Category Archives: Art

Update: Homeschooling stuff

  •  Homeschooling:  Still having… issues keeping my 14yo focused and not overwhelmed.  What he feels he can do, and what he actually can do are miles apart.  He, without fail, produces well-thought-out, excellent work and I am spending lots of time encouraging him and spurring him on.  I think much of his internal conflict comes down to him longing for the “good old days” when he had less responsibility and his school day wasn’t quite as long — even though his entire day, including “homework” is at a maximum of six hours, and he often has days like yesterday, when he was done in four.  This past week, I had to take away both his iPod and his library books until he was caught up…  I really don’t like restricting his freedoms and pleasures;  I feel like he should be mature enough to self-regulate and that I shouldn’t have to do that.  I guess I still do, though.
  • More homeschooling:  I am sharing my Sonlight Core 3 (American History, Part I — recently renamed Core D) with a friend for her children, and I’m a few weeks ahead of her.  For some reason, I’m really motivated to stay ahead, and for that reason, we’re getting more done, and faster, than ever!  I guess I still have some latent competitiveness…
  • Click on image for a link to the original post by a lady named Linda, who describes planting a Mary garden, where all the plants are symbolic tributes to the Virgin Mary. Linda attributes this painting to Jan van Eyck, and I'm not really sure that's correct. However, notice the strawberries in the raised bed behind the Virgin and Child.

    Still more homeschooling:  We’ve almost wrapped up our (fairly slow) travels through the fabulous DK’s Children’s Book of Art.  I have been pondering where to go next, with art.  Then, after church on Sunday, a friend pulled me over with an almost conspiratorial whisper, “Hey, I’m helping my mom pare down the things in her home.  Are you interested in any books?”  She opened her trunk to reveal a nice, heavy box of assorted books — from a nice hardcover copy of Kipling’s Captains Courageous to a set of Time-Life books on the States, very similar to a set my own mother owns….  Also included was an intriguing book called Signs and Symbols in Christian Art by George Ferguson.  It was first published in 1959;  my hardcover copy appears to have been printed in England in 1967, though I am delighted to discover that the book is still in print!  I may have to get an additional book of color reprints of Renaissance paintings, though…  Most of this book is in black and white.  However, I have long been intrigued with the idea of art as… teacher and entertainer, especially in the days before there was widespread literacy.  Here’s what Ferguson has to say about strawberries:  “The strawberry is the symbol of perfect righteousness, or the emblem of the righteous man whose fruits are good works.  When shown with other fruits and flowers, it represents the good works of the righteous or the fruits of the spirit.  It is in line with this meaning that the Virgin is sometimes shown clad in a dress decorated with clusters of strawberries.  The strawberry is occasionally shown accompanied by violets to suggest that the truly spiritual are always humble.”  My plan is to read a little excerpt like that, then set my boys to hunting for an example.  I’m slow to notice and understand symbolism and allegory, etc., so I’m looking forward to reading this book!

  • Even more homeschooling:  I had also wanted an additional devotional book for my children — especially my 10 and 12-year-old sons.  Right now, we are using Sonlight’s book on American Indian Prayer Guide, as well as using GRN’s monthly prayer guide for its missionaries (we get a monthly newsletter mailed to us, but the link has the same info).  But, I wanted something a little more in-depth, engaging, and focused on character.  Voila!  Out of the same box from my friend’s mom came Courageous Christians:  Devotional Stories for Family Reading by Joyce Vollmer Brown.  PERFECT.  It has sixty stories of well-known and little-known Christians who acted boldly to make a difference for the cause of Christ.  So awesome to have our needs met, in such an unexpected way, and even before I really prayed about it!  I guess God knew these were the books for us…
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Family outing on the cheap, plus thoughts on art, and a little kindergarten vanity.

On Labor Day, using the Culture Pass* I’d checked out on Friday, our family went to the Phoenix Art Museum, which I’d not visited for five years, and had missed.  Normal admission price for our family of seven would be $32.  ($10 for adults, $4 for children 6-17, free for children 5 and under.)  With the Culture Pass, we paid $12, as Martin and I were free.  Very do-able.  I packed a picnic lunch, which we ate outside in the very warm, dappled shade, next to a creepy sculpture-fountain of a woman “bleeding” water out of cut-up forearms.

When I was in college, I saw a woman wearing a tee that said, “Art Can’t Hurt You” and while part of me understands the sentiment, I actually don’t agree with that.  Art encompasses a wide range of experiences and emotions, including ones that hurt.  However, I don’t get weird about it.  We acknowledged to the little girls, “Yeah… that’s sad.  And creepy.  I wonder if the artist was sad?  It’s painful to look at, huh?”  and we just let it go at that.  Actually, the older boys were more creeped out than the girls, because I think they grasp the concept of mortality and emotional pain better than the 2- and 5-year-old girls.

