jacob t. marley

Dec 28, 2023 by

Last night we finished our December Read-Aloud, Jacob T. Marley. I cried at the sacrifice, the love, the redemption, the service, and the transformation. Oh, it is delicious. Truly, if you haven’t read it, give yourself a gift of a few hours snuggled up in a blanket and read (or the Audible recording is FANTASTIC!).

When I saw these words today, my soul shouted, AMEN. May we all treat people as the person they are changed into and not as the person they have been before. And may we allow ourselves to believe we can change as well.

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annesley’s big heart

May 2, 2019 by

I’ve been sick this week with fever, chills, and a deep, painful cough. It has been miserable. I haven’t been able to read to my family.

But my delightful little girl came into bed with me and said, “Mom, you can’t read to us, so I’m going to read to you.” She proceeded to read me a Billy and Blaze book because she loves horses and Loud Emily because she knows it is one of my favorite read-alouds and she said she’d been working on the voices.

Be still, my heart.

This is the power of family-read alouds. She couldn’t bear to let me go to sleep without a story.

I’m so grateful for my Annesley-girl and the joy she spreads far and wide.

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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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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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potw: baby chick

Sep 4, 2014 by

As we move into the swing of things for our fall learning routine, I decided to start doing our Poem of the Week again with my little ones. I love the challenge of memory work and poems are such lovely ways to learn that I want to fill my children’s souls with hundreds of them. Some of them are silly, some of them are tender, some of them are full of character building thoughts. One of my children isn’t too keen on the idea of poetry, so we are going to be doing some animal ones for a bit to reel him back in to this fun tradition.

Baby Chick

by Aileen Fisher

on the warm brown egg.
OUT comes a neck.
OUT comes a leg.

a chick
who’s not been about,
discover the trick
of how to get out?

Pretty cute, eh? We found it in Eric Carle’s Animals, Animals, one of our favorite animal books.

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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. (WingfeatherSaga.com)

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. (Hutchmoot.com)

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

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 Andrew-Peterson.com. 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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a reading adventure

Mar 4, 2014 by

Annesley and I are starting a new adventure together – learning to read! She has been playing with our moveable alphabet, writing her letters, and playing alphabet games like the Bob Books and the lovely Montessorium apps on the iPad for quite some time, but last week she decided she was ready to put in the time to learn to read. I decided to start out with the I See Sam app and see how she responded to it. I have dozens of reading curricula here in my house and different programs have worked with different children, so I thought we would just try it out and then adjust as necessary.

Well, she loved it! Each book starts out with a few sounds to master. Then the next page lists the new words that are in the book. Then the story with those very few words. By the end of the 17-20 page story, those words are pretty darn cemented in the child’s mind.

So, we started out with /I/, /s/, /S/, /long e/, /a/, and /m/. Her words were I, see, and Sam. The first time was pretty challenging for her to put those sounds together and she wanted to look at pictures and tell her own story. But then she made all her words with the movable alphabet and wrote them down and they started to make it into her mind.

Yesterday we opened up I See Sam and this time it clicked! She could put the sounds together and make sense of them. She read all of Book 1 to me. Then she read it to her grandma. Then she begged me to allow her to read Book 2. To my great surprise, she read the whole thing with a giant smile on her face, high fives after each page, and a big hug for me at the end.

We have used Jolly Phonics, Happy Phonics, Reading Without Tears, Learning to Read with the Book of Mormon, The Writing Road to Reading, Bob Books, Phonics Games, Explode the Code, and several others I can’t remember now and while I think they all have their merits, I really love the I See Sam app. I love how simple the books start out with just five sounds and three words. It builds success quickly for the child and focuses on mastery of just those few components before moving on. There are not any sounds in the words that you haven’t been taught. So many early reading programs expect sight words to be known right from the get go and that has always frustrated my children. Annesley’s favorite part is the microphone. You can hit the mic button and record yourself reading a page or the whole book. Last night after she completed reading Book 2 for her papa, she went back and recorded herself reading it and then giggled herself silly while listening to herself. Then she added in all sorts of emotion and shouting to bring the story to life and recorded it again. So fun!

Then we made Annesley’s Reading Book, a notebook with all the words she knows. We are putting one word on each page and then she can practice writing that word all over the rest of the page.

