Thursday, October 1, 2009

September reading list

Books for September: some great, some only okay. I only have one more book left in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, and I am dreading it being over - it is one where I feel like I really know the characters.

I think I am going to make my 100 for the year....3 months left, and only need 27 more books, and I'll finish one today.

65. Justice Hall – 4.5 – Laurie R. King – the continuing adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his wife and partner in detective work, Mary Russell. This time they are trying to solve the mystery surrounding the death of the heir to a British dukedom in the aftermath of WWI. Always good.

66. Royal Flush – 4 – Rhys Bowen – 3rd book in the Her Royal Spyness series. Lady Georgiana is 34th in line for the British throne in the early 1930s. She comes from a noble but impoverished family. Toss in a cast of eccentric characters, some upper-crust British clichés, that American woman Mrs. Wallis Simpson and a dead body or two and you get a fun, easy murder mystery. Very enjoyable series.

67. The Secret Life of Becky Miller – 4.5 – Sharon Hinck – a few clichés stopped this from being a complete 5 – Becky Miller is a young mother of 3 who is trying (way too hard) to do Big Things For God. Should be required reading for all mothers of young children who find themselves on 18 bazillion committees at church.

68. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – 2 - ? – junior novelization of the movie – whatever would we do WITHOUT Scholastic Books? It is good to read the books that movies came from, but books written AFTER the movie – not so good. Bedtime read aloud for the boys – it was Tony’s turn to pick. I finished it, and it took about 3 weeks, so I am counting it!

69. The Power of a Positive Mom – 3.5 Karol Ladd – pretty good, Christian book, just basic uplifting Mom stuff

70. The Game – 4.5- Laurie R. King – continuing adventures of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes – this time in India, rescuing Kimball O’Hara (a grown-up Kim of Rudyard Kipling fame) – leaves a few loose ends.

71. The Locked Room – 4.5- Laurie R. King – ties up the loose ends for Russell and Holmes from the previous book

72. Run For Your Life – 3.5- Betty Swynford – read aloud to older boys – story of a German boy whose family hid Jews in the early days of WWII and the Jewish boy whose family was hidden – they are captured by the Nazis and it is the story of how the two boys escaped. Pretty good, the boys really enjoyed it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009



There are Maid Rite shops in Iowa (where Nevin is from) and he says these taste like them. The shops serve the meat on sliced bread – I use buns. These are the “loose meat” sandwiches Roseanne and her sister Jackie sold (remember the Roseanne show??)

1 ½ lb ground beef
½ med onion, diced fine
1 can chicken broth ( I cannot remember the size – I use the Swansons, I think it is about 15 oz)
Brown meat in large skillet. Add in chopped onions and broth. Cook until broth is absorbed. Serve on buns (like a sloppy joe) with pickles, ketchup, mustard.

I think they taste a little like White Castles

You can also use chicken boullion cubes made into broth, but the canned stuff tastes better - probably the liberal additions of salt and artificial chicken flavoring! Artificial chickens must be tasty!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Apple Orchard Bars

These are very good, and very easy - I got the recipe from a Hannah Swenson mystery by JoAnn Fluke - I don't know which one, one of the earlier ones. The first in the series is Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder - good, fun, light mysteries with lots of recipes!

Anita and Erin really liked these, and Nevin and Ben gave them a thumbs up, too!

Apple Orchard Bars

Preheat oven to 375

1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
2 beaten eggs
1 cup peeled and chopped apples (I used two med. Granny Smith, and it was closer and 1 1/2-3/4 cup)
1/2 cup rolled oats (oatmeal, but not instant!)
2 cups flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Melt butter, add the sugars and stir. Add baking soda, salt, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon and beaten eggs. Mix well. Add chopped apple, oats and 1 1/2 cup coconut (reserve 1/2 cup for topping). Add the flour and mix thoroughly.

Grease a 9x13 cake pan. Spoon the dough in and smooth with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup coconut evenly on top.

Bake 375 for 25-30 minutes, or until slightly browned on top.

Let cool and cut into bars like brownies.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Reading Logs for July and August

I did not realize that I had not posted anything for July!


55. Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea – Nancy Atherton – 3 – Lori, Bill and their children receive death threats and Lori and the boys are hidden away in a Scottish castle. Where there is a mystery to solve. I didn’t like the end, I would have liked there to be some actual clues leading up to who the stalker was. But it was okay. Once again, she did not throw herself at the handsome man, perhaps Lori is growing up.

56. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice – Laurie R. King – 5 – imagine a 15 year old girl at the beginning of WWI, who meets up with the real Sherlock Holmes. This is the first book in a series about the partnership between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes. Excellent, excellent book. Mary reminds me of an older Flavia de Luce (Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie, from last month).

57. The Monstrous Regiment of Women – Laurie R. King – 4.75 – 2nd in the series, not quite as good as the first, but just barely.

58. A Letter of Mary – 4.5 – Laurie R. King – not quite as good as the first two. Holmes and Russell solve the murder of an archeologist friend.

59. Shanghai Girls – 3.5 – Lisa See – nowhere near as good as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Spoiler – the end is a cliffhanger, so there is a sequel. I hate that when I’m not expecting it! A quick read, and interesting, but I never could connect with the characters.

60. Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours – 5 – Kevin Leman – a re-read, but it’s been a few years, and I desperately needed it. He uses reality discipline, as in, let the natural consequences be the discipline. When I remember it (as opposed to yelling) it works really well. I like this book because it TELLS you what to do with the screaming 3 year old in Wal-Mart, it is not just theory.

61. The Moor – 4.25 – Laurie R. King – the 4th Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes adventure. A very good book, not as good as the first two.

62. Prairie Tale – 2 – Melissa Gilbert – I upped it from a 1 to a 2 because at least it was fast-paced. The first part of her childhood and early years on Little House was interesting, but the rest was sludge. Basically, after she had sex once, then she had sex with lots of different men, some more famous than others – all very matter-of-fact (with no remorse shown, ever) and she names names, talks about her drug use (again, no remorse) and her alcoholism (only remorse – that it made her a bad mother). Lots of self-righteousness, lots of “therapy talk”. It definitely was not what I was expecting. It was like a really long story from Star or The Enquirer. The writing was not quite up to People. Definitely needed a good editor. I read it because I am a fan of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder – except, now, this book. Melissa is not fit to wear Laura’s hoopskirts, even in a Lifetime made-for-tv movie.

63. Writings to Young Women from Laura Ingalls Wilder Volume 1 “On Wisdom and Virtue” – 4.5 - edited by Stephen W. Hines. Collected writings from some of Laura’s newspaper columns. I am always inspired by her simple good sense.

64. O Jerusalem – 4.25 – Laurie R. King – Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell. This one takes place chronogically during the first book, and puts some pieces in place for books 2-4.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reading Log for June, 2009

I didn't read much in June, and have not finished ONE book yet in July. I keep starting things and putting them down, or reading magazines, and I've been falling asleep as soon as I sit down to read in the evening. Something has got to change around here......probably the amount of time I spend on the computer!

49. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University – 4.5 – Roose – excellent book. A journalism student from a liberal family enrolls at Liberty University for a semester to learn how Evangelical students tick, and about that culture. I thought it was written very objectively and respectfully – not a hatchet job on Jerry Falwell

50. Celebutards: The Hollywood Hacks, Limosine Liberals, and Pandering Politicians Who Are Destroying America – 3 – Andrea Peyser – entertaining, but more of the same, a series of short chapters on different celebrities (Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon, et al) and their moronic behavior.

51. The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley – 4.5 – fun mystery, set in 1950’s England. Flavia de Luce is 11 years old, and loves chemistry – particularily poisons. When she finds an almost-dead body on her family’s estate, and her father is charged with the murder she sets out to solve the crime. Flavia is an incredible hero – smart, sarcastic, resourceful. Looking forward to the next in the series.

52. Young, Restless and Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists – 4.5 – Collin Hansen – very interesting. From the back, “Collin Hansen invites us on a voyage of discovery, learning how our restless youth are discovering anew the great doctrines of the Christian faith. Weary of churches that seek to entertain rather than teach, longing after the true meat of the Word, these young people are pursing doctrine. Discover how God is moving among the young, the restless and the Reformed.” He interviewed people such as Josh Harris (I Kissed Dating Good-bye, son of Chris Harris and older brother of Brett and Alex (The Rebelution)); John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Al Mohler and R.C. Sproul. I found it particularily interesting as the SBC currently has a movement within it (led by people like Al Mohler) to return it to its’ original Reformed heritage. The book does go into some brief explanation of doctrine, but its’ main focus is on the movement of young people.

