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Friday, August 31

Time to Hit the Books!


Children's Books
Time School : We Will Remember Them (Nikki Young)
In the first book of Nikki Young's Time School series, a run of mini disasters means that school friends, Jess, Nadia, Tomma and Ash barely make it to the station in time to catch their train to school. Upon arrival they find a surprising change to the usual packed commuter train, one that seems to take forever to reach Hickley town. When the children arrive, something doesn't feel right. Some of the buildings are missing and their school looks far newer than usual. And to top it all off, the children don't recognise any of the other pupils who are all dressed in a different uniform. The only person who seems to take any notice of the friends is Martha, a young girl who is very worried about her family being hungry and her brother who is away fighting on the front line. The children soon realise that this is no ordinary day. When the friends get home, the realisation of what happened begins to sink in. But will they get to see Martha and the other pupils again? Jess hopes so. She has something she needs to tell Martha. Not knowing why or how, she feels a connection to this girl that she can't explain.

With the centennial, we'll be studying WWI this year, and this is a perfect book to accompany that. It has the time travel element that so many of my students love, which makes it more likely that they'll pick it up. The characters are clean, the story has some great twists (I figured out about 60% through how it would end, but it will take the kids longer), and good historical context. The one thing I'd like to see more of is fleshing out interactions....or maybe just a longer stay. In the interest of it being an upper elementary book, it's a good length; but it could be upper grades if it were fleshed out more.



Fiction
Christmas By the Sea (Melody Carlson)

When Wendy Harper inherits her family's beachside cottage in Seaside, Maine, she sees it as a way to finally pay off the debts that have mounted since her husband died. But before it can be sold, the neglected property must be renovated. She and her 12-year-old son Jackson move in--temporarily, she reminds him--in order to do the work themselves, even though Christmas is coming. The charming town, along with local craftsman Caleb Colton, pulls on both Wendy and Jackson, who even registers himself for school in a bid to get his mom to move them there permanently. Wendy knows that the most responsible thing to do is to sell the cottage and return to Ohio, but the lure of the sea is hard to resist.

Melody Carlson never fails with her short Christmas stories! This year's takes us to the Maine coast, where a lady (who has experienced more than her fair share of hard luck lately) is trying to sell her recent inheritance and move forward with her life. God has other plans though... Enter a local resident, a jealous co-worker, a dog named Oliver, and well-meaning family, and you've got the recipe for a happy (and bee-lined) ending. The only thing I would have changed about this book is making it on a more realistic timeline, but maybe there are folks who move that quickly in real life, too. The setting is beautifully-described, the characters are realistic and lovable, and I would really love to see a DIY on those cute little seashell ornaments!

My Heart Belongs in Gettysburg, PA (Murray Pura)
Journey into Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, of 1863 where Clarissa Avery Ross lives a full life. By day she is the daughter of a respectable shoemaker being courted by seminary student Kyle Forrester. But by night she is a conductor on the Underground Railroad, working with a mysterious man called Liberty. She would like to share her work with Kyle, but he refuses to enlist when the war breaks out. How can she remain true to a man being labeled a coward? When the war comes to her back door in an epic battle, the greatest challenges to her faith and love are yet to come.

This is part of the My Heart Belongs In.... series of books (which are all stand-alone novels).

I enjoyed watching Miss Clarissa Avery Ross figure out the differences among her three suitors. Even though, as the reader, you're fairly certain about them, it's still fun to watch it all play out. In the same vein as the rest of the books in this series, we tackle serious moral and ethical issues pertaining to the place and historical era, plus there is some romance thrown in. Having recently traveled to Gettysburg with our boys, and gotten an in-depth look at the history through their amazing National Parks / Museums, I found this book to be very historically accurate, too. The author definitely did some research into the minutae of the battle and battlefield life!
  
Freedom's Light (Colleen Coble)



Hannah Thomas believes she’s escaped Galen Wright’s evil intentions by marrying an older lighthouse keeper. Seemingly safe in faraway Massachusetts, her world is upended when John is killed in one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Hannah is allowed to continue the difficult task of tending the twin lighthouses in John’s place, though she faces daily disapproval from John’s family. She thinks her loneliness will subside when her younger sister arrives, but she finds Lydia’s obsession with Galen only escalates the dangerous tides swirling around her.  A stormy night brings a shipwrecked sea captain to Hannah’s door, and though he is a Tory, her heart is as traitorous as the dark-eyed captain. Even though she discovers Birch Meredith isn’t the enemy he seemed at first, Hannah isn’t sure their love will ever see the light of freedom.

