a few things at the end of spring

Yesterday, I finished grading all the essays. The chickens are pecking at the remains of dandelions across the yard, and the grass needs to be mowed again every time I turn around.   Lilac branches spill out of a silver pitcher on the dining room table, and we cooked outside this week, sipping cold whiskey-gingers.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that summer is here.  The seniors graduated and we said goodbye to our Korean and Chinese friends - goodbye for the summer, to most of them, and goodbye indefinitely for a few favorites who are going back to finish university in Korea now.
Rosie and Owen dressed up for graduation, too.

 In just seventeen days we'll be moving into our new house. In the meantime, the chickens (whose story you can read at the Renew and Sustain blog) are free-ranging in the backyard, with a portion of the storage shed cordoned off as shelter for them.

We've been very into fairy princess ballerinas around here - but the kind who dig for worms, make mud pies, climb fences, and chase chickens. (I'm a sucker for old-fashioned fairies and bought this book for Rosie and me to share.)

We are journeying into Narnia, too - Rosie and I have read the first three books, and are currently in the middle of Prince Caspian. She can't follow the stories too well, but doesn't care at all, and refuses to let me switch to Betsy-Tacy.

At Christ and Pop Culture I've been reflecting on books and television and music and theology - you can click through if you want to read -

"The Office" Ends, but Love Never Fails  (my take on the "The Office" - which had a really surprisingly great run of episodes at the end!)
Denison Witmer- Songs to Grow Up To (a new album from one of my favorite songwriters - this is on repeat at my house)
A New Wave of Complementarianism (a round-up of other people's posts)
Where'd You Go, Bernadette (a review of a really fun novel - especially for anyone who has ever lived in Seattle)
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Lesson in Community (a review of conservative columnist Rod Dreher's memoir)

Incidentally, Christ and Pop Culture has launched a new magazine for the iPad and iPhone - you can get a free trial subscription and check it out.  It's a well-designed, curated collection of perspectives on pop culture.

For a few months now, this essay's been bouncing around in my head about buying our first house and reading Alain de Botton's Architecture of Happiness.  Maybe now that it's summer I'll finally get to writing it. Or maybe I'll just go make some popsicles.

ten books that shaped me in childhood

Sarah Bessey writes some of the most beautiful blog posts on the internet, don't you think?  This week she's inviting her readers to join her in posting about 10 Books a Day, and how can I resist?  Talking about books is one of my favorite things to do, and I'll take any chance I can get to peek at other people's bookshelves.

I'm going to try to chime in every day this week.  Today I'm going to highlight one book, and then list (in no particular order) the others.

I'm starting with my favorite place to start:

10 Books That Shaped Me in Childhood

1.The Betsy-Tacy Books– Not enough people have read the Betsy-Tacy books.  I read them approximately once a year when I was growing up. No other series shaped me as much as these stories of Betsy, who grew up around the turn of the century (she graduates from high school in 1910) in a small town in Minnesota.  Like Betsy, and in large part because of her, I’m a writer, a feminist, and an Episcopalian.  Like Betsy, and because of her, I thirst for travel and adventure, and love learning about other cultures.  Like Betsy, and because of her, I like to throw caroling parties, invite tons of people over on Sunday evenings, and slouch (Betsy called it the “debutante slouch”).

(Incidentally, Nora Ephron was a great fan of Betsy-Tacy books, too.  Go re-watch You’ve Got Mail.  You’ll see.)

Originally published in the 1940s, Maud Hart Lovelace's autobiographical series starts when Betsy is five years old, and Tacy moves into the house across the street. They become best friends.  There are four books about their childhood, four books about their highschool years, and two books in which Betsy travels and gets married.

This week I’ve been re-reading Betsy and the Great World.  It’s my first reading since the advent of Google, and thus the first time I’ve been able to see the Azores Islands Betsy visits, or the print of Lenbach’s Shepherd Boy that she pins on her wall.  It’s also my first reading since I went to Europe myself.
At the age of 21, Betsy travels –with a chaperone, but mostly on her own - on an ocean liner to Europe.  She lives in Munich, Venice, and London, studying languages and culture and writing stories.  She turns 22 alone in Germany.  I was 20 when I flew to Tuscany for a semester.  When it was over I traveled, with friends, and then alone, through Europe for six weeks.  I turned 21 alone in France.

2. The Narnia Books  by C.S. Lewis. Duh.  Dad read these to us before bed, and I listened to them on audio cassette, and, well, I've probably got portions memorized.

3. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Plucky orphans, sisters, hard work, ambition. A lovely story.

4. Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  Of course I love Anne of Green Gables, but I identified even more with Emily, who was dreamy and shy where Anne was hard-headed and passionate.

5. The Oz Books - There are actually fifteen Oz books written by L. Frank Baum, and they are filled with delightful characters and worlds. We had the original hardbacks that my grandfather had bought for about a dime a piece; now you can get all fifteen for a dollar on kindle!

6. Missionary biographies - I read all kinds, but Amy Carmichael was my favorite.

7. A Wrinkle in Time - Anything by Maddy L'Engle basically makes my favorite books of all time list. She helped me think about God in new ways.

8. Nancy Drew - the original series by Carolyn Keene, written in the 1920s and 1930s.

9. Maida’s Little School by Inez Haynes Irwin.  The Maida books are sweet, and this one actually strongly shaped my philosophy of education!

10. Little Women and everything by Louisa May Alcott.  This is also free on Kindle now.

What's your favorite book from childhood?