53. Aunt Dimity and the Next of Kin – 3.5 – Nancy Atherton - one of the better ones in the “cozy” Aunt Dimity mysteries. Lori doesn’t fall all over the attractive man for a change!

54. The Borrowers – 3 – Mary Norton – classic story of the little people who live inside the house and survive by borrowing from the humans. Bedtime read aloud with the boys.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Reading Log for May......

36. Aunt Dimity: Snowbound – 3 – Nancy Atherton – I’m starting to get tired of Lori Shepherd. This just was not a fun mystery at all

37. Calico Bush – 4 – Rachel Fields – I had this for a read-aloud, but I knew the boys would not like it. I think I was right – they would have hated it. But I really liked it. Didn’t end the way I wanted it to but still a good story.

38. The Duggars: 20 And Counting – 4.5 – Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar – I really enjoyed this book, much more than I expected. It really went into their history, how they met, and starting their family, what their life is like, daily routines, child-rearing and homeschooling activities, etc. I had a whole new appreciation of them when I finished.

39. Daniel Boone: Frontiersman – 3 – Geoff and Janet Benges – from the Heroes of History series. Read aloud with the older boys to tie in with our history studies. So far we are finding that we like the missionary biographies better.

40. Johnny Tremain – 5 – Esther Forbes – history read aloud. This was one of my favorite books as a child.

41. Tea Time For The Traditionally Built – 4.5 – Alexander McCall Smith – the next installment in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. One of the better ones.

42. In Praise of Stay-At-Home-Moms – 3 – Dr. Laura Schlessinger – it was interesting, but I’ve read so much of this sort of thing before that there was nothing new. It would definitely be encouraging to new moms or someone considering being a SAHM. It reminded me of a secular “Created to Be His Helpmeet” (Debi Pearl).

43. Losing Mum and Pup – 4.5 – Christopher Buckley – a memoir of the year in which his mother Patricia Buckley and father William F. Buckley both passed away. Probably only interesting if you are a Buckley enthusiast.

44. Babe The Gallant Pig – 4 – what a sweet book! The movie did not do it justice. This was a bedtime read aloud with the boys.

45. Jim and Casper Go to Church – 4 – Jim Henderson and Matt Casper – interesting premise – a retired pastor hires an atheist to spend a year with him, visiting different types of Protestant churches around the country, and getting his “outsider” viewpoint on them.

46. Barbie and Ruth: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Doll and the Woman Who Created her – 3.5 – Robin Gerber – written very matter-of-factly, could have been more exciting. Definitely no “novelization” to it, but still an interesting history, if you really care about Barbie.

47. A Comrade Lost and Found: A Bejing Story – 2 – Jan Wong – in the 1970’s Wong was an ethnic Chinese Candadian, studying in Bejing. She was an ardent Maoist, and when approached by a Chinese student wanting to emigrate to Canada, she ratted her out to the Communist Party. This is her search for her 30+ years later. Mainly it is the story of the city of Bejing. This took me over a week, and I ended up skimming the last ¼ or so. Not fascinating, hard to follow, really hard to care. I guess I was expecting more Red Scarf Girl.

48. Excellent Women - 2.5 - Barbara Pym – from the back, “A witty comedy about the complications of being a spinster (and a religious one, at that) in England in the 1950’s”. I was expecting something along the lines of a Miss Read/Thrush Green story, but it was really pretty boring.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

No more pencils, no more books.........

No more Teacher's dirty looks! Hopefully!

I was planning to "do school" until May 29. But I am so tired of it! We have well over 1,000 hours, T. and B. are both done with (enough) math, we are done with science, done (enough) with spelling....they each have one book to finish that they are reading for history, and I have one I am reading aloud to them that we are halfway through. I think we will finish that and that's it.

I have a hard time differentiating "school" from "life". I guess I look at "school" as things they have to sit down to do - math, grammar, etc. Or maybe it is the stuff I have to make them do that constitutes school! We read aloud every night before bed - picture books with J. and H. and chapter with T. and B. We are reading Where The Red Fern Grows now. I think of that as literature. And we are reading a devotion a day from Training Hearts, Teaching Minds, which is based on the Westminster Catechism. So, that could be Bible. They are working on their Awana handbooks this summer (Bible) and we will do art (Art Pacs) because we need to have some projects going together. But mainly in the summer we play in the yard, work on the garden, go to the pool, and do church activities and library activities. Most of which I could (and do) record as "school/hours". But don't tell them, or they won't want to do any of it.......

I am so looking forward to getting everything ready for next year, taking some time to relax and reflect on what we did this year. I am moving to more things that the older boys can do on their own, and that seems to work well. They only need Mom to read so much to them. This was their first year to really work independently, and it has gone well. Plus, I need that time to get the little guys off to a good start.

So, almost done......

Friday, May 22, 2009

People, get along already!

I had sort of an eye-opening thought (for me, at least). Tuesday morning I got up and was perusing my inbox. And there was an email from Worldview Weekend/Brannon Howse about the dangers of the Emergent Church, etc. And I looked at it and I got so disgusted and deleted it. With all the horrible things that are going on in the world, with the socialist direction Obama has taken our country (I am having to work on this - I have found I truly hate Obama. When I see his picture I almost foam at the mouth I am so mad. Probably not a great testimony), with Iran with nukes and the CIA unable to interogate, with them wanting to take my SUBURBAN (14.5 mpg, baby!) and make me wedge my kids into a golf cart.....when I think of how our kids are not going to have the world we have.......

Who the HECK cares about the Emergent Church and WHY are we fighting each other!!!! I am SO GLAD that ANYONE out there cares enough to start a church!!! I am just FED UP with the people that have to keep us upset at others (all in the name of Christ, of course) and fighting within ourselves when there is a BIG enemy (I mean Satan, not Obama, though the edges are blurring.......) out there trying to destroy us.

Okay, that was my rant.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wrapping Up A Year....

Sunday night I sat down and updated our hour log. In Missouri, you are to record hours of instruction, and to complete 1,000 hours in the calendar year. Our year runs July 1 to June 30. As of April 30, one child had 955 hours and one had 959. Could that be right? I expected that we'd need to push through into June, and it looks like we'll have our 1,000 next week. So, we are wrapping up the year. We'll finish science this week, and just do a final review next. B. finished math last month and T. will work until this unit is complete. And we'll stop the last day of May. Over the summer we'll still do daily Bible reading and I'll read aloud to everyone, but I am not going to have them do their independent history reading (we use living books for history and they read on their own every day). We will participate in the library reading program, and they can choose their own books for that.

July will be a very busy month, with VBS and Art Camp at church, and visiting family. There will always be park days, going to the pool, activities at the library, family trips, etc. But I have no obligations outside of my for the entire 2nd half of May and all of June. Nothing. Okay, I teach Sunday School. But no big activities to plan, nothing to host, nothing. What am I going to do with myself?

Get a tan?

Okay, probably not that. But I know that I am going to work on my outline and get my planning done for J. and H. for next year - 1st grade and kindergarten. We are going to do 100 Easy Lessons for H. and move into easy readers for J. We are doing Singapore math and Getty Dubay handwriting and Art With a Purpose (ArtPac 2). But I think our overall "theme" this year will be Children Around the World. We'll do geography and stories of other countries, some crafts and foods, missionary stories, etc. Just sort of weave that into everything. And my goal is to NOT buy much - almost everything can come from the library.

T. and B. are pretty much covered. We are switching to BJU grammar this year, continuing with Singapore math, and starting Christian Kids Explore Biology. For Bible, they do daily readings and they participate in Awana, so they work on their books in that every day. In history we started US history last fall, and we are on a 3 year course, based loosely on Sonlight. We are at the beginning of the American Revolution right now, so hopefully we will finish that up this month and be ready to move into the Constitution in August. We are doing art/art appreciation with Great American Artists for Kids, and also Art With a Purpose (ArtPac 4).

That seems like a lot to try to cover with four children. Fortunately, T and B can do most of their work independently. I just need to answer questions, and we'll do science together. I read aloud part of their history, and will work on art with them (but that's just once a week).

I started using Homeschool Tracker last week for their scheduling and recording, and I think this is going to work very well for us. I was reaching a point where I was writing down what to do, then writing down what we did, and there was a whole lot of duplication. This is much easier. I'd like to upgrade to the deluxe version - I have the free version, which is fine, but I'm finding other things already that I'd like to do (like save a reading log) that are not done (or at least not done easily!) in the standard version. But - it is $49 and I am trying to be frugal.

But that is another post.

