Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: From the Mouth of Babes

I often come across books that I'd love to read just for myself. I drool over all of the wonderful offering in the Christian Book Distributors catalog when it comes -- books for encouragement, books for Bible study, books about parenting, and all sorts of other books I'd love to read. The problem is that I can rarely find the time to really read a whole book. I pick up a book, read a paragraph, find the lost doll shoe that Lauren put somewhere, read a sentence or two more, change the laundry, and so on. A few days later I find the book slid half-way under the couch where it got kicked after I last set it down.

I recently found a book that fit my (lack of) schedule, and it really blessed me.

From the Mouth of Babes was written by Kimberly Williams, a fellow homeschool mom, a preacher's wife, and a mom to three entertaining kids. In her book, she shares "stories about life, children, faith, and this world we live in."

This book is a real treasure with hidden jewels scattered throughout the pages. For me, one of the best parts is that it is written in mom-sized nuggets. I tucked my copy of the book into my purse for unexpected waiting times. I even read a short thought while I was waiting in an extra long check-out line at the grocery store.

Of course, mom-sized nuggets of nonsense might help me pass the time waiting in line, but they won't make a difference later in the day or later in my life. Every story on every page of this book has a purpose -- the author shares these stories as a way of encouraging or challenging women to live a more Godly life. I was blessed with a moment to spend thinking about God's plan for my family when I picked up this book instead of a junky magazine while I waited in line.

In this book, I found lessons about slowing down and focusing on what's important. I found Bible lessons, and I still think about her discussion about songs, hymns, and spiritual songs. While I was mopping my own floor this afternoon, I remembered her story about how her son approached mopping their kitchen floor. I'm challenged by what she shared in terms of marriage.

I'd highly recommend buying a copy of From the Mouth of Babes. It's a perfect way to brighten your own day. It would also be a perfect way to encourage a fellow mom.

There's perhaps no better summary of this treasure than the one Kimberly Williams writes herself on the back cover, "Get ready to laugh, be prepared to be challenged, and pull out your Bible as you are pointed to the Word of God."

From the Mouth of Babes is available to purchase for $14.95 on either the author's website Until the Day Dawn or on

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Photography Challenges

Summer Photography Series at 5 Minutes for Mom

About a month ago, my husband and I bought a new digital SLR camera. If you look around our house, you'll see that we're now a bit obsessed about learning all we can about taking better photos. I have various digital photography books from the library scattered around, and my husband is often found reading his book.

Last week I stumbled upon the Summer Photography Series hosted by and thoroughly enjoyed their introductory blog entry, Get to Know Your Camera. It was perhaps the clearest, most concise explanation of digital cameras that I've read lately, and I've bookmarked it for future reference.

As part of the Summer Photography Series, they've issued a weekly photo challenge. I'm joining this week and posting some of the pictures I took with the camera set in something other than full-auto mode.

Using sports mode to capture the action in the backyard.

Using portrait mode and a telephoto lens to get a nicely blurred background

Another shot in portrait mode

Creative auto mode to get the blurred background.
I'm a bit disappointed in this shot; I should've set the focus on the bags of flour instead of the bowl.
Exploring aperture priority mode and the exposure compensation to capture the natural background light coming from the other room.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Read Aloud Challenge, July 15, 2011

I've neglected to join Debra's read-aloud challenge at Footprints in the Butter for the past few weeks. Sadly, as our summer has gotten busier and busier, we haven't been finding time for reading lately. Sometime in the past month we finished The Incredible Journey and started The Westing Game. Addison remembers most of The Westing Game, but Brennan and I are still enjoying the mystery and seeing everything unfold. Addison told me that we could continue reading on while she was gone on her mission trip for the next week or so, but I don't know that we will.

I wonder if anyone can guess what I'm still reading to Lauren? Better yet, I wonder if anyone can guess how many more times I'll read these Junie B. Jones books? When I packed our overnight bag for the hospital earlier this week, she requested Junie B., First Grader: Dumb Bunny and Junie B., First Grader: Shipwrecked. Tim and I took turns reading Dumb Bunny while we waited for her turn in the OR, and that evening I read a few chapters of Shipwrecked while she fell asleep.

Thankfully, she's expanding her tastes a bit and has checked a few different audiobooks out of the library recently. Next week, we'll be heading to church camp. I'm sure that she's bring lots of Junie B. audiobooks for the road, but I might pick something else to bring with me to read to her if we find any free time. I can't decide if I want to start Charlotte's Web, or if I want to bring one of the children's anthologies we have -- either the one containing different picture books or one of the ones with lots of classic fairytales that she may not have heard before.

