Deuteronomy 6:6-7

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. ~ Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

North Of Hope by Shannon Huffman Polson - a book review

About the book:

After her parents are killed in a rare grizzly attack, the author is forced into a wilderness of grief. Turning to loves she learned from her father, Polson explores the perilous terrain of grief through music, the natural world, and her faith. Her travels take her from the suburbs of Seattle to the concert hall where she sings Mozart's Requiem, and ultimately into the wilderness of Alaska's remote Arctic and of her heart.

This deeply moving narrative is shot through with the human search for meaning in the face of tragedy. Polson's deep appreciation for the untamed and remote wilderness of the Alaskan Arctic moves her story effortlessly between adventure, natural history, and sacred pilgrimage, as much an internal journey as a literal one. Readers who appreciate music or adventure narratives and the natural world or who are looking for new ways to understand loss will find guidance, solace, and a companionable voice in this extraordinary debut.

Wow. I'm not sure where to begin in this review. This book has all the makings of a fiction book, a movie even. At the start, it was difficult for me to believe that this was indeed a true story. Author Shannon Huffman Polson dives right in from the first page, providing incredible background and detail while carrying on three different - but all related, if that makes sense- aspects of her story. At first, I wasn't sure I was up to the task of following her style, but her telling of these horrific events proved gripping for me, and I found the pages quickly turning.

Polson is an extraordinary woman in my opinion, and honestly, I cannot relate to her endurance, adventuresome spirit or events. What I can and did relate to, is the human condition that she so eloquently laid out in this book. I understood the need to feel connected, to understand, the search for meaning and/or purpose in difficult, or in her case, tragic circumstances.

After finishing this compelling read, I am inspired. Inspired to what? Honestly, I can't say for sure. Perhaps it's understanding and feeling a similar sort of vulnerability as a human being. Feeling solidarity as we face our individual trials. Fighting through the pain and hopefully coming out stronger. I still can't put my finger on the exact feeling.

The book ends with a mix of closure and open ended-ness. ( Not sure that's even a word) I felt triumphant for the author, but left with a few questions. That uncertainty usually bothers me, but I don't feel that way with North Of Hope. It felt appropriate just that way.
Not a light read, but beautifully written, and worth the investment.

I love the trailer for this book. Watch it here:


You can purchase the book here - North Of Hope

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Freefall To Fly by Rebekah Lyons - book review

The Book

Women today are fading. In a female culture built on Photoshopped perfection and Pinterest fantasies, we've lost the ability to dream our own big dreams. So busy trying to do it all and have it all, we've missed the life we were really designed for. And we are paying the price. The rise of loneliness, depression, and anxiety among the female population in Western cultures is at an all-time high. Overall, women are two and a half times more likely to take antidepressants than men. What is it about our culture, the expectations, and our way of life that is breaking women down in unprecedented ways?

In this vulnerable memoir of transformation, Rebekah Lyons shares her journey from Atlanta, Georgia, to the heart of Manhattan, where she found herself blindsided by crippling depression and anxiety. Overwhelmed by the pressure to be domestically efficient, professionally astute, and physically attractive, Rebekah finally realized that freedom can come only by facing our greatest fears and fully surrendering to God's call on our lives. This book is an invitation for all women to take that first step toward freedom. For it is only when we free-fall that we can truly fly.

When I opened the package containing this book, I was pleasantly surprised with a pretty, hard covered gem. Not that I don't appreciate a paperback, but there's just something about a smooth and sturdy hardcover book that puts me in the mood for a hot cup of tea and some extended reading time.
But it wasn't looks that caught my attention with Freefall To Fly. The subject matter spoke to me, and I knew that this was something I needed to read.

Anxiety. Depression. Heavy topics. And honestly, some of the books that I've looked through on this subject are hard to get through, They can be stuffy, dry, clinical. There are plenty of "how to's", spiritual instruction and sometimes even medication.
Now, some of this can be very beneficial, and necessary at times. So, I'm not trying to discredit or preach against them. But personally, I know how  crippling it can be to go through the darkness.

I hadn't read more than a chapter or two, when I  thought, this author gets me. Rebekah Lyons spoke to my heart through this book. I found the her style to be just what I have been looking for in a book on this subject. Page after page found me saying, Yes! That's it! That's what I'm talking about! I guess I saw myself in her story.

