Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Thanks

Our church supports Empowering Lives International (ELI), an organization that helps poverty-stricken families in Africa. ELI has shared with the congregation the great need of the people they work with, as well as the small ways that we can help. For example, the church helped build a school, which provides one meal a day for the students. Most days the children eat porridge; however, Tuesdays and Fridays are special, because on those days the children get a meal of rice and beans instead of porridge. Those are the days they look forward to in anticipation.

How many of us can say we would look forward to a meal of rice and beans?

To gain some small understanding and empathy for the situation, the pastor invited us to eat rice and beans for the three days leading to Thanksgiving. Rice, beans, and water. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. My family was understandably apprehensive. Rather than set ourselves up for inevitable failure (sorry, Pastor), we decided that we would eat only rice and beans on Wednesday.

We started our day well with both a breakfast and a lunch of white rice and pinto beans. We added some salt and pepper, and we all drank water. By 2 p.m. the kids were hungry. I gave them a snack of rice with a little margarine added. By 5 p.m. we were cranky, had headaches, and were beginning to experience some impaired functioning. (My son, who is only 8, had to eat a granola bar to bolster his courage and commitment.) For dinner, I made a plentiful amount of rice and beans, and the children drank milk instead of water. We had mixed emotions about the meal—we were hungry and yet the food seemed bland, monotonous, and unappetizing.

Our conversation that evening was not. We discussed what we thought life must be like for the African children and their families. We wondered what that kind of life does to the body, mind, and spirit. We discussed how truly fortunate we are and how we take so many blessings for granted. We discussed hope for those families and ourselves.

On Thursday, we prayed, we gave thanks, and we feasted. Everything tasted richer. Was this because we deprived ourselves? No. It was because we embraced the meaning of giving thanks—thanks to a Father who has so fully blessed us.

If you’d like to find out more about sharing your blessings with others, visit Empowering Lives International.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wednesday Word: Reverence

Part of Speech:

honor or respect felt or shown; deference

They bowed their heads in reverence and prayed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Andrew Smith on Teen Reading

Andrew Smith, author of the new book The Marbury Lens, recently gave a speech and part of it was published last week on Macmillan Children’s Publishing blog.

What he said might sound a little familiar. One key point he made was that it’s okay to let kids choose what they want to read. In fact, he said that if adults let teens make their own choices, then they might read more. Further, if they read more, then we wouldn’t label them non-readers and buy into the myth that they hate to read. Frankly, how many times have you heard a parent or a teacher say about a teen, “Oh, he hates to read.”? Far too many times.

Andrew Smith says that assuming a kid hates to read (because we’ve told him to read a book that’s good for him) is like “assuming a kid hates to eat because he doesn’t like Brussels sprouts.”

My tween daughter is an avid reader. On almost any Saturday, she may begin and end her day reading in bed. However, despite her bookworm status, she has not liked every book she’s read. {Gasp!} In truth, most of the books she has not really liked have been assigned by teachers. That’s okay! That means she’s thinking critically about literature. That’s what we would hope for, right?

My teen daughter, on the other hand, has taken a lot longer to find her inner bookworm. Being a people-pleaser, she has searched diligently for the inherent good in the books she’s been assigned—to no avail. After failed attempts to connect with assigned reading, I think she started to believe she wasn’t a reader, because she didn’t like what she was reading. I'm glad she’s not a quitter. She finally hit her stride just recently—when she found books that she enjoys, books that excite her, books that hold her interest.

Do my daughters read the same books? Nope. My tween likes historical fiction (and broccoli), and my teen likes fantasy (and tomatoes). You know what, though? They are both readers (and veggie eaters)! Can I get a hallelujah?

Now, I’m not going to say that I’m all that because I posted about this topic last month. What I’m trying to say is that maybe, just maybe, there is something to this idea of letting kids choose their own books after all. And maybe, if we stop force-feeding them the stuff that’s good for them at an early age, they will acquire a taste for reading on their own—and eventually enjoy some Brussels sprouts.

