Thursday, February 25, 2010

Books 7 & 8

Falling Angels, by Tracy Chevalier

I found this plot a little flat and I couldn't really attach to the characters.  Similar to how I've felt about her other books.

Are you Somebody, by Nuala O'Faolain

The one complaint I have with most memoirs is that the become too laden with details.  I got a little lost in the middle of this book, but overall it is a really worthwhile read. 

 A heartbreaking story of growing up one of nine children in a poor, damaged home in Ireland in the 1940s and 50s.  Her parents had nothing to give to their children, either physically or emotionally, and many of her siblings were simply lost as a result.  Nuala's salvation came in reading books, and this led her to several incidents of good fortune that allowed her to overcome some of her past and move away from Ireland.  She wrestles throughout her life with her overwhelming longing for love and commitment, even knowing how many women's lives were ruined by marriage and pregnancy in that era.  Still she finds herself now in her 50's, alone, and attempting to come to terms with that.  It was interesting to read her Afterward, about how many many people of her generation in Ireland related to her story in so many ways.   It is such a sad, sad picture of a generation that grew up abused, neglected, impoverished, and without parental love.  It is a wonder that a culture can continue and recover, that somehow in the heart of even the most rejected and abused, there is yet a hope and hunger for, and belief in love. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Understanding two's (Book six)

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received when faced with a difficult phase was this:  Go to the library, gather up several child development books on this particular age, and compare them.  (This advice came from my current pastor's wife; a very wise woman! ) 

(sidenote: it freaks me out when people only look to the Bible as a parenting manual.  They take a select few verses out of context, and cram them into a formula that can be very damaging, even dangerous . . . If To Train Up a Child is on your bookshelf, please read the link . . . and this one.)  

Anyway, my two year old was in an exhausting phase . . . the Terrible Two's, they're called.  So I checked-out Your Two Year Old: Terrible or Tender by Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg  from the library (again.  I read it when Sami was two as well).   

Two year-olds are the most misunderstood group of people on the planet!  It helped me so much, reading (and re-reading) this, to understand their needs for routine and sequence; to realize that it is because they are feeling so unsure about the world at this point that they often act out in ways that are tense or explosive.  They offer some great tools for dealing with two-year olds (two and-a-half, in particular).

Both of my kids, around the age of 27 or so months, went through extremely difficult phases.  Not only were there tempers and violent behavior to deal with, but they DID NOT SLEEP!  When I finally read this book when Sami was two (I think she was close to three; too late as she was almost out of the phase by then), I felt so guilty for all of the things I hadn't understood about her and the many mistakes I'd made in trying to correct her.   It was comforting to read that two- year-olds' energy spikes around this age, and that not sleeping was a part of her development.  I wasn't simply losing my mind.

The most reassuring sentence in the book is that this phase is followed by a period of "exhaustion."

The good news is that Annie has hurdled through the trying stage of two's and, practically overnight, suddenly entered a sweet, compliant, and utterly exhausted phase!   She's sleeping through the night again, she goes down easily and LOVES her naps.  She is napping right now!

I believe, with each stage of opposition and negative behavior, that I am responsible to:
 (1) examine myself and be sure that I am not expecting too much from my kids; to question whether the behavior is actually an act of rebellion or just my own preference (perhaps the person who needs to change is me, to die to myself)
(2) research their development and seek to understand them as much as I possibly can
(3) (lastly) follow through with consistent instruction and discipline.  

Since becoming a parent I feel like I have far more often failed in understanding, and therefore come down harder on them in discipline than I needed.  I have a lot of regrets about the times that I disciplined more out of fear of someone's opinion, or my own selfishness.  

I wonder if we parents (especially hyper Christian parents!) tend to be so determined to pounce on the first sign of misbehavior in our children, that we don't even realize that it is the parent in need of correction.

We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters’ side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents. (C.S. Lewis)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Books 4 & 5

It's 2 a.m.  Pregnancy insomnia has avoided me the past couple of months; apparently, no longer.  

Thought I'd post an update on what I've been reading . . .  

Ok, I don't know why I felt like I should read this book . . . I suppose because it seems to be a classic and the title is always popping up . . . so when I ran across a copy at a used book store, I bought it.  I also admit that I assumed, given the popularity of the book, that it's title must be a metaphor for something . . . nope.  It's really about Zen and Motorcycle Maintenance.  

I'm sure there was value in my reading the 500+ pages of this book . .. my mind was stretched in philosophical directions that it doesn't normally wander . . . but a lot of the reading was done out of sheer will to finish the book so that I could move on to something else.  The storyline, however, of a dad and his son on a cross-country motorcycle trip, made the heavy philosophy dialogue and descriptions of motorcycle maintenance easier to endure.

The next book was a quick read, a little dark, but stirring . . . The Reader begins with an affair between a fifteen year-old boy and a 37 year-old woman.  Once you get past the startling facts of the affair, the book is really about guilt and secrets in Post-Nazi Germany.  The relationship between this young man and much-older woman feels disconnected and stark- which it was, and remained, even though their lives were entangled forever after.  I think the straightforward writing style and blunt edge of the story gave a sense of the mood among Germany's younger generation, as they attempted to cope with their own anger and shame, and their parents' complicated weight of guilt.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Steady Mom . . . thoughts on blogging

I found a new favorite mom blog this week!  I finally hopped over to Steady Mom, after reading so many great reviews of her book, Steady Days, last week.  

But her Thoughts on Blogging is by far my favorite . . . (she writes)
On the other hand, the content of some popular blogs concerns me a little. Like recounting last night's reality tv episode, or fashion posts on which boots to buy this season. Are these really the topics that hard-working moms like us are interested in?

I fully believe that a big part of being a mother is inspiring our children. How can we do that unless we are inspired ourselves?

We need depth, passion, purpose, greatness. . . .

And since my goal is to live with intention, I can't focus my blog on the unimportant.

- I can't do it, because I know too much. . . . 

I once heard a speaker say that ever since she fully understood the depth of the orphan crisis, she wasn't much fun at dinner parties anymore. She no longer had time for trivial chitchat - she wanted to talk about suffering, about sacrifice, about hope for change.

That's exactly how I feel - an urgency to do something.
To not waste time. We can't do everything, but each and every one of us can do something in our world to make it better.

We can change someone's life in some small way. And by our actions we can inspire our children to do something even greater.

Or we can teach them which boots to look for this season.
I hope I didn't break too many blog rules by copying such a big section of her post . . . really, don't stop here.  Go read her full post!