Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Break

Time to take a little break this week just to relax. :) I'll be back next week! Have a good one!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

Is It Just Me? by British comedian Miranda Hart might not prove to be everyone's cup of tea. I'll tell you that right up front. I will confess to you though that despite her sometimes crass humor, I find her to be absolutely hysterical.

I had no idea who she was for the longest time (having formerly been a Call the Midwife hold-out). When I started watching CtM someone (I forget who) mentioned to me that the character of Chummy, who I professed to like, had her own television show. The person who told me this wasn't familiar with the show or anything, they just happened to know of its existence. Curious, I looked it up. (You can watch the first episode free on Vimeo.) Again, I do warn you that her humor is regularly crass so avoid it if you'd rather not be exposed. (So why am I watching it, you wonder?) I can't really explain why I like Miranda Hart. I just do. I've never been a "cool" and "with it" person and neither has Miranda. I guess in someways I just "get" her (so no, it's not "just her"). It's humorous to me the specific ways in which she pokes fun at society and also herself. She definitely takes note of the behavioral quirks of people which is something I do also. At the same time, she's a jolly person who absolutely loves life and enjoys enjoying it with others.

After having barreled my way through the available three seasons of Mirandra, I was missing her humor. When I discovered she had a book out I was very interested to read it and I am glad that I ultimately did, even though I can't fully recommend it to others.

I was sorting of having a "bad day" when I picked up Is It Just Me?. It had been a long week with its own frustrations and I just felt the overwhelming need to laugh. (You know how that goes, I assume....) Enter: Miranda Hart. Her book reads off very much like her sitcom. It certainly helped to be able to "hear" her voice and understand the facial and body expressions she describes herein. It made all the difference.

The only mistake I made in reading this book was beginning it in public. There I was sitting in a restaurant happily cracking open the cover and reading those first pages. First there was a chuckle. Then there was a full on body shaking laugh. Then came the tears of laughter. Then came the overwhelming and desperate desire to try not to draw attention to myself. Then my nose started running for trying to hold the laughter in and I realized it was only going to continue to get worse. I had to quickly set the book down in order to make the effort to compose myself, but the giggles kept coming and I eventually had to get up and leave.

I came home and finished reading the book while my children were down for naps. I was laughing so hard that when my daughter came out of the room she said, "What were you reading today? Can you read it to me? It sounds funny!" No, I did not read it to her but I thoroughly enjoyed it for me.

In this book Miranda Hart talks through life's many and varied trials, from advances in technology to going to the hair dresser. (She hates going to get her hair cut and I identified with every word she spoke on that topic. I probably laughed the hardest at that part. Stomach clutching laughter.) I find that my attitude matches hers when it comes to diets, beach vacations, weddings and what it's like not to be the "hippest" person in the crowd (but possibly the most comfortable one).

It's hilarious. I loved it. And it was just what I needed when I needed it. If you're curious to learn more about the comedy of Miranda Hart checkout her self-named show. That's a good starting point.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Grasshopper & The Ants, by Jerry Pinkney

By surprise we've been receiving a few children's books in the mail from certain publishers. It's been awhile since I've accepted any for review and it was fun for the kids to once again receive some books specifically for them. I've also been delighted with the surprise of a few of these and we thought we'd share them with you.

Another book by Jerry Pinkney and this time it's one of my favorite stories - The Grasshopper & the Ants. What parent doesn't like this parable against laziness? Although to be honest and to be fair, I've just always liked this story. (Apparently I was drawn to moralistic tales from a very early age.) I distinctly remember the first time I saw the old Disney cartoon of the same title and being fascinated with it. I've also never liked the grasshopper. He was far too lazy to like. I much preferred the ants who worked hard all spring and summer and fall to make sure that they were well provided for during the winter months. Then, too, I felt that they deserved their playtime and rest because they had earned it. I'm a huge fan of the "work hard, play hard" mentality and live that way myself. I've always secretly been afraid that the Grasshopper didn't really learn his lesson from the ants. I do admire the ants generosity and hospitality in allowing the Grasshopper into their fellowship for the winter but what's to prevent Grasshopper from repeating the cycle the next year?!?! He got away with laziness and greed once, and now he knows the generosity of the ants. Would the ants let him in again next year if he just (literally) fiddled around? Is there ever any need for him to work?

