Friday, May 31, 2013

Giveaway: Philosophy Adventure

There is a new program coming to the homeschooling world here in the next week or so, and I get a chance to review it!  This here isn't that review... but in advance of its release, I have had a chance to look at a pre-final version of the program, and a chance to give one of YOU a digital copy of this product.  The review will be coming in August, after we have had a chance to actually work with the final version of the program.

Homeschool Adventure Co. is a company I hadn't heard of, but the description of  Philosophy Adventure – Pre-Socratics had me intrigued.  From their website:
Philosophy Adventure™ is a program designed to help students 6th-12th grade cultivate and defend a biblical worldview by teaching them how to write skillfully, think critically, and speak articulately as they explore the history of philosophy.
Okay, that all sounds good to me!  And I have three students in grades 6-12 (actually, they are in grades 7-11 now, how did THAT happen?) so I certainly have some test subjects.

The complete set consists of three parts:  a Reader, which is the basic text for the program; a Student text, which contains notebook pages for each philosopher, mapping assignments, writing assignments, and more; and a teacher's resource section, which contains some teaching help, answer keys, timelines and flashcards.

I've had the Reader for a week or so, and have had a chance to start reading through that.  Fabulous information, and clearly Stacy Farrell has spent considerable time putting together fascinating information in an easy-to-digest format.  From glancing through the Student Workbook and the Teacher's Resources, I'm even more excited to start using this.  The mapping assignments are straightforward enough that even I can see using them, and the timelines are very appealing.

There are a few ideas for scheduling the material.  Basically, there are eight different philosophers to study, with a unit devoted to each.  You could do a unit per week (there is a sample schedule available for that) and finish in about two months.  You could spread a unit out over a month to make this a year-long course.  What we are planning, though, is to take the middle ground by completing each unit in two weeks.  I think that workload is going to be about perfect.

By the time I'm due to write this review in August, I'm hoping we'll be through three or four of the units (having to take some time off when kids are off at camp!) so I should be able to give a pretty decent review at that point.

The prices are reasonable too.  A complete physical set is available for $89.95.  What I have (and am giving away) is a complete download version, which is available for $39.95.  There are other options that include some physical and some digital products at price points in between.

Now, a giveaway!  This will stay open for a week, and it is for a digital version of the Philosophy Adventure -- Pre-Socratics program. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reading Aloud Challenge: the Vacation Edition

We've been traveling since I last posted, driving 1000 miles to North Dakota and hanging out there.  The extent of reading aloud there was a couple days of The American Patriot's Almanac by William Bennett.  And a chapter of something else.

Unfortunately, all the books on tape (yes, real cassette tapes) and the playaway books (to be listened to using one of those little cassette converter things) are just taking up space in the van.  The tape deck doesn't work.  So we were limited to listening to the radio on our drive.

Late last week, we drove to Minneapolis.  The extent of the reading aloud here has been, well, ummm... nothing.

However, unlike my last post (a confession edition), I'm not feeling guilty about this at all.  

Because while I strongly believe in reading aloud in huge quantities, and I am very good at feeling guilty about all the things I'm not doing...

I think it is a good thing to have some time off too.

I'm feeling incredibly motivated at this point about getting home and taking the read-alouds seriously.  I'm excited about the possibilities.  Do we get back to Lord of the Rings?  Do we start something else entirely?  Do we grab one of the bazillion lists out there right now and choose something that looks interesting?  And which type of list do we go with?  I'm leaning a bit towards something that is dominated by fun books, not filled up with all kinds of heavy-looking classics.

Or maybe we do one of each.

A couple weeks without even trying to read aloud has done wonders for my attitude. 

How about you?  What are you reading out loud?  Because now I can read about it without feeling guilt...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: Big Book of Earth & Sky

I'm late.  I was supposed to be reviewing this book -- Big Book of Earth & Sky -- last week, but I just had to get photos of it, and with all my travels (we are in Minneapolis, at my mother-in-law's house now!) it just didn't happen.

