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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Little Brown Bear :: Read Aloud Thursday


Time for another Read Aloud Thursday over at Hope is the Word. This meme presents a chance for you to share books that you have read aloud with your kids with other moms, and collect ideas for your own future reads.  To learn more about this meme (and/or to participate in it yourself!) visit Hope is the Word.

* Note: Actually RAT is tomorrow but I'm participating in a blog tour tomorrow so I'm posting this a day early this month!

As we already documented earlier in the month, my kids and I read C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair. Click on the title to read our thoughts and experiences in Narnia.



We also managed to squeeze in two additional short titles around certain overseas travels. We read the following:

First, we read Little Brown Bear by Elizabeth Upham which was published in 1942. I picked this book up on trade at a local used book store because it looked cute and, sure enough, it was. This book contains many short stories of Little Brown Bear who lives a happy life with Mother and Father Bear. Each story (or "chapter") tells of some adventure Little Brown Bear has in learning to keep his room neat, fooling his father on April Fool's Day, going to the county fair and having a party.

The story is told in regular prose, except for any quotes from the bear family members; everything the family says is said in rhyme. Little Bear himself is always noted as "singing", for he is a very happy, very polite and very lovable little bear. Little Bear is so polite that you might actually think that this book is full of moral lessons but I don't think that is necessarily intended by the author. I just think the character has a proper set of manners and knows how to treat his elders with respect. I think 1942 was a politer time to live in during which elders were given and received a greater amount of respect than they currently do. (I also think we should return to the idea of instilling respect into young children and if Little Bear can provide some examples to this end, then more power to him.)

Little Brown Bear was created by Elizabeth Upham McWebb. She lived in Michigan and was known for being a friendly conversationalist who was a wonderful story teller. I found this article online which speaks very highly of her, as well as shows us a picture of her with the statue that her hometown erected of her beloved furry character. It was fun to meet him through her book. I understand there are more stories available beyond the ones we read so we'll keep an eye out and see if we can find them.


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We also read Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse, by George Selden (of the famed Cricket in Times Square). This is our collective first foray into the world of Seldon (in that I haven't read any other titles to the kids just yet) and I would say it was a success. In this particular story we meet a young mouse named Tucker and a young kitten named Harry. The two join forces in New York City and attempt to find a place where they can make a home with one another. You get to know the city a bit as they check out the basement of the Empire State Building, Times Square and the subway system. As it turns out, it can be hard to find a welcoming place to be in New York City and I can rather sympathize with them. (I'm a small town girl myself.)

The kids enjoyed the story. Bookworm1 said he enjoyed the entire thing, from start to finish. Several passages made him laugh outloud. Bookworm2 said he liked the "bad guy rats" and Bookworm3 said that she most decidedly did not like the rats.

Personally, my favorite part of the book was when my daughter snuggled up next to me and laid her head on my arm and was silent and cozy as I read. This book could have gone on forever as far as I was concerned.

It's been a fun reading month and I'm looking forward to many more read aloud opportunities with my kids in the future.

Thanks, Amy, for hosting!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Guiltless Living, by Ginger Hubbard

I very much wanted a chance to read Ginger Plowman Hubbard's latest book, Guiltless Living, so when it was offered for review, I had to snatch it up! (By the way, if you've noticed an increase in review copy books and this annoys you, take heart! I'm at the end of my pile!) I have very much appreciated Hubbard's book Don't Make Me Count to Three (click title to read my thoughts on that title) and figured it was a safe bet I'd glean a few things from this new book. I was not disappointed.

I was not disappointed but I was confused by her Introduction, which warns the reader that she is going to confess certain of her sins within the pages. She noted that whenever she mentions sins people inevitably respond that she's a wicked person who shouldn't write books because she isn't qualified to do so. She assures the reader that she does sin but that she isn't sharing her sins to boast but to confess and live honestly. There is nothing in either the Introduction or the book itself which causes me to worry that she is boasting in her sins or even finding amusement in them. However, I can also see how people would say that she laughs at herself too easily and takes sin too lightly based on her style of communications. As it so happens, I can tell you a really good story of the stupid things I've said or done in the past if you give me half an hour. And I'll make my story as interesting as possible - while still being completely factual. Why talk to others if the talk can't appeal to their sense of humor? I'm a big fan of truth through humor. Especially when sarcasm is involved. No, sin isn't funny but we humans are positively ridiculous and we might as well acknowledge it. Sometimes when you acknowledge your stupidity you laugh because you recognize the absurdity that is yourself. Better to laugh than cry? (Good to cry too though.) That to say, she offers the disclaimer that she's going to tell you that she sins. So act surprised.