We live in a fallen world...and they did during the Revolutionary War, too.  (There is some mature content in the book.)  This book looks like it will be a standalone, rather than part of a series.  Until the end, I thought that maybe it'd be a first in a new series, but it becomes clear that it isn't.  There are twists and turns, lots of spies and double agents, wartime changes to gender roles, and the strictest post-Puritanical church I've ever seen.  Without giving too much away, one of the main characters is just naive and silly, and I couldn't connect with her...I didn't like her.  Another takes on much more than she should bear, and does it with grace.  Another must come to an understanding about his faith and his beliefs, while grappling with a need for vengeance.  Finally, there is the character whom you can't help but despise, and you truly hope that he will have a change of heart by the story's end.  The combination of these four personalities, along with their supporting cast, brings a sense of realness to the book that makes you root both for and against everyone!

Sadie : An Amish Retelling of Snow White (Sarah Price)
Sadie Whitaker is determined to be a good daughter, but her stepmother, Rachel, has made no secret of her overwhelming jealousy—or her desire to get Sadie out of her life. Rachel’s latest plot involves marrying Sadie off to a widower in need of a mother for his unruly children—and she has convinced Sadie’s beloved father to agree. Left with no choice, Sadie flees her small Amish hometown of Echo Creek. Planning to hide in a nearby forest, she stumbles across a house that belongs to the seven Glick brothers. All outcasts from the Old Order community of Echo Creek, they generously agree to let her stay—and for the first time in ages, Sadie feels safe and needed, keeping house for them as any good Amish woman would do. Until, that is, the Glicks’ handsome cousin comes to visit. For though he awakens her heart’s desire, she can’t risk revealing her true identity, until love and faith give her the courage to take a chance on happiness . . .

This is part of the Amish Retelling.... series of books (which are all stand-alone novels).

I am loving these Amish retellings of classic fairy tales! I had to read 80% of the way through this one before putting it down due to sheer exhaustion at the end of the day. The author does a great job of taking these stories and reinventing them in the Amish background. I was curious to see how the seven dwarfs were going to fit into the story, but it worked wonderfully! The wicked stepmother, the woodcutter, the hunter...all of the classic roles are present, as well as the Disney-esque aspects of the songbird princess and conversing with animals. You'll feel anger, betrayal, and hopelessness as you read through the story, but all will be redeemed. It is, after all, a fairy tale!

An Amish Homecoming (Novella Collection)
No Place Like Home by Amy Clipston
Estranged daughter Eva Dienner has been staying with her in-laws, the Riehls, since her husband was killed in a fire, but now she wants her son to meet his maternal grandparents. Upon her return, Eva finds that the man her parents always intended for her is living in their daadihaus and running the dairy farm for them for free, despite her suspicions of him taking advantage of her family. Eva knows she should put the past behind her, but is she ready to move into the future?

When Love Returns by Beth Wiseman
Hurricane Harvey forces Sarah Zook to return to the home she fled six years ago when she couldn’t face her stern parents’ reaction to her unplanned pregnancy. Upon her return, Abram King can think of nothing but the pain she caused him—until he meets Sarah’s daughter and realizes that he never really stopped loving Sarah. Sarah and Abram must find a way to face the truth of their past so they can rekindle their first love.

The Courage to Love by Shelley Shepard Gray
After the death of her Englisch husband, Irene Keim seeks a fresh start by staying with her new friends Mary Ruth and Henry Wengerd in exchange for helping them around the house. But when Mary Ruth and Henry’s son Marcus comes around, he isn’t pleased with the woman they’ve taken in and is determined to push her out. Misunderstandings abound, but both Irene and Marcus learn that people aren’t always what they seem.

What Love Built by Kathleen Fuller
Independent and headstrong, Carolyn is determined to forge ahead with the opening of her bakery, a lifelong dream, in the Birch Creek home she left ten years ago. But she’s in over her head and needs help with the cleaning, shopping, and deliveries. Carpenter Atlee Shetler is visiting Birch Creek to escape the memories of his late wife. He takes a job renovating the new bakery and finds the project—and its owner—to be much more than he bargained for. Both Carolyn and Atlee must face pains of the past if they want to have the bright future God has planned for them.