So first things first:  There is a Facebook party happening Tuesday, May 28, at 8:00 p.m. CDT.  Since I'm in Central Time at the moment, I'll leave it that way. <grin>  You could win cool prizes... like this fantastic book.

This is going to be my "a picture is worth 1000 words" review.  So be ready.

First off, this "book" is in the same format as one I reviewed a while back, Big Book of History.  You have a beautiful book cover, and inside -- well --

Here is Thomas with the insert part pulled out, and he is flipping through the sections, reading it as much like a book as you can.

Right here is the best place to say... the information in this 15-foot chart is great.  The illustrations really tell you a lot, so even just looking at the pictures is educational.

The text includes a lot of scientific terminology, but it isn't overwhelming. You can see that the text is in nice little "chunks" so that you don't get too much in one place, and the artwork really helps explain.

Anyway, we thought we'd try holding the chart up against one of Grandma's doors to show how big it is, only that doesn't really convey it as well as we hoped:

Connor is awfully close to 6' tall now, and even holding it up like this, you are seeing a tiny part of it.

What you can see, though, is that the chart goes from the exosphere (which ends 40,000 miles above the surface of the earth) and the rest of the atmosphere, down to the tallest mountains (those are at about Connor's chest in the picture), then it gets into cloud types, mountain zones, precipitation and the like.

Around Connor's knees, we learn about the water cycle and volcanoes.

Right around floor level, we cover caves and then go underwater.

That's only about half the chart.

We headed outside, and...

...laid it out in the driveway.

As you can see, it is basically the length of the van.

Did I mention this thing is huge?

That bottom half, starting with the panel closest to us, down at the bottom, talks about the core of the earth.  Above that is information on fossils and the geologic column.

There is a panel on the continents, and on Pangaea.

There is all kinds of stuff on rocks and crystals, and then on erosion.  Then we are back up to the caves.

Very cool stuff.

Here's the chart all nicely put back in the book:

There is also a Teacher's Guide, which is available as a free download, or you can purchase a physical copy, that helps organize the use of this book.  The first section is called "Intro to Speleology" and it includes all kinds of great vocabulary about caves and then ten great suggestions of "Cave Activities" that you can do.  There are similar sections for introducing oceanography, meteorology, and paleontology.

After that, there are sections with quizzes and handouts, and some other helpful information too.

But back to the book!  Here are a couple of close-ups of some of the panels:

You can see there is a fair amount of detail there!

One thing I especially love is that this is coming from a Creationist perspective, but it doesn't pound you over the head with that.

Great resource, and one I am thrilled to own.  It will get a lot of use here!

You can go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about Big Book of Earth & Sky!

There is a Facebook party coming up on May 28 (Tuesday) at 8 pm CDT where you could win cool prizes including (I assume) this title, among other things, and discuss these books.  There is a yummy prize, and a gift certificate too.

Disclaimer:   I received this books for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Magnificent Malevolence

My son is a huge fan of C. S. Lewis, and of Screwtape Letters.  So when I heard about Magnificent Malevolence, by Derek Wilson, of course we had to review it.

I'll admit up front that I haven't finished the book... I'm about 90% of the way through it.  Connor stole it from me and read it straight through.  I had a hard time getting it back.  (A nice problem to have, I'd say!)

From the publisher:
C. S. Lewis, who introduced Screwtape, a senior devil, to the world in 1942, knew that evil is powerful and personal. He understood that its main thrust was against God and the people of God.
There can be no doubt that Lewis would agree that Screwtape and his diabolical colleagues have not ceased their operations in the last seventy years. As the human decades have passed, the same war has been fought, with new weapons and different battle tactics.