Guiltless Living is really all about our propensity as humans to sin, but God's propensity to forgive and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. She specifically addresses a few problem ares: the sin of being critical, being proud, being controlling, being impatient, being miserly, selfish and religious. In each chapter she tells you how she sins in these areas and promptly follows up her admission with admonition from scripture to do right and leave off from such sins.

I thought her advice was tempered and spot-on. She has wise advice to give and she wouldn't have the advice unless she knew about the sins she is talking about. Her desire to live transparency is admirable and I think she uses proper discretion in sharing about her personal struggles. I didn't find that she was in any way out of line and I would question the accusation that she is sharing too much or is too evil and wicked to share anything at all. I found her to be quite funny and I laughed out loud in more than one spot. I laughed out loud because I identified with the emotions and sins she was describing. A few passages that stood out to me, in particular, were the following:

On the sin of controlling:

"At the heart of control is distrust - a distrust in God's sovereignty. God is in control whether we believe it or not, but we still have a decision to make. We can place our trust in ourselves or we can place our trust in the Creator of the universe. Solomon addressed this choice. "Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe" (Prov. 28:26). This isn't to say that God's plan doesn't include painful experiences. Heartache will come, but the strength and help of the Lord comes to those who put their trust in Him. "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me" (Ps. 28:7). Trusting in God's sovereignty is a leap of faith. We can be confident that it is a leap that leads to the grandest of spiritual adventures." (Chapter 3, The Controlling Serial Sinner, page 53)

On the sin of impatience:

"For some, the forgiveness part is hard. Certainly, our forgiveness is for the glory of God and a command to be followed, but it is to our benefit as well. When we truly forgive and let go of wrongs done to us or those we love, we are happier because we are not living in the bondage of anger and bitterness. Miserable are those who demand God's immediate justice for those who do wrong. The righteous justice of God is not within our control. When we let go of trying to control justice and questioning God's methods, those chains of bondage are broken and we are set free." (Chapter 4, The Impatient Serial Sinner, page 62)

I'll be sliding Guiltless Living onto my bookshelf with the intent to re-read it again some day. I like Hubbard's openness in sharing her desire to follow Christ no matter the personal cost or discipline that she will endure along the way. Let's face it, sometimes it's really hard to follow Christ because there is a tendency to feel that you'll never quite measure up. And you know what? If you are relying on yourself alone, you never will measure up. Christ works in and through us to make us holy so that we can have a relationship with Him. He offers the grace and assistance necessary to pursue Him and meet Him. It is a beautiful relationship because He is in it, making it possible every step of the way. By God's wondrous grace, following hard after Him is actually the most amazing, exhilarating and easy thing to do!

"It we truly understand that soaking in God's grace involves death and rebirth, we can only take advantage of it by living in it. In order to understand that Christ has won the victory, we have to first acknowledge that we are sinners, capable of the worst deeds imaginable, and then accept that we are dead to those capabilities only through our new life in Jesus. For we have been "crucified with Christ and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us. The life we live in the body, we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us" (Gal. 2:20, adapted). Praise His name! We are guiltless! He has won the victory for us! After we acknowledge and accept these truths, ten we can fully rejoice with Paul's words, "'Death has been swallowed up in victory' . . . that's be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:54, 57). (Chapter 7, The Religious Serial Killer, page 100)

The book is 100 easy pages long, full of wit and wisdom and I suffer no hesitations whatsoever in heartily recommending it.

Many thanks to Shepherd Press who sent a copy of this book my direction in order to facilitate this review. I received no additional compensation and all opinions are 100% my own.

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.

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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.

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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:

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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!
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