book bonanza: when mindy saved hanukkah

Mar 4, 2014 by

My biggest strength as a homeschooling mama (well, aside from my absolute determination) is my love of reading out loud to my children. They love, love, love me to read to them. I guess I have all sorts of voices and zest that make it fun. I don’t really try to read in voices, it is just how I read…full characterization all the time. Fisher and Annesley will sit for hours and have me read to them which is pretty fortunate since I have spent so much time in bed the last two years. Snuggling in bed with them and reading the afternoon away is a common activity. When my voice or energy level give out, we stop and pick up again the next day.

Tonight we read “When Mindy Saved Hanukkah” for the first time. I must have picked it up at used book sale at the library some time ago, but I have never looked at it until Annesley brought it in and begged me to read it to her. Oh my goodness, it is so darling! All of you Jewish lovers out there need to find this book and savor the delightful story with your little ones. It is about a family of teensy people…really teensy, like the Borrowers…who live in a Synagogue and do not have any candles for Hanukkah. They need to sneak out to the Synagogue to get a big candle to melt into little candles. When the dad goes out, a cat attacks him. So then the girl of the family decides she is the one who must go and with great courage she ventures out to find a candle in spite of the possibility of being eaten by the cat. It is so, so cute!

It looks like it is out of print, so check out your library and used book stores to see if you can find a copy.

p.s. Sheri you must borrow it!

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book bonanza: infinity and me

Feb 17, 2014 by

Oh my goodness, I love Infinity and Me SO much! We found it at the library on an end display and as soon as I laid eyes on the cover, I was melting. I quickly skimmed it and fell even more in love – numbers, adorable red shoes, curiosity, wonder, and genealogy all in one book!

Uma, the narrator, is confused about the concept of infinity. She can’t understand it and feels small and insignificant when she tries. Uma starts asking people how they picture infinity and gets a wide variety of answers. Charlie, her number loving friend, sees enormous numbers. Samantha, her bestest girl friend, sees a number 8 taking a nap, then turns the 8 into a racetrack that she drives around forever. Uma is still confused and asks her grandma how she imagines infinity. Her grandma says “I like to think about a family. First, you have the great-grandparents, then the grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren…it could go on forever.”

Swoon! Oh, how I wish I had written this book! It combines all my favorite things into one beautiful picture book.

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book bonanzas: king arthur and his knights

Oct 8, 2013 by


Last week Fisher found a gem of a book in our bookshelves and begged me to start reading it to him. I have been waiting for one of my children to fall in love with The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle. I didn’t know if he would be able to understand the language as it is quite advanced and somewhat archaic to a 21st century child, but he is loving it. I have been stopping every few paragraphs to ask him to retell me the story and he nails it every time. His comprehension far exceeds his reading skills. I wonder if there is something to that? My two children with reading struggles have had amazing comprehension.


One of my favorite parts about Howard Pyle’s books are the illustrations. His drawings are oh, so lovely. Every chapter heading has its own artistic rendering of a character or event in the chapter and other illustrations are sprinkled throughout his books.


He likes to come snuggle in bed with me before anyone else is awake and while I really, really like having my early morning hours all to myself, I wouldn’t trade these head-on-my-shoulder and feet-twisted-up-in-mine reading sessions for anything. I’m sure the day isn’t too far off when he won’t be caught dead in my bed with his head on my shoulder. Today, as we read about the Trustworthy Knight, Sir Ector, we had an interesting discussion about doing what you say you will do when you say you will do it. He has brought up Sir Ector throughout the day so I know he is thinking deeply about it. Today he went out to the garage and used the jigsaw to cut out a three foot shield from a piece of plywood. I admit I was a little nervous about him being out there with a power tool all by his lonesome, but Richard has taught him well and approved the project, so I let him go and cut to his heart’s delight. He nailed on his straps and brought it in to show us, proud as punch of his work. This afternoon, he and Annesley reenacted Sir Kay’s battle in the front yard.

This is the magic of homeschooling (although certainly a public schooling parent could have the same sorts of experiences as well) – learning doesn’t have to look like learning and it often doesn’t look like sit-at-a-desk-and-do-worksheets learning. Learning through classics, discussion, real-world application, play, and snuggling up with a book are my favorite kinds of learning.

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book bonanzas: the perfect square

Sep 16, 2013 by

book bonanzas: the perfect square

Perfect-Square We checked this book out from the library and love it! The Perfect Square is a delightful little book full clever captions, and lovely artwork by Michael Hall. It is about a square who is taken apart in a different way each day of the week. After he is cut up, ripped apart, or shattered, he makes himself into something new. So fun! This week we are going to cut up our own squares and make them into the objects in the book and probably some objects of our own creations as well.

Perfect Square 07a

“But on Monday, the square was cut into pieces and poked full of holes. It wasn’t perfectly square anymore.”

On the next page, these pieces are turned into a fountain with all the holes making the bubbles. So, so darling. One day the pieces make a river, another a bridge, another a mountain. It is brilliant and has got the wheels turning in my two little ones minds. I can’t wait to see what they create!

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book bonanza: the giraffe that walked to paris

Jul 2, 2013 by

book bonanza: the giraffe that walked to paris

Oh my goodness! Guess what just arrived at my house?

The Giraffe That Walked To Paris!

Yes! You heard (read?) me right! It is back in print! After years and years and years of being out-of-print and being impossible to find for under $100, it was reissued on June 21 and is now available for a mere $13! This is one of our favorite books and is used in the FIAR Vokume 2 Literature Guide that I am using this next school year with Annesley. Miss Annes and I are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves!