Today we will be writing her known words on index cards, hanging them up on the wall, and letting her throw a ball at the word I say. Along with our moveable alphabet, we are also making up a little activity box with magnetized Bananagram letters and a small cookie sheet.

I am convinced that helping a child learn to read can be magical. I am really hoping that with this fourth child of mine I can take all the lessons from the past three and put them to good use so it is magical. So far so good!

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potw: that really matters

Jan 20, 2014 by

This week our children are participating in the first annual iFamily Speech Festival. They participated for many years in the Cre-Act Speech Festival and when that wonderful school closed a few years ago, we really missed the fun and inspiration of the speech festival.

They have been busy memorizing their poems the past few weeks. Annesley is doing one of my favorite poems. Both her older sisters competed with this one when they were about her age and now it is her turn!

That Really Matters
Author Unknown

My mother says she doesn’t care
About the color of my hair
Or if my eyes are blue or brown
Or if my nose turns up or down.
She says she doesn’t care for things like that.
It really doesn’t matter.

My mother says she doesn’t care
If I’m dark or if I’m fair
Or if I’m thin or if I’m fat.
She says she doesn’t care for things like that.
It really doesn’t matter.

But if I cheat or tell a lie
Or do mean things to make folks cry,
Or if I’m rude or impolite
And do not try to do what’s right,
Then that really does matter.

It isn’t looks that makes one great.
It’s character that seals your fate.
It’s what you are within your heart you see,
That makes or mars your destiny.
And that really does matter.

When she does it in full-on-Annesley performance mode it is adorable. We’ll have to see if she puts all heart into it on Wednesday or not.

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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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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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some recent book treasures

May 9, 2013 by

some recent book treasures

My mom recently surprised Fisher with There Was A Coyote Who Swallowed A Flea and he can’t put it down. He reads it over and over and giggles the whole time. It is written in the same style as There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly, but it is much more hilarious. Fisher’s favorite parts are when the coyote swallows the cactus…sideways…and when he swallows the moon. Every single time he gets to those pages he curls up in a ball and shakes uncontrollably in fits of laughter.

I taught a class this semester on Jewish Festivals and loved sharing my passion for all things Jewish-y. I checked out gobs of books from the library and found a few gems. Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook is SO fun. Not only are the stories charming, the illustrations are delightful and the recipes look delicious.

The book is constructed to share a folk tale type of story and then teach how to make one of the traditional festival foods, like challah, hamantaschen, latkes, or noodle kugel. I think any family interested in different cultures would swoon over this book. I can’t wait to buy it for myself!

We had a road trip last week and listened to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with Anne Hathaway reading. Oh my. What a delight. Her voices for each character were phenomenal and we loved it so much we listened to it two times all the way through! I guess my little ones are ready for a journey into Oz. The last time I visited was when Blythe was about six and we read all the Oz books over the course of a year. Here is a really fun YouTube video of Anne discussing this performance…so fun to see her reading the story!

I am currently reading Frankenstein for my colloquia group. My dear friend, Kate, recommended it to me several years ago and I am finally taking her up on the suggestion and having my whole discussion group read it. I thought I knew the story, but I totally didn’t. It is SO much more thought provoking than I ever imagined. I cannot stop thinking about creation and my responsibilities as a creator, treating people as children of God vs. treating them as irritants or even worse as monsters, the power of the atonement to make things right, judging a person by their outward appearance, and good vs. evil.

What are you reading right now?

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potw: windy nights

Apr 9, 2013 by

Oy, the wind. It has been blowing and gusting and wheezing. I heard it blew the power right out a little bit south of us and it is still shaking our trees and rattling our home more than 24 hours after it started. In honor of these gusts, we are memorizing Mr. Stevenson’s ode to the man in wind.

Windy Nights

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Whenver the moon and stars are set,
Whenever the wind is high,
All night long in the dark and wet,
A man goes riding by.
Late in the night when the fires are out,
Why does he gallop and gallop about?

Whenever the trees are crying aloud,
And ships are tossed at sea,
By, on the highway, low and loud,
By at the gallop goes he.
By at the gallop he goes, and then
By he comes back at the gallop again.

Does the wind sound like a horse to you?