I think maybe that's due to the fact that she writes it as an autobiography. Lyons shares and encourages the reader to seek hard after God, but she doesn't give a 5 step program that guarantees a cure. She acknowledges that we aren't rescued the same way, or at the same time.

I have a fresh perspective of my life and circumstances after reading this book, and I look forward to paging through it more. We see the pain, and sometimes we need to step back and look at what God may be doing through it all. And sometimes, we won't be able to see what that is, and we need to cling to Him anyway, and all the more.
Freefall To Fly is a book that I will be recommending to my girlfriends for sure.

Want to check it out? Find it here - Freefall To Fly

"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blogging Through The Alphabet - E is for Entertainment

E is for Entertainment. Toddler entertainment. If you have one of these charming, and often persnickety human beings, you'll agree that keeping them happy and out of mischief is often a lot of work. The toy manufacturers know this, and I have to say, folks, we have been duped. Those devious ad marketing whizzes have tricked us into believing that what our toddlers want can be found down that colorful, musical, chaotic toy aisle. I am here to tell you that it's all a ruse.

How do I know this? Well, the many piles and baskets of stuffed animals, electronic knick knacks, and other assorted playthings that sit largely untouched tell me so.
The toddler fusses, looks around for something of interest, and I say, "Get one of your toys". She looks at me as if my hair were on fire. What a preposterous thought.

It's so much more fun to pull all of the books off of the bookshelf, or mess with the remote control. She would rather see what fits into the outlets or DVD player.

And then one day, the secret is revealed. The child shows me the one thing that will hold that fleeting attention span for up to twenty minutes. And the amazing thing is, it will cost you nothing. It is something that you have many of, just waiting in the drawers of everyone's bedroom.
Are you ready?

You heard me correctly. The toddler wants socks. The one thing that will provide almost endless entertainment is socks.
She will sit for minutes on end, fiddling just so, in an attempt to successfully pull them on those chubby little feet.
She will walk around looking as if there are colorful casts on both legs, because naturally, they must be pulled halfway up her thighs.

You will put her to bed and pull the socks off, only to discover one or two more pairs on underneath.
Then she will soothe herself to sleep as she pulls her socks on and off in the crib.

I wish I had known this before spending an arm and a leg on those other useless trinkets. Regardless, it's nice to know that there is always a toddler fuss buster ready to go. Now that's entertainment.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Math Rider - a review

I love being a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew. My family has been introduced to a wide variety of great homeschool products because of it. Naturally, math is a big part of school, and this month, we've been reviewing a resource that is hands down, one of my (and my girls') favorite math product to date.
Math Rider is a downloadable program that supplements any math curriculum that you might be using with your children.

Created by Thomas Brand for his own struggling child, this math game will help your student learn their arithmetic operations - addition, subtraction, multiplication and division - in an imaginative and fun manner.

Your child will create his/her own rider, and then, as they travel astride their trusty horse named Shadow, they will make their way through the lovely Land of Ray. Shadow is able to jump over hurdles with every correct math answer, and ultimately get to the end of various quests.
Each section begins with a little backstory that sets up the reason for your rider's quest, and the successful completion results in different rewards. As you make your way through the land, there is pleasant music and pretty scenery in the background.

One really cool aspect of this program is how it adjusts up or down to your child's ability. It keeps track of how fast or slow  the problems are answered, and then paces accordingly. It does the same thing as it relates to the accuracy of the answers. Math Rider will bring back the Math facts that need a little more practice.

Our family actually reviewed this product about a year ago. We loved it then, and we love it just as much, if not more, now! My daughter was struggling in retaining her math facts, and flashcards weren't cutting it. I credit this program with helping her turn a corner and start enjoying the subject more.

We use this 4 or 5 times a week, along with our regular math curriculum for extra practice. I have yet to have to convince any of the girls to take their turn with this. It's simply fun practice for them. I'm glad that we were introduced to it so early on in their math education, because we can now use it as they move into multiplication and division.