Anyway.

The whole thing made for a cheap and VERY enjoyable outing.  I’m so glad my hubby was along;  his presence allowed us to stay a good five hours.  If it was just me and the five kids, I’d have been done after, oh, three hours or so.

I really don’t have very many pictures.  When I’m involved in something, I find that I rarely remember to document the process;  I’m too busy enjoying.

We headed first to the Western American Art exhibit, at my insistence.  I don’t consider myself a cowgirl — at all — but I love, love, love Western art.  My all-time favorite painting at the Phx Art Museum is Ed Mell‘s Sweeping Clouds.  Looking up Ed Mell, I just now discovered that I don’t care for all of his paintings, but I sure do love the one hanging in the corner of the PAM.  Western art in general, and that painting in particular, reminds me of the very best things about living in Arizona — dramatic scenery, a sense of solitude, unique aspects of nature, the vibrant colors of the desert, and the best skyscapes of ANYWHERE….

Not my pic. I'll admit, I stole it from a Russian website and am now uploading it here. I didn't want to link to that site, because it seemed a little fishy.

Other highlights included the installation of Yayoi Kusama’s You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies which is essentially a dark, mirrored room, about 20′ square, with a reflective floor and ceiling, and thousands of computer-programmed LED lights of varying colors hung at all heights.  It’s kind of hard to find your way in, orient yourself, and then find your way out again.  It doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy, but I LOVED it.  So did all the kids, especially Fiala.  We went through it probably five times or more… probably spent a good 30 minutes total in that little room.  It was what the best installations are:  Unique, an experience, a wee bit unsettling, but also thoroughly enjoyable.

In the kids’ art room, the girls and my 12yo, Grant, went to town, drawing and playing for upwards of 45 minutes.  I stayed there with them while Martin and the other two boys visited the Modern Mexican Painting exhibit.

It's inspired by Escuelas de Pintura al Aire Libre, the open-air painting schools of Mexico.

 

Fiala, very intent.

 

Audrey, candid.

 

Audrey, posing, now that she realizes Mom is snapping pics. Goober. Cute little goober.

So.  The Phoenix Art Museum.  You should go.  And pick up your passes from the library.  🙂

————–

*The Phoenix Library system has a great program called the Culture Pass.  There is a little kiosk inside each library branch that has cards which you take to the desk to “check out” a free pass, good for 2-4 tickets, to be used within the week, to various cultural attractions around the area.  For our one-income family, this is a fabulous way to make often-pricey museums an extremely reasonable outing.

 

Proof

I write this minutes after my sweet friend Marietta Wright exited my home.  We stood in the driveway and put one arm around each other and the other with its hand holding the proof copy of Brushed by God, her book on spontaneous prophetic art.  We prayed:  over the book, over each other, and just with thankfulness to God.

Thanks to Arnold at http://www.623creative.com for work on the cover

The book has been a long time in the making.  Well, I guess not that long, as far as books go, but it feels like forever.  She started working on it more than two years ago, after not being able to find a published book on the subject — because there isn’t one.  (Still, none exist, except hers, which is about to hit the market.)  She’s not a writer;  she was just trying to fill a need.  I chipped in, volunteering light editing work and suggestions.  I reached a place, though, in January 2010, where I realized that, in order to give the book what it needed, Marietta would have to hire me and pay me.  That way, I would be more accountable to her for my time (instead of just working on it in my nonexistent spare time).  Being hired would elevate my sense of responsibility for the book.  So, she did.  She hired me.

Now, in the normal scheme of a paid job, I didn’t do much — some weeks only 2-3 hours.  One week I think I worked 19 hours on it.  Most weeks were around 4-5 hours.  But… as a homeschooling mother of five, that was a lot of hours.  It was a big commitment.  It was so big, in fact, that some weeks, I couldn’t live up to it at all, and was unable to do any work, which severely tried Marietta’s patience.  As we spoke today, at my kitchen table, about that (one of many times we’ve discussed the topic of my unavailability), I told her my overriding sense in the whole thing is thankfulness that she did not give up on me, that she didn’t drop me, and that I was able to keep closely involved in the process until now.  She said, “God wouldn’t let me.”  I’m glad for that.  I’m glad she allowed God to expand her capacity for patience, rather than blowing up at me that I had not fulfilled my commitment to her.  Because, in the end, we both became more and did more than we could have, apart from each other.

