Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears and the Biggest Brag

In The Berenstain Bears and the Biggest Brag by Mike Berenstain, Brother and Sister Bear try to "one up" each other by bragging about how well they've done things.  When they start arguing over who can see the best pictures in the clouds, Gramps Bear steps in and teaches them a lesson about bragging.

Here's another Berenstain Bears book that my children and I enjoy.  I especially enjoy how, under Mike Berenstain's writing, more Bible verses and themes are contained in the books, as opposed to just being moral.  As I read the verses and how they apply to situations, in this case bragging, I appreciate the fact that my children are hearing Scripture in a way to help them make wise decisions. Do I recommend this book?  Of course!  What's not to love about the Berenstain Bears?

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder:  and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth even forever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn

In The Patmos Deception by Davis Bunn, historic, religiously significant artwork has been stolen from Greek monasteries and other sites.  It appears that upper level bureaucrats are involved, so the people who want answers have to use unofficial means to find answers.  They hire Nick, an American international journalist, to figure out what has been happening, and he hires Carey, a forensic archeologist whom he has known since childhood, to help.

This book is a fast-paced, exciting read.  I enjoyed the times when Carey would recite some of the history of the Greek islands they visited, especially when she talked about the apostle John.  I have to admit that I liked the fact that not every loose end was nicely tied up at the end of the book; maybe this book will be the first in a series!  ****Spoiler alert:  I also appreciated how the plan at the end worked.  Usually, in books and movies, something happens so the plan doesn't go as expected.  But in this book, it did!  It was great!****  I plan to look for more books by this author since I liked this one so much!

I want to thank Bethany House for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Happy Third Birthday, Mary!

Today is Mary's third birthday!

She is so much fun to have around!  If you're bored while Mary is around, you need to get up and look for her because if you can see her, she'll entertain you.  And if you can't see her, she's probably getting into some kind of mischief!

Super Mary!

Mary thinks she is just as big as her older brother and sisters and can do everything they can.  And usually she can!

Even when she is upset, it doesn't take long to get Mary smiling again.

An example of how entertaining Mary can be!

Happy birthday to our sweet, precocious, fun-loving little big Mary-girl!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Book Review: Where Treetops Glisten

Where Treetops Glisten by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin contains three novellas about siblings in the same family, and each one has to overcome obstacles in his (or her) past before moving forward.  In the first one, Abigail has to learn to trust God with her future after losing a couple of loved ones in her past.  The second story follows Pete, Abigail's brother, as he realizes that only God can fill the God-shaped hole in his heart.  In the third story, Merry also has to work through some trust issues before she can accept God's best for her life.  All three stories take place around Christmas during World War II.

I enjoyed all three stories in this book, especially how the characters learned to trust God and lean upon Him, and it was fun reading this book as Christmas season approaches.  Honestly, I wasn't sure how the novellas would work considering that each one was written by a different author, but they flowed together seamlessly.  This book was an entertaining read as it tackled some serious issues, and I recommend it for those two reasons.

I want to thank Blogging for Books for my review copy, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: Adventure Bible God's Great Creation

Adventure Bible God's Great Creation tells the story from the creation of the universe up through Adam and Eve's sin and their being thrown out of the Garden of Eden.  The illustrations by David Miles are colorful and interesting and should capture a child's attention.

I enjoyed reading this book to my children with its accurate depiction of creation and the delightful pictures...until I got to the last page which says, "God punished Adam and Eve too.  He said, 'You cannot live in the garden anymore.'  Adam and Eve left the garden.  Angels were sent to take care of the garden now.  But God did not stop loving Adam and Eve.  As they left the garden,  God was planning how to help his people."  This book makes it seem that the only punishment that God meted out to Adam and Eve after they disobeyed Him was that they had to leave the Garden of Eden; what about the death they brought upon themselves?  What about the toil with which Adam would have to till the ground in order to grow his food?  What about Eve's pain in childbirth?  (Honestly, I don't blame the publishers too much for leaving this one out since it might be a bit much for young children.)  And what about the promise that God would send a Savior to crush the serpent's head and save His people?  I felt like my children and I were left hanging at the end of this book with no resolution to such a hopeless end.

This book has a great beginning, but the ending leaves much, much to be desired.  Honestly, I cannot recommend this book unless you plan to supplement it when reading it to your children.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Taking a Break

I'm sure that you've noticed that I haven't been posting much on my blog lately, and I'm sorry for that.  I want to blog more, but I just don't have the time...because there are other things I need to do or that I would rather do.  Things such as spending time with my children or even doing a little knitting or reading.  My other problem with blogging right now is that I just don't have much to say, and I'm sure you've noticed that, too.