How fortunate, then, that the following account, rescued from the archives of the Low Command’s Ministry of Misinformation, has fallen into our hands. This remarkable manuscript outlines the career of the prominent devil, Crumblewit SOD (Order of the Sons of Darkness, 1st Class). It was in a much mutilated state and has only, with difficulty, been cut and pasted together to make a reasonably coherent narrative of the activities of a post-Screwtape generation of devils. It is not, of course, "true" in the sense of being an objective appraisal of the struggles between good and evil which dominated human affairs in the period from 1950 to 2000. The account is distorted by Crumblewit’s truly diabolical conceit and also his ability for self-delusion. However, it does shed fresh light on the ups and down experienced by the church throughout this period.

Crumblewit's energies were entirely deployed in the religious arena. He was employed exclusively in undermining the attempts of Christians to bring to bear upon world events the prerogatives of love, peace, and justice and to carry out the mission entrusted to them by Jesus . . .
Our take:  We both enjoyed this book. It isn't written in the same style as Screwtape Letters, as this is more like a diary by Crumblewit, so the flavor is a bit different.  Plus, this follows Crumblewit over his entire career, so he is working with a variety of people.

Connor's opinion was that this was a good story, and it did make him think a bit, but he didn't feel like he came away from it with any new insights into how he ought to behave, or how he ought to live differently.

For me, having lived through over half of the time period covered in Crumblewit's tenure, I guess I found more that spoke to me.  Reminders about some of the sweeping changes I have witnessed in my lifetime, and a glimpse of the evil -- and the good -- in some of the newer technologies, for instance.

It makes me think a bit more about being sure that my internet-dependent world does need to stay focused on the positive side.  It has driven me to be very intentional about praying for Facebook friends.  To post about my faith.  To shut the computer and spend time with my family...

Disclaimer:  I received this book through Kregel Blog Tours.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Summer of Service A.C.T.S.: Discover

Today!  Today there is a webcast happening, sponsored by Adventures in Odyssey and Tyndale Publishing.  So if you are reading this reasonably soon after I get this posted, check out that information first... the webcast happens at 3:30 in my world (Mountain Time).

When I was asked if I wanted to participate in this Blog Tour, I wanted to jump up and down and say YES!  I mean, really, there is so much to love --
  • A focus on Service
  • Adventures in Odyssey
  • Mission trips
  • "When you serve, everybody wins" as a motto
  • Connie and Chris, from Adventures in Odyssey
  • Free stuff, for you! and for me too
  • Did I mention serving others?
But I was traveling last week, when they wanted this first post to go up, and I knew that wasn't going to work.  Fortunately, they told me that I could go ahead and get this posted this week instead, so here I am (finally!) with only minutes before the podcast...

Discover how much fun service can be with Adventures in Odyssey’s A.C.T.S. challenge and contest!
Why serve?
Our culture puts an extravagant amount of energy into raising kids who will grow up to feel good about themselves. In schools, clubs, homes, and even at church, adults have made a decided effort to bolster children’s “self-esteem” –not by actually encouraging kids do something that’s worthwhile, but by simply telling them they are important and valuable.
At the turn of the century, researchers predicted that the next generation would respond to these efforts of raising self-esteem by being filled with optimism and civic duty. Unfortunately, recent research shows the opposite. Kids coming of age today are more self-centered, disrespectful of authority, and depressed than ever before.
In a very real way, then, the best path toward building selfless, confident children is to help and encourage them toward a growing and thriving faith in God. And that includes obedience to what God teaches—not because it makes kids feel good, although it often does—but because they’re following God’s instructions to love Him and serve others. That builds a faith they can count on and carry with them into adulthood—which is the greatest gift any parent can bestow on their child.
Oh, how true is all of that!  Our family has tried to encourage self-esteem by actually doing something, and I think that means far more than all the telling that can possibly happen.  The telling that matters is when clients at the food pantry tell Richard (9) what a great job he did in taking them through for food, not when I randomly tell him he is wonderful.  But even without those comments, just doing the work made him feel great about himself.
Join Adventures in Odyssey this summer to discover how fun it can be to serve others!
Adventures in Odyssey, the beloved audio series from Focus on the Family, has encouraged kids toward a stronger faith for 25 years. Whit, Connie, Eugene, and the other loveable characters from Odyssey have shared countless adventures with kids across the world in the classic audio dramas, books, videos, and devotionals, fulfilling the AIO promise to help kids discover, imagine, and grow.
This summer, Adventures in Odyssey is joining with Christian bookstores across the country, inviting kids to participate in a Summer of Service. They’re promoting the biblical message, “When you serve, everybody wins,” encouraging kids to serve their families, their communities, and their world. Whether it’s baking cookies for an elderly neighbor or putting together a care package for missionaries overseas, kids will discover that serving can be a blast! 
Doesn't that sound fun?  Adventures in Odyssey characters encouraging the kids towards a summer of service?  <happy, contented sigh>  Go get your free copy of that AOI Service episode right now!
How the A.C.T.S. (A Call to Service) challenge and contest works:
Kids who join A.C.T.S. can pick up a service log and collect fun character stickers for hours served at participating bookstores throughout the summer, or download a serving log online at  At the end of the summer, kids can record and upload a short video telling how they serve and why they’d like to become an Adventures in Odyssey Ambassador.
A hundred winners will get the brand new AIO Album, and after online voting, two grand prize winners (one boy and one girl) will get to travel on an exciting Good-Goers Mission Based Adventure trip to another country with a parent!  The out-of-country destination will be announced on a live podcast May 22—hosted by AIO actors Katie Leigh (Connie) and Chris Anthony (Chris)—which you can watch at You don’t want to miss it!
I mentioned free stuff!  So before I sign off, so that you do have a chance to catch the webcast, let me tell you about that.