The body of Christ is like that, truly.  Each sharpening each other, each supplying the other’s needs, each blessing each other, filling in the blanks… and, collectively, we achieve more than we ever could have on our own, both as individuals, and in the Kingdom of God — His rule and reign, both here on the earth, and in eternity.  It’s not always pleasant, being confronted about weakness, or having someone telling you that you let them down, or even just looking at them, and reading disappointment on their countenance.

HOWEVER.  Since some time in February 2010, I repeatedly begged Marietta not to give up on me, that in my heart, I so wanted to be a part of the project.

I felt strongly — and she confirmed it today — that I had the ability to not make the book “Karen’s Book” and fill it with my own language, but to take her voice, and just elevate it — bring it up.  And she said that, indeed, that’s what I did.

I also feel VERY, VERY STRONGLY in the need for the book to be out there, to be published, for people to read it.  It’s important to me that people “taste and see” that God is a speaking God, and that He can use art to bring His heart to His people.  Plus — though, admittedly, it is a small niche — there is growing interest in prophetic art and in its practice, and still there are no books on it, save Marietta’s.

The only bad news is this:  We have no publisher.  It will be self-published.  Marietta had a contract with a large, reputable publisher — our first choice, in fact!  However, after all the papers were signed, they revealed that a) the book would be published in black and white, and b) it would be in a smaller format than originally agreed-upon.  Understandably, Marietta balked at both, but especially the part about color.  How can you have a book which illustratively teaches about art, and have it be in black and white???  That just wouldn’t work.  So, after some conversation about it, the publisher released Marietta, gave her the choice to back out of the contract.  I guess that is a good thing, because they could have held her to it, and just done what they wanted, since neither point of contention was specified in the official, signed paperwork of the contract.

After that, rather than searching out another publisher, Marietta decided to look into self-publishing.  That has been a longish experience  — four or five months of hard lessons learned along a winding and complicated road.

I wasn’t thrilled about self-publishing, at first.  But, truly, there are so many outlets for a self-published book these days that it may be just fine, even though it’s a lot more work for the author (and those helping her).  And, perhaps the book will be picked up by a real publisher, sooner or later.  Sooner, one hopes.

After looking literally all around the world, Marietta found a great printer, people of their word who do good work at a good price, America’s Press.  (Not many printers fit all three of those criteria!)

This juncture where we find ourselves is both the completion of one portion of the journey, and the start of another:  getting the word out.  Even the bit that we have done so far — mostly just her blog, which I work on, as well — has resulted in invitations for Marietta to teach seminars/workshops in both the Netherlands (which will happen next month) and in New Zealand (which is under discussion).  I believe that’s just the tip of the iceberg!!

Soon, I’ll have a little button, there on the right, to purchase the book, for those who have been interested.  🙂  (Daja, you get one for free.)

Art, birds, bread, and Fiala’s skin

  • I brought my camera to the kids’ art class today… except there was no art.  There was some sort of miscommunication* with the teacher;  she thought we were canceling because most kids are on Spring Break this week, when we moms had all voted and all of us wanted to do art regardless.

    So, the kids all played together in the park, which I think they’d rather do anyways.

    My eyes always flit up to the streetlamp poles, looking for hawks…  Close to our house, I exclaimed, “Up ahead… big hawk… wait a minute… is that a golden eagle??”  It was.  We got pics — not great ones.  And, now I can’t find the cable to upload pics from my camera.  Well, now I have my Sibley’s guide out, and maybe it’s a dark Ferruginous hawk, which would actually be more cool, because I’ve never ID’ed one of those before.  It would have been great if I could have seen him fly;  that would answer my uncertainty.  But, he stayed aloft the streetlamp.

  • In other “news,” my attempts this morning to produce the perfect loaf were again, unsuccessful.  I’m not out of ideas yet, though.  I’ll try again tomorrow.  🙂  Each time I make the recipe, I’m now making three loaves — two small and one large — because some breads work better in one or the other.  One nice thing about having a family of seven is that we can EASILY polish off three loaves of bread per day, so it’s not like my flops (eleven, so far) are going to waste.
  • Fiala’s skin finally started to look CLEAR yesterday.  We’re still continuing Septra today, but I sent an e-mail to my friend who is a doctor to see if we could stop after today, which is day 11.  I’m sort of bummed about her being on it for another eleven days, but at least it wasn’t five weeks, like last time.
  • Sort-of related to the first bullet above, I spent a few minutes taking pictures of myself (which always feels extremely odd) this morning.  I got a few good shots of my new hair, but again:  no cable by which to upload.  A couple of homeschool moms at art today did not recognize me!  Obviously, it’s much different than it was, but I didn’t think it was that different.
  • * The spell-check on WordPress is telling me that “miscommunication” is not a word.  I use it frequently.  Am I alone in this???  I just Googled it, and it’s on several online dictionaries.  Hmph.