So I'm going to take a break from blogging.  I will still be around reading blogs and commenting as I have been, but I'm not going to force myself to post anything new.  There will be posts occasionally, since I have a couple of books to review and some other things about which I would like to post.  But I'm feeling a mite overwhelmed right now, and something needs to give, and that something is blogging.

I hope you understand.  I'm sure that most of my readers do.  I hope to be back more regularly in the new year, but I'm not making any promises.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Book Review: Knockout Knits by Laura Nelkin

Knockout Knits by Laura Nelkin contains many beautiful knit designs which the author uses to teach new skills to readers.  The book is divided into five chapters, and each chapter tackles a new technique with increasingly more difficult patterns to knit as each chapter progresses.  From knitting with lace weight yarn to knitting with beads, there are many new, inventive, and fun designs in this book.

I enjoyed reading this book and learning about knitting skills that I don't have.  I appreciated how each chapter started with simple, relatively easy patterns and progressed to more difficult ones so the reader can practice her new skills.  Many of the patterns in this book are beautiful, but I have to admit that I don't expect to knit any of them any time soon.  Nelkin's style is so different from my own.  But there are a couple of patterns that I will keep in the back of my mind because I do think they might be nice to try one day.  

If you're looking for new knitting techniques to try, you should take a look at this book!

I want to thank Blogging for Books for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

October Review of Goals

October was a busy month with my mother being here for a visit, but that was a good thing!  We enjoyed having her even if it took a couple of days to recover after she left.  ;)  She's always going and going, and we're not used to that.

Personal Goals:
  • Read through my book list.  I didn't read anything from my book list, but I did read a few other books.
  • Continue walking on the treadmill three times a week for twenty minutes.  I fell off the treadmill, so to speak.  (Not literally!)
  • Look for a job.  I had a phone interview with Target, and the district manager said that I would hear from the store manager...but I haven't yet.  
  • Go through every room in the house, one a month, to clean out unwanted and unneeded items.  I'm sick of the clutter!   We took every, single thing out of Sarah Beth's and Rachel's room so we could paint, and then put it all back in.  Surely that counts?  ;)
  • Write one letter or note a month.  Done!
Goals as a Mother:
  • Do something (like a playdate) with someone (and her children) once a month, whether it's having someone over for lunch, going to someone else's house, or heading out for a field trip together.  We met some friends at the zoo.
  • Continue having one fun day in school a month.  I didn't even think about this.
  • Continue taking my children on one field trip a month.  We visited the Houston Space Center and Dewberry Farm, along with the zoo which I've already mentioned.
  • Do a service project with my children every month.  Fail.
  • Teach my children to do more around the house, like mopping and folding clothes.  What a great way to build their self-esteem.   I haven't been as consistent at this as I should have been.  
Goals as a Wife:
  • Continue monthly date nights for John and me.  It didn't work out this month.
  • Do something weekly to make John feel special.  (I got this goal from Tracey at Girls to Grow.)  I keep forgetting.
Goals as a Family:
  • Continue having another family over for supper once a month.  We had friends over.
  • Start having Game Night once a month.  Fail.
  • Continue our family devotional time.  It's been a hard month for this, too.
How are you doing with your goals for the year?

Monday, November 3, 2014

October Reading

I haven't had much time this month for serious reading, at least that's my excuse for not reading anything from my reading list.  I have had some time for novels and such, and I've read some good ones this month, but I need to buckle down or I won't finish my reading list for this year.  Here's what I read in October:
  • Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin.  A wonderful, Biblically-accurate retelling of the prophet Ezra's return to Jerusalem.  You can read my full review here.
  • The MiniFarming Guide to Composting by Brett L. Markham.  I skimmed this book; I wasn't real interested in reading a whole lot about composting, but I was a little interested.
  • North!  Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson.  The second in the Wingfeather Saga, I listened to the first one on the way to the beach this summer.  It continues the story of the two princes and a princess who had to flee their home when it was overrun by the Fangs of Dang.  In this book, they make the hazardous journey up North where they hope they will be safe.  This series seems great for young adult boys (and girls), and I can't wait to introduce my children to it when they're older.
  • A Light in the Window by Jan Karon.  I started rereading this series about Father Tim a month or so ago, and this is the second in the series.  If you haven't read any of it, you should!
  • These High, Green Hills by Jan Karon.  This book is the third in the Father Tim series.
What have you read lately?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Thankful Thursday: A Wonderful Visit with My Mother

I'm sorry that I haven't been around my blog much recently, and when I finally did sit down to write something, it was all book reviews.  But my mother has been visiting, and honestly, I wanted to spend the time with her instead of writing blog posts.  But I had all of those books that I needed to write reviews for, and I wanted to get them out of the way.  (I still have one left, but it can wait until next week.)