There was the free Odyssey episode, Business of Busyness, I linked to above.  But that site also has a pdf File you can download with ideas for Service Projects, some that serve your family, some that serve your community, some that serve your world.  This week, for instance, the suggestion is to go to a local park and pick up trash or plant flowers.

In future weeks, I'll be posting more...

We'll Imagine creative and fun ways to serve using your unique gifts! And that will include a free e-book!

Then we'll Grow in our walk with God every day!  That will include some free devotions.

Join my family in a Summer of Service, won't you?  I'd love to know what you are doing!

Disclaimer:   I received an Adventures in Odyssey album for free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of the Summer of Service A.C.T.S. Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable post.  I am participating in this because I truly believe in the values encouraged in this program.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Review: The Genesis Factor

I've been reading The Genesis Factor, edited by Ron Bigalke, Jr. here lately.  It's my latest review as part of the Master Books Apologetics Review Team.

From the publisher:
Genesis is among the most controversial books of the Bible - facing increasing attacks on its credibility and its meaning within the modern Church as fashionable theories of intelligent design and progressive creationism gain support. Compromising the literal interpretation of Scripture to reconcile faith instead with faulty scientific reasoning on the history of the earth, many within the church are abandoning the very foundational truths of Christianity. Join Ron Bigalke Jr. and influential creationist leaders in discussing the myths and realities of Genesis. In The Genesis Factor you will:
  • Unearth the historical roots of creationism in the church - from the apostle Paul and John, to the Venerable Bede, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Francis Bacon, Galileo, James Ussher, Issac Newton, and others.
  • Learn of the 19th century controversy between leading geologists and the "scriptural geologists" in uncovering the foundations of the oft-contentious relationship of science to Christianity and the Scriptures.
  • Read the Scriptural interpretations that answer the questions regarding the length of a Creation week day.
  • Study point by point the recognized standards of writing history which Genesis 1-11 meet as literal history.
This powerful and needed defense of Genesis includes contributors Henry M. Morris, Christopher Cone, Terry Mortenson, Eugene Merrill, Ron J. Bigalke Jr., Tas Walker, Jonathon Henry, Larry Vardiman, John Whitcomb, and Donald DeYoung. From fossil evidence, geologic evidence, and historic evidence, and more, The Genesis Factor reinforces the validity of the scriptural account of Creation, the Great Flood, and the Tower of Babel.
I have to say up front that the compilation types of apologetics books aren't my absolute favorite.  While I love getting a variety of expert points of view, there is just something about jumping from one author to another each chapter that I personally find jarring.