If you have not heard of this delightful book, here is a review:

In an attempt to improve relations between Egypt and France, who were on opposite sides of the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, the pasha of Egypt presented King Charles X with a giraffe, the first in Europe in over three centuries. But in the days before aircraft, how do you send a large, ungainly animal such a long way? The answer is depicted in this book–a sea : voyage to Marseilles, and then a six-week march to Paris. The brief text is written in a chatty style that deals effectively with the logistics of the move and its historical underpinnings. It also includes details that will appeal to young readers: the custom-made giraffe raincoat necessitated by France’s cooler climate, the need for a cow in the entourage to provide La Girafe’s daily rations, the unusual way a giraffe moves its legs in walking. The illustrations are attractive pastel cartoons and one full-color photograph of the giraffe’s stuffed remains, still on display at La Rochelle. The book concludes with a historical note briefly outlining the background of the story. A charming illumination of one of history’s more obscure footnotes. –Barbara Hutcheson, Greater Victoria Public Library, B.C., Canada

We love checking books out from the library as it is always an adventure to go and find new treasures, but for our FIAR books I really like to own them and be able to pick them up at any time without having to make a library trip. This year I am attempting to collect all the Volume 2 books and put them on our kitchen bookshelf so Annesley can keep them all together all year long on her very own special shelf.

I am also considering doing Beyond FIAR with Fisher this fall. Have any of you used this? If so, what was your experience like?

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book bonanza: bear feels sick

Mar 12, 2013 by


We love the entire Karma Wilson line-up of books, especially the Bear books. Today we read Bear Feels Sick for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Karma writes in a wonderful, rhyming cadence that has children shouting out the last word of each line as soon as they figure out the rhyming pattern. In Bear Feels Sick, the story of Bear and his friends continues, this time with all of his forest playmates taking care of him while he has the sniffles and chills. They gather herbs, stoke the fire, wrap him up, and pat him down. Finally Bear feels better and is ready to play, but wouldn’t you know it, his faithful nurses start sneezing and now it is his turn to nurse them back to health. If you haven’t already read Bear Snores On and Bear Feels Scared make sure you check them all out as the whole set of books is adorable.

Other Karma Wilson favorites are A Frog In The Bog and Mortimer’s First Garden.

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book bonanza: lots of audios

Jun 26, 2012 by

book bonanza: lots of audios

We are spending a lot of time cleaning these days. Having a mama be out of commission for months on end has done a number on this already cluttered house. My children have tried hard to fill in the gaps for me, but quite frankly, what this house needs is ME! So, the last several days we have cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. We have rearranged the school room in our seemingly never-ending quest to find the most functional arrangement, we have started on the sewing room, are getting ready to tackle the storage room (do I have the courage?), and then the garage. Oh my, SO MUCH WORK! Yes, you should read those all-caps as screaming because that is just what I am feeling.

Anyway, during all this cleaning we have been listening to some great books and thought you might enjoy them if you are doing any big projects or taking some summer drives.

This morning we listened to Only Passing Through which is the story of Sojourner Truth. What a woman! I hope my children learned (once again) that God calls us to a mission and it is our privilege to step up to the plate with faith and do what He asks us to do. This story also comes in a picture book version if you would rather read it aloud.

Saturday we listened to Amos Fortune, Free Man. We must be in bit of a freedom mood, eh? Must be the time of the year to think about liberty and working for it for all of God’s children as was stated so strongly in The Declaration of Independence that was being drafted right about now 236 years ago. We loved the strength spirit Amos demonstrates again and again and his determination to make the best of his situation.

Now we are listening to The Land of Oz. I read the whole series to Blythe years ago, but haven’t revisited it since. Fisher decided he was interested in it and Blythe wanted to hear it again, so now we are immersed in Mr. Baum’s classic series of conquering our fears, serving others, and believing in goodness.

I can’t wait to listen to The Time Pirate which is the sequel to Nick of Time which was a huge hit with all of us a few years ago.

You can probably find these at your local library, but if not, they are all available on Amazon. What are your favorite audio books?

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book bonanza: the phantom tollbooth

Oct 18, 2011 by

We started this book as a family read-aloud eons ago. It has taken us fffffoooooorrrrrrrreeeeeevvvvveeeeerrrrrrrrrr to get through it. I don’t know why exactly. We have all thoroughly enjoyed it. It is hilarious. It has humor that made Richard laugh so hard he cried. It has math and language and culture and human nature and so much more.

It still took us forever…actually we still aren’t done. We have two more chapters, but we are determined to finish in the next few days!

Anyway, last night as I was reading, some words from the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason jumped out at me. I believe they are profound and they are just what I needed to hear. Maybe what all of us needed to hear.

It has been a long trip,” said Milo, climbing onto the couch where the princesses sat; “but we would have been here much sooner if I hadn’t made so many mistakes. I’m afraid it’s all my fault.”

You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

“But there’s so much to learn,” he said with a thoughtful frown.

“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Rhyme; “but it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.”

Isn’t that the truth! I have made so, so many mistakes in my life. I have beat myself up for them over and over again. At times they have been incapacitating. At times they were all I could think of. At times I have dwelled on them far more than is healthy (is dwelling ever healthy? Probably not!) For the past several years I have been trying to focus on the lessons…what the lessons are, why I need them, and what I am to do with the learning of them. It is a much healthier approach.

I’m reminded of my favorite scenes from Meet the Robinsons. An invention doesn’t work out and the boy inventor is devastated. The family responds with applause. The boy is baffled…why are they applauding him when his idea didn’t work? The mother responds:

“From failure, you learn; from success, not so much.”

Implementing that belief in my life is difficult to say the least, but I keep being hit over the head with this concept, so I am listening and learning and trusting that everything-doesn’t-have-to-be-perfect-right-this-instant and I don’t have to beat myself up for it any longer. I can learn and I can grow and I can give life my best. I can believe deep down in my little toes that the journey is what is important and is what enables me to become the person God created me to be.

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book bonanza: nobody rides the unicorn

Oct 4, 2011 by

Nobody Rides the Unicorn

Keziah’s birthday book this year is Nobody Rides the Unicorn. It is about an orphaned, servant girl who is tricked into beguiling a unicorn so the king can capture it. She is outraged that she has been used to commit this evil act and by risking her life, she sets the unicorn free. I love the courage the young girl shows and her determination to do right no matter the cost to herself. The artwork is soft and lovely. I hope Keziah treasures it.

It must be out of print or something because it is over $30 at Amazon. Barnes and Noble had it for $5.97, so we ordered it from there. If you decide to get, I recommend you do the same…big grin!

