Monday, June 13, 2016

Rolled Eyes and Reluctant Readers (or How to Get your Kids to Read in the Summer)

This…the 142 post about books here at The Wright Place. Summer is here and we are reading. Some of us by choice and others by sheer force.

My children, particularly the misfits among us for whom reading is not their first "go to" summer activity are nearing the point already in early June of spraining their eye sockets with all of the eye rolling because of conversations like this…

"May I watch a show?"

"No, go read a book,"

"Can I play a game on my tablet?"

"No, go read a book."

"Can I clean my room instead?

Pause…

"Yes, but then go read a book."

Then there's the end of the day query made by the parents:

"Have you read for 30 minutes today?"

Oh…the eye rolling…

You know what though, eye rolling doesn't hurt the one receiving it at all and so…we the parents will continue to insist and they the kids will continue to read… and, I am sure, to roll their eyes.

This week, the requirement as increased to 45 minutes and the eye rolling has increased accordingly. Not all of the kids need such requirement, but some do. Our hope, of course is that by the end of 45 minutes, they'll be good and carried away by the story they are reading that they'll just keep on going and get all of those good words and plots and characters and settings into their heads and hearts! It's a perfect plan, right?


We shall see…

Kate and Molly and I just finished our very first Roald Dahl book, The BFG in time for the movie of the same title.  We busted our still-during-the-school-year bedtimes reading late into more than a few nights to see what would happen to Sophie and The Big Friendly Giant. We thoroughly enjoyed the parts concerning the Queen of England. The book was delightful and I am more than a little nervous about the movie living up to it. We initially borrowed The BFG from the library but after finishing it, we loved it so dearly that we decided we needed our very own copy for our very own shelves.

We highly recommend this and feel that it simply MUST be read out loud.



We moved immediately into Matilda, also by Roald Dahl, upon completion of The BFG. Matilda has quite a different feel to it, but we are already charmed by her and disgusted by her parents…just, I think, as the author intended.

Molly has been into the series books lately and is particularly enjoying the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski. Each book in the series tells the story of a known fairy tale but puts a major spin on the plot. Lots of fun and lots of books in the series.



And she is over-the-moon happy to curl up with her hero Jack Stalwart as she reads about him in the fourteen book series by Elizabeth Singer Hunt. Jack is a spy which rings all of Molly's requirements for a good read. She is nearing halfway in the series and is waiting not-so-patiently for her dad to click the buttons and make the next one appear ("In paperback please," she instructs, "I like to bend them.").


Megan read and enjoyed The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame. The Blue Castle is written for an older reader than the Anne books and both Meg and I loved this story. I read it last year in about a day and a half, and Meg read it between her school readings this year. (Bonus: its $0.99 on Kindle just now.) 



Meg's summer fiction has included the book Passenger, recommended in this post from Modern Mrs Darcy 


and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (read and adored years ago by yours truly) which both she and Cole are reading for a summer book club. 



Kate is reading Flunked (Fairy Tale Reform School) by Jen Calonita… 



…and has read aloud the rest of our growing Roald Dahl collection to Molly (in the misery loves company category:-). 



Their read-alouds have included:








(which is tortoise spelled backwards!)

Cole (and Meg and my Man and I) is in the midst of the Visual Theology 2016 Reading Challenge. Highly inspired by challenges and goals, and seeing most of life as a competition of some sort or other, Cole is pursuing his summer reading like it's his JOB. He has posted his Summer 2016 book list and recommendations on his own blog. I'm a tiny bit proud of him it.

I hope your summer reading is full and fantastic. Here's to cold drinks, loads of sunshine, and abundant pages!

A book is a gift you can open again and again. 
~Garrison Keillor

Friday, May 20, 2016

Molly and the Internet...


Molly rushed into the house with solemn purpose a few afternoons ago. She was so intent on her mission that she'd forgotten to take off her shoes and her bike helmet before coming inside. I gave her a long sideways glance.

She took one sheepish breath and said, "I'm sorry, I forgot about my shoes. See, Abby (the neighbor friend with whom she'd been playing) is learning sign language on the computer and her sign for "mother" is this (showing me with her hands) but I think it's this (again, a slightly different motion) because that's what I learned at co-op. So, I'm going up to my room to get my book because, you know how the internet is wrong sometimes…."


I wanted to ask her about her experience with misinformation and the internet, but she was in a hurry to defend her case in the neighborhood…


"The internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom." ~Jon Stewart

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Good Church

We were just about finished running errands for the afternoon, Molly and I, when we passed a church.