If you’d like to read more of Andrew Smith’s eloquent argument, visit the MacKids blog.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mrs. Nelson's Toy & Book Shop

Mrs. Nelson’s Toy & Book Shop is an independent, family-owned bookstore in San Dimas, California. The store opened in 1985 with the goal of “helping parents inspire a love of reading in their children.” Having just celebrated its 25th anniversary, the bookstore has built a reputation for carrying a wide selection of children’s books and toys, as well as offering story times, crafts, workshops, contests, and fabulous author and illustrator events.

If you live in or around San Dimas, then you won’t want to miss Mrs. Nelson’s After-Thanksgiving Sale! The store will be open on Friday, November 26 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. It is offering 25% off all regular-priced merchandise and 30% off clearance items that day.

Mrs. Nelson’s knowledgeable staff can help you find the perfect books and toys to delight the little ones in your life. Be sure to add Mrs. Nelson’s to your shopping itinerary to wrap up some good reads for the holidays!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dr. Seuss Gift Ideas

Continuing the gift-giving theme this week, here are two fantastic options for Dr. Seuss fans!

Kohls is offering selected Dr. Seuss books for only $5. Selections may now include:
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
  • Oh Say Can You Say?
  • There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!
  • Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose
In addition, you can purchase a plush character to accompany most of the books for only $5. Are you doing the math? You can give a child a ridiculously cute gift this holiday season for only $10. And (here’s the big deal) you’re doubling your giving because 100% of the net profit is donated to support kids’ health and education initiatives across the nation.

Through December 28, 2010, Borders Rewards members can get a great deal on selected Dr. Seuss books—buy 2, get a 3rd one free. Depending on availability, selections may include favorites like The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Party Edition, and many more.

Enjoy your weekend, and be sure to visit again on Monday for more gift opportunities and ideas!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

First Book Gift Ideas

As I mentioned earlier this week, First Book is a non-profit organization that provides new books to children in need. I also discussed their partnership with Barefoot Books and your opportunity to shop Barefoot to support First Book.

Well, here are two more ways to give this holiday season and help First Book.

1. Gift Membership
Give the gift of reading with a gift membership to the Children’s Classics Collection, a Book-of-the-Month club. You choose the duration (3, 6, or 12 months), and each month the gift recipient will automatically receive a classic tale chosen by expert editors. The Children’s Classics Collection series begins with The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Other available collections include: American Presidents, Love Finds You, DVD Romance, Baker’s Bookshelf, and Stephen King.

A donation of $1 for each book in your series will go to First Book.

2. Gift Donation
If a book club membership isn’t the right option for you, then consider making a gift donation to First Book. Just $20 provides 10 books to introduce the joy of reading to a first-time reader. Plus, every dollar donated to First Book through December 31, 2010, will be matched with one more book!

Consider making a donation in honor or memory of someone else. My husband and I did this for our children. We made a donation in each of their names. For Christmas, we wrapped a new book for each of them along with their donation card. They were young and a little puzzled when they first opened the donation cards, but once we explained that their “gift” was to share a wonderful story with another child, our children experienced some of the essence of Christmas. It was a great way to help them realize that it's even more rewarding to give than to receive.

If you're looking for a way to give back this holiday season, check out First Book!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wednesday Word: Gregarious

Part of Speech:

liking companionship; sociable

Because of her gregarious personality she made friends quickly at her new school.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Barefoot in November

The holiday season is approaching rapidly, and most people are in the midst of gift planning. Some have finished their shopping and started wrapping, while some of us are just sharpening our pencils and starting our shopping lists. If you’re like me and you need a little help, then breathe a sigh of relief because it's here.

Yesterday, I told you about Operation Christmas Child, a great way to give to a child in need. During the days ahead, I will share some additional gift-giving opportunities and ideas with you.

This one’s great, but (for those procrastinators out there) you better hurry!

First Book is a non-profit organization that provides new books to children in need. They have partnered with Barefoot Books, an independent children’s book publisher, to encourage you to “go Barefoot in November to help First Book.” During November, Barefoot Books will donate one book to First Book for every purchase made.