I have also found it to be worth the price at $47.00, as it includes free updates for life. It's been a terrific fit for us, and every time I hear someone talk about their struggling math students, I tell them about this program.
It works on both Windows and Mac.
You can even try it out for a week and see how it works for your family. C'mon, that's a pretty good deal, don't you think?

Math Rider

Ages: Grades 2-6

Price: $47.00 Instant Download Includes Free Updates For Life!

Click to  read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Thursday, April 18, 2013

D is for Deluge- Blogging throught the Alphabet

I was originally going to call this post D is for Drops of water, but the drops quickly became a deluge over the past couple of days. I guess it could be worse- it could be snow- but I'll admit that I'm not fond of lightning and floods. Still, it is spring, and thunderstorms come with the territory. So, here are a few pics of the aftermath of the rain.

This is a local park. Usually, the deck is not underwater. . .

Normally the walking path is visible, and you don't have to swim to get to the bench ;)

The creek is overflowing. . .

A few plants and a pretty little flower made it through alright.

The rain brought the worms out. They're all over the driveway, much to my daughter's delight.

Monday, April 15, 2013

This Is Our Time - DVD Review

About This Is Our Time

The movie tells the interwoven stories of Luke (T.J. Dalrymple) and AlĂ© (Erin Bethea), who marry right after school and move to India to serve as missionaries for Embrace A Village, a ministry that cares for those afflicted with leprosy and their families; aspiring financier Catherine (Kate Cobb), who joins a prestigious financial institution determined to make an impact on corporate America; Ryder (Matthew Florida), who lands an impressive job in social media and can’t wait to use the powerful medium for a greater good; and Ethan (Shawn-Caulin Young,) seemingly the odd man out, who struggles to find his God-given-purpose and feels sidelined by God.

“What they all come to learn is that it never really was their time,” Arnold said. “It always was, always is, God’s time.”

The title of this movie caught my interest when I became aware of this review opportunity. Through recent years, I have often found myself frequently pondering the will of God in our lives. Do each of us have a specific purpose? A specific reason for being? Does it matter what we do with our lives?  My husband can attest to this fact, as he is the one whom I go to with so many of my theological questions :)

Honestly, from the very beginning of the movie, I was completely drawn in. 5 different people with 5 different paths take their first steps into life after graduation. They all have a faith in God in common, although it is Luke and Ale, newlyweds, who seem the most secure in this aspect. As they travel to India to work with Embrace A Village, a ministry for people and their families with leprosy, their friends wonder if Luke and Ale have their faith all figured out, or if they have yet to the real world.

It's Ethan, the brother of Ale, who really feels left out of the loop as he watches the rest of the group seemingly make their way in the world, and fulfill each of their purposes. Even his father appears to be disappointed with the direction of his life.

Then tragedy strikes, and each one is left wondering how any meaning may be found in such bleak circumstances. As individuals, they will have to see if their faith holds up in the heat.

I might phrase it in a variety of ways, but to put it simply, this movie touched me. It spoke to issues in my life. I felt a personal call, an admonition, to view my life in how or who I want to be in Christ, instead of only what I want to do for Him. It stirred in me a desire to let Him work through my circumstances.
Yes, you will need a box of Kleenex handy. But I think you'll also leave with a sense of purpose as well. A really great DVD to watch, and well worth your time. Check it out.

Take a look at the trailer:



"Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

C is for Cute Craft!

Aah, welcome sweet spring! How about a cute little spring-y handprint craft for your precious little one to brighten up the refrigerator?

We made this adorable handprint tulip, and all you need is paint, cardstock, glue, and green construction paper or a green marker.
It doesn't really need too much explaining. Paint your sweetie's hand, press on the cardstock to make a print. Cut a stem and leaves from the construction paper and glue under the handprint. Or, draw the stem and leaves. Cute!

B is for Books

Time for our monthly read aloud book list. We have a couple that are for school related reading, and then a sample of what we're reading for fun. . .

First the school read alouds:

Little Pear is about a young boy from China, and all of the trouble that seems to find him. An easy read, and the kind of book the girls always enjoy.

