stories are light

Dec 6, 2021 by

December 6, 2019 marks a day we made a huge leap of faith and put our trust in God with everything we had.

The end result of the decisions that day were not at all what we expected. We have sobbed and doubted and raged. We have been comforted and taught and edified. We have longed for understanding.

Perhaps you are grappling with a big decision. Perhaps you are wondering if you have courage to do the hard thing you feel God calling you to do. Perhaps you are weighed down by a past decision that didn’t result in what you thought God was promising you.

And that is painful and hard and heavy and foundation shattering. At least it has been for me.

Last week I read The Tale of Despereaux (again, it’s one of my favorites) and two passages jumped out at me as bits of wisdom for these journeys of life.

“He had forgotten how dark the dark of the dungeon could be. And he had forgotten, too, its terrible smell, the stench of rates, the odor of suffering.

But his heart was full of love for the princess and his stomach was full of Cook’s soup and Despereaux felt brave and strong.”

And then this as well:“Do you remember when Despereaux was in the dungeon, cupped in Gregory the jailer’s hand, whispering a story in the old man’s ear?

I would like it very much if you thought of me as a mouse telling you a story, this story, with the whole of my heart, whispering it in your ear in order to save myself from the darkness, and to save your from the darkness, too.

‘Stories are light,’ Gregory the jailer told Despereaux.

Reader, I hope you have found some light here.”

Isn’t that beautiful and oh, so powerful? When you are facing hard things or trying to recover from hard things, perhaps those three things will be helpful.

  • Being in a place of love
  • Feeding your body good stuff
  • Feeding your mind and heart stories of courage and light and goodnessLet’s lift and love and nurture each other through the dark times with love, delicious food, and beautiful stories.
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Feb 11, 2017 by

Last night we watched The BFG. With the dirth of good family movies available at Redbox last night, I decided the only one that looked worth our time was The BFG, so I broke my cardinal rule of requiring my family members to read the book before watching the movie. I have such fond memories of the book, but have never actually read it myself. In 5th grade, when my family was falling apart, my teacher, Mr. Longmore, would spend the hour after lunch reading to us. He sat on a super-tall stool and crossed his super-long legs and as he read, he created magic in my heart. One of the books he read to us that year was The BFG and as he was nearly giant-sized himself and took a special interest in me, I easily pictured him as the BFG.

We loved the movie. So much. Annesley even got up at 6:00 this morning to get her Saturday jobs done so she could rewatch it before we take it back today. Total winner.

And when we woke up this morning, Annes had written this note.

Who is your BFG? My BFG is my papa. He is loving. My papa loves me. He loves to fish. My papa’s big fish is big. I love my BFG.

And then a drawing of Annes and her papa, AKA her BFG, with tons of hearts and BFGs all over it.

Ah man, this girl. She is full of love and life and so much delightfulness. I’m so grateful to be her mama. A big thanks to Mr. Longmore for being a BFG in my life at a time I so desperately needed him and to my husband for being an ever-present force of love in my life and the lives of our children. BFGs are all around us!

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the lion, the witch, & the wardrobe

Feb 19, 2016 by

On February 7 we finished the second book in our Narnia read-aloud adventure! Quite the accomplishment since I had been ill since the 23rd of January and getting my voice to squawk out a whole chapter was quite a task. My children got used to me whispering all the voices because whispering is less likely to induce a coughing fit.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is such a beautiful story of the price that must be paid to atone for the sins of another. Aslan gives his life willingly to save Edmund’s and his sacrifice both redeems and heals Edmund’s soul, just as Christ’s atonement does for each of us. The four children learn courage by serving and loving others. They learn to sacrifice their own needs for the the greater good of the kingdom. They learn the transforming power of repentance and each get to offer and receive forgiveness to and from another. Such necessary lessons for my children (and me!) to experience both vicariously through characters in a beloved book and in their own very human relationships.

I remember one of my teachers reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to us in elementary school. I remember the cover was super weird and I thought it was some crazy science fiction book that held nothing interesting for me. I must have completely blanked it out because I walked away from those story times hating the book and having no interest in ever reading or hearing it again. Such sadness that I didn’t take the lessons of Narnia in and allow them to give me a solid trust in God and courage to fight for what is right. And so grateful that I was able to rediscover them as a mother and share them with my children again and again.

Favorite lines this time through:

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

This makes me laugh so hard because I can totally hear myself saying it. The professor does not solve the challenging situation for Peter and Susan, but he helps the sort it out so they see it in a new way. I hope that is what I do for my children.

“None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning–either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in it’s inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of Summer.”

The light of Aslan sparked something different in each of them. What does God spark in me? Right now, it is peace. Calm, loving, enveloping, hopeful peace. I remember a time when I was afraid of Him because I didn’t really know Him, but now the warmth wraps me up like a quilt right out of the dryer and the sunshine on my face. Poor Edmund, he didn’t know the love Aslan had for him.

“I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.”

Oh yes, I have cried those tears and the quietness at the end is just what a soul needs to process the hurricane of feelings that has just tumultuously swirled around for hours on end.

“All shall be done, but it may be harder than you think.”

God will redeem us, the demons will be driven out, the land will be made free again, but the price is great. The cost of liberty always is.

“Lucy looked and saw that Aslan had just breathed on the feet of the stone giant.

It’s all right!” shouted Aslan joyously. “Once The feet are put right, all the rest of him will follow.”

How true this is! As our feet are set upon the path of God, all the rest will follow.

“For Narnia and for Aslan!”

What are we fighting for? I want to always fight for good things…liberty, love, and learning.

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

Oh, how I love for that day when my Savior returns and sets the affairs of this world in order. We need Him. We long for Him. Oh, glorious day!

Reading aloud to my family is my favorite thing. During those magic moments of story, the mishaps and sorrows of the day are forgotten and connection takes their place. Right before bed, we are wrapped up in imagination, adventure, and courage, all great things to fall asleep with, me thinks.

Now it is February 19 and we are hoping to finish up The Horse and His Boy this weekend. We have six chapters left so we need to do lots of reading!

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the magician’s nephew

Jan 16, 2016 by

We started our reading of The Chronicles of Narnia on New Year’s Day and we finished last night after the children begged and pleaded for me to finish the last two chapters in one sitting. They couldn’t bear to wait another day to hear the ending of The Magician’s Nephew.

Ah. It is like breathing life into my soul to read Narnia to my children. Blythe was obsessed with Narnia from about age six to eight. Obsessed. We read it over and over and over and listened to the Focus on The Family Dramatized version for years. The story of Aslan, Lucy, Peter, Mr. Tumnus, Caspian, Shasta, the witch, Tirian, the ape, the dwarfs, and all the rest are part of our family culture. So it isn’t that the stories are new to Fisher and Annes. But in a way they are new. I have never read them to them. They have never been through the story beginning to end. They have never experienced it all unfolding before them. I guess I thought that because it is all around them because of Blythe’s great love for the story and the movies coming out several years ago that they didn’t need me to read it to them. That they knew it all.

But they don’t. There is so much they have missed because they were too little when Blythe was still listening to the stories all the time. They have grown up with the characters and basic story line, but they have missed the greater wisdom of this epic adventure that grows as they identify with a character, feel the hard choices, pain, and joy, and face their own character flaws and strengths as they consider what they would do in the same situation.

And so we read each night and the story unfolds before them and wraps up their imagination in the lovely world of right and wrong, courage, friendship, faith, sacrifice, and always, always Aslan calling to their souls.

I’m so glad God gave me the prompting back in November that this should be our next read aloud. It is proving to be a delightful journey.

Favorite lines this time through:

“Oh, I see. You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper, I’m sure, and I’m very glad you have been taught to do it. But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys – and servants – and women – and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.”

As he said this he sighed and looked so grave and noble and mysterious that for a second Digory really thought he was saying something rather fine. But then he remembered the ugly look he had seen on his Uncle’s face the moment before Polly had vanished, and all at once he saw through Uncle Andrew’s grand words. “All it means is that he things he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.”

Such wisdom young Digory is gaining! He knows that it is not just for a code of conduct to only apply to some people. He knows his uncle is behaving abominably and a little seed is planted in his heart to not do the same. In the end, his greatest joys come because he learns and obeys that lesson.

“In Charn [Jadis] had taken no notice of Polly (till the very end) because Digory was the one she wanted to make use of. Now that she had Uncle Andrew, she took no notice of Digory. I expect most witches are like that. They are not interested in things or people unless they can use them; they are terribly practical.”

How am I using people? I so want to love people, not use them.

“Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”


“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

I have found this to be so true. I see in others parts of my own soul reflected back at me. Perspective is a crazy thing. It can be incredibly false and powerfully true. Praying to see as God sees has made a huge difference in my life.

“You know me better than you think, you know, and you shall know me better yet.”

All of us know God. Our souls yearn to be with our Father again. Knowing Him is my heart’s desire.

“Look for the valleys, the green places, and fly through them. There will always be a way through.”

Always. Always. Always He will provide a way through the hard, craggy mountains of life.

“But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.”

We become what we desire, but that doesn’t mean the end of the road will be what we want.

“But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh, Adam’s son, how cleverly you defend yourself against all that might do you good!”

How do I make myself unable to hear His voice? What do I need to do today and each day to better hear Him.

“Things always work according to their nature.”

We live and multiply and work according to who we are. We can only pretend for so long, but the truth of who we are always comes out. At the root of everything, we are children of God and if we can let that truth grow within us, we will live as children of God.

“Child, that is why all the rest are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Oh, the fruit is good, but they loath it ever after.”

Oh. Oh. Such wisdom. Takes my breath away to think about it.

“Glory be!” said the Cabby. “I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.”

The glory and majesty of God’s power is beyond my comprehension. I want to be a better, truer, more kind, obedient, and daughter. Oh, heaven help me.

Tonight we will start The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. What a joy it is to share Narnia with my little ones!

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Jan 1, 2016 by

We started our next read-aloud for 2016 tonight. In the midst of grumpy kids who were tired from late nights, sugar-laden, and about to dddiiiiiieee from taking down the Christmas decorations, magic was created.

Back in November, God whispered to my heart that our next read-aloud was to be the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. At first, I thought, “Our children know these stories inside and out, I don’t think I should take the time to read them aloud to them. I need to use this precious time for something they haven’t been exposed to yet.” But the quiet whispering continued and I knew there was a good reason for it. My excitement at the prospect grew and all through the nights of December Christmas stories, I grew giddy inside at the thought of sharing the wonderment of Narnia with our children over the next many months.

So, tonight, with children annoying one another and complaining at each new task assigned to them in our Christmas clean-up, we started our adventure. Richard made everyone hot chocolate while we finished the last of the clean-up and we welcomed everyone to grab a mug and a blanket and sit down and listen.

