Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Joyful Noise: a Review

I picked up this book at the library, knowing nothing about it, but wanting poetry and appreciating the fact that it was written for 'two voices.' I thought choral reading would be a fun activity to do with the kids: one that would enable us to simultaneously enjoy the beauty of poems and the act of reading aloud together. Joyful Noise (by Paul Fleischman) did not disappoint.

The poems in Joyful Noise are all about insects. "Insects?!" you might ask incredulously. Yes, but the topic of insects is portrayed here with creative, humorous, and sometimes even poignant language and themes. For example, one poem is about moths ... and their detrimental but inevitable love affairs with lights. "Porch light, hear my plight! I drink your light like nectar/ Dream of you by day/ Gaze in your eyes all night/ Porch light!"

Another is about the digger wasp, and how the mother provides for and 'loves' her babies even though they never get to meet her. "I will never see my children, they will never gaze on me. I'll have died when they're emerging next July. So it must be. Yet, when they behold the home I'm digging now for their protection, safe and snug far underground, they'll recognize my deep affection."

The imagery in Fleischman's poetry is reason enough to read this book. But the fact that he wrote it for two voices to 'sing' together is just as good a reason! The lines are arranged in a variety of ways. Some poems use the unison lines to add emphasis and unity (as in a mated couple of book lice who love each other despite their different taste in literature); others use simultaneous lines to provide comparison (for example, a worker bee and queen bee giving opposite opinions of "a bee's life"). When reading these aloud with my 10- and 11-year-olds, I often felt like I was singing a duet with them. The language and rhythm were lyrical and clever, a joy to the ear!

I can not recommend Joyful Noise highly enough. My children, who have not been exposed to much poetry yet (to my shame), were captivated, as was I. Let me close with a few lines about the firefly: "Fireflies gleaming/ glowing/ Insect calligraphers/ practicing penmanship/ copying sentences/ Six-legged scribblers of vanishing messages, fleeting graffiti/ Fine artists in flight/ adding dabs of light/ bright brush strokes/ Signing the June nights as if they were paintings."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Change on the Horizon

Steve and the kids by the Capitol, February 2014

This month marks one year of living in our townhouse, and 2 1/2 years of living in the metro Washington, D.C. area. It's hard to believe that we've now been in D.C. longer than we've lived anywhere else since leaving Wheaton, Illinois in 2005. And hopefully we'll be here for the next 4-5 years to come. After that, all bets are off!

Life is about to change quite a bit for us, though, despite the fact that we're feeling increasingly settled in a home we own, and in a city that feels familiar and comfortable. The upcoming change is that Steve will be leaving his editorial job at Georgetown University, and becoming a full-time PhD student there instead. We got word in March that he's been accepted into a funded Theological and Religious Studies program, with a comparative focus on Islam and Christianity, and he's let his workplace know that August 1 will be his last day of full-time employment. Though this is a continuation of the path we've been on for 9 years now -- the journey that took us to Edinburgh, Oxford, and Amman -- he'll still be starting from scratch and unless he receives 'advanced standing' (which he very well might, due to his previous Master's degrees also in Islamic studies), it will be a 5-year commitment. 

Steve is thrilled to pieces about this. He's been increasingly unhappy at work, and simultaneously feeling frustrated that he's not pursuing his true calling. His ultimate goal is to teach at the university level, and for this, he needs the PhD. 

I am less than 'thrilled to pieces' about this new stage in our lives, but I'm definitely proud of Steve for his hard work and perseverance, and thankful for a funded education for him. I know there will be many benefits from it and I'm trying to focus on those instead of all my fears and worries. God has provided so faithfully for us in the past, and in our present. How can I not trust Him for our next steps?

We would love to keep homeschooling our three kids, and think that through my part-time work and Steve's stipend, we'll be able to do that. Finances will be tight, but we're already used to pinching pennies, and our situation won't be too different from what it's been the past couple years. For this, I'm especially grateful!

If you think of us, please pray for peace and unity. Pray that God will use this program to deepen and enlarge Steve's understanding, and that He will give us just the right finances to make it through the next few years of student living. We are glad we have a BIG God!
Naomi by the White House, 2 1/2 years ago