The Reading Report, Vol. 11: April Edition

I’m baaaack! I really hated to take over a week-long hiatus from the blog, but we just had a lot of real life going on that interrupted my writing life. I finally feel like I’m getting some ideas on what to write again, so hopefully, I will be back with more regular posts in the coming weeks.

The good news is that my plan for “spring cleaning” my reading life last month worked out really well, and I have several finished titles to discuss today. I also have started (or re-started) a few books that are giving me a lot to think about! So, let’s talk books, shall we?

What I Finished Reading:

True Grit: This was my first time reading a western novel, and I LOVED it! It was the most recent pick for the Circe Close Reads podcast, so I knew it would be good. I just didn’t know what to expect. I was most surprised by how much I laughed while reading this book. The adventure part of the story was fast-paced and made for a quick read. Be warned…there are snakes, gunshot wounds, spiders, bats and skeletons! But the story is so well-crafted, that I think it is totally worth the any discomfort caused by those little details!

Hello Mornings: If you are needing a fresh start or just a little “kick in the pants” to get into a good morning routine that will set your day off in the right direction, I can recommend Kat Lee’s book, Hello Mornings! Her personal stories and encouraging and touching, and her writing style is candid and uplifting. The practical suggestions and questions for reflection throughout will help you take action to make your mornings count. Even though I have a pretty workable morning routine already, it was good to think about how I can up my game and add more healthy habits to certain areas of my morning and the rest of my day!

Dr. Dolittle: This was a free-read that my son and I read together last month. I was a big fan of the Dr. Dolittle musical with Rex Harrison when I was young, so I really was looking forward to reading the book. It was a delightful tale, as I expected. My son loves stories about animals, as well as adventures and fantasy, so this book fit the bill quite nicely.

Full: Food, Jesus and the Battle for Satisfaction: I amazed myself by actually completed two non-fiction (self-help, no less) books in one month! Granted, I had been working my way through them both for longer than that, but I am proud that I am improving in my ability to stick to this genre of book and finish! Asheritah Ciuciu did such an amazing job writing a book on such a challenging topic as food fixation, and her personal story makes everything she says so relatable. I think this book would be great for a small group or for accountability partners to go through together. It contains so many practical, Biblical ideas for changing the way we think about food and for pointing our attention back to Jesus.

White Fang: Yes, I actually finished the RIGHT book this time! And in the end, I am glad I read Call of the Wild first, and then this one so soon after. It gave me a chance to compare the stories of the two dogs who are the main characters. Jack London is such a great writer, and I found the way he crafted the two plots to work in opposite directions of each other truly fascinating. Again, I must warn more sensitive souls that these books contain some pretty hard to read descriptions of cruelty to dogs, both by men and other dogs. However, no matter how bad things look, there is redemption in the end.

Bark of the Bog Owl: The first book of the “Wilderking Trilogy”, Bark of the Bog Owl is a middle-grade fantasy novel that I think the whole family will enjoy. The story is a retelling of the life of the young King David, but set in a mythical world that resembles a medieval twist on the American southern landscape. (Sounds intriguing, no?!) My husband happens to work with the author of these books, Dr. Jonathon Rogers, and he was so kind to gift us with the whole set! I decided to pre-read this one to see if it would be a good family read aloud now or if we should wait a while. I am glad to report that we will definitely be adding it to our schedule sooner rather that later!

What I’m Reading Now:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin: I picked this one back up, this time in hard copy format, rather than the e-book I started out with. While I know this is an important book for me to read and understand, I can’t really say I’m enjoying reading about the buying and selling of humans.

Parenting Scripts: I’ve mentioned this new book by Amber Lia and Wendy Speake before, and I am looking forward to digging into it again (and finishing it this time)! The great thing is that I’ll be reading this in community this time because Amber and Wendy are hosting a book club on their private facebook page. I can hardly wait to create some better strategies and habits for dealing with parenting challenges!

Switch on Your Brain: I recently heard about the author of this book, Dr. Caroline Leaf, and listened to a couple of podcasts she did on the affects of social media on our brains. I was so excited and curious about her work, that I got my hands on the first book of hers I found. And I’m loving it so far! This one has so much Scripture and science woven in together, and she also includes a 21-Day Brain Detox at the end of the book, which sounds fascinating! I’ll definitely let you know what I learn.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: I just started this today as my new audio book. It’s a little slow here at the beginning, but judging from my past experience with Jules Verne books, I think the action will pick up later on.