So, my take on books like this is usually to read a chapter in a sitting, and then let the book be for a few days.  At that point, I can read another chapter.  It is much slower going than I am used to though.

Each chapter takes on a topic, with many being written by PhD types who really know their stuff.  I was particularly fascinated by a couple chapters in the middle... Chapter 6 on evidence from outer space, and Chapter 7 on evidence from the oceans.  Those had a lot of pretty technical parts to them, and I'll confess that I didn't quite follow some of it on a first reading (or a second, actually).  The information was fascinating.

One thing I particularly appreciated was that Larry Vardiman talked about how he used to argue that helium proved a young earth... here, let me quote him:
For several years before the magnitude of the polar wind was determined, this author reported that the lack of helium in the atmosphere argued for a young earth.  Based on the measured and computed escape rate of helium to space in the polar wind, that argument is no longer valid.
Those two sentences do make more sense in context, but my point is:  I was thrilled to see the statement of an argument that I have heard made that has been disproven.  Not only did Vardiman talk about the fact that the argument has been proven wrong, but he admitted it was something that he had put out there.  And being wrong in one specific case doesn't bring down the entirety of the young-earth creationist model.

I thought that was refreshing.

Of course, even more interesting was learning about some of the research going on and what it shows.  Much more of what is being found now is better interpreted with thousands of years rather than billions, and I always enjoy working through those discussions.

I've enjoyed this book. You can see what others had to say about it though at Creation Conversations.

Disclaimer:   I received this books for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Master Books Apologetics Review Team program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: Chronicles of Dinosauria

Recently, I've been working through an amazing book -- Chronicles of Dinosauria by Dave Woetzel, which is published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group.

Initially, I was reading the pdf file on my Kindle, and I really loved the text, but had a hard time doing anything to get my kids involved.  It was too hard for us to use that way.

Once the actual book arrived last week, I was completely wowed by the whole thing -- the pictures and text complement each other so well. 

Clearly, Richard and Trina  are enjoying the book too.  Richard is busy in this photo pointing out the spots on one of the dinosaurs.

From the publisher:
Explore legends, mythical sightings, and intriguing explorations from around the globe!
  • Enjoy the unique combination of visual illustrations and unforgettable accounts.
  • Discover why the author calls into question what we've been taught to believe and understand about the history of dinosaurs and man.
Every legend is said to include some grain of truth, and for years co-author Dave Woetzel has sought to separate fact from fiction as he explores mysteries related to dinosaurs, mankind's history, and the biblical time-line. Teaming with artist and designer Richard Dobbs, the two have created a visual archive of expeditions and intriguing clues to explore, all of which highlight the connection to the authority and reliability of Scripture.
Provocative artifacts from around the world are examined in an exquisite, full-color book that hints at man's familiarity with living dinosaurs. Studies point to more than simple answers beneath the waves of Loch Ness, and other sites around the world, many investigated personally by the author. Here is the study of cryptozoology and the discoveries that seem to defy all evolutionary time-lines, vividly illustrated and filled with rare photos.
That description does a good job of covering what is included!

The kids were fascinated just looking through the book.  The illustrations are incredible, and there is a huge variety.

Pictures alone aren't usually enough for me to highly recommend a book though.  I was all set to write a great review of this book before I got the physical copy, and that was primarily based on the text.

Debra_Brinkman's Dinosauria book images album on Photobucket

My favorite sections were those that talked about Historical Evidence of Dinosaurs and Man (chapter 4), Artistic Evidence of Dinosaurs and Man (chapter 5) and Cryptozoology Evidence of Dinosaurs and Man (chapter 6).

The historical evidence brought up a couple of things I have heard before, but there were so many examples that were either better explained, or that I had not heard.  I particularly loved the discussion  (and photos and drawings) of the Vikings.

