Is Christmas still “the most wonderful time of the year”? Christmas, for those who celebrate it, is probably the time most filled with traditions. We bake cookies, peanut brittle and fudge. We get crafty and make tree ornaments, stockings and … Continue reading
“Hey Grandude” by Sir Paul McCartney; copyright 2019; Random House; 32 pages
Like many children, my kids loved being read to. “Hey Grandude!” is a book I’m sure my son would have wanted read more than once at bedtime. “Read it again” he’d say.
Grandude has four of his “chillers” staying at his house and with his magic compass, they go on adventures to the ocean, the desert, and a snowy mountain. There’s fun and danger in every trip. Grandude’s magic begins with a postcard he pulls from his pocket. (Maybe that “Wish you were here” is the real magic.) I’d say this one is best read at bedtime seeing as it ends with some tired-out grand kids.
Kathryn Durst’s illustrations are colorful and fun. The target age group is 4-6 years and I’m not sure some of the language would be something they can understand without having it explained. But the story includes a compass, a spyglass, a stampede, an avalanche, and postcards. Considering the nature of communications methods in place today, kids will most likely have to have “postcards” explained.
Nevertheless, since kids usually ask for an adventure story to be read over and over, so they’ll hear something new each time it’s read (isn’t that always the case on re-reads?) and maybe add to their vocabulary. There’s some “Zing Bang Sizzle” for most kids who have the imagination to lose themselves in the adventures.
Frog’s Rainy-Day Story and Other Fables by Michael James Dowling; 72 pp; © 2019; Carpenter’s Son Publishing; Illustrations by Sarah Buell Dowling
“Frog’s Rainy-Day Story” presents fun ways to teach family values and lessons about life. Kids are familiar with animals like frogs, rabbits, foxes, crickets, beavers, owls, and all the other creatures who are the characters in this book. Through the animals’ conversations in each tale, children can learn how to interact with the world and one another.
Mrs. Dowling creates beautiful drawings of animals and simple scenery. I especially liked their expressions and how understated the color is. Rather than being in bold colors, the artwork doesn’t distract from stories that are meant for learning. That’s not to say the stories aren’t fun. They are. But the simplicity adds to the tone of the book.
Some of the lessons include being kind, making choices, generous or selfish attitudes, and spending money. Since the reading level is second grade, most children will understand, especially since the book provides a glossary at the end.
“Frog’s Rainy-Day Story” also welcomes families to dig deeper into the lessons by using their “Burrowing Deeper” study and questions on the website. The stories, used in this way, can help children with personal reflection and help families find a way to make family devotions fun.
When parents explain how the story relates to their child’s life, they’ll probably need to draw from their own knowledge of the Bible. Each of the eight stories ends with a comparison of worldly wisdom to biblical wisdom. These are helpful, but I sometimes didn’t see how the story depicted what the author was hoping to express. Most of them, however, have obvious morals.
This husband and wife team has a winner here. Not only is the book useful and fun, but it’s a quality publication. The size of the book gives it a typical children’s book feel and the fact that it’s a hardcover means it should last for years.
This review is with thanks to Book Crash and the authors for providing a reader’s copy.
Gracie Lou Wants a Zoo by Shelly Roark; Illustrated by Simone Kruger; 36 pp; Little Lamb Books; copyright 2019
Gracie Lou has a pet turtle, George. But she wants even more pets. Because her family lives in an apartment, each time she asks her parents for a new pet, they tell her “no.” It’s no wonder; the animals she wants require some pretty special circumstances. She asks for a duck, a giraffe, a monkey, and an elephant.
Dad reasons with her, telling Gracie God has a plan for her, even if it means she wants a zoo. Nevertheless, she has a tantrum and complains to George as she crawls into bed.
That night, Gracie’s wish comes true. She now has a duck, a giraffe, a monkey, and an elephant. But at what cost? The presence of them all proves to be more than she expected.
The illustrations in “Gracie” are fun and colorful with even the insides of the front and back covers featuring cute animals. “Gracie Lou” is long enough to tell a good story, and short enough to fit into a bedtime ritual. Gracie’s experience can help moms and dads explain why kids don’t always get what they want, and that God has a plan for them if they will be patient and see the wisdom in waiting.
In looking up the title on a couple book websites, I didn’t find a suggested age group for “Gracie Lou,” but would suggest ages 2-6.
I think one of the best parts of the book is watching the animals. George smiles and blinks in response to Gracie Lou. The giraffe eats potato chips as he sprawls on the couch with the TV remote. A rowdy monkey flings books from the bookcase. The purple elephant raids the fridge. Clever framed “photos” on the walls in the apartment add to the scenery.
Shelly Roark is the award-winning author of “The Bubble Who Would Not POP.”