That’s a Wrap!

Kudos to you if you actually read this whole post! I realize I had a lot to say about all my books this month. I guess I’m making up for lost writing time, ha! But now it’s your turn to tell me what you are reading. Have you finished any new books lately?

How Embarrassing! – True Confessions of a Book Blogger

I am going to admit something really embarrassing as a book blogger. I debated whether or not to even post about this because y’all are going to laugh at me. But they say confession is a laugh, I am going to just put it all out there.

Readers, I finished an entire book, loved the book, and even blogged and posted on social media about this book….all while thinking I was reading an entirely different book! Ugh. There I said it. Want to know what book I was actually reading, versus which book I thought I was reading?

Ok, I just finished Call the of the Wild. I thought it was White Fang. Again, ugh!

In my defense, I was not actually reading this book with my eyes but listening to it on audio via the Volumes app on my iPad. And at least I was reading a book about a dog, and it was by the same author. But I still feel really silly. I mean, the audio book cover art DOES have the title right there on it. And I just overlooked it completely. I had the title “White Fang” stuck in my head, so I just kept on believing that was what I was listening to. Nevermind the fact that the words “call” and “wild” are key words that keep showing up over and over throughout the story. There was some mention of “fangs” in there, too, but I don’t think that justifies such a glaring mistake on my part!

So, there you have it. My embarrassing confession of reading an entire book without even knowing what I was reading! I’m sure there is some deeper meaning or lesson you could pull out of this silly little story of mine, but I’m not even going to try and redeem myself at this point. I am, however, going to sit down and actually start reading the REAL White Fang by Jack London now, since I picked up the print copy from my local library today. I’ll tell you how it goes!

But before I close, someone please tell me you’ve done something like this before! After all, confession is good for the soul!

The Reading Report, Vol. 10: A Little Spring Cleaning

We woke up to a light coating of very wet snow on the grass and trees yesterday, all glittering in the sunshine and making the woods look like a fairy world. But by mid-day, the snow had melted completely, as I expected since it is nearly spring in Middle Tennessee! I know a lot of people start talking about spring cleaning this time of year, and we get to itching to air out the house after being shut up for so long. I participated in a local consignment sale over the weekend and hauled out a bunch of the kids outgrown clothes from last year. Of course, I also brought home a fresh batch up new-to-us duds for this spring and summer.

It would also happen that I noticed this week that my reading life has gotten a bit messy lately. I have started a lot of books already this year, but I haven’t finished nearly so many. My mental  book lists are in quite a jumble! Even though my physical book shelves may appear pretty tidy, I feel like my reading life is in desperate need of a good decluttering session. Do you ever feel that way? Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I get overeager to read “all the things.” Then I get overwhelmed with decision fatigue every time I sit down to read because I can’t figure out just which book I should pick up and keep reading. I know some people can have up to 10 books going at the same time, but I don’t think I am one of those people.

In order to clean up my reading life, I am going to shelve a bunch of the books I have started, just for the time being, and focus on just a few at a time. My approach to doing this needs to be balanced so that I always have some different types of reading material to choose from. My goal is to have only 3-4 books in progress at the same time. I aim to keep at least 2 fiction books on the docket at all times, one print and one audio. I also always need to be working through just 1 non-fiction devotional or self-help book. (This is the most challenging genre for me to actually finish, so just reading one at a time will help me stay on task.) Since I am continuously reading something aloud with my son, usually a new book for us both, I count it as part of my personal reading, as well.

Books I’m Keeping on My Active List:

True Grit–this is the newest selection for the Close Reads podcast. I am halfway through this book already, and I have relished it so far. It is not only a quick-moving book, but it is surprisingly humorous. I have also been intrigued by the many references to Scripture and bits of moral commentary.

Call of the Wild— I chose this book largely because I got it free on audio and had never read it before. I have to admit, I was not prepared for the vivid descriptions of mistreatment of dogs that make up a large part of the storyline. It has not been an easy listen, although it is an excellent piece of literature and a compelling story. Painful but powerful…I think that is how I would describe this book.

