Apr 152018
 

This post contains affiliate links.
As much as I would like to live in my own little bubble, in my own little corner of the world, tending my garden, reading books, drinking coffee, and feeding birds, that idealized vision could only last for so long.  That is the problem with ideals, they are, well, ideal.  They do not account for realistic details.  For example, in order to sit in my garden drinking coffee and feeding birds I would have to had bought coffee, with money earned from somewhere, washed the dishes in order to have a clean cup, and have weeded the garden in order to have anything growing worth gazing at.  None of those – washing dishes, weeding the garden, working – were in the glimpse of my idealized world.  Yet, they all must have happened at some point or another.

So it goes with history at times, either we idealize it or forget about the smaller details completely.  At times, it may not matter so much – like whether a distant past relative made roast or chicken for Sunday dinners.  At other times, it is very important to remember what happened, how we ended up where we and the world is at today.  The actions and words of people in the past have greatly played out into the world we are now living.

Kevin Peraino takes a look into the past, piecing together the different strands to give us insight into how the events of 1949 set the path for where China has ended up today.  A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China is not a story which follows a straight path, but instead flows from one thread to the other, logically, giving the reader a broader understanding of the forces of the past which had an influence on the molding of what we see today.

In other words, the only cure for a run-away story is another story.   ~Kevin Peraino, Prologue to A Force So Swift

I greatly appreciated the broader picture Peraino laid before his readers, connecting and relating the different aspects of what was taking place in various parts of the world, among various factions vying for control and influence.  It is no easy task to walk someone through these details without losing them along the way.

A Force So Swift contains many details, not only in the main body of work, but also in the extras.  The beginning of the book contains a map of the China and surrounding countries, marking locations of various cities and regions.  The last quarter of the book hold an Epilogue, Notes, and a Selected Bibliography.  The 261 pages between these two is split into three Parts, which helps delineate various times in the story’s progress.

The research which went into this book resulted in a narration filled with facts, references to primary sources, snippets of conversations and communications, and expansions of the characteristics of the various players.  As a testament to the author’s skill, he did it all without making the reading too dry.

Truman thought he was being caution in his decisions.  It turns out there was more going on then they realized.  Little did they know this would lead to yet another war within a couple decades, one which would claim many American soldiers’ lives.

China is looking back to its past, trying to find where it went right and wrong.  Learning from their past is a part of finding their identity and creating a better future.  It can be tricky to pinpoint these “good” and “bad” parts among the various tellings of history.  Which has the correct view?  Which recounts it the clearest? How was one affected by the other?  These are questions which do not always have answers.  It takes more than 261 pages to work through over a century of ones history to find the truth, if there even is a single right one.

As I listen to the news and read reports of happening in our country and overseas, I can not help but see influences from the past showing themselves today.  None of us live in a bubble; what we do effects others, and what they do has an impact on us.  We may not know the result of those impacts, whether for good or not.  We may assume one outcome, one which never materializes.  None of us can predict the future.

Should we give up then?  By no means! Keep fighting for what you think is right. Things can change. Meanwhile, remember, the story will not end with you.  Your role is a part of the bigger whole, even if it feels as if we are only  weeding the garden and feeding the birds.

 

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books to review.  All opinions are my own.

Apr 032018
 

I was provided a copy of this book by Moody Publishers for review.  All opinions are honest and my own.  The post contains affiliate links.  If you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small percent at no additional cost to you.

Ordinary.

That is a very good description of how I have been feeling as of late. While I have been getting better at keeping a routine, I think we all know that the world will not end if I happen to do my kids’ laundry on Monday rather than mine and my husband’s.

There really is nothing earth shattering about teaching roman numerals to one kid, while reviewing for the umpteenth time multiplication facts with another.  These will not help save a kid from hunger tonight.

Dishes done before going to bed?  Fabulous…there are still people without jobs.

Fixed a broken dresser?  Helpful, yes.  Does that help someone who feels lost and depressed?  No.

It is very easy to go through the day’s activities, day after day after day after … one begins to feel like a gerbil on a wheel going nowhere very quickly.  Not only am I going nowhere, but do I really have anything to offer others?

In a world obsessed with superheroes and celebrities, Dan Stanford reveals how our extraordinary God works through ordinary people to accomplish the incredible.

Dan Stanford gets straight to the point in the introduction of his newly released book, Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes  – “…as bad as the world is right now, we don’t need a superhero to come save the day.”  Wait, what?  Then why am I reading this book?  Thankfully, he continues, “…we need ordinary people like you and me to join God and go change the world right where we are.”

In the next 21 chapters Stanford goes on to give multiple example of people, in the Bible and the world today, who have accomplished great things, even when they were obviously lacking.  He also encourages us to focus on our sphere of influence, use what we have on hand, rely upon God and not our works, and to stop expecting works of great importance to look big and earth shattering – sometimes the biggest thing to someone may come in the form of a small, seemingly insignificant gesture.  To the person, however, it means the world.

While there are many biblical references, Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes is a fairly casual, easy read.  It was not until a few chapters in that I began to get into the book.  That was the point where the author shared more of his background, what led him to where he is today, and more of how this has played out in his life.  I believe the story could have done with a bit fewer superhero analogies at the beginning.

