Saturday, December 8, 2012

New picture books by Jane Yolen feature friendly dragons

Review of Waking Dragons by Jane Yolen, Paintings by Derek Anderson, 2012, Simon and Schuster.

“Don’t forget to wake the dragons before school,” says a note from Mom.  A little boy, dressed as a knight, enters a room/cave with his dog.  They climb a ladder to a giant bed, and proceed to wake the dragons.  The dragons are both friendly and sleepy, gradually becoming lively; they appropriately tumble the boy and his dog as they rise from their slumber. 

Derek Anderson’s colorful paintings will appeal to youngsters and parents alike.  With humorous illustrations, the boy is shown brushing a dragon’s teeth, feeding them breakfast, and getting them dressed.  The dragons kiss their mom goodbye and fly, carrying the boy to “Knight School”, where he says goodbye and they fly away.  The paintings are accompanied by Jane Yolen’s short, rhyming lines that use active words to keep children engaged.

This is a clever and creative book from a master storyteller who never ceases to amaze us, well matched by beautiful paintings that will keep children absorbed and encourage them to use their imagination.  The intended reading audience is children 4 to 8.  I read this picture book with my six year old and we agreed it will make a nice gift for her three-year-old cousin. For more information visit Simon and Schuster.

For the 3 and under set, just in time for the Holiday season are Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? And How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?, new titles in Jane Yolen’s bestselling How Do Dinosaurs series illustrated by Mark Teague and published by Blue Sky Press/Scholastic.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pediatrician publishes board books for young children to encourage active exploration

Are you searching for the perfect board book to give to an infant or toddler? Beach, by Dr. John Hutton and illustrated by Andrea Kang, might fit the bill.  Winner of a Mom's Choice Gold Medal and Creative Child Book of the Year, Beach is the latest addition to the Baby Unplugged series published by Blue Manatee Press.  The purpose of the series is to encourage hands-on early learning and play through books.  The series titles to date include Ball, Beach, Blanket, Book, Box, Pets, and Yard.

Beach features Kang’s happy, brightly colored pictures that show children and animals playing, sharing, laughing, making music, and sleeping.  The objects they play with include sand, shells, balls, animals, snorkels, buckets, water, and a wagon.  They explore the sand and water.  They examine and observe shells, lobsters, fish, dolphins, and turtles. Scenic backgrounds include the boardwalk, sand, and water at the beach, with a happy sun in the sky.  The simple, rhyming text describes the dry and wet sand, shells of many shapes and sizes, salty ocean, swaying palm trees, and hatching turtles.

Beach and the other books in the Baby Unplugged series use happy images and simple, rhyming text to encourage children to explore the real world using all of their senses.  The concept is rooted in research on how children’s brains develop.  “It’s incredible that we have to remind people to reconnect with the real world . . . real-world experiences are critical during sensitive developmental stages.” says Hutton, who is opposed to the overuse of television and technological games for children.

On Dr. Hutton’s blog, Baby Unplugged (, he makes the points that the best gifts are those that follow the Photo Principle – they inspire the taking of photographs – and the Memory Principle – they build memories.  The giving of books with real pages that youngsters can handle and look at, and share with their loved ones, is a great tradition for Christmas, birthdays, and other gift giving occasions.

I read this book with my six-year-old.  We live on Long Island and love to frequent the ocean beaches here.  We enjoyed the book, and we agreed it will make the perfect gift for her baby cousin, who lives in the center of the continental United States and does not get to see the beach often.

For more information or to order visit the Blue Manatee Books website at

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving... or Black Thursday?

I always hated Black Friday.  When my kids were young, the thought of taking them into the crowded stores just to get a good sale never appealed to me.  I always made a point to stay home all day that day, baking and doing crafts with the kids.  Sometimes we would host team sleepovers.

The last few years have seen an appalling development.  The hours got so early into the morning that some stores were opening at midnight.  This meant that many store employees would have to leave their family dinners early to prepare for the midnight opening.  I started to call it Black Thursday.

This year, several major retailers are opening at 10 PM Thursday night, and some even at 8 PM.  This means that Thanksgiving is now ruined not only for employees, but for the families whose gatherings will end early because someone wants to go stand in line to get a good sale.  “Sorry Mom, I just have to get to this sale.  I promise to get you a really nice designer pocketbook.  Love you, bye.”