These are my long standing questions. What happens to Grasshopper after this winter!? We're never told and I will always wonder.

Jerry Pinkney decided to tackle this story and artistically he does it beautifully. I love his style of illustrating. It is interesting to look at and very beautiful. The text in this story is minimal with just a musical line or two per page. I wouldn't say that the story is meaty but the illustrations most certainly are. Pinkney does not disappoint and this book is a lot of fun. (EXCEPT FOR THE MYSTERY OF WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.)


Less classically appealing, but a book which is already looking well-loved around these parts is:

I Love You, Blankie is a book that two of my children, in particular, readily identify with. I always hoped that at least one of my children would develop a particular affection for a stuffed animal or something. For some truly inexplicable manner Bookworm3 (age 4) is extremely attached to her blanket (which she calls a "bah-yette" - I don't know why). Then Bookworm4 came along and he also loves his blanket dearly (fingering softly when stressed) and so both of them love this book about a beloved blanket.

The idea behind this book is that the blanket is a friend and close companion, going on all sorts of adventures with the child. Told in rhyme and simple text, the child and their blanket travel the seas, fly up into the air in a balloon (made of blanket, of course), and slide on shooting stars. It's very cute and touching and if you have or know of a strong blankie lover, this book is most definitely for them.

Many thanks to LBKids who sent both of the above titles my direction in order to facilitate a review. I received no additional compensation for this post and all opinions are 100% my own.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer

This month's Reading to Know Classics Book Club read is The Pursuit of God. A classic? Well, it qualifies as a Christian classic and therefore qualifies it for the book club. To date, this might be the most widely read of all the book club reads, based on the statements of commitment! Time will tell but I rather suspect it will be well-read this month.

I couldn't remember if I had ever read The Pursuit of God before. Now having most definitely read it, I don't think I had spent time with it previously. (So thank you, Shonya, for picking it!)

While I'm glad to have read it, I cannot exactly say that I enjoyed the read. In true fact, I rather didn't. (Whaaa . . . ?!?!!) Oh well. You always need someone around who thinks about the book a little differently than the rest so that you can have something to talk about, right? The whole time I was reading this I was thinking to myself that I'm likely to be the odd man out. I guess we shall see, but I shall proceed expecting such a thing!

The chief reasons why I didn't care for The Pursuit of God is because I didn't care or Tozer's writing "voice." I felt like I was being condescended to the entire read and no one likes that feeling. His chief concern in writing the book in the first place was to address Christians that he felt were being sucked into a worldly mindset. He writes from what seems like a fear that the church is disintegrating into something almost unusable by the Lord. He writes with a wish and a passion that Christians return to right relationships with Christ. Now what is wrong with this? Well, nothing necessary. At least not on its face. We should be about the business of encouraging one another and building each other up to a deeper more meaningful walk with Christ. But while we do this we also need to keep in mind the following:

1. Jesus wins. In fact, He already won.
2. He has claimed the church. The church will be victorious.
3. We are His. Nothing can take us out of His hands.

The church is not going to fizzle out because we lack passion.  It is a fixture, a people that God has made His own and will not forsake. Will the church suffer problems and difficulties? Yes, of course it will. Must we be vigilant to stand for truth and repent of sins? Yes, we must. But we don't need to have a down-in-the-mouth attitude about the church at large being doomed because we only see a small picture of the life of the church in Christ. (Note: we can quickly and easily see a bigger picture by returning to the Scriptures.) Again, the church is the Lord's and He has won it. It will stand victorious in the end and so we ought to be cautious about how much we lambaste the church and its members. It is important to remember that the Church belongs to Christ and He is full ownership and authority over it. We are called to be a part of it, not an attacker of it. Christians in every age have lamented the state of the Church. Today (here I go a-Tozer-ing) Christians are rather ecstatically leaping about, ready to throw the church and its members under the bus at the least sign of differences or provocation. People today have a tendency to get all doe-eyed and sentimental and individualistic in their faith walks instead of wanting to stand with the church. Perhaps this is a different problem than what Tozer himself focused on but it tends to result in the same attitude: condescension towards "well meaning but misguided Christians." (He used that phrase multiple times throughout the entire book.) Tozer deigns to condescend to the church at large and so do the modern individuals who deem it their mission to defend of whatever their favorite topic is. ("The Church today is so misguided about _________." etc.)