In the middle section, I found myself underlining a fair amount and adding notes in the margins.  This was not due to finding formerly unknown concepts.  Instead, it was to help me get further into the content of the book.  It really did help encourage me to begin applying to concepts internally rather than superficially agreeing with them.

Several various parts are words of encouragement I could have used during particularly rough patches in my past.  Hearing someone say those things to me at those moments would have gone a long way towards reenergizing me to keeping going.

The ending section was a deeper conclusion, though it felt a bit rushed.  This part could have been expanded upon more and would have helped add to the application and encouragement in the reader’s life.  As it is, I believe taking time to think over what is read, rather than rushing through this last bit, will help the reader see more of how this can apply to their lives.

Changing the world doesn’t start with a cape and a catch phrase. Changing the world starts by allowing God to invade your world.

Following the last chapter are two additional sections – notes, arranged by chapters, and discussion questions.  Again, nothing supper long or heavy, but a chance to slow down and contemplate how what you have read may apply to your life and current circumstances.

While a lot of the book is talking about us as people, what we can do, how the world around us can benefit from what we have to offer, that is not the real focus and point.  In Chapter 19 Stanford makes a factual statement – our input was not needed when the world was created; people were being fed, clothed, and housed before we came along and will continue to be after we die; in a few generations we will most likely be forgotten.  Doesn’t sound too uplifting, does it?

Knowing all that, we were still uniquely created, born in a specific place at a specific time for a purpose.  Yes, it could all have been accomplished without us, but He chose to use us, to give us a purpose. How awesome is that!

Mar 172018
 

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There are so many “National _____ Month” or “National ______ Day” or “Celebrate This Day” that it is hard to keep track of them all.  Honestly, at times I do well to remember my family’s birthdays.

You may then consider this your friendly neighborhood reminder – March 25th is Neighbor Day.  While you do not necessarily need a specially designated day to be a good neighbor, nor do you have to physically live right next to them to still consider them your neighbor (yes I am talking to you Neighbor-Lady-Who-Is-Still-Hibernating, “Hello”), a reminder does not hurt either.

Being a good neighbor is not the same as being a nosey neighbor.  How are they different?  Here are some examples:

  • Did you see that Bob was in the paper again?  Yup, got arrested.  Poor Betsy, what is she going to do now? tsk tsk Nosey Neighbor
  • Did you see that Bob was in the paper again?  I am going to take Betsy some diner and see if she might need someone to talk to. Good Neighbor
  • “There are those kids again, running around in the middle of the street.  Don’t they have better sense than that?  Their mother really needs to step up and parent those kids, being that it is just her after all…I wonder if she has found a job yet? Probably not.  I think I will run and take her this week’s classifieds, see if has heard from their father recently.”  Nosey Neighbor
  • “There are those kids again, running in the middle of the street.”  Goes outside and speaks to the kids, comes back inside for some apples and water, takes them out to the kids and plays on the stoop till mom comes back from work.  Finds out mom is currently working two jobs with no child support. Talks to mom about letting the kids play in her/his yard after school and possibly start on homework till she gets home.  Good Neighbor
  • Sees elementary aged kids running around outside with no adult supervision.  Sits on porch watching the kids for almost an hour with no adult in sight.  Calls police “out of concern”.  Nosey Neighbor
  • Sees elementary aged kids running around outside with no adult supervision.  Sits on porch watching the kids for almost an hour with no adult in sight. Goes and knocks on neighbor’s door.  Sees neighbor inside slowly get up from chair by window.  Once the door is open the cast on the foot is exceedingly obvious. Good Neighbor

While the line between Nosey Neighbor and Good Neighbor can be a fine one, most of us know the difference, if we are being honest with ourselves.

But what about those times when you are not sure how to help?  Or when the problem seems bigger than what solely one person is able to accomplish?  What can one person do in those situation?

A little over a year ago I reviewed Make It Zero: the movement to safeguard every child by Mary Frances Bowley.  Here is a bit of what I wrote at that time:

Make It Zero is not about children only.  It actually began by talking about adults, parents, and teenagers, not exactly who one thinks of when talking about the children in our society.  However, by the end of the second chapter I was starting to understand.  Safeguarding the children means giving them a good foundation.  That foundation is the parent/s in their lives.  If the parent is struggling, the children will struggle.”

This week, I am going to be giving one of you a chance to read this book for yourself.  Here is how it works:

  1. Leave a comment on another blog post.  It needs to be relevant to the topic of that post.  As cute as your Yorkie may be while trying to jump through snow, telling me that on a post about starting seeds is not the place. 🙂
  2. Come back here, leaving a comment telling me where you left your first comment. (The post title will be sufficient.) Please make sure you leave your email address somewhere, either in the comment or as part of your login.
  3. You will need to do this by midnight ET on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
  4. I will randomly select a comment and contact the winner.  You will have 24 hours to respond.

Open only to U.S. addresses.

Now, if you would like to share a picture of your Yorkie jumping through snow, I am not opposed to such.  Feel free to send me an email with a photo.  Who knows, it might just make it onto the blog for all to ooh and ahh over!