While my mother was here, we got so much done.  She worked me hard, but it was worth it to get some things done that needed to be done.  My mother loves to be busy all day long; me...not so much. ;)  We also had a wonderful time.  Since we homeschool, my children were able to spend all day long with her, and we really enjoyed it.

So this week I'm thankful for many things:
  • my mother who flies out to visit us regularly
  • her honesty:  she told me that we had to paint the girls' room because she couldn't sleep in it any longer since the color was so dark
  • how much time she spent with me and with my children
  • all of the work she did while we painted, getting ready and cleaning up
  • the fun we all had while she was here
  • how well she gets along with my husband
  • my father who lets her visit us so often
My mother left yesterday after a nice, long visit, so I look forward to getting back into our routine today.  

For what are you thankful this week?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book Review: Keepers of the Covenant by Lynn Austin

This sequel to Return to Me in which the first group of Jews return to Jerusalem after being scattered throughout the Babylonian empire, takes place when the second group return under King Xerxes.  Ezra sees many Jews giving up their heritage and adopting pagan ways, and he especially does not want that for his children.  He wants them to grow up in Jerusalem, segregated from unwanted, God-hating people, so he takes this request to the king who grants it.  When they resettle in Jerusalem, however, Ezra's troubles are not over as he has to deal with lax attitudes and practices of the earlier settlers.

I enjoyed this book as much as the first one in the series.  Austin seems always to have some moral woven throughout her novels, and this book deals with balancing God's law and His justice.  Ezra has to explore both as he deals with the situations that come up in his life.  Austin, also, touches on how God uses suffering to further His goals and bring glory to Himself.  Learning these important concepts is necessary, but having them woven through a novel such as this one really brings the lessons home.

I haven't read a book by Lynn Austin that I wouldn't recommend highly, and this one is no different!

I want to thank Bethany House for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: Noah, A Wordless, Picture Book by Mark Ludy

The story of Noah and the ark comes to life in this wordless, picture book by Mark Ludy.  The lavish illustrations are very detailed, and the story shines through them with no need of words.  Starting with the wickedness of the world and going through the ark landing and Noah's family beginning their new life, the whole story is right here.

I enjoyed "reading" this book to my children.  The pictures are engaging and lead you through the story, allowing you to give as much (or as little) detail to the story as you would like for your children.  The illustrations show the whole story, leaving nothing out, but in a way that is appropriate for children. The wickedness of the world before the Flood is depicted, but it's not too much.  And during the Flood, there is one man reaching out for the ark, showing that many people died but not too graphically for children.

The story is also Biblically accurate which many Noah books are not.  Noah uses dinosaurs and mastodons to help build the ark which is absolutely HUGE.  Most pictures of the ark depict it as much smaller than it actually was.  As much as I appreciate these details, my favorite is the surprise on Noah's face when God shuts the door of the ark.

Do I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  If you want a Biblically accurate book that tells the true story of Noah and the Flood, you need this book.

I want to thank Handlebar Publishing for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg

When a stranger comes to town and starts remodeling an unused store, the whole town is curious.  Only one little girl has the gumption to find out what he is doing, and she gets to learn the secret first. Mr. Sonneman is going to open a candy store!  As Lucy and Mr. Sonneman talk about the different kinds of candy, she comes across something she hasn't seen before, a candy cane.  Mr. Sonneman tells her the legend of the candy cane, how the J stands for Jesus, the staff for the shepherds who hear the news of His birth first, how the red stripes represent the blood Jesus shed for our sins, and the white stripes how we are washed clean by that blood.  Then together they share the good news to the rest of the town, using the candy cane.

I enjoyed this cute, little book, and so did my children.  The sweet story has enough in it to keep children interested without being too much.  I do think that it's a little long for a board book since that type of book is usually for very young children, but older children should like it, too, although they might prefer a regular book.  I also appreciate how this book talks about why Jesus was born, how He died for our sins.  Some books just talk about His birth without mentioning why, leaving out half of the story.

If you're looking for a new Christmas book for your children, you should check this one out.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Recipe Fun Friday: Two Apple Recipes

All summer long, I've had my eye out for apple recipes to try this fall.  I felt like I missed out on baking with apples last year, and I didn't that to happen again this year.

The church we attend has a potluck every Sunday after church, and I try to bake a cake for it.  I get to try new recipes, and I love to bake, so it's a perfect fit for me.  But when I came across this recipe for Cinnamon Apple Cupcakes, I decided to make them instead.  And they were delicious!  These cupcakes even have real apples in them...straight from a can of apple pie filling.  :)  But they were a nice addition to the cupcakes.  I did not use the icing recommended in the recipe; instead I make a buttercream and just added some cinnamon.  I got the recipe for the icing from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn.  John said that these cupcakes are his favorite after Cookie Dough Cupcakes (for which I cannot find a recipe online).