Tozer bickered and moaned about various dilemmas that he witnessed within the church in the 1950's. Were he to see it now I can only imagine he would have become an individualist himself. He thought Christians were too on the fence, not passionate about their faith and that the world lacked any man so great (i.e., a Martin Luther) as to have global impact.  Ok maybe the world is "lonely" for a Luther. While we don't have a Luther we can be happy about the fact that we do have the church which includes a passionate people of God who go about their daily lives with a mission and a passion to see the Gospel spread. These congregants/individuals may approach things quietly and differently than Billy Graham but they still exist and are still useful and worth realizing. I am not sad that any one preacher doesn't have the ear of the entire world at his disposal. I am more sad that we would so easily attack the church when God has clearly claimed it for His own.

Tozer's book is useful if it does cause "the common Christian" to realize the deep need for a relationship with Christ in their life. However, I think the Gospel message has been preached far more hopefully, calmly, happily, compassionately and effectively than Tozer delivered it. I would probably choose another book over this one to spur another believer on in their faith walk. Tozer said a lot of things I simply disagreed with. Two things in particular that I took issue with were as follows:

1. He really passionately dislikes the idea of observing the church calendar. He said that a church calendar and liturgy are "Roman Catholic" and that the Reformation freed us from such slavery (see Chapter X, The Sacrament of Living). Tozer would argue that those who use the phrase "holy week" or "lent" are "misled." I disagree with him hotly on this point. But it makes sense that he would say that, having never attended seminary. That almost answers the question for me as to why he would take such a stand. It's a bit of that individualistic thinking in play wherein you fail to realize that you are called to a past history as well as to a glorious future in which you are connected with other believers into One Body.

I do believe that following a Church calendar and observing times and seasons is not only completely scriptural (see the entire Old Testament which was never made completely irrelevant) but practically useful in examining one's heart and spiritual health. Also, any argument about "not liking liturgy" is going to fall on deaf ears with me because every church has a liturgy, even though they might not call it such. Every church service follows a particular pattern. You know when the call to worship will be given, and when the sermon is, and when the offering will be taken, etc. Liturgy. It's there whether you want to call it that or not. You might instead choose to call it, "The Order of Service" to make it sound less high brow but it's the same thing. Different words, same meaning. Creating order and liturgy is an inescapably human thing to do. Why? Because it's an attribute of God Himself to desire order and we who are created in His image desire order also.

But let's move along.

2. Tozer made the following statement which really lit my fuse:
"Again, it does not mean that every man is as useful as every other man. Gifts differ in the body of Christ. A Billy Bray is not to be compared with a Luther or a Wesley for sheer usefulness to the Church and to the world; but the service of the less gifted brother is as pure as that of the more gifted, and God accepts both with equal pleasure." (Chapter X, The Sacrament of Living)
To that I can really only say, "What a dunderhead."

But I expect others would like it if I explained myself a bit more.

There is neither slave nor free, Jew, nor Gentile, Wesley or Bray, Tozer or Lewis, male or female. (I paraphrased but there really is a period in the Bible after that statement. See Galations 3:28.) For? For we are all one in Christ Jesus. One in the Church. One in the Body of Christ. Each of us made with a purpose. Each of us called with the same calling. Each of us called with a different gifting, yes, but each for the same thing. There may only be room for one on a stadium platform but that doesn't mean that there aren't forty more worth knowing in the audience. Some listen more, some speak more, some plan, some are "flexible", some are old, some are young, some have media attention, some are only noticed by a handful. Each one is part of the Body so each one matters equally because it's not about us, is it? No, it is not. I personally cannot preach a sermon. But there are things I can do that my pastor cannot that will connect widely with others. We are both needed within the Body. We are both equally sinners. We are both equally worthy of having a relationship with Christ NOT because of anything within us but because of Who Christ Is and what He has chosen to do. It's not of me, so I cannot boast. I can merely be grateful and connect myself to the Body which He has named as His own and make myself useful there in the manner I am called.