Hello Mornings–I am determined to finish this book by the end of the month! It was the selection for the February focus in the Cultivating the Lovely Podcast Patreon group, but I didn’t get started until halfway through the month. I am enjoying and gleaning some good insights, but it is just slow going for me because of the genre.

Dr. Dolittle–this is our new family read aloud. I am sure it won’t take us very long as the book is not thick, and the story is a fun one!

Books I’m Shelving for Now:

The Wreath–I was borrowing this from the library and hadn’t gotten far enough in before the due date to merit renewing it. It’s on my B2tC Challenge list, so I will get back to it sooner or later!

Uncle Tom’s Cabin (and the Key)–another B2tC Challenge book that I started with good intention. But this one is a painful read for me, and I can’t have more than one of those going at the same time. Maybe I will pick it back up when I finish one of my other fiction books.

Full–I do want to finish this book very soon. I only wish I had started it at the beginning of the 40 Day Sugar Fast because once that was over, I lost motivation to read the book, too!

Utopia–Another B2tC title that I started and couldn’t get into right away. I have had this book sitting on my bookshelf since college days and have never read the whole thing. I WILL finish it this year if it’s the last things I do, ha!

Better Together–I did read the first several chapters of Pam Barnhill’s new book, and I am really enjoying it so much! I just can’t read everything at once, and since I am pretty content with our current Morning Time and school schedule at the moment, I decided to put this on hold for the time being. I may come back to it during break week, though, just for a fresh bit of inspiration during my planning for the next term. (I do highly recommend you get your hands on this book before March 31, 2018 so you can get the fun exclusive bonuses Pam is offering! Just order through my Amazon affiliate link, then go to the Better Together book page and fill out the form at the bottom of the page to claim your bonus!)

The Spiritual Life–I started this yesterday on one of our long drives to and from church because I had forgotten to bring a book or knitting along for the ride. It is another of my B2tC titles, and I am looking forward to reading this as a devotional supplement, once I get finished with my other books in that genre.

Books I’ve Finished Lately:

Frankenstein–Having finished this book, my reaction was mixed. I was glad to have read it and gotten rid of all my pop-culture saturated ideas about what it would be like. I did find it a captivating and suspenseful read. There were some very thought-provoking ideas presented throughout the book. However, I also felt that I had to have a willing suspension of disbelief about the way Frankenstein acted throughout much of the story. Perhaps he really was a genius, but he did not display a lot of common sense or ability to foresee the consequences of his actions. His failure to take proper responsibility for the creature he had made really, really bothered me. But I guess that was part of the point of the story.

Farmer Boy–My son and I just finished this one together, and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. Even the 2 year old found it enjoyable when she happened to be around. Of course, all the descriptions of food make this a book you don’t want to read when you are hungry! But as a model of a hard-working boy who not only did his work but grew to love it, Farmer Boy is pretty hard to beat!

Babe, the Gallant Pig–this was a quick, fun little book to read on a quiet afternoon! I’ve loved the film version of Babe since it came out waaaay back in 1995 (honestly, how did that get to be so long ago!?), but I somehow missed the fact that there was a book until just recently. My son read it on his own and thought it was great, too. My one word of caution, however, if you are thinking of handing this over to your independent readers….the author uses the “technical term” for a female dog throughout to refer to the mother collie. I did not know this until after my son read the book, and I was reading it myself. He did not mention it, and having not come across this word in daily life, it is probable he just skimmed over it. However, if I had it to do over again, I would probably do this one as a family read-aloud and edit that out as I read!

Well, I think that’s about it for this round of the Reading Report! How is your reading life these days? Do you have any readerly spring cleaning to do? Or is your booklist already nice and tidy? I’d love for you to leave a comment and tell me what you’ve been reading lately!

The Reading Report, Vol 9: February Edition

With February flying by, it’s time for another installment of The Reading Report! I honestly have not been reading as much this month as I might like, and I’m not sure exactly why. I have listened to some audio books, and I have been slowly dipping into a couple of non-fiction books.  Since non-fiction is hard for me, I am always pleased at every bit of progress I make through them! So, let’s dig in and chat about what I’m reading these days.

