Children's Reading List: American Girl Samantha and Lapbook


My daughter has finished reading about American Girl Samantha, who lived in 1904.

Way back when I was a girl, Samantha was my favorite American Girl. At that time, there were only 3 (as opposed to the 9 or 10 they have now, and are always adding more). I thought Samantha was very pretty and rich and I thought the Victorian era was so beautiful and idyllic. I remember reading a few of the Samantha books back then. Fast forward 20-some years and now my daughter is enjoying those same books, which is wonderful (and also makes me feel old).

As we've done with all of the American Girls we've studied so far, we made a lapbook to highlight Samantha's story and life. All of our lapbooking templates can be found for free here.

Here's my daughter showing the cover of her Samantha lapbook - a drawing she made of Samantha in her fancy house.
Here's page one, with flaps for: Who is Samantha, Samantha's World, Living in 1904, a house from her era, and Fashion.

Here's page two, with mini-books showing: favorite things, favorite pastimes, what changes in Samantha's life, conflict, and a map showing where Samantha lived (New York).

Only 4 more American Girls to study (Rebecca, Kit, Molly, and Julie). My daughter is earning a trip to Chicago to the American Girl store by reading through these books chronologically. Looks like she'll have earned that trip in a month or so, if she continues at this pace!

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday! Another month is coming to an end. So hard to believe!
Here are a few photos from our week.

My daughter is a Girl Scout, so it's cookie selling time. We've had to buy a few boxes, so she could sample the cookies, of course. [Sorry for the poor quality of the photo] Here the kids were giving thumbs-up to the Carmel deLites, which are our favorite of the 3 kinds we've tried so far. This makes me wonder if a high percentage of Girl Scout families themselves make up most of the cookie sales. My daughter did some sponge painting this week with a kit she received for Christmas. I've been trying to include some craft time in our homeschool schedule so she can do fun projects like this.

My son played with an alphabet puzzle. I let him do it his way, which turned the puzzle into a road complete with a bulldozer to drive on it. He's all boy... but he's learning his letters so I'm not complaining!

Happy Friday to you!

Book Review: Erasing Hell


I've always loved author and speaker Francis Chan. I've been through numerous studies based on his books and have enjoyed many online messages he's given. The short video clip here is one of my favorites.

His tell-it-like-it-is style draws me in. He isn't tied to a particular denomination or theology as much as he is tied to the Bible. He is trying to read the Bible at face value and apply it to life in America today. He can read the pulse of the American church in a way that few others can.

Recently I read his newest book: Erasing Hell. This book is a response to a lot of discussion lately about whether there really is a hell. As usual, Francis Chan didn't disappoint. He provided solid biblical answers to common objections, but did so in a humble way.

Francis Chan has a very high view of God, meaning that he knows that God's ways are not man's ways. God is God, the Creator, the Infinite One. We're just the creatures He made. We can't understand Him fully. We have simple, finite minds. Therefore, it makes complete sense that there may be some things that God does that we don't get. But that doesn't make Him any less God or make the facts any less true. We may not like the concept of hell and may wish that there wasn't a hell, but that's not what the Bible says. So we have to come to grips with our humanity and God's deity.

The book is also a challenge to those of us who are Christians. If we believe in hell, then we should be openly sharing the Good News of salvation in order to keep people from going there.

This book is based on the Bible but isn't too heady or deep for the common person to read and understand. If you are a fan of Francis Chan or want to learn more about what the Bible does and doesn't say about hell, check out Erasing Hell.

My Daughter's Pottery Wheel


My daughter received a pottery wheel for Christmas. We've only used it once so far, but boy did she love it! [For Mom, on the other hand, it took 30+ minutes to clean it up afterwards, so it's far from a favorite in Mom's eyes. But for nearly 2 hours of crafting fun, maybe the clean up time is worth it]

The pottery wheel came with tools to help shape the clay or etch it with fancy designs. However, my daughter really liked free-style where she didn't use the tools but just used her hands to shape it. She made a cup, a plate, a pot, and just kept remolding the same clay over and over many times.

I think it was this Mr. Rogers episode that inspired her free-style pottery technique.

I predict there will be more pottery being created at our house in the future!

Book Review: Unplanned

1/23/2012 Last week I checked out this book from the library: Unplanned by Abby Johnson.

At the time I wasn't even thinking about January 22 being Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. It was just a book I'd heard about and wanted to read. I'm glad I did.