Perhaps I am being terribly uncharitable towards Tozer. I fear so. However, when someone holds themselves out as being Chief in Knowledge and purports to lead a flock of believers they are subject to examination themselves and I can't say I'm impressed with the general attitude expressed. There is a distinct lack of humility which was really glaring to me and, as I say, made it hard to "hear" what he wanted me to hear.

Know this (as I do truly understand!): Tozer was passionate about developing a deep relationship with His Lord and Savior. I believe that. He was passionate about others feeling the same. I believe that's why he wrote this book and it's as good a reason to write a book as any! The best! If I were to summarize I would simply say that he was so passionate about talking to others and instructing them in their endeavors to obtain this relationship that I think he failed to listen and to observe. There's not much room for debating any subject with him, I think. He doesn't give off the impression of being much open for having a conversation with anyone that he felt was "misguided" and, I confess it, when I meet with that personality I feel compelled to walk away. It doesn't seem that much good will come of an argument with them. But when two parties are ready to and want listen to one another, then you begin to see amazing things happen, not just between them but within the church also. Note too that when I run into this attitude it always causes me to examine myself and my personality and see if I've been overbearing and harsh with others. (I have a tendency towards this and it's something I've been taking care to pay attention to. For this reason, chiefly, I think this was a good book for me to read.) I know too that even when a person appears not to be listening, they really are. And that's an invitation to talk to me, yes, even when you aren't sure that I'm hearing you. I am therefore willing to give Tozer the benefit of the doubt that he's not so condescending as he sounds but I still don't agree with the above statements in particular.

On that note, I'm personally looking forward to a lively but respectful discussion about this book. I'm curious to hear what other people are getting from it that I am not. Would I say it's a good book to read? Hmmm.... I don't know. Convince me.

Or, in the words of another lofty fellow, "I'm listening..."

Friday, March 13, 2015

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Well, we did it! A few days late and a few dollars short but we got our Wilder book in this year, thanks to Barbara's Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge which she hosts every, um, February.

I was originally going to read the kids The Long Winter but, as it turns out, we experienced quite a mild winter ourselves. I didn't feel that that book would be as impacting when we're wearing short sleeved shirts. Instead, I opted to read Farmer Boy which I can't say as ever been my favorite of the Little House books but, as seems to nearly always be the case, it improved for me upon a re-read.

I'll refrain from sharing the storyline for Farmer Boy because I'm sure that most people already know it (or can easily look it up) but I will note that Farmer Boy tells the story of Almanzo Wilder's (Laura's husband's) childhood. It's interesting to think of him relating to Laura stories from his past. I'm sure some of the facts must be a bit hazy because he could only tell her things from his perspective but, whatever the case, it makes for a jolly read.

Warning: this book will also make you hungry as much of the story focuses on what you'd find on the Wilder dinner table. (Wouldn't I like to be a guest there! With a hearty metabolism to boot!) My boys were enthralled with the food which runs rampant throughout the story. Not a few pages would go by before there was a howl of desire rising from all of the children's throats as we read about Almanzo eating slice after slice (after slice) of pie, glorious pie! Can we label the food as its own unique character in this book? It features so prevalently that I have to wonder.

Changing the subject a little, I'll keep this post rather short and sweet by documenting the children's experience with Farmer Boy. I posed a Q and A to all of the bookworms and have posted their answers below:


Bookworm1, Age 8 1/2

Did you like the book? Yes.

Why? Because there was lots of yummy food!

If you could eat anything you wanted to at one meal, what would you eat? Pancakes and chocolate ice cream, mandu, apple pie and a raspberry pie.

What was your favorite part of the book? When Almanzo got the $200.

What would you do if someone gave you $200? I would say, "YAY!"

Would you ever want to read this book again? No.

Why not? Because then I would have to listen to you read about all the yummy food again.

Would you tell other people to read this book? Yes.


Bookworm2, Age 6

Did you like the book Farmer Boy? Yes.

Why? Because he got to eat all of that candy.

What was your favorite part of the book? When the log fell on Almanzo.

Why was that your favorite part? Because I thought it was exciting.

Why was that part exciting? Because it was a little bit scary.

