Friday, September 28, 2012

Summer reading: part two

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
So many of my students read and wrote about this book last year that I felt like I'd read this book before I'd read this book. But when we were in the mountains in August, my mother-in-law had it sitting beside the couch and I decided to pick it up. I was finished with it in less than 24 hours. It was an easy read--straight forward with a compelling story and no reading between the lines work. Since the story is so well known, I'll keep the plot short: it tells the story of Colton Burpo, who spent three minutes in heaven during a childhood surgery and returned to his body with stories to tell. What's interesting is that he doesn't just come out and tell the stories; he only tells them as people ask or make comments about that time. It's as if he thinks everyone knows what God's throneroom looks like or that God really, really loves us. It made me excited about Heaven, excited to see Jesus face-to-face one day. And it made me appreciate the faith of a child--not one that's ignorant, but one that is whole-heartedly trusting. Definitely recommend this one. Phil, who usually falls asleep about two pages into a book, is reading it now, and even he can't put it down!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
A memoir about one woman's solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, and really about her journey through grief after her mother died, and really about her own growing into herself, this book is fabulous. My friend Rebecca recommended it to me after learning that I enjoyed reading Jennifer Pharr Davis's Becoming Odyssa, another book about hiking. I can't say that this book made me want to do any through hikes in the near future, but it's a book Phil and I have been able to read together, and it's certainly lit a fire for us as day hikers. The author and I couldn't be any more different, but somehow I feel as if we're friends now, that if I met her I'd like her.  Her writing is humorous, honest, and well-crafted, and time reading this book was time well spent.

Fat Girl by Judith Moore
This was an impulse read. I was at the library with Moo one day and wanted to pick up a new nonfiction book. Of course, Moo decided that the quiet adult section of the library was the perfect place to test out all the new sounds he could make, and after seeing a few forced grins that communicated that's-so-cute-but-please-get-your-kid-out-of-here, I grabbed the first book that looked remotely interesting and checked out. But I'm glad I did. In Fat Girl, Judith Moore writes of her love affair with food, acknowledging that much of her food addiction has roots in her tragic relationship with her mother. She writes so descriptively and decadently of food that I almost wanted to eat the book as I read it. At the same time, the content was so sad and disturbing at times that I almost put it down. The book is short and the writing is easy to follow, and I liked the insights it gave me about those who struggle with food issues, but it's emotionally taxing, so keep that in mind if you pick it up. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer reading: part one

I've waited so long to post about my summer reading that I'm going to break it into two parts so you don't want to gouge your eyes out from reading too much at once. Without further ado, here's what I've been reading:

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
People, this guy can write. As in I wish I had read with a pen in hand because there were sentences on every page that I wanted to underline and draw smiley faces beside and drool over. That being said, this book took me forever to read; I just found that I could put it down for a while.

In the novel, the protagonist, Jayber Crow, tells the story of his life from early childhood to death, mostly taking place in one small town. Ultimately, this is a story about place, about living somewhere long enough to have roots, to know the land, to know life and death, and to tell stories. The story line itself didn't grip me as much as as the writing, but I think that's probably just me because my friends who have read the book liked the plot much more than I did.

While I liked Berry's Hannah Coulter better, I genuinely love the way this man writes. The word that comes to mind is unadulterated. It's as rich as the soil he tilled in his Kentucky farm. He also studied under Wallace Stegner (see Crossing to Safety below)--something I didn't realize until after I'd read both books. Overall, my recommendation is that you read a Wendell Berry book; I don't really think it matters which one.

Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller
This is another book that I've read off and on for a while. Like two and half years a while. But I'm so glad I kept at it and finished it. For a book that tackles dense and difficult questions like why God allows suffering, it was surprisingly accessible. Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, spends the first half of the book addressing questions skeptics ask most often and the second half of the book explaining how faith in Jesus even works. He has about 40 pages of notes at the end of the book, and I appreciate how he draws not only on his own intellect and on scripture, but also on the wisdom of others throughout history. A philosophy major in college, Keller makes some thoughtful and convincing points about the questionable parts of Christianity, and even if you don't agree with everything he says (although I pretty much do), the book will make you think more intentionally about what and why you believe what you do. Thankfully, I did read this book with a pen in hand because I'll definitely be returning to it in the future, and when I do, I'll be glad I underlined a few things. Highly recommend. I kind of want all my friends to read it.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
An avid reader, my mother-in-law recommended Stegner's Angle of Repose sometime last year, and for some reason, I just couldn't get into it and gave it up after about 30 or 40 pages. Convinced (and rightly so) of Stegner's literary prowess, she suggested another of his books, Crossing to Safety. This one, I really enjoyed. It tells the story of two couples from vastly different backgrounds. Both husbands are English professors at a small college, so of course that part appealed to me. But really, I loved the theme of friendship throughout--the unlikely, sometimes-messy, sometimes-elated, sometimes-sorrowful nature of friendship. The plot was interesting and held my interest, but the characters really drove the story. I mostly loved that none of the characters was perfect, that they were depicted flaws and all. Since I've had mixed experiences with Stegner's writing, I'll wait for someone to recommend the next book of his to read, but this one I definitely recommend.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Moo update: 10 months

This boy is more and more fun every day (except when he's teething). Here are the highlights:

Favorite foods: anything carbs--especially bread. He also loves bananas, green beans, yogurt, puffs, sweet potatoes, almost any meat, and cheese.

