roll their eyes once when you come an hour past their bed time (again!) to pick them up, paint splattered and exhausted? Or the friends who bring a meal and plastic ware and paper plates to a house with no table in it so you can enjoy a picnic of NON-fast food in your future dining room? And there’s the one who kept us all filled up with the perfection that is ice cold Sonic beverages. The friend who came early in the morning on his actual birthday to help load our moving truck blew me away, as did my husband’s boss who came and both loaded and unloaded on a hot Saturday. A friend from MOPS cleaned my kitchen counters and drawers so I could unload my dishes and she helped unpack my closet and has now seen my lingerie. This is how she spent a rare afternoon of freedom from her own two small children. I was just humbled and amazed by their help. I was exhausted from this work and I know they had to be exhausted too, and they didn’t have to do it!

Towards the end of the day, my friend (who had arranged childcare for her three children for the whole day so she and her husband could be there packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking) had to call it quits because her nursing baby needed her (do you know how exhausting that stage of motherhood is? Do you?). I looked at her and thought about how tired she must be and what a sacrifice it was for her to do this with a Saturday and I just couldn’t even think of what to say. I said something about being beyond all gratitude and owing them big time. And she said, “We will always be even.” And another friend said something similar after he worked probably more on our house than I did over that two week span (during which time he also started a new job!). He painted and peeled wall paper and ate fast food and wrapped quilts around my antique chairs so they wouldn’t scratch in the back of his truck and we could never in a hundred years say thank you enough but he is okay with that. And we can rest in the knowledge that we haven’t just racked up a whole lot of friendship debt because there is no such thing. We would do the same for them and I hope we get to, but it is not repaying a debt. It is just friendship. And there is this great form of love where a man lays down his Saturday for his friends and I am not going to say anything else here because I am literally weeping with gratitude and fullness of heart and friendship and I just can’t.

 

That’s a lot September 18, 2013

“…we got each other,” she said, “and that’s a lot.” (from Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt)

I’ve been reading Crossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner and it has me thinking about friendship and family and the wealth therein. My family is reasonably comfortable now but we have been through times when we lived on a pittance. I will not romanticize living on little. It was stressful. But I can not tell you that we have ever been poor. We have always had the wealth of one another. It’s not just enough. It’s a lot. An excess of laughter and comfort and presence. I have always said that our one great talent is friendship and we have surrounded ourselves with just the loveliest people. It’s weird because we are introverts by nature yet we have these wide circles of friends and deep pools of them. We are also close to our families. We live where they live and we don’t plan to move away. This is what is most important to us, these people.

And the astonishing grace of the whole thing is that enough would have been enough. Just Jon and I loving each other or just our families or just a couple of close friends–any of these scenarios alone would have made us feel secure in affection and comfort. As Ma Ingalls said in one of the Little House books, “Enough is as good as a feast.” Enough would have been enough. But instead we have more than enough. We have a lot.

 

Quiet ways September 17, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kristi @ 10:18 pm

Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways. (from Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery)

I love Anne Shirley’s wake up about romance in the Anne books. I love that she has the opportunity to go with the mysterious, romantic ideal of her childhood but finds she is more comfortable with the love of an old friend. Did you ever have any of those “choose your own ending” books as a kid? At the end of a chapter it would give you a choice to make and you would skip to a certain page based on that choice. I, of course, always read them both ways. Not great books but kind of a funny concept. I sometimes think about the Anne series that way. What if she had married Roy? (If you haven’t read the series but have only watched the movies you will be very confused by this. If that is the case, go now and get the books. Read and enjoy.) The idea of Anne and Roy just creeps me out. How disappointing that would have been.

I married a Gilbert, an old friend that I knew I could trust. He’s not a brooding, romantic poet. He’s not mysterious and melancholy. Neither is he some brazen heroic knight riding down to save the day. He’s a very good looking, introverted, masculine, good man. He has terrible hand writing and he’s not a good dancer (neither am I so it’s a wash). And here’s a good thing about a Gilbert versus a Roy: he works hard and then comes home and loves us well. He does all the little un-romantic things that make our lives work. He unclogs the dryer vent and installs the smoke detectors, grills the steaks and brings home the bacon. He tickles the kids on the living room floor and he buys stamps. These things are not beneath him. He is kind and forgiving in a way I aspire to. He doesn’t do large romantic gestures very often at all. Our favorite dates are pick up dinners, browsing a book store, renting a dvd, sharing some candy, roasting marshmallows. It’s what we like and when we find something we enjoy we do it again and again.

A friend of mine went on a sunset sailboat cruise with her husband for their 10th wedding anniversary and another couple on the boat were on their very first date. We laughed about what an over-the-top first date that was. Setting the bar a bit high right there at the first, I think. Sometimes Jon and I like to save up and do something special like that too, for an anniversary or a special occasion. But our first date? I don’t even know. We joke that we “pre-dated” for years before we made it official. We are both introverts and neither the kind that’s going to take the big risk. So it took years for us to finally admit that we loved each other beyond the friendship we cherished. We probably had a hundred dates that we had no idea were actually dates. There was no sunset sailboat first date, no pomp and blare. There was just an old friend and his quiet ways. A Gilbert, not a Roy.

 

Going to believe September 16, 2013

Filed under: Chapter Books,Classics — Kristi @ 9:25 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe the best does. 

(from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)