Soon calmness prevailed and happiness won out over the grumps. The magic of read-aloud time to bring a family together never ceases to amaze me. I think the world could be changed dramatically if all families spent some time in the evenings enjoying a delicious book together.

At the end of the chapter, they begged, “Please read another! Please, please! Just one more!” I reminded them that just thirty minutes prior they had been saying, “We don’t want to read Narnia! We want to watch Return of the Jedi!” and they grinned and said, “Yes, but now we want you to read more!”

Cracks me up.

The power of story is real. Stories speak to the deepest parts of who we are. They inspire courage, build connection, and create a culture of shared identity. They are the best things I know of to bind a family together.

What are you reading with your family right now?

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lift up your heart, lift up your voice, rejoice, again, i say rejoice!

Apr 5, 2015 by

It’s Easter night and my heart is full to bursting with joy and peace and love and gratitude. Tears of deep thanksgiving have flowed freely throughout the day as I have thought of my Savior’s sacrifice for me and all the rest of God’s children throughout the world who have ever or will ever live.

When I last wrote I was hurting and pleading for some measure of hope. One of the many conclusions I came to was that this whole connective tissue disorder journey is hard, really, really hard, because there are no actual answers, nothing to measure and have charted out. It’s not like I can do x, y,and z and reasonably expect a, b, or c to happen. There is no schedule of treatments, no way to predict what will happen. At one point in those hopeless days of last week I actually screamed out that I would rather have cancer than Ehlers-Danlos because then I would at least know how big the tumor is or what tests could be done or what probability success rates might be. For the record, I DO NOT WANT CANCER. But going down that rabbit trail of thoughts helped me to understand for a moment why this can sometimes feel so challenging – there is no data, no answers for my information-loving brain to rely on. It can feel like I have no control of my situation. Instead I do a lot of waiting…waiting for ligaments to ever so slowly heal, waiting for my nervous system to calm down, waiting for my stomach to digest food, waiting for inflammation to subside, waiting for bones to stay in place, and worst of all, waiting and wondering what the next injury will be. The not-knowing is driving me crazy.

We are at 17 weeks with this knee injury and it is still incredibly unstable and while it doesn’t hurt very much if I lie around doing nothing, the simplest activities like riding in a car, walking, or even crossing my ankles up the pain level dramatically. And really, all I can do is wait. I can’t have surgery, I can’t take some magic pill and get those collagen fibers to knit together, I can’t do an exercise or eat some special food to make it heal. I can wait and pray and hope and wear my brace and ice it down and use my oils and herbs and drink lots of water and give my body good nutrition. It can feel so incredibly hopeless to simply wait.

And this car accident has really done me in emotionally and physically. The pain in my neck and face and sacrum, oh, my goodness, it is constant and it seems as though we are not making much progress. Every week when I see Jeremy, the pain that he works on is either eliminated or greatly diminished, but a different pain takes its place. All the vertebrae and facial bones are so loose from being jarred in the accident, that shifting some of them back into place seems to move other ones right back out of place. I think we are making progress, but it is soooooo sssssslllllllllooooooooowwwwwwww that sometimes discouragement gets the best of me.

In spite of all of this, I woke up on Friday and my heart leapt with joy. It was Passover and I could tangibly feel the joy of being delivered and redeemed and loved by God himself. My feet had a bounce in their step that hasn’t been there in months and my heart felt light and happy. Kate, my new gymnastics assistant, said she had never seen me like that and Grant, my long-time assistant smiled a huge grin and said “I have, but it has been a long time.” The joy of the Lord is real – I know because it filled my heart and took me out of that place of despair.

We had a lovely Passover dinner on Friday evening with my dear friend, Jennifer, and her four daughters, three of my Worldviews students, our friends, the Cardons, with five of their children, and our friend, Paula, who jumped in at the last minute to fill Jesse’s (Jennifer’s husband) spot. Then on Saturday and Sunday we watched General Conference and my soul was lifted and strengthened even more with the messages of faith, the great love of God, and the hope the atonement and grace of God can give to each of us.

After Conference, I decided I had to completely ignore the vice-grip pain in my facial bones and read the last 32 pages of The Wingfeather Saga on this special Easter Sunday. I have been so incredibly frustrated at my inability to read more than a couple of pages to my family since the car accident before the pain in my face is so excruciating that I have to stop and ice it down, but today I realized it has worked out perfectly. I knew (since I have read the ending of the series twice already) that the last few chapters are a type of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice and resurrection and that the story would touch our children’s hearts and help them to see the atonement with new eyes as they learned the fanged monsters could be changed back into humans devoid of the anger and cruelty of their past selves. I have known for months that these chapters contained beautiful messages of God’s grace, sacrifice, and love that would reach deep into our children’s souls and give them truths they need and I have been hungry to give it to them, but I couldn’t make that happen very quickly because it hurt so much to read aloud. But now, with perfect timing, we have spent our Easter Sunday evening crying our eyes out as our hearts were broken with the sacrifice offered, the healing of the fangs, and the price of blood that had to be paid to bring it about.

Oh, my heart! It is so full with the love of God and love for God. I love Him. I trust Him. I rejoice in Him.

This song by Charles Wesley (the son of my beloved Susannah Annesley who Annesley is named after) captures the feelings of my heart tonight.

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore!
Mortals, give thanks and sing
And triumph evermore.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

The Lord, the Savior, reigns,
The God of truth and love.
When he had purged our stains,
He took his seat above.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail;
He rules o’er earth and heav’n.
The keys of death and hell
To Christ the Lord are giv’n.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

With Christians around the world, I rejoice that Christ was willing to come to earth and make it possible for each of us to return to our Father and become like Him as we learn to love and serve and sacrifice.

I know more dark days will probably come, but tonight, this glorious Easter night, I want to savor these feelings of peace and joy and gratitude for all He has done.

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our current books

Jan 15, 2015 by

We are spending lots of time snuggling and reading. There isn’t much else I can do right now, so it is a season of books. Annesley and I have started reading Little House in the Big Woods. I have my old, tattered, yellow set from my girlhood days. Then I have a complete other, still old, but not quite as tattered, blue set I picked up at a thrift store. We also have a few hardcover copies of the beautiful, artwork-on-the-front ones. But, when we decided to embark on this new adventure, I decided to pull out a big, beautiful, five-novels-in-one, gold-leafed edition I was saving for either Blythe or Keziah. She loves fancy things and fell in love with the gold pages and tinsy illustrations.

Little House Cover

Fisher likes to listen in and he is often found building some lego creation nearby while we read about Laura’s life with her family in the big woods of Wisconsin.

Last week Blythe drove me to physical therapy and then to run a few errands. We were able to go to the library and with the help of the scooters, I was able to zip around all three floors of the library and get a pile of fun books to explore. We have a new author on our list of favorites – Andrea Beaty. She has written Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer which we already knew about and loved (and seriously, you should read them!), but when we got to her shelf at the library, we found another gem! Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau is a fun, rhyming story about a hat maker in France who designs fancy, exotic hats for all of her customers and is deeply lonely for a friend. Annes keeps asking us to read it over and over and even asked Miss Sheri to read it to her when she stopped by for a visit.

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett is pure genius. It is Fibonacci’s famous rabbit problem – “How many rabbits will you have in one year if you start out with one?” – portrayed with hilarious illustrations, calendars, carrot recipes, and a glorious pop-up of hundreds of rabbits on the 12th month. Really, go get check it out and laugh yourselves silly as you and your children learn all about Fibonacci numbers.

Another new favorite is The Art Collector by Jan Wahl. It is about a little boy who loves art, but isn’t adept at making the art he sees in his mind come to life (yes, I identified with little Oscar!). So, he decides to collect art so he can look at the pieces he loves so much. His collection grows and he has a museum built to hold his collection and share it with others. Such a delightful story.

Fisher and Keziah have both listened to Little Britches this week and Fisher has been listening to The Lord of the Rings. Blythe is reading Pride and Prejudice again and I have been reading Call The Midwife and To My Friends: Messages of Counsel and Comfort. Richard just finished The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics.

Our family read-aloud right now is still The Wingfeather Saga. We are on book four, The Warden and the Wolf-King, and have about 250 pages left. Our reading time at night is quite limited because of the big girls’ schedules and we are in the middle of play month for Blythe. She will be performing for the next 9 days and has had a heavy rehearsal schedule the past couple of weeks. That along with her work and symphony schedules puts her home late several nights a week. I think this will be the last read-aloud we do as a whole family because her schedule is too difficult for the rest of us to work around {tears}. On the nights she is home, I try to read to everyone for an hour so we can continue to make some progress. At the rate we are going it is going to be March before we finish! I am hoping for some long Sunday night reading sessions over the next few weeks so we can get to the exciting conclusion.

Kat really wants me to read Quiet so I can understand sensitive souls like her a bit better so that is on my goal list for the year. I think Annesley and I will keep reading the other Little House books for the next few months and I have a whole stack of books I need to be reading for my Worldviews and How To Talk classes. So my next 5 months of reading is pretty planned out and I haven’t even made my book list for the year for my colloquia group! What are you reading? Do you have any suggestions for fabulous books for my monthly book discussion group?

In other news, my knee brace is here and working well. Finding pants that will fit over top of it is proving quite challenging so it looks like I will be wearing knee length yoga skirts for the next several months. I totally overdid it yesterday trying to shop for a pair of pants, so all the muscles in my leg are pretty unhappy today, but my knee feels super stable in the brace and I am thrilled to have it and to be done with the tape that has been holding me together for the past five weeks.

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summer reading

Jul 2, 2014 by

Fisher and Annes and I have spent the past month or so reading Hanne’s Quest, a delightful little story about a little hen who must go on an epic journey to save her owner’s farm.


We picked up this book at a used book store several years ago when I simply could not resist the lovely artwork.


Mem Pockets, the owner of the farm, has a flock of speckled chickens who lay speckled eggs that she sells at the market every Friday. She loves her hens and treats them nearly like children. One day she gets a letter stating she owes back taxes on her farm and has thirty days to pay them or she will lose her land. She has very little income and no way to earn enough money in one month’s time. The hens talk together to hatch a plan and the oldest hen remembers an old legend about a special hen laying three golden eggs. Hanne, the smallest hen, decides she is the one for the undertaking and sets off on her journey to faraway places to fulfill the ancient legend.

My children were on the edge of their seats each day as they traveled with Hanne through frightening adventures and noble deeds. The chapters are just the right length for a read-aloud of one chapter a day.

We have been plodding along in our family read-aloud, The Red Keep, for months and while I quite like the book, it is moving too slow for some of our family members. I’m sure there will be plenty of excitement by the end, but right now we are still in the laying the groundwork part of the plot and it has been increasingly hard to make much progress. It is my August book discussion book, so I will keep reading it, but on Friday night we made a switch to a new book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.