Feb 272018
 

I was provided a copy of this book by Moody Publishers for review.  All opinions are honest and my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

My latest read took me much longer to finish than normal.  This was to be expected as I had to read each page two or three times, as well as look up various terms and references.  To say it was a growing experience would be a very fair statement.  It was outside topics I normally would read, that seems to have been a theme this past year, which is ripe ground for personal growth.

My initial plan had been to read it and share a review in time for the 500 year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the time marked by the date when Luther, according to legend, nailed his ninety-five theses to the doors of the local church.  The anniversary seemed to be all anyone was talking about for months.  Me, the one who does not watch the news, who is known for not really knowing the “hot topic” at the moment, even knew the anniversary was coming up.  “There must be something to this.”

See, I grew up in a church where Luther was not talked about much.  Actually church history was not talked about regularly. If so, it was ‘recent’ church history going back to early American times. I grew up in a church tradition which was not liturgical, did not recite confessions, etc.  Focusing on a particular person or historical church documents during a sermon seemed almost like looking to them instead of the Bible/God/Jesus for direction in how we should live.

Perhaps that is solely a feeling I had and not what was meant to be conveyed, but it is exactly what I was feeling when the church we currently attend would mention Martin Luther or such-and-such convention from centuries ago.  It rubbed me the wrong way.  Then they mentioned they would be showing a video about the life of Luther on a certain evening, everyone was welcome to come and invite friends. That was the final straw.

A new religion or a return to the old ways?

My respect for those in our current church led me to examine myself, my reactions, and to seek out more information.  Enter Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz.  I am so glad I challenged myself to learn before continuing along certain lines of opinion without much of a basis.  While I did not do a complete 180*, I did learn a lot about how we ended up where we are currently.

The start of Long Before Luther came from an online discussion Busenitz had in the comment section of a blog, about whether the Catholic church was the original, true church.  The conversation brought to light an important question, “Did Luther (and other reformers) create a new religion or did these doctrines always exist? Could they be found in the early church beliefs or were they invented 500 years ago?”  In the end, the comments on the blog would have created a 300 page, single space document if they had been printed out.  Seems it was quite the discussion.

To help have an actual conversation, the conversation was narrowed down to two points of contention: is scripture alone the highest authority (sola Scriptura) and are sinners justified through God’s grace in “faith alone” in Jesus Christ (sola fide)?

Busenitz has broken his book down into 4 parts – Reformers and Justification, The Church before Augustine, Augustine and Justification, and The Church after Augustine.  These section help set the stage for what the reformers were trying to figure out, and some of the key disagreements they were having with the Church at that time.  The author then goes back to early church fathers to get try and get a clearer picture of their understanding and thinking.

If this article stands, the church stands; if this article collapses, the church collapses. – Martin Luther

My natural tendency is not to sparse words, but to take things at their face value.  However, when discussing large, heavy concepts like justification and spiritual authority one needs to be very clear in what is meant and said.  The difference of a single word can change the whole meaning of a sentence.  Busenitz dove into historical writings, searching for evidence of sola Scriptura and sola fide.  The last three sections talk about the evidence he found.

There are also places where Busenitz commented on the limiting factors of language.  If you have ever heard that Eskimo language has many words for snow while English has one, you will understand what is meant.  Latin and Hebrew are more descriptive languages.  If a translation was used and studied from, the original intent of a word may have been a bit blurred or misunderstood.  This is very much true with English, as with Greek or German, etc.

It may have also been the case that these particular issues were not issue in the past, so therefore were not outlined in great detail.  Some things may have been socially assumed to be understood, while others were not issues raised.  This last part was an interesting revelation on my part – the things society is concerned about today were not even issues a few decades ago; how much more a few thousand years ago!  Hence, you will not find full manuscripts describing the historical stance of sola Scriptura and sola fide from the early A.D. era.

What you will find are documents from sources written during those time which give you has sense of what was meant, touching on both of these topics, showing that the reformers 500 years ago did not create these doctrines but brought them to the forefront of the conversation. These doctrines were suddenly more relevant due to what was happening socially, and within the church, at that time.

Following the four sections of the book mentioned above, is an Apprenix section – 9 pages of abbreviations used, as well as 41 pages of notes and references used in writing Long Before Luther.  Busenitz was not hesitant to share where he got his references and facts, they are there for readers to seek out and read for themselves.

Continue to seek to understand

I still believe we should look solely to the Bible for guidance, seems I believed in sola Scriptura all along without knowing there was a word or term for it.  As I worked my way through Long Before Luther, I began understand more about why we do certain things or exactly how we believe effects how we approach other issues.  Having a clear picture of what is meant is important, and for that I am thankful for those whose brains can work through those details with any sort of clarity.  I will continue to seek to understand what is being said, knowing all along that we will never truly understand everything, we can only do our best to try.

Long Before Luther by Nathan Busenitz has sought to help clarify some key points brought up during the Protestant Reformation, taking what would have been years of research for the average person and putting it together in a well structured book.  Using a multitude of references and historical documents he sought to find if there was a  and biblical basis for beliefs presented by the reformers, or if they had created a new set of beliefs.  To that end, I believe Busenitz achieved the purpose he sought and conveyed clearly the points and support along the way.