The only way for this madness to stop is if the people don’t go to these sales.  Even if a small percentage stands up for their beliefs with their actions and this does not impact the stores, what parents decide to do will make an impression on their children.  Do we place a higher value on family and special traditions, or do we value material things more?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:21

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mark Francis Gerold

I have had creative writers’ block for months.  My Dad passed away this summer, and I thought my next post should be about my Dad, but then I just couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write about him.  How could I do justice to a lifetime of a complex man in an essay?  I am coming back now to review the notes I wrote for the Pastor who delivered his Eulogy.  I still can’t do much better than this, but I am afraid my perfectionistic tendencies will lead to its never being done.

Dad always was up for a challenge, and he always set our sights high.  He seemed to know exactly how much he could push us to do our best.  He used to take me for bike rides when I was little.  He’d get out ahead of me and go around the next corner, and I’d have to go faster to catch up, but he was always there. On one of these bike rides I said to him, “I love you Dad” and he said, “Yeah but do you like me too?” I said “of course!” Then he said “Well when kids get a little older a lot of the time they don’t like their parents.” I said, “Of course I will always like you!”  And I did. 

Dad was always one of my best friends. As I grew up I knew I could talk to him about anything.  He involved me in all of his projects around the house, and when I had my own house I would feel like he was there with me as I painted and fixed things. When I became an adult, I would have great, lengthy conversations about all kinds of topics.  Sometimes we would have arguments, but we always respected each other, and I really treasured our relationship.

Dad also taught us to be prepared for whatever life threw at us.  He would say to have a plan A, plan B, plan C, and so on, so that we could plan for any contingencies.  If we had inter-personal conflicts at school or work he would do role-playing with us to help us to stand up for ourselves.  He taught us how to play chess, checkers, and backgammon, and never just “let” us win; he taught us the right moves so that we could eventually beat him on our own.  This all taught us to be self-reliant and productive adults.  He always said to us, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

Dad was a great role model.  He taught us by example.  Dad read his Bible every night. He kept it next to bed. His faith was solid and set such a great example for us.  Dad also taught us how to take great care of our bodies, “temples of the Holy Spirit”, by exercising, eating healthy foods, and getting a good night’s sleep.  He taught us how to manage our money, and set priorities.  He didn’t believe on spending money on status items.  He said the only things worth investing money in are land, an education, and good experiences.

He also taught us not to procrastinate.  On his desk was a plaque that said “DO IT NOW'.  This was short for:  “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”.

Other notes:

What he did for a living – builder and sales engineer – he and his brother started Gerold Brothers Home Improvement as teenagers, and in his 30s he sold large cooling systems in Manhattan.

How he grew up – in Bethpage Long Island with his 3 siblings

What his hobbies were – swimming, biking, board games.

What made him laugh – talking about what mischief he caused as a kid or what mischief his own kids got into

What music did he listen to – Beach Boys, Rocky Soundtrack.  

I think about Dad when I am doing things that we used to do together.  Swimming, going to the beach, staining the deck, doing any kind of home improvements, playing board games, reading the Bible.  Sometimes I feel his approval when making a decision that upholds the ethics he taught me.  Spending time with family, going to church, saving money, or spending it on worthwhile things and experiences.  Making sure my kids do well in school so they are on track to go to college.  Making sure they have the opportunity to do what it is they excel at.

Dad was 60 years old when he passed away, due to complications from Multiple Sclerosis.   He died the same day as my Grandfather, John S. Nagy.  I know that he is in Heaven now, in the company of my grandfather and other loved ones, free of pain.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Longwood Youth Mourn Dominic Trionfo

Last week the whole Longwood community was in mourning for the loss of fourteen-year-old Dominic Trionfo, of Middle Island, New York.  After getting his license to operate a jet ski, he was taking out his grandfather’s jet ski for the very first time in Peconic Bay.  Tragically, he came to close to the anchor chain in front of his grandfather’s boat and died in front of his family.  Dominic was well-loved at Longwood High School and it was his first year working as an umpire for Longwood Little League / Longwood Youth Sports Association. 

Parents and youth alike struggled with dealing with the death of one so young.  Grieving counselors were available at Longwood High School all week and moments of silence were held in his honor at the Academic Achievement Award night and other school events.  At Longwood Little League, moments of silence were held at ball games.  At the wake, umpires came dressed in their uniforms to show their respect.