Oh my goodness, it is SO fun! The three introductions are hilarious and had us all laughing out loud. I have been reading the introductions to anyone who will listen to me for the past 5 days. When I heard about the Wingfeather Saga (the name of the series), I immediately went to the author’s page on Amazon. After reading his bio, I found his website, book blog, and awesome-sauce conglomeration of fellow authors, artists, and discussers of ideas, The Rabbit Room.

And to say I fell in love would be an understatement. When you read his bio, I think you will understand why.

Hey, folks. If you’re just discovering me or any of my work, it can be a little confusing because there are several facets to it. Here’s the rundown:

I write songs. I also record them to these cool things called CDs and put on concerts around the country. (And beyond! To my great delight, I get to play in Europe every year or so.)

I write books. Right now I’m three books into a fantasy series for young readers. It’s called the Wingfeather Saga. I just published book three (of four), in May of 2011. I also illustrated some of the pictures. (

I’m the proprietor of the Rabbit Room., a community of songwriters, authors, and artists interested in storytelling, faith, and fellowship. We have a yearly conference called Hutchmoot, which is as awesome as it sounds. (

I’m a proud member of the Square Peg Alliance, a happy band of singer/songwriters who write together, tour together, and eat together. (

I’ve been married for nineteen years to Jamie, and we have three sweet children: Aedan (15), Asher (14), and Skye (11). We live in a magical place we call the Warren, just south of Nashville.

The common thread in all this is my love for Christ and his Kingdom, my belief in the power of story and art, and my need for family and community. If I had to boil it all down, I’d say this: I want to use my gifts to tell the truth, and to tell it as beautifully as I can.

That ought to get you started. For a more in-depth look at what I do, visit Thanks!

Andrew Peterson’s approach to life, family, sharing his ideas, and making a difference in the world entered right into my heart. He is hilarious, generous, real, and is spending his life doing what he loves, an act of courage in this day and age of working jobs one hates.

The fourth and final book in the Windfeather Saga was released last week on his website and will be available for pre-order on Amazon with shipment on July 22.

Everyone is thoroughly enjoying this story, even my one child who is incredibly challenging to please with read-aloud time, so I declare it a solid winner. As soon as we have a spare $45, we will be buying all four books so we can delight in them again and again. Right now I have books 1-3 checked out from the library and local friends, DO NOT REQUEST THEM! Please, pretty, pretty please, let us keep them for a bit so we can get through them. We are reading as fast as we can. Promise.

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fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Jan 14, 2014 by

fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Annes and I started our FIAR adventure again this week. We took December off and just got into the swing of things with FIAR again. I wanted to read All The Places To Love, one of my all-time favorite books, but she chose Humphrey The Lost Whale


This is the endearing, true story of a humpback whale who made a mistake and traveled under the Golden Gate Bridge, into San Francisco Bay, and up the the Sacramento River in 1985. Scientists, the U.S. Coast Guard, and people from all over the world worked together to help Humphrey get back out to the deep waters of the ocean.


Miss Annes thoroughly enjoying this book. The whole time we were reading it she kept asking, “He doesn’t die does he? He makes it back to the ocean, right?” Today we talked about salt water vs. fresh water, the Golden Gate Bridge, blowholes, different types of bridges, whale sounds, and the maps in the book.

Great times with my little one – so grateful I have this time with her.

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a new year of books

Jan 7, 2014 by

It is a new year which means more books on my nightstand to read, write, and discuss with my family, students, and book discussion group. I am swooning over all of these books and can’t wait to read them and gain all sorts of new insights into myself, human nature, courage, and how this world works.

Colloquia Books


I wanted to spend the month of December contemplating the life of the Savior and his role in my life so I selected The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for our first discussion of the year. My soul is hungry for the Savior and I want to spend this entire year (and the rest of my life!) drawing closer to Him. I especially love this music video because it demonstrates the real life changes that can occur when we follow the teachings of Jesus.


I am teaching a class for youth at iFamily and we will be reading, writing, and growing at breakneck speeds. We are reading nine books for Wake Up and Be AWESOME! and I decided to make my life easier by doing some of my WUBA books for my adult discussion group as well. A Place to Stand: The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. is one of those doubled-up books. I am thoroughly excited to learn more about this man who stood so boldly against the strongest organization on earth in his time.


Resolved: 13 Resolutions For LIFE by Orrin Woodward looks FANTASTIC! It is a personal manifesto to change, keep your word, do hard things, and make a difference in the world. I can’t wait till my copy comes so I can devour it! I need all the help I can get to make even the smallest changes in my life.


I am a huge Ender fan and have read both the Ender series and the Shadow series in the past. Our youth are reading Ender’s Shadow for WUBA and now the adults will read it as well. I am not a huge sci-fi reader, but some authors in that genre really tickle my fancy and Orson Scott Card is one of them. I also want to read Pastwatch, but it will have to wait for another year (or be read in all my spare time, haha!). If you do decide to buy Ender’s Shadow, you might want to check out the Shadow and Ender’s Game box sets because I don’t think you will be able to stop with just the first book in the series!


We are studying William Wilberforce in WUBA, so this is another double-up month. Statesman and Saint: The Principled Politics of William Wilberforce is full of inspiration to tenaciously hold on to our ideals and do whatever it takes to implement them in our lives. The last time I studied Wilberforce was when I was pregnant with Annesley and I fell so head over heels in love with him I wanted to name our child after him. Instead, I named her Annesley after Susannah Annesley Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, another one of my heroes. Wilberforce’s passionate fight for the ending of the British slave trade gives me hope for humanity.


One of the statesman we are studying in WUBA is C.S. Lewis, my favorite author of all time. His words have deeply impacted my life and have helped guide me as a disciple of Christ. We are going to read “Why I Am Not a Pacifist” in my youth class and read the entire Weight of Glory with the adults.


When I read an interview with Muhammed Awal Momen about his conversion to Christianity, I couldn’t wait to learn more about him. We are reading his book My Name Used To Be Muhammed with the hope of learning more about both Islam and Christianity and most importantly, the courage it takes to live according to the dictates of one’s conscience.


A few years ago we read Rolf and the Viking Bow and it was a huge hit with our adult readers and many of their children. Our family loved, loved, loved it and waited eagerly every night for family read-aloud time. This year we are reading another book by Allen French, The Red Keep, and I hope families will take the summer to savor a bit of history and adventure together.


My friend Becky told me about A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman (not the same Emily Freeman who wrote Written On Our Hearts) and it looks so delicious! It goes right along with my several years long theme to discover how I am a creator and become a purposeful creator who blesses the lives of others.


Becky also tipped me off to this gem of a book, Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. This review convinced me we needed to read it and learn the lessons of courage, teamwork, and inner reserve these men have to teach us.

I have never rowed. I have never read a rowing book that I can remember. If all stories about rowing were written like Daniel Brown’s fabulous multi-level biography, I would read every one of them. This is a wonderful account, told with such detail and precision that I sometimes felt as if I were in this tale. Mr. Brown totally sucked me into his adventure. These young men who rowed for the USA in the 1936 Olympics faced huge obstacles. It was the Depression. Many were dirt-poor. They came from a small (then) and nondescript town of Seattle. They could not have had more difficult problems thrown their way. But by taking every sliver of hope, and mixing in superb craftsmanship (from George Pocock), excellent coaching (Al Ulbrickson), and these nine perfectly attuned young men learning together……..the result was perfection. This is a true Team sport. I learned that. It is nice to learn something you never knew, but is common knowledge to an entire set of other people. If you want to read a great, true story of success, this will fit the bill in spades…..and you will understand rowing to boot.

The research is mostly based on primary resources, including interviews with some members who were still living as the book was pulled together. Family members did supply additional information to make this undertaking feel solid and well thought out.

Concepts from Daniel Brown to consider that are mixed into the story to teach all of us: 1) One of the fundamental challenges in rowing is that when any one member of a crew goes into a slump the entire crew goes with him. 2) There are certain laws of physics by which all crew coaches live and die. The speed of a racing shell is determined primarily by two factors: the power produced by the combined strokes of the oars, and the stroke rate, the number of strokes the crew takes each minute. 3) To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn’t necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally. When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something he did not – that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not yet shown. 4) The things that held them together–trust in one another, mutual respect, humility, fair play, watching out for one another–those were also part of what America meant to all of them. There are other great ideas to ponder in this epic almost 400 page, could-not-put-down story.

I am not giving away anything by telling you that they DO win Gold at the 1936 Olympics. It is HOW they did it that is so darn exciting. Even knowing the end result does not diminish this bigger than life adventure. This is a must read, period.

By Wayne Crenwelge VINE VOICE on May 5, 2013


How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence has been on my to-read list for a long time. Growing up in Wyoming, I often heard tales of Gerry Spence’s effective courtroom tactics and have been curious as to how he has been so successful in presenting his arguments. This book breaks down the art and science of communication into small skill sets that if implemented will help each of us learn to communicate more clearly, with less offense and more influence.


Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a new book to me…another one of Becky’s recommendations. It is about a disfigured boy and how he learns to interact with the world and the world with him. On a more global level, it is about how each of us choose to interact with one another, how we choose to connect or disconnect with those who are different from ourselves. I can’t wait to take these lessons into my heart and become a more giving, loving, connected person.

Don’t those seem fun and inspiring! Over the past many months of injury and exhaustion I have often considered if I should give up my colloquia group, but after much pondering throughout the month of December I decided I need the intellectual stimulation these books provide and the subsequent discussions feed my soul in immeasurable ways. The relationships I have with the books we have read in the past eleven years are precious to me and have shaped and formed me in ways that I will always be grateful for. Just as precious are the dear friendships that have developed between members as we have discussed, debated, and grown together.


My Wake Up and Be AWESOME class is also studying Patrick Henry, Abigail Adams, and John Brown. We are reading Give Me Liberty: The Uncompromising Statesmanship of Patrick Henry by David J. Vaughan and studying his famous speech at the Virginia Convention in 1775. I wanted to read My Dearest Friend: The Letters of Abigail and John, but we decided it was too long for our youth to read when they already have so much on their plate and I decided I couldn’t squeeze any more reading time into my life to do it for the adult group, so we are going to read Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie Bober. Maybe next year I will get their letters read. Our John Brown book is Fiery Vision: The Life and Death of John Brown. I studied his Harper’s Ferry raid in detail in my AP History class 20+ years ago, but I never learned about his life as a father or community leader and I am excited to delve into those aspects of his life and how his abolitionist viewpoints developed into the guiding force of his life.