Bookcrash provided a copy of the book for review.
We weren’t creepy kids. My best friend, Sandy, and I were just curious, and we found something that ended up being a learning experience when curiosity took us to the local cemetery. For the life of me, I can’t remember what prompted that first visit, but walking the cemetery became something we did fairly often.
Lakeview Cemetery was off the beaten path, but still in the village limits of our small town. A right turn off Lincoln Avenue, the main street through Lakeview, and you eventually came to the wrought iron gate of the cemetery.
Just inside the gate stood a marker. After such a long time, I don’t remember anything of significance it might have had written on it. The gate and marker only fascinated us on the first visit. We learned to walk the length of the narrow road to Lakeview Cemetery because we knew what we’d find.
Some would say our visits did have “creepy” written all over them. But we carefully avoided stepping on graves, and took our time exploring each time we went. Whether walking under overhanging shade trees or in the summer sun, we found small headstones and large family markers. Names familiar and names only the dead knew. Carved into each marker we were discovering our heritage, strange as those people were to us.
With sadness, we rubbed our fingers along a stone’s mossy face, trying to make out a faded etching. Our little hamlet was almost 100 years old. How old was the cemetery? How long had it taken for weather and time to erode those names, just as the memory of the folks buried there had disappeared?
In the oldest section of the property, we followed a curving trail. Situated on Tamarack Lake and tucked into the corner of a woods, the cemetery could be beautiful if you had the right mind set. We considered it beautiful. It’s possible we didn’t even know we were being creepy.
The more we visited the cemetery and walked through it, the more we discovered about our town. We also discovered more about life and death. As if watching a movie for the second or third time, we’d see something significant that was missed on a previous trip.
One time it was the baby.
That headstone was old. Terribly old, and even sadder than the moss and lichen growing on other headstones. Sandy and I were only teenagers. It was difficult for us to imagine a baby in a grave. Walking the cemetery was teaching lessons we didn’t expect to learn. But we always left feeling peaceful. Even invigorated.
Time eventually takes loved ones from us. So cemeteries have a purpose. They’re a place for not only the dead to rest, but for the living. For some reason, we have a need to visit our dead and pay respect to them even when they’re gone.
I’m told that elephants respect their dead in profound ways. Film crews shooting a documentary captured a herd of elephants on their way to find water during a drought. The elephants’ lives hung in a balance; it took days for them to finally find water. Yet on the way, they came to an elephant burial site. The herd stopped. They stood at the site and were still and quiet for over an hour.
How did they know? Were elephant bones strewn on the ground? Was there a scent only they could detect? Had they traveled that way before on a trip to find water and members of the herd had perished there? Is that elephant memory? Those questions don’t really need answers. The elephants were doing what elephants do.
And as creepy as it might seem, we do what comes naturally for us. We stand quietly or kneel at the grave site. We have conversations with our friend, parent, spouse, sibling. Whomever. We leave flowers, flags, notes, and trinkets. We weep. Others show no emotion at all.
We do it for ourselves. We may not walk the cemetery to discover our heritage, but we walk a familiar path and connect once again. We know our time is coming and for some reason, the marker and that little plot give us peace.
Today I know I can visit my home town cemetery and find a few loved ones buried there. My parents. Two neighbor girls who died unexpectedly and tragically. And Sandy, my best friend, has been buried there for over thirty years.
I’d love to talk and laugh with her again. For a while after her death, someone would do or say something to make me think of her. “Sandy would have appreciated that,” I’d think. Then I’d remember that little plot by the lake where she rests. I’d be quiet and still, doing what I do. Feeling peaceful and even invigorated.
As creepy as that might sound.
© 2016 Paula Geister
Years ago, I took on a writing challenge to create a poem from a template with the resulting work informing readers about myself and my family history. This is the result, a poem I had the privilege of reading at my father’s funeral. I regret he never had the opportunity to read it before he passed away. But then, Dad also knew where I was from.
Where are you from?
I am from buttered bread
sometimes with Welch’s jam.
I am from the hand pump on the back porch
that spewed out ice-cold water
and you weren’t really thirsty
but you had to take
your Saturday night bath.
I am from the lily of the valley
growing under the lilac bushes,
the scent sucked in just before
you gave them to Mama
who loved them more than you.
I am from Sunday morning nip and tuck.
Dawdling ‘round from Uncle Bud,
cousin Toad and his counterpart, the Frog.
I am from the way we tease and laugh out loud.
From “Stop that squirming”
and “Bow your head.”
I am from a Bible Mama plum wore out.
From Daddy’s faithful Christmas and Easter Sabbaths.
I’m from the middle of a little bitty place
and a rich Christian heritage
across the Rhine River in Germany.
