Sunday, February 22, 2015

What We're Reading: Number the Stars


I have my sister Grace to thank for this fantastic read-aloud because she gave it to Delaney for Christmas.  Delaney read it herself first, and then asked me to read it at bedtime.  She then made sure to correct me on every part I misread or that she thought I'd misread (for example, she did not easily accept that "Kirsti" was not really "Kristi").  I first read this 1990 Newberry Award winner when I was about 12.  I know I enjoyed it but didn't remember a whole lot about it all these years later.  I never would have thought to read it with the kids because I mistakenly remembered it as being more of a Young Adult novel.  I soon discovered that Delaney's at the perfect age for this fictional story of a 10-year-old Danish heroine who along with her family, helps smuggle her Jewish best friend and her family to Sweden during World War II.

The story moves quickly and the chapters are very short which is perfect for those nights when bedtime happens a little later than it ought to.  But every chapter ended leaving us wanting more, and many ended with cliffhangers, making it nearly impossible to read just one chapter at bedtime.  Delaney was always disappointed when we had to end for the night, and a lot of times so was I.  We got sucked right in.

The story opens in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1943, as Annemarie and her best friend Ellen are racing home from school with Annemarie's five-year-old little sister trailing along behind.  Then they are ordered to halt by one of the Nazi soldiers patrolling the city, and are interrogated.  We never again see the girls acting like carefree kids.  The presence of the soldiers is becoming ever more oppressive, and the girls and their families are growing more fearful as the first few chapters progress.  They've seen their country taken over, good food and new clothes have become scarce, and the people tiptoe around trying to avoid angering the increasingly edgy German soldiers.  Sometimes Annemarie wonders just how far her family and she herself would go to protect the Jews of their country from the Nazis.  She feels scared when she thinks about that, but then she remembers that she's just an  "ordinary person who would never be called upon for courage."  

One day, word gets out that all the Jews of the city are to be rounded up and taken away.  Annemarie must be brave and help her family as they help Ellen and her family escape.  Annemarie learns quickly about the bravery and sacrifice that ordinary people like herself are capable of.  This is based on the true story of the Danish Resistance and how they smuggled thousands of Jews to safety in Sweden.

Throughout the book, Delaney would sometimes interrupt with questions such as, "Who were the Nazis?"  I tried to explain to her about what happened back then, with Hitler and the Holocaust.  This book is an appropriate introduction to that subject for kids since the focus is on how the good people fought back, and does not go into gory details of Nazi atrocities.

We also talked about what it means to be courageous.  At one point Annemarie said to her uncle who had praised her courage, "But I was so scared!"  And he said that they all were scared, but basically, being courageous means you do what you have to do anyway.  It definitely got Delaney thinking, and she said to me, "Do you think I'm courageous?"  I could have said, "Sure!" but instead I said, "What do you think?"  She just looked thoughtful.  It is hard for anyone to know what kind of courage they'll have when they need it, and when you're a seven-year-old who spends half your life in the back of your mom's SUV, it's pretty tough to imagine being in the scenarios that Annemarie was in.  But I know she's got a big heart for her friends and is developing ideas of good and bad, right from wrong.  I liked having the opportunity to talk about these things with her.  As far as Annie and Timmy go.. they probably just enjoyed extra time to wrestle before bed.  I think Annie was listening maybe some of the time.

Bring on the next great read-aloud!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I didn't get anything for Valentine's Day.

Tim looked over at me with a wry smile last night and said, "I didn't get you anything for Valentine's Day."

I looked back at him and said, "I know you didn't get me anything."

Looking taken aback he said, "What do you mean, you know?"  It must have been something in my tone that made him think I was discontented even though the two of us have not really celebrated Valentine's Day for years now.  (We do get the kids some little surprises because that's fun.)

I said to him, "You do nice things for me all the time.  I'd rather you do nice things for me every day than wait for one day a year and get me some crappy chocolates --"

"Hey, maybe that's what I should do," he joked.