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potw: cats

Apr 1, 2013 by

We started a new poem today. We haven’t done very many poems these last several months, but I decided to pull out our new poetry book, The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, and let Keziah select a poem for us to memorize. Having a poem to memorize all together brings some fun and unity to our weeks. Everyone is learning different things, doing different projects, and a weekly poem for each of us to learn gives us one thing to all learn together. It also brings some beauty into my soul…and today I need all the beauty I can get.

By the way, the Barefoot Book of Classic Poems is oh, so lovely. I am love with the illustrations, the text layout, and the wide variety of poems. We have a lot of wonderful poetry books and this one is one of my favorites. I am so glad I got it on Jessica’s book co-op last fall and now that we have pulled it out of our secret box of book surprises, I can’t wait to delve into it every week!


by Eleanor Farjeon

Cats sleep
Any table,
Any chair,
Top of piano,
In the middle,
On the edge,
Open drawer,
Empty shoe,
Lap will do.
Fitted in a
Cardboard box,
In a cupboard
With your frocks –
They don’t care!
Cats sleep

Isn’t that cute? We used to have a cat like that. Her name was Sarah and we got when Blythe was about six. She gave us many litters of kittens and loved on that girl more than I thought possible. She died about 18 months ago and Blythe’s poor heart still hasn’t recovered.

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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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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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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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oxes and meese

Sep 17, 2012 by

I am working on cleaning out my email box (started with 25,000+ emails) in an attempt to save my computer from dying and I found this hilarious poem on the crazy English language. I can’t wait to read it to Blythe and Keziah – they will die laughing!


We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Then shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England.
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,
grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends
and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns
down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out,
and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop?

(I would like to add that if people from Poland are called Poles, then people from Holland should be Holes and the Germans, Germs.)

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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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potw: kindness

Aug 27, 2012 by

We are back at it with our weekly poems. I love sharing inspiring thoughts with my children and challenging them to memorize them each week!


Drop a stone into the water
In a moment it is gone,
But there are a hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on.

Say an unkind word this moment
In a moment it is gone,
But there are a hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on.

Say a word of cheer and splendor
In a moment it is gone,
But there are a hundred ripples
Circling on and on and on.

Good lesson for all of us, me thinks. Those words that escape our lips need to be full of kindness and encouragement, especially with our family members.

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book bonanza: lots of audios

Jun 26, 2012 by

book bonanza: lots of audios

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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fiar: hot air

Feb 14, 2012 by

fiar: hot air

This week we are reading Hot Air by Marjorie Priceman. It tells the mostly true story of the first hot air balloon ride in Versailles, France in 1783. A chicken, sheep, and duck were sent up in the air and stayed up for eight minutes traveling about two miles. This particular book gives the background events and then makes up what could have happened to the three animals as they flew across the city. Fisher thinks it is hilarious and we think you will as well.

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there was an old lady who swallowed a fly…

Feb 8, 2012 by

there was an old lady who swallowed a fly…

When Annesley was two to three years old, this was her favorite song. She sang it over and over and over. She loved singing it for strangers at the grocery store, for grandparents, for the dogs, for everyone. She loved it so much that one year for her birthday her Grandma Dorothy gave her an old woman with a ginormous mouth complete with all the animals she swallows and that doll has been played with like no other. We like to sing it all crazy and dramatic like…probably because we are crazy and dramatic (you should have heard my voices last night during family read-aloud time!).

Did you know there are lots of hilarious versions of this story? I didn’t know it until I stumbled across one of them last year at the library. Since then we have been checking them out and giggling ourselves silly.

Today in Zing! I am going to read a few of them to my students and then each of us will write our own version. Doesn’t that sound fun?

Here are some of our favorites:

What are some of your favorite writing projects? What have you found brings out the creativity in your children/students?

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fiar: the red hen

Feb 7, 2012 by

fiar: the red hen

I love, love, LOVE the books that are recommended in the Five In A Row guidebook. We have thoroughly enjoyed all of them that we have done. However, I am not a rule follower of any type, so I like to pick other books for our FIAR books as well. This week, I selected The Red Hen by Rebecca Emberley (yes, of the Emberley family fame – she is the daughter of Ed and sister of Michael and has a whole host of other artists and musicians in the family).