Jan 282017
 

thinking oustide the garden box books collage

This post contains affiliate links to books I would love to read this week, instead of washing the dishes or doing laundry or, well, you get the idea.  Perhaps instead you can read them and let me live vicariously through you.  If you choose to do so, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of the book.  Actually, I have read one of the books on the list this week, which is why it is on the list.  I loved it so much that I will probably read it again … once the dishes are washed and the laundry is done. 😉 Who am I kidding, I will fall asleep tonight reading by my book light, as I always find time somewhere in the day to read at least a little something.

Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics (The Good Guide to Gardening Book 3) by [the Good, David]

Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics (The Good Guide to Gardening Book 3)

If you are looking for a new challenge or adventure in gardening, this might be the thing for you.  Meeting a plants needs leads to the results you are desiring, even if you have to artificially fulfill those needs.

My mother-in-law was great at this, being able to start and grow fruit trees several zones north of where they ‘should’ grow.  How?  She understood the need of the plant and was able to meet it.  Yes, it took a bit of extra attention.  However, she was able to reap the rewards – fruit she would otherwise have had to purchase at the store, shipped in from another country usually.

You might already know one side of your house has frost longer in the day than another part, or that the bushes on a particular side of your house grow larger than their counter parts around the corner, or perhaps you have found a particular plant will not grow at all in your yard, but the neighbor up the hill grows them so much they are a weed.  The difference could be as simple as a difference in microclimates.

I personally saw this happen with two different blackberry bushes, planted 3 feet apart.  One grew several feet higher each year than the other, due mainly to how far away from the wall of the house it was.  It happened to get an hour or so more of sun each day; everything else about their site (soil, water, impact of human traffic, etc.) was the same.  The extra sunlight created enough of a difference in the growth, and as a result the crop and spread of the second plant was much greater than the first.

Instead of taking the harder route, like I have done in the past, learn from someone who has already put in the work and research.

The author does give a disclaimer in the introduction: he can’t help you grow limes in a Minnisota backyard or find the girl of your dreams; but it may help you grow the desired plant that would grow if you were only a few hundred miles south.

All the Presidents' Gardens: Madison's Cabbages to Kennedy's Roses-How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America by [McDowell, Marta]

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America

Are you tired yet of hearing me rave about this book?  Yes, I liked it that much.

Not only did I learn about the gardens found on our presidents’ lawns, but also about gardening history, history of our country, and an appreciation for life through the past several hundred years.

Can you imagine being able to walk across the lawn of the White House?  Let alone assuming it was the public’s right to do so?  How about the President’s family keeping the family milk cow on the front lawn? Or being expected the President’s family to personally host and cook for all dignitaries and visitors, usually from their own gardens.  Things have definitely changed over the years.

The ebook version of this book is only a few dollars right now.  This would make a great clutter free, early Valentine’s Day present for yourself, or a gardener in your life. 😉

Pepper Growing: Everything You Need to Know About Peppers Growing by [Anderson, William]

Pepper Growing: Everything You Need to Know About Peppers Growing

I miss the blessing of having frozen peppers available on hand; ones I was able to either grow of buy at a local produce auction, straight from the grower.  This fact is driven home constantly as I see the current price of peppers at our local grocery stores – $1-$1.50 per pepper!

With the warmer than normal winter and a move to a warmer climate, my body is screaming “It is spring! Get planting!”  However, I know winter is not yet done.  Then I saw this book and read the begging of the introduction, “I will tell you in the following pages about different types of peppers and how you can easily grow them indoors.” (emphasis is mine)  Wait, what?!  Grow them indoors?!  Now this is definitely making my gardening brain think outside the garden box in terms of which plants I can grow in the midst of winter, inside my house.

This 37 page ebook is currently free if you have Kindle Unlimited. Otherwise it is just over $5 (i.e. 5 store-bought peppers) for an ebook and also available in paperback.  There are currently no reviews, though for a price of a few peppers, it may be worth it to check out.

And yes, my brain often thinks in gardening currency, especially if I happen to be selling or purchasing produce at that time.

Jan 232017
 

This post contains affiliate links.
5-love-languages-of-children-clean-edgeThere are few books I read during my college years that still stick with me even to this day.  Most were academic in nature, things that I learned but did not affect me personally.  However, during that time I learned about the 5 Love Languages.

How I responded to actions and comments from friends and acquaintances, as well as how I acted towards them, began to change as I began to see them in a new light.  Up till then, I had not even realized my helping set up for a meeting or my willingness to go with them somewhere was how I expressed love.  I had assumed it was the thoughtful thing to do and that everyone did it.

I was wrong.

I learned it was how I showed and received love.  It was the form that spoke strongest to me personally.

Once my  husband and I met, it helped both of us to know our preferred love language.  While our languages are different, we are able to express our feeling in the way the other is most likely to receive it best.  We are also able to give grace when we realize they are not giving us what we need at the moment, because they do not always think the way we do.

While my husband may not always bring me flowers, he does do the dishes at times, or helps clean the kitchen.  Those are the times I feel like he is spoiling me.  He is speaking my language.

