April 22, 2014

From My Bookshelves

Reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate made me think of some of my favorite books that also have a slower, more relationship dense feel to them.  Thinking about some of my favorite books made me think about some of my other favorite books, and then I thought it was time for a "From My Bookshelves" post.  I love sharing my favorite books!!  All of these books are GOLD STAR BOOKS.  I love them all.

A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt.  I am a huge Voigt fan and this is my very favorite non-fantasy book by her.  It is very pensive; sad and yet triumphant--my favorite type of overcoming adversity story.  By that I mean the action is downplayed.  There are no dramatic charges into battle or sudden amputations or a descent into cannibalism as a whole group of sailors starve.  The whole story pretty much takes place in the protagonist's brain.  I love that about the book.  If you're not familiar with Voigt, or have only read her non-fantasy then you are missing out.  On Fortune's Wheel is, of course, her best book so if you haven't read that one than repent immediately and do so.
A House of Many Rooms by Rodello Hunter is a relatively unknown and under-appreciated book.  It is the story of a family and how it grows and shrinks and changes over time.  There is a classic part where two of the children (girls) break one of their brother's arms (it was mostly an accident).  They threaten to break his other arm if he tells on them.  Classic sibling stuff.  Love it.
One Time, I Saw Morning Come Home by Clair Huffaker is one of my favorite romances ever.  By romance I don't mean bodice-ripper.  I mean that the story starts when the two main characters meet, follows them through their courtship and on through their entire marriage.  What is even better is the story is based on real people--the author's parents.  Since the couple married right before the Great Depression you can expect some sadness, but since they loved each other deeply you can expect a lot of a happiness as well.  It is just a beautiful and beautifully told story.
Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.  The best love story of all time.  Enough said.  I think I've posted about this book on here a few times already because it is that good.  It is also based on a true story.
Big Doc's Girl by Mary Medearis is the "slowest" of the "slow" books in this post.  I adore this book.  The story is set in Arkansas during the depression.  The main character, Mary, wants to become a pianist but her life takes a series of unexpected turns until she winds up where she never expected to be, but realizes it is where she is supposed to be.  Was that vague enough while still sounding enticing?  Just take my word for it.  I love it so much.

I know some of these books are out of print, but that is why Abebooks.com exists.  You can find them for a reasonable price even if you can't get them at the local library.  (Although if you'd rather just pay a dollar or two, you could get them through interlibrary loan.)

Read them immediately.  Then return and tell me what you thought.

In other news, our house still hasn't sold.  We decided to move anyway and just trust that something good will happen with our current home soon.  We are listing it tonight as a rental and we dropped the sale price today.  We sign papers for the new house on April 30 and will move the following week.  On the one hand, my hubby and I are stressed to the max because of the risk we are taking by buying a house before selling our current home.  On the other hand, I am super excited to move!!  By getting into the new house, we alleviate all the pressure on me to keep the house ready for showings.  Plus, the kids and I can get back into a routine and enjoy living on the mountain all summer.

If you want to buy or rent a house in Clearfield, Utah--by all means let me know!!

April 15, 2014

Some Library Finds

I recently went to the library with my children and, while there, did something I almost never do anymore: I grabbed a bunch of books off the shelf without knowing anything about them, merely because I liked the covers and thought they looked interesting.  I still have a good, if rusty, nose for books and I found some winners.  I provide the links to amazon in case you want to read more about the books, not because I receive a kickback.


Breathing Room by Marsha Hayles is a historical fiction novel about a girl with TB who goes to a sanatorium to be treated.  The story is poignant and well told.  I especially liked this book because the topic isn't addressed much, especially for the upper elementary crowd.  Miriam (age 10) also really enjoyed it.  We'll be adding this one to our personal shelves.




Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge I'm including because Miriam loved it so much.  The premise is awesome--a 13 year girl who writes thrilling mystery stories under a different name who is called upon to solve a terribly strange mystery in an insane asylum.  It is supposed to read like something published in a penny dreadful of yesteryears and I liked the first half and then got tired of it.  Please keep in mind, however, that I almost never like mysteries that much (Victoria Holt's The Night of the Seventh Moon excepted).  Miriam, on the other hand, loved it.  Mystery is her favorite genre.  If you have an upper elementary aged child who loves mysteries or paranormal thrillers--this might be for you.





Moonkind by Sarah Prineas I didn't read.  Miriam did and loved it (I didn't realize it was the third in a series so I'll be checking out the other ones) and it is highly rated by amazon reviewers, so I thought I'd give a heads up that this author/series might be worth reading.


The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is a GOLD STAR BOOK and the best find at the library that day.  The story is about a young girl at the turn of the century who wants to be a naturalist/scientist. At least, that is the basic premise.  Really this book is about the evolving relationship between Calpurnia and her grandfather, and also how her family is evolving as her oldest and favorite brother starts dating seriously.  Her family is changing and Calpurnia has to learn to adapt.

Amazon reviewers revile the book for two main reasons: one, the reviewer doesn't believe in evolution and doesn't think children should read about Darwin or grandfathers who give their granddaughters whiskey; or, he or she thought the book was too slow with no real plot.

I just plain disagree with the first complaint.  The validity of the second complaint is debatable.  This is not a plot-driven book, it is a character/relationship/coming-of-age focused book and it does read a little slow.  In fact, Miriam didn't even finish it she was so bored. (I don't think she read far enough in to get hooked.)

I am freely admitting that this book is not for everyone.  I, however, loved it.  I disagree with all the reviewers that claimed the book was too feminist or not enough feminist.  I don't think it was feminist at all.  I think it was an accurate representation of the time period, and her mother and the cook were both relatable, charming, well fleshed out female characters.  I also thought Calpurnia's six brothers were delightful.  I would have liked to know more about her dad, but by the end of the book I wanted to move in with the whole family and get to know all of them better.  Definitely my kind of novel.

April 14, 2014

New Scripture Reading Plan

If you read my post over at Latter-day Homeschooling than you know that I am trying to revitalize our family scripture study.  I've thought about why we struggle so much to make it happen and I've decided that I'm working against my basic personality in some ways.  What usually happens when we read scriptures is that the kids fight over how many verses they get to read or where they sit or they start wrestling or in a dozen other ways the entire process becomes so unpleasant that I try to avoid it even when I'm trying to make it happen.  

Although I am essentially a pretty lazy person, I am also type A.  I can make things happen.  However, I refuse to put any energy into things I don't feel are productive.  Our scripture study is unproductive, therefore I don't put the time and effort in to make it happen.

I changed my goal from "have scripture study" to "have a productive scripture study."  That is more motivating to me.  

From there I just had to decide how to make scripture study productive.  I've come up with a strategy.  I realize it might not work, but it might and it has to be better than what we've been doing.

New Scripture Strategy!:

1) The kids and spouse will only be allowed to sit at the table in their assigned dinner seats--no more wrestling matches during scripture study.

2) Our study will revolve around General Conference talks.  We'll read through a talk in pieces, adding scriptures and songs that I think will add to an understanding of the topic.  

3) I won't set any unnecessary boundaries that will drive me crazy; i.e., we'll study each talk for one week.  

4) Each nightly scripture study will take no more than 15 minutes.  

The first talk we are studying (we are starting tonight) is Sister Burton's talk from the General Women's Meeting, "Wanted: Hands and Hearts to Hasten the Work."  It took me about two hours to break down the talk and create reading assignments.  I'll let you know how it goes at the end of the week.

The following is what I wrote up for myself. 

Monday:

Miriam: Read definition of “disciple” in the Bible Dictionary.  In what ways are we disciples of Jesus?

