Thursday, January 27, 2011

{My Pages}

Many months have passed since I last shared any of my layouts here. Well, I've been a total blog slacker in every respect so the lack of layouts should be of no surprise. Anyway, because all three kids are home and it's too yucky outside to go do anything I thought I'd spend a few minutes and share some of my creations with all of you. This is a handful of what I've done over the past several months. I'm looking forward to getting them printed in a book . . . someday! :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

{The Ticket}

The Chambersburg School District has a system in place for handling discipline problems at the elementary level. When a student disobeys, he or she pulls a ticket. Depending upon the teacher, that may mean the student loses a privilege, gets a note sent home, or is separated from the other students. If they pull multiple tickets in one day, the parents will receive a phone call and further disciplinary actions may be taken. What I like about the ticket system is that it is consistent in every single elementary school in the district. I also like that it seems to be effective at keeping most of the younger kids "in line".

Our family was introduced to tickets last year when Sasha entered kindergarten. I'm proud to say that Sasha is very well-behaved at school. She doesn't want to get in trouble and wants her teachers to like her. So last year she was one of only two or three (I think) students in her class who didn't pull a single ticket. The only thing she got as far as I know was a warning for talking in the hallway. Not only were Cory and I proud of her, she was proud of herself.

First grade has been going much the same way. Sasha listens, does as she's asked, and is excelling at school. We couldn't be happier. Then on Monday of last week we got a bit of snow. Not much - just about an inch. And it happened. On Tuesday Cory met her at the bus stop. When they walked in the door I was greeted by big tears streaming down Sasha's face and she was sobbing about something I couldn't understand. Finally I made out what she was trying to say: She pulled a ticket. Her world came crashing down around her as she thought Cory and I would be mad and disappointed in her. Her perfect record was perfect no more.

So what did our dear, sweet girl do to pull a ticket? Did she cheat? Backtalk the teacher? Hit a classmate? Tell a lie? Talk out too much in class? Nope.

She threw a snowball.

And one of her friends told on her.

I had to laugh a bit when she told me what happened. She threw a snowball! Of all the things she could have done to get into trouble, this isn't anything major. I reassured her that it was ok and we weren't upset with her. In fact, I'm kind of glad that she finally did pull a ticket so she didn't have the pressure of being "perfect" all the way through school.

Of course, I also reminded her that she shouldn't have thrown the snowball and that someone could have gotten hurt. Kind of like last winter when I threw one towards her and busted her lip open because there was a chunk of ice in the snowball. Yikes!

I think this is a good lesson for Sasha. She's not perfect, but she sure is going to try hard to tow the line once again. Now if only I could enforce the ticket system here at home . . .

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

{Books of 2010}

It's a new year! 2010 really did seem to go by in the blink of an eye. Maybe it's because I'm getting older, maybe it's because I've been busier than ever before, and maybe it's because time goes faster when you watch your children grow up. After all, my baby is going to be two years old in less than four months!
In 2009 I started writing down all of the books I read over the course of the year. It was fun to look back and see everything I had read . . . and I made it a goal to read more. So last year I did the same thing. I regret that I didn't read any more books than I did in 2009, but I did discover a new favorite author and got lost in many exceptional storylines. It was a great year of reading!

So here's my list of 2010 books in the order that I read them. Perhaps you will b inspired to pick up one of them and go for an adventure!

1. You Have To Kiss A Lot Of Frogs by Laurie Graff

I must admit that this is not a book I'd recommend. The plot was not very rich . . . in fact, I had to plug my way through just to finish it. Basically, a Jewish actress recounts all her failed dates and relationships and her struggles to find "Mr. Right". There are some moments of hilarity, but overall it just isn't a story that is inspiring or thought-provoking. I suppose it would make a good beach read if you want something mindless and light. Now that I think about it, I don't even remember if she finds a husband, although I don't think she did. My verdict: Skip this one.

2. Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore

Beth Moore is an amazing spiritual writer and teacher and I've learned more from her Bible Studies over the past couple of years than I have from all the years I spent at church, Sunday School, and church camps combined. This book focused on how to overcome pitfalls in our lives and how to live a life of positivity and happiness. It was a great read and really helped me look at myself in a different light so I can be a better person. I definitely recommend this one - and anything by Beth Moore!

3. Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip - Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by Steve Dublanica

As a former waitress (or "server" if you want to be p.c.), I know all about the frustrations and hardships of working in a restaurant. So this book was right up my alley. I LOVED it! The author became a waiter in a high-end Italian restaurant by chance and spent years there serving people from all walks of life. He describes all the secrets of the kitchen staff, managers, and servers - the good, the bad, and the disgusting. Not only was it a very entertaining read, it was also informative. If you ever wondered what is expected of you when you go to a restaurant (or what you can do to ensure the worst experience eating out), pick up this book and devour it! ;)

4. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

Allow me to introduct to you my new favorite author: Francine Rivers! My sister-in-law lent me this book to read and gushed over it. Once I picked it up I did NOT want to put it down. It is set in the West during the Gold Rush and follows Angel, a young woman who was sold into prostitution as a girl. Then she meets Michael. Michael is a God-fearing man who wants to save Angel, but he soon realizes that that isn't going to be as easy as he hoped. The story is heartwrenching, gripping, and eye-opening. You can't read this book and not be changed by it afterwards. I love this book so much that I've given it to friends and family as gifts. If I could buy a copy for everyone I know, I would! RUN to your local bookstore and get this amazing work NOW!

5. Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Like all of Picoult's novels, this one described an unusual legal case. A family is divided over whether or not to sue the prenatal physician for not giving them the option to abort a baby who was born with Brittle Bone Disease. The twist in the story is that the physician is also the mother's best friend. A beautifully written story, many hot issues are touched on that make the reader question her (or his) own beliefs. And the ending will definitely surprise you! A good - although sad - read!

6. A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

I was so spellbound by Redeeming Love that I couldn't wait to read more by Francine Rivers. I chose this one next. It is the first in Rivers's Mark of the Lion series. Oh. My. Word. This book is so incredibly rich in history, scripture, and perfect storytelling! I learned an immense amount about what the world was like during the Roman Empire, just after Christ died. This period of time truly came alive for me. The main characher, Hadassah, is a Christian slave for a very prominent Roman family. She strives to introduce Christ to those she works for and loves, despite the fact that she could be sent to the arena (as in gladiators - yes, there are gladiators in this story, too!) as a result. It is a story of courage, conviction, and ultimate sacrifice that will leave you hungry for more. Thankfully, there are two more books that follow the characters.

7. Going Rogue by Sarah Palin

I don't read too many political books or autobiographies, but given the political climate of the past two years I couldn't pass by this one. After reading Palin's first book I am more convinced than ever that the media is totally self-serving and one-sided. The details Palin revealed about her experience running for Vice President alongside John McCain are eye-opening. I was shocked by how she and her family were treated, by the lies that were spread about them, and by how intelligent Palin is. She is an example of how hard, honest work can take you anywhere in life - even to the White House. I hope everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, gives this book - and Palin - a chance.

8. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
This fall I joined a book club. Our first book was Little Bee. I had never heard of this book before but apparantly it has been on many best sellers lists and is a common book club book. Set in both England and Africa, it is rich in history and cultural references. An English couple go to Africa for a vacation and find themselves caught up in a little-known African political war. Their involvement follows them home to England in the form of a girl named Little Bee. While this wasn't a favorite read of mine, it was fascinating in many ways. I think most people would enjoy the story and it is a fairly quick read, too.

9. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer

In 2009 I got sucked into (pun intended) the Twilight series. And like most Twilight fans, I was disappointed when I had finished the last book and had nothing left to look forward to with Edward and Bella. Thankfully, Stephanie Meyer wrote a novella that follows one of Victoria's newborn vampires she created to kill Edward. Readers get a look at a totally different type of vampire and see the final battle between Victoria and her army and the Cullen family in a completely new light. It's a fast read and will satisfy your thirst for more Edward and Bella.

10. The Ten Best Days of My Life by Adena Halpern
While at Tastefully Simple's National Conference last summer I attended a breakout session on self-motivation. The speaker emphasized the importance of reading inspirational books, and this is one that she spotlighted. The story follows a 20-something woman who has a seemingly unimportant life with little direction or purpose. When she is tragically killed, she enters Heaven and is amazed at how wonderful it it. But to stay there she must write an essay about the ten best days of her life. If it is good, she will stay at that level of Heaven. If not, she will go down to a less "perfect" level of Heaven. Yes, levels of Heaven is a rather ridiculous concept, but the self-discovery she attains by analyzing her life and the lessons she learns make the book a great read. And it really does leave the reader inspired to make the most of each day.

11. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Get ready to be transported to China during the 1800's. A wonderfully crafted story about two young girls from different social classes whose lives are brought together by old Chinese customs, this book gives the reader a very detailed look at what life was like in China during this time period. There are parts that are difficult to read - especially the foot-binding chapter - and parts that leave the reader feeling very proud of the female characters who made the best out of bad situations. I highly enjoyed this novel and recommend it if you want to read something from a different culture and time period.

12. The Help by Kathrn Stockett

Oh my, I LOVED this book! I've always been a HUGE lover of African American literature so this one was right up my alley. It is a story of black maids in the south and their relationships with the white families (mainly the women and children) they served. Set in the 1960's during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, the novel is full of historical references and the voices of the women are extremely vivid. It is almost like you are peeking inside the windows of peoples' homes and witnessing life during that volatile time period. I can definitely understand why this book has been so widely popular and on so many best sellers lists. It's a knockout!

13. An Echo in the Darkness by Francine Rivers

I ended the year with Rivers's second novel in the Mark of the Lion Triology. I didn't think it could be any better than the first, but I was wrong. I was yet again blown away by the way Rivers teaches about history and about Christianity by weaving the past and scripture into a beautiful story. I found myself thinking about the characters non-stop and had a hard time putting the book down at night. This is another book that will stay with me for a long, long time. Go out and get it and be prepared to be swept away!
And that's it! Thirteen novels. Not bad, but definitely not what I had hoped to read. I have a feeling that this year I'll be reading LOTS more books because my sweet hubby bought me a Kindle for Christmas! YAY! Now I can easily take my books with me wherever I go and I've already discovered that I read much faster on the Kindle than I do with regular books.
I'd LOVE to hear about some of your favorite books from the past year! What did you enjoy? I have a running list of books I want to read and am always adding to it, so please share!
Here's to a great, inspiring, and positive 2011!