What food from the book would you want to eat? All of the yummy sugar stuff. And pancakes for breakfast.

Would you ever want to read this book again? Yes.

Would you tell other people to read this book? Yes!


Bookworm3, age almost 4 and counting down the days

Did you like the book Farmer Boy? Mmm-Hmm.

What was your favorite part? Christmas and all the yummy food.

Would you tell other people to read this book? Yes.


And there you have it, folks.

Maybe next year we'll see some snow and that'll make The Long Winter a more appropriate read. Either that or we'll blast the air conditioning.

Thanks, Barbara, for hosting this challenge yet again (and for accepting even us late comers)! I surely do appreciate it.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Race the Wild series, by Kristin Earhart

I received copies of the first two books in a new series called Race the Wild by Kristin Earhart quite by surprise. I hadn't requested them and they were sent without inquiry. As I've mentioned before though, I'm having a hard time keeping up with Bookworm1's (age 8) reading and I was delighted with the surprise of these books as I thought they would be right up Bookworm1's alley. I asked him if he'd be interested in reading them and he said he would. Before he did so though, I previewed the first title. Below you'll find our combined thoughts on this series.

Mom's general thoughts: I skimmed the first book completely through before allowing him to read them. (This took me a grand total of 20 minutes max.) The premise of the book is that there are a group of kids that sign up to run a race around the world. The children are formed into teams and they compete against each other as they attempt to complete courses taking them all over the globe. Along the way they learn about geography and the animals which inhabit the various lands. There are to be additional titles available in this series.

Mom Concerns: the children sign up for this adventure which is clearly a set up for a reality tv show (although that doesn't seem to be made explicitly clear). They have guides which stay with them (the adult supervision necessary!) but who, of course, do not advise or counsel. They are just there to keep an eye on things. I don't really think very much of the set-up but I also knew that the concept of a reality show was going to go right over Bookworm1's (age 8 1/2) head and so I didn't necessarily mind him reading it. I wouldn't continue to suggest such titles as he grows up, but for now I think it's fine. The book is mostly about animals and adventure from his perspective and I won't begrudge him that.

My only other "concern" isn't a very strong one. The kids happily wave goodbye to their parents and occasionally reference the fact that if their parents knew what they were doing on these adventures, they'd be terrified for their children's safety. They don't seem to talk about their parents in a disrespectful way, per se, but it's verges on it. I didn't see their attitudes as being blatant enough to raise it as a topic of discussion with my bookworm but I'd just as soon authors take great caution when having the younger characters speak of or reference the adult characters. As I say though, the issue wasn't glaringly obvious enough for me to want to address it because I also know that he isn't the type to take great notice of that or have it effect him negatively unless it's really obvious. And it wasn't.

Bookworm1's general thoughts:

This series is about a race that the children were trying to win. They were in a race and they had to figure out clues about an animal and then take a picture of that animal. Then they got to move on to the next thing.

The first book is Rain Forest Relay. In this book, the children were in a rain forest and they had a boat that they got to ride in while they were finding their clues. They got all of the clues and the red team came in first place. This book was pretty exciting because the red team was trying to get their clues really fast because the green team was in front. Then the red team came in first place because although the green team made it to the finish line first, they did not know the answer to the last clue. I read this book really fast.

The second book is called Great Reef Games. In this story I read about the red team and the purple team. The red team got to get a head start because they came in first place in the last book and they had three other people to help them. Two people on the red team got to ride a parasail and look for whales. They worked hard to find clues. For the second clue they were required to take three pictures of symbiosis - (interjects, "I think that means something helping another thing.") - and they got two but they messed up on the third one. Finally they got the third picture and then they went on with the cruise and got second place. Purple team got first place and that's the end of the book.

Q & A with Mom:

Would you recommend this series of books to other kids? I think so.

How old do you think someone should be before they read these books? They should be old enough to read The Boxcar Children Books.

Was there anything scary in the books that you would warn others about? No.

Was there anything troublesome/worrisome/bad in the books that you would want me to know about? No.

Do you want to read the other books in this series? Yes.

Why? They are exciting.

Race the Wild #3: Arctic Freeze is due out later this year.