Dad: Dear sisters, how we love you! As we watched that beautiful video, did you see your own hand reaching out to help someone along that covenant path? I was thinking about a young Primary girl named Brynn who has only one hand, and yet she uses that hand to reach out to bless her family and her friends—Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths. Isn’t she beautiful? And so are you! Sisters, we can offer hands to help and hearts to hasten Heavenly Father’s wonderful work.
Just as our faithful sisters in the scriptures, such as Eve, Sarah, Mary, and many others, knew their identity and purpose, Brynn knows that she is a daughter of God.1 We too can know of our own divine heritage as beloved daughters of God and the vital work He has for us to do.
The Savior taught, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.”2 What do we need to know and do “to live with him someday”?3 We can learn from the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life.

Emeline: Read Matthew 19: 16-19

Cowen: Read Matthew 19: 20-22

Miriam: We can learn from the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life.
Jesus answered him, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The young man asked Him which ones he should keep. Jesus then reminded him of several of the Ten Commandments we are all familiar with.
Eli: The young man responded, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”
Harriet: Jesus said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”
Dad: Jesus called him to become a part of His work—the work of a disciple. Our work is the same. We are to “lay aside the things of [the] world, … cleave unto [our] covenants,” and come unto Christ and follow Him. That’s what disciples do!

·      Discuss following the Savior
·      Write on our “What do disciples do?” chart
o   Lay aside things of the world (talk about what that means)
o   Cleave unto our covenants
o   Follow Christ
o   Obey commandments
·      Memorize 3 Nephi 5:13, “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
·      Practice song, “Holding Hands Around the World,” verse about discipleship especially




Tuesday:

Cowen: Like the rich young man in Jesus’s day, sometimes we are tempted to give up or turn back because maybe we think we can’t do it alone. And we are right! We cannot do the difficult things we have been asked to do without help. Help comes through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and the helping hands of others.

Dad: Read about “Grace” in Bible Dictionary.
·      God gives us strength to do good works—His work

Emeline: A faithful single sister recently testified that through the Atonement, she found strength to use her helping hands and willing heart to raise the four children her sister had left behind when she died of cancer. That reminded me of something Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “All the easy things that the Church has had to do have been done. From now on, it’s high adventure, and followership is going to be tested in some interesting ways.” You have been sent to earth in this dispensation of time because of who you are and what you have been prepared to do! Regardless of what Satan would try to persuade us to think about who we are, our true identity is that of a disciple of Jesus Christ!
·      What does Satan want us to think about ourselves?
·      How do disciples feel about themselves/know about themselves?

Miriam: Mormon was a true disciple who lived in a day when “every heart was hardened, … and there never had been so great wickedness among all the children of Lehi.” How would you like to have lived in that day? And yet Mormon boldly declared, “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Don’t you love Mormon? He knew who he was and what his mission was and was not distracted by the evil that surrounded him. In fact, he considered his calling to be a gift.
Think what a blessing it is to be called to give our gift of daily discipleship to the Lord, declaring in word and deed, “Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ!”

·      Add to chart “What do disciples do?”
o   Not distracted by evil
o   Know they are beloved children of God
o   Rely on grace for help to accomplish God’s work
o   Are grateful to be a disciple of Christ
·      Work on memorizing scripture and learning song


Wednesday:

Cowen: I love the story President Boyd K. Packer told of a dear sister who was ridiculed for following the prophet’s counsel to store food. The one who criticized suggested that if times became desperate, her leaders would ask her to share her food storage with others. Her simple and resolute response as a true disciple was, “At least I will have something to bring.”

·      Add to list: Obey our prophets and leaders

Eli: I love the women of the Church, young and old. I have seen your strength. I have seen your faith. You have something to give and are willing to give it. You do this without fanfare or publicity, drawing attention to the God we worship, not yourselves, and with no thought of what you will receive. That’s what disciples do!

Miriam: 2 Nephi 26: 29 – 31

·      Add to list: Serve God without expecting praise

Emeline: I recently met a young woman in the Philippines whose family became less active in the Church when she was only 7 years old, leaving her alone to walk a dangerous road to church week after week. She told how at age 14 she decided that she would stay true to her covenants so she would be worthy to raise her future family in a home “blessed by the strength of priesthood pow’r.” The best way to strengthen a home, current or future, is to keep covenants, promises we’ve made to each other and to God.
That’s what disciples do!