When we walk or go somewhere, we hold hands or sit close, and my husband greatly appreciates this. I am speaking his language.

Without knowing these things about ourselves and our spouse, we could have been spinning our wheels sitting in the same room together watching our favorite movies and sending heart felt cards to each other, yet never feeling truly loved.

When we added to our family, we both knew we needed to find our children’s love languages.  The problem was, how?

How do you figure out the love languages of your children when they can not even talk?  Are they the same as the languages of adults?  Are they expressed in the same way?  Do they have a primary language and a secondary language, and do they stay the same as they grow older?

Enter The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell. The first parts of the book talk about why the showing love is so important in your relationship with your children.  Then a chapter is devoted to each of the various love languages.  If you have never read these books, practice a form of parenting or working with children that has not taken into account what is going on inside them, or are beginning your journey with kids, you will want to spend time in the beginning of this book, considering why this is important.

child shredding zucchini with border

It was interesting to see how these languages are felt and expressed differently in the lives of our children.  Touch, for example, may not mean holding your child’s hand like it would your spouse.  Instead, it might mean touching their back as you walk past them at the dinner table or picking them up to hold them in your lap.  Time might be shown in helping with homework or playing a game.

These love language explanations are followed by the chapter I had been waiting for – Discovering Your Child’s Love Language. Now I could figure out if I needed to keep rubbing George’s back or if Time was his main one and we should bake more together.  Did Jack appreciate me playing games with him or should I continue to do the soft touches on his arms when he sat on my lap? The conclusion?  I should keep doing all of them.

As it turns out, children’s language may change over time.  They do not have a primary one, though they might respond to various languages at different developmental stages.  So, while I will keep rubbing George’s back and playing with his hair (one way we found to almost instantly calm him down), I will keep baking with him and sitting near him for homework.

To be effective in discipline, parents must keep the child’s emotional love tank filled with love.

The next chapters of the 5 Love Languages of Children cover topics related to learning to love your children effectively which I had not thought so much about – Discipline, Learning, and Anger.

I have been told over and over, through our many (foster) parenting classes and books read, discipline is not always a negative thing.  It does not always mean punishment, but instead means guidance and teaching.  It comes from a place of love, not a place of anger and annoyance.  Sometimes easier said than done.  However, I personally have noticed a change in my kids when I make sure to love on them more, or take a deep breath before addressing the situation.  Sometimes a hug or verbal reminder is all they need – “I am right here. Please lower your voice.”  Other times, they do need firm reminders of expected behaviors.  The balance is a tough one to keep at times.

At night time, Jack is still in need of close physical presence, he prefers at least line of sight to an adult; even after 5 years, he does not feel safe.  It had improved to the point of me being able to sit in the living room “drinking coffee”, out of his sight, while he went to sleep; then we moved and progress went backwards at least a year.  I got really annoyed at him last night for disobeying and not staying in bed, responding harsher than I should have.  Once I realized his need and got past my “this is how it should be” thinking, things got better and we all slept (albeit two hours after he his bed time).

One point they make, and where I think some parents go wrong, even I at times, is to make requests instead of commands.  I understand saying “please” always is better then “go do ____”.  Where I used to go wrong, and where I hear other go wrong is saying, “Do you want to go brush your teeth?”  instead of “Please, go brush your teeth.”  The first is truly asking them if they want to or not, so do not get mad if they say “no” and keep playing.  One of my kids would take that question at face value then wonder why you are getting mad at him when he says he does not want to go.  The other child would understand that you really are telling him to go brush his teeth.  When wording something as a request, make sure you are willing to accept a true answer and not just the result you are wishing to obtain.

The same literal child above was reminded last week, that it was time to go and he needed to put on shoes.  The second time I said the same sentence with out any acknowledgment of hearing me I reworded the request into a statement: “We are leaving whether you  have on your shoes or not.  If you do not want your socks to get wet, you need to put on your shoes.” He was over putting on his shoes almost immediately.  No threats, but straight forward fact about the consequences of not doing what was asked.  

Parents who do not take time to speak the five love languages, but simply seed to meet a child’s physical needs, are neglecting her intellectual and social development.

We have seen the results of this in our children.  When they first came to us, their emotional ages were several years behind where they should be.  It was hard to teach them anything as they did not trust us, were hyper-vigilant, etc.  They were focused on surviving and had no mental energy left for learning.

Over time, they have learned to calm down some.  However, they are still anxious.  Anything taught to them during these times may as well be taught to a brick wall.  Their emotional ages,while improving, are still about a year behind, depending external factors and what exactly you are asking them to do (change in schedule vs. deal with a difficult person vs. doing something they would prefer not to be doing, etc.).

The last of these three – love and anger, was a chapter that unfortunately I really needed to read.  With all the changes going on in our home, emotions have been running high.  Anxiousness, sadness, happiness, excitement, nervousness, shyness, uncertainty … all these emotions mixed in with having to schedule appointments, set up services, start new school/church, continue home schooling, leaving an old job, learning a new job, finding your way around a new town, leaving friends, meet new friends, gather paperwork, organize chaos, decide what to keep and what to get rid of, finishing up activities around the house … well, honestly it leads to many days where sadly not everyone responds in the most appropriate of ways.  I see myself referencing back to this chapter in the upcoming months and days, as I am the one to set the example for my kids, helping them walk a path of appropriate handling of anger.

