Picture Books for Active Boys

Picture Books for Active Boys

Man oh man, I love my boys. They’re hilarious, active, loving, active, smart, active, and…..hold on, I’m forgetting something…..oh, yeah, I remember now – ACTIVE.

I’ve always felt that my oldest boy required an unusually high level of activity. Things like the way he would stand on his head while watching TV…and stay like that…clued me in. He also jumps up and down while playing any video game, for as long as he plays it. And he looks for any opportunity/excuse to fall to the ground and roll. One of his soccer coaches commented that there wasn’t an inch of the field that Michael hadn’t fallen on. I never even knew that a love of fake-falling was a thing.

During Michael’s preschool years, I alternated between feeling frustrated and amused by all the head-standing, jumping, and falling. But my emotions started to settle on “frustrated” when it came time for me to teach him to read. It was a Struggle. And not because my precious boy was doing anything wrong. I had a lot to learn, not only about how to teach a child to read, but also about how my boy learns.

I won’t bore you with all the details of our journey (ugh, the Bachelor franchise has ruined that word for me), so I’ll just say that I learned that Michael best learns through short lessons, lots of repetition, and hands-on activities. And that last one – hands-on activities – is key.

You know what’s not typically a hands-on activity? Reading. No matter how compelling the story, Michael has no problem walking away to do something that is decidedly Not Reading, even during the most interesting part of the story. I blame my husband, who will watch 1 hour and 45 minutes of a movie with me, then kiss me good night and fall asleep during the last 15 minutes. Who does that?

But we powered through. Michael eventually realized that this reading thing wasn’t going away, and he’s become a really good reader. We even found some books that he loves along the way. In the (very professional – not) video below, I share some of his faves. You won’t see anything like The Velveteen Rabbit in there (even my book-loving preschooler begged me to stop reading that one), but I’ll take what I can get.

When I’m Big: A Silly Slider Book
Usborne Lift-the-Flap Picture Atlas
Usborne Lift-the-Flap Computers and Coding
Usborne Look Inside How Computers Work
Pyramids (A First Discovery Book)
Explore Within an Egyptian Mummy
Maze Craze Mummy Mazes
The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories
Minecraft: Redstone Handbook
The Big Book of Building: Everything Minecraft
Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers
(Disclaimer: These are affiliate links.)

Book Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

Well here it is. The review that I didn’t want to write. 

I was excited to read A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, which described her year-long experiment to live out exactly what the Bible teaches about women. I was intrigued by the experiment, ready to buy copies for family members so that we could all share in a unique look at Scripture. But I knew halfway through the book that I shouldn’t rush off to Amazon just yet.

I planned to review the book before I ever started reading it. When I didn’t love it, I thought maybe I should keep my thoughts to myself. A sentiment, by the way, not shared by the author, since she uses her book to express extremely negative feelings toward other authors (even describing throwing one of their books across the room at one point).

I want to do better for Mrs. Evans. Because you know what? It’s not ok to publicly and gleefully ridicule people that don’t agree with you. It’s not ok in a book, on Facebook, or on a blog. 

Instead, I’ll try to focus more on the positive, and give my take on whether or not Mrs. Evans year-long experiment was successful.

Twitterature Review

I’m linking up with Anne’s Twitterature link party, so here’s a short review of the book:

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: a well-written and entertaining read, but failed to deliver a sincere and fair exploration of Biblical womanhood. #NotWhatIExpected

Longer Review

There’s no doubt that Mrs. Evans is an extraordinarily gifted writer. As far as writing ability goes, I would put her in the company of Donald Miller and Lauren Winner. And maybe even the glimmer of a future Anne Lamott.

I especially loved the last three chapters of the book, where she shares her research on the reason we need Fair Trade products, what the Bible says about women in leadership, and meditation as practiced by different segments of the Christian population.

It becomes evident pretty quickly that Mrs. Evans has strong opinions about many of the topics that she tackled. Unfortunately, I felt that her strong opinions hampered a sincere look at the topic of Biblical womanhood by leading her to set herself up for failure/drama in some of her projects. For example, instead of learning to cook meals that average American women would make for their families, she chose to cook through a “textbook” on cooking written by Martha Stewart. And instead of choosing modern-style clothing in her attempt to be extremely “modest” (like maxi dresses layered with a shirt underneath), she chose an outfit that she says may have caused her to be mistaken for an Amish woman. Her descriptions of the results were entertaining, but, in my opinion, the research suffered.

I also thought that there was a missed opportunity in her chapter about motherhood. Mrs. Evans did not have children when she wrote this book, so much of her research was centered around a computerized baby doll. I think it would have been a more sincere look at motherhood to interview different types of mothers (one child, many children, single mother, etc.) on the topic of motherhood, shadow them for a day, and then share her insights.