I didn't expect to enjoy the Art chapter, as that seems to be a topic that is brought up a lot with books of this type (evidence of the coexistence of dinosaurs and man), however, I did really like this chapter too.  It wasn't just the same Ishtar Gate, Chinese dragons, Cambodian temples and cave paintings.  There were loads of other examples too, and even moreso, the commentary about the various art was thought-provoking.

The best chapter, though, according to my kids especially, was the cryptozoology one.  Crypto-what?  Cryptozoology: the science of hidden animals.  Who knew there was such a thing?  And yes, some of my kids have a new career path in mind now.  This chapter covers things like the Loch Ness Monster (though Nessie doesn't get much space in here).

This is a great book, especially for any dinosaur lover.  Of pretty much any age.

You can go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about Chronicles of Dinosauria!

Disclaimer:   I received this books for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Giveaway: Can't-Wait Willow!

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."

I love fun kids' books, so when this new series, Shine Bright Kids, was brought up to me, I was anxious to review it.  They say, "The Shine Bright Kids series provides children and their families with a relevant framework to help instill solid values and teach the importance of making good choices. The principles that will be explored include: using good judgment, taking responsibility, having a positive attitude, and demonstrating perseverance." 

Of course, I wanted that.

So, when Can't-Wait Willow! arrived, Trina totally fell in love with Willow on the cover (she is adorable, isn't she?) and vanished with the book.  She told me about it later that day.

"Willow is so much like me, she has something she wants to save up for -- like I want to buy shrimp -- but all the little things keep pulling at her along the way.  You know, like gum in the checkout line.  I love gum, but then it is all gone, and I'm further away from my goals."

Of course, that is ALL I can tell you, as Trina cannot find the book again, and I only saw a brief glimpse of the cover before she raced off to read it with one of her big brothers.  However, that much is enough for me to know I would like it.

And Trina keeps pulling her hair back with a ribbon to look more like Willow on the cover. 

Here is what the publisher says about the book:
Willow is so excited that the Over-the-Top Circus has finally come to town! The only problem is, that when left to her own devices, she can’t say “no” to some good things. On the way to the show, she is distracted by enticing treats and fun that she just can’t turn down. Willow arrives late and is sad to find that, not only has she has run out of time, but money, and she won’t be able to enjoy the pink cotton candy she’s been dreaming of. Willow is given valuable advice and a second chance and is ultimately taught the lesson that sometimes in life you have to say “no” to good things to end up with something great!
I know that isn't much of a review, but it is the best I can do until the book turns up, under the mattress or in her pajama drawer or somewhere I just haven't looked.

Hopefully, that is enough to pique your interest though, as I have one to give away.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Magazine Giveaway!

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."

I have been an occasional customer of for years.  My impression has been that they consistently have prices that are about as low as you can find, barring unusual promotional offers.  But I love using them mostly because my subscription information is all in one place and I don't have to spend a whole lot of time searching things out.

I was thrilled to get the chance to give away a free magazine subscription (up to $10) to to one of my readers (US Only!) as part of their Mother's Day promotion.  They have all kinds of great magazines to choose from.

For myself, I seriously considered Cooking with Paula Deen, Prevention, Sampler & Antique Needlework Quarterly, and Taste of South, before finally settling on Food Network.  Decided I was the one getting this Mother's Day present.

I did consider some magazines for my mother though, like Fons & Porter's Love of Quilting, Quilt, Quilter's Newsletter, Creative Knitting, and Quilter's World.

For my Mother-in-Law, I thought about Creating Keepsakes, and Card Maker.

There are lots of other great magazines for moms though:
  • Martha Stewart Living
  • Parenting Early Years
  • Parenting School Years
  • Weight Watchers
  • Working Mother
  • Victoria
  • People
  • Southern Living
  • Real Simple
  • Southern Lady
  • Crochet Today
  • Tea Time
  • Entertain Decorate Celebrate
  • Creative Machine Embroidery
  • Just Cross Stitch
  • Sew News
  • Crochet World
  • Crochet
 If you are in the US, you can enter my giveaway!  What magazine(s) interests you?

