May 192017

Kid in Library

With summer looming very close in front of us, one of the items on my non-gardening to-do list involves signing up for various summer reading programs.  This is also a great reminder to keep participating in other reading programs that are not season oriented.

One of my highest goals for our kids, to love reading.

Participation in summer reading challenges is one of the ways we use to hopefully create kids who turn into young adults who love to read. My thinking is that if they can read, they can learn anything.  They can also travel to places otherwise unavailable to them.

In addition to your local library’s reading program, here are a few more you can check out.  (Pun intended.)

Meatheads Burgers currently offers the Voracious Readers reading program during all seasons.  There is no guarantee that this program will continue, so make use of it while it is here.  The kids love being able to order their own burgers and ‘pay’ for them with the certificate they earned by reading books.


book cover 2

From the website:

The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program is here to help you on your way, encouraging you to read books of your own choosing and earn a FREE book, simply by following these three easy steps:

1. Read any eight books this summer and record them in your Summer Reading Journal (English or Español).

2. Tell us which part of the book is your favorite, and why.Bring your completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store between May 16th and September 5th, 2017. Find a Store

3. Choose your FREE reading adventure from the book list featured on the back of the journal.

My kids are excited about being able to choose from the books and have already selected the ones they want to work towards.  I love the fact that they are excited to be reading.


Download Now!

Books-a-million’s 2017 Summer Reading Program runs now through August 16th.  As the image above shows, read 4 books from their Reading Challenge secelction, fill out the form and return to receive a free Maze Runner series water bottle.  Click here to find a store near you.

There are book selection for both kids and teens.  The Kids’ selections online are not easy readers, so you may have to help your young reader choose something appropriate (or maybe read aloud to them).

Half Price Books’ summer reading program for kids 14 (or 8th grade) and under is for June and July.

Once you’ve read 300 minutes, turn in your completed log to earn HPB Bookworm Bucks.   By August 31, cash in your HPB Bookworm Bucks in store for books, music, movies & games.- Half Price Books bookmark

While 300 minutes may seem like a large amount, it works out to just 10 minutes a day for 30 days.

If you need ideas for young ones, they have put together a list of Alphabet books as well as books for even younger ones. You are encouraged to read aloud to your kids if needed.

LifeWay R.E.A.D. - Summer Reading Program 2017

Join us on our 2017 Summer Reading Quest with Bibleman, June 1 to Aug. 31. We want to help you and your family promote the love of reading in your home as well as encouraging the love of God’s Word through reading His Scripture. This program is geared toward grades 1 through 6, but all are welcome to join in the adventure.

Read six books over the course of the summer and memorize six Scripture verses. Then, turn in a completed summer reading journal at your local LifeWay store to earn a free book and a new free Bible.

Join them in-store for a Kickoff Party May 26-27 to receive your FREE Summer Reading Program Journal, Bookmark and Pencil. At that time you will also be able to purchase books from the recommended reading list at 40% off!

Turn in your reading journals by August 31, 2017

Read 10

For every 10 books you read, we’ll give you one free*. What’s the catch? You just have to write a short report telling us: 1. Your name and age 2. The title and author of the book 3. Why you liked or disliked the book You can even include drawings. When you’ve finished your 10 book reports, bring them to your favorite Bookmans and we’ll reward you with a free book for all that hard work.  – Bookman’s Programs Page

Bookman’s Entertainment Exchange has locations in Arizona.  While many of you may not live or visit these areas, it is a great example of finding a reading program at a location you may not have thought to look.  We visited a Bookman’s a few years ago, while in the Tuscon area on vacation, and loved it.  The initial reason for going was to attend their story time, as we were looking for things to do with 4 little boys  under 4 (we had nephews along with us).  While the kids were listening to the story, I got to indulge myself (my husband was with the kids) and look through a large selection of used books.  We came away with several classics for a very reasonable price.  I probably would have bought more, but we were flying home, so space was limited.

There is also a Kid’s Club, which offers enrolled kids a discount on books, as well as sending them a gift certificate on their birthday.