Editing, friendship, art, and the Body of Christ

I like editing.  It’s not that I enjoy finding fault, but when I read things that have been written by others, I frequently think, “Oh, this would have been so much more effective if the author would have done this or said it that way, or put this part first…”  Other than my own writing (and I feel like we are most often our worst editors), the only thing I regularly edit is a missions newsletter, and even then, I’m not the “executive editor” — final decisions are not made by me;  it’s more like I’m a second pair of eyes, and the grammar-check person.

I especially like editing when I know the person who is doing the writing;  I want their true voice to come out in what they’ve written, and I think that doesn’t come naturally to most people;  they have to be coaxed.  And, I have observed that many, many people write as if the reader knew their history, and there’s a major mental adjustment that they need to make, in order to frame their ideas for total strangers.  But, if I’m editing for someone I know, whose history I know, whose voice I know, I can help bring that out.

A friend of mine is working on a book, and — as I had hoped — she asked me to be part of the editing process.  I think she has something very unique and powerful and useful and what she has NEEDS to be written;  I believe very firmly in that.  So, I jumped in with great gusto.  But, when I saw how involved the process would be, I started dragging my feet.  It was not an issue of, “I don’t have the time;” the problem was, “There’s so much work to be done here, so much cutting to the core, so much asking her to do things that don’t come naturally to her, such a great risk of offense…” well, I started feeling like if I was honest, it could very potentially permanently damage our relationship, no matter how gentle I was about it.  It’s her baby, and I needed to tell her, “Your baby doesn’t look quite right, and it’s going to require major surgery to raise your baby to maturity.”

But, we had a conversation yesterday where she expressed her disappointment with how little I’ve provided for her;  she wants to work, and feels like she’s at a dead end until she gets more feedback from me.  We hung up, with me committing to send her more ASAP… After we talked, I ended up running errands by myself for a couple of hours, and had a lot of time to reflect.  That’s when I concluded that, really, I was afraid of destroying our relationship, afraid of highly discouraging her and offending her with strong words…

So, I prayed about it and decided to take the bull by the horns and send her an e-mail that addressed two serious, overriding issues with her book.  I suggested that she 1) enlist the help of a co-author who can write vividly and creatively with great detail (I have, a few times, written and asked her for MORE detail, MORE detail, MORE detail), and 2) write gently to unfold and build the reader’s trust, not from a position of, “I am the authority on this.”

I sent it off with great trepidation.

She quickly replied,

O yes… that is soooo helpful…..thank you for that…it makes GOOD sense. You are so right. This is the scoop….. I am a “get to the point person” and I am thinking people will be bored with what I have to say, so I make it straight from the cuff. I can see your view point and need to change.  Today [a friend] will give me a call and maybe we can do this together (making it more detailed and exciting)  You are so wise Karen and I love what you are doing for me I will try to rewrite my stuff keeping mind all you instructed. I do want to make this colorful like the pictures God gives me. There is so much detail going on in my brain, but I am afraid to let it all out for fear people will be bored. Please do not give up on me.

I was greatly relieved, and very excited about her response!

I wrote further:

After we talked yesterday, I was reflecting on the book situation, and what it was that was causing me to drag my feet, and it was this: That there is great risk of offending you, or discouraging you, because I think it’s going to take a lot of work to turn it into a real book. I am a lot less confrontational than I used to be, and a lot more worried about preserving relationship, and I don’t want to cause offense!! But, I dearly want the Body of Christ to benefit from what you have learned, and what God has shown you. I strongly believe there is a need for what you have! So, I thought I might as well just risk it, and send you two “hard” things, and we’d take it from there…

So, I’m very relieved that you’re not discouraged or offended.

I know you said you are hard to offend, and it’s not like I’m TRYING to offend you; I want to be gentle… but still, maybe it was the enemy whispering to me that you’d be so hurt by anything I had to say that it would permanently damage our relationship, and maybe have even worse fallout!! Must have been his lies…

I will dive back in, and while I will still be careful how I speak, I will now be able to identify the enemy’s lies, and will no longer be afraid that our work together will break our relationship.

And, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not be afraid that people will be bored. You are a unique woman, with a unique history, and God has taught you unique things, and used you in unique way. I think it’s impossible for you to be boring. So, just say all there is to say, and if we need to pare it down, then, we’ll do that. But, if you have MORE, please write more.

There are a few people who like art like this:

Red Square 1915 by Kasimir Malevich

Red Square 1915 by Kasimir Malevich

But, MORE people like art like this:

The Last Days of Summer by S.M. Lee

The Last Days of Summer by S.M. Lee

Do you know what I mean?