What I’m reading now…

Frankenstein— This was my selection for the “Classic that scares you” section of the Back to the Classics Challenge. I really don’t know why I was afraid to read it, except that I didn’t know anything about the book and thought it would be kitschy or boring or just plain weird. But, surprisingly, I have enjoyed it immensely! It has been very thought provoking, especially in terms of ethics, morality and justice. I am primarily listening to Frankenstein on Librivox, but sometimes I read a chapter on Kindle instead. I’m actually at least 3/4 of the way through, so I am sure I’ll finish it by the end of the month.

Full: Food, Jesus and the Battle for Satisfaction— I started reading this during the 40 Day Sugar Fast, and I have been using it as one option for extra devotional reading in the mornings. It is really an excellent companion for fasting. I would also recommend it to anyone who struggles with any kind of food battles from overindulging to under-eating and everything in between. Asheritah has a very conversational, encouraging voice, and the format of the book is perfect for individual or group study.

Hello Mornings— This book was on my list to read this year, and it came into my hands in a totally God-ordained way. I have only just begun reading this, but it’s already made me cry! Kat Lee has an encouraging and challenging way of writing, and this book gives plenty of opportunity for reflection as well as action. If you are tired of starting your days a frazzled mess, feeling like you are just along for the ride instead of really living each day with intention, I would strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Hello Mornings.

The Wreath— This was another of my picks for the Back to the Classics Challenge, under the “Classic in Translation” heading. I really didn’t know anything about this book except that it was Scandinavian, and that it is the first in a trilogy. I have only finished a few chapters, but it has definitely sucked me in with its hints at something mysterious and magical going on beneath the surface of normal daily life.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin and A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin— Another pick from my B2tCC list, Uncle Tom’s Cabin also happened to hit my radar this month due to a discussion thread on the AmblesideOnline Forum. The discussion group there is also reading the “companion” that Stowe wrote as a response to criticism that she painted a more grim picture of slavery than it really was. I can tell these books are going to be very frustrating reads on one level, since they highlight the mistreatment of human beings for no reason but the color of their skin. At the same time, though, I can also predict that I am going to really enjoy the character development and Stowe’s writing style.

What I’ve finished reading…

Howards End— I had to return my print copy of this book long before I was finished, but I was thrilled to find the audio version available to check out on the Libby app. And it was even narrated by one of my new favorites, Nadia May. She did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life. I know I wasn’t able to listen as closely as I would have been able to read, but all the same, I really enjoyed Forster’s prose. This is the current Close Reads podcast selection, so it has been enlightening to listen to some deeper digging into the themes than I could ever even imagine doing myself!

A Door in the Wall— This was one of our free reads for AmblesideOnline Year 2. Even though it is a short book, my son and I took our time reading through it together. I appreciated the way De Angeli wove in the themes of overcoming adversity and learning to serve God in whatever capacity we can without being heavy handed. It was also a great living book for looking at the daily life of a boy in Medieval times, which fits in very well for the period of history that we are studying in many of our other books right now.

What I’m reading next…

Better Together— Podcaster and blogger Pam Barnhill has just come out with a new book all about her specialty: Morning Time! I am looking forward to reading an advance copy since I am part of her launch team and picking up a few ideas and pointers to improve our own morning time and homeschool in general.

And now it’s your turn…what are you reading these days? What books have you finished lately?

The Reading Report, Vol. 8: Reading in the New Year

Welcome to the first 2018 edition of The Reading Report! I hope that you are off to a positive start to this new year. I can hardly believe that it is already the middle of January! Here in Middle Tennessee we are enjoying a beautiful snowy day, which is a bit of a rarity around here, I think. We have already chuckled just a bit (sorry Southerners!) at the speed at which everything gets cancelled when a little snow is falling. But, homebody that I am, I guess I don’t mind the added excuse to stay home and enjoy the extra time playing in the snow, drinking hot tea, and (of course) reading good books. Which leads me to the main point of this post–what I’m reading in the New Year!

What I’ve finished reading…

If you read the last installment of The Reading Report for 2017, you know that I have taken on the “Back to the Classics Challenge.” That post outlined the 12 (or more) books that I plan to read to fulfill each category for the challenge. I do, however, plan to read other books as well, and I have set a goal to finish 30 titles this year. I have already made a small dent in that number in just 2 weeks, which is good because I actually have been so busy with other things that I feel like I haven’t spent as much time reading as I should.