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013

    Reading Aloud Challenge: Another Confession Edition

    Some days, I really wonder why I keep putting these up here.  You know, confessing to the entire planet (well, okay, all 36 people who read my blog) that I just can't seem to do what I say I want to do.  You know, actually read aloud to my kids regularly.


    This shouldn't be that tough.  Should it?  I shouldn't feel like every week this post ought to be subtitled "The Confession Edition."

    So, here goes.  The Confession Edition of my Reading Aloud Challenge, part one thousand and sixty-five.

    This week, basically --

    I read the end of April portion of The American Patriot's Almanac by William Bennett. Fifty quotes about America.  Very cool.  But now we're back to being a week behind.

    William and Thomas are listening to Golden Goblet and Mara, Daughter of the Nile. Good thing I worked so hard and accomplished something. <snort>

    How about you?  What are you reading out loud? Please.  Inspire me.

    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Bountiful Baskets: May 4

    I'd love to make this Star Wars related somehow, since it is Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you!) but I couldn't figure out a way to make my produce look like a space battle, or anything else terribly creative.

    So, just the basket.  Today it was good to be the first site on the route, as the driver ran out of hours and everyone after us is delayed.

    I've got mine.

    Great basket, but I am glad I only contributed for one today.  It includes:

    • 1 head of cabbage
    • 1 bunch Romaine lettuce
    • 1 bunch green onions
    • 3 green bell peppers
    • 3 artichokes
    • 3 yellow squash
    • 1 cantaloupe
    • 2 personal-size watermelons
    • 6 bananas
    • 3 grapefruit
    • 1 pineapple
    In addition, I got 8 pounds of rhubarb, a flat of strawberries, and 40 pounds of organic oranges.  I'm hoping those will stay good for our drive next week.  And obviously, I have strawberry-rhubarb pie in mind.  My absolute favorite.  Mmmmm.

    As for the basket, my plans are:
    • Fruit all just gets eaten without a whole lot of thinking on my part.  I'm planning to dehydrate the pineapple though.
    • Lettuce, green onions and bell peppers are basically staples and I really just use them, no thought necessary.
    • The artichokes will probably be done tonight, as an appetizer essentially.
    • Cabbage -- I don't know.  I tend to do an unstuffed cabbage casserole thing, and with only one head around, that should work out well.
    • Squash -- I always struggle more with these types of squash.  I know I had a recipe somewhere for a squash side dish that included cheese.  I think I'll look for that.
    Anyone with a squash idea for me, though, I'm all ears!! 

    Friday, May 3, 2013

    Review and Giveaway: Ring the Bell

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned in this post 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.

    We had another family movie night, this time watching Ring the Bell.  The idea of this movie really appealed to me... Steven Curtis Chapman, Casting Crowns... what more does a movie need?

    First, a bit about the film ~
    Ring The Bell shares the story of a slick, big city sports agent Rob Decker who seems to have it all. But on his latest mission to sign a high school baseball superstar, Rob becomes stranded in a small town where the simplicity of life—and the faith of the people—stand in stark contrast to his own fast-paced, win-at-all-costs mindset. Torn between these two worlds, will Rob have the courage to let faith transform his life? This heartwarming story of redemption is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.

    Ring The Bell features a host of well-known Christian music artists, such as Mark Hall along with his band Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, and Matthew West, all who play a role in this inspirational drama. Several former and current Major League Baseball all-stars are also featured in the film: ESPN analysts John Kruk and Rick Sutcliffe (a former Cy Young Award winner), along with Ben Zobrist.

    This family-friendly movie was produced by Mark Miller, Beach Street Records' founder and Casting Crowns’ producer. Miller, who is also the lead singer and founder of country music group Sawyer Brown, co-wrote the script with Thomas Weber and Weber directed the production.
    What did we think?

    We enjoyed it, and I am glad to own this movie.  It is one we'll watch again. 

