Archive for the ‘Books We Love’ Category

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I am just taking for granted that we can all use more help in this area.  Last week, in this post, I told you that Jason and I have decided to actually write down goals for ourselves this year.  As with many things, easier said than done.

I sat down many times, with several helpful resources in hand, to crank out a few rough drafts.  I did come up with some good ideas, and I created some basic categories – but I seemed stuck on the actual carrying out of the goals.  The, “Ok, now what?” problem.

What does it matter how many goals I write down if I have no concrete plan for making them happen!  I was struggling.

I know, know, know, that if I spend all my days working towards the end of that day, in thirty years I am not going to make much progress!  I have five little kids at home, and trust me, getting to the end of the day is no small feat.  However, at the end of my life I would love to know that I became the person I want to be.

To me, it isn’t about the dreams I have or the things I want to accomplish.  It is about becoming the mom, wife, friend, business owner, etc. that God has called me to be.  I won’t get there if all I ever do is accomplish the daily tasks of living and never make intentional choices to achieve the rest.

Which brings me to why I wrote this post.  I bought Telling Your Time last night.  It is an ebook, so I immediately downloaded it and began to read.

WOW.  It is simple, and exactly what I was looking for!  This is a short read, but exactly what I needed to set long-range goals, make realistic goals for this year, and make sure I spend my time each day accomplishing them!  I read the entire thing last night (this is definitely not necessary :)) while working my way through her process.  I was so inspired I worked my way from 5:45pm to 11:00pm and only stopped for the essentials.  I HAVE A PLAN!!!

I really, really recommend Telling Your Time to any of you thinking about your long-range goals, working through your yearly goals, having a difficult time managing your days, feeling like you can’t fit everything, wanting to get organized, or just plain wanting to be a little more thoughtful about how you spend your hours.

You will be so happy you did!  I’ll be sharing a little bit about my process and end results in the weeks to come.  Hopefully, I will be hearing about these things from you as well.  Click the links below to read the following posts in this series:

Refreshed in 2012

Myself in 2012

Becoming a Better Wife in 2012

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While I occassionally post the books we are reading as a family, I rarely mention the books I am reading.  Not that I have tons of time to curl up with good books meant specifically for grown ups, mind you.  But, I do make time to read books that educate or inspire me, and I thought you all might be curious to know what I choose to read for me – not just for the kids.

The Bible – With every baby we add to our family, I find it harder and harder to get back in the groove of a daily time in the Word.  Setting the alarm and dragging myself out of bed just doesn’t happen with an infant.  Once we get beyond the infant phase, I am so used to being out of the routine that “out of the routine” is my new routine!  I am happy to say that I have been faithful to rise early for the last 3 weeks, so I feel I am back in my new “normal” again.

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The Help by Kathryn Stockett – I know, I know – I am woefully behind the literary times by not reading this until now.  But, I had no interest in seeing the movie without having read the book first (of course), and I just hadn’t made the time.  THIS WAS SO GOOD.  The writing is so perfect, it is almost distracting from the storyline!  And the storyline is fascinating.  I stayed up far too late several nights for this one.  No regrets.

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Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye by Ellie Philips, DDS- Not nearly as wonderful as The Help, but I do enjoy reading non-fiction when the topic actually interests me.  I had perfect teeth until I went and had 5 babies in 8 years.  Now, you would think they are made of chalk.  So, this topic interests me.  We have changed our oral care habits based on her recommendations, and I am hopeful that I will see improvement in the pitiful state of my own dental health.

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Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – There was a day in there around Thanksgiving where I just wasn’t feeling very well.  Jason happened to be home, and he blessed me immensely by telling me to hide out in my room for a few hours.  OK!  I finished my meal plan, wrote my entire homeschool plan for the week, and read Of Mice and Men.  It was thin (meaning I thought I could finish it in a day), and it had been a long while since I had read it.  Enjoyable.

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Created to Be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl – I read this all the way through this fall, and now I am working my way through it again with some amazing ladies from church.  We meet once a month to discuss, share, encourage, and keep each other accountable.  We don’t always like what Debi Pearl has to say, but there is certainly no shortage of discussion!

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – This is the part where I am really glad you are reading this and we are not standing face to face when I tell you I have never read Little Women.  I think I just heard several of you gasp.  I may have heard my friend Jane hit the floor in a dead faint.  I know, I know – terrible.  I never wanted to read it until I was an adult, and once I was an adult I never had the time.  Well, I never made the time.  But, I am tired of missing out.  And I am tired of feeling like I need to quietly back out of the room when references to the book are dropped into the conversation, and I am so obviously the only person that has not read this work several times and memorized most of it.  No more!  I believe I am on chapter 5, so don’t blow it for me.  My strict policy of not watching the movie until the book is read holds true here as well.  So, I have no idea what happens to these people!

I am hoping that I can find little pockets of time to invest in reading my own books during our Christmas break.  Actually, as soon as I am done writing this post, I am going to fix myself a cup of tea and do just that!

What are you reading these days that doesn’t have pictures or under-age lead characters?