This is a collection of four "Prodigal Son" type stories, each from a different author, but with the common thread of the struggles to move back home after being absent for a time. My favorites were the first two, most likely due to the age of the characters (and thus relatability), but each story brought something different to the table. Those returning home are met with mixed emotions, including joy at their return, distrust of intentions, and hesitation at becoming too attached (because they may leave again). I enjoy reading these four-novella collections because they are short, bite-sized stories, but have a common thread that pulls the whole book together.

In His Father's Footsteps (Danielle Steele)
When U.S. troops occupy Germany, friends Jakob and Emmanuelle are saved from the terrible fate of so many in the camps. With the help of sponsors, they make their way to New York. In order not to be separated, they allow their friendship to blossom into love and marriage, and start a new life on the Lower East Side, working at grueling, poorly paid jobs. Decades later, through talent, faith, fortune, and relentless hard work, Jakob has achieved success in the diamond business, invested in real estate in New York, and shown his son, Max, that America is truly the land of opportunity. Max is a rising star, a graduate of Harvard with friends among the wealthiest, most ambitious families in the world. And while his parents were thrown together by chance, Max chooses a perfect bride to start the perfect American family. An opulent society wedding. A honeymoon in Tahiti. A palatial home in Greenwich. Max’s lavish lifestyle is unimaginable to his cautious old-world father and mother. Max wants to follow his father’s example and make his own fortune. But after the birth of children, and with a failing marriage, he can no longer deny that his wife is not the woman he thought she was. Angry and afraid, Max must do what he has never done before: struggle, persevere, and learn what it means to truly walk in his father’s footsteps, while pursuing his own ideals and setting an example for his children. Moving from the ashes of postwar Europe to the Lower East Side of New York to wealth, success, and unlimited luxury, In His Father’s Footsteps is a stirring tale of three generations of strong, courageous, and loving people who pay their dues to achieve their goals.

I really enjoyed this book! While I most related to the oldest granddaughter in the story, it was fascinating to follow the family from World War II up through modern day, and to see the dynamics of how events lead to actions which lead to relationships....and the interactions thereof. Some of the characters really got what they deserved, while I would have like to see a little more comeuppance for others. My favorite characters were the ones from the 40s, who worked hard and rose above the challenges. My least favorite was the wife...who was completely despicable in her actions. Danielle Steele never fails to deliver an epic story...





Non-Fiction
The Struggle is Real (Nicole Unice)
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a day where everything that could go wrong does go wrong―you lock your keys in the car while it’s running, lose control with your kids, make a mistake at the office that results in hours more work. And just when you think not one more thing could possibly happen . . . well, fill in the blank. The struggle is real, friends. It may not be major stuff. Lives are not on the line here. But it makes us feel awful . . . and then we feel guilty for stressing when other people have “real” problems that are so much more serious. Yet the fact remains: We live in a world that often feels harder than we think it should be. And so it can be easy to believe the stories we tell ourselves―that we’re doing it wrong, that we’ll be stuck in this place forever, that God doesn’t love us. We struggle to practice gratitude, to make godly choices, and to live our daily lives with confidence and contentment. So what can we do? Join popular Bible teacher and counselor Nicole Unice to discover why the struggle is real . . . and what to do about it. Nicole offers practical tools to help you navigate the daily ups and downs, and ways to rewrite your struggle into a new, God-centered life story. The Struggle Is Real is an invitation to take the hard, hurtful, and confusing moments and turn them into opportunities to grow in wisdom, strength, and joy.

Don't have time to read the book? There is a DVD version as well!

Through a combined use of Biblical wisdom and her own life experiences, the author talks about real-life struggles and how to overcome them.  She addresses how these are often rooted in past issues, discusses ways we can face them head-on (either alone or as part of a group), and offers a future of hope and freedom from struggle.  Written with both pop psychology and scripture, each chapter features prayers, introductory questions, and commentary to help you get real about your own life and its challenges.  
Also available for purchase is a supplemental six-week workbook program to accompany the book for use in a book group or Bible study class.  P!nk said, "Change the voices in your head, make them like you instead," and that's a summary of what this book is saying, too.  Re-write your past history, move forward from it, and stare your future in the face.