First, I finally finished Triggers! This book was so packed with good spiritual insight and practical help for me in my parenting struggles. I really think I need to read it again, focussing on just one chapter every week and intentionally trying to improve in that area. If you have any anger issues at all as a parent, I highly recommend this book!

The kids and I listened to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland together on Audible. We enjoyed it so much! I had read this book years ago, but it was delightful to get re-aquainted with the story with my children. We listened to this one for free on Audible Channels, which is a feature for Amazon Prime members. They have several classic audio books, both for families and adults only, as well as newer releases. If you have Prime and haven’t used Audible Channels, you should give it a try! And if you don’t have Amazon Prime, you should! Ha! 😉

Another great book I finished (also via Audible Channels) was The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. It was so good! I am finding that Christie’s mysteries make a really good “break” from heavier reading or non-fiction.

What I am reading now…

The first book I am diving into from my Back to the Classics list is Howards End by E. M. Forster. It is also the current selection being discussed on the Close Reads podcast. I knew nothing about Forster or Howards End before I started reading, but so far I am thoroughly enjoying it. Several thought provoking passages have jumped out at me, as well as many humorous lines. I still am not sure where the plot is going, but the characters I have met so far are delightful!

One of my goals for this year’s reading is to work my way through at least one of Charlotte Mason’s volumes. Since I still have young children, it made sense for me to start at the beginning and read Home Education. I am taking it very slow, only reading a few pages at a time, because I want to absorb the ideas and make lots of connections as I go.

The third book in my basket right now is Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu. I started this one as a companion to the 40 Day Sugar Fast devotionals. Although I am only a chapter in, I can already tell it is going to be good! The focus of both the book and the fast is not food as much as it is on breaking free from bondage to food fixation and other sins so that we can find our satisfaction in Jesus. I am looking forward to talking more about these concepts as I go through this journey over the next month.

Oh, and I almost forgot! I also am listening to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Since this was one of the books that I said I was “afraid” to read on the Back to the Classics list, I decided to get an early start on it. The first several chapters have been fine so far, just a little slow, perhaps. It is a lot of character set-up. But I think listening to it on Librivox has been a good way to get into it. I will probably start reading it in print, too, and go back and forth between the two.

That’s all for now…

I have been interrupted so many times while writing this post, I certainly hope it doesn’t sound as scattered as I feel! If it does, and you still made it this far, thanks for hanging in there with me! By the way, if you are a regular reader of my blog (or hope to be one in 2018), would you mind filling out this quick little survey for me? I am looking for some input on what you all would like to see more of in this space, as well as how I can best connect with you in the future! It is just 3 short questions, so if you can give me just a minute more of your time, I will be so grateful.

 

The Reading Report, Vol. 7: Back to the Classics Challenge 2018

Welcome to the December edition of The Reading Report! I can hardly believe that Christmas is only two weeks away! The holidays feel a little different this year since we are in a new location, but we have been enjoying the local festivities. We will also get to see some family during Christmas break, which will be very nice!

My reading life has been a little off lately. I got a bit overwhelmed with life a couple of weeks ago and stepped back from a lot of things to give myself a mental break. During that time, I realized that I had succumbed to a bad case of start-itis, especially where books are concerned. I have started a lot of books recently and then lacked the motivation or focus to finish them. As I thought over what I want 2018 to look like, I came to the conclusion that I need to simplify and narrow my focus in several areas, one of those being my reading habits. And just at the moment I was thinking about how to do this, I stumbled upon some posts by fellow AmblesideOnline moms about the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge. Perfect timing!

This challenge is hosted by Karen at her blog, Books and Chocolate. (Sounds like a great combo, right?!) What I like about her challenge is that it will give me a chance to narrow down just exactly what I want to read in the coming year, with a creative twist. I have a specific goal to shoot for, and a timeline to do it in. It also will challenge me to read some things I might not otherwise have the courage to crack open. Some these prompts made me think of more than one book that I might like to read, so I am writing down both options and will see what mood I am in when it comes down to the actual reading. Now, without further ado, here are my proposed titles for the Back to the Classics 2018 Challenge:

1. A 19th Century Classic: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
2. A 20th Century Classic: Howards End by E. M. Forster
3. A Classic by a Woman Author: Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
4. A Classic in Translation: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert or The Wreath (book 1 of Kristin Lavransdatter) by Sigrid Undset
5. A Children’s Classic: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder or Heidi by Johanna Spyri
6. A Classic Crime Story: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
7. Classic Travel or Journey Narrative: Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing or 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
8. Classics with a Single-Word Title: Utopia by Thomas More or Walden by Henry David Thoreau
9. Classic with a Color in the Title: White Fang by Jack London
10. Classic by a New-to-You Author: The Spiritual Life by Andrew Murray
11. A Classic that Scares You: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley or The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
12. Re-read a Favorite Classic: something by Jane Austen (because I just have to read an Austen ever year!)

At the end of the 2018, I will report back with the complete list of finished titles. I really do hope I can discipline myself to focus in on this list and not get distracted by too many other books I could read. In 2017 I finished 16 books, not including numerous children’s classics we either read aloud or listened to as a family. In light of that, 12 classics should not be too much to ask, even if some of them a bit long. I also am very slowly working my way through Charlotte Mason’s Home Education Series, but I just read a few pages of one of those each day or two and let the ideas simmer.

Do you have any reading plans for 2018? Are you joining in the Back to the Classics Challenge? I’d love to hear what you are going to be reading in the New Year, so leave me a comment below!

 

 

 

This post is linked up with Books and Chocolate: Back to the Classics 2018. 

The Reading Report, Vol. 6: Picture Book Edition

Happy Almost Thanksgiving, readers! I am excited to be entering into this holiday season in a new place this year! My parents and my brother and sister-in-law will be coming in for Thanksgiving, and we are looking forward to their visit. In light of the beginning of a busy season for most families, I thought I had better go ahead and get this month’s Reading Report written up so that it isn’t lost in the holiday shuffle. Besides, as promised last time, this edition is chalk full of favorite picture books, all of which would make great gifts for the children on your list! Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive list, just the most recent favorites the kids and I have been enjoying together. Many are classics, but some are newer books. All are well-worth a spot on a child’s bookshelf!

Picture books we’ve been loving:

            

                     

             

    

     

What I’ve Finished Reading:

I can’t publish this month’s Reading Report without mentioning a few of my own books, of course. I certainly cannot skip over my thoughts on finishing GileadI turned its final page just a couple nights ago, and I have still been thinking about the book ever since. It did take a while to get into, and I will admit that for a while it seemed to move so slowly and quietly that it nearly put me to sleep a couple of times. However, the pace of the storyline and tension between characters picked up later on, and the ending was very moving to me. I actually honestly cried big fat tears at the end. The book had so many themes woven through it: grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, family relationship, generational heritage, aging, youth, beauty of creation, small town life…I could go on! It is more of a fictionalized memoire than a plot-driven book, which may not be for everyone. I seemed to me very much a chronicle of a man coming to peace with himself and his fellow man near the end of his life. And I loved it.

Also, if you are looking for a fun fantasy sort of book to read with your kids, Edith Nesbit’s Five Children and It is a great read aloud or audible choice! The kids and I listened to it on our car rides recently, and we fell in love with these ordinary children who have extraordinary adventures (and learn some good lessons) thanks to finding an unusual mythical creature who can grant their wishes!

What I’m Reading Next:

The Penderwicks: I saw this one while browsing at the library today and decided to pick it up for my own light reading. If I think it is appropriate, I may read it aloud to my son once I am finished.

I also just started in on Last Child in the Woods. This book has been on my radar for a long time, but I never had a chance to actually sit down and read it. Seeking to spend more time outdoors is always a goal I have for myself and my kids, and I know this book is just going to drive home the point. But so far I am finding the statistics and other information in the first few chapters very interesting.

The next Close Reads podcast pick is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. My son and I just read the E. Nesbit synopsis version in Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, so I am looking forward to reading and watching the play next!

What I Shelved:

The Explosive Child: Since I mentioned this book in the last Reading Report, I thought I should let you all know I ended up returning this title to the library after only reading the first few chapters. There was just too much emphasis on the psychological and developmental theories from a secular point of view, not taking into account the sin nature of the child. I do not know if I would have found some helpful tips later on in the book, but I decided it was not a book for me right now.