For now, it is a beautiful day, and the future looks good!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What I Read in April

26. Cream Puff Murder – 3 – Joanne Fluke – this series may (should!) be coming to its’ end – the characters’ storylines seem to be winding down. Without giving away too much, there is now no doubt as to which man Hannah should choose, and if she just drags it out further – then it is just being drug out. I knew who the murderer was as soon as the character was introduced. The recipes weren’t even really original this time. I hope this series goes out on a good note, one or two more books, one for getting engaged and all that goes with it, and maybe the last one could be “Wedding Cake Murder”, and then wrap it all up and let them live happily ever after.

27. Evenly Choirs: A Constable Evans Mystery – 3.5 – Rhys Bowen – not a bad little murder mystery. Constable Evans does not carry a weapon, though, and he always apprehends the killer, who is armed. I wonder what he will do when he runs up against a killer who is actually willing to use a gun, or is a decent shot………other than that, a basic little murder, set in the mountains of Northern Wales, with the usual cast of eccentric village characters and the complicated love triangles.

28. Emma’s Journal – 3 – Ed Rowell –The story of Emma, who had a powerful impact on everyone around her. When she dies, her personal “Living on Purpose” journal goes missing. The story shows how we live our lives affects other people. It was a quick read, but the bad guy was so over-the-top bad, and there were just so many clichés that it really took away from it.

29. One Perfect Day – 3 – Lauraine Snelling – Nora is trying to make Christmas perfect this year – her twin children are seniors in high school, and she’s afraid this will be that last Christmas Day that she can count on them all being together. Jenna is also trying to make Christmas perfect for her 20-year-old daughter, Heather. Heather is on the list for a heart transplant, and failing fast. The book is the two stories running parallel – Nora’s son Charlie dies in a car accident a few days before Christmas and his heart is given to Heather. It is about Nora’s family picking up the pieces and Jenna and Heather being able to start planning to live. Good, not great.

30. Living On The Devil’s Doorstep – 3.75- Floyd McClung – from YWAM’s International Adventures series. Story of Floyd McClung and his wife who began ministering to American and European young people in Kabul in the early 70s. During this time thousands of young people were “dropping out” and becoming heavily involved with drugs and Eastern religions. Kabul was a stop-off on “The Trail”, a path from Amsterdam to Nepal. Later they moved to Amsterdam and established ministries serving the Red Light District. Interesting book about a family getting truly involved with the people they are ministering to.

31. Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey In Healing Autism – 3.25 – Jenny McCarthy – this is a hard one to rate. On one side, it is an extremely interesting story – nowhere near as good as her later book Mother Warriors, though. BUT – I could not get past the person of Jenny McCarthy. Every other page of the book was filled with profanity, and she is just a crude person. Plus, she is very into all kinds of New Age things (tarot cards, “energy”, etc.) that she combines with praying to God, a healing service performed in her home by Mormon missionaries, praying to her grandfather and other people who have passed away…….just weird combinations. She has “faith in the universe” would probably be the easiest way to describe it. Anyway, a good story but all the profanity really took away from it.

32. Mother Warriors – 4 – Jenny McCarthy – I think I read this back in January or February, but I don’t see it on the list, so I will include it here. This was an excellent book, telling the stories of families who are dealing with autism and the steps they have taken to lead their children to recovery. A whole lot of anger at the medical establishment, that is for sure! Goes into a lot of detail about the effects of the immune system, vaccinations, “gut” issues, diet, supplements, etc. The profanity was toned down quite a bit from the previous book, but the “f” word is still sprinkled liberally. A lot of talk about her relationship with Jim Carrey, some New Age-y stuff (energy of the universe stuff). Aside from just the “personal” don’t care for Jenny McCarthy stuff, though, a very good, very informative book.

33. The Revolution: A Manifesto – 3 – Ron Paul – good information, pretty boring in its’ overall presentation. I kept falling asleep while reading it. Took me 4 days to read +/- 150 page book.

34. A Time Of Murder At Mayerling – 3.75 – Ann Dukthas – interesting premise. A mysterious man, Nick Segalla, never dies or grows older. His name is mentioned in connection with various courts and governments through European history. In the early 1990s, he approaches historian Ann Dukthas and provides her information solving some of the greatest murder mysteries of history. This one is set in Vienna, 1889 when the heir to the Hapsburg throne is found murdered along with his mistress. Segalla was sent there as an envoy of the Pope to investigate the Crown Prince’s death. A different sort of story from the usual period-mysteries.

35. Evan and Elle: A Constable Evans Mystery – 4 – Rhys Bowen – next in the series of the Welsh Constable. This time there is a serial arsonist and a mysterious French woman who has come to the small village of Llanfair. This was pretty good – more of a detective story with plot twists (though if you’ve ever watched a soap opera, you knew how some of this was going to turn out!). Pleasant, easy read.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lord, please keep me a Kindergartener

I have discovered the WHY of "Why I love teaching kindergarten Sunday School". I started teaching last October, and have "re-upped" for the next year.

When my kindergarteners show up they are smiling. They are happy to see us, and they are looking forward to what we have planned. They color pictures, make a craft, work on memorizing scripture, sing songs, listen to the story and ask lots and lots of questions.

We get to spend a whole hour together talking about how God created us, God loves us, Jesus takes care of us, Jesus is so powerful He can heal the sick and raise the dead. That He died for our sins and rose again and has prepared a place for us!

During the precious time we have together, my kindergarteners do not complain about the pastor or staff, the sermon, the tidiness of the restrooms, the choice of music the soloist performed, whether or not anything was spelled wrong in the bulletin, if the coffee is too strong/weak, or any of the upcoming activities. Our time is PRECIOUS. We can never get through, in only one hour, the things we want to do and say and learn.

They seem to assume that we, their teachers, have only their best interests at heart, and they follow our lead without second-guessing, debating, or whispering amongst themselves about our true motives. Believe me, we are not seeking fame, glory or power through teaching kindergarten. This is a labor of love, and they seem to sense that.

Kindergarteners are not perfect, of course. They are at the stage where they need help with nose blows. There are some Sundays when I have just about hand-sanitized myself to my armpits, I've wiped so many noses.

But they are so doggone grateful for someone to help them with their noses. They are almost Christians. Would that we could all hang on to that feeling in our lives and hearts, that time of it all being "new" - the wonder of discovering the love of Christ for the first time.

We can't get to "new" again - and some of us are pretty old. But spend some time with the little get the same kind of feeling in your heart.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What I read in March, 2009

Not that I am really wierd, but I rate my books 1-5. There won't be many 1s, because if it is that bad I usually don't finish it!

16. The Succesful Homeschool Family Handbook – 3.5 - Raymond and Dorothy Moore – very encouraging, one I had never read before. Parts of it were pretty dated, though. I think it is from the early-mid 80s.

17. William Penn: With Liberty and Justice for All – 3 - Janet and Geoff Benges – Heroes of History series, read aloud. I like the missionary stories better, but overall this was pretty good. Bogged down a lot with the politics of England in the 1670s, but that was what shaped the times.

18. Christy – 5- Catherine Marshall – read for my church book group – I had read it 5 or so years ago and got a lot more out of it this time.

19. Laughing in the Dark – 4 – Chonda Pierce – the story of her walk through depression.

20. Book of Time II: Gate of Days – 3 – bedtime read aloud. I think if I was 12 it would be really, really good. The characters take the Lord’s name in vain (OMG) which I changed to “gosh” as I read (that bothers me more than just regular profanity). The character is traveling through time, trying to save his father, who is trapped in another time period. This is book 2 in the trilogy.

21. How Starbucks Saved My Life – 4.5 – Michael Gates Gill – story of a well-off, privileged, middle-aged white guy who loses his cushy job. Then with too much spare time on his hands…..he loses his marriage. He ends up getting a job at Starbucks, and working for a young African-American woman. It is a really neat story of how his life changes, his perceptions change, and the person he becomes.

22. Aunt Dimity Takes a Holiday – 3.5 – Nancy Atherton – at least this time Lori didn’t get overly attracted to the handsome man. Another enjoyable Aunt Dimity story, though I don’t like Lori.

23. The Seat Beside Me – 4 - Nancy Moser – very good book. All these people sitting for hours on a plane, waiting to take off. And then the plane crashes and the five survivors deal with how their lives were changed by the chance encounter with the people they met in the seat next to them. Some parts were emotionally hard to get through, but overall, a very good story. This would be a good one to recommend to my book discussion group at church.

24. Heart and Soul – 4 – Maeve Binchy – more Irish soap operas. This was better than some, not as good as others. It is really sad how many people just don’t have any connection with God. The charactersd talk about being Catholic, but they never go to church – it’s just an Irish/cultural thing to them. There is always a priest or two, but that is it. And the people who are religious are shown as superstitious. Really a shame, since the book is full of unhappy people, and everyone accepts s*x outside of marriage as a given.