    Rob Decker's character started off feeling a bit forced... like he was trying too hard to be all about money, fame, and stuff but he (the actor) didn't quite believe that this was the real him.  Once he gets to the small town, his actions (still about money, fame and stuff) start seeming a lot more real.  After the Casting Crowns concert about midway through the film, he is truly a believable character.

    The Casting Crowns concert is phenomenal, including a mini-sermon -- and alter call -- by Mark Hall.  According to the special features, that part of the movie wasn't scripted.  Mark did a phenomenal job with it.  It made me want to dig out my Casting Crowns CDs.

    Another highlight is Steven Curtis Chapman, who plays the pastor in this town.  He has a great scene where he is telling Rob about Jim Elliot.  Loved that scene.

    My favorite part, though, were the scenes at the ranch.  Some of the characters are involved with caring for orphaned and foster boys.  What an incredibly wonderful thing to be doing, and I enjoyed that aspect.

    One of the special features is a discussion guide.  I have not actually used it yet, but I am going to pull it out for use with my personal youth group.  <grin>

    Good stuff.   We really enjoyed it.  You can too, as I have one to give away!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    Reading Aloud Challenge: a Day Late

    Oh, this week is crazy.  I totally missed that yesterday was Tuesday and I needed to post my reading aloud accomplishments for the week.  This is a rather boring post though.  Basically, we are continuing to read what we've been reading.  We ought to finish some things up this next week though, and move to some new things.

    What did we read aloud this week?

    We read two and a half weeks worth of The American Patriot's Almanac by William Bennett.  We are only a day behind.  Lots of great stuff, and some rather depressing stuff too.  Like pulling out of Saigon in 1975.  <shudder>  At least most of the entries are more pleasant.

    I've been reading Charlotte's Web and Poppy to Richard and Katrina.  Both are such great books!  We are also reading aloud some history, missionary stories, etc.

    William and Thomas are listening to Golden Goblet and Mara, Daughter of the Nile.  I'm also reading some history aloud.

    And there has been a lot of miscellaneous little stuff happening too.

    No picture.  I just can't.

    How about you?  What are you reading out loud?  Anything new to shake things up, or are you plodding through the same stuff you've been working on?

    Book Review: Hey, God, I've Got Some Guy Named Jonah in my Stomach

    When the chance to review this book came up, I just laughed.  The book cover, and the full title told me that yes, I simply had to review this book.

    Hey God, I've Got Some Guy Named Jonah in My Stomach and I Think I'm Gonna Throw Up! The whale tells his side of the story  by Troy Schmidt is an adorable book, and we really loved it here.

    The publisher described it like this:
    Oh sure, we've all heard the story of Jonah and the Whale a hundred times. But have we heard it from the perspective of the whale who experienced that history-making event?

    Hey God, I've Got Some Guy Named Jonah in My Stomach and I Think I'm Gonna Throw Up! imagines how that great sea creature from the incident might tell his side of the story, helping kids ages 4 to 8 discover a creative way of learning about that guy who was supposed to go to Ninevah.
    The "Parent Connection" feature (inside the book) will help moms and dads take the story further with scripture references and tips on how to talk with their children about what really happened.   Brought to you by B&H Kids, Available May 1, 2013.
    I read this to my seven year old, and she laughed through most of the book.  She was also quite capable of answering the questions in that "Parent Connection" section.  I think this twist on the story helped her to see it in a different way.

    Check out the video trailer:

    While we were gone last night, Thomas read the book to Richard.  Here is what they had to say:

    Richard, age 9:  "It's definitely interesting, because it is the whale's side of the story.  It has some funny points, and it's a nice book.  I would like to see some of the other books, like the one about Moses and the plagues, told by a frog."

    Thomas, age 12: "It is a really great story, and I liked looking at it from a completely different point of view.  It was easy to read, without any big words.  I'd be concerned though about reading this to kids who don't already know the real story, from the Bible, as this one is obviously fictional, and I'd hate for kids to think the Bible version is too.  However, if they already know the real thing, this is a fun way to think about it in a different way."

     I have one to give away! 

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    "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."