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Coloring Book (Thomas Nelson)
If you rush to Starbucks at the first hint of cool weather . . . If Pumpkin Spice Latte is your fall drink of choice . . . If you need a way to recover from a busy summer and take a breath before a busy holiday season, this book is for you. Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Coloring Bookincludes gorgeous illustrations featuring your favorite images of autumn. This one-of-a-kind adult coloring book has classic fall quotes, fun sayings, and Bible verses featured alongside detailed coloring pages. Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Coloring Book offers hours of enjoyment and reflection and makes the perfect gift for anyone who loves fall. So settle in by a crackling fire for an evening of relaxation, rest, and pumpkin spice!

I can't believe I'm reviewing an autumn book in August, but honestly, it's just got my excited for the upcoming season.  In spite of ragweed's best attempts to kill it, my love for autumn reigns above all other seasons!  If you have a friend who feels the same way, this is a great gift book.  And if you're not in the everything-pumpkin-spice camp, this relaxing color station will help get you in the mood.  Use your imagination to show your feelings for autumn.  Filled with inspirational quotes, autumn-themed mandalas, and lots of pumpkins and leaves, this is a fun, new coloring book that would be appropriate for adults or older children.  After coloring this book, I'm going to need some new markers....especially red, orange, and brown! (These are my favorites.)


I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 27

Playing with Words : Speech Therapy & Elementary Latin

Speech Therapy
Speech Therapy is a big part of our school week.  As it's so expensive, and we're not always in the same location, going to a therapist is not an option for our family.  But we've made it work!  We've compiled several great lists of free resources and games to help other parents struggling to do speech therapy at home.
Teaching Latin - Resources
Latin is the foundation of many world languages, including our own English.  It also has so many real-world applications in the fields of science and history.  So, after much deliberation, it seemed a natural progression from phonics to Latin.  Still in elementary school, the results are already beginning to show themselves in our children's vocabulary and word discovery...  (Find out how we settled on teaching Latin.)

Videos
  • Classical Academic Press has wonderful Latin programs for all ages and they also provide some great extras. 
  • Latin Loaded‘ is a YouTube channel with short videos perfect for a quick Latin lesson.
Curriculum
Games
  • Play Race to the Colosseum with this fun game board – and practice Latin vocabulary while you play (also includes some other fun printables).
  • If you use Visual Latin from Compass Classroom, this Latin vocabulary review game is what you need to review your vocabulary.
  • You can even play online at Headventure Land from Classical Academic Press.


Vocabulary

  • If you and your kids have been working on Latin, then you know there is a lot to learn!  This economically-priced Latin Bundle includes a daily calendar and vocabulary flash cards for nine different sets of words (months / days, weather / seasons, body parts / senses, colors, numbers, animals, food, family, and holidays).
    • Each set can be used as flash cards, or as a memory game (match word to picture).  Use the daily calendar to practice everyday words, and you'll be surprised at how much is retained!
  • The second Latin bundle is styled exactly the
    same way as the first, but features more advanced vocabulary, including :  nature words, household items, around the house vocab, 'in the military,' job and career words, declensions / endings.
Printables
  • Besides their YouTube channel and Headventure Land, Classical Academic Press also has a large selection of resources on their FAQs page (coloring pages, Latin charts, and flash cards). If you use any of their programs, their resources are perfect for review.
  • Lesson Planet offers all subjects, including Latin.  They have games, activities, and worksheets for all grade levels.  Get a free ten-day trial with this Ten-day Free Trial link.


Books


Classical Language Arts
Memoria Press has a fabulous set of classical books, including Famous Men of Rome, Greece, the Middle Ages, and Modern Times.  These are appropriate for upper middle to lower secondary school, and cover history, geography, and mapwork, in addition to reading and writing.  You can see a full review of the program here.
Memoria Press Review

Monday, August 20

Science & Math for Struggling Learners


2017 vcf-009
The subject of the week is math...and science.  The two kind of go hand in hand, don't they?