It seems to me that’s twice the giving! Just visit Barefoot Books online to browse and make your selections. If you’re having trouble deciding, take a look at these two books for your own little prince or princess:

The Prince’s Bedtime
(Ages 3-7)
Written by Joanne Oppenheim
Illustrated by Miriam Latimer
Narrated by Jim Broadbent

The Princess and White Bear King
(Ages 5-11)
Written by Tanya Robyn Batt
Illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli
Narrated by Miranda Richardson

These books are offered with story CDs and you can listen to the entire story online before making your purchase. Are you afraid of getting a blank stare that could occur when he or she unwraps a book? Then consider pairing a book with another small gift—in this case, maybe a soft blanket or a polar bear puppet. This will ensure the smile you deserve for placing a book in the hands of a child—or two!

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Operation Christmas Child

I know this isn’t the type of thing I usually discuss in my posts, but I have to share this wonderful opportunity.

Our church is participating in Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan’s Purse program that delivers Christmas gifts to children in need all over the world. Participants merely fill a shoebox with small toys, school supplies, hygiene items, or other small gifts, and a prayer for the recipient. A $7 donation is requested for each box to help cover shipping and other project costs. The boxes will be collected this week, November 15-22, and delivered to a delighted child along with the news of God’s love.

My daughters, along with their Girl Scout troop, will be filling one shoebox for a girl, and my son will be filling one shoebox for a boy.

We know how tight things are for most families right now—ours included. However, we think this is a powerful reminder to be grateful for all that God has given us and a small way to share God’s grace.

If you are interested in participating or finding out more about this program, please visit Samaritan’s Purse online.

What a great way to begin a season of thanksgiving and joy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blog Hopping for Jane

I went a little crazy with the blog hopping tonight, but I have a great excuse. Two words: Jane Yolen!

I started with Alice Pope’s SCBWI Children’s Market Blog. Alice {tease} posted about Martha Brockenbrough’s SCBWI pre-conference interview with Jane Yolen.

Then I immediately went to Martha Brockenbrough’s blog to read the entire interview. Fabulous! You have to read about Jane’s BIC and HOP! Martha references a previous, longer interview with Jane on another blog, so off I went again.

From Martha’s, I hopped over to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for a wonderful, in-depth interview with Jane.

Finally, I leaped into Jane Yolen’s website {a little piece of kid lit heaven}.

I have loved Jane Yolen since I read {and re-read} her book Take Joy: A Book for Writers. My son and I love her How Do Dinosaurs . . . books! However, that only scratches the surface of the 300+ books Jane has written. As an accomplished author and poet, Jane Yolen has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America. She’s pretty amazing!

Take a hop on over, and have a look for yourself!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wednesday Word: Aposiopesis


Part of Speech:

sudden breaking off of a thought in the middle of a sentence as if from unwillingness or inability to continue speaking

Despite her anger, aposiopesis prevented her from saying something she would regret.

Monday, November 1, 2010


NaNoWriMo. Have you heard of it? If not, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, an annual (November) writing project that encourages writers around the world to write a complete novel (50,000 words) in one month. The goal is about quantity, not quality.


Whoa, I lost some of you, huh? Yeah, I know. It’s a strange concept to wrap your head around for the first time.

NaNoWriMo started in 1999 with 21 writers as a movement to get writers, well, writing. Now in its eleventh year, thousands of writers will join the task this month. The project offers support to writers including regional meetings, online resources, a separate project specifically for young writers, and a kick-in-the-pants approach. For those who need to feel connected to a sense of community, this might be just what you need. If it sounds interesting, check out the website!

NaNoWriMo is an interesting idea, and I admire the optimism of the concept and the enthusiasm of the participants. However, I am an introverted, deliberative processor. I prefer a quiet, solitary writing environment, and I need time to ponder and process—everything. Instead, I am going to embrace the underlying concept of productivity and set my own writing goals.

No matter what style of writer you are, I hope you will be motivated to start—and keep—writing!