Many thanks to Scholastic Books who sent the above titles our direction in order to facilitate this review. We received no additional compensation and all opinions are our own.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Late, Lost, and Unprepared, by Joyce Cooper-Kahn & Laurie Dietzel, Ph.D.

The full title of this book is Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents' Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. This book came recommended to me as a means of offering some help or advice in dealing with some learning difficulties we are experiencing here. I hesitate to label what we have as a "learning disability" because that tends to denote something negative in people's minds and I don't think what we're dealing with is remotely crippling. Challenging sometimes? Yes! Crippling? No. Worth reading a book about to help me help my kids? Absolutely!

Your first question might be the same as mine: what is executive functioning?

From WebMD (that trusted and reliable source, I'm sure) it is defined as follows:

"Executive function refers to a set of mental skills that are coordinated in the brain's frontal lobe. Executive functions work together to help a person achieve goals.

Executive function includes the ability to:
  • manage time and attention
  • switch focus
  • plan and organize
  • remember details
  • curb inappropriate speech or behavior
  • integrate past experience with present action"
Our issue has been failing to remember a set of details and instructions, instead seeming only to focus on one-step processes at a time. To give an example, I might have to say, "Go get your socks" and then wait until that task has been accomplished before I can say, "Ok, now put them on." If I were to say, "Go get your socks and shoes and put them on" the person might walk in the general direction of socks and shoes but then might stand there for awhile trying to remember the set of instructions instead of moving ahead with the task at hand (or at foot, as the case may be). Frequently it feels like I have have to think in terms of baby steps when offering instruction and I've not always been sure what the problem is or how to handle it. In reading this book I feel like I've been offered a great introduction to the idea of teaching how to build and grow my children's ability to take in information, process it and complete tasks and assignments for themselves. Now if I can just take and apply this advice, maybe we'll see some improvement!

I really appreciated reading Late, Lost, and Unprepared in large part because it is not a Debbie Downer sort of book. It is written by two women who both hold Ph.D.'s, and they say in the introduction that they have had issues of this nature with their own children and have counseled many hundreds of others for the same difficulty. Because they've personally processed how to help children to manage their own affairs, they understand that it can be hard work. This book reads in a very encouraging manner; it reads very much as if these authors actually wish you to succeed and are simply offering some advice and things to try to help you do so. They begin by saying:

"One of our most important jobs as parents is to help our kids develop a realistically positive self-image. Good self-esteem is build on a levelheaded appraisal of one's own strengths and weaknesses and a sense of competence in the world. People who view themselves as helpless, ineffective, or inferior are at risk for lifelong problems in social, emotional, and vocational functioning. On the other hand, people who deny their own weaknesses and fail to realistically appraise themselves will have an inflated view of their abilities and will be unprepared for the real world. (Chapter 4, The Child's Experience of Executive Weakness, page 33)

I definitely agree that having a realistic outlook of one's own strengths and weaknesses is enormously important. I would add that being humble about both is also rather necessary and critical. It is great to know what your strong points are as that tells you what areas you are gifted in, how you can serve others, and give life your best effort. Knowing your weaknesses keeps you honest. Honesty is a valuable commodity and, I would argue, essential for true success. Knowing where you need help and being willing to seek it out and apply other people's advice is detrimental for your soul's health and every other area you could hope to succeed in. (Hopefully by admitting that I needed to read this book I'll make some parenting progress, eh? Is that a humble question or no?)

The authors of this book focus a lot on creating short term training solutions to promote long-term success in a child's ability to thrive independently. While it is true that a person who has executive dysfunction can likely make their way around in the world without anyone's help, the authors (and myself) would argue that such children will be better prepared to manage themselves well as adults if their parents help develop their ability to self-discipline when they are young. To develop such self-discipline and focus, they truly do need the help of parents (or guardians or teachers, etc.). Certainly I think that if parents are willing to address a child's strengths and weaknesses and offer instruction from a very early age, the frustration levels in many areas of society are greatly decreased.