We'll introduce you to our favorite :
  • hands-on science program
  • science dvds / learning aids
  • math resources for struggling learners

Struggling Learners
Math.  It's the dreaded four-letter word.  At least in our house...what about your's?  After a few years of math lessons, and still no progress on being able to count by ones, we had to try something different with our special needs son.

I stumbled upon this Montessori hundred number set, and it's helped quite a bit.  It's both visual and tactile, but without requiring handwriting (another struggle).

Another program we've used is Touch Math.  A teacher-friend of mine recommended this one, and helped with learning how to apply it, and it has made a world of difference for our son.  It's definitely a program for tactile learners.  Granted, he'll probably be in his forties and still counting on his fingers, but whatever.  His figuring is actually pretty good, and he can do it on his own.  

Two other tactile tools we have used are the Judy Clock (telling time; elapsed time) and the Pretend Money Set (think, what you'd give your little one to play store). If you have a struggling learner, I would highly recommend any, or all, of these tools!



Other special needs posts :
Hands-On Learning
We've used both the basic Magic School Bus science kits and the Young Scientists subscription club, and I have to say that Young Scientists is a lot better.  Not only are the kits more comprehensive and tailored for learning, but your child gets a new one in the mail each month.  I think every child likes getting mail addressed to them!  Also, you can generally pick up either of these over at Educents for steep discounts!

The Young Scientists Club has thirty-six different kits - a new one arrives each month.  It's set up as a continuous learning experience, with each kit building upon the one before it.  All of the needed materials are included (except for something like 'tap water'), and they are quality materials.  At first glance, it may seem up there, but when you consider that you're getting thirty-six different sets of lessons, each with 5-10 experiments and all the needed materials, and the lesson plans...it's quite the bargain.

For our older son, we do more badgeschooling - that's what I've dubbed it when he takes his Boy Scout badges and lets them pull double duty for classwork.  (Learn more about badgeschooling.)  As an example, here is a badge our son did on Oceanography...I promise he learned more than most 6th graders living in Oklahoma would learn about the topic!!  Badgeschooling can be done for any subject, really.  Homeschool Legacy offers unit studies that provide resources and activities covering both school work and badge work.  The company offers both Boy Scout (BSA) and American Heritage Girl (AHG) options, and each unit study completes all of  the required badge work for one or more badges.

Dvds & Books
The Magic School Bus set is comprehensive, with books, movies, science kits, and a free curriculum that pulls everything together.  I like that the books are written on a few different levels, so that kids can start reading them in first grade, yet still be challenged by the same characters in fifth grade.  You do not have to have the kits to be able to benefit from this set!

Having visual and auditory learners, movies are a big part of our schooling.  When it comes to science, we tend to stick with secular approaches, and we discuss the topics covered frequently.  Some of our favorite series include include : 
We went through a Bill Nye the Science Guy phase there for a while, but Wild Kratts remains the overall favorite.They know more about science basics than either my husband or I did at their ages, solely from watching these shows.  

Monday, August 13

Ghost (Ella Henderson)

One of the (many) perks of homeschooling is the ability to be flexible and to change the rules mid-stream.  While home schools don't actually need a mascot, we've always chosen one.  Unlike most schools, however, we didn't just pick a mascot and stick with it.  Where's the fun in that?

 
So each year, based on whatever we will be learning in our year-long unit study, we select a different mascot.
  • One year, when we were studying ancient history, we became the Spartans.  
  • Another year, they named themselves the Bumblebees in honor of their aunt.  
  • Last year, they selected the Patriots, since we were studying early American history and the Revolutionary War.  
This year, as we head into the Westward Expansion and Civil War, they decided to choose an animal - something that exemplified the Old West.  Well...that was the intention at the beginning...

I'd like to thank the good people of Deadwood, South Dakota for their winning enthusiasm and infectious sense of humor.  Thanks to them, for the next year, we are going to be the Ghost Chickens.

To be honest, it's somewhat fitting, since our house also seems to be where good poultry comes to be eaten by coyotes and hawks.  But that's beside the point.  How does one keep a straight face when announcing that they are a Ghost Chicken at school functions?  I love it.  

I look forward a deliciously silly year!  Bock, bock, bock, boooooooooooooooooock!