And she did know what I meant, because she responded:

Yes it did help…. and now I am crying because I soooo get the point. It so spoke to me … ( the blah and the vivid picture). It actually knocked me for a loop.. a good loop. ” Oh God… open my eyes to be able to present the world with a colorful exciting picture of what Prophetic Art is all about” ” Please Lord help me to get it out into the open “

You are soo precious Karen and please be as rough with me as you need to be. As you said… this needs to get out… I so believe this. It is all for the Kingdom and I do not care if it offends me…. I quickly get over that kind of stuff … for I sure know that it is not about me.

I think I will go into some fasting and see if there are some blocks in me that need to be knocked loose…. something that is holding me back.

The thing that is amazing to me about this whole exchange is that… no matter if you believe the source of the confusion is satan or not, I do.  I just do.  He’s the father of lies, and the author of confusion.  Here I was thinking that my friend was going to hate me, that what I had to say was going to hurt her, hurt our friendship, that our working together, in turn, would hurt me… and instead, the exact opposite has happened.  She appreciates my input, I am able to communicate with her in a way that really makes sense, makes an impact, I am re-invigorated to work with her, and far from her hating me, she regards me all the more precious!!

This might seem off-topic, but to me, it just goes back to the value of the Body of Christ.  Yes, you can be a Christian without being part of a local community of believers — that is, a church.  But, I SSSSOOOOOOOO don’t want to ever be apart from the Church.  It’s too valuable.  I am convinced that God the Father has designed that we, as believers, be in a place where we can give and receive, where we can grow in relationship, where we can be stretched, where we can be challenged, yet given the grace to stumble, then rejoice with each other when the stumbling ends up producing fruit after all the error and confusion is rooted out.  We tend the garden together, and celebrate and enjoy the abundance all the more, together!!

Bits…

  • Alexander Henrys Apples & Pears Blue

    Alexander Henry's Apples & Pears Blue

    I love to sew, but I don’t often have the opportunity to really devote time to it.  Every once in a while, someone says to me,  “You could sell that!” and maybe I could, but I’m too slow to make things really profitable.  So, for me, sewing is more a labor of love than anything.  I’m very excited to be given the thumbs up from a friend to sew the stuff for her baby girl’s room.  😀  I practically forced my sewing skills upon her, but after talking with her about it on Saturday, became convinced that she really wants me to sew for her, and isn’t just saying, “Yes” to shoo me off, which is definitely a possibility, since I’ve been INUNDATING her with conversations, e-mails, texts, and other info about all things pregnancy, baby shower, birth, and infants since she got pregnant.  I was afraid she’d feel overwhelmed, but instead, she feels loved and cared-for.  That was a relief.  The fabric I’ll be using (among other coordinating fabrics) is on the right.

  • I have been visiting more natural-birthing blogs these days.  I think it’s because I can’t imagine not being around births any more, yet I remain uncertain as to whether or not we’ll have any more children of our own.  More and more, I like the idea of being some sort of assistant in the process of helping other mothers birth naturally… maybe as an unofficial birthing coach, maybe as a “real” doula, maybe teach Bradley classes.  Don’t know yet.  But… I must say that there are a lot of… um… imflammatory blogs on the topic.  There are a lot of midwives, etc., who tell stories that go something like, “Well, I lost a friendship over telling her this…”  and I decided that my friendships are more important than whether or not someone has an epidural.  But, one of my most favorite natural-birthing sites is this:  Stand and Deliver.  It’s written by a well-educated, homebirthing mother.  Her blog is continually interesting, without trying to make you feel guilty.  Plus, the author, Rixa, is also 31 or so weeks pregnant with her second child, which makes the info all the more relevant.
  • Found on Stand and Delivercool article about Salma Hayek nursing a sick infant — not her own — in Sierra Leone while on a humanitarian mission.
  • My friend Heidie said to me yesterday, “Don’t you just get discouraged???” about something that I hadn’t even thought about getting discouraged over.  I do get discouraged, but not over that.  There’s something on Fiala’s right cheek.  I don’t know what it is.  It’s been there for a good 4-5 weeks.  It was almost gone before the pediatrician said, “Looks like eczema.  Why don’t you put some Vaseline on it with every diaper change?”  I knew it wasn’t eczema, but I went ahead and put Vaseline on it, and it almost immediately it exploded into a huge, imflamed, oozy patch, doubling or tripling in size.  Ugh.  Meanwhile the patch of real eczema on her forehead was helped by the Vaseline.  So, apparently, Vaseline does help eczema, which, after five kids who all had/have eczema, was news to me.  I still don’t know what’s going on with Fiala’s face, but I started putting some homemade salve on it, made from beeswax and olive oil, mostly, and that is definitely helping.
  • I commented kindly about something on painter/illustrator Stan Fellows’ blog, and he sent me an e-mail saying, “You like it??  I’ll send it to you!”  My jaw dropped.  Then, I kind of backpedalled, because I wasn’t intending to be solicitous and he responded something like, “I wouldn’t give it to you if it was a watercolor.  People line up to buy my watercolors.  But, those are just some funky acrylic birds that aren’t marketable, so it’s either send them to you, or trash them.”  True to his word, the paintings showed up in my mail box on Saturday.  My heart skipped several beats.  Woo hoo!  I’m going to get part of it framed, and will post pics when I do. … Stan is by far my favorite, current illustrator.  I adore his work.  There’s just something about every bit of it that floats my art boat.