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We have loved our books again this week!  I am also pleased because I have probably had over sixty items checked out from the library over the last three weeks, and so far only one late fee :).  Here is a sampling of our week in books:

If You Lived In Colonial Times by Ann McGovern – This series  of books by Ann McGovern always grabs my kids’ attention.  She poses several questions, such as, “What were the schools like?”, “Were there doctors in colonial days?”, and “How did people get the news?”  She poses fifty-two questions in this book alone, and the answers are fascinating.  A great way to learn more about the everyday life and questions kids want the answers to about different time periods.

Skunks Do More Than Stink by D. M. Souza – Boy, there has been a lot of talk about skunks around here this week inspired by this book.  Wow – so much I never knew!  This book even manages to help you develop a little soft spot for these smelly guys (and gals). 

The Beetle Alphabet Book  by Jerry Pallotta – Pretty much exactly what you would expect from the title – a book about 26 different types of beetles!  Did you know that there are over a million different species of beetles?! God’s creation is amazing.  There are interesting facts about each beetle, beetles in general, and how to distinguish beetles from other insects.

Play and Learn French and Play and Learn Spanish by Ana Lomba and Marcela Summerville – We are just not ready to plunk down hundreds of dollars on Rosetta Stone at this point.  However, I do want our kids exposed to the sounds and vocabulary of both French and Spanish.  French is Jason’s parents’ native language, which is why we are choosing this language.  Each book comes with an accompanying audio CD with a native speaker reading or singing each lesson.  The situations are simple and familiar, and the occasional catchy tunes are very entertaining.  It is enough to expose them, for now, and also very inexpensive.  Bonus.

What books are you enjoying with your kids this week?

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I took a little break from posting our books last week.  We school year-round, doing three weeks on followed by one week off.  We have done this for the past two years, and it just fits our lives perfectly.  Our off weeks are spent with friends, at the dentist, catching up on household work, relaxing a bit more, and mostly PLAYING!  We end refreshed and ready to return to our routine.

Here are just some of the highlights of our week:

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Prudence & Moxie by Deborah Noyes – This is a silly picture book about two unlikely friends named, you guessed it, Prudence and Moxie.  Their personalities are their names come to life.  Not only was this book entertaining, it also led to a great discussion of these character traits and the pluses and pitfalls to each.  Cute.

Picture Study Portfolio: Rembrandt

Simply Charlotte Mason Picture Study Portfolio: Rembrandt – I have struggled with pulling off picture study since we began following a Charlotte Mason philosophy.  No color printer means no color pictures.  Rather essential.  Finding a great book of the artist’s works from the library was challenging, since they were almost always geared towards adults and included information and works I would rather not highlight for my little ones.  Do I even need to explain why looking at them online just doesn’t do them justice?  So, I am thrilled that Simply Charlotte Mason (fabulous, by the way) came out with their picture study portfolios this past summer.  I snapped up two of them, and have no regrets.   The information in the booklet is just enough, the listed resources help you dig deeper, and the prints themselves are just what we needed.  We now officially have our first work of art properly displayed in our home for both study and enjoyment.  Thank you, Simply Charlotte Mason!

Exploration Through the Ages: The Voyage of Magellan by Richard Humble – For some reason, my entire library system does not have a single children’s book about Magellan.  Weird.  Thankfully, my fabulous friend Jane does!  She lent us this little gem, and we love it.  The illustrations are fascinating – each two page spread covers a different topic related to his voyage and sailing, and the illustrations help immensely with engaging and increasing understanding.

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Over the River and Through the Wood by Lydia Maria Child – This charming picture book version of the song from our childhood (well, mine at least) builds anticipation for one of our favorite holidays – Thanksgiving!  My littlest ones especially love books that are sung.  It includes several verses in the book and the piano music at the back.

Crinkleroot’s 25 Fish Every Child Should Know by Jim Arnosky – Jim Arnosky has given us so many nature related treasures.  This one, in his Crinkleroot series, is filled with 25 watercolor paintings of fish.  Some we knew, and some are new to us!  Even as I am typing this, my six-year-old boy is flipping through the pages and talking incessantly about which ones he knows and asking me when we will be able to research more on the others.  Thank you, Jim Arnosky!

The High-Rise Private Eyes #6: The Case of the Fidgety Fox (I Can Read Book 2)

The High-Rise Private Eyes: The Case of the Fidgety Fox by Cynthia Rylant – This easy-reader series is cute, fun and just challenging enough.   I do love a series and, in my opinion, Cynthia Rylant is the master of the easy-reader series.  The High-Rise Private Eyes is another winner.

Blaze and the Mountain Lion (Billy and Blaze)

Blaze and the Mountain Lion by C.W. Anderson – Billy and his horse Blaze are off on another adventure, and taking us along for the ride.  All my kids, but especially my boy, love this series.  They are not new – this one has a copyright of 1959 – but they are timeless.

Hope you found some gems this week!  Leave a comment to let me know what books you are enjoying right now.