The last two chapters were aimed at the parents reading this book, either single or married.  They covered various aspects of parenting, of being parents, and how it relates to our children and their love/growth.  These chapters held encouragement and tips for creating a solid foundation in us and those around us.

Finally, at the end of the book were several resources: an epilogue, notes from chapters, and The Mystery Game for parents to play with their kids in order to help them determine the child’s love language.

begin to build bat house collage

One of the things I have liked best about this book are the practical examples and solutions presented. These examples helped me visualize what was being talked about, seeing ways to apply it in our home.

Another aspect I appreciated is actually something that is missing – a new parenting style.  The point of the book seemed to focus more on the relational side of parenting your children, rather than telling you how to raise them.

If you have previously read another version of The 5 Love Languages, then you will see some repeat, especially in the first few chapters.  The parts I found to be different or specific were the application area, or how it is expressed.

In the end I was glad I read this book.  It is a great addition to some of the other parenting books we have read and our (imperfect) method of parenting.  The 5 Love Languages of Children was also a great encouragement to keep moving forward even if we are not perfect in our parenting, especially because we are not.

Jan 202017
 

This post contains affiliate links to some great reads.

growing through reading 3 books collage

The love of books and the love of gardening are not mutually exclusive, as Beatrix Potter successfully demonstrated. To that extent, here are three books which caught my eye recently.  They are each of vastly different garden topics and aspects.

Something they all have is common is they are available both in print and ebook versions.  These are also not free books, though they sound very much like something that would be worth paying for.  They also all have over 100 raving reviews, as in 98% give them 4 or 5 stars, which can often be hard to find.

The world of gardening books has taught me a lot these past few years, and these three books promise to add to that knowledge.  They are all going to be added to my reading list and hopefully consumed soon.

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales by [McDowell, Marta]

Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children’s Tales

The book is divided into 4 sections; a biography of Beatrix Potter, a description of her garden through the season, a guide to visiting her gardens, and a plant list. I was familiar with Potter’s illustrations in her children’s books, but was unaware of her other artwork.. She began doing botanical illustration as the age of 10. In addition to some of Potter’s artwork, there are also photographs of Potter and her gardens, so photos taken by Potter herself and some more contemporary. I enjoyed reading a biography that did not attempt to sully the person’s reputation. This book made me want to get out in my own garden and visit Potter’s gardens if I should visit England in the future.

And the review from Not Yet Old makes me want to visit this book.

Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use by [Gladstar, Rosemary]

Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use

As I look ahead to a year of growing a mobile garden, herbs were at the top of my list of plants.  I love having fresh ones to use for cooking.  To be honest, I have not explored the material on herbs and their usage as much as I could have.  I knew they could be used for medicinal purposes, but have never tried it.  This sounds like it would be just the thing to have on hand for gaining such knowledge.

The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming

A great reminder that one does not need vast acres to have a successful garden or farm.  Over the years I have found the best results when I look to non-traditional methods, those who look to the natural process and try to mimic it rather than fight against it.

The thing about this book that caught my eye was this sentence in the description, “Growing on just 1.5 acres, owners Jean-Martin and Maude-Helène feed more than two hundred families through their thriving CSA and seasonal market stands and supply their signature mesclun salad mix to dozens of local establishments.”  (emphasis is mine) Imagine what we can do in our small back yard garden for our family, or even perhaps our neighbors.

Since the move to a new place with a different flow and culture, I have had serious doubts about having a road side stand again.  And to be honest, I doubt I will.  I enjoyed having it, getting to know our neighbors and blessing them with produce, but it does not look like it would work as well in this setting.  It was nice to have a bit of extra income during the summer months.

Perhaps I will visit the idea again, once we are no longer renting, and do something similar to what is described in the book.  Till then, I will continue to grow in my knowledge and from the experience of others.  You  never know what you might learn.

Dec 032016
 

This post contains affiliate links to a great book.  I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss for review consideration.

This post was originally shared last autumn.  Since then I have thought of it several times.  As the holidays approach, this would be a great gift consideration for the gardener in your life … or for you.  😉  Once the moving boxes are no longer a daily decoration in my home, I plan to go back and read this book again.  Yes, I liked it that much.

This past summer we were able to take a last minute trip to our nation’s capitol.  Between visits with several different friends, we made stops at various sites around the area.  Many I had been to before, but a few were new.  For our kids, they were all new and most were about times in history they had yet to learn about in class.  A few of the sites, however, really peaked their interests.

The White House was a favorite as they had heard of it before (my husband often watches reruns of The West Wing on Netflix).  The kids found it even more interesting when we finally convinced them that the President is a real person, not just an actor, AND that he actually lives in the big white house behind the gates.

A lot of the history I know about the White House itself, which is not much, has to do with random facts throughout history that I have picked up while reading.  I love history, hearing the how’s and why’s as to events, details that make it come alive in my imagination.

