Friday, December 17, 2010

Just In Time For Christmas

I'm not sure if I've fully expressed my desire to be crafty.  I might have alluded to it in certain posts, but oh! how I would love to make things that are pretty with my own hands instead of buying them at Target.  When I attempt to create something, it usually turns out into a mildly dangerous disaster.  However, today I can safely say that I have made something that I am proud of, and that combines all of the things I am interested in save for coffee.

Last week, for my 35th birthday (holy cow, THIRTY FIVE?!?!?!), my sisters-in-law (in-laws? in-law? is there a plural?) gave me a printing kit. It came with an instructional handbook, a set of stencils, two sponges, and two tools that I'm still not sure what do with after careful study.  I was so excited to use this!  However, when my husband came home from work, and I showed him with glee what I got from his sisters, he kind of winced out, " you think you can do that?" 

If that wasn't a challenge, I don't know what is. 

So here's what I came up with.  I wanted to get my cousin, who is almost 13, a little something for Christmas when we see her family next week.  Since I used to be a middle school teacher, I tend to want to give books to people in my family who are in the tween years.  I picked Sharon Creech's Absolutely Normal Chaos.  I love just about anything by Sharon Creech, but I think this one is one of my favorites.  It could be that I read it outloud to two different classes and they found it so enthralling it was hard for me to do anything else other then read it to them.  Or it could be that one of my former students told me once that she'd never read anything that she connected with until she read this book.  Or it could just be because it's a darn good story.  At any rate, I picked it out for my cousin because I think it's a fine book, and I don't think you can go wrong with a Sharon Creech story.

I realize that's not the crafty part.  I'm getting to it. 

Recently on the Mother Reader blog, she wrote a delightful post on ways to wrap a book.  (Anyone still thinking about what to give as gifts, there are great ideas on this entry.)  I said to myself, "Callie?  Why don't you go ahead and make a purse to put Absolutely Normal Chaos in?  It'll be grand." 

So I did.  I took myself to Micheal's and used my 40% off coupon to get three prewashed canvas purses (I bought three because I knew I would make a mistake), and two colors of fabric paint. (The old Callie would've just looked for any old paint to use, but the new Callie read the instructions in the pamphlet.  They specifically said "fabric paint for fabric projects."  Who knew?)

I spread all my materials on our table and as I did, Hadley came up and sat down cautiously.  Even she was nervous for me.  She said, "Momma, I'm gonna just sit here and watch you and make sure you do it right."  Thanks for the vote of confidence, kid.  I should've reminded her that I was the one who birthed her 9lb 10oz butt without any help from her, thank you very much.

But you know what?  I made myself a little bag.  It turned out so good, I made two more.
But that wasn't enough.  I was on a roll!  I thought to myself, "Callie?  Why stop there?  Since Absolutely Normal Chaos is a journal of sorts, let's say we make Inga a journal to go with the book?"

So that's what I did.
I cut up several pieces of paper, drew some little designs, and then put a subject on each page.  One page asks Inga what her favorite songs are.  Another one prompts her to write about her favorite Christmas memories.  The best part was that Hadley and Harper saw what I was doing and wanted to make a page for Inga, too.  You can see their work in the above picture, and here they are working hard on their journal pages:

Since I gave Inga different topics to write about, I thought I'd have the girls answer some of the same questions.  I wrote down their answers on the journal sheets they made.  Hadley's favorite book?  Pete the Cat. "He's a riot!" she adds.  What does Hadley want to be when she grows up? "The leader on the sled." Harper's favorite book? "The blue book."  Don't ask me which book that is, because I don't know.  I do know that the child will not have anything to do with anything unless it's blue.  What does Harper want to be when she grows up? "Toys." And really, who doesn't?

Here's my little creation in its finished form:

I think it's time I try to learn to knit again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday Snapshot - Tubing

Have you ever heard anyone describe what it's like to go tubing?  Or have you ever described a tubing experience yourself?  Have you noticed how scary and violent it sounds?   It's so much fun, but I'm surprised that I think being yanked behind a boat going really fast while I bump around uncontrollably and hold on for dear life is fun.  That's what I was thinking when I read Philip's piece on tubing.  After I finished reading it, I wanted to know whether he had a good time or not.  I'm pretty sure he would say he had a great time.  But it sounds awful.

My lungs are burning as I gasp for air.  I can't see quite how high I am, the spray of water blinds me, but I can feel gravity tugging at me.  I feel helpless as I see the white water rushing up towards me and I brace myself for impact.
I land on the water, clutching onto the tube.  My muscles are straining as I struggle to cling on.  My body slides to the right and I try to gain balance as I hit a huge wave.  Panic floods my mind and I  hope that I will be OK.
The fall is unexpected.  I see the wave.  I see the driver's smile as he floors the boat. My hands are tearing free from the handles and I'm airborn.
The icy cold water swallows me up.  I feel my life jacket tugging me up, I'm glad that it's over and I can finally relax.

Philip is a student in Lisa Herschberger's class at Goshen Middle School.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The First Night by B.G. Hennessy

This fall I read The Hunger Games series and I think that I would say the experience was brutal.  I'm still processing the books, and I don't know if I'll be able to re-read them again in order to form a well thought out opinion, but I believe they will stick with me for some time. 

One part that sticks with me the most, is the trick (or skill perhaps) that Katniss, the main character, uses when she becomes overwhelmed with what has happened in her life.  When she isn't sure what or who to believe, she starts running simple facts through  her mind: what her name is, who her parents are, how old she is, etc.  This seems to calm her down, and it helps her to analyze more complicated thoughts where the facts might be more murky. 