Ghost Chickens in the Sky 
v.1 A chicken farmer took a walk out on his farm one day
He paused by the coop as he went along his way
When all at once a rotten egg hit him in the eye
It was the sight he dreaded, ghost chickens in the sky
(Squawk and Cluck)

v.2 He'd been a chicken farmer since he was twenty four
Working for the Colonel for thirty years or more
Killing all them chickens and sending them to fry
And now they want revenge, ghost chickens in the sky
(Squawk and Cluck)

v.3 Their beaks were black and shining, their eyes were burning red
They had no meat or feathers, these chickens were dead
They picked the farmer up and he died by the claw
They cooked him extra crispy (pause) and ate him with coleslaw
Ghost chickens in the sky (Cluck)

Thursday, August 9

Hot Hot Hot! (Cure)


Auschwitz Lullaby (Mario Escobar)
On an otherwise ordinary morning in 1943, Helene Hannemann is preparing her five children for the day when the German police arrive at her home. Helene’s worst fears come true when the police, under strict orders from the SS, demand that her children and husband, all of Romani heritage, be taken into custody. Though Helene is German and safe from the forces invading her home, she refuses to leave her family—sealing her fate in a way she never could have imagined.  After a terrifying trek across the continent, Helene and her family arrive at Auschwitz and are thrown into the chaos of the camp. Her husband, Johann, is separated from them, but Helene remains fiercely protective of her children and those around her. When the powers-that-be discover that Helene is not only a German but also a trained nurse, she is forced into service at the camp hospital, which is overseen by the notorious Dr. Mengele himself.  Helene is under no illusions in terms of Dr. Mengele’s intentions, but she agrees to cooperate when he asks her to organize a day care and school for the Romani children in the camp. Though physically and emotionally brutalized by the conditions at Auschwitz, Helene musters the strength to protect the children in her care at any cost. Through sheer force of will, Helene provides a haven for the children of Auschwitz—an act of kindness and selflessness so great that it illuminates the darkest night of human history.  Based on a true story, Mario Escobar’s Auschwitz Lullaby demonstrates the power of sacrifice and the strength of human dignity—even when all hope seems lost.

My first real taste of Mengele was reading Jane Yolen's 'Mapping the Bones.'  I'd heard of him, but not in depth, until that point.  This book gives a different point of view on the same story.  It begins with a mom who chooses to go with her family to Auschwitz (she could be spared, since she is German), and finds herself heading up a nursery school in the camp.  It's based on a true story and focuses on the Gypsies that were persecuted during the war (which we don't typically hear about).  The author definitely did a good job of researching and recreating!  The whole story is full of sensory language and details that make you feel as though you're right there beside her...feeling her fear that her own set of twins will be experimented upon next.  I'm fascinated by WW2 stories, and have read most of the general storylines, but this was a new one for me.  I was a little confused about why it's listed as a Christian book, because it definitely isn't preachy and there isn't even much mention of God....but maybe it's more about character and resilience.  Either way, fans of historical fiction will want to pick this one up!

Through the Autumn Air (Kelly Irvin)
The mother of ten and a widow of seven years, Mary Katherine is a bundle of energy, always willing to step in and help her friends around her Amish community. Now that her last child is married, she pours her abundant creative spirit into writing stories, even as she speaks aloud to her late husband every day. Her dream is to open a bookstore with an English friend, but the church elders want this wayward widow to work in an Amish-owned store instead. When her old school friend, Ezekiel, offers her a position as a cook in the restaurant he opened after his wife died, she knows she should accept. But does she really want to spend her time working over a hot stove?   When a mysterious English stranger breaks into her house to make himself a sandwich one autumn night, Mary Katherine doesn’t call the sheriff. She turns to Ezekiel. They both see that Burke is need of more than a meal, and Ezekiel offers him the job at the restaurant. As they set out to care for their new friend, Mary Katherine and Ezekiel find themselves often working together. Mary Katherine is drawn to Ezekiel, but she remembers the terrible risk of giving her heart to someone. Can two people in the autumns of their lives and so well-versed in the pain of loss put the past behind them and trust in the hope that comes with each new season?