25. Jumping Ship – 4 – Michael and Debi Pearl – in 2006 NGJ magazine ran a series of articles about homeschool families whose grown children were rebelling and “jumping ship” – basically turning their backs. This book is the articles, re-edited with some new info added. I always find the Pearls to be very encouraging.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Busy March

I haven't posted much - and not because there isn't much going on! Sometimes I have weeks at a time where life just flows so smoothly, and we do lots of "traditional" school - you know, the kind where we hang out in the family room, do math and grammar, read lots of fun books together. The last few weeks have been so busy though! But so much fun stuff! That is what makes scheduling hard - it is not all the things I don't want to do (generally, I just don't do them, anyway!). It is all the things I DO want to do. And I think I already have life pared down to priorities. I try to be at home, but I also have to work at the shop. And it is nice to have those days where I can run errands while I am there, knowing that the kids are doing school and having fun at Grandma's house. But just this week, besides regular housework and shopwork, I have my homeschool meeting on Monday night, church on Wednesday night, a prayer meeting for the new Pregnancy Care Center on Thursday night, my Sunday School class meeting on Friday night, my church book discussion group on Saturday morning, a baby shower this is our "season" of birthdays (4 in 6 weeks, 3 of those within 2 weeks in March!). Add in things like getting a hair cut, Awana and my Bible study on Sunday just all sort of "clumped up" this month. None of this is weekly - homeschool and class meetings are monthly, book club every other month, the PCC meeting is a one-time thing. Just all at once this month.

I also want to take the boys to the Mastodon Art and Science Fair this week, Ben wants to work with his dad one day, and I had hoped to have another family over one day. But then the week after next - nothing except one birthday (last of the season!).

So, what to do, where to prioritize.....some things will have to fall off the schedule this week. Nevin also wants to take this Saturday afternoon and go do something. The house needs to get cleaned at some point. There is a 2' stack of books next to my bed, all calling my name. I guess these are good problems to have - so many things that I want to do, and am ABLE to do, and the boys are able to do.

Speaking of able to do, today we are going out for pizza at Pizza Hut. We participate in their Book-It program, so the boys each get a free personal pan pizza. Not enough to fill Tony and Ben, so I buy one more for them, and for Henry and I. We are also going shopping for Nevin's birthday gifts, and then going skating with our homeschool group.

I think I am going to clean house tomorrow morning.

Ben joined a chess club this month. It meets once a month on Wednesday at the library. After only one meeting he can now beat me in 10 minutes (it used to take 20!). He bought a tournament set with his birthday money, and I got him a couple of "strategy" books, and he is having a blast with that. I may have already posted this, but Tony was in the Awana Bible Quiz and his team took 2nd in their division. I'll take the Mom option of bragging on a couple of pretty smart guys! Henry cut his own hair and lit matches in the bathtub. Okay, maybe some bragging should get toned down. And Joe is just being Joe and having fun being a kindergartener.

Nothing much else to say, just keeping on keeping on for another day that we've been blessed with!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What I read in February, 2009

February was a very good month - several books over 4, and two fabulous 5s. I have my own copy of the 5s now, if anyone wants to borrow them...

9. In His Steps – 4.5 – Charles M. Sheldon – the original “What Would Jesus Do?” book. Written in the late 1800s it is the story of a congregation that is shaken by the appearance of an impoverished stranger. The minister and five influential church members pledge to put the question, “What would Jesus do?” to every situation in their lives. Very good, thought-provoking book.

10. Aunt Dimity Detective – 3.75 – Nancy Atherton – another fun mystery. I don’t really care for the main character, Lori Shepherd. She has what Dimity calls a “wandering eye” and every story has a handsome man who thinks Lori is just wonderful….it gets a little tiresome. Otherwise, though, I enjoy the stories. Even the criminals turn out to be not so bad.

11. Still Alice – 5 – Lisa Genova – one of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Alice is 50 years old, a respected author, speaker and professor at Harvard. And Alice develops early-onset Alzheimer’s, and it is the story told from her perspective, as she and her family come to grips with it and re-evaluate the things that make us who we are. Never slides into clichés, uplifting without being sticky-sweet, an overall wonderful story that does not ignore either the hard or the beautiful things in life. I cannot recommend it enough. And it does NOT end anything like I thought it would and we’ll just leave you hanging there!

12. Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free – 4 – Nancy Leigh DeMoss – interesting – a lot of things that I have read before, but still gave some very good insights into what we believe versus what scripture actually teaches.

13. The Associate – 3.5 John Grisham - I feel like I have to give it a good score because it was interesting and a quick read, but I never really cared about any of it. The most interesting character (and the only one developed at all) is a friend of the protagonist who gets religion and AA and his life is radically changed. I bet you can guess what happens to HIM in a John Grisham novel!

14. Why The Sky is Blue – 5 – Susan Meissner – absolutely wonderful story. A woman with a perfect life is assaulted and left for dead. The consequences of that night and her family's decisions are told from her viewpoint and then fifteen years later from that of her 12 year old daughter as an adult. Incredible moving story about trusting God and not being afraid to love others. She is quickly becoming my new favorite author!

15. City of Ember – 3 – Jeanne DuPrau – to this goes the axiom of always read the book before the movie. The book was not bad – it was a bedtime read aloud with my two older boys. The movie is terrible

Saturday, February 28, 2009

More on trusting

All this trusting stuff is quite timely! I think for a lot of us right now, with illnesses, family situations and economic concerns, trust is becoming a big issue. Sometimes you just have to learn lessons all over again.

I got this email from my friend Jennifer the other day, and she gave me permission to share it.

"Just thought I would pass this along. As you know, the last few days I've been discouraged. I've felt somewhat like I was just going in circles with no clear direction at all. But God is so good to show Himself to me when I ask. Yesterday at Bible study, Donna (our pastor's wife) was teaching on Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. I had never noticed before that the Spirit led him into the wilderness. Jesus had just come from being baptized in the Jordan. He was being obedient and doing everything right, but the Spirit led him into the wilderness anyway. I automatically think I did something wrong or was disobedient when something happens to upset my little world. Perhaps we should have taken this path instead. Maybe James should have done something differently. (note - Jennifer's husband James recently lost his position and is in the interview process right now - Paula). However, God showed me that our "wilderness" right now is a direct result of Him putting us here because He wanted us to learn to trust Him completely. In the wilderness, we have two choices. We can tempt him by worrying about the outcome. Or we can trust Him to provide in His time. Just like He did with Elijah. God didn't move Elijah until the brook was completely dry. And the amazing thing to me is that Elijah stayed there waiting. If it had been me I would have sat and watched that brook get lower and lower and worried the whole time trying to figure out a plan B. But God already had a plan in place for taking care of him. It was a widow woman and her child and a small amount of flour and oil. Amazing! Nothing happens in our lives that is a surprise to Him, and nothing happens in our lives that He cannot or will not use to conform us into His image. And best of all, nothing happens in our lives that is not a direct part of His plan or purpose in not only conforming us to His image, but in glorfying Himself.

And this is a devotional that she attached to the email:
What Is God Saying? Part 1

Sometimes it is good to take time to remember and reflect. I wrote the following in the year 2000 under the title "What God Has Been Saying To Me. " As I read back over it recently, it is amazing how timely this is for 2009. I said at the time that I did want to waste the lessons of the journey. So I am inviting you to join me and reflect on these core truths.

God is HUGE!
In the little glimpses he gives me as he draws back the veil, sometimes I am absolutely without words, speechless, dumbfounded, and overcome. He is so much bigger than we have ever experienced or can possibly conceive with our finite minds.

Stay low and stay close.
This attitude reflects a heart of humility before God and sensitivity to his gentlest whisper. This is the place of brokenness, repentance, and seeking God. It is meekness, bridled strength, the humility of wisdom, having no agenda but God's. It is surrender and devotion, essential for hearing God. The only desire is to please him. When we think we have the victory, beware! There is great danger in thinking we are standing tall and strong (1 Cor. 10:12). Pride goes before a fall. God is stripping us naked, allowing us no covering but himself. He will not allow us to walk in anything but him. Only his life bears life.
Another area of staying low and staying close is spiritual warfare. In time of war, a soldier doesn't move without the command of his commanding officer. One step of presumption will be disastrous.

God is radically changing the way we ! depend o n him. God has been saying, "Stay behind me." I protested, "But God, don't you always tell your friends what you are doing?" He said, "Yes, and I am telling you that you will not be able to know what I'm doing. You know nothing about trusting me. Stay behind me. And don't peek!" I did not want to accept this. My lack of trust had to be refined. Something in me had to know, to do, to see, to understand. God calls it unbelief. I like flying by "visual flight rules." God has called us to submit to "flying on instruments" when we can't see where we're going. We must be convinced in the deepest places that we can trust him. We will depend on him fully only when we come to the end of ourselves. We must learn to more quickly get to the cross with our dependence. Radical Love won't let any person or any thing on earth meet my needs but him, so I won't trust in them.