I've been pro-life my entire life. I chose the topic of abortion for my 7th grade persuasive speech. I remember debating the topic with my oldest brother at our dining room table in my teen years. I've never understood why anyone would choose abortion over parenting or adoption.

In many ways my views haven't changed. I'm a mom. Believe me, I know it's hard to be a parent and there are moments I wonder why being a full-time, at-home parent is the path I've chosen when so many other "careers" seem like they'd be easier. But I've also always had a heart children. I simply cannot fathom wanting to kill my baby.

I enjoyed this book because it was a true story. It's Abby Johnson's first-hand account of working at Planned Parenthood for 8 years and then how God changed her heart. The book is easy to read and easy to follow.

What I liked most, though, was how Abby presented "the other side." Because she had been pro-choice, she was able to explain the mindset that she had when she first became a volunteer and then later an employee at Planned Parenthood. I don't think I've ever considered the thought-process and emotions of those on the other side of this issue. I've just stereotyped all pro-choicers together as un-caring baby-killers who have no conscience. This book helped me to better understand that many pro-choicers truly believe they are doing what is best for women. They truly want to help women and see the termination of a pregnancy as the best way to help that woman who is in crisis.

Of course, there is the rub. I agree with author Abby Johnson who contends that what is ultimately best for women who are faced with an unplanned pregnancy is not to just get "rid of the problem" with a temporary fix (abortion). This doesn't do anything to help the women out of the lifestyle they find themselves in (whether that is prostitution, casual sex, etc). While abortion may be a quick fix, it is not a lasting solution to problems. Also, as a Christian, there is a huge component missing from the "help" Planned Parenthood can give - the care for the entire woman, including her emotions and her spirit.

While the abortion debate rages on, I found this book to be insightful. I appreciated the perspective. While my conviction of the value of human life (from conception to natural death) didn't change, I found myself moved with compassion for those who respectfully disagree. I am challenged to pray. I am once again challenged to love people - to look less at the differences that divide us and more at what we have in common.

So no matter where you land on the abortion debate, this book can give you an insightful and thought-provoking look into the mindset of those on the other side of the fence.

Children's Reading List: American Girl Addy and Lapbook


My daughter recently finished reading the next book series in the American Girl collection: Addy.

Addy and her mama are runaway slaves, living in 1864. They escape, but leave behind Addy's baby sister, older brother and papa. The family is eventually reunited and find freedom. Although these books may pose an unrealistically happy ending to this family's story, they were a great introduction to the Civil War time era, slavery and the Underground Railroad.

We have not yet studied this time period in our homeschool history lessons (my daughter moved on with the American Girl books while we're studying American history at a slower pace in school). After reading this series, I pulled out some other materials to supplement her learning.

We have numerous Adventures in Odyssey tapes, including episodes on Abraham Lincoln and the Underground Railroad, so my girl has been enjoying the history woven into those entertaining radio dramas.

My daughter also created a lapbook for Addy, as she's done for all of the American Girls she's read about so far. All of the lapbooking templates we use can be found for free here.

This is the lapbook cover - a picture my daughter drew of Addy, in front of the sewing shop where her mother found work.

Here's the first set of pages of the lapbook, with mini-books showing Who Is Addy, her Father, her Mother, Living in 1864, What Changes in Addy's Life, and more descriptions of Addy's World.
The lapbook opens up to two more pages, with mini-flaps about Addy's pet, her best friend, her favorite things, conflict in the storyline, and a map showing where Addy lived (in the South and the North).

So my daughter has read about Kaya, Felicity, Josefina, Kirsten, Marie-Grace and Cecile... and now Addy. These girls span 100 years, from 1764 to 1864. What a great way to learn about American history! Next up is Samantha from 1904.

Works for Me Wednesday - Crockpot Applesauce


Who doesn't love homemade applesauce?! I grew up on my Grandma Nellie's delicious applesauce and not until recently did I think to try my hand at making it myself.

I found it to be way easier and healthier than I ever would've thought! And it doesn't have to involve lots of peeling, slicing, coring, etc.

I use a combination of Fuji and Jazz apples. Why? Because they were on sale at the store. And because the applesauce turned out delicious the first time using these apples. My grandma always used Greenings apples. It might take some trial and error or research to find what kind of apples make the applesauce you like best.

