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Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Blog Break!

Time for a short little spring break for me and the ol' blog. I'll be back next Monday.

My favorite wild flower that grows in our yard. photo credit: Blue Castle Photography
The other day Bookworm2 brought two of these flowers into the house: one for me, one for his sister. I love them! And I love him! How sweet is that?

Enjoy your week!

Happy Spring to you!

Friday, April 11, 2014

KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology, by Rich Morton

I accepted KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology for review out of curiosity. Our family has adopted and so it is a topic that I am interested in. I wouldn't say that we're one of those families who becomes passionate about adopting to the point where it takes over our entire identity. Most of the time we forget that one of our children is adopted. Your children become a part of you, regardless of how they arrived into your home. Adoption, like home schooling, is not something that I think everyone is called to do. In fact, there are some people I don't think should ever consider the idea of adopting just like there are some people who absolutely should not attempt home schooling. Just because one person is called to it, doesn't mean another one is.

There was a part of me that was afraid author Rick Morton would try to convince everyone to adopt. When I cracked open the pages of KnowOrphans I was rather suspicious that this would be the case, but my fears were instantly assuaged. Morton is not trying to convince people - specifically Christians in the church - to adopt. In fact, he argues that our first concern should be to support families so that they can remain intact. He believes that it really is in everyone's best interest for families to stay together and learn to function within the original family unit. However, the fact is that some parents around the globe are unable to keep their children with them for any variety of reasons. When this is the case, then it should be our priority to help keep kids in the culture that they were born into. When this is also not a possibility, then adopting internationally should be supported. In all of this, I agree with him for many reasons which I have no intention whatsoever of debating with anyone.

Morton's mission with this book is provide ideas for churches to become actively involved in supporting orphans around the globe. My husband and I have been talking about this exact subject quite a bit these past few weeks. Again, I wouldn't say that we've necessarily had a passion for the subject outside of our own family but a few things lately have been awakening some new ideas within us. Morton raised an argument which had grabbed my attention a few days before I began reading this book and that argument is one that pro-choice people tend to lay at the feet of pro-lifers. The pro-choice argument goes that it's all fine and good to say that we believe mothers should "choose life." However, they argue that unless we are willing to provide the practical help necessary to enable the mother to have and then raise the child, we ought to just shut up. I think this is a fair charge to lay at our feet. We can say, "Choose Life!" all we like but if we aren't willing to provide the time, money and love necessarily to keep a mother and her child functioning and thriving then what good are our words? They end up sounding hollow and mean nothing. I think it's time to answer their argument by putting some action to our words. I think if we did that, we might be surprised by how the abortion number begins decreasing around the country.

Reading KnowOrphans broadened my understanding of what can be done to support the orphan. Money is obviously a high priority because, well, it helps make the world go 'round. He notes several organizations that work to provide meals and education for children in single-parent or economically challenged homes so that families can remain intact. He also notes that while not everyone is called to adopt, everyone is called to help care for orphans and widows citing the oft referenced James 1:27. You might not give of your home but there are money issues as well as the opportunity to serve orphans with your time. Perhaps a family in your church feels called to adopt? You could support their efforts with a check and/or meals and/or childcare to offer the parents some relief and assistance. Donate old maternity clothes to your local crisis pregnancy center. Take time out to counsel young women who have recently discovered that they are pregnant. Drop a bag of groceries off at the home of the single mom that you know or bring her a meal. The opportunities really are endless once you get to thinking about it. I also like that Morton calls men out specifically to rise to the challenge of caring for orphans - not just leaving the burden of childcare to women. Many children without fathers need a father figure in their life. Men should be leading the charge to protect and defend the fatherless. It's what they are designed to do.

KnowOrphans really opens up doors for good conversation between Christians. There are a lot of ideas for how to engage in ministering to children in need of family. The church should be that family - it's what we're called to. As Morton noted, there is a resurgence within the church to tend to meet the needs of these children and that is beautiful to behold. But there is still work to do.

Morton may have fanned the flames on Jonathan's and my fires a bit. I was blessed to read this book and would recommend it to get the mind engaged on the plight of the orphan - and what you can do to provide relief. Again, it doesn't mean you have to adopt but there is no doubt a role that you can play. Will you find it? It's an interesting question to think about.

Many thanks to Litfuse Publicity who sent a copy of this book my direction in order to facilitate this review. To see what others thought of this book, visit the Litfuse Publicity page for KnowOrphans.