From fried chicken. And apple pie
in a bowl with milk poured on.
From the toddler who drank fuel oil
putting scare into us all;
a vision of stomach pumps not quite real.
From the backyard wedding of my sister
and a reception in the woods where we
ate picnic style licking barbecue from our fingers.
I am from the tattered black pages of an album
Dad pulls out on his little whims.
Repeating names I’ve heard a thousand times
but won’t remember, he tells me I am from
these folks of buttered bread, hand pumps,
laugh out loud, and worn out Bibles.
copyright by Paula Geister 2005
Families have traditions. Even when the family hasn’t officially named their practice a “tradition,” you can tell by watching them, that’s exactly what it is.
One of the most common traditions if you celebrate birthdays is to have a little “party” by serving cake, often with candles. You include as many people as possible because you want everyone to know the significance of the day. “I’m glad you were born” is what birthday celebrations boil down to. What a nice tradition.
Here are some traditions revolving around meal time you might want to try. They’re ideas for celebrating the people you love, enjoying, as Foodies, a meal prepared with love.
Have Favorite Meal Day For instance, if a child has a birthday on the tenth of the month, on the 10th of every month, that child picks the main dish. You could also do this for wedding anniversaries where the wife picks on even months and hubby picks on the odd months.
All the men in the family cook and clean up on Mother’s Day.
Since restaurants are the busiest they are all year on Mother’s Day, stay at home and cook for Mom. If you don’t already know how, learn to cook one of those dishes (or a dessert) that was a favorite of everyone’s when you were growing up. Make place cards for everyone using ideas you can get from Pinterest or any where you can find craft ideas on the internet. Going the extra mile is one way to tell Mom how much you appreciate her.
One night a month the evening meal is designated as Finger Food Night.
On the first and last days of school, Mom or Dad prepares a special meal. You know what your kids like best. Let them know you’re proud and that you appreciate their individual tastes in food.
Upside Down Day is something you can do on weekends when you’re home. Serve dinner for breakfast, breakfast at dinner time and “midnight snacks” for lunch.
Celebrate ethnicity One day in the month, try a new recipe reflecting the culture of another country or ethnic group. Before you eat dessert, discuss some things you know about the culture from which the food may have originated or trivia about the country or group you selected. It’s a great way to connect and get a little bit of education.
And speaking of connecting, it’s good for us to remember how traditions almost always help families and friends celebrate each other and the relationships we’re engaged in. It’s hard to deny that meal time is often the only way we connect when life keeps us busy.
At your house, what traditions do you already participate in? If you live alone with no family around you, how can you begin a tradition with a friend or a group of friends? Is there an event that occurs regularly around which you can build a tradition? Where I live, the Super Bowl is coming up. Lots of families and friends who enjoy football–rivalries not withstanding–use the even to “celebrate.”
Celebrate one another and Eat Hardy.
Many years ago when my children were small, I found the treatise on parenting seen below. I wanted to save it and keep it somewhere I could see it as a reminder. The craft of decoupage was popular then, so it ended up on a piece of wood. That piece of wood with the message is gone. But I made sure to copy and saved this message in electronic form.
“Children Learn What They Live”
- When children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
- When children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
- When children live with ridicule, they learn to be shy.
- When children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
- When children live with tolerance, they learn to be patient.
- When children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
- When children live with security, they learn to have faith.
- When children live with fairness, they learn justice.
- When children live with praise, they learn to appreciate.
- When children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
- When children live with acceptance and friendship, they learn to find love in the world.
We aren’t given guarantees. That’s because there’s no simple mathematical formula for treating every child the same. And of course, “Life Happens,” throwing monkey wrenches into our well-oiled systems.
But this is a good start at any place you find yourself in parenting. Perhaps if we take these statements to heart and act on them, we’ll even see relationships change with our adult children.
Father in heaven, today we pray you’ll remind us of the extraordinary gift you gave when you gave us children. Please help us to guide all of them the same way you guide and teach us. Show us Your example and empower us in these important roles of parent and influencer to children.
Be a blessing to someone today.
Of all the animals that lived with us as we six kids were growing up, the one I remember the best was Blackie. Blackie wasn’t my cat nor did he belong to any of my siblings. From years of experience with cats, I believe you don’t own them, they own you.
Dad and Blackie were both tough. Dad, an auto mechanic, came home with scabs on his forehead because he’d come up too quickly from under a car hood. (Bang! “Ouch!”) He’d get those blackened fingernail beds and he’d have grease all over him. Blackie had bald patches, and a couple notches in his ear from years of cat fights.
One night, Dad and Blackie revealed their respective vulnerabilities. Aged, deaf, and not as quick as he once was, Blackie didn’t hear the car when Dad pulled into the driveway. We almost always heard it and usually ran to the door to greet him.