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book bonanza: the fantastic flying books of morris lessmore

Sep 20, 2011 by

My mom bought us an iPad back in May…yes, she is an amazing mama and grandma who spoiled us with this amazing present! We are still figuring out how to incorporate it into our life properly. We have some favorite math apps, Keziah has a geography app that she adores, I love having so many of our audio books available at all times, and Fisher uses the Bob Books app every day to work on reading. As each day passes, I am discovering just how useful it is.

A few weeks ago, I heard about the interactive book The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore. I was skeptical at first because I am a book lover…as in a hardcover, fabulous font, must be the right smell and have the right size margins book lover. I am a tad obsessed about books and have a house full of them. I didn’t think I would like an electronic book…not a kindle or ibooks version, which I have found to be super handy, but an actual electronic book with all the bells and whistles that that medium offers. I finally gave in and decided to try it and let me just say it is adorable. I love the story (Morris is a book-lover as well), I love the messages (books are our friends and help us through life and writing our own book will bless the lives of others), I even love the interactiveness of it. My husband thinks it is sheer brilliance and is trying to figure out how to change professions mid-life…he has always wanted to be a children’s book author and this app broadened his view of what is possible. Our children have asked to “do Morris” again and again and again.

If you are blessed to have an iPad, give it a shot. I think you’ll love it!

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book bonanza: one

Sep 17, 2011 by

Fisher’s birthday book this year is One by Kathryn Otoshi. This book tells the story of blue, a sweet, sensitive color that likes being blue until red makes fun of him by saying “Red is hot, Blue is NOT!” No one stands up to red, not orange, purple, yellow, or green. They all let red bully them around until One comes and teaches them to stand up and COUNT.

I fell in love with this story when I read it at the bookstore. I had previously considered Ferdinand and King Jack and the Dragon, but neither of them felt absolutely perfect. I want to read those with him soon, but I didn’t think they were quite the right book for his birthday book. Then I found One. I’m actually still not settled on it, but I DO love it and I DID buy it and Richard LOVES it and thinks it is the right one, so it is a done deal.

This is certainly a lesson Fisher needs to learn…that we all matter and we all count and it just takes one person to stand up and make a difference. We all need to learn that lesson…that truth that each of us is a child of God, a literal creation of the Almighty.

One of our family’s favorite quotes is from The Lord of The Rings when Galadriel is speaking to Frodo, trying to give him courage for the next part of his quest. She says “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” These words hang on the wall of our learning room and I hope to imbed them on each of my children’s hearts. Each of us, no matter how small, can make a difference. Each of us can be the one to stand up for truth. Each of us can love and serve and give. Each of us can be God’s hands on earth.

This book is one piece of the puzzle in teaching this message. I can’t wait to read it with him tomorrow morning for his birthday!

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book bonanza: sophie’s world

Sep 14, 2011 by

Sophie's World

Sophie’s World is my current read and although I am making sssslllllloooooowwwww progress, I am loving it. This brilliant book novelizes the entire history of philosophy and inspires one to ponder the universal questions that have been plaguing mankind since the beginning. Who am I? Where did I come from? How did I get here? Why am I here? What am I to do? How do things happen? Why do they happen?

If you are looking for a fascinating trip through history and a deep subject tackled in creative way, this is the book for you! I have three weeks before our colloquium to get through another 400+ pages and I think if I cut out all the extras in my life, I just may finish it. The problem is, I enjoy the extras a whole bunch!

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book bonanza: kate shelley, bound for legend

Jul 14, 2011 by

book bonanza: kate shelley, bound for legend

I have been spending a lot of time reading with my children lately and I have so many books I want to share with everyone! I love quality children’s literature and wish I could fly from house to house delighting children with the magic of words.

Last night for our family read-aloud, we read Kate Shelley: Bound For Legend by Robert D. San Souci. I had learned about Kate in Keziah’s Birthday Book last year, but this was the first time our whole family was introduced to her.


Kate, a young girl of 15, went out into an Iowa rainstorm after she heard the railroad bridge break near her home. She found an engine in the river and men holding onto willow branches to stay afloat. She shouted to them that she would go for help. Knowing that the midnight express was due soon and fearing for the lives of those aboard, she decided to go to Moingana where the telegraph was located. The only way to get help was to cross the flooding Des Moines River, in which her brother had drowned the year before, on a 673 ft. trestle bridge with two foot gaps between planks. In the darkness and rain, she inched across, wondering if the midnight express was going to come barreling down on her at any moment, if she would fall through the planks, or if the trees crashing down the river would knock her off the bridge to certain death in raging water below. She finally made it across and ran the half mile to the station office at Moingona, told them about the flash flood that took out the Honey Creek Bridge, the men in the river, and the need to stop the express train. Luckily the train had been stopped already and she led a rescue team back to the men in the river.

After her heroic actions, Kate was so ill she stayed in bed for the next three months. Throughout her life she would refer to the actions of that night with humility and gratitude. In her words,

“I believe that God makes strong the weakest and makes the poorest of us able to do much for His merciful purposes.”

Now I want to mentor a class on heroes! Wouldn’t that be fun to focus on all sorts of different types of heroes for a semester? Think of the inspiration that would flow into each heart if we pondered the greatness of spirit, courage, and sacrifice so many men, women, and children have made throughout history!

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book bonanza: over in the meadow

Jul 13, 2011 by

book bonanza: over in the meadow

I have long loved singing the song “Over In The Meadow” with my children. It has such a lovely melody, is great for learning about counting and animals, and you can add as many verses as your creativity allows. This week we checked out Ezra Jack Keats’ (of The Snowy Day fame) version and it is now on my “I love this book and must have it be part of my home library” list. The illustrations are soft and perfectly endearing. My two littlest have looked at it over and over and OVER.

If you don’t know the words to this old favorite, I will share them here so you can sing it with your children.

Over in the meadow
In the sand in the sun, lived an
Old mother turtle and her
Little turtle one.
“Dig,” said the mother,
“I dig,” said the one, and they
Dug all day in the sand in the sun.

Over in the meadow where the
Stream runs blue, lived an
Old mother fish and her
Little fishies two.
“Swim,” said the mother,
“We swim,” said the two, and they
Swam all day where the stream runs blue.

Over in the meadow in a hole in the tree,
Lived an old mother owl and her
Little owls three.
“Whoo,” said the mother,
“We whoo,” said the three, and they
Whooed all day in the hole in the tree.