My own must-read children’s picture books list

(Un)relaxed dad actually created a meme along these lines, and tagged me for it a while back.  I thought it was a splendid idea, but never did the meme.   Hopefully, this makes up for it.

Last week, I found three different lists of 100 must-read children’s books, but found them all somewhat unsatisfactory.  Part of the reason is that they were all too broad — from toddler books to young adult novels.  Below is my own list of greatly beloved children’s picture books. 

I’ve tried to analyze my list to find a connecting thread, and haven’t really found any consistent one.  I do love a compelling story, striking and detailed pictures, a bit of whimsy, and thoughtful, humorous, child-centered writing.  I did notice that a number of the books have somewhat of a prodigal, lost-and-found or wandering theme.  Hmmm….  Many of these books present a gentle moral without being preachy, and many of them picture loving families.  Also, in many of the books on my list, the protagonist must independently overcome some sort of mild peril. 

This list currently has 24 books, but, of course, I’ll probably add more as I think of them.  Other than the first — my all-time favorite — the books are in no particular order. 

  1. One Morning in Maine, written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey. 
    ~This is probably my favorite children’s book ever.  The single-color drawings are lovely, the dialogue believeably childlike.  Growing up as a girl in the desert, the idea of having to take a boat across the bay to go to the grocery store seemed like a fairytale.  I’m so pleased that my three boys have all loved this book, too.
  2.  Blueberries for Sal, written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey.
    ~Close behind One Morning in Maine is this lost-and-found gem.  Make Way for Ducklings is surely McCloskey’s best-known work, but these first two are more deserving, in my opinion.
  3. Harry the Dirty Dog, written by Gene Zion, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham
    ~A gentle lost-and-found prodigal story.
  4. Aesop for Children, illustrated by Milo Winter 
    ~Originally published in 1919, Winter’s illustrations are perfect.  And that Aesop guy was pretty bright!  😉  Even when I disagree with his conclusions, the little stories are perfect fodder for discussion.
  5. The Story about Ping, written by Marjorie Flack, illustrated by Kurt Wiese
    ~Compelling lost-and-found story which led us to investigate Chinese culture. 
  6. Richard Scarry anything
    ~All his books are simply classic, full of detail and humor
  7. Mark Teague anything
    ~Mark Teague is one of my favorite illustrators, and has written a number of books himself, as well.  His work is funny and fabulous.  If you’re not familiar with him, do yourself a favor and click the link.  We have read upwards of 20 books of his, and each is a delight. 
  8. John Muir, America’s First Environmentalist, written by Kathryn Lasky,  illustrated by Stan Fellows
    ~This is an absolutely perfect book — lushly detailed and colored illustrations, a compelling story, and non-fiction to boot!  It is a perfect readaloud, detailing Muir’s life from his boyhood in Scotland to his travels across the U.S., ending in the Sierra Nevadas. 
  9. Olivia,  written and illustrated by Ian Falconer
    ~Hilarious.  Wonderful pictures, too.  It’s the board book version that we’re familiar with.  We recently had to return this book to the library;  we’d had it for the maximum nine weeks, and had read it several times a day.  My 16mo daughter is mourning its loss, crying for, “Blee-bee-ah.”
  10. Magic Schoolbus series, written by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen
    ~Nicely detailed, funny blend of fantasy and non-fiction.
  11. Chester by Syd Hoff
    ~This is more an early reader than a picture book.  It’s my favorite of Syd Hoff’s many excellent children’s books.  I named my childhood dog after the title character of this story.
  12. Parts, written and illustrated by Tedd Arnold
    ~I’m boggled by those who think this book is too gross.  They obviously take themselves far too seriously and need to read MORE books like this to compensate for their lack of a childlike perspective.  This book is a hilarious tale of a boy who thinks he’s falling apart because he finds some lint in his bellybutton, something “gray and wet” from his nose, etc.  It’s a funny yet reassuring story, perfect for parents to read to their littles.
  13. Curious George by H.A. Rey