A letter from Ron Webber, Director of Umpires, describes how one game in particular was held in honor of Dominic:

“This past week at our major baseball field was to be Dominic's first major baseball game along with his best friend John Hernandez, as these two young umpires have worked hard to move to this rank. As a tribute to Dominic, I worked the plate and John the bases, and we used special baseballs with Dominic's name on them. After the first pitch I removed the ball and presented it to Dominic's best friend John Hernandez. Everyone in attendance clapped for this gesture. That was a show of support and unity. The game was played as if the coaches and players were playing in a professional game and the game was one of the best of the season. I could not thank the coaches, players, and parents enough for their professionalism at this game. Not only was it an honor to remember Dominic at this game, but word got back to his family and they came down to watch and thank us for what we were doing. I had the honor to present Dominic's family with a game ball. I cannot thank all of you enough for what that game meant not only to me but to the many who knew him.”

It was eerie passing the news truck every day as I picked up my daughter from the high school.  They were there interviewing the students, teachers, and passers-by about how they felt about Dominic’s untimely death.  Mothers spent their days crying, even if they did not know him.  Maybe they overlooked a few fresh remarks or looks, because they were that much more thankful to have their children alive.  Maybe they stopped complaining about their busy sports schedules because they realized that at least their children were alive and healthy enough to participate.  Men were just as emotional, but they expressed it in thoughtful gestures, such as Ron’s tribute during the baseball game.  Those who had the money contributed to scholarship funds and family fundraisers.

Every time there is another end of the year activity I think, would Dominic have received an award tonight? Would he have been asked to the junior prom? Would he have umpired this year’s Little League All Star Game?  As I see a boat being transported on the highway I wonder if Dominic’s family will ever take the boat out on the water again.

There is no wrapping your head around the loss of a young person…no matter the cause.  All people can do is support the family, and come together as a community, as people did after Dominic’s death.  Give your kids an extra hug tonight and say a prayer for someone who wishes they could.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Hunger Games: A Side-by-Side Review of the Book and the Movie

(I am going to try to do this without spoiling anything for those who have not read the book or seen the movie! I will not reveal the end!)

A Prelude..

I delayed seeing this movie as long as possible. When it first came out, I found the very idea of kids watching kids kill each other repulsive.  However, I read a few reviews that said the book had some excellent political overtones, and that the book was food for thought.  So I put the book on reserve at the library.

First I read the book and found it to be a very good read, with no objectionable content for my teenage daughters. The book, the first in a trilogy, is itself divided into three parts.  Part I , “The Tributes”, gives the history of 16-year-old Katniss, her family, town, and the games in general; Gale, her best friend, an older boy with whom she has hunted for years; and Peeta, the bakers’ son, who will be selected as the other tribute.  Part II, “The Games”, is the suspenseful story of the games.   Part III, “The Victor”, contains the climax and conclusion.

I passed the book along to my 14-year-old, who stayed up all night reading it and begged me to take her to the movie, which was still playing in some local theatres. I figured the movie would be comparable to one of the classic science fiction movies my husband and I have enjoyed, such as “Logan’s Run”.   I asked my 13-year-old to read Part I as a requirement to go. I felt that Part I gave enough background for her to understand where the main characters were coming from and the political purposes of the games.  Part II and III were largely composed of action which would be played out in the movie; she could catch up on Katniss’ thoughts later if she wished.

Briefly, the background story from Part I is…

Basically, America has been transformed into 12 districts, ruled by the Capitol.  There had been an uprising, which was squelched by the Capitol, followed by a period of peace.  To keep all the districts in their place and remind them never to try to revel again, every year each district must send 2 tributes, a boy and a girl ages 12 to 18 to fight to the death. The children are selected via a Reaping.  One victor emerges, bringing showers of gifts and wealth to the family and district.

Katniss is from District 12, which is very poor. She and Gale hunt outside the district borders, which is illegal, but they are not punished because the town officials like to buy their meat and fruit on the black market.  They dream of running away, knowing they can fend for themselves, but know they cannot because their families depend upon them for survival.  Katniss’ mother was mentally incapacitated when her father died, and she has been taking care of her 12-year-old sister Primrose for years. 

The unfairness of poverty is shown by how it related to the odds of being selected.  For extra food for the family, an eligible adolescent can put his or her name into the drawing more than once; Katniss and Gale often have had to do this. Gale’s name is in the drawing 42 times this year.  Primrose, whose name was only in once, is chosen, and Katniss volunteers in her place.  Peeta is the boy who is chosen.