Most hilarious trick right now: He crawls over to our stereo and knows that if he pushes enough buttons, music will come on. More often than not, it's the radio, and more often than not, he finds the rap station. Then, he proceeds to dance by bobbing up and down and shaking his hands in the air. After that, he leaves the music on and crawls away to play, stopping every now and then to do a little more dancing. Ironic since his momma is so self-conscious about dancing. :) 

Other tricks: waving, making his "silly face" (a gummy grin with a scrunched nose), putting his hands up in the air for "so big," giving fives, taking rings off a tower and putting them back on, and mimicking sounds (makes a high pitched noise when he sees a picture of an ambulance or a cat).

Favorite activities:
  • Playing with Raffe in bed when he wakes up 
  • Eating Cola Bear's nose and snuggling him
  • Eating Animal Farm (still)
  • Crawling through his tunnel
  • Playing with his Things That Go sound puzzle
  • Throwing balls and then chasing them
  • Banging anything that's loud on the floor 
  • Shaking his shakers
  • Swinging outside
  • Going on walks
  • Walking to the end of the street to look at all the cars that come to the three-way stop
  • Spinning any kind of wheel
  • Turning off light switches
  • Opening and closing doors and cabinets
  • Touching buttons and knobs
  • Kissing his mama and dada
Not really into:
  • Reading...except before nap or bedtime. He wants to move and explore too much!
  • Getting his diaper changed or getting dressed
  • cruising or walking
What he's saying: 
  • dada (his favorite), baba, mama, nana, rara, gaga, and a whole jumble of other things usually peppered with some squealing. 
  • He's started saying "dada" and "mama" discriminately, which is just precious. However, since Phil's been working so much, he now says "dada" when I'm on the phone because he's so used to "talking" with Phil on speaker phone when he's gone. Cute-sad.
  • Has an extremely high pain tolerance. He'll crawl over to me and have a knot on his head I never knew about because he didn't cry. The good news is that when he does cry, I know he's really hurt.
  • Loves to bite our noses and starts laughing when he does it because he thinks he's so funny.
  • Goes on an eating strike when he's teething.
  • Thinks every ceiling fan should be on at all times.


Note to self: if you put a baby's wet diaper in the wash--even on accident and you're not sure how it got there--tiny pieces of silicone will be all over the inside of the machine when the cycle is done and you will spend 20 minutes vacuuming out and wiping down the inside of your washer. Then, you'll spend another minute contemplating whether or not you really have to re-wash all the clothes you just ran.  However, if the load was big enough, the diaper itself will still be in one piece, although it will weigh as much as a gallon of milk. I guess that's saying something for Pampers, though, right?

P.S. I would have included some quality pictures so you could follow along on my adventures, but my camera battery died and was being recharged. Sometimes life's moments just have to go un-photographed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


There are a few places that deserve a little extra recognition for their customer service, and they should come as no surprise.

First, Regions Bank. Last week, I was in the drive through, depositing some checks, and I'm sure the teller heard me talking in my silly voice to Moo while we waited for the transaction. The shoot whirs and I open the capsule to find not only my deposit slip but also a lollipop for Moo. Of course, they didn't know he was too young to eat it, but points to them for seeing the car seat, hearing the mommy-talk, and taking the initiative to give us the sucker. 

Second, Publix. Ah, this place just does. it. right. I don't go there very often because I can find most food far cheaper at Aldi, but I was there last week with Moo. He likes to have a little something to chew on while we walk around and instead of doing what I usually do (hand him whatever item from my purse is available), I decided to grab one of their plastic lids that goes on the to-go cups. He loved it. As we walked by the deli section, a woman came out and followed me part way down an isle asking if Moo would like some fresh fruit instead of the lid. I looked down and in her gloved hand was a fresh piece of watermelon and cantaloupe. Points, people. (As a side note, Moo was more interested in the lid, but I was pretty pumped about two free pieces of fruit!)

Third, the Birmingham Zoo. We joined about two weeks ago and have been several times. If you plan to go more than three times in a year, it's worth it to get a membership, and that membership is also good for 150 other zoos around the country. The place is always clean, has clear signs, has trash cans and bathrooms at convenient and logical places, and has tons of activities for kids of all ages. Points!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Thing one: It's possible that I'm a little addicted to Friday Night Lights. I discovered season 1 for free and now have to have a little daily dose. Just ask my husband; he says it's "the Other Man" in my life.  I was completely skeptical about this show at first. I mean, it's a show about football and my state is already so football-obsessed that it's eye-rolling, but I think that's part of what I like about this show: I understand the small town, football-is-our-life mentality. And while it's not my world, I get it. What I love most, though, is that it's not really a show about football. Football is maybe 10 minutes max of each episode, but most of the show is about relationships, and I particularly like the relationship between the coach and his wife. I love how they love, fight, laugh, respect, get frustrated with, and are spontaneous with each other--all the stuff good relationships are made of.

Thing two: I took Moo to our first "Mommy class" today, for lack of a better phrase. I'm not really into "classes" for infants, but it was at a nearby library and the woman leading our little music/story/puppet time was fabulous. Moo seemed to enjoy it, but I have to admit that I felt completely silly. Since Moo can't clap his own hands, sing the ABC's, etc., I was doing those things for him, which just felt goobery. But I'm going to have to get over myself because a) Moo loved it, b) it's free, and c) it's good for him to be around other kids. Oh, and d) it's not about me. Duh.

Thing three: Writing update: I'm working on the last draft (or two or three) for the essay I'm submitting to a magazine (deadline next week) and am designing and writing for a blog for our church. More on that to come, but if you don't see me around here too much in the next week, that's why. Exciting! Unfortunately, I've been completely unmotivated to write lately. I blame Friday Night Lights.