    ~The original, and still the best.  This classic could certainly not get published today;  as one Amazon reviewer chastises:  “The whole moral issue of the illegal animal trade is ignored. Parents will also probably not appreciate episodes in which George smokes a pipe and engages in other unhealthy or foolish activities.”  This wonderful book ignores reality — which many of the best children’s books do — and revels in the absurd.
  14. Elephants & Emus, collected and illustrated by Philippa-Alys Browne 
    ~This short anthology of rhyming verse is accompanied by Browne’s vibrant and slightly stylized watercolors.  Wondrous.
  15. Katy and the Big Snow, written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton
    ~This is Burton’s classic tale of perseverance, with an engaging story and detailed drawings.  The middle of the book features a map of the town, where the child can match each of the town’s buildings to its spot on the map.  (I’m a sucker for maps.) 
  16. Cowboy Baby, written and illustrated by Sue Heap
    ~WHY is this book out of print???  Fantastic, colorful illustrations, whimsical, gentle story of a little boy who doesn’t want to go to bed.
  17. We Were Tired of Living in a House, written by Liesel Moak Skorpen, illustrated by Joe Cepeda
    ~Brightly and imaginatively illustrated book that, at its heart, proclaims, “There’s no place like home!”  It appeals to the adventurous, as it follows four children who go exploring as their parents are distracted by painting their house.  This is one of those books whose illustrations have their own story going, apart from the text.  I LOVE it when illustrators give careful thought to their pictures; it can add immensely to the appeal of a book.  I recently learned that this was originally published with illustrations by Doris Burn (See Andrew Henry’s Meadow, below).
  18. The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit, written by Susan Lowell, illustrated by Jim Harris
    ~Richly illustrated retelling of the Aesop fable, set in the Sonoran Desert.  The fun and lovely pictures are full of actual native flora and fauna.
  19. Cowpokes, written by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by Daniel San Souci
    ~Cowpokes features simple, rhyming text, and lovely, colorful illustrations with native desert flora & fauna.  There are “games” we discovered in the book, too, such as hidden animals amongst the cliffs, and locating the groundhog on every page.
  20. Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland written and illustrated by Tomie de Paola
    ~I’m not really a huge fan of de Paola, nor am I Catholic.  But this stirring historical account of the life of St. Patrick is well-worth a read, and another read, and another…
  21. Have You Seen My Duckling? by Nancy Tafuri
    ~This sweet, almost wordless book, tells the tale of a duckling who becomes separated from his family while pursuing a butterfly.  Young children will have fun finding him hiding among the pages, and rooting for the mother and the duckling’s siblings to bring him safely back to the nest.
  22. How I Became a Pirate, written by Melinda Long, illustrated by David Shannon
    ~This engaging, colorfully detailed book tells the story of a boy who joins up with a group of pirates, thinking that his parents wouldn’t mind “as long as I got back in time for soccer practice the next day.”  It, again, is a “no place like home” story, imaginatively illustrated by David Shannon, who is perhaps best known for his slightly irreverent David series which feature childlike drawings.
  23. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, written by Laura Joffe Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond
    ~This book is on many a best-of list, for good reason.  It’s attractively illustrated, imaginative, and based on the “logic” of children (and mice).
  24. Andrew Henry’s Meadow, written and illustrated by Doris Burn
    ~My friend John gave this book to my boys a number of years ago, and it’s since been a perennial favorite.  The story follows the young inventor Andrew while he basically builds his own reality.  As John wrote in Doris Burn’s Wikipedia entry, “Her distinctive style consists of absorbingly detailed line drawings, often of children matter-of-factly doing extraordinary things.”  Interestingly, this book is currently in production to become a movie headed by Zach Braff, slated for a 2008 release.

It took me a few days of working to compile this list and find the appropriate pics and links.  If anyone is up for the challenge of putting up your own list — with or without pics & links, etc. — I’d love to see it.

Five things I dig about Jesus

I got tagged (again!  😉 ) by Mom Loves Being at Home for my thoughts on what I dig about Jesus.