Then I received a recipe in the mail from Kroger for Warm Apple Saute with Ice Cream.  It looked delicious, so I gave it a try.  And it was!  Anything with ice cream is great, right?!  One of my children, and I won't tell you which one, didn't want the apples on top of his ice cream, but I told him he couldn't have any ice cream without apples.  He thought the apples were good, so he was happy.  I left the dried cranberries out.  It was so good that I forgot to take a picture!

Have you tried any new recipes lately?  What kinds of apple recipes do you prefer?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Homeschooling Among Other Things

I realized something this week.  I keep thinking that I'm busy, much more than I used to be, but I seem to have this thought almost every week.  Then I realized that our new "normal" is just busier than our old "normal."  I haven't yet decided if this is a good thing or not.  :)  With this said, this week has been busy by our "old" standards but "normal" by our new ones!

Things for which I am thankful this week include, but are not limited to:
  • homeschooling.  I do love being with my children all day long, and I especially love watching their little faces light up when they learn something new.
  • homeschooling.  I enjoy the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling provides.  
  • homeschooling.  There are benefits to homeschooling that I hadn't counted on when we started such as...
  • the Houston Space Center homeschool day!  Admission is less expensive, and the day is geared toward homeschooling children.
  • John's work which had a shrimp boil the other day for the people with whom John works.  We were the only family there, but it was okay because there was tons of food.  
  • friends.  After feeling like I didn't have anyone to do anything with for so long, I do now!
  • cooler weather.  We've been able to play outside this week because of the cooler weather.
  • new apple recipes.  I've tried two out this week, and both were keepers.  I plan to share them with you tomorrow.
For what are you thankful today?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Weird and Wonderful Creatures Made by God

Weird and Wonderful Creatures Made by God describes many different plants, animals, and fungi made by God and is full of information that your children (and you!) may not know.  Some of the animals described are whales, bats, praying mantises, and butterflies.  Venus fly traps and corpse flowers are among the plants detailed in this book.

My children were excited to receive this book, and my eight year old daughter immediately took it and read it completely.  My other two daughters (four and two) weren't so thrilled with things like the insects and carnivorous plants although they did enjoy learning about butterflies and whales.  But my son (six) couldn't wait for me to read about the Venus flytrap.  Regardless of their varying reactions, I was glad to read them this book because of the way it proclaims the majesty of God displayed through His creation.  My only complaint is that this book says that mushrooms are a type of plant; since they are in a completely different kingdom than plants, I made sure to explain this to my children.  Other than that, this great book is one that I recommend.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy, but my opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Many Small Things

Sweet, big brother!

We've had another good week so far:  Monday we went to the zoo, and Tuesday we had CC.  So yesterday felt like the start to our week, and I had to play catch-up.  But it was worth it!  Here are a few things for which I am thankful:
  • a field trip to the zoo with friends...
  • which was mostly dry thanks to a gracious God holding back the rain until we were in the car leaving.
  • CC tutors.  I had to sub for Sarah Beth's and Daniel's class last week, and it made me appreciate tutors even more than before!  
  • a friend who wants to learn to crochet.
  • my mother is coming for a visit soon.
  • Teachers' Night Out on Tuesday (for homeschooling mothers)...
  • and a husband who made it possible for me to go.
  • a new recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings that was scrumptious!  I think next time I'll add some carrots and maybe some rice.  Even my pickiest eater enjoyed it!  Thanks, Tracey!  I think I found this recipe on your blog.
For what are you thankful this week?

Monday, October 6, 2014

An Update on My Chickens

I haven't given an update on my chickens lately, so I thought I would do that, especially since we recently completed a big project for them.  By "we," I mean John.  

The previous owners of our house fenced in a small paddock for their horses which was a great starting point for a pen for my hens.  John tacked a wire fence to the existing fence in order to keep the chickens in.  You can't really tell from the picture, but the fence is about five feet tall.  The wire extends above the pole fencing to discourage the chickens from roosting up there.  They might be able to fly out, but why would they?  They've got a great big yard to roam, free from predators.

The hen on the right is Meg.  She is the only one left from my original batch of chicks, so she is about eighteen months old.  The other two are from my latest batch, so they are about nine months old and just started laying in August.

We left the old coop in the pen for extra shade since there aren't any trees in the pen.

In case you're curious, I have two Easter Eggers (that lay blue eggs!), a Light Brown Leghorn (white eggs), a Plymouth Barred Rock, a White Plymouth Rock, two Rhode Island Reds, and two Buff Orpingtons (all of which lay varying shades of brown eggs).