Mrs. Evans’s tone during the first half of the book could be harsh at times, but I found that changed during the second half. I chalked up that change in tone to some of the relationships she developed with other women that did not share her views. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite aspects of the book was the change evident in the author. It reminded me that it’s all too easy to be judgy about people when we don’t know them, only to find that they sometimes end up changing us for the better when we take the time to see things from their perspective.

All in all, it was very well-written from beginning to end, but I do wish that the tone in some portions was more respectful to readers that may not share her opinions.

Should You Read It?

A Year of Biblical Womanhood is a worthy and entertaining read for those that are grounded in Scripture and not easily swayed by the opinions of others.

My Life as a Bookworm

I’ve had a few nicknames in my life. Several I hated. One I hated and grew to like. A couple I’ve liked from the start. And one is just true. That one would be “bookworm.”

I’ve been an avid reader since I learned the alphabet. I read whatever was handy – books, magazines, the box the toothpaste came in. It was a compulsion. My family started calling me a bookworm, and I couldn’t deny the truth of it.

A lot of what I read growing up wasn’t exactly edifying, but, thankfully, God used my twenties to turn my attention to Spirit-building material. Life in a new city with hardly a soul knowing my name resulted in many lonely hours watching TV and crocheting a blanket. Somewhere along the way crocheting gave way to Bible study, and I was hooked.

I first came across a Bible study in a Christian bookstore. I browse a clothing store in less than a minute with enough time left over to check Facebook, but I spend gleeful hours in a bookstore. My heart beats faster as I walk in and breaks just a little as I walk out. Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. No great love lends itself to mere words and phrases.

As I worked through that first Bible study and many more afterward, I developed a taste for books, both fiction and non-fiction, written with a Christian world view. That means that I learned to prefer books about God and for God. I like my fiction to be about heroines working through aspects of their faith, and maybe even falling in love in the process. I like my non-fiction to be about real people working through aspects of their faith, and definitely falling more in love with Jesus in the process.

The rest of my twenties were spent with the comfort of an edifying book in one hand and the satisfaction of a tasty beverage in the other. Friday nights were a treat because I could stay up as late as I wanted reading “just one more chapter” until I passed out and slept away much of Saturday morning. Bliss.

After reading my fair share of romance novels, it was only a matter of time before I fell in love, too. My early thirties found me trading in my bookworm title for girlfriend, fiancee, bride, wife, and now mommy.

But here’s the thing – I never meant to give up the bookworm moniker. I thought that it would happily live alongside every other title I took on. It never occurred to me that my love for my husband and children would dwarf my love for books to the point that I forgot about them a little bit.

And I’ve been the worse for it. Reading takes me to a quiet place inside my head that lends some of its peace to other areas of my life. So I’ve spent the past year falling in love with books all over again. I’ve learned that I still prefer books written with a Christian world view in mind to every other genre. I still enjoy Bible studies and romances. And devoting bits of time to that quiet place still makes me feel more peaceful.

I gladly reclaim my identity as a bookworm, and place that title alongside every other. These days I enjoy the comfort of an e-reader in one hand and the satisfaction of a child cradled in the other, but I’m still not much different from that little girl reading the box the toothpaste came in because it was handy. It’s still a compulsion, but one that I have learned to use to make the truly important aspects of my life better.

One of My Favorite Things About Les Miserables

My hubby and I finally went to see Les Miserables today. I’ve seen the play a couple of times and read the book a while back (trying to re-read it, but it is sloooow going), so it was fun (in a bring-me-to-tears sort of way) to see a movie adaptation that was true to the play.

One of the themes that I love in the play is the difficulty in understanding and accepting grace. As a Christian, it’s easy for me to say that I’m a sinner that’s been saved by grace, but sometimes I wonder how well I live out an understanding of grace. If I had a full grasp of grace, shouldn’t it be easy to dispense grace to others? Shouldn’t I quickly forgive, knowing that I have been forgiven much? But it’s not so easy for me, and I’m not quick about it.

In Les Mis, Valjean is offered grace by a kindly bishop, and accepts it after an internal struggle. He spends the rest of his life trying to eradicate the hate and bitterness that had taken root in his heart, and learning to live like a man that belongs to God. Javert, on the other hand, lives in a world where grace doesn’t exist and the law rules. Once he does finally get a taste of grace, he rejects it soundly.

The music in the play portrays these grace moments nicely. The following two clips, from the Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert, show Valjean contemplating grace and then Javert rejecting it.

Valjean Contemplating Grace

Javert Rejecting Grace (start at about the 4:10 mark)

What do you think? Are you a Valjean or Javert or somewhere in between?