Our second read aloud is a little longer. The Wheel On The School takes us to a Dutch fishing village. The resident children set out to find why the storks no longer come to visit. We haven't started this one yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

Now for some of the just for fun reading. The ladies have always been fans of Fancy Nancy, and now there is a new series for the chapter book crowd! Yay! They received the first two in their Easter baskets. The youngest had hers finished in about an hour, and she's reread it a bunch of times already :)

My oldest discovered this series at our local Christian bookstore, and she's hooked. There are several in the series, and she is currently on the second. They are several stories within one book, and set in different time periods. Great history lessons doing what my girl loves. . . read!

Until next time, Happy Reading!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Journey Through Learning - a review

I have the wonderful privilege of reviewing a variety of great products for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. This time around, I was especially looking forward to a vendor whose name I recognized, but had yet to try out with the girls.
A Journey Through Learning has some interesting looking lapbooks, and they were gracious enough to send me downloads to 4 of their lapbooks:

 Letters, Numbers, and Shapes
The Earth
 Knights and Castles
Astronomy and Space

We have been immensely enjoying working on Knights and Castles. We've been learning about how to become a knight, how they dressed, the meaning of a coat of arms, what serfs and heralding are, and all sorts of fun middle ages knightly kinds of things :) Not only does this include study guides, but there are so many great lesson stretchers. You'll find lists of books that relate to the theme, sheets that highlight a favorite lesson of the day, and other appropriate pages. You can make this as simple or drawn out as desired. Taylor it to fit in with the younger grades it includes, or add more complex activities for the slightly older ones.

If you're not familiar with the concept of lapbooking, it might look like a really fun way to introduce various topics to your children. Guess what, it is! Using common items that you may already have stocked in the house, you'll put together a colorful book based on a specific theme.
And we could not wait to dive into this one. The first thing I did was to gather the necessary items. Happily, I did not need to purchase one thing.
Most of the pages required the simplest of materials.
*3 File Folders
*Brass Fasteners
I'll admit that I initially felt a little intimidated at the start, when you put the base of the book together. My girls wanted a little bit of help with this first part. Now I would consider myself a crafty kind of gal, and I love to play with art and get all creative, but I was sure happy to see that within the first few pages of the instructions are actual pictures of how to put the file folders together to make the lapbook base. And really, that was the trickiest part, and if I tell the truth, the one place that I need to work on. Why? Well let's just say that my work is a little lopsided on this one, and doesn't really lay the way I would like it too, but I'm sure my technique will improve with practice.
Written from a Christian perspective, this (and all of the other lapbooks) could not be easier to work with and put together. Everything is laid out in the exact order to be completed. The main theme is broken down into smaller sections and begin with a page, maybe two, to read. I made two copies of the reading pages and I would read and have the girls follow along with their copy, and then they would take a turn reading.
After this, there are a few pages following that involve cutting out pictures and then writing out definitions, explaining details, drawing pictures, etc. . . about the material. Then, the page illustrates where to glue the finished section in the lapbook. That really helped us as we were, and are, just getting familiar with the whole process of lapbooking.
I think that once we do this another time or two, we'll feel comfortable to branch out a little more and not feel tied to the given model, although the girls are really enjoying it this way. There is just enough structure balanced with creativity that it has held their attention. A page or two a day has been just right to putting this together in about a month.
To put it simply, my daughters are liking this process a lot! I continually hear "how fun this is!" I guess there's just something satisfying about creating a personal work of art :) You'll probably find (as I have) that the reading leans towards the higher spectrum of the suggested grades. My girls, at the 2nd and 3rd grade level, had no trouble with this. When we come to a word that needs defining, we do just that, and actually, it's brought about some interesting discussions about the middle ages and such. Always finding those teachable moments, aren't we?
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that we received four downloads of lapbooks, and we cannot wait to complete them all. The next one we'll be tackling is going to be The Earth. There are already a lot of activities in that one that my girls - and I truthfully - will have so much fun with. There are songs, some great looking crafts like an earth diorama and salt map, and loads of resources for science experiments, and really good reading in general. I think we'll also be adding a field trip or two to some of the local museums. Yay! Why don't you take a peek at these and so many more titles. I bet you'll find something that catches your eye!
Ages: Grades 2- 7
Price: Instant download - $13.00
CD - $14.00
Printed - $21.00
The Review Crew tried out several different titles in this lapbook series. To check them out, Click here to read more reviews