Of course, Fisher already knows this story inside and out, but he doesn’t know this version of it (where the hen makes a cake instead of bread) and he doesn’t know this artwork (which pops off the page and is simply delightful) and I don’t know that the message of everyone-working-together-to-reap-the-fruits-of-our-labors together has really sunk into his heart (or made him the super-duper willing helper I want him to be), so we are reading this book this week with high hopes the message will change some I-don’t-want-to-help behavior. Of course, he doesn’t have any idea that is why we are reading it…we will be talking a lot about the art of the book and making Little Miss Red Hen’s Simply Splendid Cake.

If you are a FIAR family, what are you rowing this week?

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potw: habits of the hippopotamus

Feb 6, 2012 by

potw: habits of the hippopotamus

We started this poem last week, but only worked on it for one day and only for a few minutes. The play and a houseful of people were too much for me to keep up our regular schedule…so we are doing it again this week.

Habits of the Hippopotamus
by Arthur Guiterman

The hippopotamus is strong
And huge of head and broad of bustle;
The limbs on which he rolls along
Are big with hippopotomuscle.

He does not greatly care for sweets
Like ice cream, apple pie, or custard,
But takes to flavor what he eats
A little hippopotomustard.

The hippopotamus is true
To all his principles and just;
He always tries his best to do
The things one hippopotomust.

He never rides in trucks or trams,
In taxicabs or omnibuses,
And so keeps out of traffic jams
And other hippopotomusses.

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potw: how to talk to your snowman

Jan 24, 2012 by

I was too gnome-ridden to do our Poem of the Week yesterday, so we started it today. It is so silly and Annesley and Fisher have already got it about half-way memorized. Yesterday they made a little of family of snow people and they are giggling thinking of talking to them with these words.

How To Talk To Your Snowman
by Beverly McLoughland

Use words that are pleasing,
Like: freezing
And snow,
Iceberg and igloo
And blizzard and blow
Try: Arctic, Antarctic,
Say: shiver and shake,
But whatever you never say,
Never say: bake.

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Jan 19, 2012 by

Zing! was SO stinkin’ fun yesterday. The hour before my class found me jumping up and down with excitement. Yes, literally jumping up and down. I couldn’t wait to get in there and share this passion of mine with children I love.

My students adore me (and many of them told me so!), which always does wonders for my motivation to produce fabulous lessons for them. Who wouldn’t want to teach a class full of eager learners who think you are the coolest thing since sliced bread?


I handed out our new class books and they loved them! Here are the topics I chose:

  • Heroes
  • My Invention and How It Will Change The World
  • Interviews with Super-Cool People
  • My Favorite Poem and Why I Love It
  • My Journey Across The Plains
  • If You Give A Boy A Sword…
  • If You Give A Girl A Kayak…

Each week seven children will take home a book, guard it with their very lives, write in it, and then bring it back the next week and seven other children will take one home. They will all get five opportunities during the semester to write in our books. They are totally pumped to make these books amazing. Miss Katherine came to my rescue and sewed book covers for them. I could never hand a plain notebook to a child and expect them to turn their creative juices on, which means, she literally saved my whole class from having to wither away in un-creative slime.


We are also having a Word of the Day and a Favorite Author paper. I cannot wait to see what these kids come up with! All day long I heard them talking about their plans for stories, which author they would choose to share with the rest of us, how excited they were to discover new words, and how much fun they had. Seriously? MUSIC TO MY EARS!

Yesterday, after talking and talking and talking about all the exciting things we are going to write and learn about this semester, each student rolled the dice in our set of Story Cubes and were given the ingredients for their story of the week. They can write about anything they want, but they have to include the items they rolled on the dice. Have you seen them? They are so cool and we are going to have a blast with them this semester.

The other little gift they received yesterday were Word-Epiphany Bookmarks. While they are reading, they will write down words that sound interesting to them, words they want to use in their writing, words that they want to figure out the meaning to, words they love, etc. When they finish that book, they bring in their bookmark and share their word epiphanies with me and then I will give them a new bookmark for their next book.

One little girl said she had never had such a fun writing class before…that in all her other writing classes she was told what to write about, how long to write about it, and was expected to have it perfect for it to be worth anything. She said she was so excited to learn about the difference between writing and editing and that she didn’t have to be perfect right from the get-go. MUSIC TO MY EARS!