*The free book come in the form of a $10 certificate to be used in the store. I could not find the information online, but a call to one of their stores confirmed they are still doing this program


Chuck E. Cheese is a restaurant I did not grow up living near.  However, there was a time or two that we went for a party and I always had fun going.  With George and Jack being on the young side, and easily overwhelmed, we have not gone before.

I was surprised to find that they offer a very diverse reward program.  Fill out one of the calendars, bring it in, and earn 10 free tokens.  Their calendars are one that will help you form good habits in your kids and include the following calendars: reading, picking up your room, doing homework first, no picking your nose, daily chores, and more.  In all, they have 15 different calendars to choose from.  Additionally they have other awards you can earn and redeem for 10 free tokens.

A food purchase may be required to receive your tokens.

“Book Adventure is a fun, free way to motivate your child to read! Kids in grades K-8 can search for books, read them offline, come back to quiz on what they’ve read, and earn prizes for their reading success.” – Book Adventure website

We have yet to participate in Book Adventure, as our kids have been too young previously.  Their prizes page does include some unique items that the kids can earn points toward.  Teachers can also set prizes for their classes.


“The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is a free online program designed to motivate and excite your kids around reading books this summer. Kids can log the minutes they spend reading, play games, earn virtual rewards, and enter sweepstakes, all in an effort to set a new reading world record for summer 2015!” – Scholastic Reading Challenge

Scholastic’s 2017 Summer Reading Challenge begins May 8 and ends September 8.

“During the summer months, DoD-MWR Libraries around the world will host a range of free activities for children, teens, and adults that encourage and support a love of reading. Participants also can earn incentives by reaching their reading goals.”

If you do not live near a base or libray on base, there is also a Virtual Summer Reading Program available.


Keep an eye out for the following programs this summer:

Kids can earn $10 with our Summer Reading Program.

TD Bank had a summer reading program in 2016, which rewarded readers with money in their bank accounts for reading so many books.  They have not said yet whether they will do it again in 2017.



Apr 252017

Alexander Hamilton book

It is Tuesday.  Not Monday.  Yes, I am aware of that and gave myself enough guilt about it yesterday.  However, it is Tuesday and not Wednesday, so that is saying something.  Right?

This past weekend included a llloooooooooooooonnnngggggggggg gggg  ggggg drive (do I need more g’s to make the point?) to a homeschool conference.  The original plan was to leave Thursday morning, with my husband taking two days off work, drop the kids off at my parents, and allowing my husband and I to have a restful weekend away together.

What happened was, and I promise there is a point to this beyond whining:

  • my husband’s job moved a meeting to a week and a day which it was not originally planned for
  • resulting in us not leaving Thursday morning, but Thursday evening instead.
  • I drove, which is not our norm on long trips, because I knew my husband had worked a full day and was tired. (He did drive the last few hours.)
  • We met up with my parents several hours past the kids’ bedtime, with the last point making the trip a very hard one along the way.
  • By the time we got to our hotel, it was past midnight.

I was able to get about 4 hours of sleep that night, resulting in the realization that my body was not past the point of being stressed.*  Yet.  I felt icky Friday (tired and nauseous), but had a day of talks ahead of me.  Knowing the reason for feelings helped me address them.  What it did not do was take away the feelings themselves.

Friday night I slept horribly, being awake from about 3 am – 5 am, then sleeping fitfully for 2 hours.  So much for getting a good night’s sleep.

Saturday came, I kept going, knowing that moving, eat small snack throughout the day, and not dwelling would help getting past the physical reactions.  This allowed me to figure out if I was actually feeling tired or hungry; I am amazed at how they can feel the same if you are both very tired and very hungry.  Taking the edge off really helped.

Saturday night, I had another plan:

  • I passed visiting with my  husband’s former college roommate (and new baby) in order to rest
  • reduced the nauseous feelings
  • and ate something high in protein, thereby setting myself up for a solid night sleep.

It worked!

By Sunday morning I was feeling … better.  I could not wait to get home though.

We still had a 7+ hour drive home, including picking up the kids and visiting a bit with my parents.

The drive home was actually one of the best ever with the kids.