As important as my trusting God is, he wants to know that he can trust me.
Paul said, "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). Our faithfulness to God in all things, great and small, matters to him. His truth and his righteousness are established in our lives practically and experientially, by being tested one obedience at a time, by learning and application, by training and discipline, in trial and warfare. He must keep my heart tuned to his, or I perish.

The bigger the vision, the deeper the death, but missing God costs more.
The cross of Jesus will sweeten any trial, difficulty, or roadblock. God knows what we need even when we don't (but think we do). We must learn to surrender our expectations of him that he perform according to our uncrucified agenda. The "new" requirement of God is the same as the old requirement: to come and die.

Bless and honor your authorities.
It has ne! ver been more important to bless and honor our authorities. The early church was told to trust God and honor the emperor (Matt. 17:25-27, Mark 12:14-17, Rom. 13:1-7). We honor the un-honorable because of their position, not their personality. If we take authority lightly, our prayers will be hindered. We reach for God on the other side of a closed heart and draw from him until he changes the heart. We rest in God's ability to deal redemptively with our authorities, and we get out of his way.

Now It's Your Turn

Take some time alone with God before your open Bible. Let him open up his heart to you in his Word, personally, between you and him. Prayerfully reflect on your life with him. What is he saying to you? Pause and let him review the traces of his hand in your life. Ask him for a word of direction or promise.

Taken from Prayer Essentials for Living in His Presence, Vol 1, page 19-21. © 2000 by Sylvia Gunter.

Available at An archive of past devotionals is available on the website.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Loving and Trusting

One of my goals this year (I don't like the word "resolutions" - overdone)is to love people more. To judge them less, to open myself up to them, to love them.

Okay, I'm trying.

My ongoing life struggle has also been trusting God. Hence, the title of this blog. It is also my username on Sonlight Forum. It is my lifelong walk, always learning more to trust in Him.

And where is this going, you ask?

Well, I just finished a great book last night (okay, you saw that one coming, right?) titled "Why The Sky Is Blue" by Susan Meissner, who is fast becoming one of my favorite writers.

I'm not going to give you a synopsis, I'll be posting a review of what I read this month sometime soon. But here are a couple passages from the book that have stirred my heart.

"I want to learn how to look deep to see what people are really like. I want to be the kind of person who plunges past the surface and seeks to know the inner thougths of the people I am around. I want to see beauty in people like Cleo from the moment I meet them."

"I must be willing to meet God alone under His vast canopy of stars and see where the level of my trust starts and where it stops. If I am going to love people completely and at the heart of who they are, I am going to need to trust that God will watch over them the way He sees as best. Because loving people will cost me, and I need to be able to meet that price with trust so that I can enjoy love's best moments and endure the worst."

Where I am right now.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Getting rid of things......

I have been on a mission of late to "clean off" my bookshelves. If I just got rid of the ones I've actually READ I'd still have hundreds. So, some I posted on paperbackswap and bookmooch, others I have taken to Books Galore for credit (for more books, I know, I know........). A few I've given to my church for their library.

But I always have some I want to keep - usually a whole set of something. Like the Anne of Green Gables books, or Little House, or all the James Herriott novels. I like to collect some, like Pearl S. Buck novels.

And then there are the Diana Gabaldon books.

Confession time here. They are great, fabulous, engaging stories of time travel and romance. I started reading them a few years ago when I was introduced to them on the Sonlight Forums (Christian homeschool curriculum). I mean, these are the sort of books where you start reading (most are at least 700 pages) and you don't stop until you are done and you feed your family frozen pizza that week.

One problem. They are dirty. Bordering on pornographic in some parts. They are small parts, but there you go.

In the past, I have been convicted on things I have watched on tv, and I quit. When Friends got to be too much, it went off. We started off watching The Sopranos but that did not last long. I used to read lots of gory murder mysteries (Kiss the Girls, Kay Scarpetta, etc.)but reached a point where I could no longer read them. I have been very careful about what my boys read - even more than what they see on tv - because I remember books I read (when Mom wasn't looking) in junior high and younger, and those images have stayed with me all my life. You can go back and read the same page over and over, you know.

So anyway, by the time I got to high school I was pretty much done with the bodice-rippers historical romance stuff. And I haven't read much of it since. Just not interested.

But then you get to Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. And I want to scream that it is SUCH a good story - WHY did she have to make it so smutty! And all these other Christian women are reading them, and discussing them. Joke - I asked one woman online how come we can read and talk about these books when we would NEVER recommend (or even mention them) to a lady at church? And she said it is because we don't have to see each other on Sunday morning.

Wow. Okay, this conversation was two years ago, and then I laughed. And now I am How true. It is because we have no accountability.

Now, I am not such a prude that I will not read a book because it has some profanity. Life has some profanity. Sometimes reality is ugly and hard, and some of the great books have that. I can overlook some things for a really good story. Things that I don't think affect me. Hey, I've heard cussing before, reading some of it is not going to be an issue.

I haven't read the Diana Gabaldon books in a few years. They are just sitting on my shelf. I thought I'd read them again when the next one comes out. But they are on the top shelf of my bookcase, where the aren't bothering anyone. My mind right now is likening them to scorpions. We live in a very rocky area, and we get little (someimes big!) scorpions in the house, just like some folks get spiders. They hide, and generally, unless you turn on a light suddenly, or stick your hand somewhere without looking, you don't have to worry. Like shaking your shoes before you put them on if they've been left outside. You know. So, are those books, up on the shelf, sort of like scorpions?

The other night, my mind went to them, and suddenly a heard in my head (God?) saying, "If you consider those books to be pornographic, why do you have them in your house?"

Well, I really don't have a good answer for that, do I?

They are not on the shelf anymore. I listed them on paperbackswap and they got snapped up right away. So I've now spent about $15 on postage (I'm telling you, these are some THICK books!) to send them away. But, now I have credit to select new books.

So, I know this time of year, after we get all our Christmas goodies, and we are trying to make room for things, and we are stuck in the house, a lot of us turn to "de-cluttering". Especially we homeschoolers, who are in a rut and really looking forward to the NEW stuff we'll be getting at homeschool conferences this summer! But as we think about the things to get rid of, maybe there are other questions besides, "Do I use it - need it?" Maybe sometimes we should look at things as in, "What does God want me to have?"

Just some thoughts.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Still being flexible...

What a week. We have been doing art all week, and really enjoying it. We did paintings in the Impressionist style, and today Picasso-type drawings. Lots of fun. Studying about the early French settlers in Missouri (my family). As soon as it warms up the big guys and I are taking a field trip to Ste. Genevieve (Anita, do I hear you volunteering your day if I spring for lunch?).

Wednesday Henry was lighting matches in the bathtub. I did manage to get the yellow marks out of the tub.

Today Henry cut a big chunk of his hair off. Thank goodness it was in back.

Lest you think I am not paying enough attention to Henry......both times I was working with the older boys and THOUGHT he was well-entertained! And apparently he was, just not on the projects I had planned out. Never to young to start school I guess........(sigh).

Tonight Tony had practice with his Awana Bible Quiz team. He had a really good time - pizza fellowship with the other kids. He's at the age now where things are going on that don't require "Mom" to sit in. This was his first thing to do on his own, outside of church, where he didn't even have Ben. Sounds like it went great. It is amazing to watch them grow up. He will be eleven soon, and he is 5'1" and wears a size 7 shoe. And he is turning into a very nice, mature young man. I am so proud of him.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Being Flexible

A very typical day, in that my mantra is "In all things - be flexible!"

Around 3 a.m. Joey came in and woke me up to tell me Henry was sick. Henry was crouping, so I just picked him up and took him in the bathroom and turned on the shower. It only took about 10 minutes in the steam. But - nothing cures the croup - the only thing I've ever found that helps is oral steroids. For which you need a prescription. And a pediatrician visit. So......we did school this morning and got quite a bit done, and this afternoon I am taking Henry to the doctor. The other boys are going to my moms' house, and they have a little bit of art to finish. Then back home, quick dinner and out the door again to my homeschool meeting.

I'll tell you what - I love my family desperately, but there are days when I am counting the minutes until I can get with a group of my lady friends. Yesterday was one of them. We got home from church and I was so exhausted (Henry didn't want to go to the nursery, I had to teach our kindergarten SS class, and I was tired!) that all I could do was think about getting some work done and then heading out to take the boys to Awana and go to my Bible study. I came home last night feeling so refreshed, I could take on anything.