I received no additional compensation for this review and all opinions are my own.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis

We read The Silver Chair at the insistent and repeated request of Bookworm1 (age 7). It should be noted that his motivation for reading this story was being able to play with our Narnia Toys which they are only allowed to touch when we're reading these particular books. (The rest of the time, the toys reside in our wardrobe and belong to mommy. Heh.) All of the kids were very excited the day we were able to begin another trek into Narnia but not wanting them to tired of the toys, after about 2 days of play I switched us over to 'taking tea' while we read. That practice never got old because along with our tea we each had a piece of Turkish Delight while I read and Turkish Delight is a very exciting thing. I want these books to stick in my kids' memories. So far my plan is working. (Bwwahahahahaha!!!)

Personally, I always feel a bit sad when beginning The Silver Chair because there are no Pevensies. I never fail to miss their presence in the story. This year the presence of Mr. Beaver was missed most vocally by Bookworm3 (age 2!) who remembers our read from last year and remembers who he is. She played with our Mr. Beaver but never heard his name in the story and wondered a bit about that.

Due to the popularity of this series, I'm not going to launch into a description of what this book is about. (Here's a past synopsis for you if you have a need to know.) Instead I'll keep to sharing our experiences during this particular reading. This would be the kids' first time to hear this story and my third. (Or fourth?) As I say, this one always makes me feel a bit nostalgic for the Pevensies but my emotions are satisfied with Eustace who serves as my link to the past.

As is the usual case, I can't read Narnia without crying out loud. I know the books well enough to brace myself, but the tears come no matter what. Honestly though, I don't mind. I'd rather cry as soon as not, no matter how confused this makes my children. (It adds to the memorable reading experience. Turkish Delight and mommy sobbing on the sideline. Ha.) In this book, my tears are usually the "fault" of Puddleglum who is, without a doubt, one of the most honorable characters in the entire series. He's a bit of what you might call a "fuddy duddy" but when pressed he is the first to stand up for what he believes is right. I love that.

The most memorable chapter is when Puddleglum, Eustace, Jill and Prince Rillian are being woo-ed by the Queen of the Underworld. She is working hard to convince them that there is no such thing as Aslan or the sun either for that matter. She sways them with enchanted music, soothing words, and a magic smoke from her fire meant to get their guard down. Puddleglum is having a hard time holding to the truth as he smells the enchanted smoke and listens to her music, but he understands that the these are the very things that are causing the group of Narnians to drowsily cave in to the witch's arguments. He realizes that he needs to literally put a fire out with his feet in order that their heads would be cleared of the smoke and magic so that they can think for themselves again.

"But Puddleglum, desperately gathering all his strength, walked over to the fire. Then he did a very brave thing. He knew it wouldn't hurt him quite as much as a human; for his feet (which were bare) were webbed and hard and cold-blooded like a duck's. But he knew it would hurt him badly enough; and so it did. With his bare foot he stamped on the fire, grinding a large part of it into ashes on the flat hearth." (The Queen of the Underland)

Puddleglum is a character to be admired. He screws up the courage and does what needs to be done, even though he knows that standing for truth and doing what is right is going to hurt him. And it does hurt him because standing up for what is right usually has a hefty price tag attached to it. In this case, Puddleglum paid for truth with his foot. But the picture of his sacrifice had a deep impact on me.

Maybe it doesn't always seem like it, but I think most times I would much rather follow the crowd than stand apart from it, daring to be different. I feel like I'm always losing some game when I step out and say that I either a.) care deeply about something and/or b.) hear a lie and want to actively expose it. It is not a pleasant sensation and it never is easy for me. Yet I don't feel like I'm allowed to just sit back passively and let the lies settle in and take over me and my surroundings. Which is why I appreciate Puddleglum's following statement:

But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can, even if there isn't any Narnia.
- Puddleglum, to the Queen of Underland

Even if I'm just playing a game and if, let's say, God does not exist, I'm still going to live as if He does. I am going believe in His existence until the last breath leaves my body. Because I think my "play world" licks the "real world" hollow.

I feel very blessed and encouraged by reading this book again. It was good for me to read of Puddleglum and keep company with him a third or fourth time. I suspect a six, ninth or thirteenth time might be necessary.