We had no electronics – partly planned (no personal devices were packed), partly not (both of the dvd players, our “half-way there” treat, decided not to work).  What we did have were books on tape, audio dramas, snacks, and activity bags.  We also had kids who were tired from 3 fun filled days at the grandparents.

It was while listening to one of our books on tape, Parables From Nature by Margaret Gatty, that I realized I too have room to learn. Chapter 7, called “Waiting”, is specifically what I am speaking about.

In this chapter, Mole tells the House Crickets that sitting around bemoaning their issues do no good.

Every animal has a purpose. Yours is to wait for the sun to rise.  That is what you should be doing.  Anticipating the sun rise.  Once it goes down, then you find a snug place to stay till it is time to do your job again.

(quote not word for word)

Add that to something my husband shared from learning at the conference, that worry is feeling tomorrow’s emotions today.

I had been bemoaning and worrying, even if I thought perhaps I had not been.  This also goes to show why I feel better when I would get up and actually do something, taking my mind of how I was feeling and focusing on something else (walking, birds, gardening, solar lights, garden layouts, starting a garden … you get the idea).

Once we were home, a new board game was set up (Risk: Star Wars edition) and the boys, big and little, played while I tried to create some kind of order out of the chaos which comes from cleaning out the car from a long weekend away.

Monday morning came, I enjoyed a cup of tea on the back deck while listening to the morning birds.  My bemoaning and worry began to wash away, reminding me of the purpose and job I have to do right now … not the potential feelings of tomorrow or wonderings of why things for us are not like they are for others.

bird scared away from feeders waiting to return

The giveaway for Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life has closed.  Anita Yancy’s name was selected by as the winner.  

*After a while of contemplating, part of me began to wonder if the stress my body was feeling was not only due to being tired and the change of traveling, but also remembering our trip to this conference last year.  On that particular trip, we had a foster child with us, one who had not gone on trips with us before and was only a year younger then Jack.  It was a lesson for everyone involved.  We learned that a larger age gap is needed, due to the emotional needs of our kids, if we ever choose to foster again.


This post contains some affiliate links.  If you click on them and purchase something, I will receive a small percent back.

Mar 032017

This post contains affiliate links.

Growing Through Reading

The coffee is already made, Jack is still asleep, George is off to school … sounds like the perfect time to catch up on some reading.  Sounds like the perfect time, but it is not.  Alas, we have an appointment over the lunch hour, so must spend time on other activities this morning.

Jack tried to convince me, yesterday, this meant we had no time for school today.  He tried. And failed.  Much to his disappointment.  “This is one benefit of home schooling, Jack.  We can make it work with whatever our day brings.”

I highly doubt he sees this as very  high on his list of reasons he likes being schooled at home.

Before I had a Kindle I was able to read ebooks on my computer.  If you are wanting to do the same, go here to download the free application.

After spending years gardening in various ways, assuming I knew it all, I have come to realized the error of my ways.  I have wasted money and time trying to recreate the wheel.  Yes, the lessons stuck, but so does the memory of frustration and disappointment when things were not working.

Spending a few hours reading about other’s experiences gardening, their lessons learned, both good and bad, can pay off in big ways.  There is no need to reinvent the wheel.

Here are three books, all with high ranking reviews, which seems to fit the motto – “learn from those who have gone before you.”

Compact Farms: 15 Proven Plans for Market Farms on 5 Acres or Less; Includes Detailed Farm Layouts for Productivity and Efficiency has 4.3 stars and is currently a #1 Best Seller.  The reviews, both in print versions and ebook versions, mention the great photos and plans laid out in the book.

“Small is beautiful, and these 15 real farm plans show that small-scale farmers can have big-time success. Compact Farms is an illustrated guide for anyone dreaming of starting, expanding, or perfecting a profitable farming enterprise on five acres or less.”

Straw Bale Gardens Complete: Breakthrough Vegetable Gardening Method – All-New Information On: Urban & Small Spaces, Organics, Saving Water – Make Your Own Bales With or Without Straw has 710 reviews and rated at 4.7 stars.  I have not personally gardened this way, but have seen a good friend of mine use this method with success.  