Over in the meadow by the old barn door,
Lived an old mother rat and her
Little ratties four.
“Gnaw,” said the mother,
“We gnaw,” said the four, and they
Gnawed all day on by the old barn door.

Over in the meadow in a snug beehive,
Lived an old mother bee and her
Little bees five.
“Buzz,” said the mother,
“We buzz,” said the five, and they
Buzzed all day in the snug beehive.

Over in the meadow in a nest built of sticks,
Lived an old mother crow and her
Little crows six.
“Caw,” said the mother,
“We caw,” said the six, and they
Cawed all day in the nest built of sticks.

Over in the meadow where the grass grows so even,
Lived an old mother frog and her
Little froggies seven.
“Jump,” said the mother,
“We jump,” said the seven, and they
Jumped all day where the grass grows so even.

Over in the meadow by the old mossy gate,
Lived an old mother lizard and her
Little lizards eight.
“Bask,” said the mother,
“We bask,” said the eight, and they
Basked all day by the old mossy gate.

Over in the meadow by the old scotch pine,
Lived an old mother duck and her
Little duckies nine.
“Quack,” said the mother,
“We quack,” said the nine, and they
Quacked all day by the old scotch pine.

Over in the meadow in a cozy, wee den,
Lived an old mother beaver and her
Little beavers ten.
“Beave,” said the mother,
“We beave,” said the ten, and they
Beaved all day in their cozy, wee den.

There are numerous variations to these words and a few of these verses are even different than in Mr. Keats’ book, but this is the way I learned it and have always sung it. My guess is, I will be adopting Mr. Keats’ verses now that Fisher and Annes are in love with his book.

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book bonanza: this is the house that was tidy and neat

Jul 11, 2011 by

book bonanza: this is the house that was tidy and neat

You want a picture into my life? Here it is.

This Is The House

We checked this book out from the library this week because of my endless fascination with books that have lots of repetition and a “can you predict” type of story line. I think they are fabulous for building pre-reading skills and drawing children into books. I figured this would be somewhat like This Is The House That Jack Built. It is just like it, except it tells the story of a woman who leaves her house tidy and neat, then the children and animals make all sorts of messes, and then her husband and the children clean and clean so it is neat and tidy when she returns. Then…and this is the clincher for really making it the story of my life…she sinks in a chair and puts up her feet and rests while the dad fixes something to eat.

I can cook delicious food and I do love feeding my family food they love. It warms my heart to have us all gather around the table enjoying a nutritious meal after I have worked hard to make it just right for everyone. But, I often completely forget about feeding people until they are starving! Sometimes I am gone to a birth or a meeting and dinner is forgotten. Sometimes we are so engrossed in a book it never crosses my mind to get up from what we are doing and actually prepare food! I am so glad the papa of our home cooks so frequently and enjoys it so thoroughly. There is no way I could live my life and be involved in so many of the things I am without Richard by my side loving me, believing in me, and cooking food for all of us!

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book bonanza: houdini

Jul 8, 2011 by

book bonanza: houdini


I have posted before about Kathleen Krull. I love her books! Today Fisher and I read another of her books and thoroughly enjoyed learning about Houdini. Besides teaching us about some of his magic tricks, escape acts, and daredevil antics, we learned about his childhood of poverty, early physical coordination, life-long love for exercise, love of books, entrepreneurial spirit, and some of his secrets. We learned of his determination to get an education and his unfortunate death. Fisher was amazed by Houdini’s skills. I just love exposing this boy to the greatness in this world because it is almost as if I can see the gears turning in his mind wondering what he will be great at. He is blossoming into such an inquisitive boy and I love nurturing that part of him with great books, plenty of free time to explore, and answering his questions in ways that encourage him to think up more questions to wonder about.

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book bonanza: once upon a company

Jul 7, 2011 by

book bonanza: once upon a company

Once Upon A Company

Wendy Anderson Halperin is one of our favorite authors and illustrators. Her words are refreshing, gentle, nurturing, and have a down home feel to them. Her illustrations are quirky and almost always done kind of a collage style. We gave Blythe Love Is for her 5-year-old Birthday Book and later The Secret Remedy Book. We have long loved Once Upon a Company, but today we reread it because Keziah is on a quest to create a business for herself. By the end of the book, both Fisher and Keziah were determined to come up with some fabulous product to sell or idea to market to start building their savings accounts. If you are looking for a book to spark some entreprenurial spirit in your home this is a great book to start with. You may want to also read Young Bucks: How to Raise a Future Millionaire, Little Britches, Man of the Family, Mary Emma and Company, and some biographies of some great business leaders.

In Once Upon a Company, a group of siblings are bored and their mom encourages them to start making wreaths to sell. Their grandpa tells them all about college and how they need to start saving for college now. As the book progresses, they learn about creating a product, selling it door to door, distributors, wholesale accounts, advertising, checking accounts, investing, hiring employees, having a product not work out, having a product succeed, the power of interest, and gobs more.

We love it and think you will too!

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book bonanza: why don’t you get a horse, sam adams?

Jun 22, 2011 by

book bonanza: why don’t you get a horse, sam adams?

Sam Adams

I was up early this morning working on creating bylaws and forms for iFamily Leadership Academy and Fisher came down and brought me this book to read. I told him I wouldn’t be able to read it all because I had so much to do, but after we got started on it, we read it clear through.

What a fun story! I never knew that Sam Adams didn’t know how to ride a horse! This delightful tale shares the story of the colonists and their growing opposition to England’s policies and what part Sam Adams, John Hancock, John Adams, George Washington, and Paul Revere played in the eventual War of Independence.

We love all of Jean Fritz’s books and are always on the lookout for them at used book stores. Some of our other favorites are Where Was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?, Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?, George Washington’s Breakfast, Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution, and The Cabin Faced West. They are fabulous for introducing young people to the events of history and sharing details that are often overlooked in more advanced history books.

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book bonanza: revenge of the whale

Jun 21, 2011 by

book bonanza: revenge of the whale

Revenge of the Whale

We picked this up a few weeks ago at our favorite used book store when we were searching for books for Keziah’s upcoming study of Early American History. We started it yesterday as our morning read-aloud. It’s a hit! All of the children are determined not to miss a word of the adventure.