Harriet: D&C 25:13

·      Review baptismal covenants

Dad: A faithful Japanese sister and her husband visited our mission in Korea. She didn’t speak Korean and was limited in her ability to speak English, but she had a willing heart to use her unique gifts and helping hands to do the Lord’s work. That’s what disciples do! She taught our missionaries how to do a simple piece of origami—a mouth that could open and shut. She then used the few English words she knew to teach the missionaries to “open their mouths” to share the gospel—a lesson they will never forget, nor will I.

·      Add to list: Use our unique talents to do God’s work
·      Practice song/memorization



Thursday:

Dad: Visualize for a minute you and me standing together with the other millions of sisters and brothers in His Church, going forth boldly, doing what disciples do—serving and loving like the Savior. What does it mean to you to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
Mormon Helping Hands vests and shirts have been worn by hundreds of thousands of selfless disciples of Jesus Christ who have embraced the opportunity to provide temporal service. But there are other ways to serve as devoted disciples. Imagine with me some of the possible spiritual “help wanted” signs related to the work of salvation:

Cowen:
Help wanted: parents to bring up their children in light and truth
Help wanted: daughters and sons, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, and true friends to serve as mentors and offer helping hands along the covenant path

Miriam:
Help wanted: those who listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and act on impressions received
Help wanted: those who live the gospel daily in small and simple ways

Emeline:
Help wanted: family history and temple workers to link families eternally
Help wanted: missionaries and members to spread the “good news”—the gospel of Jesus Christ

Harriet: Help wanted: rescuers to find those who have lost their way

Eli: Help wanted: covenant keepers to stand firm for truth and right

Mom: Help wanted: true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ

·      Add to our “What do disciples do?” chart from the help wanted statements
·      Practice memorization song/scripture


Friday:

Miriam: Years ago, Elder M. Russell Ballard issued a clarion call to the sisters of the Church when he said:
“Between now and the day the Lord comes again, He needs women in every family, in every ward, in every community, in every nation who will step forward in righteousness and say by their words and their actions, ‘Here am I, send me.’

Emeline: “My question is, ‘Will you be one of those women?’”13
I hope each of us can answer with a resounding “Yes!” I close with the words of a Primary song:
We are cov’nant [daughters] with a gift to give.
We will teach the gospel by the way we live.
With each word and action, we will testify:
We believe, and we serve Jesus Christ.14

Eli: As true disciples, may we offer our willing hearts and our helping hands to hasten His work. It does not matter if, like Brynn, we have only one hand. It does not matter if we are not yet perfect and complete.

Harriet: We are devoted disciples who reach out and help each other along the way.

Cowen: Our sisterhood reaches across the generations to those faithful sisters who have walked before. Together, as sisters and in unity with living prophets, seers, and revelators with restored priesthood keys, we can walk as one, as disciples, as servants with willing hearts and hands to hasten the work of salvation. As we do so, we will become like the Savior. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

·      Review our chart
·      Make a goal to act like a disciple—report on how you do at FHE on Sunday

·      Practice memorization/song



      Here is an example of what I am printing out, cutting into slips, and handing out.

Monday:

Miriam: Read definition of “disciple” in the Bible Dictionary. 

Dad: Dear sisters, how we love you! As we watched that beautiful video, did you see your own hand reaching out to help someone along that covenant path? I was thinking about a young Primary girl named Brynn who has only one hand, and yet she uses that hand to reach out to bless her family and her friends—Latter-day Saints and those of other faiths. Isn’t she beautiful? And so are you! Sisters, we can offer hands to help and hearts to hasten Heavenly Father’s wonderful work.
Just as our faithful sisters in the scriptures, such as Eve, Sarah, Mary, and many others, knew their identity and purpose, Brynn knows that she is a daughter of God.1 We too can know of our own divine heritage as beloved daughters of God and the vital work He has for us to do.
The Savior taught, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.”2 What do we need to know and do “to live with him someday”?3 We can learn from the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life.