I can see where this method would be useful in overcoming various challenges – slugs, wet areas, limited water supply, poor soils, etc.  It is one method of gardening I plan to research more and possibly may utilize this year.

Though it says it is for “tight urban settings” at least one reviewer used it on a larger rural garden where the soils were extremely poor, and reaped great results.

“Straw Bale Gardens Complete contains all of the original information that has set the gardening world on fire. But it also goes much deeper, with nearly 50 pages of all-new advice and photos on subjects such as growing in a tight urban setting, making your straw bale garden completely organic, and using new fertilizers and conditioning products.”

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions: Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil has a rating of 4.8 stars and 508 reviews.  

This sounds like a great overall reference book for your garden.  The author is from Vermont and has a large (2,000 sq ft) garden.

“Everything you loved about the first edition of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible is still here: friendly, accessible language; full-color photography; comprehensive vegetable specific information in the A-to-Z section; ahead-of-its-time commitment to organic methods; and much more.”

Tip: Don’t forget you can sign up for Swagbucks to earn free gift cards to use on deals on Amazon.

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 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.

Nov 172016

This post contains affiliate links.

We love books at our house.  Early on in our journey with kids, we made trips to the library something which we looked forward to.  Granted, trips with active toddlers who had to be taught the proper respect for books was not always fun, those trips have paid off.  We now have kids who love books, even if reading can be a struggle at times.

Because of our love for books, I am always on the lookout for money saving options to obtain books.  Whether it is from a thrift store, the local library’s used book shop, garage sales, Kindle books on Amazon, or PaperBackSwap, there are many money saving options in addition to checking them out from the library.

World Book and Swagbucks have the perfect gift for the little reader in your life – a free book that makes history come alive! World book has a great assortment of vibrant, fun, and informative books about a variety of different historical events, people, and legends that are perfect for grades 6-8. This offer gets you a free book (you pay $1 in shipping) AND you get $5 (paid in Swagbucks’ SB Points) for doing it, plus a bonus $3 (300SB) for signing up for Swagbucks through me first. Here’s how you can get your free book and $8:

1. Click here to get to the offer*. When you get there, if you’re not already a member you’ll be prompted to create your Swagbucks account – it takes less than 30 seconds.
2. Click the blue “Continue” button
3. Order your free book – that’s it! The 500 SB will credit immediately, and if you’re a new member signing up for Swagbucks through the above link, you’ll get another 300 SB in the first week of December.

So, what’s this Swagbucks I’m talking about? It’s the site where you earn points (called SB) for things you’re already doing online, like shopping, watching videos, discovering deals (like this one!), taking surveys, or even searching the web! Then you take your points and redeem them for PayPal cash or gift cards to places like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Starbucks, and more! In fact, for signing up through me, you can actually get ANOTHER bonus $2 if you spend $25 or more on holiday shopping through Swagbucks this month!

Last week, I began my Christmas shopping online by first clicking through Swagbucks to go to a retailer’s site.  I was planning to purchase this particular item online either way, so taking less than a minute to do so through Swagbucks was an added bonus.  Not only was I able to use this retailer’s rewards, thereby saving me money, but I also earned SB back on the purchase which I can use towards a future gift card redemption.

My holiday shopping has just begun.  Offers like the one above, earning SB to redeem for gift cards, and getting SB back from online purchases are a few ways I plan to employ to help save money.


*Please read the fine print on this offer.  Please note that if you do not cancel after your first book order, you will continue to receive books at regular intervals, but at a higher price.

Jun 302016

calendar coffee computer

Recently I read a blog, one that was new to me even though it had not been updated in about two years.  So, why did I take time to look at that particular shared post and through the others on the blog? Because information does not always have an expiration date.

In this instant world of ours, people looked at me like I had two heads when I said, “I do not have texting” or “I do not check Facebook very often”. They could not believe that it was even possible to live such a life.  Many people I talk to seem to think that it is important to keep on top of everything, to the minute.  If anything is older than a few days it is no longer relevant or useful.