"Is that a good church, Mom?" she asked, pointing out the window.

"Well, what do you mean by a good church, Molly?"

"I mean do they preach good things about God there?"

I shared with Molly what I knew of the church but told her that I'd not been to a worship service there so I couldn't answer her fully. As always, it was enlightening to get to hear a bit of what was going on in her mind—to catch a glimpse of what she is thinking as we tool about town doing our normal things. I was just beginning to wonder why, out of the blue, Molly was asking about churches besides our own when she added a thought which explained everything.

"I need to know about these things Mom, so that I will know which church to take my kids to someday."

I grinned and looked forward to telling my Man, my preacher-Man, all about this conversation. It became as fun as I'd imagined it was going to be when he said indignantly, "Is there some reason, I wonder, why she wouldn't just bring her family to our church?"

"She's seven," I reminded him, "you've got a year or two to win her loyalty…"

Preachers…sometimes they can be sooooo sensitive.


From Easter Sunday…back in the day when Molly still attended church with us.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

It's 2016 and we are BACK with a few of our Favorite Things!

I woke this morning and greeted the hermit crab who has taken up residence in our bathroom because it is not warm enough in his upstairs home these winter days. There is a heater on its way to us from Amazon because my Man and I, though we are used to sharing our bathroom with all manner of children, are weary of sharing it with a hermit crab named Charles. 

Charles joined our family last summer straight from a mall kiosk and provided by Mammaw and Pappaw. He had been the quietest and lowest maintenance creature around these parts, until the temperature dropped and we had to shop for the heater and all. We have gotten used to him though, and are glad that he will be with us in this new year. There are a few other fun things that we discovered in 2015 that are helping us to hit the ground running in 2016.

The Wunderlist app. I heard about this easy-to-use app on a podcast and downloaded it post haste. I was soon recommending it to my mom and sisters. It is essentially a list making app that allows you, if you choose, to share lists with others or to just make really nice lists (with subcategories even!) for yourself. My Man and I share a running grocery list which helps to ensure that it is always up to date when one of us is headed to the store. My mom and my sisters and I used Wunderlist to plan and assign who would make what for Christmas dinner...from three different states. It was a thing of beauty...and dinner wasn't bad either! The best part about it is the lovely little "DING" of accomplishment that it makes when you check something off of your list. I understand now how Pavlov's dog must have felt! I'm also keeping various lists of books that I'm hunting down for the new year and also a list of books that I plan to read in the new year.

Speaking of books...
Toward the end of December, my Man came across The 2016 Reading Challenge on one of his favorite blogs challies.com . We took things a bit further and assigned point values to each book category according to length, difficulty, and importance and we are competing individually, on teams (kids vs. parents), and with some members of our extended family. I finished my first book this morning (The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozier...highly recommend for short chapter-a-day devotional reading) for which I earned three points and the distinction of being the first at The Wright Place to finish a book for the challenge. Our goal is to expand our reading horizons and be more widely read readers. 

The teenagers taught me about Amazon Prime Music. It's also an app and it works much like Spotify. If you are an Amazon Prime member you can stream all sorts of music to your device AND you can even download certain selections to listen to when you are not in an area with wifi. Because of this app and the Bluetooth speaker I received for Christmas, our home has lately been filled with the sounds of the London Symphony Orchestra and The Boston Pops. Lest you think us highbrow, we are listening to those two sets of gifted musicians play movie soundtracks including and especially the Star Wars themes. We are pretty sure Darth Vader is just around the corner waiting to march down our hallway and stir up all sorts of trouble. 



Finally, the girls and I have been intending to watch the series Gilmore Girls together all year and just before year's end we sat down and dialed up the first episode and before we knew what had happened, we'd polished off three episodes. We were all kinds of smitten and giggly and amazed that three episodes had just flown by like that. 



Kate said, "You mean we've watched THREE? It didn't seem like it?" To which her older, wiser sis explained, "THAT is what you call BINGE watching Kate!" We are still watching our way through season one of the seven that lay ahead of us.  Lofty goals we have over here! Note: though FULL of charm, there are portions of the show that may not be suitable for younger children. So far, we haven't encountered anything "fast-forward" worthy, but I recently felt the need to preview a few scenes of an episode before letting the little girls watch. Mostly though, we just laugh at the sparkly dialogue and talk about the characters as if they were real people in our lives as we go about our days. 