Our C.S. Lewis biograpy is from the same Leaders In Action series as the Luther, Henry, and Wilberforce books. Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis by Terry W. Glaspey will give us a broad overview of Lewis’ life and impact. We will finish out our semester with the Chaim Potok favorite, The Chosen. I am silly excited to tackle these books with some of my favorite youth!

Personal Reads

Our scripture study this year at church is the Old Testament and I am reading several books to go along with it. Written On Our Hearts by Emily Freeman is so, so good. I am savoring it and reading little bits of it each night before bed. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

“People often ask me why I love the Old Testament so fiercely. I always respond with the same answer. There will come a moment in your life when you or someone you love will struggle with a challenge so great you will wonder how you will make it through. In that moment you will long to better understand the Savior’s role as the Deliverer, and to do that you must go to the book of scripture that describes that role the best – the Old Testament…We live in a world that pleads for deliverance. We may not be called upon to cross the Red Sea, find ourselves thrown into a pit and left for dead, or face armies whose strength is far greater than ours. We may not be led into captivity, be compassed on every side by the enemy, or be called upon to testify knowing it might lead to our death. However, there will be days when we face danger, oppression, and injustice. There will be great obstacles in our way and times when we feel surrounded by those who are intent on destroying us. We will face evil, overwhelming health challenges or perhaps the captivity of sin. In these moments we must remember that, just as The Lord delivered the children of Israel, He has the power to deliver us from any trouble we must overcome in our life. He is, after all, the Great Deliverer.”

Doesn’t that make you want to read not only this book, but the Old Testament as well? Oh, how I love the lessons from Old Testament. They have connected all the dots for me in God’s great plan and have been a foundation of hope for me throughout my life. The stories of Enoch, Isaac, Gideon, Abigail, Jacob, Joseph, the Children of Israel, Jericho, David, and many others have taught me deep down in my soul that the God I believe in is more powerful than any other force and that with God all things, ALL THINGS are possible.

I am also reading 400 Questions and Answers about the Old Testament by Susan Easton Black and so far it is quite interesting. I love stocking my mind full of information, but right now my mind is full with my focus on healing. I knew I wasn’t up to doing a deep, detailed verse-by-verse study of the Old Testament right now and this book is the perfect way to fill my need for information without overwhelming me with hours and hours of study. Once again, by reading little tidbits once or twice a day and by the end of the year I will have learned quite a bit more about the ancient world.

I believe pretty firmly in reading the actual words of scripture to my children and we usually do, but I didn’t feel right about reading the Old Testament to Fisher and Annes. The thought of it overwhelmed me and I knew I wouldn’t last more than a few days in the effort. I wanted to bring the stories of the Old Testament alive for them and to help them love it as much as I do. So, instead of reading the OT to them, we are reading Illustrated Bible Stories for Latter-day Saints and the kids are eating it up. I promised them we would read two stories each morning, but inevitably we end up reading more – we are already past Noah & the Ark and we only started yesterday!

Fisher and Annesley were given Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims for Christmas from their grandparents and we are thoroughly enjoying it! I had never heard of this book as I don’t often (ever?) listen to Rush Limbaugh and I wasn’t quite sure what to think about reading a book from him to my children, but it is fabulous. Fisher and Annes beg for it every day and we are having wonderful discussions about the Church of England, having the courage to follow your own beliefs, leaving all you know to go to a new place, and what price is freedom worth. The time-travel aspect is super fun is bringing this time period alive for my little ones. Snuggling up with my boy with his head on my shoulder is the best part.

I hope some of these book pique your interest and you read them and share your thoughts with me! Also, what books are on your nightstand? What are you excited to read/study this year?

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some new favorite books

Nov 12, 2013 by

some new favorite books

Enough hip, connective tissue, and passing out talk! Let’s talk books! Anyone who knows me at all knows I am book lover. We have found some fabulous gems at the library recently. Annesley and I are loving our FIAR books and yet, I haven’t taken the time to blog our adventures. Along with all the reading with the children, I am in the middle of choosing books for next year’s colloquia group and trying to make them all dovetail with the books I am reading for the scholar class I will be mentoring at iFamily next semester.

Here are some of our recent library finds. Alphasaurs is absolutely delightful! Each page sports a dinosaur made up of the first letter of its name.


Scattered around the page are facts about the dinosaur’s size, weight, eating habits, and other behaviors. Fisher and Annesley love, love, love this book.


It is definitely going to be one we purchase and we added the author’s other books, Bugs By The Numbers, and Alphabeasties to our wish list as well.

Fisher and Annes love this cute little book, Little Owl Lost.


It is a similar story to Are You My Mother, but the illustrations are much more adorable and have my kids giggling the whole way through.


The Circus Ship is super cute as well.


It is a rhyming story about a mean circus owner and his animals that escape his violent temper in a storm off the coast of Maine. They find refuge in the town and the townfolk hide the animals when he comes looking for them. The finding of the disguised animals is fun, especially for Annesley. She cracks up every time she sees the monkey in the baby carriage.


I have been mentoring a WWII class this fall. It has been loads of work and loads of fun. Some of the fun has been learning more about the stories of men and women who did what had to be done. We Die Alone is fabulous!


I am not done with it yet, but I am amazed at the human spirit. We have more courage than we know.

My co-mentor, Jenn, read Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon in preparation for her lecture on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and she has been raving about it. It is definitely on my must-read list.


Last night we discussed the story of Tito Momen, a man who was imprisoned for 15 years in Cairo for converting from Islam to Christianity. We read this fascinating news article and are looking forward to reading his book, My Name Used To Be Mohammed.


We discussed taking Christ’s name upon us and how that doesn’t always look the same in different parts of the world and different eras of time. We talked about having enough conviction of your Savior to be willing to give up your whole world and even your life if state publicly that you believe in Him. Doesn’t the book sound amazing? I definitely want to read this one in my adult book discussion group.

In my scholar class next semester we are studying John Brown, Patrick Henry, Abraham Lincoln, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther, and we would like to study a great woman, but don’t have her selected yet. We need to read one biography and study one document about each of these people. Do any of you have any suggestions?

Any suggestions for my adult group? I have an eensy-weensy amount of time to get all twelve books selected for next year and I want them to be powerful, inspiring, though-provoking reads.

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back-to-school book extravaganza

Sep 3, 2013 by

I have been buying and selling Usborne books for the past ten years or so. I love them to pieces and my children thoroughly enjoy them. They form a big part of our homeschooling adventures and are wonderful springboards to draw my children in to a topic and then launch them onto deeper study.

It is back-to-school time and I have a gift for you!

Ten of our favorite books at deep discounts!

Orders are due by Monday night at midnight and you must Paypal me at when you place your order. If we don’t reach our minimums, I will refund your pennies back to you pronto. When you email me your book order at, please include the title of the book, how many copies you want, and your snail mail address if you are not local.


See Inside Your Body has long been my children’s go-to book for all things body related. I would recommend it for children from 4-10. Each two-page spread details a different body system and has oodles of sturdy flaps to lift and find out more about that bone, cilia, muscle, or sphincter. Retail: $13.99, Back-to-School Special: $8.50



art treasuryArt Treasury is chock full of delicious art ideas. Each artist spotlighted has four pages devoted to them. The first two-page spread gives a biography of the artist and presents one of their most famous works of art. The next two pages give detailed instructions for how to create a similar type of art project with your own children. We love this book! Retails for 19.99, Back-to-School Special: $12.00


art treasury - plate


The Big Book of Things To Draw is 96 pages of step-by-step drawing instructions perfect for anyone ten and up. We have used this to break down the process of drawing and have created some pretty remarkable works of art! Retail: $16.99, Back-to-School Special: $10.50.

draw fish

draw city.aspx


Oh my heavens, I love these things! I always have at least one set in the car and in my purse so my little ones can use them whenever we are out and about, stuck waiting for big kids to be done with lessons, at doctor’s appointments, etc. You can choose any of the fabulous card sets…our favorites for the 9 and younger set are 100 Things For Little Children To Do On A Journey, Animal Doodles, and Animal Stencil Cards. For the 8 and older set we love Math Puzzles, Number Puzzles, 50 Brain Games, 50 Secret Codes, Tricky Words To Spell, and Grammar & Punctuation. Retail: $9.99, Back-to-School Special: $6.50.

math puzzles.aspx



The Patterns Coloring Book is a huge hit with everyone who sees it! It is full of intricately designed pages ready to be colored in (we like colored pencils best for this) in whatever color scheme your little artist selects. On many some of the two-page spread there are several sections of the same design so your artist can color one section in all warm tones, one in all cool, one in bold/contrasting, and one in soothing/similar tones. It is so powerful for children to see the difference effects of their color choices. This is one of our favorite books to give as birthday presents to our childrens friends. I would say it is perfect for anyone from 6 – 100! Retail: $5.99, Back-to-School Special: $4.00





Fisher and Annes LOVE the Sticker books. Sticker Dolly Dressing Around The World is one of Annesley’s favorite books. She loves all the sticker books and they actually last her several months, so it is a great investment of $$$ on my part too. Each page has a background scene with different characters and then your our little one dresses up the characters from around with stickers organized in the back by page number for each sticker set. Fisher’s favorite is Sticker Dressing Knights. Retail: $8.99, Back-to-School Special: $6.00.


knights stick 2.aspx


The Phonics Workbooks are super fun for anyone four and up and learning to read. They are full of coloring, drawing, copying, and sticker activities to learn all about the sounds the letters make. Set of Four Books Retail: $31.96, Back-to-School Special: $20.00.



The World Wars is a beautiful, 256 page book that allow youth to learn all about the leaders, battles, political issues, countries involved, treaties, weapons, victims, and survivors of the two biggest wars of the 20th century. The photographs are simply stunning and the text is informative while not being too graphic for youth to digest. This is my a favorite of Fisher and Blythe’s and will always be in our home as a reference book. Recommended for 10 and up, but Fisher is 8 and pours over the pictures for hours and asks us questions about what he is seeing. Retail: $25.99, Back-to-School Special: $16.00


Castles was Blythe’s favorite book for a long time and now Fisher loves it. You learn about all sorts of different types of castles from various parts of the world and different eras of time. The inside, outside, weaponry, staff, gardens, toileting, and much more are presented for each castle type in somewhat of a Where’s Waldo style combined with National Geographic type photos. This is a must-have book for anyone remotely interested in medieval history, weapons, or knights. Retail: $14.95, Back-to-School Special: $9.50.



I Love Words is such a delightful book! it is part writing, part art, and 100% hilarious creativity. Each page has a different writing prompt that draws children in to creating new words, making a talking cake, creating characters for stories, and becoming a fully-engaged writer. Retail: $14.95, Back-to-School Special: $9.50.

If these rock-bottom price selections aren’t your favorite, you can get anything in this catalog for 30% off.