What did I learn from this ‘out-of-date’ blog? Among other things, sometimes it is the simple things that make life easier.  Specifically, try to put appointments on the same day.

This was not a new concept to me, though I have always had the excuses for reasons why it would not work for me.  The difference this time was that it was coming from a mom of 10 who also took a day every week for family ministry activities.  “Surely if she can try it I can, too.” And so I did.

The worst they can say is, “No”.

Between regular appointments (pediatrician, dentist, eye exams, etc.), we also have our fair share of others (IEPs, orthodontist, developmental pediatrician, etc.) Thankfully we no longer have – monthly home visits, weekly parental visits, specialist for eye exams, in-home therapies for delays, out of home OT, etc.

Many of these are appointments made weeks or months in advance. I knew how hard it was to schedule them in the first place, why would I call in to change them? Surely they had no openings on such short notice …

A few weeks ago, our calendar showed us having two different doctors appointments for that particular week. One you have to schedule months in advance, the other can be hard to get into but not impossible.  With the loss of a friend, I was looking to add a funeral to the mix of weekly activities.

When I found out the times of visitation and the funeral I had a choice to make, either drive 5 extra hours to go to the visitation or try to rearrange the doctor appointments to fall on the same day.  A few phone calls later it had all worked out to have the appointments scheduled on the same day AND save me gas.

By admitting that someone else might actually know more than me, that my assumptions could be wrong, I learned that various aspects of life are often made out to be harder than how they are in reality.

So, on this particular day, we left in the morning and drove 30 minutes to our first appointment. A library stopped filled the extra minutes until picking up lunch.  Because we had left so early and ate lunch during the hour drive to our second appointment, we stopped at a park and played for another 30 minutes till the doctor’s office opened back up.

After our last appointment we headed out for the 1 drive to the funeral home, stopping along the way to have a snack and change into appropriate clothing.  There were about 1,001 question ranging in topic from “why can’t I wear my shorts?” to “Can I touch the dead body?”  So glad we covered most of those before others could hear us.

It was a long day.  Thankfully we had an audio book version of Peter Pan to finish listening to on the way home.

Would I have done it the same way again?  I think so.  I was thoroughly exhausted the next day due to emotions and managing of behaviors, but I think it was better than two days away from the house.

Dec 152015

I have come to love having an audio book for the kids to listen to at breakfasts, lunches, and in the car.  I try to find something they will enjoy that is also of good quality.  This may not always be achieved, and we have been known to stop listening to certain audio books after not really liking them.

While this activity can fall under schooling, I prefer it to be more simply a love of reading.  With a children who are learning or struggling with reading, audio books not only saves a Mama’s voice, but also helps bring the story alive in their minds.

All the audio books found at LibriVox are books from the public domain and are recorded by volunteers.


From Librivox: Daddy Takes Us Skating by Howard R. GARIS (1873 – 1962) Hal and Mabel’s Daddy knows everything – how a thermometer works, what makes a car go, why we get warm when we run. It’s a cold and icy evening after school and Daddy has a secret but what is it? And what is in the mysterious packages he has for the children? The “Daddy” stories were originally published as part of the ‘bedtime stories’ of the Newark News. – Summary by Lynne Thompson


From Librivox: Miss Ashton’s New Pupil by Sarah Stuart ROBBINS (1817 – 1910) – Marion Park, the daughter of missionaries, is sent to Miss Ashton’s boarding school. There she meets with many young girls and together they learn not just lessons in German, Logic, Arithmetic, Latin and Rhetoric, but also life lessons of study habits, lady like manners, self control, thoughtfulness of others, truthfulness, and many other character traits. Join these girls of Montrose Academy as they plunge into the adventures of a secret society, fall into a scrape with the boys of Atherton Academy, and plan many Holiday festivities. (Summary by Abigail Rasmussen)

Story of The World, Vol. 1 – I added the audio version of this book when I realized my voice was having trouble keeping up with all the read aloud and talking I was doing.  Thanks to Ebay, I was able to get a used copy at a reasonable price.

I like have the audio version/ the kids do not care either way.