I have to admit that I am still thrilled about having my own chickens, and I still love going out to get farm fresh eggs!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Book Review: God Gave Us Angels by Lisa Tawn Bergren

In this latest book by Lisa Tawn Bergren, the author tackles the topic of angels which is something that is often confused even by Christians.  While Papa Bear and Little Cub take a walk, she asks questions about things she has heard concerning angels, wondering if they are correct or not.  As usual, Papa answers her questions theologically accurately but in a way that is easily understood by cubs (and children).

My children and I have enjoyed other books by this author, so I figured we would enjoy this one, as well.  But I was a little hesitant because so many books give incorrect information about angels.  I shouldn't have worried; just as Bergren dealt with other subjects correctly, she did it again with this one.  I'm pleased to add this book to our library.

I want to thank WaterBrook Multnomah for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

September Review of Goals

In the mouth at the Health Museum last month.

After the craziness of August, it was good to have a more relaxed, normal month.  We had a great visit from Uncle Ray, but other than that, it was a lot of our routine...which was nice.

Personal Goals:
  • Read through my book list.  I did not read any books from my book list, but I did read several books in September.
  • Continue walking on the treadmill three times a week for twenty minutes.  I can't say that I did this every single time, but I think I only missed one or two days which is pretty good!
  • Look for a job.  I actually got an email from Target last week, and I told the woman what I was looking for (one weekend a month).  I haven't heard back.
  • Go through every room in the house, one a month, to clean out unwanted and unneeded items.  I'm sick of the clutter!  In July, I looked around the house to figure out where I wanted to work in August, and I couldn't think of anywhere that I hadn't already tackled.  I don't want you to think that my house is clutter-free because it's not.  But it's certainly a lot better than it was.  
  • Write one letter or note a month.  Fail.
With Uncle Ray at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Goals as a Mother:
  • Do something (like a playdate) with someone (and her children) once a month, whether it's having someone over for lunch, going to someone else's house, or heading out for a field trip together.  We met some friends at a bounce house place and had a great time!
  • Continue having one fun day in school a month.  We celebrated Talk Like a Pirate Day with pirate-y books, a treasure hunt, and lots of talkin' like pirates.  Aargh, matey!
  • Continue taking my children on one field trip a month.  September felt full of field trips.  We visited the Lone Star Flight Museum and the Galveston Train Museum on Labor Day when John was home.  While Uncle Ray was here, we went to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  
  • Do a service project with my children every month.  Fail.
  • Teach my children to do more around the house, like mopping and folding clothes.  What a great way to build their self-esteem.   I haven't been as consistent at this as I should have been.  I hate to interrupt them when they're playing nicely with each other.
Building complex molecules at the Health Museum.

Goals as a Wife:
  • Continue monthly date nights for John and me.  It didn't work out this month.
  • Do something weekly to make John feel special.  (I got this goal from Tracey at Girls to Grow.)  I keep forgetting.
Making things bigger and smaller (macroscopic to microscopic) at the Health Museum.

Goals as a Family:
  • Continue having another family over for supper once a month.  We had Uncle Ray here; does that count?
  • Start having Game Night once a month.  Thanks to Old Maid, Go Fish, and Uno, we have been playing a lot of games, but no "game night."
  • Continue our family devotional time.  It's been a hard month for this, too.
How are you doing with your goals for the year?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Where School Happens in Our Home

I've seen a couple of posts about where people do school with their children and how they store their school supplies.  I thought I would join in, for those of you who are interested in such things.  As you can see, we do our school at the kitchen table.  I like having all of my children gathered around me as we do school, mostly because if I can see Mary, I can keep her out of trouble.  ;)  We do have a playroom that we could use as a school room, but then we'd have to invest in desks and such; besides, that room isn't insulated well, so it's hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  Maybe we'll move up there one day, but for now we use the kitchen table.

I have a cabinet in the kitchen where I keep the school books that we use every day along with the worksheets and other things that I need to pull out weekly for school.  (The other side of the cabinet has the kids' plates and cups and some coloring supplies.)

The books and things that we need occasionally throughout the year are stored in our library on this shelf.  Sarah Beth, Daniel, and Rachel also keep on this shelf their notebooks in which they store their school papers.  You can see our math flashcards and the phonics books we use here.

Upstairs, outside of Mary's room, we have a built in desk with shelves above it.  (I can't wait until my children are more independent and are able to use this desk and the one in Mary's room for their schoolwork.)  I keep the books that we're not using this year on one of these shelves along with the worksheets and things from previous years.  I don't know why I'm keeping those old worksheets; I think it's in case I get audited, although I don't think they do that for homeschoolers.