If I can help these children see that their thoughts matter, their writing is powerful, that words can bring magic, healing, and inspiration to our lives, and that they don’t have to be perfect at writing in order to write, then I will have changed the world. Twenty-two children will be able to move forward with an altered perception of who they are and what they can accomplish. It is humbling and inspiring to me all at the same time. This is why I do what I do…to change lives and make the world a kinder, truer, more fabulous place to live in.

p.s. Thanks to Jessica for the darling illustrations in our Class Books and for making and printing our bookmarks when my printer shut down on Tuesday night!

p.p.s. Thanks also to Jessica for taking pictures for me! She insisted on me using the one of me even though it shows my crooked teeth!

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potw: winter burrows

Jan 16, 2012 by

potw: winter burrows

Although this is the strangest Idaho winter I have ever experienced (we have no snow and my children run around on the yellow grass every day), we are going to memorize a poem about winter this week. Winter burrows, which sound so cozy and make me want to burrow down in my bed for months on end just like our hibernating friends. This poem is especially appropriate because we have not built a single snowman, gone sledding, or gotten out our kick sled to race down the lane. There isn’t any snow!

Winter Burrows

by Douglas Florian

Beneath the pond a sleeping frog
Recalls she was a polliwog,
Once wiggling wild beside a log.

The rusty fox deep in his hole
Dreams of chasing mouse and mole,
Schemes of racing red-backed vole.

The fat-cheeked chipmunk can be found
Inside her burrow underground.
She dreams without a single sound.

And me, I’m burrowed in my bed
With cozy quilt above my head
And dreams of snowman, sleigh, and sled.

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potw: when a wrong wants righting

Dec 5, 2011 by

This has long been one of my favorite quotes and I am sharing it with my children this week with the hope it will become one of their favorites as well. I want my children to know that being fathers and mothers to God’s children is the most powerful and influential path they can choose in this life. I want them to know that we chose that path and are dedicated to their God-given missions. I want them to decide now to parent well and to be committed to building a healthy, functional family for their future children. This poem speaks volumes at Christmas season, for God did indeed send a baby to change the world.

When A Wrong Wants Righting by E.T. Sullivan

We fancy that God can only manage his world with battalions, when all the while He is doing it by beautiful babies. When a wrong wants writing, or a truth needs preaching, or a continent wants opening, God sends a baby into the world…perhaps in a simple home and of some obscure mother. And then God puts the idea into the mother’s heart, and she puts it into the baby’s mind. And then God waits. The greatest forces in the worlds are not the earthquakes and thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies.

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potw: the missing turkey

Nov 21, 2011 by

potw: the missing turkey

We have loved this poem for a long time. One of the girls performed it at The Speech Festival we participated in for about ten years and we all could have recited it back then, but I don’t think my younger two have ever heard it. It isn’t the most reverent look at Thanksgiving, but I think we get a lot of that with our other Thanksgiving traditions.

The Missing Turkey

It lay there on the table
That turkey plump and round
But when it was time to carve it
It was no where to be found.

We looked all through the kitchen
And in the pantry as well.
We asked Kate if she had seen it
And Rose and Annabelle.

Even little Mary
We asked her if she knew
About the missing turkey – and she said
“Of course I do!

Poor turkey wasn’t feeling well
Because he lost his head.
So I put my nighty on him,
And tucked him into bed.”

Isn’t that cute!

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potw: i like to see

Nov 14, 2011 by

potw: i like to see

This poem is so Fisher. He would live outside exploring, discovering, and pretending, if only I would let him. But nothing compares to that moment when his papa gets home. Fisher’s devotion is completely focused on his papa and nothing else can take Richard’s place. He follows him around like a little lost puppy ready and willing to do anything his papa asks. It is pretty heart-warming, but I must admit, I sometimes wish I could get the same level of devotion!

I like to see flowers and beetles and things,
I like to see baby birds try out their wings.
I like to see ships bouncing out on the sea,
I like to pretend that the captain is me!
I like to see puppies and kittens and mice.
Sunbeams and showers and seashells are nice.
I like to see bright colored leaves as they fall,
But I like to see daddy come home best of all.