This time he dashed back outside with a flashlight in his hand. “I think I just ran over Blackie.”
We were stunned. We waited.
Dad came back in and dropped onto this chair. He rested his elbow on the kitchen table, put his head in his hand and cried.
Dad? Crying? We were stunned. We waited.
We rarely dared to touch my dad or gesture in an intimate way, but we stood there around him and were quiet. He didn’t tell us to go away.
Somehow in his death, Blackie gave my father permission to let us see his soft side. Dad wasn’t instantly cured of Being Aloof, but we knew he had potential. He was on his way.
Today’s post is a little bit modified from a post I created a couple years ago. Since it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, I feel compelled to post something even if it’s almost the end of the month. We can always make efforts to educate ourselves about health issues.
Advice to Young Poets
to be a unicorn
by sticking a plunger on your head
from The Republic of Poetry by Martin Espada
When I started writing this blog and was given the opportunity to create an About page, the idea was more than I wanted to consider. I played it lazy and kept it short. Later, I made the changes you see now. While the changes may not agree with you, they reflect the real me.
I’m like anyone else, I suppose; I can talk about myself all day long. If we’re honest, we admit that we–or something about our life–are our own favorite subject.
My About pages are general in nature. That’s okay, based on what they’re designed to do. Now I give you Mr. Espada’s poem as an adjunct to getting to know me. Also, as advice to follow. Truly.
I’m sincere when I say that through my blog I hope to share my journey in finding joy and contentment with Jesus Christ. I also hope to sometimes encourage, comfort the weary, offer consolation, teach, break through spiritual obstacles or propel someone toward God’s purpose for them.
However, I haven’t been totally honest yet. I’ve been wearing a plunger on my head, so to speak. Unknown to some of you, I’ve been trying to be something I’m not. It’s time to reveal a secret. I have manic-depressive illness which is not totally controlled even though I take my medications as directed and try to do all the things my doctor prescribes.
I know this revelation immediately sets me up for criticism. It’s okay. I don’t like being criticized for something I can’t help; but I think I can take it. Criticism or a “follower” of this blog deciding to stop following will be fine. You certainly can’t call me anything worse than I’ve called myself.*
Life with manic-depressive illness, also called bi-polar disorder, can be devastating to the one diagnosed with it. Depending on the severity of our individual diagnoses–and there are many–it can also make life hard for the families of those people with it. We don’t always act like we ‘should.’
We don’t respond the same way as people who have what I call ‘respectable’ illnesses like asthma or heart disease or diabetes. People with those illnesses have physical manifestations if things get out of sync. With a mental illness, the manifestations can be physical, but mostly they’re behavioral.
Taking Mental Health Awareness Month seriously means you educate yourself about the difference between multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia; whether someone is worrying or actually has anxiety disorder. You might take it so far as to learn how to respond to those with mental illness. After all, one if five people struggle with some form.
Your knowledge of what to do could make a big difference to someone in your circle of acquaintances.
I’m not writing today to go into my story from the day I was diagnosed (and before). It’s not a pity-party. I decided to write for a couple of reasons.
First, if you decide you want to continue reading my blog, it should be based on honesty. You don’t have to be honest, but I need to take the plunger off my head. Then you’ll see me as I really am.
Honesty about who I am in this regard will also help us both see how blessed I’ve been so far in my journey. God has been holding my hand through many difficult times; while I was inpatient as well as an outpatient. That’s something people who walk past me in the hallways at church aren’t even aware of. **
Second, the Church is becoming more aware of its role in meeting the needs of those in their communities who are mentally ill. It’s encouraging to see this. Some of the awareness has come because of family tragedies hitting like tsunamis in the news, or in our own lives. But the Church has a long way to go in this regard.
If I write about my own experience, people may find it easier to just relax and accept us. We aren’t unapproachable. In fact, we might be some of the nicest people you can meet. I plan to share some of my journey here occasionally. I’m working on a book with the hope that people will help understand the struggles, believe that God is our refuge through it all, and to, oh what the what–maybe even tell some funny stories.
There it is. I don’t pretend to know God’s ways, but I do know he invaded my life through manic-depressive illness like He’d never invaded it before. His voice has never been heard so sweetly to me as when he whispers, “I love you” as I crawl the walls or wail like a lost child.
Heavenly Father, thank you that when we realize our identity in you we no longer need to pretend to be something we’re not. Grant us the ability to love one another no matter what physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental affliction is with us now. Heal us and sustain us as you see fit. Extend grace to us in our weaknesses for your glory and in the name of Jesus. Amen.
*Although I have yet to call myself a unicorn.