Revenge of the Whale is the true story of the Essex, a whaling ship that sailed out of Nantucket in August of 1820. Sometime after rounding Cape Horn and proceeding up the coast of Chile, a sperm whale rammed the ship. This is a famous story that the end of Moby Dick is based on. In the introduction of the book, it says that every child in America during the 18th and 19th centuries would have been known this story. Somehow, this 20th century child didn’t know about it! We have already learned so much about the Quakers, New England, the shipping industry, whaling, geography, trade winds, sails, mates, and so much more. Revenge of the Whale is based on the cabin boy’s journals and is a departure from the tale that the first mate recorded in his journals. Whenever there is a difference in the two records, there is information in the book about it. We are having lots of interesting discussions about the differences and why they might exist. What a fabulous lesson in differing perspectives, how writers protect themselves, and what it means to record the truth.

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fiar: mike mulligan and his steam shovel

Jun 6, 2011 by

fiar: mike mulligan and his steam shovel


Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton is our Five In A Row book of the week. Today we read it for the first time and Fisher and Annesley thoroughly enjoyed it. Tomorrow we will talk about perseverance and “working a little bit harder and a little bit better.” Later in the week we will discuss the art work and use our watercolors to paint some big machines, talk about other steam powered machines and try to build one of our one, and maybe dig a hole in our yard with our little shovels for the fire pit we are trying to build this summer.

FIAR is such a great program. Fisher loves having his reading time with me each day and by the end of the week he is really fallen in love with the book. If you haven’t heard of FIAR, just search the internet and you will find oodles of information about it.

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book bonanza: the story about ping

May 25, 2011 by

book bonanza: the story about ping

the story about pin

Fisher and I have started a new learning adventure. Today was our first day with Five In A Row, which is an educational program designed around fabulous children’s literature. A parent and child read one book together for five days in a row, falling more in love with it each time. Each day you get to share some special activities together about some aspect of the it’s geography, art, mathematics, history, language, etc.

The Story About Ping is delightful! Ping is a little duck who hides from his master when he is late coming home and ends up lost and all alone. Eventually he makes it back to his family and faces his consequence for being late. So many wonderful life lessons are packed into this book…you will have to find it and enjoy it with your little ones.

I can’t believe I’ve never read this gem of a story before! I can’t wait to read it again tomorrow!

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book bonanza: where the river ends

May 17, 2011 by

book bonanza: where the river ends

Where The River Ends

Awhile back, my mom recommended I read The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. I quickly put it on hold at our local library and when I came up on the list brought it home and devoured it in one late night sitting and one morning session. I was worried the whole time that I would hate it…but I loved it. It happened near my home town, was full of courage, loyalty, depth of feeling, adventure, and just plain goodness. Loved it.

Next, she recommended I read another of Martin’s books, Where The River Ends. This one finally became available at the library on Friday and I have been reading it since then. It is a great book to curl up in bed with and let the hours melt away.

Just finished.

Loved it. Loved, loved, loved it.

The recommendation came before the lump showed up…otherwise, I’m sure my mother would never have suggested I read a book about a woman dying of breast cancer…but nevertheless, it was a great read.

The husband in the book sacrifices everything for his wife. He loves and serves her till the end. He is committed to her and she to him. It is an amazing love story.

As I turned the last page, I thought to myself “My Richard would do the same thing.”

No doubt in my mind.

And that, my friends, is quite an enormous bolstering of my soul when I am just embarking on this journey of finding out what my own lump is.

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book bonanza: lives of the writers

May 16, 2011 by

Lives of the Writers

We have been reading Lives of the Writers: Comedies, Tragedies (and What the Neighbors Thought) during our morning devotional for the last little while and have thoroughly enjoyed it. We have learned fun tidbits about many of our favorite authors and have come to know more of their lives, culture, and perspective. Did you know that the Prince of Wales was one of Jane Austen’s biggest fans…but that the group of fans was incredibly small? No one knew at her funeral that she would one day become famous. Did you know Cervantes had a lifelong stutter, bad teeth, and arthritis, had children with two other women, but none with his wife, escaped punishment for duel fighting by sneaking out of Spain and into Italy, and was held prisoner by Barbary pirates for five years? Did you know Han Christian Anderson loved to cut out delicate paper creations of animals, castles, goblins, and fairies while he talked or that he wore clothes and shoes that didn’t fit him…stuffing them with newspaper to make them fit better? Did you know the phrase “Mark twain” is a Mississippi river expression that means “safe water – twelve feet deep” and that he once lost a $200,000 investment on a failed typesetting machine?

We have had so much fun with this book! We also have Lives of the Musicians and Lives of the Artists and will be starting one of those next. I want to get Lives of the Presidents, but it will need to wait awhile.

Its amazing to me how much a family can learn just by opening a book and bringing its content alive…pretty magical!

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book bonanza: the creature from jekyll island

May 13, 2011 by

book bonanza: the creature from jekyll island


I have been reading this book for the past several weeks and I want to shout from the rooftops “READ THIS BOOK!!”


Every American, every human being on this planet should read this book and find out exactly how the financial systems of the world are operating and how wrong it is.






Read. Learn. Understand how the system works.

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book bonanza: one fine day

Apr 23, 2011 by

One Fine Day

I read this book to the children at Story Station on Wednesday and instantly fell in love. I picked it up at the library on our spur-of-the-moment trip to town. I am getting a titch desperate for more storytime books and picked up a stack at the library as quick as I could. Having read it now, I must own this book. It is the perfect story of repentance, learning to choose the right, and kid-friendly rhyming and repetition that makes children’s stories so fun. I surely wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it, but fall I did.

A fox steals some milk from an old woman’s cask and she cuts off his tail. He is devastated and begs her to fix it. She says she will sew it back on if he replaces her stolen milk, so he sets off to find some milk. He asks a cow for milk, but the cow wants some grass in return. He asks the field for some grass, but the field wants some water in return. On and on the fox goes, having to get something in return for each thing he needs to pay back the milk.