Emeline: Read Matthew 19: 16-19


Cowen: Read Matthew 19: 20-22


Miriam: We can learn from the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life.
Jesus answered him, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
The young man asked Him which ones he should keep. Jesus then reminded him of several of the Ten Commandments we are all familiar with.

Eli: The young man responded, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”

Harriet: Jesus said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

Dad: Jesus called him to become a part of His work—the work of a disciple. Our work is the same. We are to “lay aside the things of [the] world, … cleave unto [our] covenants,” and come unto Christ and follow Him. That’s what disciples do!


April 8, 2014

Read My Post at Latter-day Homeschooling

If you head on over to Latter-day Homeschooling you can read my new post.  See you there!

April 3, 2014

Moving Update

On Wednesday I found out that the people who were going to buy our house couldn't get the loan put together.  Argh!!!!  Then this morning my realtor called and said that there would be a showing today at 3:00.  My house was in its normal state of dishevel and so I spent every second until 3:00 cleaning and tidying.  I didn't make it on time and there were bags of laundry in my van and dirty dishes in the oven (not a good option since many people open the oven when they look at a house, but I didn't want dirty dishes in the van and couldn't think of anywhere else to stick them).

It paid off, I guess.  The people put an offer on the house.  I should be rejoicing but it was a real lowball offer so we'll find out tomorrow if they accept our more reasonable counter offer or if they counter our counter offer or if they just decide to look elsewhere.

I swear I'm getting an ulcer.

Wish me luck.

March 29, 2014

Medieval Historical Fiction Novels for the Intermediate Reader

(I had to find an historical redhead since that is most apropos for my house.)

Although we haven't gotten through as much of the Middle Ages as I had hoped, we have still had a delightful time with what we've studied.  As I've mentioned before, Miriam (age 10, advanced reader) is assigned extra books to read for all of our units.  I recently made her stop reading long enough to attach a rating to each of the books she's read for history so far.  I thought it would be helpful to see which books she liked the best.  

Ahem.  

Mostly she likes every book and is irritated when her mother presses her for details.  Despite their uniformity, her ratings might be useful to you, so here is the first installment (she has two books left from the Viking unit so I'll be posting those shortly).  I'm including links to amazon only to facilitate your reading more reviews if you are interested.  I haven't read most of these books and have only Miriam's limited reviews to pass along so I thought amazon readers could help provide more insight.

400-600 AD


The Story of the Champions of the Round Table by Howard Pyle.  Miriam: "I liked it.  Four stars." A collection of King Arthur stories.  


Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard.  Miriam: "I really liked it. Four stars."  

Now, when Miriam read the book she was super excited about it, told me the whole plot line, then told me to read it.  Which I did.  I thought it was a perfect historical fiction for an intermediate reader and a great introduction to Christianity during the Middle Ages and how different areas of the world interacted.  This is the story of Augustine leading a group of Christian missionaries into Britain and establishing their religion there.  


The White Stag by Kate Seredy.  Miriam: "I liked it.  Three stars."  This is about the Huns and Magyars during the collapse of the Roman Empire.  

700-900 AD


The Story of Roland by James Baldwin.  Miriam: "I liked it.  Three stars."  This is about a French baron, Roland, during the time of Charlemagne.  I was excited to find something for Miriam to read about Charlemagne because the pickings are slim.


The Edge on the Sword by Rebecca Tingle.  Miriam: "I loved it!  Five stars!"  This has, obviously, been one of Miriam's very favorite assigned books.  It is about the daughter of King Alfred--a Saxon king.  Apparently the main character is the "greatest woman in Old English history."  According to amazon reviews this is a good pick for boys despite the female protagonist because there is a lot of military strategy involved in the story.

That's it.  I will try and ask for Miriam's reviews as she reads the books, instead of months later, to get a fresher perspective.  Right now she's in the middle of one of her last two Viking era books.  I'll post about them soon.