When I began reading All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses, How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America I expected to pick up a few tidbits here and there on the gardening practices used on the White House grounds and long lists of plants used.  In general I thought it would be a boring read that would require cups of coffee to help me stay awake.  What I found surprised me and showed me a new way of looking at this home that has become a symbol over the years. 

Gardening history is not something I have been exposed to previously.  In my past there were mentions of how the Native Americans planted and how the early settlers gardened to provide for the table during winter months.  I have also visited sites such as Mt. Vernon (Jefferson’s home) and the Biltmore Estate, learning about how they landscaped, invented, studied and produced tools, methods and plants that we now think are common.  However, I never had found a book that actually walked a reader through the history of gardening in a particular place and how the look of the gardens were also affected by events of the day.  As it turns out, I had exposed myself to a book that kept me up at nights, long after I really wanted to be asleep, exploring our nation’s history and the people and gardens it contained.

Marta McDowell did a thorough job of researching the various gardeners, plants, sources, designs, struggles, Presidents’ preferences that have resulted in the gardens and the house we now see today.  She showed how the political events of the day – protests about wars, the Great Depression, the war of 1812, etc.- also had a result in shaping the look and use of the gardens and grounds.  The reader was taken along a path showing the various gardening styles and philosophies, and how they flowed from one style to the next – English, Italian, french, formal, practical, native and exotic.

All the Presidents’ Gardens quickly became one of my favorite history and gardening books.  I loved the flow, the story behind the story feel, and how it all felt tied together in a smooth fashion.  It was so seamless that I often forgot when a chapter had ended and another began.  There were a few points that I wondered why they were mentioned, only to find a  few paragraphs or pages later how it was all tied together.

All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses, How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America is a book I would wholeheartedly recommend for you to read.  You will have to wait a bit though, as it will not scheduled to be released till April 27, 2016.  You are able to pre-order it now so you will be able to receive one of the first copies.

I also learned that the White House holds a free garden tour twice a year.  This past year’s Spring tour was in mid-April, so you may be able to get in on this year’s tour if you keep watch for the announcement.  (The fall tour was held in October.)

Nov 052016
 

This post contains affiliate links.  I received a copy of this book for review.

At times, it feels like we are the only ones in our community willing to stand up, offering help to children who may be in unsafe situations.

At other times, it feels like we are not doing anything; we have become comfortable in our own little family.

Neither of those feelings accurately reflect real life.  One is a very self-centered, know it all, martyr mentality that dismisses all the ways others are aiding families around us.  The other comes from our normal not being ‘normal’ any more, we are used to some of the adjustments we have made to help our kids feel safe.

While neither are accurate, both come from the same place – the feeling of being overwhelmed at all that is wrong in this world.  No one person can do it all.

Make It Zero: the movement to safeguard every child by Mary Frances Bowley dives into this issue, looking not only at the obvious dangers children may face – hunger, abuse, and trafficking; but also poverty and isolation, exploring real examples of each.  Not only are they talked about, but each chapter ends with a ‘React’ section, encouraging the reader to do something about what was just read.

Make It Zero was not about children only.  It actually began by talking about adults, parents, and teenagers, not exactly who one thinks of when talking about the children in our society.  However, by the end of the second chapter I was starting to understand.  Safeguarding the children means giving them a good foundation.  That foundation is the parent/s in their lives.  If the parent is struggling, the children will struggle.

One example is that of poverty.  If there is lack of money in the home, then the parents might have to work longer hours, resulting in not being around to raise the children safely.  The kids are more likely to make bad choices, miss out on emotional milestones, and become adults who are lacking in one area or another, who then become parents themselves.

…even a giant Redwood tree starts out as a seed…

What can we do?  Social reforms have been taking place for hundreds of years, trying to remove all poverty and hunger from our world, yet it is still around.  Child trafficking seems to only be getting worse at a time when it should be easy to keep track of people.

Isolation was one of the issues that touched me the most.  You would think having a small world, not being disturbed by others would not be such a bad thing.  But how about the child left alone for hours at home, with no one to help keep them safe or teach them how to interact with others?  Or the foster teen who ages out of the system with no support network, expected to figure it out on their own at the mature age of 18?  Or the single parent household, where all the responsibility for the family and home falls on one person?  These are all situations that lead to problems much bigger than where they began.

Wellspring Living, Hire Hope, and other programs grew out of a desire to address these issues, to help the children by helping the family address underlying issues. Realizing the solution was not a simple 3 step answer, many people came together to address the needs leading to  This aspect, working to keep the family together by giving them the resources and support they needed, was one of my favorite parts of this book.  Instead of compounding the problem by saying all children should be removed from these homes, though at times it might be needed, the reader is given ideas, links, books, and other materials to help them learn to look around their community and find ways to help.

look im helping children cutting with scissors

I came away from reading Make It Zero feeling encouraged.  Yes, there are many issues out in the world, and no one person can solve them all.  However, we can all do something right where we are.  For now, that something is going to look different than it did 5 years ago, and will look different than it will 5 years from now.  This does not mean we are doing nothing, it a different type of something.