So, that conversation got me thinking today, about all the things he does for me, big and little.  This is true love:

- Wiping the splatters out of the inside of the microwave;

- Taking the kids out of the house for half of a Saturday, allowing me to clean the house without interruption and have time to myself;

- Kicking his dipping habit for good, losing 25 pounds (about five years ago), and working out regularly in order to be healthier and be around for us longer, and to set a better example for the kids;

- Managing the finances and saving and investing to make sure we get a decent retirement no matter what Congress does, while still getting to enjoy nice things now;

- Rubbing my feet at night while we watch TV;

- Cooking me a delicious dinner every Saturday night after the kids go to bed;

- Washing my car;

- Making me laugh, which is what won me over in the first place

These are a few things that come to mind, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot.  I would pick any one of the items in this list over a bouquet of roses or dinner out and a movie.  I know I'm a lucky woman to be married to a man who is so good to me.

So, happy Valentine's Day, honey!  I didn't get you anything either.;)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Delaney says

On the way home from school Friday, Delaney said to me, "Today at school we made these poles that the Native Americans had.. that have people on them.."

"Totem poles?" I asked.

"Yes!" she said.  "And I put Alexa on mine but not you."

"Huh?"

"We were only allowed to put five people on them, and I really wanted to put Alexa on mine.."

"Alright, let me get this straight -- you put yourself, Daddy, Alexa,.."

"..And Timmy and Annie, and I wanted to put you on it too, but I really wanted Alexa."

"So I'm not even the 'low man on the totem pole.' I'm not even on the totem pole, but Alexa is?!"

"I know, but I really wanted her on it because she's my favorite cousin.. (blah, blah, blah)..  and we've seen each other pee."

"Well, that really forges a bond!"  Not like me giving birth to you, that's meaningless.

I'll tell you what..

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fun times

Just when I thought the stomach bugs had already made their rounds and were gone for good, we were hit with a real doozy.  When all was silent a couple nights ago, I sprang from my bed at the sound of retching.  A long night and an even longer day followed.

The stricken child had complained at bedtime about her stomach hurting, so just in case I had left a bucket by the side of her bed and told her, "It's right here if you need it."  But when she had been shaken from her slumber by the heaves, her only thought in her distress had been to come find us.  But first she got her bed pretty thoroughly.  Then her bedroom carpet.  Then she stumbled through our door and and got a good swath of our carpet too.  At that point I helped her to the toilet but by then she was just about done.

Tim immediately attempted to rinse off the bedding and then he threw it in the washer (what, Tim was home when a kid was sick?!).  Her comforter was a complete loss, but that was okay with me since I'd been looking forward to getting rid of both of those comforters anyway.  This just made it easier.  In the meantime she's got a nice old quilt of my grandma's to use.  She got sick a few more times that night and by morning seemed completely better, albeit without much of an appetite.  I kept her home from school anyway, and we spent the entire day home.  I spent most of it de-pukifying the bedrooms and doing laundry while she and Timmy happily watched TV.

The carpets were the thing that stressed me out most.  This is base housing carpet so it's already not a picnic to begin with.  It was stained and worn everywhere on the day we moved in.  Even freshly vacuumed, it looks awful.  I've never been able to clean anything out of these carpets using any method.  But I was pretty sure this was the worst thing that's ever happened to them.

I remembered an article a friend of mine had shared on Facebook a few years ago when I had been desperate for help.  I  recalled that I had had some success with these instructions on how to get vomit out of carpet, and I had pinned it on Pinterest.  So I opened it up, read it, and got to work following all the steps.  It is very entertaining reading by the way, but it has some gross (and funny) illustrations too.  Maybe don't look at it unless you really need it and at that point you've already seen worse.

At some point in the process, I read that I should "blot" or "dab" at something, and after a few futile-feeling attempts I said to myself, 'When have I ever successfully blotted or dabbed anything out of anything?'  And I know this was not advisable but at that moment I started to scrub like my life depended on it and I had nothing to lose.  Blotting is for sissies!

I am so happy to say that the barfed-on carpets are now no worse than they were before, and after vacuuming up the baking soda clumps I will be done.  Yesterday I said to the culprit, "I beg you, please don't ever come find us to tell us you are throwing up while you are still throwing up!"  Use the bucket I give you, or better yet get to a toilet, and then I will come find you, I promise, and I'll hold your hair back like a good mother should.  But please don't ever make me have to spend all morning cleaning carpets again!

Then after we picked up the other child from school that afternoon, I said to all three of them, "Now you've each had a turn and we are done!"  We'll see how well they listen to me.  They're lucky they're cute.