Peeta has been in love with Katniss since they were children – but she does not know this until much later.  She knows that once when she was very young and her family was starving he threw her a loaf of bread; she never forgot this and felt indebted to him.  She doesn’t know his true feelings for her and distrusts him, knowing they may have to kill each other in the end.

My thoughts…

I was not disappointed by the movie.  I was glad I had read it in advance, partly because I knew what Katniss was thinking from the book, and her thoughts were not narrated in the movie, but also because I knew when to avert my eyes, because I knew when the deaths and injuries would occur.  My daughters laughed at me, watching the scenes wide-eyed.  Watching sideways, I could see not too much was shown.  (“No gratuitous violence”, one review had promised.) 

I was disappointed, however, that the movie changed the origin of the Mockingjay pin.  In the movie, Katniss finds it on the black market.  In the book, it was given to her as a gift from the mayor’s daughter, a rich girl with little chance of being selected as tribute.  The Mockingjay, an accidental mutation left over from experiments done by the government, was significant as a symbol of the government’s totalitarianism.

The movie added in outside perspectives that I had wondered about during the book, but which could not be revealed as Katniss was narrating from her singular point of view.  Katniss’ mother and sister were shown watching her on-screen. So was Gale, as she feigned romantic feelings for Peeta and kissed him in the cave.  Haymitch, their mentor, was shown talking it up with the sponsors to get the much-needed gifts of medicine sent to them, and even persuading the game makers that they should allow Katniss and Peeta to continue on because the audience would love the romantic angle.

A poignant scene in the book was the death of Rue, the 12-year-old girl from District 11 who reminds Katniss of her little sister.  The two girls had temporarily teamed up, and Katniss found Rue trapped in a net. She didn’t get to her on time; she was pierced by a spear.  In the book, Katniss shoots Rue’s killer partly out of revenge, partly out of self defense, and later realizes that was her first intentional kill.  In the movie, she gets Rue out of the net and then sees her attacker; she shoots defending Rue, but the spear still pierces Rue.  She holds Rue in her arms as she dies, singing her a lullaby she remembers her father singing.

In the book it had also been revealed that she did not like to sing, because it reminded her of her father, who used to sing to the mockingjays, and who had died in a mining accident.  Gale’s father had died in the same accident.  The movie had opened with her singing this same lullaby to her little sister, which was lovely for the effect of her later singing to Rue as if it was her little sister, but this really would not have happened because she did not like to sing.  She does it for Rue, however, because she is the first real human contact she has had since the games began.

In the book, Katniss remembers what Peeta had said about hoping he could do something that made a difference in how people thought about the games.  She weaves flowers around Rue’s hair, knowing that they will have to show this on television.  She honors the girl, and for this she is thanked doubly by District 11: first, by sending her a piece of bread shaped in the symbol of their district, and second, by the boy from District 11 later sparing her life in appreciation.

In the movie, Katniss is shown picking the flowers and placing them around Rue. Then she puts up a hand sign, one that had been shown by her people after she volunteered as tribute, rather than giving the expected applause.  It seems to be a sign of solemn respect, one that recognizes that something is wrong with the way things are being done here.  The movie cuts away to a scene of the people of District 11 watching her, giving the sign back, and then starting an open rebellion.  This (I believe) is the foreshadowing of what will happen in the next installment.  General Snow is pondering what to do with her, and this is when Haymitch pulls strings to persuade him to let her live.

In conclusion…

I won’t go into how the others died. It comes down to Katniss and Peeta in the end. I also won’t reveal what happens here, but there is emotional deception which is necessary for survival, and the way it ends is not quite satisfactory to the Game Makers.  Katniss is warned that they will have it in for her.  There is much to look forward to in the next installment, “Catching Fire”, which I am going to put on reserve next.

Just a bit about the name “Catching Fire”. Katniss’ stylist, wanting to ensure she is never forgotten, designs outfits for her and Peeta that spurt out fire. He says he wants everyone to remember Katniss as “the girl who was on fire”.  During the games, when Katniss has run far toward the edge of the arena, the game makers send fire balls to chase her back near the others.  I can see “Catching Fire” as a book about rebellion she has incited, as well as her being pursued by the government.