  1. His mercy.  By nature, I tend to judgement, rather than mercy.  But I am so grateful that God isn’t just like me.  He’s infinitely better than all of my strengths and weaknesses.
  2. The fact that He is never confused by a situation, or stuck by a problem.  He has all the answers, and that gives me hope.  If I’m in a difficult situation, I just need to focus on Him, and listen closely to Him, and eventually, He’ll light the path He wants me to take.  As a Christian, nothing is ever hopeless.
  3. His creativity.  I absolutely love how He has painted and formed our world.  I love His love of beauty, and His careful, artful thoughtfulness, His intricacy.  He is absolutely creative — He continually creates — and this drive for creating is one of His attributes that He places a portion of in we, part of His creation.
  4. The fact that He has all truth.  Every bit of absolute truth out there — in science, in theology, in math, in every area of every discipline — was thought up by Jesus.  Every one of our new “discoveries” was known to Him, long ago.  Jesus is concerned, yes, with the development of our relationship with Him, and the state of our spirits.  But He is also the absolutely most brilliant mathematician, historian, scientist, philosopher et al, that ever was, or ever will be, and as Christians, we get to tap into that aspect of His nature.
  5. That He makes it so fulfilling to worship Him.  The Christian life is so paradoxical.  In one way, none of it is about me — it’s more about the Body of Christ (the totality of all Christians), about God Himself, about the Kingdom of Christ (His rule and reign), about God’s triumph over sin and death — all things much grander than li’l’ ol’ me could ever be…. but there is another side of Christianity that is operative at the very same time:  the intimate, tender, joyous, exciting, challenging, lovely, alive, beautiful, emotional, personally-fulfilling nature of knowing and being known by Jesus.

I’m not going to tag anyone on this.  However, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear your thoughts on Jesus, either in the comments below, or on your own blog.     

Clock-a-Clay, John Clare, more unrhyming rhyme, and being too content

First, let me say that there’s nothing that helps me understand poetry more, than working through it with my kids.  I’m the kind of person who really doesn’t listen to the words in music, content with the rhythm, the instrumentation, the hook, and the occasional phrase that clings.  I tend not to look for the “meaning” — either overt or hidden, in either music or poetry.  However, my kids are all about meaning.  They’re not big on art for art’s sake.

When we read a poem (currently, we’re working through this lovely volume), I read it through once, then I read it slowly again, stopping to explain any odd words or phrases, asking them what they think such-and-such line means, or what the poem itself is trying to express.  We talk about the feeling of a poem, how highly structured (or not) it is.  We count out syllables.  We generally deconstruct it.  Then, I usually read through it once more, having them keep their bodies still and eyes closed, so they (we!) can fully appreciate the beauty of the poem combined with our greater knowledge of it.

That has led me to ponder on the idea that, I think that, previously, I’ve been content with too little in poetry.  I mean, in all of my history, I’ve read poetry in a simply face-value way… enjoying some, tossing off others.  But, in investigating a poem (and the poet him/herself) lends greater appreciation for it.  It’s rather like my current drive to identify flowers and birds:  Knowing something more in-depth gives me more pleasure in that thing.

Today’s poem was John Clare’s lovely Clock-a-Clay.  Among other things, we had to find out that a “clock-a-clay” (or clock o’ clay) is a ladybug (ladybird beetle).  And, though I figured out that the cowslips mentioned are flowers, we were not familiar with what they looked like.

   

And… similar to Blake’s Tyger, Clare gives a hint to what language sounded like in early 19th century Northamptonshire, England, rhyming these two lines:

Bending at the wild wind’s breath,
Till I touch the grass beneath;

 Clare’s life was, by and large, sad.  He never quite fit in anywhere he was, being too erudite for the farm-folk, and too rustic for the citified.  He became delusional, and spent the latter 2/5 of his life in a mental institution.  My personal take on this is that his unstable mental state was brought about by general discontentedness combined with a “taste for ale,” as he euphemistically called his alcoholism, which seems all the more tragic to me, since he had seven children.  It’s always startling to me how profound loveliness can come out of such messed-up circumstances. 

Which, of course, leads me to appreciate his poetry even more.

  

If you don’t love this photography, something is wrong with you.

Well, not really.  There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.  But, I love these textural, sumptuous, history-filled, poignant (hey!  two posts in a row with “poignant”) photos of John Annesley.  Plus almost all of his work is shot in Arizona.  And he lives in Bisbee, which is a truly wonderful old copper mining town turned artists’ enclave in southeastern Arizona.  And I e-mailed him to make sure I could post his copyrighted photos on my blog and he responded positively within an hour or so.  (Inaccessible and unfriendly artists do not help their own cause, IMO.)

Most of these pics you can buy from the artist, which he makes to-order, matted, for $55-95, which seems reasonable to me.  My computer screen does not do them justice, unfortunately, and likely, yours won’t either.  I saw Annesley’s work in my Highroads magazine, put out by AAA.  For a self-promoting publication, Highroads does an unusually fine job, most issues (at the date of this post, though, the website has not caught up with the print publication, and still has the Mar/Apr ’07 issue up).

He photographs other stuff, too, but my favorite is what he calls Vehiculart.

~sigh~  Anyone have a spare $55?

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