  • Bookworm1's favorite character was Aslan but his favorite scene was when the Queen of the Underworld turned into a snake and the others fought her to the death. You could have heard a pin drop in the room during the reading of that chapter.
  • Bookworm2's favorite character was also Aslan but he laughed every single time Jill called someone a "pig." It's a hilarious insult. Especially when you are five.
  • Bookworm3's favorite character was the Turkish Delight.


It feels like I've had to wait forever and a day to enjoy Narnia with my own kids. Fewer books give me greater delight to share with them. I love it!!!

I will be linking this post up to Amy's Read Aloud Thursday at the end of the month.


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Snippets

Sometimes I read books and love them but fail to write about them when the mood strikes. (And also, the mood for writing has struck less frequently these past few weeks.)

 I have a growing stack of titles-to-be-written-about and they are glaring at me mercilessly. I almost feel guilty towards them. At the same time, I know myself well enough to know that I should only write when the mood strikes or else I feel resentful about stringing together words. Better to feel guilty than bitter. (HA!)

That explained, it's now been too many days since I finished reading these books to tell you in great detail what I thought of them. I also know myself well enough to know that I don't write something down about them, I'm likely to forget them all together.

Below is my personal compromise with myself:

*****

I did get around to reading The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Hidden Gallery (Book 2) some time ago. Actually, I read it pretty quickly after I finished reading Book 1 (linked to review). Which means, I read Book 2 perhaps before the end of last year or at the beginning of this one. I no longer remember. I do remember that I liked it very much and went on to purchase Book 3 which I have not yet read. (I'll be reading it this month. And then maybe I'll write about it right away.)

Fun series. I'm debating whether or not to hand it over to my 7 1/2 year old or hold off for a year or so more. He's kind of in a reading slump and said reading is "boring" which is a horrifying word to be paired with books. So I think I ought to give him something that is more exciting. The Incorrigible Children are definitely exciting! I'm still enjoying this series and can't wait to see where it goes.

If all else fails, maybe I'll make a bunch of LEGO sets using the millions of LEGOs which we have on hand to build scenes in books to increase his interest levels. (HA x 2!)

*****

The Romanov Bride was a book I had waited years to read, quite literally. First, I read The Kitchen Boy back in 2011 (linked). That book is beyond awesome and I haven't met a person who didn't like it yet. Then I read Rasputin's Daugher (also linked; also in 2011) which is the second book in this rather unofficial trilogy by Robert Alexander featuring the last tsar of Russia and his family. Now, Rasputin was a creepy, creepy guy. After reading that book I suppose I somewhat feared reading the third title because I didn't want to be disappointed. And I wasn't. Hallelujah.

In The Romanov Bride we learn more about Grand Duchess Elisavyeta who is the sister to Alexandra, the last tsarina. Elisavyeta's story starts out as something as a grand fairy tale but what we ultimately learn is her life was not so happy as others might think. We see her character grow and transform as the book moves along. Pretty much every page helds some fascination for me. I loved it from beginning to end and enjoyed learning more about the Grand Duchess and the effect that the Russian Revolution had on her. I highly recommend this title (and the others in the series) to you.

Additional note: You can skip the second title if you feel like you want to. You won't miss very much if you choose to do that. There are a few references to Rasputin in The Romanov Bride but nothing so complex as to leave you scratching your head.

******

The other day I wanted to read something short, quick and happy (to feel as if I accomplished some reading) and so I picked out Goody Hall, by Natalie Babbitt. I purchased this book at our library's book sale just a month or so ago because I like Babbitt as an author. (Most especially I like her The Search for the Delicious which I cannot say enough good things about.) Fun stuff.

Usually.

Goody Hall tells the story of a mother and son who live in a grand house on the outskirts of town. They have no friends and keep to themselves. The only thing the townspeople really know is that the husband/father died about five years back and that his relatives have kept to themselves since his death. One day a man by the name of Hercules Feltwright wonders into town and he is hired to be the young lad's tutor. A mystery is discovered pretty much immediately upon Feltwright entering the house. Is the father dead, or isn't he?

It would be a sort of fun book but the use of a medium is included to discover whether or not daddy is really dead. I've already talked about how I feel about the use of mediums so no need to repeat. Then, also, the story wraps up rather abruptly which I found to be a little unsatisfying. It felt like there was a great deal of build up only to have everything summarized too neatly, too fast.

I accomplished my purpose on this one: I read a book in an afternoon. But I'll probably never re-read this particular title ever again.

*******

There. We're documented at any rate, even if my thoughts fail to go very deep on any of these particular reads. It's something! Right?