I do think this book and the movie, seen together with your teen, can be an excellent starting point for conversations about poverty, government, and respect for life.  I would advise reading it ahead of time so you know exactly what to expect. Only you know if your child is ready for it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mothering through all the Seasons

This spring has been a bit anti-climactic for those of us living on Long Island.  The magic of the season, with its newly discovered green, has been lost.  Bulbs have been poking through the ground since November.  What a contrast this is from last winter, when we had so much snow we thought we would never see a green field again!

I reflected on my feelings about spring – which is my favorite although I am severely allergic to it – in relation to parenthood.  I think pregnancy is most like winter, when everything is dormant but still harboring nutrients and warmth.

The birth is your own individual spring, a new beginning for your own life, marriage, and family, as well as for your newborn.  It is a busy stage, and one that older and wiser mothers will tell you to treasure while it lasts.
Then comes summer, toddlerhood and the pre-school years, as your baby learns to walk and talk.  Your child’s personality is emerging and he or she is starting to become independent.

The elementary school years are a little like autumn.  Your child’s talents and uniqueness are like all the colors of the changing leaves.  Your child knows how to do a great deal on his or her own.  Like your garden, you have done the work and can just sit back and watch.  It is a pleasant time, with little storminess for most, and you can coast through fairly easily.

Now that I have an almost-fifteen-year-old, I feel like I have been through most of the earlier stages.  Just on the cusp of the stage here, I can see adolescence may sometimes seem like a whirlwind through all the seasons at once.

But mostly I see it as a long winter.  So many things are going on beneath the surface.  Childishness has gone the way of autumn.  Many of the things you say appear not to take hold, but they are still there, like the protective mulch you put around your evergreens.  You think it will never end.

But then – one day it is over and this is the new spring, when your child has blossomed into a full adult.  You can admire what he or she has become.  Maybe you can embrace each other now as friends…maybe this will take more time, until he or she becomes a parent and can appreciate the cycle that has come full circle.

Just as nature needs to cycle through all its stages, so do our children.  Whatever stage your child is in, be sure to appreciate it.  Take time to reflect on how his or her stage has changed you as a person.  Pray that you can be the best parent possible to help your child to reach his or her highest potential.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

On the Grocery Line

The Middle Island King Kullen has recently removed two traditional cashier posts for the installation of two self-help checkouts. I never use them – I have too many groceries – and I rarely see anyone else using them either. I typically shop during the weekday, when most of the other customers consist of elderly women who can’t be bothered learning the new technology either. Anyone who buys a great deal of produce will find these stations a real nuisance, because then you have to find the appropriate codes for all your fruits and vegetables. It seems the checkout stations were installed without first checking for the demand in our area.

The management seems to have made the decision that these stations removed the need for two cashiers – which makes my long-age problem even worse. The problem is that I typically arrive on line with my cart overloaded with groceries – and I use the shelf underneath, as well. There are one express checkout and one or two regular lines. I approach this area with caution – seeing who the cashier is, how many on the line, how many approaching the line, as well as how many goods the approaching customers have.

I avoid the line with the nosy woman cashier – the one who always comments on how much stuff I have; when she last saw me in there; and how my husband was in there for apples, milk, and his favorite cereal again this morning; and why doesn’t he pick up more stuff while he’s in there? There is a very nice woman who is working at the Express checkout. She also has 4 children, and she knows my problem. She sees me coming…

As I approach the line, several elderly women stare at me, taking in the amount of groceries I have. Most of them only have a small hand-held basket with select goods. I make sure none of them are looking for a line before I take my position.

I get behind a man who has a small amount of groceries. He appears to be quite conscientious, from the brown cage-free eggs to the way he quickly turns his head away from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition and other magazine covers flaunting scantily-suited women. The young man serving us is always very courteous.

Now a few little old women are looking for a line. “She has too much stuff!” one says loudly, but good-naturedly before getting on the express line. Her eyes then move to the bottom of my cart, and they seem to bulge as she realizes I have even more stuff down there.

A little old woman gets behind me. “I guess I have too many things to get on the Express Checkout,” she says with a sigh. I look and take a quick count – maybe she has around 15 items.

“I have 4 kids,” I explain to all the elderly women who are openly staring at me. I am more amused than embarrassed. The man in front of me turns, also amused, but in a polite way.

“Mine are all grown,” the woman behind me says, “but I have 5 little grandchildren now, so sometimes I have to shop for them.”