Even though my read-aloud time was limited lately, I did find time to read a book myself. I really enjoyed The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. It was a gripping story, one that really made me think about the way our society treats people with disabilities. I'd highly recommend it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

No place like home!

As some of you know, Lauren had her tonsils and adenoids removed yesterday morning. It was a bit of a frustrating morning as they scrambled to get the right anesthesia team and make sure that everything was in place for her afterwards. Lauren was understandably scared and got more upset as the waiting drug on for nearly six hours.

In the end, she did very well with the procedure. While she was in the OR, her GI doctor also did an endoscopy hoping to find out why she's had problems with eating and weight gain over the past year. We won't have real answers until after the biopsies come back next week, and even then the answer might only be, "We don't know."

Lauren and I settled in for an uneventful overnight stay in the hospital last night, and we're both glad to be back sleeping in our own beds tonight. Lauren's doing surprisingly well from a tonsils standpoint. She rarely complains of pain and even ate some soft foods this evening.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The loose tooth drama at our house

By the time the third child rolls around, I figured I had this whole loose tooth thing down. Addison's first lost teeth were actually knocked out in a bicycle accident, but I remember the other loose teeth following a pretty normal pattern -- tooth is loose, kid wiggles tooth, tooth eventually gets pulled out, etc.

It should come as no surprise that Lauren does things her own way. Her top teeth have been a bit loose for well over a year, but they aren't getting any looser. Perhaps a month ago, her bottom teeth got loose and kept getting looser.

She refused to wiggle them. She didn't wiggle them with her tongue. She didn't wiggle them with her fingers. And she definitely did not let me wiggle them to see how close they were to coming out. I did know that they was awfully loose.

One afternoon she started telling me something, and I noticed that a tooth was missing. Apparently one was so loose that it fell out without her even noticing. I only know that it fell out that afternoon because I had taken pictures (without a fraggled toothed smile) a few hours earlier.

Snaggle-tooth smile, version 1.0

Last weekend, I noticed that the remaining loose tooth on the bottom was so loose that it was sitting at a crooked angle in her mouth. I was certain it was going to fall out at any moment. She was eating a rice krispy treat during church Sunday morning, and I checked her smile after each bite to see if she had knocked the tooth out yet.

Can that bottom tooth get any looser?
That silly tooth held on until Monday morning. It was so incredibly loose that it fell out in the sink when she was spitting the toothpaste out of her mouth. She managed to grab it before it fell down the drain. Unfortunately, she was playing with it in her room later and lost it.

It's a good thing that the tooth fairy understands lost teeth. :)

Adorable smile, version 2.0

Saturday, July 9, 2011

VBS: The rest of the pictures

Craft projects (the bandana and the stick horse)
Pony Express Relay Race
Snack Time -- Lauren says they messed up her ice cream by adding root beer.
Skit during Bible class
Teen helpers

Friday, July 8, 2011

VBS in Discovery City

I gathered all the pictures for today's post, but then decided that Addison (also known as Petunia Periwinkle) would be the best choice to explain them. I've turned the blog over to her for the rest of today's post.

For VBS, we did a skit every day, part of a continuous drama. I played the part of Petunia Periwinkle, who wants to be a celebrity. The best way I found to write this was to summarize each of the five days.
     Sadie, Sally and Susie run a cafe in Discovery City. They meet a prospector named Caleb Foster who tells them the good news of Jesus, and they become children of God.
     Then, Petunia Periwinkle comes in on the stagecoach, thinking she's in San Francisco. Sadie tries to tell her about Jesus, but she's too busy thinking about her audition to think much about it. She learns that she's not in San Francisco, but unfortunately the stagecoach only comes through once a month.
     She meets a traveling salesman named Dr. Marvel, who is Caleb's twin brother, and begs him to take her to San Francisco with him. He agrees, and sells her some of his fake medicine. 
     The "medicine" ruins her hair, and Petunia ends up furious with Dr. Marvel. She makes the sheriff and his deputy, Theodore and Otis, arrest him, and Dr. Marvel put him in jail. Meanwhile, Otis and Theodore are preoccupied with Jake "the Snake" Jackson, the meanest outlaw in the West. He gets away with robbing the bank, and Otis and Theodore are tied up in broad daylight.
     Theodore is upset and thinks he isn't fit to be sheriff. Susie convinces Otis that it's all right that they made a mistake, they just have to make sure they don't make that mistake again. Otis gets Theodore to go back to being sheriff, just in time to have Jake "the Snake" Jackson show up. Apparently Sadie put a Bible in his money bag when he robbed the bank the other day. Now he's been saved, and is no longer an outlaw.
     So that was the happy ending! I had a lot of fun doing it, and I think the pictures turned out pretty good.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vacation Bible School: Arkansas Style

Whenever we move, we realize how different churches do things differently and we find favorite things about each. In the summer, regardless of where we live, all of the kids enjoy Vacation Bible School. Last week, we pulled out our collection of VBS song CD's from our church in Virginia, rocked out in the minivan, and headed off to see what VBS looks like in Arkansas.