I hope this finds you and yours enjoying your first few days of 2016! 


All of us at The Wright Place ( and Charles-the-Hermit-Crab ) wish you the happiest and most fulfilling New Year!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Twenty-three Years Ago Today...

To my Man,

Twenty-three years ago today we went on our first date. You know this better than I do, being the one of us who is comfortable with the calendar. We didn't know that twenty-three years ago though. We knew so very little then. We really only knew that we'd end up together. We just weren't sure how it was going to happen. We were all butterflies-in-the-belly and less feet-on-the-ground in reality.  Twenty-three years ago we went to a movie as a couple for the very first time, after spending a semester becoming best friends...all these years later I'm so glad that we still are ... both. 


I call that a victory. 

Twenty-three years ago, victories don't look like what they do today. Back then a victory was scheduling a few classes together in the business building and getting to spend time together in class. Now, a victory is scheduling a meal together and getting to talk about our very separate days. Then a victory was a good movie at my place, curled up on the couch with a pint each of Ben and Jerry's, today…well, we still consider that a victory... only now the couch is a bit more crowded. 


We had no way of knowing then, what our life together would look like but we had some hopeful ideas and some far off dreams. Now, here we stand in that far-off  looking back for a moment and I'm just so thankful. 

I am so thankful to be yours. 

Honestly, I don't think we'll ever be voted Marriage All Stars or anything like that because...we ARE, after all, us. You, the right-angle-loving, routine-living, order-craving, detail-focusing, list-checking, life-planning one and me, the scatter-brained, angle-bending, list-losing, big-picture-dreaming, order-wrecking, anti-calendaring one. That the dear Lord put us together, is real testament to His creativity and general sense of humor. 



Twenty-three years ago, I might have dreamed of a life full of fiery romance and nail-biting adventure but these days I'm so much more grateful for our current reality. The one in which I tell you that all I need is for you to come home every night and you chuckle as if to say that the standard I've set is a pretty low one. But is it really? Isn't it in the daily things where victories secured? Isn't it in the often and always where hearts are knit and mended and where the important parts of life are lived?  Therein, lies the romance. 


I ask for everyday and you've faithfully given that and then you've filled those days with the kinds of adventure two college kids on their first date twenty-three years ago could never have imagined.

Thanks for asking me out. 

It was a brave move. 

But not nearly as brave as having come home every. single. night. twenty-three years later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

When You Are Not Feelin' All Advent-y

We began our Advent celebration last night around the table after a long day of school and errands. We'd ordered pizza for dinner because the Thanksgiving leftovers had run out along with my desire to produce anything more from the kitchen for a time. My Man had instructed the kids to clean off the dining room table so that "in a while we can do Advent." Then he set about paying the bills and getting the paper of our lives in order.

I was working on a season related project and the kids, after finishing their task, had migrated to the couch in front of the TV and had begun watching a show after a bit of fussing about what to watch at all because "there is NOTHING on!"

One child was particularly angsty because we'd made all indications that we'd be decorating the Christmas tree today and we'd not gotten nearly that far and she was both disappointed and determined that progress would be made before she was sent to bed. Her determination added a special challenge to our evening.

I was so over the day. The LAST thing my heart wanted to do was lean into this season of love and togetherness and my family gathered around the table humming Silent Night.

Ok, we don't ever hum Silent Night, but we do log some time around that table and I wasn't feeling it. I'd eventually found the beginnings of tree decor and Kate and I were making slow progress and soon my Man appeared with the Advent wreath and four sorry looking candles in his hand— he was on his way to the Christ candle to finish the set. Soon the call went out, "OK everyone, come in here for Advent!"

We gathered, I handed out pieces of fudge, given us by a friend, to fuel our focus. There was a new Advent book this year and it is simple and clear and easy
We spent ten minutes together all pondering the message of hope from Isaiah—our reading from last night. There was a candle with a flame and a happy child chosen to light it.


There was a seven year old reading the Scripture and stumbling over a word or two from behind bangs that need some attention. Fudge was eaten, prayer was offered, and the smoke from the extinguished candle marked the end of our celebration. 

We didn't do it perfectly—we cannot. 

We didn't do it grandly—we know not. 

We didn't do it eagerly— we were not. 

But there remains the simple practice of simply showing up and doing a thing and last night we just did that — we did the least.



It was plain and simple and soon over. We gathered and pondered the Hope of the coming Savior and we left the table a little more hopeful and a little more inclined to be less about ourselves and what we felt like (or didn't) and more about the reason and Giver of our Hope.