I see the clock and figure I have an hour before the school bus comes. I make sure nobody else is approaching the line before I make my offer, “I’m not in a hurry, if you want to go ahead of me.”

“No, that’s okay, I’m not in a rush either,” she says.

That’s when my favorite cashier, the one with the 4 kids, comes to my rescue.

“I’ll take the next customer over here,” she invites toward the Express line.

The woman behind me motions for me to go and I say, “No, please, you go,” which she happily does.

Now the pressure is off….only to build again.

It’s my turn to load my groceries onto the belt. I start with the heaviest things first, from the bottom of my cart, and I am almost breathless as I try to do this as fast as possible. I see the line building behind me.

Then the medium-weight stuff…oh dear, they are all staring at me. I wonder if I will remember the pin number for my husband’s debit card.

Finally, the bananas, eggs, and bread. Oh gosh, this has never happened before. I hope I will remember it when I get to the pin-entry pad.

All my stuff is loaded onto the cart now, and I run to the end to bag as quickly as possible. The cashier tells me the amount due, I swipe my card, and … draw a blank. I have the house alarm pin number stuck in my head, and put in a derivation of that.

“I’m sorry,” I apologize to everybody.

I get my husband on the phone…thank God he picked up! “What‘s your pin number?” I ask.

He tells me. Later, he would say from the tone of my voice he had thought someone had died.

It’s in…I’m done. More stares as I walk out of the door, bags precariously balanced on top of one another. I manage to get to my car without dropping anything.

I open the trunk…oh goodness, the girls left their softball gear in their again!

An elderly man passes my car as I am loading up the trunk.

“Now you get to put it all away,” he says with a smile.

Monday, January 30, 2012

How to do nothing for 31 Days

While individuals vary in their levels of ambition, I am pretty certain that most mothers are unaware of the overambitious manner in which they approach their normal day. Wake up, get the kids off to school (or set on their homeschooling curriculum), and survey the house. Set to work on the part that needs the most tending to, while reviewing the day’s calendar in your head and mentally tackling the first chore on your to-do list for the day. Delegate to tomorrow’s – or next week’s – to-do list that pile of papers sitting on your desk, unless there is something in there with a looming deadline.

My New Year’s Resolution this year was very different from my normal list of ten areas in which I can improve. I decided I needed to “reclaim my time”. I had to limit how much of my valuable time I gave away outside the home, so that I had something left over to give to my family. There is nothing really pressing to do once Christmas is over, so why not give myself a period of rest during the month of January? So I set about to do as little as possible for 31 days.

My husband is permanently like-minded, seeing the home as his haven for rest after his long work day. If he is home, he is most likely on the couch. I joined him on New Year’s Day, resting and napping and watching television with the children. In the middle, I made homemade pizzas and cookies with the kids. Then we went back to resting. That was a great start to the year.

I had also given myself a week off from taking writing assignments in between Christmas and New Year’s so that I could be fully present to the kids. So when they started school, I started working again. But I restrained myself in bidding on work, so that I would not be overwhelmed with overlapping deadlines, nor would I have to work past the time the kids got home from school.

This strategy worked out great. I was able to go through my days at a normal pace, get my work done plus the basic housework, and be sitting in the window with newspaper in hand by the time the school bus arrived. I could be completely present to the children, helping with homework, and making dinner while they worked in the next room. I left some chores for them to help with, such as carrying the laundry downstairs and setting the table. My two younger children had a re-awakened interest in playing the piano, so I pulled out my beginner’s book (which is 30 years old) and started from Middle C.

Over the Christmas vacation the DVD player had ceased reading disks, but the VCR still worked. So we reorganized all our old VHS cassettes and reacquainted ourselves with some really good old children’s movies. Some of the original Walt Disney movies, such as Dumbo, my littlest one had never seen. She would pick one out and we would cuddle up on the couch for two hours.

During high school testing week, my teenage daughter accompanied me to the Catholic school to help me in my volunteer hour overseeing the kindergarten lunch period. Afterwards, we stopped at our favorite Chinese restaurant. We were great friends for a couple of hours – until I reminded her she needed to clean her room. I also got to go to one of her track meets.

After each day, I was completely happy with how I had chosen to spend my time that day. At the end of this month, I am feeling rested and ready to prepare for tackling my busy spring season. My family is happy and secure. Can the job of Mommy be done while doing next-to-nothing? I think my month-long experiment has proven that it can be.

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10