I cut about 8 apples into wedges and put them in the crockpot. Don't spend a lot of time on this. Big chunks are fine. I do not peel the apples. I do cut out any big bruises but don't worry about small ones. I remove the core but the rest of the apple goes into the crockpot. I add a very small bit of water.

I sprinkle some cinnamon on top of the apples. Cover. Turn on the crockpot for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Using the crockpot is wonderful because your house will smell SO GOOD as the apples cook.

No need to be super precise on the time. Test your apples. If they are mushy, they're done. If they are still firm, leave them in longer.
Pour the mushy apples into a sieve. Squish away. The sieve will, of course, let the applesauce through the holes into a bowl while it will hold back the peels and any seeds.

Enjoy your applesauce! It's delicious warm and can be eaten immediately. Or you can refrigerate or freeze it for later. We found that we didn't need to add any sugar at all. The sweetness of the apples and the cinnamon were all that was needed for delicious applesauce.

Works for me!

Book Review: The 10 Second Rule


Over Christmas break, I read the book The 10 Second Rule: Just Do The Next Thing You're Reasonably Certain Jesus Wants You To Do.

This book is an easy read. In fact, I read the entire thing in one sitting - during the drive to Wisconsin. I really liked the book. It was very easy to understand and contained lots of stories that kept it real.

The basic principle is just that, basic. If you're a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living within you. He prompts you now and then to do certain things. Maybe it's a warning to avoid going down a sinful path. Maybe it's a specific command to do something, like help someone stranded on the side of the road. The author is simply asking us to act and to do so within the next 10 seconds. That is, don't over-analyze what you think you're hearing God say. Don't talk yourself out of action. The longer you wait, the more your reason will kick in and convince yourself that it's too late to call that person now, or that wasn't really God talking to you, or someone else will help them if you don't, etc. I've heard it called "the paralysis of analysis." We tend to over-analyze everything and not want to act until we're 100% sure of what to do but that keeps us from acting at all!

I was challenged by the book, to take those little promptings and to truly do it. In the past I have trained myself to disobey rather than to obey. I am an old dog needing to learn new tricks, to be re-trained.

Last week I was at Meijer getting some groceries. I had numerous Meijer gift cards I'd received for Christmas, so my plan was to spend those all up. As I checked out, I didn't end up buying enough to totally max out the cards, surprisingly. So I was putting the cards away, when I saw an acquaintance come into the store. She is a mom of 5 children, 2 of whom are infant twins that were just released from the hospital around Christmastime. I immediately felt a prompting to give her my gift cards. I did. I obeyed. She hugged me and with tears repeated over and over, "God bless you! God bless you!"

My daughter was with me that evening. We walked out of the store and she said "That was fun!" I want her to see that obeying those promptings from God can be fun. It can be exhilarating. It can also be scary. It can push us out of our comfort zone. But how wonderful to be used of Him, to be His hands and His feet, to obey when He wants us to share His resources with others.

So, I recommend this book as a quick read that will encourage you to be bold, to just do it... and do it within the next 10 seconds!

Family Photo Friday


Friday is here again. I have a few photos from our week to share.

My daughter is still taking piano lessons (it's been about 6 months since she started). Here she was dutifully practicing her lesson. My husband reading a favorite book to our son. This boy loves books and he loves his daddy!

Ode to the Twinkie. With the recent news that Hostess is declaring bankruptcy, I mentioned Twinkies to my kids. I was met with "What's a Twinkie?" They have never had Twinkies (gasp!) so I made sure to pick some up on my next shopping trip. Here they are having their first-ever Twinkies.
My daughter found Twinkies to be a bit dry and passed hers on to little brother, who gladly finished his own and the rest of hers. What are brothers for?!

Happy Friday, y'all!

Goals for 2012


It's that time of year again, when re-evaluating comes naturally and everyone is talking about self-betterment.

Last year was the first year I set some goals in January and checked in every month to see what progress was being made. It felt really good to aim at something and take steps to get there.

So here I am again, with new goals for a new year.

Health Goal: Maintain a healthier lifestyle by eating healthier (more fruits and veggies, more beans, small portion sizes) and by exercising regularly. Back to the treadmill I will go! I will exercise 4 days a week for 30 minutes. My goal would be to lose at least 10 pounds this year and to continue to lower my cholesterol, getting into a healthy range.

Parenting Goal: To not raise my voice at my children. This is a difficult area for me, but already God is working with me to show more respect to my children. I very much regret the example I've set for my children - of anger, of yelling at others - and I know that it will take consistency on my part to change that example.