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june’s book gems

Jun 11, 2013 by

Ack! I still haven’t posted about Annesley’s first lost tooth, our hike at Cress Creek, or our swimming adventure and now it is time for me to be off again. Tomorrow I am taking Blythe to Present Yourself, a class on learning impactful public speaking and mastering one’s body language. She earned a free ticket back in November by writing an awesome essay about her mission in life.

Before I go though, I wanted to share a few of our newest book finds!

The Serpent Came To Gloucester is so fun! The entire book is written as a poem and reading it out loud to Fisher this morning was a treat. I could read it all day! It is a long, meandering poem told from the perspective of a little boy who wants the sea serpent to live and frolic while his fellow townsfolk hunted it across the sea. Fisher identified immediately with the little boy and kept hoping the sea serpent would escape.

By the way, after his itsy-bitsy snake he adopted at Swim Camp escaped, he found a new one in our yard a few days ago. It is about five times as big and he loves it with all his bug-loving heart. We even found him sleeping with it in his sleeping bag! Thank goodness he was outside! I don’t think this boy is scared of any creature out there. He is sure he can tame them and make them his friend.

We are huge Anno fans over here and Anno’s Alphabet is one of our latest delights. If you are looking for a new spin on the old alphabet book, here are some we are reading with Annes right now. The City ABC Book is full of pictures of big city objects that have letter shapes in them. It is super fun to see my little one’s eyes light up when they spot the elusive letters. ABC Bunny is a treasure from 1933! It looks just like a vintage book should and is written in a sing-songy prose that is quite lovely. My children love the nature pictures and I love the unique story they tell.

Last but not least, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket is a gem. I am not a Series of Unfortunate Events fan, but The Conductor is Dead and now 13 Words has made me rethink my first impression of this author. This book is built on the foundation of thirteen words (bird, despondent, cake, dog, busy, convertible, goat, hat, haberdashy, scarlet, baby, panache, and mezzo-soprano) and the magic is in how they are brought together to develop an entire story. The vocabulary and humor are simply delectable!

As for our family read-aloud we are still plugging away on Freckles. Papa, Mama, Blythe, and Fisher are loving it. Keziah and Annes, not so much. I am on the lookout for our next read-aloud. Please share your suggestions for a great story sure to be loved by children from 17 – 5.

Richard and I are on a World War II kick. I am reading The Longest Day and have to force myself to stop reading and get some sleep each night. The story of D-Day has always fascinated me and this collection of eyewitness accounts is superb. If you have any interest in WWII, pick this one up! Richard is reading Unexplained Mysteries of World War II and is always surprising me with amazing anecdotes and little-known facts.

I think I need to hook up a hammock so I can spend the hot afternoons lazing around in the shade of my yard reading a book and napping. That, my friends, is something I dream of often – I think it is time to make it happen.

Happy Reading!

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narration with peter spier

May 14, 2013 by

My Annesley cracks me up. She is so stinkin’ hilarious. Yesterday I had to make a DI run to dump off the stuff from the garage clean-out on Saturday (Did I tell you I cleaned the garage out? Well, yes, I did. It was a long, filthy day, but now we can walk through there without breaking a leg.) Since I was going into town, I decided I might as well return the huge pile of library books that were due last Friday and pay my $26 fine so our renewal and checkout privileges would be restored.

I was tempted by a few books and just had to bring them home for my children. One of them was Rain by Peter Sprier. I llllooovvveee Peter Sprier’s other books, Noah’s Ark and People and decided Annesley would love Rain. Peter’s books are illustrations only – there are no words. Last night I showed it to Annesley and asked her if she would like to tell me the story. She was so excited and pored over the book until bedtime. This morning she asked me if I was ready for her story. I quickly hit record on the iPad (she didn’t know what I was doing) and she proceeded to tell me her creation for the next ten minutes. She told her story in a rhyming, sing-songy voice, but her words didn’t rhyme at all. She repeated the phrase “Oh, No! What will we do?” on almost every page. She talked about all the animals and the umbrella and the brother and sister and how the sister had to protect her brother because she was six and he was four. Her whole story cracked me up, but I was able to keep a straight face and listen while she turned the pages. When she finished her adventurous narration, I hit play and her face lit up as she realized she had been recorded. She listened to her story and giggled the whole time saying things like “Did I really say that?” and “That was FUNNY!”

I love learning with my children. I love being part of their discoveries and creations. I especially love sharing books with them while we snuggle up together.

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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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freckles – a new read aloud

Mar 6, 2013 by

I have been wanting to read Freckles as a family for many years, so on Sunday night when I asked for suggestions from everyone on what our next read-aloud should be and Kez shouted out Freckles, I jumped at the chance.

It is so lovely. We are only a few chapters into it, but I am already in love. Gene Stratton-Porter is a wonderful author who paints vivid pictures of human nature, good vs. evil, the natural world – especially the forests and swamps of Indiana, courage to do hard things, and family life. I love her books because they make me think and consider my own choices ever more carefully.

Our last read-aloud, a forgotten classic by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Land of The Blue Flower, should be on everyone’s shelf. I can’t wait to buy a used copy of the beautifully illustrated version by Judith A. Griffith to put in my family’s library. I want to read it to my children again and again. The king is so wise and his lesson of teaching people to tend a plant with its resultant action of healing their angry hearts is one I need to plant deep in my soul.

I never have a plan in place for read-alouds. I hardly ever know what the next book on our list is going to be. I prefer to be open to inspiration and to jump on opportunities as they arise. God keeps leading me to the next book our family needs to read together and I keep learning to trust His quiet whisperings.

Our read-alouds have really suffered over the past year, not in terms of quality, but in terms of getting through a lot of books. We used to read about a book a month, or sometimes two months if it was overly long. Since my hip injury and even more now with ballet three nights a week, we are reading in slllllloooowww motion. Since last February we have only read The Last Battle, Summer of the Monkeys, The Hobbit, Mama’s Bank Account, and The Land of The Blue Flower. But we are still doing it – still enjoying our reading time and still learning from these great stories – and that is what is really important.

What is your current read-aloud? Or are you still trying to figure out how to make it work for your family?

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Feb 18, 2013 by

Fisher has been asking me to read him Winnie-The-Pooh for quite a while now. I have never read Winnie-The-Pooh and know very little about it, but he has been looking at our big, blue, beautiful treasury and has decided he must know all about this little bear.

We started it last week and while I still don’t quite understand the fascination with this story, I will keep reading it to him because he is loving it. It has sat on our shelf for years and years and this is the first time one of our children have been interested in it. What about you? Are you a Pooh fan? If so, why?

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2013 Colloquia Books

Jan 7, 2013 by

I hold a book discussion group in my home every month and have done so for the past ten years. It is one of my favorite things. I learn so, so much from the men and women who join me to discuss human nature, philosophy, principles of freedom, and classic works of literature. I have people ask me for a book list all the time and sometimes I remember to send one to them and sometimes I don’t, so I decided to post it here so anyone who is interested can find our books easily.


Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes is the story of a Norwegian family and their assimilation into American life in San Francisco. Mama is strong, nurturing, hilarious, and stubborn. We are reading this one aloud as a family and everyone is loving it.


Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead is a fabulous book by Brene Brown. I love her TED talk and can’t wait to dig into this book and learn more about being an authentic human being.


Two Old Women by Velma Wallis is a quick read. I just finished it today during my new hour long study time…started it a few days ago…it probably took me two or two and a half hours to read. It is a simple story, but it has me thinking about courage, forgiveness, peace, whining, community, determination, and hard work.


The Jew In The Lotus: A Poet’s Rediscovery of Jewish Identity in Buddhist India sounds fascinating! An Amazon reviewer says:

The author writes well, so well in fact that he took me deeper into concepts than I have ever been before. There are a lot of facts in this book and a lot of theology. I have no background in philosophy, theology, mysticism, meditation or any spiritual practices. And yet I was able to follow most of it.

The Jews and Tibetan Buddhists have some things in common. Their monks study sacred texts and practice debate. There are some ancient words that are common to both religions. And on a deep spiritual level, they both practice meditation and visualization.

The differences are vast though. The Jewish tradition is rooted in the family. The Tibetan in a monastic tradition. The Jews believe there is one lifetime. The Tibetans believe in reincarnation.

When the question of the holocaust came up, the Tibetan answer was that it was karma for something bad they did in their past lives when they might or might not have necessarily been Jews. The Jews were shocked by this. They felt it was blaming the victim.

The big issue in the book was about spirituality, however. Modern Judaism is based on customs and traditions and ethnic identity. It is not based on the essence of spirituality which is reached in prayer, meditation, chanting and communication with something much deeper than self, and — ultimately — results in enlightenment.

I read this book slowly, each paragraph bringing up ideas I had never even knew existed before. It was an experience in itself to share the journey with the author who did painstaking research to pull this little gem of a book together.

Recommended for someone who wants to do some deep thinking about spirituality and its place in the modern world.


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is our read for my birthday month. This has been on my book list ever since my friend Kate recommended it several years ago. She said it made her ponder the issue of creation and stewardship and who is responsible for the creations of one’s hands. I can’t wait to read this and have a powerful discussion on it.


June 6th marks the 68th anniversary of D-Day and to commemorate it, we are reading The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day by Cornelius Ryan. I am a huge World War II junkie, but I have never read this book and it is high time I did. I want to understand every aspect of D-Day and to come face to face with the courage and sacrifice of all involved.


Granville Toogood’s classic book on leadership has been republished with additional information to help anyone become more effective in sharing their ideas with others. We are reading The New Articulate Executive and will practice our public speaking skills as part of our discussion.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a short fable that has been on my to-do list for awhile. Here is what one Amazon reviewer says:

I checked this book out from the library, but I’m going to buy a copy and re-read it at regular intervals.

I read it over the course of one day, thought “nice fable” & began reading another book as soon as I finished this one. But I found that the lessons contained in this simple story of a shepherd boy seeking treasure, won’t be dismissed so easily. They must have taken up residence in my subconscious and kicked up some dust, because my mind keeps returning to the lessons of the story to find new and more subtle insights having formed.

These are lessons that we all know in our hearts, but that we forget as we get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of our material lives. Lessons about listening to our hearts and following our dreams. Lessons about living in the moment, the transient nature of possessions and the illusion that we can even “possess” something to begin with. Lessons about freeing ourselves from fear and about understanding our lives as part of the energy of the Universe and understanding that everything will work out the way it was intended to. Lessons about trusting in signs, knowing that our lives have a grand purpose and that the forces of the Universe will conspire to help us fulfill that purpose. And the lesson that all of the fortunes and misfortunes we encounter in life are part of our spiritual education, and that it’s not the earthly “treasure” we seek that’s important but the lessons learned while in pursuit of it.