And that is probably enough from me for now! Happy Reading, friends!

The Life-giving Habit of Mother Culture

Mother culture

There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children’s childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth.

from “Mother Culture” by “A.” in The Parents’ Review, vol. 3, no. 2, pgs. 92-95

I had never heard the term “mother culture” until about two years ago when I was listening to Leah Boden talk about it in one of her Periscope broadcasts. At the time, I was knee deep in the duties of caring for a young infant—diapering, nursing, feeding, bathing, soothing, and all the rest. I was also in the infant stages of homeschooling our son, and that in itself felt like a full time job. The rest of life did not stop, either, just because I had many demands at home. There were outside commitments snd situations that also depleted my physical and emotional energy. I was definitely feeling “used up” in those days!

Thankfully, since I had so much time to sit while nursing a baby, I started to read during those many hours each day. I don’t remember how intentional I was about it at first, but I knew I needed to give my mind something more nourishing to chew on than Facebook, Instagram and random blogs. I am not sure I had read Brandy Vencel’s wonderful post on Mother Culture then, but if not then, I know I read it sometime not too much later. She does a great job of pulling the meat from that article in the PR magazine from which I quoted earlier and distilling it down to give us a good working definition of this thing called “mother culture.”

Basically, mother culture is another way of saying that we as home educators, and arguably, even parents who do not keep their children home for their schooling, must continue to education ourselves even as we teach our children. If we do not, our minds will certainly stagnate, and lapse into unhealthy patterns of thinking. I do wonder if I had developed this habit of mother culture when my first child was born, perhaps I would have lessened the degree of my postpartum depression. We will never know, I guess, but I certainly believe it helped keep me out of the doldrums with my second baby! And now that my children are older and learning and growing in their education, wide reading and other habits of self-education are important for me to continue feeding my mind and growing as I pour out to teach and train them. Perhaps this will become even more crucial as they enter the high school years and are encountering books and ideas that I never had the chance to explore in my own formal education (Latin, for example).

There is no education but self-education.

Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.

Charlotte Mason

If the above statement about self-education are true for our children, how much more so are they true for us as adults, when we are no longer under a formal course of study? It seems that as mothers we must form habits of tending our own minds and hearts as much as we help tend to those of our children. Also, even though the original article on Mother Culture only mentions wide reading, I do think that these habits of self-education extend to other areas of study. I have found for myself that it is equally life-giving to practice handwriting, drawing, nature study, and watercolor as to read a book. It is refreshing to my soul when I listen with attention to an opera or symphony, when I knit or crochet or do needlework, and when I commonplace quotes from my own reading. The important thing is to do something which is expanding my mind and my skills, not mention my own habit of attention, so that I do not stagnate or drain myself dry.

So now I want to encourage you, whether you are in the toddler years, or the teen years, do something that gives life to your mind and soul. Read a stretching book to challenge you to think deeply. Learn a new skill to do with your hands. Take in a piece of art or music, paying close attention to the beauty in its details. Walk out in nature and take notes on what you find. Whatever small habits you can begin to cultivate your own education, I do believe that developing your own mother culture will be well worth the effort! What will you do to fill yourself up today?

More Than Just Another Money Management Book: Review and Giveaway!

Scroll to the end of this post to enter the giveaway and win a copy of More Than Just Making It!

When I signed up for The Humbled Homemaker, Erin Odum’s book launch team, I figured that this would be a good book to give me some encouragement and pointers on money management during a financially stressful time. And it was! What I did not count on was that it would get me thinking about so much more than just making ends meet. But then, with a title like More Than Just Making It, I guess I should have!

In her book, Erin shares very openly about her family’s struggles during several very financially challenging years, so difficult, in fact, that she finally came to the point of needing some government assistance just to put food on the table for her growing family. Having grown up in average middle class American culture, Erin discussed how humbling and eye-opening that experience was for her. In reading More Than Just Making It, I identified a lot with Erin’s preconceptions and prejudices about those who use government aid programs. Around the same time I received my advanced copy, my husband was just coming off a period of serious underemployment, and if it had not been for the savings we had built up over the past few years, we would have been part of the “working poor” just like Erin and her husband were.