One of the first things Addison noticed was that our new church tends to sing a lot of the traditional songs -- the books of the New Testament, Jesus Loves Me, This Little Light of Mine, If You're Happy and You Know It, Roll the Gospel Chariot, etc. Unfortunately, Addison found one traditional song that she just can't stand -- "Booster, Booster." Perhaps even more unfortunately, she let one of the youth ministry interns know that she didn't like that song. Guess who was later serenaded by the entire youth group singing, "Don't be grouchy like a rooster!"

I'm not sure we learned any completely new songs during this VBS, but we did learn some new verses. The Hippopotamus Song was a bit hit before, and now we know verses about a kangaroo and a manatee. I really wish I had taken some picture of the kids bouncing around like Manatees with little flippers (just their hands) flapping out at their sides.

Even the old songs sometimes had new verses added. One of the big hits each day was singing the verse in "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy" where the devil can sit on a tack. We had a devil puppet that would go flying through the air during that verse. On the last morning, our preacher was leading the singing and suggested that if the devil doesn't like it, he'd get sprayed by a skunk. Yes, all the kids acted out a skunk lifting his tail and spraying the devil.

And finally, I could only shake my head when I heard the Arkansas version of "I'm a little green frog." It starts off, "I'm a little bitty hog, and God loves me" and ends with  "I'm a great big Razorback and God Loves Me... (snort)... (snort)... (snort)." My husband took the following lovely picture of me being a Razorback (that's my hog nose). I guess I really will do anything to keep the kids excited during VBS.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: S'mores

Review: Already Compromised

I love to read. My husband laughs that I will read anything, even the backs of cereal boxes (doesn't everyone?). Usually when I read a book, I form a definite opinion of it rather quickly. I finished reading Already Compromised more than a week ago, and I'm still struggling with deciding what I think about it.

I was thrilled when I opened my package containing Already Compromised by Ken Ham and Greg Hall. I had heard a lot of the internet buzz about the book, had already put it on my "wish list" for my nook, but hadn't purchased it yet. I was curious to find out what the latest research revealed about the state of Christian colleges in our nation.

The book grabbed me off the bat. I was amazed at the statistics and impressed with the depth of the research. I read much of the first few chapters while our family was traveling, and I kept reading sections out loud to my husband. For instance, I was surprised to read that more of the college science department leaders believe in a literal six 24-hour day creation than the leaders in the Bible departments.

After I got a few chapters into the research, I started searching for the "now what?" discussions to help me understand the research and put it all together. My husband asked me why I wasn't reading as much stuff out loud to him, and I responded that I was trying to focus and think so much that my brain hurt. I tried to tell him what I was reading, but I found it difficult to explain it to him.

As I read further, I realized that I found it difficult to explain these concepts because they had never been fully defined or explained in the text. For instance, I was reading about worldview and God's authority in chapter 6. I understood the difference between a Christian worldview and an anti-Christian view. I didn't fully grasp the idea of naturalism and the consequences of such beliefs until several chapters later. In fact, the clearest discussion of naturalism is in chapter 9. When I finally read that far, some of the pieces started to finally make sense. It was as if I had been reading about some nebulous undefined concept for pages and pages before it was finally defined in terms clear enough for me to understand.

Perhaps what bugged me most about this book was that I kept thinking to myself, "Why does this matter?" I understand that there's a big debate between young-earth creationists, old-earth creationists, and evolutionists. At the same time, though, I know that there's only one way to be saved -- through Jesus Christ. Jesus doesn't have an application process that requires you to spell out your beliefs on the creation of the earth. His only requirements for salvation are to believe and follow Him.

My question was finally answered in a footnote for the last chapter of the book. "Many born-again Christians do believe in millions of years and many also believe in evolution. AiG would not question their salvation when they testify to being born again as the Scripture defines, but challenge these people to understand that such acceptance of fallible man's ideas and reinterpreting parts of Scripture is an undermining of the authority of the Word of God. The consequences of this particularly show up in the next generation, who tend to open the door of undermining God's Word even further -- until eventually generations arise who, by and large, reject biblical authority. This is what we observe across our Western world today." And then the lightbulb was fully lit. Unfortunately, all I had left to read at that point was the four appendices.