If you like to ponder the meaning of life, then let your mind and spirit mull over the lessons in this book. It’s a quick and enjoyable read that will provide some new insights, or remind you of some old one’s that you’ve forgotten.


We are reading another C.S. Lewis (because I love Jack to pieces and learn so much from him each time I read one of his works) book this year…actually three of them – the entire Space Trilogy! I have wanted to read these for years and can’t wait to spend my summer reading Out Of The Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. Has anyone read these to their family? I am wondering how they would be as a read aloud.


Nothing To Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea has been recommended by Becky, a long-time colloquia member, for the past couple of years. I am interested in learning about the struggle for survival, the courage to live, and the heartbreak that is ever-present in the totalitarian regime of North Korea.


Do you feel overwhelmed or inundated by the plethora of choices we have available to us today? I know I do. If there are fifty different toothpastes on the shelves, one of them must be the best in terms of effectiveness and what is the best value in terms of price vs. working well. Barry Schwartz delves into the psychological effects of having too many choices in today’s modern world in The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.


Emma. Yes, we are delving in to Jane Austen’s world of relationships once again. There are a hundred (thousand?) different versions out there, but I highly recommend this one because not only is it breathtaking, it is chock-full of annotations that explain the culture and time period for those of us who aren’t experts on the Regency Era and will greatly deepen our understanding of the characters and their experiences.

I am excited about our reads for this year and especially for our discussions. If you would like to read along with us, but cannot join us for the discussions, feel free to post your thoughts here or email me and we can talk back and forth about your insights!

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while there’s life

Dec 8, 2012 by

While there’s life there’s hope.

This line from The Hobbit jumped out at me and spurred all sorts of thoughts in my brain. Bear with me while I try to sort them out and share them with you in some semblance of coherency.

I think this theme of keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep working, keep trying, keep doing, keep becoming, keep on keeping on, no matter what the odds are against you, has become my take home message from Tolkien’s writings. It doesn’t matter how hopeless it looks. It doesn’t matter how absolutely impossible it appears. Our job is to keep trying…and to believe in some small recess of our soul (or our whole soul if we can muster it) that there is hope. Our task is to let God do what He will and to keep on working so He can do what He will. I must need to hear that lesson because it continues to jump out at me whenever I read his works.

There is not much hope that Bilbo and the dwarves will succeed in killing Smaug and reclaiming their treasure. There isn’t even much hope they will ever even get to Smaug alive in the first place. Despite the odds against them, they feel called to redeem their land, their home, their treasure, and their family’s honor. Time and time again it seems there is no way out of their predicaments and time and time again they are rescued or shown a new way or provided a solution to their obstacle.

Every single time.

In The Lord of The Rings, the task is even more impossible. It is completely ridiculous for anyone to believe for a moment that the nine members of the Fellowship have any chance of success in their quest to destroy the ring.

And yet, they set out with determination to do their best. They keep trying. And God works miracles. He delivers them. He sends help. He gives them small pieces of encouragement. He gives them ideas. He places people in their path at just the right time.

Just like He does for us.

They keep moving forward even when injured. They keep trying even when members of their fellowship are kidnapped and killed. They keep their faith alive even when darkness and evil appear to be winning. They keep doing their part even when Frodo is bitten by the spider and wrapped up for her to eat. In a last-ditch effort to give Frodo a little more time to reach Mt. Doom they mount a distraction effort at the Black Gate where they “know” they will be killed.

Galadriel tells Frodo “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” I believe that. I want my children to believe that. I want each and every child of God to know they have power and influence and capability to change the world. This saying hangs on the wall of our school room and I read it almost every day. It inspires me to live truer to my ideals and to keep hope alive in my heart that each of can bless and serve and love and that those things CAN and DO make a difference.

The key to this, I think, is Bilbo’s father’s advice, “While there’s life there’s hope.” There is always hope. Even when it doesn’t look like we should have any hope, we can still have hope because we are alive and can keep doing small and simple things (or big and wonderful things) to change the course of the future. There is hope because other people are alive and doing small and simple things in their lives and those things change the course of our future and the future. Most of all, there is hope because Jesus is alive and His life is the source of all hope. His life provides the way to peace and joy in our lives. His life is the roadmap for our return to God. His life and his atoning sacrifice provide the only hope we have.

What gives you hope?

p.s. I took this quiz the other day to see which character I am most like in Tolkien’s writings…pretty funny results:

YOU ARE MOST LIKE A: WIZARD. You’re a peacemaker, a do-gooder, a leader in a land fraught with peril. Like a wizard, you’re a bad*** cloaked in the body of an average joe. You never turn your back on a friend or a crisis. You’re selfless, intelligent, and you enjoy a well-lived life on the road.

I love that…a leader in a land fraught with peril. Exactly what I want to be!

If you take the quiz, I would love to know what your results are!

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giving = happiness

Dec 4, 2012 by

Oh, how I love December! I love how the whole world (at least it seems to me to be the whole wide world) unites in giving and loving and smiling and serving. I love the music and joy and food and generosity and miracles that I see every December.

I am a big believer in the equation of giving = happiness and I want my children to become committed givers as well. Doesn’t this Light ‘Em Up idea look fun?

This morning during our reading time, I snuggled in bed with Fisher and Annes and read The Quiltmaker’s Gift. It is one of my very favorite books and has been ever since it was published back in 2000. I remember reading it to Blythe over and over and over. She loved it so, so much. One of her favorite things to do as a four to six year old was to be just like the quiltmaker and giving her treasured items to all of our neighbors. I remember her walking over to our elderly friends and giving them her special rocks, dolls, drawings, flowers, necklaces, and more.

This morning when we read it again, I loved discussing how all the King’s stuff didn’t make him happy and our stuff doesn’t and WON’T make us happy either. We talked about all the secret things we want to do this month to spread joy to others. Tomorrow we will be reading the prequel, The Quiltmaker’s Journey and learn all about how the quiltmaker left her life of comfort to become some of God’s hands on earth.

That is what I want our family to be…God’s hands. I know from much personal experience how much of a difference service makes. When I was in bed this spring for weeks on end, Kat arranged for meals to be brought in to my home. Day after day, week after week, women came into my home and fed my family delicious warm food while I laid in bed in my pajamas crying from the pain of this labral tear. Many, many times people have brought groceries or given us money for tires, violins, dentist appointments, and oh, so much more. There is so much love in this world and I have been blessed immensely because of other people being God’s hands in my life.

I love our Save The World projects. I love to create events that bring people together to make a difference in the lives of others. Right now, I have a few projects up my sleeve and am filled with joy at how excited my children are to spend this month giving. One of our projects is putting on a Christmas play at the Senior Citizen’s Center. Another is Operation Pay For The Hole for my dear friend, Jessica. A lot of amazing people have donated to Jessica. If you want to contribute AND get some lovely things for yourself or to give as gifts, we have an awesome auction and affiliate program going on right now over at Balancing Everything. One of the affiliate programs gives you several years worth of music/composer instruction for your family for $19.95. I ordered it and it is awesome sauce! Another program is Richard’s energy work. You can book a session with him and he will donate 50% of the fee to Jessica. Win-win!

What fun ideas do you have in your plans to model that giving = happiness? I would love to hear how you inculcate this truth into your family culture.

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living in a tree

Oct 15, 2012 by

Saturday we went out for our anniversary. Blythe needed to attend the Symphony for her Music Theory class and so we took advantage of the trip into town to have a date. We thought we would have just enough time for a leisurely dinner, but the Symphony went extra long, so we went to the bookstore to walk around. Looking at books is one of our favorite things to do.

Richard saw a copy of My Side Of The Mountain and asked if I had ever read it to Fisher. I realized that I hadn’t and that he was just the right age for it. So, this afternoon I found one of our copies and started reading it with him. Sam Gribley has already worked his way right into Fisher’s heart and he can’t wait until we read tomorrow to find out how Sam ended up living in a tree far away from civilization. Fisher, with his love of nature, is quite a bit like Sam and this book is going to be such a treat for us to read together. I just hope Fisher sticks around and doesn’t decide to leave us for life in a tree!

What are your favorite read-alouds with your children?

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fiar: down down the mountain

Sep 19, 2012 by

What a sweet story! Hette and Hank want some shoes, some special shoes that go creaky-squeaky-creaky-squeaky, but Papa and Mama say there is not one single cent to buy shoes. They don’t give up though and ask Grandma who tells them to plant and grow turnips and then sell them down the mountain in the village.

The two children work hard all summer and grow the biggest turnips anyone has ever seen. At harvest time they make the long journey to the village. Along the way they run into people who are hungry and need some of their turnips. They end up giving all of them away except for one giant turnip. Now they can’t buy their special shoes! Hette and Hank are determined and find another way.

I love the gumption of these two kids and how they are willing to work hard for their dreams. The illustrations are top notch and make the story come alive. I love that my children are learning how much they have and what it has been like living in other time periods and in other places. Such a wonderful story of family life, courage, and hard work!

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fiar: the glorious flight

Aug 28, 2012 by

fiar: the glorious flight

We are having a wonderful school week so far. I think my kids are so ready for some order in their lives (and more importantly, for me to be fully present with them) that they are eating up our learning time. We started our Five In A Row read-aloud yesterday and thought The Glorious Flight has been on my shelf for years this is the first time I have read the famous story of Louis Bleirot who flew across the English Channel in 1909.

I am in love with this book.

1. It is so French. The sentence structure screams France (and while I don’t love France, I love books that exude a culture so thoroughly you can feel it).

2. Louis had gumption and determination and courage. My children need to be surrounded by examples of people doing hard things and not giving up the first, second, or gazillionth time.

3. Louis’ dream to fly became a family project.

Yesterday we read it and loved seeing Louis succeed at the cliffs of Dover. Today we read it again and found the English Channel on the map and talked about how Louis and his family could have given up when his first plane couldn’t fly at all or his fourth that moved around in circles on the pond or his sixth that got snagged on a rock. He could have given up after he finally got a plane in the air, but after just a few minutes would come crashing down, often injuring him.

But he didn’t. He persevered. He stayed true to his dream. He kept working and thinking and experimenting and DARING to do something no one had ever done.

Courage…we all need more of it.

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wise heart

Jul 19, 2012 by

I am in the middle of the Great Sewing Room Rearrangement Project. I can’t even begin to describe how much work this job is entailing. Perhaps when it is all completed I will take the time to detail it all out for you. Trust me, you will think I am a hero.

Anyway, as part of this job, I am throwing away a lot of stuff. I found this quote today on a crumpled up piece of paper and fell in love with it all over again (probably because last night when I emerged from the sewing room and found the kitchen a complete and utter disaster I lost my cool and was nothing like the woman in this quote, I was more like a raging lunatic. I have been filled with regret all day and want to imprint these words on my heart and live them. Really live them. Treat my children as the divine beings they are…ahhh, will I ever master it?