I have considered this idea as the girls and I have been reading several Christmastime stories over the last week and a half.  One book that I think we ought to own, does a startlingly beautiful job of telling the facts of Jesus' birth  while giving the story mystery and peace at the same time.  The First Night by B.G. Hennessy and painted by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, might seem easy to get through during a first read.  Each page has a simple sentence relaying a concept about the night Jesus was born.  "At the edge of an old and crowded town there was a field."  Or, "There was a mother, a father, and a baby. The baby lay on a bed made of hay."  The pictures on the other side of page illuminate and help us process what is being read.  Paired together, the story brings wonder and a sense of expectation to the reader. 

Hadley asked me the other day, "Momma, when does Jesus not be a baby anymore?"  We had been taking a look at several versions of the Christmas story earlier that morning, and I think Hadley was processing who Jesus is.  Why is this baby important?  Why are we reading about this baby's birth?  What will this baby do?  I don't know if it was so much that Hadley was being critical of Jesus' infant state, but that she is expectant now of what Jesus' role in her life is. 

I think that's why Hadley talks more about Santa. Hadley knows what Santa's role in her life is.  That's easy.  And in the stories we have about Santa, she sees him doing stuff.  I suppose it's easier for me to talk about Santa with her because there isn't a lot of confusion.  Santa brings presents.  Done.  Jesus, though?  He came to save us from our sins?  That's a little more complicated.  But with The First Night, the girls and I can read the story and begin to process the importance of what we believe about Jesus' birth. 

Which brings me back to The Hunger Games.  The stuff in those books is terrifying.  I don't know if I have ever been so scared reading a book in my life.  But some of the stuff in the Bible is quite scary, too. For me, at least, it's easy to get overwhelmed with the fear and confusion of what is going on. The same is true of the Christmas story.  That's why I like Katniss' tactic of starting with something simple, working her way through that, and then moving on to the next thing.  I think that is what we're doing when the girls and I are reading The First Night.

My favorite line in the book is, "And in that warm, dark stable his life began."  It's the last line in the book.  Mary is holding Jesus as he sleeps; his hand is curled up by his cheek, his mouth in an "o."  I like that this is where the story ends. I like that this seemingly simple sentence - a baby's life beginning in a stable - leaves me wondering and expectant.  It's not that I don't want to think about what's to come, or what brought all this to occur in the first place, but like Katniss in The Hunger Games, I think it's good to be at peace with the "simple" facts before moving on to the ones that get confusing and scary. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wednesday Snapshot

On Wednesdays I have the pleasure of showcasing what a group of 8th grade students are working on in Lisa Herschberger's English class in Goshen, Indiana.  We started by writing back and forth to each other about the books we are reading, but now the students are working on something called a "snapshot."  It's a short piece that attemtps to give the reader a picture of a moment in that writer's life.  I'm inspired after reading what the kids write, so I try and write a snapshot along with them in my post.

Today, we're talking about sports. Brady writes a suspenseful piece about a basketball shot that never was. It's a fun read. You'll be rooting for him as you read it, and laughing with him at the end.

"Here we go," I think to myself as Peter inbounds the ball. We are playing Northside, and there's seven seconds to go in the half. I sprint up court; I'm counting the seconds. The defender smells of sweat. His hand shoots out to try and take the ball. I cross over and keep on going, not much time left. The sweat is running down my face and into my mouth. My eyes are stinging from sweat and weariness. Three seconds. I have just passed half court. Another defender comes to take my ball, but he is too late. I jump and shoot it. The ball flies through the air, it is an orange blur.
Then everybody on our team, including the parents, busts out laughing, even some people from the other team. The ball landed in the bars that hold up the basketball hoop; about ten feet above the hoop. I say, "Sorry, next time I won't jump."

I look up at my dad to see that he is shaking his head and laughing, too.

Brady, my friend, my heart goes out to you.  I've been there many times.  Here's my snapshot:

I knocked my front tooth out playing softball when I was in fourth grade.  My team, The Hornets, were tied with the other team whose name I can't remember.  When it was my turn at bat, my teammates started cheering, "Callie! Callie! Callie!"  What do they call the players that clean up in innings?  Garbage men?  Sweepers?  Grocery clerks?  Yea, well, that was me.  I was a slugger.  You could count on me to bring in runs.  So it was no surprise when I hit one way out past center field. 

The crowd went nuts and I took off running, winking at my parents as I rounded first base.  It was going to be an easy home run, or so I thought.  As I rounded third base and headed for home, the center fielder threw the ball to the second baseman, who threw it to the catcher.  The ball was midway to the catcher as I ran to the plate. I knew I was going to have to slide if I stood a chance, so I took my last steps and flew into the air, headfirst into home.  At the same time, the catcher jumped to make the catch, and we collided.  My face hit her plastic knee pad and my tooth cracked right off.  Lucky for me, though, our collision knocked the catcher off balance and she lost sight of the ball and fell over.  I, on the other hand, landed safely at home, winning the game for the team.

None of that is true.  I did get my tooth knocked out, and it was during a softball game, but I wasn't playing.  I was sitting in the dugout writing my name in the dirt with my shoe.  I did have my batting helmet on, however.  When I realized what was happening, I jumped and cheered with the rest of my teammates even though I was kind of annoyed I didn't get a chance to finish writing my name in the dirt.  Katie, the superstar of the day, ran into the dugout after jumping on home plate, and was bombarded with congratulations.  I went to say "Great job" or whatever it is you say in these circumstances. For all I know it's, "Batter up!"  Somehow I tripped and fell head first into Katie's batting helmet, thus cracking my front tooth.  I should've just finished writing my name in the dirt.

If you'd like to try your hand at a snapshot, leave a comment on this post with your blog link so I can refer to it on next Wednesday's post.