I have seen this book many times, but somehow I have never read it until this week. It is now going to become part of our family culture and be read to my children often. I love the lessons it teaches of consequences, asking for help, helping others, forgiveness, and ultimately, redemption.

I think you will love it, too!

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book bonanza: albert

Apr 13, 2011 by

book bonanza: albert


Becky recommended this book on her blog, so I put it on our reserve list at the library. Yesterday I read it to my three youngest and they loved it. Today, at Fisher’s request, I am reading it at Story Station. I love the gentle language, the way it deals with a debilitating fear, and the silliness of the tale. Albert is a man who is reluctant or terrified, hard to know which, to leave his home. Every day he checks the weather and listens at his window to the state of affairs outside his apartment. He likes the good noises, but inevitably hears some “bad” noises and decides it’s not such a good day to go outside afterall. One day, while he is sticking his arm out the window to check the weather, two birds start building a nest in his hand. Albert doesn’t quite know what to do because he doesn’t want to hurt the birds or their nest. He resigns himself to holding it and hold it he does for the next twelve days until the babies are born. Then he holds it some more until the babies grow up enough to leave the nest. When his nest holding duties are done, Albert decides he will leave his house and he does! Something in the process of caring for another gives Albert the courage to face the world.

Fisher loved how the papa bird feeds Albert. Annesley loved the silliness of it, and Keziah and I loved the whole story. Check it out…we think you will love it, too!

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book bonanza: it’s a book

Mar 29, 2011 by

book bonanza: it’s a book

It's a Book

We love this book at our home. It is hilarious and I can’t help laughing right out loud every time I read it. The whole book is a conversation between two characters about the object one of them is immersed in. The first asks things like “Where is your mouse?” and “How do you scroll down?” to which the second always responds, “It’s a book.”

Cracks me up!

In today’s techno-savvy world, it is a not only a great way to make fun of ourselves, but a fabulous reminder that there is life outside of all the latest gadgets. I love the computer as much as the next person, but I love books even more.

Here is the back cover:



Disclaimer: One of the characters is a donkey and he is called by his other name…I just leave those parts out when I read it aloud.

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book bonanza: mom and dad are palindromes

Mar 15, 2011 by

book bonanza: mom and dad are palindromes

Mom and Dad are Palindromes

This book is a hilarious introduction to the world of Palindromes! My children all loved it and upon finishing it Keziah said “Can we have a challenge this week to see who can come up with the most palindromes?” “Of course!” I enthusiastically replied.

Bob discovers he is a palindrome and quickly discovers his entire family is made up of palindromes…Mom, Dad, Anna, Nan, and Otto, his pup. He tries to escape the palindromes of his house, but finds himself on the S.S. Hannah with three jobs available. He could run the radar, fix the rotor, or pull up the anchor! The palindromes will not leave him be, he is surrounded by them and he cannot escape! Top spot, steel fleets, and every day there is that pesky time of noon. Bob finally decides to go by his full name and to call all his family members by theirs as well…but he makes an interesting discovery…he really can’t escape from the palindromes!

This is a great read-a-loud and is sure to spawn an interest in words in your whole family!

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book bonanza: twenty and ten

Mar 7, 2011 by

book bonanza: twenty and ten

twenty and ten

We just finished this delightful book this morning with me reading and the girls knitting up a storm. If you are looking for a charming book that illustrates the simplicity of childhood with the savagery of war, this is the book for you! Twenty and Ten tells the story of a group of children at a French school and how they harbor ten Jewish children while dealing with less food for each of them and a constant fear of discovery. When the Nazis come looking for the missing children, the French children act with courage, ingenuity, and determination to keep the Jewish children safe. Our whole family loved this book! We have read lots of WWII books and are thrilled to add this one to our collection of favorites.

The cover pictured above is just like the one I have…a lovely hardbound edition. It is much nicer than the tiny paperback currently available. Do yourself a favor and search for the old hardcover!

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book bonanza – a chanukah noel

Jan 13, 2011 by

A Chanukah Noel

Oh, my.

Read this book.


This book has been in our library box for several weeks (it is a Christmas book for heaven’s sake!) and we finally got around to reading it today during morning story time.

I must own this book.

This is a delightful story of a Jewish family who moves to France and how the little girl, Charlotte, is not at all pleased with the changes in her life. She doesn’t like the food, the schooling, the language, and she especially doesn’t like to be surrounded by Christmas and not be allowed to participate because she is Jewish. She feels desperately lonely and out of place until she hatches the brilliant idea to give “Christmas” to a poor girl at school who will not be receiving presents. Her parents, to her astonishment, agree to her plan and they all work hard to provide Christmas dinner, decorations, and presents to the little girl’s family.

I was crying so hard I had to keep stopping my reading to get a hold of myself. I loved it that much.

For any of you who try to bring Jewish holidays into your Christian home, this is a perfect book!

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book bonanza – ender

Jan 10, 2011 by

book bonanza – ender

I finished the Ender Quartet…Ender’s Game, Speaker For The Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind.

I don’t even really know what to say.

My mind is full of swirling thoughts coming faster than I have time to think them.

I had so many ideas triggered by these books, such as:

Alien species…what do those words mean to me? Do I have “aliens” in my life and if so, how do I treat them?

Do I treat people differently if I feel they are different than me? Do I try to understand others language style or do I write them off as not worth the effort it takes.

What part does fear of others differences have in my life?

What would a Speaker For The Dead speak at my funeral?

Would I like it?

How do I view intelligence?

Am I open to others’ customs?

What is the power of love?

How can I have influence in this world?

What role does memory have in progression?

Are our memories blessings or curses?

What is the value of life?

When is it acceptable to eliminate life?

When is it honorable to eliminate life?

What pain is stopping me from loving fully?

How can I develop empathy like Ender’s?

What does friendship mean to me?

Are expectations of people healthy and helpful or damaging and burdensome?

Was the government right to exterminate the Buggers?

Do I behave in any similar manner?

Ender’s guilt was carried with him for 3,000 years. What guilt am I carrying?

What will I do with these new perspectives?

Lots to think about…lots to process.