I don't know that I like keeping my school books in three different areas, but it's what is working for me this year.  Maybe next year I'll change things up some.

What about you?  Do you have a dedicated schoolroom, or do you use the kitchen table?  Where do you keep your school books?  Do you keep previous year's schoolwork?

Monday, September 29, 2014

September Reading

I've been feeling a little "blah" in my reading this month.  Nothing seemed to interest me, but since I always have to have a book to read, well, I found some things to keep me occupied.  I'm hoping next month will be better.
  • A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin.  Austin has become my new favorite least, for now.  This book deals with four women from different backgrounds who decide to work building ships during World War II because of the shortage of men, and each woman has to figure out how this work will impact her life.  One woman is a housewife who has to figure out how to deal with her husband who doesn't want her to work.  Another is an "old maid" who feels she is too good for this job and the people with whom she works.  The third is a young woman wondering if she will still be able to attend college.  And the last woman is a newlywed trying to live peacefully with her in-laws.  I recommend this book along with the others I've read by this author.
  • Midnight Never Come by Marie Brennan.  I must admit that this was a strange book, and I was tempted not to finish it.  But I have a hard time not finishing a book I have started.  In short, this book combined Elizabethan (the first one) London with fae.  It worked well enough, but I won't continue this series.
  • C.S. Lewis:  A Life Inspired by Christopher Gordon.  A short biography which I enjoyed.
  • First Lady: The Life of Lucy Webb Hayes by Emily Apt Geer.  I learned a lot about the time after the War Between the States and what being a president was like, but having read the book, I still can't figure out why Lucy Hayes was so important.
  • Sir Kendrick and the Castle of Bel Lione by Chuck Black.  This young adult book was a short, fun read, perfect for boys, especially since a Christian wrote it.
  • Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full:  Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman.  This book does not contain a lot of helpful hints and practical suggestions to make mothers' lives easier.  Instead, she shows how the glory of the Gospel, how the risen Christ, can and should transform our lives as mothers.  I enjoyed this book and learned so much that I immediately reread it.  You can read more of my thoughts here.  
What have you read lately?  Do you ever feel "blah" about reading?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thankful Thursday: A Nice, Quiet Week

While wearing this dress, Mary started singing, "I a princess!  I a princess!"

It was good to get back to normal this week, at least the beginning part.  We were able to do school Monday and Wednesday with our usual CC on Tuesday.  Today will be an abbreviated school day because we've got some fun scheduled!

Here are a few things for which I'm thankful this week:
  • an upcoming visit from my mother.  Flight plans were finalized this week, so her visit is on my calendar.  Whoohoo!
  • lunch with a friend today...without children!
  • a babysitter who is willing to keep my four children plus my friends' two while we go out to lunch.
  • cooler weather; we're only in the mid-80's now.
  • fewer mosquitoes.  Apparently, all of the rain we've gotten recently has washed them away...but we're expecting more soon.
  • being able to play outside!
  • my salvation.
For what are you thankful this week?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: Bend Your Brain

Bend Your Brain contains 151 puzzles, tip, and tricks to blow and grow your mind, as the title says.  I love word games like these, so I was thrilled to be able to review this book.  And I had so much fun reviewing it!  The puzzles start off with relatively easy ones and progress to harder ones and then much harder ones.  Then you turn the page and start all over with a different kind of puzzle.  I could almost feel myself getting smarter as I worked the puzzles!

If you like work games, you will probably like this book.  And don't worry; you won't finish this book in one evening.  There are plenty of puzzles to keep you busy for a while.

I want to thank WaterBrook Multnomah for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Finished Object Friday: A Blanket for a Friend

John works with a couple that he wanted me to meet, and finally it worked out for us to have them over for supper.  I enjoyed meeting them and started having lunch with the wife occasionally (I've mentioned lunch with a new friend on here a couple of times).  They didn't have children, but it sounded like they wanted one fairly soon, so I wasn't surprised when John told me that she was pregnant.  I made this blanket from Our Best Knit Baby Afghans and gave it to her Wednesday when I had lunch with her...before she moves away.  :(  Her husband took a new job, and they're moving.  :(

I actually made this blanket before the other one, but I ran out of the pink yarn for the border.  And I really wanted to get the first blanket made before my friend moved away, so I put this one on hold.  Then I finally got the pink yarn I needed and finished the blanket.  You might recall that I made a similar blanket earlier in the year, but in boy colors.  This pattern is from Knit Baby Blankets.