Cooper-Kahn and Dietzel say this:

"If we only focus on short-term goals with our kids, then we are only doing half our job. It is also important to provide the explicit teaching and practice vital to increasing their executive competence. Building skills can be done with help from parents, teachers, tutors, therapists and other important adults." (Chapter 8, How to Help: An Overview, page 78)

The idea in training children is that they will ultimately be able to be self-governing, responsible, and independent adults. Our purpose in raising our kids as always been to teach them to think for themselves so that they can become productive, useful, thinking, successful (and happy!) adults who are capable of doing great things. It was good to see that Cooper-Kahn and Dietzel suggest the same. They aren't writing with the idea of creating helicopter parents but to give parents healthy ideas and suggestions for training their children up so that when they are old they will know what to do to succeed for themselves. (Let me briefly interject that this is not a religious book but a secular one in case any of you out there are wondering.)

The second half of the book focuses almost exclusively on the practical "how-to" teach and guide your children so that they can carry themselves well. Some of the ideas that they include for helping children learn to take in information and then sort, process and apply to their lives is to:

- Give chore charts.
- Lower expectations to a level that is attainable at the present.
- Keep instructions simple.
- Establish a regular routine for accomplishing any number of tasks so that the child can learn through repetition.
- Be consistent.
- Follow through on what you say you will do to help your child out.
- Encourage them and cheer them on when you see even the slightest bit of change for the better.
- Examine your own life and see if you are the one making it more difficult for them to work through tasks and manage things themselves. (i.e., Are you disorderly yourself!?)

Personally, I felt convicted about not having a steady, more predictable daily schedule for our kids. Yes, we do some of the same things every single day but we really don't have a particular Order of the Day that we follow which leaves them in a perpetual state of wondering, "What Will Happen Next?". I tell myself that I like the variety but I know that my children would "perform" better if I would lay out expectations for them that they could understand and relax into. I think that's a fair assessment and I hereby purpose to create a predictable "program" for our days that they can more easily follow along with.

I also liked Cooper-Kahn's and Dietzel's suggestion to set a timer to help keep kids on tasks. We tend to do that only when a child has failed to accomplish a task and needs a ticking motivator to do so. I think a timer would help set expectations up appropriately so that we wouldn't have as many harried and hurried moments in the end. If I were more specific with our schedule for the day and time allotments, I can see them being able to focus on the jobs at hand. Upon reflection, I can see how I tend to leave things open ended, leaving them wondering if they need to hurry to get a job done or take a more, um, leisurely approach. What I'm saying is that, by examining my own life, even though I approach things in a manner that suits me and which I understand, it comes across as a great mystery to the little people. That's not very fair to them as they are trying to be part of a team and do their part. As I say, I'll be getting right on that Schedule for the Day. It's the right thing to do for them. It makes perfect sense to me that if you are repeating a schedule, a young person will more easily catch on to what the plan is and will learn to follow along and do what is asked of them, quite willingly and happily! Predictable structure would be a better thing for our family with the ages they are at, I think. Anyway, I'll be working on that!

Cooper-Kahn and Dietzel offer the following advice and encouragement which I will end with for purposes of this post (and purposes of encouraging myself):

Expect slow progress with ups and downs along the way. if you have ever tried to lose weight, then you know how slow behavior change can be. If you have been successful at losing weight, you have learned to set realistic goals, to celebrate small victories, and to recover when you have a set back. These are principles that guide all behavior change." (Chapter 9, Behavior Change in a Nutshell, page 89)

It is going to take a little time for us to shift in our thinking so that we can navigate life all together more easily. As I sort of mentioned, in our family we talk a lot about being a team. We're all in this together. When one member struggles, we all struggle. Being given a resource that helps to encourage and advice according to the particular issues we've been facing has proved vastly encouraging to me personally. (It has also proved enlightening! I wouldn't have pegged myself as one who is so disorderly in a systematic approach to things themselves.) Taking things slow, rearranging and then ordering life is something I shall prayerfully and practically go about doing.

Honestly, I wasn't quite sure whether or not I really wanted to "review" Late, Lost, and Unprepared on the blog, given the more personal nature of what it means to me. But then again, I figured other parents out there might be struggling with some of the same issues. This is a relatively short book (203 pages), is thoughtfully laid out to allow you to read it in short snippets if your reading time is limited. It gives practical, encouraging advice and who doesn't want that?! I'm glad to have read it and would happily recommend it to others if they felt they had a need.
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