Monday, April 07, 2014

Reading to Know Book Club :: April Selection/Wodehouse

Reading to Know - Book ClubNow it is time to focus on our April read for the Reading to Know Book Club. This month our discussion is being led by Cassandra at Adventist Homemaker. She choose My Man Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse for us to read.

We do realize that many of you out there might either a.) have difficulty in finding this particular title or b.) have already read this one and would like to read a different Wodehouse book. Please feel free to vary your Wodehouse reading as you see fit this month. For my part (and Cassandra's) I'll be reading My Man Jeeves because I can't recall that I've read read this specific one.

Here is Cassandra to kick this selection off:

******

Do you know someone whose taste in books is so much aligned with yours that you’ll read anything they suggest? My father-in-law fills that role in my life. He is a retired history professor and has great taste in literature. Several years ago, he recommended that I try reading a P.G. Wodehouse book. Being the methodical person that I am, I started at the very beginning of Wodehouse’s writings and started reading. I read several books and loved them. British humor, fun plot lines, and they have stood the test of time. My library carries an entire shelf of Wodehouse books.

I have not yet met Bertie Wooster and his butler Jeeves, which is why I suggested My Man Jeeves as the book selection for April. I am eager to meet this very famous duo! I love the way IMDB sums up their relationship: “Bertram Wooster, a well-intentioned, wealthy layabout, has a habit of getting himself into trouble and it's up to his brilliant valet, Jeeves, to get him out.”

I hope you’ll read along with me and share your thoughts!

*****

Are you reading along with us? We'd love to know it, if you are. Just leave a note below if you would.

Enjoy your April!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Reading to Know Book Club :: Little White Horse (CONCLUSION)

Reading to Know - Book ClubOk, I think this is the part where we explain that we'll probably never wrap up a discussion on the ACTUAL last day of the month. But we'll try to hit as close to the mark as we can! We're just making sure you have those last extra days to participate! (Yes, that's exactly it.)

This past month (March) we read The Little White Horse, by Elizabeth Goudge. Stephanie from Simple Things is back again to open up the discussion of this read. If you read along with us this month, please let us know your thoughts in the comment section and also link to any of your own reviews/thoughts on this book. If you've read it in the past and have an old review to post, please feel free. We'd like to know what you thought!

Without further ado, here is Stephanie:

*****

Well, what did you think of The Little White Horse? I am always surprised at what jumps out at me that I didn’t catch on a first (or fifth!) read-through of a book! I still enjoyed this fairy-tale like story, but I was surprised by a few things that I didn’t remember the first time through.


  • The heavy amount of mysticism / magic at the end of the book. When Maria and Monsieur Cocq do Noir were in the forest and the “sea-horses were galloping inland” … what was this? Waves? The sun coming up over the land? A true vision of horses? Way more mystical and confusing than I remembered.
  • I was struck by how many themes of reconciliation there were in the book. Sir Benjamin and Loveday. The Parson and Maria’s governess. And for that matter Robin and Maria after they had been separated as children. Some of these were separated because of time and circumstances while Sir Benjamin and Loveday were split due to childish and petty quarrels. Then there was the sad and tragic separation of the Sir Wrolf and his bride. With the exception of the original Sir Wrolf, I was very pleased that all the other relationships were restored. I do love a happy ending. (My favorite by far – the governess and the parson. Not recognizing each other and then the realizing they had each other’s books! Just the best).
  • As Carrie mentioned in her review, I was puzzled at the end by Robin and Maria’s marriage. I thought maybe I had misread their ages in the story myself because I had definitely imagined them as more childlike and not nearly old enough to get married. I figured I had just missed the line that said “ten years later…” or something of that nature. But no. Married as young teens! However, considering how all the elders in this story waited to get married and ended up being separated from the true loves for various and sundry reasons, maybe they decided that marrying so young was the better plan … before they argued themselves out of that idea? Who knows.


Just a few of my random thoughts from this second reread of this book. I enjoyed it though I questioned a few things in a bit more this time as you can see from my notes above. I’m eager to try another of Elizabeth Goudge’s books and see how it compares to The Little White Horse and if all of her novels are along this mystical vein.

Thanks, Carrie, for asking me to host again this year!

*****

Now it's your turn! What did you think?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Splash Cards (Giveaway)

Hello, hello, hello! This post comes a little later in the day but sometimes life is just like that.