Even a steam bath with Henry at 3 a.m.

It is good for the pores, you know.....!

And tonight - meeting with the ladies for a time of sharing, prayers, learning, laughing, and then on to Steak and Shake for the "meeting after the meeting". Only once a month, and I do look forward to it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More Valentine's......

And then I opened the refrigerator to pour milk for breakfast and there sat a big box of chocolate covered strawberries and two slices of chocolate covered cheesecake with strawberries.

Is this guy great or what?

Happy Valentine's Day!

We don't usually do a "big" celebration for Valentine's Day. The boys make Valentine cards every year for all their "girl relatives" - grandmas, aunts, cousins, great aunts, etc. This year we made foam hearts and decorated them with foam conversation hearts that said things like, "Faith", "Trust God", "Jesus Saves", "God Loves You", etc. So much nicer for Grandma to get that than one that says, "Hey Hottie!".

Nevin left for work about 5:30 this morning (is this guy dedicated, or what) and along our kitchen counter I found a vase with red miniature tulips and a card for me, and individual candies and boxes of conversation hearts for each of the boys. What a sweetheart I have married.

This afternoon I am going to make a Lemon Sponge Pie from a recipe that I found in Cook's Country, and we will have venison tenderloin for dinner, and maybe green bean casserole (homemade, not with a can of soup) and maybe baked potato. After the pie and venison the rest is sort of up in the air.

Isn't it interesting how all holidays somehow become about the food?????

So, anyway, my morning is off to a great start!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Planning for a dignified retirement

I post on a homeschool forum. Earlier this week, a thread was started regarding "dignified" retirement. The thread started off with a planner telling the couple they needed $2 million in savings. It developed into a discussion of how to save money, what methods for saving, etc.

Thinking that I am funnier than I usually am, I said that at this stage, my retirement plans were having four sons and spending three months of the year with each of them. Hopefully, at least one will live somewhere warm for me and Dad to visit!

I explained my vision of multi-generational family, that my parents or inlaws are ALWAYS welcome to live with us, any time they want. I really admire how the Amish care for their families. And I would hope that my children, having seen how their great-grandmas have been cared for, and will see us care for their grandparents, will consider that a part of life. Not that I would be a bum - I expect Nevin and I will work till we give out. I'd like to be available to help my sons and daughter-in-laws with my grandchildren, with their homes- however they need.

I got socked back and told that I was not scriptural in my approach - not like the ant in Proverbs, and leaving an inheritance for my children you know!

Once I cooled down, here was my response:

"I honor my parents, and am training up my children to do the same. There are a whole lot of scripture on supporting the poor, the work of the church, spreading the gospel - and we gave away a big chunk of our gross last year to our church, pregnancy care center and various missionaries and local ministries. That's they stuff I have paperwork for, and does not include all the times we "pass the hat" in church to help someone out. And doggone it, it is just plain exciting when they make an announcement in church of a need and to be able to reach in my wallet and pull out some cash and KNOW that I am providing for someone else's need out of my surplus - as God would provide for mine out of someone elses' if need be. And you never know, that could happen.

As far as saving goes, I try to save 10% of our income for emergencies (and family fun) and have a slowly growing "chunk" in investments. My husband and I own our own business and work dilligently.

I am not a fool who throws money out the window. However - having had a chunk of (inherited) money in the past and gone to being plain broke and in debt, and to have rebuilt, but still recognizing that being self-employed some months we are rich and some months hey! at least we get to keep the house....I no longer put my trust in money, myself, what I can save, the stock market, the government.........I can build a big barn to store all I have, like that farmer, to sit back and enjoy my days, and have it all disappear in an instant, and my life be forfeit this very night.

I KNOW I have children with needs now - I KNOW there is God's work to be done now - I DON'T know what the future holds - I plan the best I can but I refuse to worry and I have lots of kids.

My mother-in-law and mother have left me an inheritance in that I saw both of them take care of their mothers, and I got to help take care of Grandma. My boys got to see my mother-in-law take care of her mother. I will leave that inheritance to my children - they will see us care for their grandparents. If there is any money left, that is an added bonus.

My grandmother left a sizeable financial inheritance to my mom, but the last 15 years of her life all she did was worry about money. I will not live that way. My mom is financially comfortable and while we make jokes about her spending my inheritance, I hope she does. She does good with her money, she puts some aside for my kids' college, and she HAS FUN and hopefully does not worry. And she knows that she ALWAYS has a place in my home.

So, will we be ready for a dignified retirement?

That is going to depend on your definition of dignified retirement. I don't know that we will ever be really retired - I think we may just change occupations (didn't someone mention Wal-Mart greeter a few posts back?).

How we prepare for anything is going to be colored by our past experiences. And we all have different experiences. I don't believe there is a wrong or right way that fits everyone. I think most folks are just doing their best every day."

And another lady posted this:

"There are many scriptures about careful planning----and many scriptures about making God your primary focus and forgetting the rest.

We have to find a balance between the two, and how that looks is going to be different for every individual."

I think she said that beautifully, and with much fewer words than I used!

Another mom posted this, and I think this truly sums it up for me:

"Let me just say that I will have a dignified retirement, should God grant me the plethora of years to reach it, by being a faithful loving devoted woman of God, rising up and lying down with His will in my heart and mind, putting my hands, back, mind and mouth to His use with every ounce of my being.

Whether or not I have a fat pocketbook by which to meet any financial need, or to pay off things for others, I will not presume to worry, as I am living 'today', serving 'today'."

Friday, February 6, 2009

Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

I just read one of the best books I've read in a long time - Still Alice, by Lisa Genova.

Alice is 50 years old, and a psychology professor at Harvard University. She is well-respected, has published over 100 articles and co-authored a textbook, is an in-demand speaker at conferences all over the world. She has three grown children (a doctor, a lawyer, an aspiring actress) and a cancer research scientist husband.

And she is forgetting things. Misplacing things. Getting lost less than a mile from her home. Alice has early onset Alzheimer's.

The story is told from Alice's point of view. It is absolutely incredible. I read it in about a day and a half. The characters are so real - flawed and wonderful at the same time.

From the book jacket:
"As the inevitable descent into dementia strips away her sense of self, fiercely independent Alice struggles to live in the moment. While she once placed her worth and identity in her celebrated and resepected academic life, now she must reevaluate her relationships with her husband, a respected scientist; and her ideas about herself and her place in the world."

I am at a loss for words to describe how much this book moved me. I would recommend it to everyone. There are a few instances of bad language, but other than that, nothing I found objectionable. It is just a story of real people in an increasingly familiar situation.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What I read in January....

With ratings 1-5 of course! I know I am a day early, but I am not going to finish the book I am currently reading today!

1. Me, Myself and Bob: A True Story About Dreams, God, and Talking Vegetables – 5 – Phil Vischer – what a way to start the year! This was a great book – telling the story of the creation, rise, and incredible fall of Big Idea (VeggieTales). I enjoyed it from every aspect – it was an autobiography, a history, a business book (what not to do!) and a book about a relationship with God. Parts of it were incredibly funny. Overall, a very enjoyable book that left me with a lot to think about. I am going to recommend this book to my church reading group.

2. Homeschooling and the Voyage of Self-Discovery – 4 – David Albert – I love his work – his families’ education is “child-directed, community based”. When I start getting all caught up in schedules and all the things that I think we “need to do and need to know” I love to read his books and just relax with it.

3. The Dog Who Thought He Was Santa – 3 – Bill Wallace – our Christmas read aloud. It probably would have been better if we’d been consistent with it. The chapters alternated between Don, the son and Frank, the family dog. The boys enjoyed it.

4. Boo – 3 – Rene Gutteridge – light Christian lit – a world famous horror novelist becomes a Christian and gives up writing horror. Only problem, the small town he lives in has built its’ entire industry on being the “home of “ – with all horror themed businesses. So, a group of very un-Christian townsfolk plot to make him lose his faith and go back to writing. Meanwhile, he is in love with the town good girl. It was an okay book, funny in spots, not particularly inspiring. I think it was sad reading a book about people who are supposed to be Christians doing mean and deceitful things.

5. Mama’s Homemade Love : A Southern Woman Leaves a Legacy– 4 – Barbara Sims – short little book, a collection of essays about her mother, who was a very Godly woman and left a legacy of “giving, godliness and love.”

6. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire – 5 – Jim Cymbala – the pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle tells the story of how a church that was drawing its’ last gasp was turned around by the prayers of its’ people and the power of the Holy Spirit. Inspiring, and very convicting. This was my reading goal book for the month.