Jun 102015

Part 1 is here.

I love to read, would regularly read over 400 pages weekly when I had more free time.  In high school it got to a point where I had read most of the books offered in the fiction section at our high school’s library.  On road trips with my family, all of us children would get out our books and read most of the way.  No camping trip was complete without several books each to read at night.  My parents always encouraged us to read and would let us spend Saturday mornings at the library looking at books.

My assumption had always been that my children would also grow up loving to read.  When presented with children who loved to sit with you to look at books, but who really could not sit there long nor treat the books nicely, was hard.  It was the first time I even considered the idea that you actually had to teach children to love reading.  They did not all just pick it up naturally.

When we found out that two little boys were going to be joining our home, I had stopped by a thrift store in Big Town for … well, I do not remember what.  What I do remember is seeing the book section and thinking that might be a good place to pick up a few children’s books in case they liked bedtime stories.  The assortment that came from the first trip left a lot to be desired, but turned out to be flexible and we still use them some today.

With the kids having a great dislike of television for the first several month, reading was one of the things we could do at night to help them slow down (they were active!!) and get ready for sleep.  I am not sure if it was the pictures, the story or the cuddles, but it worked.

George would also get to pick out 3 books to take with him for quiet time in the afternoon.  The rule was that as long as he stayed quiet and in bed he got to keep the 3 books.  If he was loud (yelling or singing loudly) or got out of bed, he lost a book.

Kid in Library

One of our weekend activities was going to a library in Big Town.  This was not to browse the shelves for books with interesting pictures or stories of interest to the kids.  It was to play with the toys there while we traded off getting some quiet time in a chair in the corner.  The toys would last about 30 minutes, then we would go on a exploration of the library, sometimes on a hunt to find my husband.  This was the beginning of a love of libraries and a ‘normal’ for our family.  We now know several various libraries in our area, nick-named by their toy options, and often visit other libraries while on vacation.  The kids associate them as fun places to be, which is a great bonus.

Once the children began to follow along, paying attention and remembering details enough to follow a simple book, I would check them out from the library or pick them up at garage sales.  It did not take me long to realize that they were not all created equal.  How had I read so many books of the years, hundreds, and not paid attention to this?  It was at this point that I began to look more into something I had read about, but never fully understood – ‘Living Books‘.  I also began to discern what was a book of twaddle and what was a better quality book.  While cotton candy is good every so often, it will not sustain you or help you grow.

Looking at library shelves filled with thousands of books, I knew I would never have to time to browse them all to see which books may be good to read.  Following a hunch that there may be books lists out there from others who have had the same question, I did a search and found several results.  Changing the search query a bit here and there has resulted in even more books lists.  I have not always liked every book selected on every list out there, but it is a start.

Here are several lists I either have gone through, am going through, or am looking to use:

Ambleside Online – these books lists are based on a 36-week school year and are broken down by years.  There is also a section where the books are broken down into Subject Resources.  This was the first book list I used.  There are few books listed, so far, that we have not liked.

Classical Christian Education Support Loop, 1000 Good Books List – this is the book list I am currently using.  The grades are grouped together, then the books are sorted by topics (ex: Anthologies & Poetry, Holiday Books, Picture Books, Easy Readers, Advanced Readers, etc.) So far I have come across a few books that either Jack and/or I did not care to read.  If they were part of a series, we skipped the rest of the series.  If they  happened to be individual books, we read them once then not again.  The books we have enjoyed, though, far outweigh the ones that did not peak our attention.

A Complete Classical Christian School Reading List: Grades 1-8 – This is a list I plan on going through for next year, but have not started browsing yet.  I like how each grade’s books are broken down into books to be read by the teacher and those to be read by the student.  Additionally, the ones to be read by the students are broken down into levels.

The Classical Curriculum – As this follows the Classical Model of teaching, rather than the Charlotte Mason Method, it has lists for Nursery and Preschool aged kids as well. I have not yet looked through this list to find books to read.