I was recently sent samples of the following games for my kids to try out and I've also been authorized to offer some to you so stay tuned for information on the giveaway.

Now, I guess you could say our family is a quasi-gaming family. My husband's family loves playing games and I do not. Our children are a blend of the both of us although they'd probably rather play games as not.

The following games are unique in that, while you can play them wherever you like, they are designed specifically for use in bathtubs and swimming pools. Intrigued? Well, I was. We were sent the following:

Splash Cards: Splash Jack is the most diverse grouping of cards. This deck features cards with both letters and numbers, illustrated with brightly colored ocean animals. Because of the multiple options for games provided by this deck of cards, it is Bookworm1's (age 7) favorite. You can play War, Rummy or Go Fish with this one.

As is the case with each set of these splash cards, they all come in a netted bag with a zipper on the top for easy storage. The bag is pretty sturdy and provides a way for the cards to air out and dry off sufficiently. All of the cards are made of a lightweight material that feel very much like foam. However, unlike foam they do not tear very easily (I tried) and don't break apart leaving little foam pieces floating around in your tub or pool. The cards are bendable and, when wet, stick to surfaces. If your kids enjoy their bath time play, these cards will easily stick to the side of the tub.

Splash Pals is, as you can see from the picture on the right, a mix and match card game, better suited for younger kids. This one is a good one to have a surface to play against so that you can stick the pictures together such that you can create a collection of silly creatures. Mix and match heads and bodies for your own amusement. (Rather, your children can do this for their amusement, assuming the mothers out there aren't taking long baths and playing games in the tub. But I'm not judging if you are.)

I passed this particular deck off to a friend of mine for her kids to play with because I thought her younger daughters would have more fun with this. My friend (and fellow mother) thought the concept of these cards rather unique and was just as intrigued as I was. Again, it's a really cool idea and, to be honest, if it extends bath time play a little bit further than I'm rather all for it.

Note: There is a bold warning on all packages reminding parents not to allow children to play in water unsupervised. (Just in case you've never caught that memo or found reason to be concerned....)

As far as the bathtub/swimming pool cards go, the last set we were sent was Splash Cards: Splashimals in which you are encouraged to match up animals (I bet you were surprised to hear that one...) and read their names. This deck is perfect for my youngest two at the present. My five year old reads the words and my two year old matches the animals together. This is a cute deck.

When children are playing with any of the cards, you should be prepared to see the tub full of scattered items. This might cause a momentary panic on the part of the parent who is thinking about another mess to clean up. It's true you have to scoop the cards all up but, again, the storage bag is nice and handy and can be left in the bathtub or put away if you prefer. Furthermore, they are easy to wipe clean should the need to do so arise.

If you are looking for fun tub toys or things for kids to play with in their summer wading pools, you might consider these.

*****


Next, we were also sent a copy of  Touring Card Game. This game is the "first original car racing game" which first appeared on the scene in 1906. It was picked up by Parker Brothers in 1925 and is being re-released in updated, snazzy packaging by Winning Moves.

This idea is that you are completing a racing tour and you have to collect 550 miles before your opponents for the win. You have to collect a certain number of 20 mph cards, 35, 50 and 75 mph cards. Your opponents can stop your progress by playing "penalty" cards against you - like bad breaks or running out of gas. You can resume your progress by playing mechanic or gas cards. Whoever clocks their miles first, wins. This can be played as a two player game or in teams. (Our family played in teams.)

It's a fairly quick moving game so long as you draw helpful cards. Bookworm2 and I soundly beat the rest of the family in this game, mostly by drawing useful cards which kept us very far in the lead. My husband and Bookworm1 were not as big of fans of this game but then . . . they lost.

It's true though that this game is more my speed (har, har) as it allows for conversation to take place over the playing of it. The rules are easy to comprehend and you can keep the pace moving as you converse with your friends. I wouldn't say it's a "gamer's game" but it's fun for family play and for a game night with friends.

Now for the fun stuff:

I have a copy of EACH of these games to give away to one of you. Care to win four new games for you and your family to play (with)? Simply leave a comment below. This contest is open to U.S. residents only and will be open through this coming Monday, April 7th.

Additional entries available if you:

1. Share this giveaway on Twitter (leave an extra comment); and/or
2. Share this on Facebook (leave an extra comment.


THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER, as selected by random.org, IS #2 - Texas Rainbow! CONGRATS!

Best to you!

And many thanks to Winning Moves who sent copies of these games my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are my own.
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