Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Teacups, Teapots, and Tea Sets

From the time I was a little girl, I've loved tea sets: the matching cups and saucers, the fancy tea pots, the coordinating creamer and sugar.... I was destined to be a collector. I know Megan shares my sentiments exactly--that's part of what drew us together! In fact, the reason I wanted Lenox fine china was because I liked the shape of the teacups in their classic china collections.

We've both come to a disturbing realization lately--disturbing but freeing at the same time: we have too many tea pots and tea cups (gasp!). Is that possible? Unfortunately, yes, it is. Megan has been inspired to write an amazing short story that hopefully will published--one that reflects our dilemma and provides a wonderful solution. In the meantime, whilst we all wait with baited breath for the publication of said story, here's what I've come up with (giving credit where credit is due--this is all thanks to Megan's inspiration!).

My number 1 criterion for keeping various teapots and teacups:
Do I enjoy using it?

If it doesn't meet that criteria, then, no matter how attractive, how sentimental, how priceless, I need to consider getting rid of it. This has prompted some interesting reflection. For instance, I was using a teapot that I enjoyed using, but which had no value other than I simply liked the way it looked. A recent kitchen redo took away some of my storage, and I was forced to part with at least one teapot. I got rid of that very one because the others were all more sentimental in some way, and I simply decided to start using them! It's akin to using the good china instead of letting it linger unnoticed year after year. I'm sending a precious tea cup to a friend of mine who's going through a hard time. We both spent time in Scotland, so I know a teacup from Scotland will mean a lot to her. I don't enjoy actually using that teacup--I just like the way it looks and knowing its origin. Now, it's on its way to a mission much more spiritually uplifting than gracing my teacup shelf. And, oh, the pleasure of "using the good stuff"! If it gets chipped along the way, oh well--at least I'll have enjoyed its tenure in my possession.

Speaking of having "enough" teacups, I have 26 teacups (or nice china mugs) that coordinate with existing sets of china, so I'll never be short for a normal tea party. Thus, it's purely up to my enjoyment of the extras as to whether they'll "make the cut." I have teacups I've collected from different countries--the fun part is trying to figure out if I actually like drinking out of them. If not... then they're on to a new mission. This is where the freeing part comes in--if I don't enjoy actually drinking out of it, I need to find another use (small vase? coin/change holder? Goodwill box?).

I'm hopefully going to inherit a teaset from my mother. It sits on a small table at my mother's house, and I've never seen it used. It's the tea set that started me on my love affair with tea sets when I was a little girl (that and my voracious appetite for British literature). Will I use it when I get it or sit it on display? Probably both--after all, tea sets are meant to be used. Will I enjoy drinking out of those diminutive cups? You betcha! Will I be sad when and if one breaks? Of course, but I'll know that it was fulfilling its mission in life: to be filled with tea and to bring joy to someone.

On a final note: I let my kids drink out of some very sentimental tea cups I got in the Czech Republic. They're quite small and the perfect size for little hands. My daughter, especially, loves drinking out of "real" teacups. And I've been drinking out of my all-time favorite tea cup every day for the past 2 weeks.... (pictured above and purchased in London)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Reading to Your Children: Why and What

I have a close friend whose children are roughly the same ages as mine (hers are 2 and 4; mine are 3, 3, and 4). She is growing increasingly worried that she won't be able to communicate a love of reading to her sons and, if she chooses to homeschool, won't be able to teach them to read well. She was not a good reader growing up and feels rather insecure about the whole endeavor.

Communicating a love of reading to children is one of the single most important "loves" we can pass on (of course, we are also trying to communicate our love for our Savior--sometimes these two endeavors work hand in hand). So, what is a person like my friend to do?

The NUMBER 1 thing you can do to inculcate a love of reading in your children is to...


The NUMBER 1 thing you can do to help teach your children to read is to...


That's it, folks. There is no curriculum you "must" follow, no prescribed list of books you "must" read. Simply do it (see here for more info if you're in doubt). Go to the library and pick out some books (your librarians are usually quite helpful folks--after all, they wouldn't be librarians if they weren't interested in the same goal!).

Go to library story time. Read your own books when your children are watching. Listen to audiobooks in the car--even driving around town, you'll find plenty of time to listen to Winnie-the-Pooh, Mary Poppins, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Charlotte's Web, etc. See here for more ideas about reading aloud to children.

When is the best time of day to read to your children? Whenever it suits you! After breakfast, before naptime, after playing outside, before dinner, before bed... I even read to my children during lunch for a while--they were a captive audience since they were all strapped into their booster seats. Why not?

What should you read? There are better books than others, but you will learn that as you go. A good rule of thumb is to start with books you remember loving as a child. Chances are, those classics are still around:
  • Frog and Toad books
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Amelia Bedelia
  • Mother Goose
  • Charlotte's Web
If you like guides (I, as an avid bibliophile, truly enjoy perusing lists of books), then here are a few places to start:
  • Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt (Hunt also has an outstanding section on what it means to read as a Christian, why books are important, and so forth.)
  • Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson (one of the strengths of this book is its many nonfiction lists/recommendations for children)
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (full of great read aloud info and resources)
  • Choosing Books for Children: A Commonsense Guide by Betsy Hearne
  • Lists online help with identifying recent "greats" (search big libraries' websites, like the New York Public Library, and other sites such as the ALA website, 2009 Notable Books--ALA, 2010 Notable Books--ALA, School Library Journal, Hedgehog Books, and others)*
*It's especially important to remember that not all people who make lists of noteworthy children's books have the same priorities when it comes to values, choices, and similar issues. Read the lists with a discerning eye; skim books before checking them out from a library.

Happy Reading! Make good use of the summer ahead!!