Computer Goal: To spend less time on the computer on a daily basis. I am afraid to actually track the time I sit at this computer each day. Minutes add up quickly and I know I'd be surprised at the results. My goal is to check in for 30 minutes in the morning, then for 15 minutes or less around lunch time, 15 minutes or less mid-afternoon and spend 30 minutes or less on the computer in the evening. Blog time is included in there, so this blog may see some cut backs this year too, since I blog as time allows and not out of obligation or guilt. I watch zero TV, so the combined 1 and 1/2 hours of computer time is all of my "screen time" for the day.

So these are three of the areas I'll be focusing on this year. I'm excited! I like to be intentional in making choices. Life doesn't just happen to us. Pounds don't just jump on us - we take them in one bite at a time. And change can happen, one step at a time. I make it happen. You make it happen. Take some intentional steps to your goals today!

These Kids and Their Mongolian Ger


Hi honey. It's me. Yah, everything is fine. I just wanted to tell you about something the kids are up to.

They've been outside playing for a few minutes. I looked out the window and saw this igloo tent-looking thing. Then our daughter runs in to tell me about it. "Mom, we have a house out there. I made it from an umbrella and a blanket from the garage. I made sure the door was not on the side with the wind. We call it a Mongolian ger."

Ok. A what? I had to search Google images to see what she was talking about. Sure enough... a Mongolian ger is exactly what it looks like.

Love it when I learn something new from my 8-year-old!

Family Photo Friday


Happy 1st Friday of the New Year! 2012 is off and running. Are you keeping up so far?! Since I've shared lots of holiday pictures all week, my pictures for today are just for fun.

One day while at my mom's house, the kids played dress up.
See what fun they were having! This one of my son is hilarious! Smile!

It's Friday!

Christmas Celebrations, finale!


Our last Christmas celebration was at my mother's house last weekend. What a great time we had! Delicious food, lots of fun. A few family members took part in the "ugly sweater" contest so that brought about laughs just looking at them. There are always gag gifts mixed in with the "regular" gifts so that is a lot of fun too.
Here's a great family shot on my mom's stairway.

Just the kids.

Just me and my main squeeze. :-)

Here's a picture of my son as he waited to open a gift. He received a large floor puzzle, a matching game and a toy truck. Here's my daughter opening a gift. She received a digital camera and a photobook. She was very excited!

My daughter made this lollipop tree ornament as a craft and wanted to give it to Grandma K, so here she is with Grandma as she opened it.

One benefit of living far away is that we spread the Christmas celebrations out over the course of 2 weekends, making it last much longer. This way, it's not over in just one day. We enjoy it that way.

But now Christmas is over. As I consider our holidays, I am so very thankful for family - both immediate and extended family. I am also thankful for the birth of Jesus Christ, my Savior. I cannot imagine how my life would have turned out without Him.

So I'll say it one last time, Merry Christmas!

Christmas Celebrations, continued


We've returned home after spending a few days in Wisconsin, enjoying Christmas celebrations with my side of the family. One evening we were at my dad's house, along with aunts, uncles and cousins that we rarely get to see.

My son, in typical childlike fashion, was excited to see Grandpa but also the toys that he knows Grandpa has. He was anxious to ride this horse, as well as play with a big fire truck and cement mixer truck that Grandpa owns.Here my daughter and her cousin Christa were using paddles to clap out a little chant they performed for us all - the Girl Scout promise. Both of them are Girl Scouts so they both knew "the promise" and recited it for all to hear. "On my honor, I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout law."
Here is my son playing with cousin Danielle, who was playing with these magnetic balls she'd received as a gift. She used them to create rings and bracelets for my son. He loved it!

I was glad we were able to catch up with a few "long lost relatives" that we haven't seen for years. I was also pleasantly surprised by my grandma and one aunt who shared their condolences over the loss of our baby and recounted a bit of their own experiences with miscarriages. I appreciated their kindness and was encouraged.

I'm reminded today that the real meaning of Christmas is "Emmanuel." It is God with us. It is God coming to earth to share in our troubles and trials. In the same way that it is encouraging to hear from others who have walked the same path we're on, it is encouraging to know that Christ has walked this earth and experienced the ups and downs that we all encounter. That is Good News!

Merry Christmas! Emmanuel has come!