It is the sisters and wives and mothers, you know, Caddie, who keep the world sweet and beautiful. What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it, doing things in their own way! A woman’s task is to teach them gentleness and courtesy and love and kindness. It’s a big task too, Caddie – harder than cutting trees or building mills or damming rivers. It takes nerve and courage and patience, but good women have those things. They have them just as much as men who build bridges and carve roads through wilderness. A woman’s work is something fine and noble to grow up to, and it is just as important as a man’s. But no man could ever do it so well. I don’t want you to be a silly, affected person with fine clothes and manners who folks sometimes call a lady. No, that is not what I want for you, my little girl. I want you to be a woman with a wise and understanding heart, healthy in body and honest in mind.

(Father speaking to Caddie in Caddie Woodlawn…one of my favorite books.)

And now I can throw the crumpled up paper away!

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a walk!

Jun 26, 2012 by

We went on a walk last night!

A walk. A real-life family walk around the lake with Fisher and Annes racing the whole way, Keziah chasing everyone around with Sadie on the leash, Blythe walking while reading her latest book, and Richard and I holding hands and talking and laughing and enjoying watching our children and their crazy antics.

Oh my.

Is this heaven?

My hip hurt the whole time and since it was my first walk since that fateful day in February I was evaluating every twinge to self-diagnose what the heck is going on in there, but I made it around the whole 1.1 mile loop!

Then we came home and read our scriptures and our summer read-aloud, The Summer of The Monkeys, and then I collapsed into bed. I am pretty sore this morning, but it was worth it to see my children having so much fun…and to hold my sweetie’s hand. Someday I will be able to walk without pain. Someday these days of lying in bed will be a memory. Someday my body will work well again.

p.s. Summer of The Monkeys is a fabulous read-aloud. Not only are each of the children enthralled with it, but so is Richard. He chuckles at all the crazy adjectives and funny Ozark phrases and I think he has decided he wants to be just like the grandpa in the book when he has entered that phase of his life. I think he is enjoying it even more than the kids! If you are looking for a new read-aloud for your family, pick it up – I think you will love it!

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the gift of giving life winner!

Jun 16, 2012 by gave me #11, which is the comment by Theresa. Congratulations! Theresa, I just emailed you and will get your book in the mail as soon as I hear from you.

For everyone else I have a coupon for 10% off The Gift of Giving Life. Click here and then after you add the book to your cart use coupon code GWFWXR3F. This coupon is only good until tomorrow, Father’s Day 2012, so order now!

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the gift of giving life

Jun 13, 2012 by

I am lying here in bed feeling my ovary working hard to ovulate and while my initial and most common reaction is to cry out in pain and writhe around in misery, today I am trying something different. Today I am trying to send a message of gratitude to my ovaries. I am grateful they (at least the right one since it is the only one that ovulates) are able to ripen an egg and release it every month in the hopes of forming a new baby.

Why the change in my attitude today?

I have been reading a glorious book, The Gift of Giving Life, that is hot off the presses. My friend, Robyn Allgood, is one of the authors and asked me to take part in a Virtual Book Tour that is running from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day and I am one of the last stops. The other tour stops have been food for my soul and I bet they will be for yours as well.

This book is a compilation of essays, birth stories, and articles about the divine nature of pregnancy and childbirth by women who belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am SO in love with this book. I wish I had written it! In an amazing feat of literary genius, the authors have created a lovely blend of childbirth information, personal stories, and scriptural insights, all with the nurturing tone of a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate. One of the many wonderful aspects of this offering is that there is a wide variety of perspectives on both the spiritual and physical elements of birth. This is not a one-size fits all approach. Rather, it is a ‘step into my heart and let me share some of my deepest thoughts regarding my experiences as a woman’ type of book. There are stories about conception, labor, breastfeeding, adoption, miscarriage, abuse, service, abandonment, faith, courage, submission, and most of all, love. Each time I read a new essay, I am left with a feeling of love…love for the woman who shared herself through her writing, love for my Heavenly Parents, love for myself as a mother, and love for womanhood. It is a daily gift I give to myself…one story a day to soothe my soul, awaken my mind, and expand my heart (though I usually can’t stop with just one!).

When I was reading Felice Austin’s essay, “The Decision to Have Your Baby”, and Meghan Rayne-Matthews’ essay, “Healing Through Motherhood”, I was taken back to my unexpected first pregnancy and the difficult decision we made to keep our baby. I had been told by two surgeons that my abdominal wall and pelvic ligaments would not survive a pregnancy and that we needed to adopt. When we became pregnant with Blythe, we were scared of the very real possibility that I may die. After endless amounts of research in between the round-the-clock nausea, multiple priesthood blessings, temple trips, and many prayers, we decided to trust the Lord and the feeling of peace we were given. We decided to allow the pregnancy to continue and accept the consequences, whatever they might be. Thankfully, the surgeons were wrong and my abdominal wall held up just fine (my pelvic ligaments are another story!) and now we have been blessed to give birth to four babies.

When I read “Waiting for Ashleigh” my heart was overcome with love for my unborn babies, the ten we have miscarried and the others who we are waiting for. The father in this story hears and sees his daughter, Ashleigh, several times, including once when he was about to break-up with his future wife. When they do marry, they think Ashleigh will be their first child born, but she isn’t. A little boy arrives instead. Each time they become pregnant they think it is her, but it isn’t. Three little boys and one little girl later, they are thrilled to finally be pregnant with the girl they have waited so long for. And then they miscarry. Matthew, the author, beautifully writes of pain, faith, and hope as they realize that once again they are waiting for Ashleigh.

I have recently embarked on a family history project that is changing my entire being and while reading “The Family Tree of Knowledge” by Felice Austin my heart was opened to my ancestors even more deeply. She writes, “When I was a few months into my pregnancy and feeling pretty alone, I came across this quote by Harriet Lerner:

We are never the first in our family to wrestle with a problem, although it may feel that way…learning how other family members have handled their problems similar to our own down through the generations, is one of the most effective routes to lowering reactivity and heightening self-clarity.

She continues with “I thought, ‘Yeah, right. Who does this happen to? No one else in my family has been abandoned three months into a planned pregnancy.’ I kept reading…”

If we do not know about our own family history, we are more likely to repeat past patterns or mindlessly rebel against them, without much clarity about who we really are, how we are similar to and different from other family members, and how we might proceed in our life.

She explains that she researched her line and found a great-grandmother on her mother’s side who had been abandoned by her husband while pregnant with their fourth child and a third great-grandmother on her father’s side who had been a slave and had somehow escaped slavery and raised her white master’s child all alone, in freedom. These two stories gave Felice strength to continue in her own struggles and powerful connections to bolster her up when loneliness tried to tear her down.

My mother’s family tree is rich with stories of courage, sacrifice, and faith. They have filled me with great reservoirs of determination to do what is right, to serve well, and to love passionately. I am right in the midst of discovering my father’s family tree. Lerner’s quote flipped a switch in my heart and encouraged me to go deeper, to search for their stories, and to learn from them. Through various experiences in my life I have learned I am strongly connected emotionally to my ancestors and I carry their energy patterns with me. I have an opportunity to learn from them, heal the mistakes of the past, and create a better future for my posterity. The Spirit of Elijah is real, incredibly real, and is drawing my heart to my family members before, with, and after me. This book has played a pivotal role in that heart-opening process.

One last thing this book has done for me is it has reminded me I am not alone in my walk as a daughter of God, nor as a birthing mother striving to make conscious, God-led choices for my family. I am not crazy or misled for feeling the spirits of my unborn children. Sometimes, if I am spending too much time in surface relationships, I can forget there are women who care deeply about procreation, about their divine roles as women, and about the gift that birth can be to each of us as we grow in to the beings God created us to be. The Gift of Giving Life is a gentle, yet powerful testimony to the sisterhood of women and the strength we can be to one another as we fulfill our personal missions as daughters, sisters, mothers, and friends.

Other favorite essays: “We Are Each Eve”, “The Spirit of Elijah”, “Puah and Shiphrah: Delivering the Deliver”, “Two Veils”, “Blood, Breastmilk, and Living Water”, “Finding My Motherly Intuition”, and “Healing From Sexual Abuse”, “Unity With Our Sisters”, and “Sixteen Pregnancies”.

Doesn’t it sound marvelous? Trust me…it is. I wish I had a frillion copies to give to every woman I know. I don’t have a frillion, but I do have one copy to gift to one lucky reader. Please post a comment and you will be entered into the pool of hopeful winners. A winner will be selected bright and early Saturday morning. If you don’t win or you want to buy a frillion copies for all the women in your life, I have a coupon for 10% off The Gift of Giving Life. Click here and then after you add the book to your cart use coupon code GWFWXR3F. This coupon is only good until Father’s Day 2012…so you only have a few days to take advantage of it.

Visit The Gift of Giving Life site to sign up for their newsletter and to receive a free Meditation MP3 as well as tips to help increase spirituality in your pregnancy and birth.

If you would like to read more of my birth experiences (I think they are pretty amazing stories!), here are our birth stories and here is our journey through miscarriage.

I hope you have enjoyed this stop on the Virtual Book Tour. Be sure to check out Segullah’s post on Sunday. I for one can’t wait to read it!

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fiar: katy and the big snow

Apr 24, 2012 by

fiar: katy and the big snow

I love this book. Today Fisher, Annes, and I curled up in my bed and read Katy and the Big Snow for the gazillionth time. We found all sorts of things on the map and Annesley cheered Katy on as she worked herself through the Geopolis snow drifts. Virginia Lee Burton created stories my children beg for over and over again and I love her for it. I would kiss her if I was anywhere near her. I remember reading The Little House to Blythe and highlighting all the sight words to help her learn to read them. I remember the first time I read Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel to Fisher and how his little boy mind latched right onto the idea of a big machine doing a big job and how he wanted to do big jobs too.

Reading to my children is one of my very favorite things to do. Infusing them with a love of literature, beautiful illustrations, and characters that speak to their hearts is a privilege I take seriously. I strive to surround them with books that will build their little souls into people who stand true, fight hard, and serve well. What are your favorite books to grow your children into their best selves?

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new read-a-loud

Mar 31, 2012 by

A couple of weeks ago someone on an email list recommended The Wonder Book For Girls and Boys by Nathaniel Hawthorne as a great read-a-loud for a wide range of children and that boys will especially love it. Since I have a wide range of children and a boy I was looking for a new read-a-loud for since his Spies book was putting me to sleep, I thought, hmmm, I will check it out. I quickly found it for free as a Kindle download and sent it my way in seconds. Then I started reading it to Fisher. Then, I said, “Fisher, go grab Keziah, I think she will love this.” So he did. And we read. And we loved it.