Our kids have a heart for others.  As much as they may add liveliness to my day, they are constantly asking if we can help someone else out.  They want to give all of our food to the school during food drives, they do not understand why we do not give money to every person on every street corner who is asking for it, and they are ready to hop on a plan to help those affected by natural disasters.  This is something my husband and I wish to encourage and direct.  We try to make them aware of the needs around us, finding tangible ways for them to help.  Make It Zero has given me several ideas of ways to help, as well as having opened my eyes to issues I did not know existed.

If you would like to learn more about this movement, I would encourage you to also checkout Make It Zero‘s website.

Oct 272016
 

This post contains affiliate links.

me-a-compendium

When looking something to add to our school day, Me: A Compendium: A Fill-in Journal For Kids caught my attention.  It looked fun, the picture on the cover intrigued me, and the idea seemed silly enough to hold the attention of my kids.

George has several variations of books such as this one, he tends towards the artistic thinking.  Jack, however, does not have any such books.  He is usually a black and white thinker, taking to artistic things only if it suits his fancy.  I was not sure how he would react to this book, though was hoping for something unexpected that he could do during the day when he was bored.  It would also act as a journal of his life at this point in time.

Me: A Compendium was picked with Jack in mind.

When the book came, I called him into the living room, handing him the book without saying anything.  The look in his eye was one of excitement, “Is this for me?!”  Seems it was going to be a hit with my practical child.  (George was a bit jealous, till I reminded him that he already had two books like this.  He still wanted to ‘help’ fill in some of the pages.)

As with any new book, I encouraged Jack to get to know the book before doing anything with it.  Starting at the most obvious place, the cover, he asked why it was blank.  “That is for you to fill in.  You write your name in the blank rectangle, either only your first or any combination of your names you choose. This is your book.”

Turning it over to the back cover, the questions continue.  The child is asked for favorites, descriptions of various body parts, and other information about likes/dislikes.

me-compendium-book-2-collage

The biggest surprise, though, was the inside of the cover.   “Super Secret Stuff” was a hit with this 7 year old.  He did not even want me to tell George or Dad about it.  “Mom, it is secret!  That is what secret means; others do not know about it.”  We had not even cracked the cover yet and he was already smitten with the book and the notion of filling it in as he saw fit.

me-compendium-book-inside-cover

Several pages were filled in the first day.  One of them surprised me, “This is what I’ll be doing when I grow up…”  Up till this point, he has always wanted to be a construction worker, or a constructions worker who works part time as a policeman.  This was the first time he said he wanted to, solely, be a policeman, “to help keep people safe”.  Being safe is a common thing he worries about, so this was not so surprising.

“As long as you do not want to be the person the police are chasing, I think it is a great idea”, a comment of mine that resulted in the oh so cute, “Mooooommmm” with the accompanying eye roll.

me-compendium-book-collageThe second picture took a bit of interpretation on his part before I understood what was going on – playing Frisbee with Dad.  Again, not a surprise, as this was drawn at a time where my husband was busy and not able to play with them as much as he, and they, would have liked.

Knowing Jack is not a huge drawer, I was very surprised and pleased to see how quickly he wanted to pick up drawing utensil and get to work filling in the paper pages.  If this is what it takes for my fine-motor activity adverse kid to draw, I will buy these books all day long.

I have no doubt Me: A Compendium will last us quite a while.  The cover is hard back and the pages are a heavy paper.  The drawing and fill-in-the-blank prompts are diverse, helping keep it interesting through the whole book.

Since drawing in it the first time, Jack has asked several times where this book was, as he wanted to work on it more.  This fact alone makes it a five-star book in my opinion, especially as it is not a particular cartoon construction worker and his builders, nor an alien race that can morph into various vehicle forms to fight other bad mechanical alien here on Earth.  This is a book that makes him stop or slow down, think, and transfer those thoughts to something outside of himself.  There are no right or wrong answers, and no grades.  So, if your police car looks more like a lump of coal, that is okay. 😉

I thought I would give Jack a chance to share his thoughts, in his own words.  Here is what I got:

Me: Jack, what did you think of this book?

Jack: (glancing over, sees the book on the screen, and gives a sly, shy smile, goes back to building his Lego creation.)

Me: Well, what did you think?

Jack: I don’t know.  I haven’t finished it yet.  I can’t tell you what I think of it till I finish it.

Me: Well, up till now, what have been your thoughts?

Jack: (silence, but smiling.)

And there you have it.  He liked it but was unwilling to put it into words, the normally accepted form of communication for creatures of our species, yet a form that Jack often does not like to use.  Hey, at least he did not spell it out in the air, as he is inclined to do at times.  That would have been harder to transcribe.

********************

As I was writing this review, I had another thought, “This would be great for a kid in Foster Care.”

Why? It would help create a scrap book of sorts, a place to write things down and store memories at a time where other forms may not be available.  At times there are gaps in a child’s photographic history or “This is Me in Grade ___” papers from school are lost.  Giving them a sturdy place to record various facts from their life at this moment, a way to possibly even share them with the adults in their lives, is a great way to encourage emotional connects, a connection with their personal story, and a record of this time in their life.

Me: A Compendium does not require batteries, is gender neutral, and easy to transport.  As the holiday season approaches, if you are considering being a part of a gift-giving effort, even if not for Foster Care specifically, this would be a great gift option to keep in mind.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.