6 Apps for Spiritual Growth to Use on Your New iPad

Are you one of the lucky ones that got a new iPad for Christmas? Have you been showering love and affection on your iPad like a mommy with a new baby? If so, I’m here to help by suggesting a few items for your new addition.

The following six apps can help you with your spiritual growth if used with that purpose in mind. I use these apps personally and have seen a benefit.

  • NIV Bible
    • What I like: The name is misleading, because you can actually purchase and download other translations besides the NIV, which I love. I especially like the interlinear feature.
    • How I use it: I use this app in church instead of lugging a Bible with me.
  • James: Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore
    • What I like: I’ve wanted to do computer-based interactive Bible studies for years, and this Bible study app brought that dream close to reality. I’m not saying that it’s a complete reality because it still needs some work, but I loved doing a Bible study in digital format. My favorite thing was being able to tap on a link to go to a Scripture passage and having it appear right next to the workbook text. Is that lazy? It’s probably lazy, but I’m owning it. I’m owning my lazy link-tapping self.
    • How I use it: I used to take my iPad to the Y and do Bible study after my workout while my kids were in the Y child care. Since I also read books on my iPad during my workout, it meant that I had fewer items to take to the gym with me.
  • Kindle Reader
    • What I like: Having access to my entire Kindle book library; the ability to sync my place in a book across all devices; being able to increase the text size when my eyes get tired (because I have the eyes of a centenarian); the ability to highlight and having access to those highlights online.
    • How I use it: I hardly ever read a physical book now and instead read on my iPad, iPhone, or Kindle. I subscribe to the following feeds to get free Kindle books, and sometimes even borrow digital books from the library.
  • Lamplight
    • What I like: Ok, this is a shameless plug since I created this app. The main thing I was trying to achieve was to create an electronic way to organize Scripture cards. I think I did that, as well as added a couple of niceties like dialing up a Scripture and a topic database.
    • How I use it: I organize verses that I want to keep track of from Bible study, and verses for prayer for my husband, myself, Advent, etc.
  • Evernote
    • What I like: Clipping web pages and saving them for offline use; syncing up between my Mac, my iPad, and my iPhone.
    • How I use it: My list of notebooks in Evernote is extensive, but the notebooks pertinent to this post include Quotes, Illustrations, and notebooks devoted to Bible study ideas.
  • Feeddler
    • What I like: The awesome interface for organizing and reading my Google Reader blog feeds.
    • How I use it: I try to read blogs written by people that I respect and that will encourage me as a Christian. This app makes it easy for me to mark a blog post as a favorite or as unread so that I can go back to it when I get a chance for further reflection or to post a comment.

What are your favorite iPad apps?

Book Review: Quitter by Jon Acuff

Why I Read the Book

Quitter, written by Jon Acuff, speaks to the unsatisfied employee wondering if there’s more to life than a job that doesn’t quite fit. Though I am currently a stay-at-home mom, I’ve been an unsatisfied employee at a couple of different jobs. And here’s what I mean by unsatisfied:

  • I would sometimes wake up depressed that I had to go into work.
  • I would peruse Monster.com for other opportunities.
  • I would often give myself a speech about how fortunate I was to have a good job (which was true).
  • I would feel trapped and not know what to do about it.

I didn’t jump on the Quitter bandwagon when the book first came out because I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for almost two years. And that’s not a job I have any desire to quit. But I finally read the book after understanding from Jon’s blog that it didn’t just speak to the unsatisfied employee, but also to the person that has a dream they would like to fulfill and very little time to make it happen.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned once or a hundred times that being a mom takes a lot of hard work and energy, more than I ever thought possible. So I was eager to read something that I hoped would encourage me to keep the flame of my dream burning.

What I loved

Quitter, to my surprise, read much like a story rather than a typical non-fiction book. I enjoyed seeing the story play out and don’t want to ruin it for you, so I’ll share a few key points:

  • Jon encourages us to get realistic about financial needs.
  • Jon gives some pointers to help us recognize our dreams.
  • Jon encourages us to keep plugging away at working out our dreams without expecting overnight success.
  • Jon reminds us to hustle in a balanced way.

What I didn’t love so much

I loved so much about Quitter that it’s hard to come up with a negative. But if I had to choose an area for improvement, I’d say that I wish that there had been stories of other “quitters”. If he mentioned others, I can’t recall them now (it’s been a couple of weeks since I read the book). So much of the book was about his personal story that it may not have made sense to give other people’s stories.

The Verdict

I loved the book and plan to re-read it.

Read Quitter if you have a dream that you would like to fulfill, or are wondering if there’s a dream somewhere inside you.

Don’t read it if you’re just looking for justification for quitting your job.

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