7. Passionate Housewives, Desperate for God – 4 – Stacy McDonald and Jennie Chancey. I’ve had this for months and really expected to not like it. I really enjoyed the chapters Stacy wrote about being at home with the family, and I did not care as much for Jennie’s chapters which were more “anti” the feminist movement. I am not a feminist, but I think Stacy’s chapters were just gentler and more joyful.

8. Guilty – 3.5 – Ann Coulter – I had a tough time finishing this, and I also was depressed all week – I think the book contributed. It was a good book, well-written, but it was all about the lies and hypocrisy of the media and I listen to conservative talk radio and read conservative books and mags, so none of it was really new. And it seems like the things that go on can’t be stopped, and it is so frustrating to me. So, a 200 page book took me almost a week to finish, when usually I can read 200 pages in a day or so. Passionate Housewives was the same way, took me a week to read. Guilty was better than How To Talk to a Liberal, and about the same as Godless, but no where near as good as Treason. I really learned things from that book.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Some fat free cheese with that whine....

The snow has really gotten us away from our school schedule. Generally, I would say that there is no time for school when there is outside fun to be had - that is my philosophy. If it is a great day, and I look out and four little boys are all playing, running, jumping and having fun together - there is no way I am going to make them come inside to diagram sentences or something. But, I am off my schedule this week, and being a creature of schedule, this has thrown me. And, there are boots, mittens, etc. everywhere. I know this is all good, the kids are loving it. I shall keep telling myself that.

I am, however,having a terrible week, Weight Watchers-wise. This probably ties in with my last post where I was eating gingerbread for lunch!

I was talking to my friend Angel on the phone last night and she says she can tell I'm not drinking my water and am bloated. She can tell this OVER THE PHONE.(note - get new friends, this one is very peculiar.....). And - here is the kicker. Most Sunday evenings I take my two oldest boys to Dairy Queen (I know, I know...) after AWANA. We go if one of them gets an award. Being overachievers, we usually go 3 times a month. I have been getting my dinner there - regular hamburger and small fry. According to the 2008 Dining Out book, that is 12 points. But now I have the 2009 book - and it is 17 points. I checked DQ's website. Yep. 17 points. A small hot fudge sundae with nuts is only 9! But it is so cold, and they have a fireplace, and I so look forward to my nice hot burger and fries. But 17 points! As I am on "maintenance" with WW (trying to maintain my weight loss) I get 28 points a day - so 17 is really quite a bit for one meal. No wonder I'm bloated, I've been eating 5 points more than I thought every week! This is so unfair.

Tony came in while I was grousing about it and he said, "So what - once a week - live a little." Grrr, get out of my room you little cretin!

I only called him that because I knew he didn't know what it meant.

So, today is the last day of my week, I have 3 Weekly Points left. I can do this. My gosh, last summer I only had 23 points a day and never ate my WP. I am really struggling now, though. All the produce in the store is a)yucky and b)$$$$$. So, I am not eating many veggies, and you know what? I DON'T WANT ANY. I want warm, baked (or fried, I'm not picky) food.

Just so you know I am whining needlessly, I lost 25 pounds last summer and I have maintained that loss. I did so good right up until Christmas, and I even didn't gain but 1 pound back from Thanksgiving to New Year. I have got to get back to my regular meeting - 3 more weeks of the swim lessons - I have not been able to make my regular meeting because it conflicts with the boys' swim class, and there just are not very many meetings where I live.

I know I need to QUIT whining and go eat a salad, or an orange with my breakfast, or any other real food.

Hmm, blueberry muffins sound good.....STOP IT!

Side note - because of the snow all week, I've been making lots of hot chocolate for the kids, the real kind, on the stove. And yes, I've been drinking it too.

Milk is good for you though. My story, I'm sticking with it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Giving In (already!)

Today, I gave in.

It is so cold and snowy, and we got moving a little late. I try to start school by 9:00. Okay, by 9:30. Anyway, I am cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast. I have just broken my egg into the fat to fry it when the phone rings. Ozark Federal bank, calling because I am usually a good customer...uh, oh. You got it. Bounce. Bong. Bounce. No way, I know there is more in the account than that.

Pause for a moment to acknowledge that the bank is ALMOST ALWAYS right.

After my egg turned to yuck, many phone calls and trying to access their site on my dial up (which disconnects a lot!) I find that not only did I electronically pay my mortgage this month (my mortgage, checking and saving are with the same bank) but somehow I set it up to automatically transfer that same amount from my checking to my savings. So, I paid my mortgage and then it magically moved the exact same amount from my checking to my savings. My savings account looked quite nice this morning - too bad I had negative numbers in checking!

We will acknowledge that somehow I did this, and it was not the banks' fault. The good folks at Ozark waived the $40 nsf fee and ran my checks through, which was really nice since we don't want to be bouncing checks to the Baptist church!

Meanwhile, while this fun was going on, the older boys were supposed to be doing their schoolwork. Tony can't find his history book, so he walked around for 20 minutes. I found it in 2 seconds. Then he informed me he forgot to do his math yesterday. Then Joe and Henry got into an argument and started yelling.

And then I started yelling. And ran in my bedroom and laid facedown on the bed and prayed (dear God, please don't let me kill them.......) until it passed. Calmly I went downstairs, and we did history and science. And then I gave in and sent them outside in the snow.

Henry declined to go outside, and I gave in and let him have hot chocolate with marshmallows and gingerbread for lunch.

And then I gave in and had gingerbread for lunch.

And it was really good.

As they come in I will dry all their clothes, then this afternoon they will go back out and I will make a nice pot of hot chocolate. And maybe I will give in to some fresh cookies.

Reading Goals for 2009

I read a lot - last year I finished 114 books. It must be noted, that a lot of my reading falls into the fun/light (okay, twaddle!) category. Not all of it, but quite a bit. So, for the last few years I've given myself goals.

For two years, I read a classic each month. I have shelves full of books like Jane Eyre, Pride and Predjudice, etc. I just never "got around" to reading them. So, I made a list and read one a month.

That's pretty much run its' course, so this year I decided to tackle the huge stack of Christian books that have accumulated on my shelf. My goal is one a month. I don't necessarily expect to hit that, so I don't have 12 books in the stack - just in case. But here are the ones I set aside as "definite to-read" this year:

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire - Jim Cymbala (read this month, off to a good start)
The Westminster Shorter Catechism - I am going to just read it - I get bogged down because my copy has review questions and I always try to do them, on paper. This year, just read.
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
The Church of the East - John Holzmann
In His Steps - Charles M. Shelton
The Evolution of a Creationist - Jobe Martin
Singing Through the Night - Anneke Companjen
Whose Bible Is It? - Jaroslav Pelikan
Evangelical Is Not Enough: Worship of God in Liturgy and Sacrament - Thomas Howard
The Jesus I Never Knew - Philip Yancey
Come Before Winter - Chuck Swindoll

I also have stacks of missionary biographies that I'd like to read - historical ones, like Amy Carmichael, as well as contemporary stories.

I really like to read about other denominations, too. I have read several books in the last few years about the Amish faith, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. And, I love to read Church history. Interesting the differences in events, based on who is telling the story!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mothering boys on a snowy day

We've had a cold, snowy, sleety day. The boys have loved it, of course! Because the local schools were closed, our swimming class at the Y was cancelled. So, we did some schoolwork this morning. We are reading a biography of William Penn right now, and really enjoying it, and we started a unit on electricity in science.

Anyway, I got done with lunch and I know that I really need to go get all the boys bundled up. Nevin got all their hats, gloves, etc. together last night. But, it is still this sort of hard, frozen snow. I think only a bad mother would send her children out in that. So, I called Nevin. He gave me a long dialogue on how boys need to be outside, how they WANT to be outside when it is like this, it is an adventure, etc. So, I got off the phone, got them ready and sent them out. I went out for a little to feed the chickens, take pictures of the snowman, etc. Henry only made it about 15 minutes, but the others stayed out about an hour. So, I made a pot of nice hot chocolate for them when they came in.

Later today I talked to Nevin and I told him that when we spoke earlier, he made me feel like an inadequate mother - that I didn't know they were supposed to be outside. He said no, I am a very good mother - but I am an inadequate FATHER. A father knows that boys want to be outside in this, and that is why he had to tell me.

Oh, that makes sense. Now I feel better!

I got to make another pot of chocolate tonight, because on his way home, Nevin bought a snowboard. After dinner they all bundled up again (including Dad!) and went out to snowboard and sled in the dark. No, I would not have ever thought of doing that!

And it is still sleeting, by the way!

Sometimes it is very strange to be the only girl in a house full of men. There are days when I get to be the princess - and many days where I am just the serving wench! But I am so blessed by all my men.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Our Priorities

I attend a womens' Bible study and discussion group on Sunday evenings. I love it. It has been so fun, especially since it is at a church I don't attend - no preconceived notions about anything or anyone. It is very casual, no workbook or homework. The jumping off place is Proverbs 31, and we take it from there. Mainly, the focus is our relationship with God, and how that plays out in our lives.