I've read the first two books in this series, and enjoyed catching up with the same cast of characters again in this third installment. Each of the seasons that the book centers around also seems to be related to the book's theme. In this case, we are in the autumn of our characters' lives...catching them at retirement age. (It should be noted that you do NOT have to read all of the books....they work just fine as a stand-alone.) There are many unique elements in here that I haven't seen in other Amish stories, including criminal acts, the intertwinedness of the Amish & Englisch (more than usual), and the complexity of growing old within the Amish community. This is a story of loss and grief, of overcoming, and of second chances.


Boundaries for Your Soul (Alison Cook)
You can turn your shame to joy, your anger to advocacy, and your inner critic into your biggest champion. Do your emotions control you or do you control your emotions? Many people let guilt, anger, or self-criticism dominate their lives and negatively affect their relationships. Boundaries for Your Soul shows you how to calm the chaos within. This groundbreaking approach will help you:  know what to do when you feel overwhelmed, understand your guilt, anxiety, sadness, and fear, welcome God into the troubling parts of your soul, and move from doubt and conflict to confidence and peace.  Boundaries for Your Soul includes relatable anecdotes, helpful exercises, an engaging quiz, and opportunities for personal reflection. Gathering the wisdom from the authors' twenty-five years of combined advanced education, biblical studies, and clinical practice, this book will set you on a journey to become the loving, authentic, joyful person you were created to be.

It almost seems counterintuitive to embrace the ugly parts of yourself, but that's exactly what the authors recommend for healing.  It focuses on emotions and how to constructively cope with them, rather than shoving them deep inside or allowing them to rule your life.  They offer up a five-step approach to walking through those depths of your soul, wading through the mess, and coming out the other side.  These five steps include focusing on and owning the emotion, coming to acceptance with it, inviting God to work with you on coping with and overcoming said emotion, unloading that emotion onto either God or others around you, and finally overcoming it and growing into a better person from having experienced it.  Written as engagingly as one can write a non-fiction book, this is a good self-help book for those who are struggling to accept themselves in their entirety.

I Can Only Imagine for Little Ones (Bart Millard)
I Can Only Imagine asks questions a child might ask and invites families to wonder together: What is heaven like? What does God do? What would it be like to spend a day with Jesus? Children will see that although experiencing the glory of heaven may be far off, we can enjoy a friendship with Jesus every day - right here on earth. Whimsical, playful illustrations and thought-provoking questions make this a book that families will cherish.  Fun and vibrant illustrations offer a vivid visual and will help your children see that God can be found everywhere, every day.  I think about heaven as I look up at the sky and watch the fluffy clouds roll by. The more I imagine, the more I wish I knew.  I wonder, would God like pancakes with extra syrup too?  And if God and I spent the day together, what exactly would we do?  The Christian worship song “I Can Only Imagine” touched countless lives with its glorious representation of being in the presence of God, and this beautifully illustrated picture book invites you and your children to imagine those same wonders. Share the joy of a personal relationship with the Lord with your family today through the creative, faith-filled book I Can Only Imagine.

This beautiful book is perfect for young readers to flip through and read, either together with a parent or on their own (depending on age).  The text is simple, but thought-provoking.  The illustrations are gorgeous and very colorful.  There is a lot of diversity shown on the pages, and the scenes are ones that will appeal to most children, featuring things such as playing at the lake in summertime or enjoying an ice cream cone.  Drawn from the lyrics of the MercyMe song, this book brings it down to a child's level and reminds them that God is always with them.

Little Book of Thanks (Thomas Nelson)
It happens every autumn. As soon as the leaves begin to turn bright, beautiful colors, the year sprints ahead on fast-forward! Take a few moments out of the hustle and bustle of the season to sink into a cozy chair with your little one and thank God for everything He’s given us with Precious Moments® Little Book of Thanks.  In the sweet, enduring art style of Precious Moments, this timeless book will help your children recognize all the wonderful things God has given them! Read along, and you will remember to enjoy the simple things, like singing silly songs, jumping in a pile of leaves, and watching the seasons change. The short, rhyming verses in this classic Precious Moments book don’t take much time to read at all, and they will create memories that last forever.  Precious Moments Little Book of Thanks offers you the chance to be thankful for all that you have and for the ones with whom you get to share every precious moment.