This silly girl "photo-bombed" the picture I was trying to take of the striped blanket!  She's a cutie, too, isn't she?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thankful Thursday: A Wonderful Visit

Uncle Ray came for a visit over the weekend, and we really enjoyed having him with us.  We visited the Houston Museum of Natural History on Friday and kept closer to home on Saturday and Sunday.  Ray brought a special chess set that he got from missionaries to South America, depicting the Spanish and Incas.  He played many games of chess with Sarah Beth and Daniel, and I didn't feel too bad about losing to Daniel since Ray did once or twice, too.

Here are a few ways that God blessed us this week:
  • a wonderful visit with Uncle Ray
  • that he likes spending so much time with our children because they wouldn't leave him alone!  ;)
  • killing two birds with one stone, so to speak:  after dropping Ray off at the airport in Houston, we got to spend some time with friends who live there
  • the flexibility of homeschooling so we could take time off while Ray was here and spend that time with him
  • for the rain...
  • that is spotty instead of being continual
  • lunch with a friend who unfortunately is moving away...
  • but she's moving to my hometown, so we'll still be able to get together when I visit my parents
  • the ease of getting a new library card since I lost my last one
For what are you thankful this week?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday's Quote: "If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee"

I've been reading through Then Sings my Soul Book 2:  150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories by Robert J. Morgan, and I really enjoy learning about the people who wrote some of my favorite hymns and the stories that inspired them.  When I read this hymn by Georg Neumark, I discovered one that I had forgotten.  What a wonderful hymn it is, full of truth!

If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days;
Who trusts in God's unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.

Only be still, and wait His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate'er Thy Father's pleasure
And all-discerning love hath sent;
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.

Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
So do thine own part faithfully;
And trust His Word, though undeserving,
Thou yet shall find it true for thee;
God never yet forsook at need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.

Hymns like this one comfort my soul when hard times come.  I praise God that He moved men and women to write hymns such as this one.

Do you have a favorite hymn?  Or are there too many to count?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thankful Thursday: Rachel's Clean Bill of Health and No More Methotrexate!

This week has been not-quite-crazy busy.  It started over the weekend when we were out of town for John's brother's wedding, and we didn't get back until late Sunday night.  I had a dentist appointment Monday afternoon, and since I had a babysitter, I ran a couple of other errands, as well, while I was out.  So I was gone all afternoon.  Tuesday was our homeschool co-op and then Teachers' Night Out for homeschooling mothers.  Yesterday, Rachel had a doctor's appointment up in Houston, and we visited the Lego Store beforehand which was fun.  And today, we're heading back to Houston to pick up family who is coming into town.  John is taking tomorrow off, and who knows what we'll end up doing.  No wonder I'm so tired!

But this week is also full of things for which to be thankful:
  • first of all, for Rachel's clean bill of health...
  • and that we get to stop giving her methotrexate!
  • that family is coming into town
  • clean teeth :)
  • supper out with friends
  • new friends
  • a babysitter who can come during the week
  • children who didn't expect us to buy them something at the Lego Store although they would have been disappointed, I'm sure, if we hadn't.  (How do you visit the Lego Store without buying anything?)
Mostly, I'm thankful that God chose me before the foundations of the world to be His (Ephesians 1:4), but how wonderful that He didn't stop there!  He lavishly bestows all kinds of good things on me every single day!

For what are you thankful this week?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Top Ten Influential Books

I was tagged on facebook by one of my good friends to tell about the ten books that have influenced me the most.  Because I blog (and because I thought this post might be too long for facebook), I wrote it all out here.  And yes, I realize that there are more than ten books on this list.  But it was really hard to narrow it down, or maybe it was really hard to come up with ten?  I'm not sure.  ;)
  1. The Bible.  Without this book, where would I be?  On the road to hell, that's for sure!
  2. Heaven by Randy Alcorn.  This book revolutionized my thoughts about Heaven and how wonderful a place it will be.  Before I read this book, I couldn't wait to get there, and now I know why!
  3. If God is Good by Randy Alcorn.  I already had a grasp on how a good God can allow or cause bad things to happen, but this book expanded my knowledge a hundred-fold.
  4. White Fang by Jack London.  I remember buying this book from a Scholastic flyer in the fourth grade; it was probably the first book I ever bought with my very own money.  I read it so many times as a child that it has to have had some kind of influence even though I'm not sure what it could be.  (And I still have my copy!)
  5. Watership Down by Richard Adams.  With this book, I learned not to be afraid of a book just because it's long.  I read it for the first time in the fifth grade.
  6. Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot.  This book introduced me to Elisabeth Elliot when I was a young Christian in high school, and I couldn't read enough of her books.  I learned so much through them.
  7. A Word in Season Volume 1 by R.J. Rushdoony.  I read this book a couple of years ago, and it changed the way I thought about social problems.  They can't be changed by anything but the Gospel no matter how well-meaning people are.
  8. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  I can't tell you how many times I've read these books, and I always enjoy them.  Now my children are gaining an appreciation of them, as well, which thrills my soul.  My favorite is The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Which is yours?
  9. 10-20-30 Minutes to Learn to Crochet.  I learned to crochet by reading and studying this book, and crocheting opened a door to crafting that I didn't know I would enjoy so much.  And since I taught myself to crochet, I figured I could teach myself to knit, too.  And I did!
  10. Horse books:  The Rider's Handbook by Sally Gordon's and Encyclopedia of the Horse by Elwyn Hartley Edwards.  Horses were such a big part of my life for so long that I have to include these two books.  I received both of them for a birthday, I think my thirteenth.  I did not have a horse yet, but I had started taking lessons.  I read and reread these books so many times, dreaming of my own horse.
Now I'm supposed to tag people, and I'll do that on facebook...except for Tracey at Girls to Grow who isn't on facebook.  Tracey, what ten books have influenced you the most?  And other readers, what books have influenced you?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday's Quote: We Need Christian Community and Fellowship