Last night we spoke about priorities. All of my adult life, I have had "the list" put in front of me. All together now! 1. God 2. Spouse 3. Children 4. church/home/work/extended family/community, etc. I have also had this expressed to me as "JOY" Jesus/others/yourself. However, the way it was presented last night is that there is no list, in descending order. We have one priority - God. Our relationship with him. When we are right with God, all the rest will fall into place. Instead of a vertical list, God is in the center, like the center of a wheel, and the other items radiating out like spokes.

If my relationship with God - if my study of the Word is solid, if my prayer is from my heart, if I am trusting Him, if I am walking in His ways - then the rest will come. I will not neglect my husband or children (not even for time to blog!). I will care for the home and "stuff" God has blessed us with. I will love others as I am commanded. The order may be different on different days. When a child is sick, I will probably put him first. If the house has hit "disaster stage" then I will make housework my priority that day. And when my husband walks in the door, I jump up and greet him (and have trained the kids to do so, too) and whatever I was reading or messing around with loses its' importance.

God will make His priorities our priorities. And what are they? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. No checklist.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bibliovore Life

I am an avid reader - last year I read 114 books. I do count chapter books that I read aloud with my older boys - I do not count picture books with the younger boys! I also only count cookbooks if I actually sat down and read through them. This does not happen often, but it does happen!

Ikeep a "Library List" in excel of the books I want to read - when I see a review, or someone gives me a recomendation I log it there. Then when I have time I check the local libraries' online catalogs, and note who has it (or if it is going to be interlibrary loan). I also use paperbackswap and bookmooch to trade books - I've gotten hundred of books in the last few years, and traded away almost as many. This is great for getting books for my sons' school, also.

After I read a book I log it on my Reading List and yes, I am obsessive enough to rate my books, 1-5.

I thought I'd post a few of the books I enjoyed in December, and every month I'll post the previous months' reviews.

48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned In School – 3 – Larry Schweikart – some of it was very interesting, some sleep-inducing. I’d recommend it for someone who is just beginning to understand the liberal bias that is prevalent in our history texts. Good start for those interested in learning our history from a conservative perspective.

Lipstick Jihad: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America and American in Iran – 3 – it was okay – it was really a lot of navel-gazing. I kept reading thinking I was getting to the good part.

Deeper Water – 4 – Robert Whitlow – homeschooled law student (Tammy/Tami) from very conservative rural family (dresses only, no cutting hair, etc.) takes a summer clerk position in a prestigious law firm. Actually, the girl’s story is interesting and her faith and the way her heart is and her personal convictions are very inspiring. The story as a crime/courtroom thriller – not so hot. First in a series, slight cliffhanger. Read this for my church book club. Overall, the book club gave it a 3.5. It did spark some really good discussion, too.

I have read other books by Whitlow – some were better courtroom stories, but this really gave you an opportunity to get to know Tammy and what makes her tick.

The Tale of Despereaux – 4.5 – Kate DiCamillo – excellent story of a young mouse with exceptionally large ears who becomes a hero. Read aloud with my older boys and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

How Dolly Parton Saved My Life: A Novel of the Jelly Jar Sisterhood – 4.75 – Charlotte Connors – fun, fun story. I liked this on so many levels. One that really stood out – Christian mothers, having to constantly defend and explain why they are working outside of the home, as they try to build a family-friendly business, where the kids are always welcome and family comes first. We moms seem to be divided so much on this issue, and it gets so personal – so dogmatic at times. It was interesting to read another perspective and to maybe (just maybe!) think that the way my family does things might not be the way for every family. I also enjoyed the story of the character who was a new Christian, and she did not dress like the ladies at her church, and her daughter did not fit in, either. Sometimes it is so good to get a stereotype slapped upside the head. Good clean, funny story. Sort of like Yada Yada Prayer Group, but lighter - more about the interaction of the characters. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Do The Right Thing – 4 – Mike Huckabee – insider’s view of his campaign, and his plan to get America back on track – very interesting and fast-paced. I agreed with almost everything.

The Shape of Mercy – 5- Susan Meissner – excellent story of a rich college girl who takes a job transcribing a diary written by one of the victims of the Salem witch trials. The story is not so much about the witch trials, as it is about the three women (Lauren the student, Abigail the elderly employer and Mercy, the diarist) and how their lives are intertwined, and about the presumptions and judgments we make about others. Read it in about 24 hours –stayed up past midnight to finish.

The Howards of Caxley – 4 – Miss Read – I have read all her Fair Acre and Thrush Green books, and now the two Caxley Chronicles. I am so going to miss my villages in the Cotswolds.

Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil – 4.25 – Nancy Atherton – more ghostly adventures with Aunt Dimity. I like how she manages to wrap a ghost story and a love story into each one.

Wishful Drinking – 1.25 – Carrie Fisher. I almost had to revise my “worst book of the year” nomination. I was really looking forward to this, and it was horrible. Totally disjointed and hard to follow, and filled with profanity and graphic sexual comments that really had no place in the story, other than to let us know that Carrie Fisher is a very crude person. Oh, and she hates George W. Bush, and only likes one Republican, but he’s dead now. No insight into her mental illness, no structured storyline of her journey – just a bunch of one-liners about peoples’ sex lives and drug use; sarcastic biting remarks about her father, etc. I was expecting something with some sort of triumph, or encouragement for others suffering – this was just a gobbledygook of “look how clever and smart-mouthed I am”. Extremely disappointing. I kept reading it, thinking we’d get past this and get to the recovery part.

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire

I just finished reading Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala. Excellent book. He became the pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle in 1972 when the place was falling apart and they were down to a handful in membership. Through the prayers of the people and the power of the Holy Spirit, the church has grown into many branches, serving all over the country. I love this quote:

"If the times are indeed as bad as we say they are.....if the darkness in our world is growing heavier by the moment....if we are facing spiritual battles right in our own homes and churches.....then we are foolish not to turn to the One who supplies unlimited grace and power. He is our only source. We are crazy to ignore Him."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Desire of Your Heart

A few weeks ago I started in a Bible discussion group at Faith Baptist. I am a member of First Baptist, but my two older boys Tony and Ben go to AWANA at Faith. So, when they started a womens' group I was so excited to join in. It is perfect for me - the same time as the boys are in AWANA and I'm already there, great discussion, and NO HOMEWORK. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for Beth Moore Bible Studies, but I can't keep up with them in this season of life.

Anyway - for this Sunday we are supposed to be thinking and praying about the desire of our hearts.

We are studying Proverbs 31.

I love the part about her children rising up and calling her blessed. I want mine to - not because I am so wonderful, but because my being their mother has been a blessing to them. That I have done right by them. The desire of my heart is to see my children saved, to have faith in Christ.

We are now 50% there - this week Ben and I had much discussion, and he is saved. I was really taken back by how much he understands, and the things he wanted to know. He does not jump into anything lightly!

My prayer journal for 1/15 was all about praying that Ben would come to faith, that he would heed the Holy Spirit. I knew he'd been thinking about it for a while, but he seemed to have defenses up. So, we've just been open to discuss and pray. Then on the 16th he told me he was ready to believe - that he actually has always believed, but today he was professing (okay, he was telling me, I said professing) that Jesus is his Saviour.

What a wonderful day. What a wonderful eternity.

He does say that he does not want to "go in front of everyone and get baptized". Hey, one step at a time.

So, now I have something to share at my womens' group tomorrow night.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Yesterday I had a wonderful afternoon - I got to take my very first Adult Sunday School teacher out to lunch. When I began coming to church as an adult, I was blessed enough to end up in Ann Adams' class. She was the first Christian woman who ever sort of "took me under her wing".

We went to Cracker Barrel and the library, then sat at her house and "visited" for about an hour. What a pleasant way to spend a cold afternoon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Getting started.....

One of the things I vowed I'd never do - have a blog.

I have always thought of blogs as being for people who "thought they were so important that they actually thought others cared what they thought".

But I signed up to follow my friend Debi's blog, and it asked if I'd like one of my very own......and well, who can turn it down!

To introduce myself - I am a homeschooling mom to four boys, wife to the best guy in the world, a Christian who is still "learning to trust" on a day-to-day (sometimes minute to minute) basis. An avid reader. An enthusiastic cook, a lifetime member of Weight Watchers (do the two go hand in hand, or what!). Mainly, I am a lifelong learner, and I hope to instill the love of learning in my boys.

I have no idea where this blog will go, or even if anyone else will ever read it, goes nuthin'!