Here are some lists from non-homeschooling resources:

New York Public Library’s 100 Great Children’s Books

Association for Library Services to Children

I could keep going with book lists, but those are a great place to start.

reading book dress-up costume

After doing this for several years we now have children who love books and love getting new books.  We still have occasional issues with treating them appropriately (no scooting them across the floor, throwing up in the air or across the car, and no bending them) but in they are learning.

Getting a new book is something they love.  I have taken a step back and let them choose their own books when they earn them.  It was a hard thing to do the first time … well, it is still hard to do.  I know they will be lured in by illustrations on the covers.  It is hard not to choose for them what they ‘should’ be reading, they will get there.  For now, I do not want to discourage the love of books by requiring them to only read or look at the ‘right’ books.  A bit of candy every now and then is fine, as long as you don’t eat the whole bag at once.  🙂

May 102015

I love lists.  You can write them quickly or neatly, with bullet points or numbered.  You can even use them to make it feel like you are not walking in circles, but actually getting something accomplished.  (Ever make a to-do list and mark thins off as you go?)  It helps to organize your life and keep you sane when your brain is full of so many other things.  Maybe it my desire for order showing through the chaos lately, but I find making lists calming.

Jacqueline Suskin uses lists in different way and shares the reasons how and why in her book Go Ahead & Like It.

“Making these lists is a celebrations, a way to name and note the simplicities of life and call them sacred.”

Reading the above quote in the introduction, I was not quite sure what the author meant.  By the end of the book I understood her point, making a list slows us down and forces us to look around instead at all the things around us that are going right.  Oh how easy it is to complain, “I woke up to a mess because the kids got into my craft supplies this morning, we missed Sunday School because of corrections and no clothes being ironed, and I missed half of church when a kid could not control themselves.”

To slow down means looking outside of ourselves and appreciating life around us, “I like having cashew milk chocolate shakes, I like listening to new audio dramas in the car, I like visiting our ‘regular’ restaurant after church and catching up with the workers there, I like getting a surprise free ice cream at a new ice cream shop we finally got to try, I like naps on Sunday afternoons with my husband, and I like reading new books.”  What a different view each of those statements gives for the day.  Thought it is easy to dwell on the feelings in the first, I like the feeling the second one brings so much better.

Opening Go Ahead & Like It, you will immediately notice that it is not written in the format of a normal book.  For starters, most pages are either full page pictures or artistically styled lists.  If you look closely, not every list is actually a list, but the text.  Even the introduction was written to look like handwriting on a page.  George thought someone had started writing in the book before I had a chance to read it.  🙂  If you rush through the book, thinking the lack of page fulls of text means there is not a lot to glean from it, you will miss the experience of thinking through what is written and the added benefit of ‘a picture being worth a thousand words’.

Go Ahead & Like It is a great reminder to look around and enjoy the things around us that we like, to take not of them in less than ideal situation and to mark times in our lives by remembering.  Here is a list I would have made as a kid at playing my grandparents’ place:

  • i like climbing beechnut trees on fall days
  • i like prying open the nuts and eating the meat inside
  • i like pretending I could survive in the ‘wild’ if needed
  • i like climbing the sycamore tree on the hill
  • i like being higher than the roof of the house
  • i like that we can get up that high before Grandma sees us and makes us come down
  • i like the wide open field
  • i like having enough cousins and family to play a game of kickball
  • i like taking ‘rides’ on Grandpa’s large jack in the garage (it was big enough for a kid to stand on and another to crank them up several feet into the air)
  • i like pretending the propane tank was a horse
  • i like pretending the propane tank was a dessert island with sharks around us
  • i like Grandma’s garden behind the garage
  • i like Sunday lunches with the entire extended family
  • i like the smell of soda in the plastic cups used each week (my parents now have those cups and the smell of soda in them brings back a flood of memories)
  • i like giving my Grandpa a hard time about smoking, knowing he would do it anyway
  • i like it when Grandpa would have maple candies at Christmas
  • i like it when we were allowed to have one of those special candies

While none of these things are Earth shattering or worthy of a headline on the nightly news, they are the simple things that make my memories of childhood bring a smile to my face.  That is enough to make them worthy of recording in my opinion.


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

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