When I read this quote from Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full by Gloria Furman, I realized how much I needed to hear this wisdom because I tend to keep my friendships shallow and superficial.
We need other Christian women in our lives to help us grasp how wide, how long, how high, and how deep is the love of Jesus.  Compartmentalizing our spiritual life away from our interactions with other women is unhelpful and spiritually damaging.  When we relegate our fellowship with other women to discussions of fleeting things and avoid talking about how eternity is pressing on our heart, we're not doing ourselves or our friends any favors. 
Christian women are sisters on the deepest level of community, bonded in Christ together for all eternity.... 
It's true that other mothers can give you great advice on childcare and support your parenting decisions, but Christian sisters can give each other so much more.  Jesus gives us Himself, and He gives us sisters to strengthen each other as we learn more about His love that surpasses knowledge. 
God designed us to need each other.
Thankfully, God has given me a couple of friends who encourage me to open up with them and deepen our friendships.  And now I'm going to work on deepening other friendships, as well, because I see how keeping them shallow is hurting myself and my friends.

Do you work at deepening your friendships?  How do you do it?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Our 2014-2015 Curriculum

Since I enjoy reading about what others use to teach their children at home, I thought I would share with you what I use, in case you enjoy reading these types of posts, too.

First of all, we are part of a Classical Conversations community which is basically a co-op that includes the curriculum.  Through it, my older three children are memorizing an enormous amount of material which they will then learn to use throughout the rest of their homeschool journey.

Math.  We started using Saxon Math when Sarah Beth was in kindergarten, and we've enjoyed it these past few years.  I appreciate the repetition and how the concepts are broken down into easy-to-learn segments, although my children aren't always so thrilled.  I have to admit, however, that we usually skip all the "intro" stuff and just dive into the lesson.  Otherwise, it takes too long!  And since I already have the teacher's manuals, we've kept using it and plan to keep using it through Mary. Daniel is using Saxon 2 and Sarah Beth Saxon 5/4.

Bible.  We finished up Genesis to Joshua the first few weeks since we didn't quite finish the book last year, and we will start Judges to Kings as soon as our materials get here.

Grammar.  Last year, I started Sarah Beth on Shurley English Level 1, and it was very good.  But I've put it on hold this year until I get her writing and spelling where they need to be.

Reading.  I started Hooked on Phonics with Sarah Beth after buying it super cheap on sale, and it works well enough.  Daniel started the second grade year, and I've started Rachel with her letters.

Writing.  We started Cursive First with our children, and we use these workbooks from Classical Conversations to help implement it.  Sarah Beth is working her way through Spelling Plus, and I don't think it will take long since she's such an avid reader.

Science.  We love the series from Answers in Genesis, and we're going through The Human Body to complement what we're studying in CC.

History.  Basically, I'm just checking out books from the library and showing appropriate DVD's to my children that correlate to what we're studying that week in CC.

Do you enjoy these types of posts?  What are you using for your children?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers by Mike Berenstain

In The Berenstain Bears:  Blessed Are the Peacemakers by Mike Berenstain,  the cubs have another problem with which to deal.  They are caught in the middle between two groups of cubs at their school:  the teasing bullies and the smart kids.  These two groups want nothing to do with each other, but they are forced to cooperate when their school decides to put on a play.

Like most of the Berenstain Bears books, my children and I enjoyed this one.  It was a little far-fetched when the whole town (it seemed) got caught up in the rivalry between the two groups, but that part was very short.  The main message of trying to get along with the people around us came through the story.  And I appreciated that the author used Scripture to make his point.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.