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fiar: the clown of God

Nov 10, 2011 by

fiar: the clown of God

Fisher and I are reading The Clown of God by Tomie de Paulo this week.

Tomie is one of our favorite authors. If you haven’t read The Art Lesson and Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, run to your nearest library and check them out today! They are such lovely ways to connect big ideas into our little ones’ hearts.

So far, we have we learned how to say “arrivederci” and that it means “till we meet again” in Italian. Ironically, he can say it pretty well! We have discussed that happiness is a choice and just because we are hungry or orphaned or made fun of doesn’t mean we need to choose to be miserable. We learned that each of us have skills we can develop and use to bring others joy. We have talked about what we can do to serve Jesus and how we can bring Him joy, just like Giovanni brings Him joy in the story.

I adore FIAR. I am not great at doing projects that go along with the books, but I have found that great benefits come when I snuggle up with Fisher and read him the same book day after day. He falls in love with each book we read and most importantly, he knows I value him enough to have our special reading time together. Our FIAR time is our time to be together and share ourselves ..I am able to see into his heart and learn of his compassion for the characters we read about. I see how his brain works and makes connections. I see what interests him most and get ideas for teaching him about other things.

If you are interested in FIAR, you can check it out here.

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potw: my friend the monster

Nov 7, 2011 by

Our poem this week is taken from Favorite Family Devotional Poems by LaDawn Jacob, one of our absolute favorite poem books (unfortunately it has been lost for awhile!).

My Friend The Monster

by Janet R. Balmforth

Our vacuum is a monster
Who gobbles up the dirt.
He gulps up paper, strings, and grass
As if they were dessert.
He pokes his nose in corners
And under every chair,
And all the little cookie crumbs
Had better just beware!
He roars across the carpet
And flips his tail behind;
Then sneaks around a table leg
To see what he can find.
And though he’s always gulping
Whatever he can see,
He’ll always be my monster friend
And never swallow me.

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Nov 1, 2011 by

I am a big fan of phonics. In the how-to-teach-reading-wars, I side firmly on the side of phonics. I have spent many hundreds of dollars and hundreds of hours studying phonics, whole-language, The Spaulding method, The Charlotte Mason method, the Hopkins method, and a gazillion other methods.

I love phonics…but they don’t always work.

I taught Blythe phonics when she was three and four. She could look at any letter and tell you what it said and what the rules were governing that sound. But reading was still an enormous challenge for her. It took years for reading to become easy for her. YEARS.

Keziah picked up on reading easy as pie as I was teaching and reteaching Blythe. I don’t remember ever sitting down and teaching her to read. She just read.

Then there is Fisher. I don’t know what to do. Not only does reading not make a lick of sense to him, neither does phonics. He can’t remember from day to day what the sounds are. He can’t sound them out. His brain doesn’t make sense of the shapes OR the sounds OR the words OR any of it.

He loves bugs. He loves numbers. He loves pretend play. He loves digging and running and climbing and laughing and discovering and building and legos. He loves me to read to him. He loves painting and drawing and making music.

He is completely overwhelmed by reading.

Today for the umpteenth time we relearned mat, cat, sat, hat, rat. He spelled them out with his moveable alphabet. He read them to me. He cried. He said “This is not helping!” twenty or so times. His friends are reading and he is not and we are both frustrated. I want to infuse him with confidence and courage. I want to make it easy for him. I want to take away the pain and embarrassment I know he must feel.

All I can do is love and teach and try new ways of helping the information stick in his brain.

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copywork notebooks

Oct 25, 2011 by

As we finished up The Phantom Tollbooth, there was a goldmine of quotes I wanted to impress upon our hearts. I had the thought “we can’t let these get away”, so I decided we are each going to have a copywork notebook where we write down in our best handwriting a quote of the day. Each day a different person will get to share a meaningful quote or scripture and then we will write it down in our notebooks. I will write it down on our dry-erase board in the morning and we can read it throughout the day. Today is our first day and it is my turn.

What you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do.

From Princess Reason, page 247 in The Phantom Tollbooth

I don’t know how it will work with everyone having a turn. But we will see how it goes and revamp if necessary.

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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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book bonanza: the phantom tollbooth

Oct 18, 2011 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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