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book bonanza – sleds on boston common

Jan 10, 2011 by

sleds on boston common

What a fun story this is! The redcoats have moved into Boston and the soldiers are camped out on Boston Common, the best place in town to go sledding and skating. One little boy is determined to sled down the steepest hill in Boston on his 9th birthday with his brand-new sled. The only way to make it happen is to work up the courage to talk to General Gage himself. In the process, young Henry learns that General Gage is a father too, and is not the beast, nor the wimp, some of the newspapers have made him out to be.

Sleds on Boston Common is based on true events and filled with lovely artwork…I’m betting you will love it just like we did!

p.s. Have you checked out the children’s section at Hasting’s yet? It is full of little-known treasures! This lovely hardcover was in the bargain bin for $4.99!

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book bonanza – the lion, the witch, and the wardrobe

Dec 27, 2010 by


We started reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe last night for our next family read-aloud. This is one of our favorite books and we have read it many, many times. Blythe was obsessed by the Narnia series back when she was about six and it became a huge part of our lives. I think this is the first time I have read it aloud to Fisher when he was old enough to actually be paying attention. Of course, he already knows the story, so it isn’t new to him, but he hasn’t heard it with my voices. When my children are grown, I want them to be able to hear my voice in their minds and remember all the hours their mother spent reading to them. I want them to carry this tradition to their own homes and fill my grandchildren’s lives with the love of literature. I want them to realize that while I may have lost my patience more than they liked or didn’t cook all the time or didn’t keep my bedroom clean, that I did take the time to read to them.

I remember the first time I heard of the Narnia books. One of my elementary teachers read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to us and I decided right away that I hated the book. I hated the cover of it and must have decided right then and there to not listen to a word of it because I had no memory of the story line when I started reading them with Blythe.

When I think of how judgmental I was and how I missed out on the wonderfulness of Narnia, it breaks my heart. I can’t believe I was so turned off by the cover of something that I refused to listen to the beauty of the words. Now that the world of Narnia is such vital aspect of our family culture, I can’t even imagine my life without it. I can’t imagine teaching my children about God without the imagery of Aslan to draw on. I can’t imagine teaching them about evil and temptation and death and courage and faith and hope and miracles and war and resurrection without the symbolism of these books. And yet, I rejected them as a child.

And then I realized that perhaps I have done this with things other than books. Perhaps I have done it with people. Perhaps I have shut off my heart to the beauty of another soul simply because their outer covering isn’t all that appealing.

And it breaks my heart even more.

Every time I pick up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe I remember this lesson and I vow to do better. I vow to be more open, to be more loving, to be more inviting to the people around me.

But, enough of me, and back to why we love this book so much. In my mind, C.S. Lewis created Narnia for children for many reasons. First, he wanted children to have a wonderful set of books that they could immerse themselves in and find themselves in. He wanted them to see courage in action, to see treachery and magic and forgiveness and love. He wanted them to find goodness in themselves. Secondly, he wanted to teach them about God in a way they could understand his majesty, his love, and his redemptive powers.

The books are exciting enough to draw readers of all ages in, simple enough that anyone can understand them, and deep enough that each read will bring new insights to the reader.

All of this adds up to the perfect classic.

If you haven’t read them lately, perhaps it is time to immerse yourself in the world of Aslan for a while…who knows what treasures might await you there. If you are looking for the copy we have, it is this one. I wish I had the whole set of them in these large, hardcover versions, but we only have the first two. Maybe someday I will run across them in some forgotten corner of a dusty bookstore…one can always hope, right?

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book bonanza – nana upstairs, nana downstairs

Dec 7, 2010 by

This is one of our all-time favorite books…as in top ten (ish) favorite books. Everyone who knows me well knows I have lots of favorite things in my life, but really, I believe this book is one of the best.

Nana Upstairs

And the best part is…

drumroll : : : : : : : : : : : : : :

Fisher, Annesley, and I found one today at DI for .50 cents. A hardcover copy that looks as if it has never been opened! How anyone could bear to part with this book and send it to DI I will never understand, but someone did, and we scooped it up!

This lovely book is about a little boy who has a grandma and a great-grandma, both of whom he loves very much and he visits them every Sunday. His great-grandma lives upstairs and his other grandma runs the household, mostly from the downstairs, so he names them Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs.

Just the naming of his grandmothers brings on my tears. I remember when Blythe was little and she had several grandmas that she adored and wanted to call them different names other than just “Grandma” so she created a new name for her great-grandma.

She named her “Grandma GG” for the two G’s in great-grandma. Ever since that is what we have called my grandmother and other people adopted the name as well.

The book tells the story of Tomie’s Sundays with his two grandmothers and cozy family traditions they share. Eventually his great-grandmother dies and then years later his grandmother dies.

When we read it tonight, I asked if anyone had a grandma and a great-grandma that they loved like Tomie did. Fisher piped right up and said “I do! I have my Grandma GG!”

Even though she has been gone for two years, she is still a part of our daily conversations. We want to keep her alive in our children’s hearts because she was a huge part of their lives.

Reading it tonight with Eve, whose Grandpa died this week, was especially touching. Everyone in the room was acutely aware of the pain of having someone who is loved dearly pass from this life. We all cried a little bit and then we were able to remember the love we have for these grandmas and grandpas and how blessed we are to have been part of their lives.

Just like Tomie, we are learning to say goodbye for a time.

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book bonanza – thanksgiving reads (and audios!)

Nov 23, 2010 by

I am up late waiting for my brother to get here. He has been driving here since 3 p.m. and it is now 11:05. The trip normally takes him 2 1/2 hours. Craziness is what this snow has been today.

Since I am up and barely staying awake, I better start typing so I can keep my eyes open till he gets here.

I love books. You all know that, right? I have a huge collection of books and love sharing them with others so they can fall in love with books, too.

Our favorite Thanksgiving books are Stories of the Pilgrims read by Jim Hodges and available as an audio download here, The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh, The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall, N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims by Robert San Souci, and Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness.

We love listening to Stories of Pilgrims and hearing the whole history of this unique group of people, why they left the Church of England and what a hard choice it was. I highly recommend downloading it and listening to it tomorrow while you get ready for Thanksgiving. My love for these courageous, dedicated people grows by leaps and bounds each time I revisit their story.