Now Fisher, Keziah, and Annes hang out on my bed drawing and working on handwriting while I read to them the adventures of Perseus, Midas, and Pandora’s Box. It is exciting enough to distract me from the pain in my hip and it is written in a way that appeals to each of them. We have never spent much time on Greek Myths, although Blythe had a phase where she was slightly obsessed with them and I own and LOVE the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.

So, if you are in a reading rut, check out Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Wonder book and see if you fall in love as we did.

p.s. To all of you who are wondering, yes, I hobbled downstairs and typed this on my big computer. Perhaps a mistake, but I had a ton of emails to get out for gymnastics and the 3rd Annual Homeschool Read-A-Thon and it seemed a much better use of my fingers and brain to do it here. I’m hoping I won’t pay for it in the hip department.

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oooooohhhhhh, such insights!

Jan 7, 2012 by

I love family read-aloud time. I love reading high-quality literature with my family and having discussions about what we read. We started The Last Battle a few days ago and though we have read it before, we have never read it as the people we are right now. Each time we read a classic, we are reading a new book because we are new people…and a new family…with new thoughts in our minds and dreams in our hearts. We are facing new challenges and so we see new things in the book.

It is one of my favorite things about reading together…to learn about each other through learning what each of us takes from the book.

I have a friend who has been dealing with a narcissistic person and so as we read about Shift and his ego-maniac manipulations of Puzzle, I see narcissism written all over it (if anyone has a narcissist in their life, just read chapter one and their behavior will start making total sense to you!). Fisher sees how wrong it is to dress up like Aslan, and Keziah wonders aloud if Puzzle is weak-minded (he just didn’t know any better) or weak-willed (definitely weak-willed as Blythe passionately informed all of us). We had discussions tonight about dating, idolatry, knowledge of good and evil, courage and lack thereof, listening to your parents when they say that someone in your life is a narcissist, the harm that is done by pretending to be God (1. It’s a big fat lie. 2. People may believe you are God and do the wrong things you say to do. 3. People may believe you are God, but see that you aren’t anything all that great and then stop believing in any God, because if this is what God is, why worship this?), and if intelligence is of any use if the person uses their intelligence to do evil.

This is why family read-alouds are powerful. Its not just the books. Its the books and the people and the discussions, and the issues, and the insights into each others’ hearts that make them powerful.

I love being a mama. I especially love being a mama who reads to her children.

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to destroy you is no loss

Dec 6, 2011 by

to destroy you is no loss

Do you know over 3 million people died because of the actions of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979?

Do you know nearly 2 million of those were murdered in cold blood?

Do you know many, many more lives were cut short or irrevocably changed?

Do you know the Khmer Rouge’s mantra that played daily on the radio was “To keep you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss.” and that people were told they were less significant than a grain of rice?

Do you know people were clubbed on the head with hoes and then pushed into rivers, ponds, and reservoirs?

Do you know that people who had any education at all were killed while those who could not read or write and often did not think for themselves were promoted to leadership?

This is one reason why I am a defender of liberty, an advocate of liberal arts education, and most importantly, a mother who spends her days teaching her children.

My Worldviews students and I are discussing this book this week and it has touched them deeply. My hope is that they take with them a commitment to freedom and an understanding of the methods of a communist regime. If you have not read Joan Criddle’s book, To Destroy You Is No Loss, read it…it will change your life.

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little annes is not so little anymore

Nov 28, 2011 by

little annes is not so little anymore

Just ask her.

She will proudly stick up four chubby little fingers and tell you she is GROWING UP!

Our Thanksgiving weekend baby just turned four years old.

How can that be I wonder?

It doesn’t seem possible that she is fully out of toddler-hood and fully into big-girl-hood.

And yet, she is.

Just ask her.

Since her birthday is always right around Thanksgiving she usually gets gobs of presents from her aunts and uncles and grandparents. This year proved no different and she came home with two bears, one lion, a twistable crayon and sketchbook set, and an adorable pink purse shaped like a puppy. We all adore her…how can we not adore this face?


Snuggling with Cousin Andie


Opening presents




Isn’t this a great outfit from the thrift store! ($8.50!)


The pink puppy purse


She personally designed her birthday cake (Mint Moosetracks ice cream with Oreo crust and chocolate chips on top) and let everyone know if they could have a big piece or a little piece. I was glad I was on her big piece list because it was delish!


Blowing out the candles


The inside of the cake (is it still called cake if there is nothing but ice cream and oreos in it? Or is it some kind of frozen confection?)


Some of the party guests


She started out the day with finding her hidden presents and then moved on to a blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs breakfast (neither of which I think she ate). She colored and played with her animals for the rest of the day while her sister threw up all day long and everyone else shopped, ate leftovers, played Rook, watched football and movies, and laughed ourselves silly.

Her birthday book this year is so stinkin’ cute! Gyo Fujikawa is my new favorite illustrator and I am on a mission to collect all of her books. She has an ABC book that I think I must add to my voluminous collection of 26-little-letter works. She also has a Mother Goose, A Child’s Garden of Verses, and several counting books.

Aren’t the illustrations delightful?

We have been reading her several stories a day and so far they are all big hits.

This morning while she was taking a bath with me I asked her “Are you my son or my daughter?” and she quickly replied “I am your SUNSHINE!”

Yes, she surely is.

Happy Birthday Sunshine.

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the usborne art treasury

Nov 13, 2011 by

the usborne art treasury

I am not an artist. At least that is what I used to say. Now I say, let’s paint! Let’s draw! Let’s try it out and see what happens!

This has been a journey for me and actually, it is one I am still on because sometimes I let those old scripts play in my mind that say “you are not an artist”. I determined long ago that I did not want my fears and phobias to be passed on to my children. They can make their own, but they don’t need to be burdened with mine. So, I overcame a pretty serious creepy-crawly phobia and now have bug-lovers for children. I am working on overcoming my kitchen, sewing, and art anxiety and one way I do that is by surrounding myself with great information.

Like this book.

It is one of our favorites and we are creating all sorts of amazing things with it. The book is laid out in four page sections. The first two page spread showcases an artist’s life and one of his or her works. The next two pages give step-by-step instructions to create your own masterpiece in the same style as the artist just spotlighted.


And even for a recovering art-phobe like me, it works wonderfully well. So well, my children don’t even know the extent of my limitations.

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fiar: how to make an apple pie

Oct 24, 2011 by

fiar: how to make an apple pie

Our FIAR book of the week is How To Make An Apple Pie and See The World by Marjorie Priceman. Fisher and I are in love.


The market is closed so the girl must travel the world to find her apple pie making ingredients. She traveled to Italy to find wheat for the flour, France for elegant chickens to lay the best eggs, Sri Lanka to find kurundu bark for the cinnamon, England for a cow with the creamiest milk, Jamaica for sugar cane, and Vermont for apples. What a trip!

Then we finished off the day by eating a real apple pie and carving pumpkins (no, I didn’t make it today…I made it a long time ago and froze it and Keziah thought it would be a fabulous idea to bake it for our Family Home Evening treat.)

Fisher giggled all the way through it, told papa all about it when he got home, and he can’t wait to read it again tomorrow. This one is a keeper!

p.s. I am on a posting spree…I don’t know what is up with that! Pictures of the pumpkin carving will be up soon.

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fiar: who owns the sun?

Sep 20, 2011 by

fiar: who owns the sun?

Who Owns The Sun?

Before I started Five In a Row with Fisher, I had never heard of this book. We put it on hold at the library and waited for our name to come up on the list. We were finally able to check it out and we read it yesterday snuggled up on my bed.

Oh. My. Heavens.

I MUST own this book.

I am so in love with it.

The problem? It is going for around 100 buckaroos because of the whole scarcity-grows-demand-grows-prices issue.

If I wasn’t an honest person I would just keep the one from the library and pay the fee…but who knows, maybe even their replacement fee would be in the three digit range? I am just going to have start telling everyone I know to keep their eyes peeled for it at used book stores!

This book was written and illustrated by a fourteen year old girl named Stacey Chbosky. The art work is so lovely. In fact, all of us are going to try to paint a sun like hers this afternoon because Fisher and I are so completely in love with her sun. I guess there is a yearly contest for students to write and illustrate their own books and then if they win their book is published. This book won the contest back in 1988. All of my children want to learn more about the contest and enter their books this year.

This beautiful story is a conversation between a boy and his daddy. The boy asks questions about who owns the sun, the stars, the birds, the wind, and the flowers. The dad gives answers that speak right to my soul, teaching his son that no one can own those things, they are too big and powerful for anyone to own them. They are for everyone to be blessed by. Then, the boy overhears a Mr. Finley saying he owns Big Jim, who is the boy’s father. The boy is angry and hurt and scared at the thought of anyone OWNING a human being when no one can even own a flower or the wind. His daddy teaches him about slavery in such a poignant way I could barely make it through the reading of it.

He says “A man is a beautiful thing, a very beautiful thing. But some men forget this. And sometimes they try to keep other men captive. They buy and sell people, as if human beings are no more than cattle. But only a fool believes he can really own another man, and only a fool will try. Mr. Finley may own my body, but I have a heart and I have a mind, and he can never own these. Inside of me, I’m too powerful to be owned by anyone. Inside, I am like the sun.”

Our family is pretty passionate about freedom for all of God’s children. We talk about different customs, cultures, and government forms often. We discuss which forms create the most freedom and which create the least. We have studied the lives of great men and women who have given everything they have to help others have freedom. This year, Keziah and I are studying American history from the Vikings to the Civil War and I can’t wait to recreate an Underground Railroad experience for her and her friends. I read several books about William Wilberforce during my pregnancy with Annesley and desperately wanted to name the child inside me after him (but she turned out to be a girl and so we named her after Susannah Annesley Wesley instead).

So, when I read this book yesterday, thinking it was just a lovely book about nature and how the world works, my heart soared when I realized it was really about slavery and freedom and the greatness of the human soul. What a great story!

Let’s all write to the publisher and beg them to re-issue it! In the meantime, I will buy it from anyone who finds it at a thrift store and throw in a foot massage as well!

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sacred sabbaths: the great divorce

Aug 28, 2011 by

sacred sabbaths: the great divorce

Today I started reading C.S. Lewis’ classic on choosing heaven over hell, The Great Divorce. I had always wondered at the strange title until I read about William Blake’s work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Lewis offers this work as a rebuttal to Blake’s work and puts forth the idea that the two cannot coexist in our hearts…we must choose heaven completely or we will be in hell.

I am loving it so far! Who else has read it and what are your thoughts?

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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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