This is a nice board book that is the perfect size for little hands!  With short poems that are good for reading aloud together, or for beginning readers to try on their own, these beautifully-illustrated pages will bring to mind all the best that autumn has to offer.  Some of our favorite topics included family, the weather, music and playtime, the moon, and (my favorite) jumping in leaves!  There are related scriptures tucked into the pages, and the theme, of course, is Precious Moments.  I'm not sure who liked the book better...my mother-in-law (who collects PM figurines) or her grandkids!

Monday, August 6

Bullet with Butterfly Wings (Smashing Pumpkins)

If your summer road trip passes through Indiana or Illinois, but you have the option of an alternative, may I kindly suggest that you explore that alternative route???  We had the pleasure of having a ten-hour trip turn into a twenty-hour one on our drive yesterday. 
Survive the Long Road Trip!
The trip started out with smiling, happy faces at five o'clock...in the morning.  Yes, there are actually two five o'clocks in the day...who knew?  My night owl promptly went back to sleep, while my morning bird bounced around.  Did you guess which was which?
 
We rolled along swimmingly for a while, stopping at Burger King for a quick breakfast because my son felt sad that he had "never been allowed to go to Burger King before."  He's so deprived.  He got the crown, which apparently was the impetus for the stop.
 
We continued to drive along and figured that as soon as the schoolwork was done, we'd stop again.  I like to take turns working with each of the boys separately in the backseat, while the other has some one-on-one time with Dad up front.  Unfortunately, we got engrossed, and never got around to taking that pit stop.
 
Now, you haven't experienced true impatience and frustration until you've sat in the car, on the parking lot that they call the interstate, for four hours.  With two kids bickering in the backseat.  With the car parked.  And everyone has to pee.
 
See those bushes along the side of the highway?  No, we didn't, but we sure gave it a lot of thought.  We made friends with a few nearby truckers who kept us updated on the radio chatter.  Turns out, there was a lane closure about ten miles ahead.  While there were no accidents, it seems that no one had received the memo on how to merge. 
I did not even know that Vera Mae had a pedestrian mode until she popped up with this!!!  It provided a nice moment of levity for the situation.  While we began to move slowly about an hour later, this was just one of the three times that traffic stops of this magnitude occurred yesterday.
 
FINALLY, we got to Ohio.  One of the first things we saw was the Budweiser factory (photo lightened), and it was pretty tempting!  A glass of wine for us, and a scoop of ice cream for the kids, and we were ready to settle down and unwind our nerves. 

Wednesday, August 1

Spam (Monty Python) & a GIVEAWAY!

 
Did you know that there is an entire museum dedicated solely to SPAM?  Oh yes, there is!  We happened upon this jewel of Americana as we made our way up the road to Wisconsin.  Being in desperate need of a stretch break, we hopped out and took a quick tour.

Do you see our happy faces at being out of the car, if even for only half an hour?  It was a sixteen-hour drive, and the company gave us one day to make it!!!  Lord-a-mercy.
At the SPAM museum, you can learn the history of Hormel Foods, manufacturing processes, and meat preservation techniques all in the same room.  Also, there is a heavy focus on the Depression and World War II years, as SPAM was provided to troops and citizens of war-torn Europe.
Personally, I liked the old radio station that played Burns & Allen shows on a continuous loop, and would have been quite happy to sit a spell and listen!  George & Gracie's late 1930's shows were sponsored by SPAM.  As you make your way through the museum, "Spambassadors" are wandering around handing out "spamples" of their products.
After going through the museum, you can try your hand at SPAM Jeopardy, view Monty Python's Spam-a-lot, and visit the gift store.  Two of us aren't put off by highly processed, potted meats, so a sampler pack was purchased.  They make 44,000 cans each hour, so there's more than plenty from which to choose!
Have you ever wondered what 4,000 cans of SPAM looked like?  (C'mon....I know you have...)  When I asked if Hormel has ever considered making a vegetarian SPAM, he said, "Some people do ask that question.  I tell them it's un-American."

All in all, it was a great, quick stopover.  We wouldn't have made a special trip to Minnesota just to see it, but it was worth the stop.  Did I mention that the museum has free admission???  Ready to make the trip yourself?  Here is some information about going...

SPAM Museum trip : 
To celebrate Back-to-School, we're giving one reader a $10 gift card to spend in our Teachers Pay Teachers store!  Winner will be randomly chosen on August 6th, and have 24 hours to respond.  Good luck!

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