...I wish there were ten or a dozen Christmas-days in the year; for there is work enough in the world, and a little more rest would not hurt laboring people. Christmas-day is really a boon to us, particularly as it enables us to assemble round the family hearth and meet our friends once more. Still, although we do not fall exactly in the track of other people, I see no harm in thinking of the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus.
~Charles H. Spurgeon~

Saturday, November 7, 2015

From Around the World, Stories from Nepal

We are five days into my Man's 10 day trip to Nepal. 


God has been awfully good to us and we are doing well. Darrin and three men from our church left at 4 am Monday morning and spent the next day and a half traveling across the world. His purpose there is to teach and encourage the Nepali people.



We are able to send texts back and forth which has been a wonderful perk but since the time difference is nearly 11 hours, there are just a few windows of time in 24 hours where both of us are awake enough to communicate.

When I wake up in the morning the training that he is participating in is just finishing and by 10 am in my morning, he is hitting the sleeping bag in his night time.  As the days are ending for the kids and I here and we are crawling into our beds, Darrin is eating breakfast and preparing to teach for the day.

So, we've taken to writing things down on our "Nepal Wall" so that we can remember to tell him  and ask him when we have the opportunity.

We are keeping to our normal schedule during these days and the time seems to be passing as quickly as we'd hoped.

I've been writing daily updates at our church's website and you can access them via the link below…

Check back in a few days for some daddy's gone tales...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Lunch Lady and the Lunch Loser

Every Wednesday Kate awakens with a bit of a spring in her step, a hitch in her giddy-up, a sparkle in her eye. Wednesdays are Kate's day to shine. Kate, this middle daughter of mine stands out from the pack on Wednesdays and for good reason…she's the provider of Thursday lunches for the six of us and she takes her job so seriously that she begins prep for her task first thing on Wednesday morning. With a spiral notepad in hand she bops from sibling to sibling and from parent to parent attempting to discern what we'd like in our Thursday lunches.

Her efforts are often met with one syllable grunts or even a vague brush-off and instructions to "ask me later." It is after all, way before coffee has been adequately consumed and it is also a smidgen early and therefore difficult to decide if mustard and mayo on your next day's lunch would be best, or if ham or turkey or both is preferable and should one go with cheese or without?

After being diverted to her math book and her grammar lessons and anything else we can aim her towards, Kate is no less determined to collect the data and get down to business. We have decreed that no Thursday lunch-making is permitted until after our post-church dinner on Wednesday evening.

However, all throughout Wednesday afternoon clues appear here and there about the house that Thursday lunch is weighing heavily on Kate's mind. A loaf of bread from the freezer magically appears on the countertop so that it can be thawed before it is called into action later in the day, and a laundry basket, filled with empty lunch bags, mysteriously makes it way to a forgotten corner of the dining room.

Finally, after we all roll in the door from church and eat and scatter toward homework and lesson plans and bed, Kate, with the kitchen all to herself, gets down to business. With her notepad beside her,  she fills the orders, adds some extras and a water bottle and a napkin, always a napkin, and somehow finds a way to place all six lunch bags in the fridge for the night.



When Thursday morning dawns, she eats breakfast and sets our lunches out on the counter for us to grab on our way out the door. It's a perfect system…unless, even after being reminded, you forget to grab your lunch…like I did this morning. I am the only one to have forgotten their lunch so far this year…I felt special.


I happily ate the spare sandwich Kate had packed for Cole and all was right in my world. I came home and my lunch bag was waiting for me exactly where Kate left it for me.


…which means that I'll be in good shape tomorrow when everyone else is looking for their lunch!


…unless, of course, Kate beats me to it.

All of this rushing out of bed and getting dressed as quickly as we can, throwing papers and books into our backpacks, inhaling breakfast and trying to remember to take our lunch and all four kids with us as we pile into the car makes me ask again, 

"How do regular, normal families do this day in and day out?" 

This, dear reader, is possibly the most compelling reason that we homeschool…ok, that and the thought of signing 3 dozen Valentine's Day cards times four every year.  

Deep and compelling, that's us!



Happy Weekend!!

For more adventures with Kate:
The Teacher and the Taught
In the Kitchen with Kate (and a recipe)
In Which Kate Learns About Botox
In Which I Almost Let Down UPS!
Kate the Great (and oldie)
Kate the Great (a title so nice I've used it at least twice!)

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