Maybe if I had known more about Answers in Genesis before reading this book, I wouldn't have wanted to have my hand held quite so much as I read it. And, maybe I'm one of the few people that haven't kept up to date on the debates between young-earth and old-earth creationists.

Despite my struggles as I crept through the book, Already Compromised was a book I needed to read.

I now understand why my thoughts on creationism, and perhaps just as importantly the thoughts of others, may make a difference to my children. I am now more committed than ever to teaching my children Christian apologetics. It is no longer enough to teach my children what we believe; it is vitally important for my children to be able to defend their faith when it comes under attack.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Already Compromised from New Leaf Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review of the book.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Planning The Old Schoolhouse Style

When we started summer vacation a few weeks ago, I had big plans for myself. I was going to take most of June and July to regroup, reorganize, set priorities for next year, and get everything planned.

I looked at the calendar and realized that it's almost July. Where did June go? I remember some hot sunny days, dozens of loads of laundry, a couple of road trips,  a bunch of hot baseball games, a little bit of housecleaning, a week of Vacation Bible School, and early mornings spent running. Believe it or not, though, I did manage to squeeze some school planning in there too. Thankfully, I had my new Schoolhouse Planners from The Old Schoolhouse store to make my job easier, so it hasn't taken me two months to get prepared for next year.

Last year I used the regular planner  and reviewed it in my Confessions of an Unorganized Homeschool Mom post. I later reviewed the Middle School Planner and how I used it for Addison (Old Schoolhouse Student Planners). This year, I chose to purchase the specialty planners and started my summer organizing by using the Intermediate Schoolhouse Planner for Addison.

Before I started, I already had an idea of my goals and priorities for the year. From an academic standpoint, we'll be working a lot on developing good writing and composition skills. From a practical standpoint, we'll be focusing on keeping better records and being more organized in general. This Planner has given us the tools to make these practical goals a reality.

The first step was to print off a full-year's worth of calendar pages. This planner has the options to print each month as either a single page or as a two-page spread. Addison has fewer commitments than I do, so we chose the single page version for each month. My hope is that she'll pay closer attention to scheduled activities and not just try to remember all the dates in her head. Perhaps this year we'll avoid the conflict we had a few weekends ago when we unknowingly signed up for a church camp out of town on the same weekend as her end-of-year choir concert.

As I worked through the planner pages, I found the tools to reach the rest of our goals. One major focus area is keeping better track of things she has done. I know that at one point last Spring we were trying to remember all of the service projects she had done so we could submit them for an LTC (Leadership Training for Christ) award. This year, we have a form in her planner to record those projects/events. I'd also like to start recording the time she spends on various activities so that we'll be in a habit of tracking things that can be used in awarding high school credits. To start small with recording things this year, I printed out a Log Sheet for her Physical Activities. This year (Addison's eighth grade year) will be mostly for practice, but in future years, she'll need this sort of log to prove that she's done the work needed to earn a PE credit. This year, she'll also be recording the time she spends on her Fine Arts activities -- this week's Vacation Bible School drama rehearsals, weekly choir practices, performances, etc.

As for her schoolwork itself, we still haven't figured out which format will work best for her assignments. So far I've printed off a few different options to see which planner form she likes best. For instance, I'm drawn to the form that has the assignments divided into sub-sections with room for multiple Math and Language Arts assignments per day, with a whole week on each printed page. We could also use a simple assignment sheet for each subject, each one containing a list of several weeks worth of work to complete. Another set of forms has room for seven subjects per day, 5 days per week, 36 weeks for the school year. This is the most-basic option, but it still might be sufficient for what she's studying this year. I just don't know which one will be most attractive to Addison and most user-friendly once we start using them. All of them will help me achieve my goal of recording what she has done throughout the year. All too often we get to the end of the school year with a stack of used books, a pile of ragged notebooks, and a vague idea of what she has studied. Next year, I hope that we'll have a more complete record of what she learned, one that's neatly recorded on paper and not just floating around in our heads.

And so here it is... Addison's Student Planner all ready for next school year. She personalized the cover with pictures of some of her favorite CDs.

According to my initial plans to take June and July off for a summer vacation, I have another month left to get everything ready for the rest of us to start school in August. Based on the way my July calendar looks, I think I'll be printing planner forms for the rest of us next week and I'll definitely be thankful that it won't take the whole month to get everything ready. I'll be sure to share what I found most useful once I get them finished.

Disclaimer: The Old Schoolhouse offered me a free planner in exchange for review purposes. I had already purchased The Intermediate Student Planner and was so pleased with it that I chose to do the review anyway.


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