I also love the CD A Thanksgiving of American Folk Hymns by the BYU Choirs and Orchestra.

These are just some of my favorites, what are yours?

I hope your dreams of making this Thanksgiving special come true and that you and yours have a joyous day in whatever form it takes!

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book bonanza – my father’s dragon

Nov 12, 2010 by

This week our family read-aloud has been My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. It is a short read and we finished it last night. I can’t even tell you how fun it it to finish a book quickly after the long-drawn out nightmare reading of Around the World in Eighty Days.

My Father's Dragon

Fisher especially loved this book, but so did everyone else. It is a delightful story of imagination, foresight, ingenuity, and a hero’s victory. Here in our home we have a papa who wanted to fly more than anything and nearly died trying to figure out how he could fly…jumping off of roofs, out of swings, etc…and all of our children know the crazy stories from his childhood, so this story about a boy who longed to fly was endearing to all of us.

I am so grateful for family read-aloud time. I can’t imagine our home without it. Yes, some nights are crazy, but most of the time, we leave our reading time happier, calmer, more contented, and kinder than we were when we started. Last night the girls were all wrapped up in blankets and snuggled up around Sadie as they listened to me read. As Blythe grows up, our family read-aloud time has become ever more precious to me. I realize she won’t be here all that much longer for me to read to her, nor will she be here adding her fabulous thoughts to our discussions.

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book bonanza – the edison trait

Oct 12, 2010 by

I have been reading The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child by Lucy Jo Palladino the last few weeks and instead of devouring it, I have let the ideas ruminate around in my head and settle in my heart.

Having had 3+ weeks to think about this book, I now want to shout it from the rooftop – READ THIS BOOK!

This book has helped me learn about divergent and convergent thinking, two different approaches to gathering, processing, and sharing information. I swear the author must have lived in my house and watched my children on a daily basis in order to write this book. It is that close to my reality.

This book has given me words to understand Blythe most especially, but all of us in one way or another. The author has helped me see the greatness in my daughter’s approach to life and how to nurture that in her. I have an amazing daughter. Truly. She can see what I can’t even imagine. She has been entrusted to me to help her find her way and it is impossible for me to do that without understanding her.

This book has made me infinitely grateful that I listened and obeyed the prompting to homeschool her. There were numerous examples of children who have had their spirits crushed out of them by being in a conveyor-belt system that does not have the time or the patience to deal with a creative, dreaming child.

This book helped me learn some techniques I can use with her at home to help her learn convergent thinking in an emotionally safe way.

This book helped me value divergent thinking and to really understand the differences in the two approaches to life.

This book has already changed the way I view the world. I am hoping the change in my heart is a permanent one.

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book bonanza – the mother in me

Sep 30, 2010 by


Wrapped in a cocoon of a support, love, understanding, and humor is how I felt reading savoring this book. The women whose essays appear here are gifted writers, able to bring the reader right into their inner-most thoughts and feelings. For several nights in a row, I stayed up and read and laughed and cried and smiled and remembered and fell in love with this motherhood calling all over again.

I am convinced you will too.

The Mother in Me: Real-World Reflections on Growing Into Motherhood is a collection of essays and poems by mothers in all sorts of different mothering situations and how they have been transformed by their mothering experiences. They share their hearts so transparently, I felt as if I was living inside of them. I could feel their pain, their struggles, their joy, their peace. I wept for the mother who miscarried the night of her brother’s wedding, rejoiced for the mother who adopted her babies from South America, and sobbed for the woman who is missing on Google.

I loved it so much that when Kat came over to visit the other day, I couldn’t stop reading excerpts to her. I tried to go to sleep by promising myself “just one more” and then as I turned the last page, I would have to start again and tell myself “just one more.

So, walk, run, or drive to your closest Deseret Book and buy it today. It is on clearance for $7.99 and will be gone before you know it.

p.s. Read “Blood and Milk” first. It is my very favorite poem in the whole thing.

p.p.s. Please know that if I had gobs of money, I would buy every single copy in existence and go from house to house gifting mothering joy to every woman I know. I love it that much.

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book bonanza – bear snores on

Sep 20, 2010 by

Bear Snores On

This book is well known and well loved, but just in case one of my readers doesn’t know of this book, I will share it with you today. Bear Snores On is a delightful rhyming story about a group of animals that find refuge in a bear’s cave while he sleeps the winter away. When he wakes up he is angry and sad and blubbery all at the same time. We love this story for the rhyming patterns that even the youngest of story time listeners can figure out, the playful illustrations, the cadence, the bravery of the mouse, the big sneeze, and the friendships made between all the animals.

The same author has several more Bear books and a delightful rhyming, counting story called The Frog in the Bog that we enjoy much. Karma Wilson knows just how to weave words together to get children smiling from ear to ear and ready to shout out the words they know are sure to come.

A Frog in the Bog

I read them both to Fisher and he loved them, so I will be reading them at Story Station (my new weekly story time for our homeschool group) soon.

I am drawn to beautiful and true stories that speak to a child’s soul, but sometimes a bit of silliness is just what is needed to get through the day. These books fit the silliness bill perfectly, while retaining the simple goodness that is integral to the development of the human spirit.

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book bonanza – pride and prejudice

Sep 6, 2010 by


I have finally finished a Jane Austen book. Much to my surprise, I even loved it. Back in high school when girls were swooning over her books, I rejected the whole genre outright. I had no interest in reading about ridiculous girls flirting in an ever-so-polite way with so-called gentleman. Now, however, I loved pondering the social commentary Jane was making, the deep flaws of character she was exposing, and the greatness of the human heart she was praising.

I learned much about what type of woman I value and what type of man is worth any woman’s time. I have much to ponder on the power of mentoring, the role of manners, and the value of marriage to a society. I see much of myself in Miss Elizabeth Bennett and hope I would have been like her. I know very well I would not have fit into 18th Century England. I don’t have it within me to become a doormat, a gossipy neighbor, or a wife contented with a loveless marriage. I don’t think I have the grace or the demureness to receive approval of my manners. I would probably have gone nuts dealing with it all and run for the hills!

Now, I get to watch the movie…which version should I start with? Colin Firth or Keira Knightly?

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