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This month’s free audio download at christianaudio.com is John Piper’s Think.  Since I downloaded this myself just a few minutes ago, I obviously cannot endorse this particular book.  However, I will say that John Piper has a gift, like no other teacher of the Word I have personally listened to or read, for unfurling Biblical treasures and expanding my understanding and awe of God.  So, for FREE – don’t miss it!

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Cover of "Roxaboxen"

Cover of Roxaboxen

The mornings this past week were cool enough to prompt us to relight our fireplace.  We love our fireplace.  That little guy can heat our entire house, and keep things quite toasty through some ugly Chicago winters.

It is definitely a cool weather ritual around here for the first person downstairs in the morning to flip on the fireplace.  And, it is another ritual for the kids and I to push the couch in front of the fireplace (gotta love hardwood floors and felt), snuggle up and read.  I am so blessed.

Here is what we are snuggling up with this week:

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, Illustrated by Barbara Cooney – Another sweet book illustrated by Barbara Cooney.  This one is the story of a city made of rocks on a hill and inhabited by an imaginative group of neighborhood children. Some treasures of childhood are buried in your heart and carried carefully into adulthood – Roxaboxen is one.

Verdi by Janell Cannon – Verdi is an adventurous little yellow python who has no interest in growing up and turning green.  Despite his wishes, and without him noticing, he matures into a lovely green grown-up who still appreciates the energy and excitement of youth.

Dear Garbage Man by Gene Zion, Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham – Originally written in 1957, an environmentalist book this is not.  However, it is an amusing tale about the first day on the job for a garbage man.  He makes trash into treasure, only to find it was really just trash all along!

A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Robert Bulla – Clyde Robert Bulla is quickly becoming one of my six-year-old son’s favorite authors.  We have enjoyed two other titles by him, and this one has us hooked already.  It is a short chapter book we are reading aloud together.  The story is about a young girl in the year 1609.  Her mother dies, and she determines to take her younger brother and sister across the ocean to where her father has built a home for them in America.

I recommend you hop on your library’s website now  – let the requesting begin!

Happy reading!

(In case you are curious, I am not affiliated with Amazon, and I do not receive any compensation for any purchases you might make through the above links.)

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I happened upon a blog post the other day (still cannot remember how I ended up there) and was thrilled with what I found.  It sucked me in for hoursRaw Food SOS had an amazing post critiquing the documentary Forks Over Knives.  Wow.  If you have ever been curious about the vegan vs. traditional foods debate, you will be enthralled. I’ve read both The China Study and Nourishing Traditions (following the Weston A. Price Foundation ideas), and was hoping there was someone out there who is much more intelligent than I am (and who has far more time to devote to research) who could speak to both for me.  Thank you, Denise!

Without further adieu:

Raw Food SOS Critique of Forks Over Knives

Please come back and tell me what you think.

Getting this excited about research, graphs and stats probably makes me a Freak this Friday.  I am so OK with that.

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Cover of "A Child's Garden of Verses (Scr...

Cover via Amazon

Books are a huge part of our experience as a family and as homeschoolers.  I saw a wonderful quote this week over at One Hundred & 80 Days that says it almost perfectly –

“I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think interior decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.” Anna Quindlen

It is only almost perfect since I do hope to pass on my interest in actual decorating to at least one of my girls. But, the point is, books are monumentally important around here.

Here are the treasures we are enjoying this week:

The Middle Moffat by Eleanor Estes

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

I, Columbus: My Journal 1492-3 Edited by Peter and Connie Roop

Amerigo Vespucci by Nina Brown Baker

Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan

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All the Places to Love

My kids love it when a book makes me cry.  Happy crying or sad crying – it makes no difference to them.  They are entertained.  “Look, Mom’s crying!” is definitely an announcement that turns heads while I am reading aloud.  And, I have to say that I love it when a book makes me cry.

All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated with paintings by Mike Wimmer is sweet, poignant, lovely and well – a crier.  At least for me.  My children seem to have hearts of steel.  Request this one from your library, curl up in a snuggly place with every child in your house who will let you, and have a good, cozy cry.

You won’t regret it.

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Lost and Found (book)

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I learned very early on in my teaching career to seek good authors, not just good books.  Some of my favorites have been around for decades, and others have just recently been a delight to discover.  I will share two of our favorites here today.

First, the more seasoned author we are loving again and again (and again and again and again . . . any one else have preschoolers?) is William Steig.  His stories and illustrations are clever, inventive, and downright entertaining.  We recommend both his picture books and his chapter books.  We own many of both, and are often the books we reach for first.  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and Yellow and Pink are both extremely amusing.  Dominic, The Real Thief, and Abel’s Island are favorite chapter books of my 7-year-old.  My mom read them to her several times each before she could read, and now she reads them on her own.

The newer author we are enjoying is Oliver Jeffers.  His illustrations are whimsical, childlike and a wonderful asset to his stories.  The stories themselves are profound, yet simple and sweet.  Lost and Found, Up and Down and The Heart and the Bottle are just a start.

Happy reading!

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