Along with the memoire portion of the book, Erin also has a lot of practical financial advice on everything from saving money on healthy food, to making wise decisions when looking for a home. More importantly, though, she shares practical spiritual advice on how to find hope in the midst of your financial frustration. One of the greatest things she and her husband learned from their challenging situation was how to trust God for their everyday needs to be met, and then to be truly grateful to Him when He did provide.

One of my favorite chapters in More Than Just Making It is titled “Redifining the American Dream.” In this chapter, Erin discusses the need for a change in our mindset when it comes to how we in America think of financial success. I think this chapter resonated so much with me because of where our family is at right now. Yes, my husband now has a full-time income that is livable for us now, but we are moving to a very affluent area with a higher cost of living than we are used to. It would be very easy for us to look around at all the big, beautiful houses and become envious and strive to attain that for ourselves. But lately we have felt the desire instead to simplify and downsize. If there is one thing packing for a move teaches just about everyone, it is that we have too much stuff! My new hope for our family finances is that we will have enough to take care of our needs and then be flesible enough to give generously above and beyond our tithe. I want us to be content with what we have and to be hospitable and welcoming without self-consciousness.

All that to say, I highly recommend More Than Just Making It: Hope for the Heart of the Financially Frustrated to anyone, not just those of you who may be in need of money managment tips. This book will encourage, inspire and challenge you to be a wise steward of what you have, to look for God’s provision in unexpected places, and to seek to be a blessing to others who are hurting. I hope you will check out the book webpage for all the amazing pre-order goodies Erin is offering if you purchase the book before the release date of September 5, 2017! And, finally, I have a special chance for one lucky reader to win a print copy of the book! You can enter the giveaway below, or click here to be taken to a new page and enter. The giveaway will close on September 4, 2017 at midnight, so don’t delay! I will contact the winner by email for your mailing address. Enjoy!

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The Reading Report, Vol. 3

Welcome to the August edition The Reading Report! Even though I am in the midst of some pretty unpredictable days what with starting the moving process and all that entails, I have been finding a decent amount of time to read lately. Actually, I may be reading a bit more right now to distract myself from thinking about the myriad details over which I currently have no control! I just read an article online that cited a study in which researchers found people felt more stressed by moving house than they did by going through a divorce. So let's just call any extra time I spend reading this month "therapy," okay?

What I am currently reading…

I finished two(!) books yesterday, so my "currently reading" list just got shorter. I am still working my way through The Brothers Karamazovand I am getting deep into the action now, I think. There has been some blood and a lot of ranting and raving and a late night ride across the country. But that is as far as I have gotten. I am anxious to find out what happens next! The characters in this book, or I should say, at least in the Karamazov family seem to have a fatalistic view of themselves. They often say things that imply they feel they cannot help their actions because they are Karamazovs, or they were just drawn into an action by some unseen force they could not resist. I am curious to find out if any of them overcomes this fatalism, particularly the one brother who is introduced as the heroic character in the story.

Also still on my current reads list are these three parenting books: Heartfelt Discipline, Grace-Based Parenting, and Triggers. I mentioned before that I struggle with non-fiction, especially the more self-help variety, so I have not been cracking these titles open as often as I probably should be! If you have any tips to help me become a better non-fiction reader, or how you keep books rotating more evenly, please leave me a comment. I need some ideas how to keep these going even when I don't FEEL like it!

What I have finished reading recently. . .

Last week I was delighted to receive a package of books in the mail from an Instagram giveaway hosted by the lovely Amy Bennett of Abiding Ministries and the Feathers: Faith in Flight podcast. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of titles she sent, and I immediately started reading the one that stood out to me the most: The Polygamist's Daughter by Anna LeBaron. I had perhaps heard of this new book once before but did not know anything about it. After just a few pages, I was sucked into this riveting memoir of a woman who was the daughter of a polygamist cult leader and convicted murderer, Ervil LeBaron. I had never heard of him or his cult, I think because I was too young at the time that most of the drama played out on national television. Reading Anna's heartbreaking stories of childhood abuse and neglect made me really think of how little we really know about the people we pass by in the store or on the street each day. To a passerby on the street, Anna probably would have seemed like any other little girl living in poverty, but the realities of her life at home were not things most of us would imagine happening in modern America. Her conversion story was definitely uplifting, but not without its own share of struggles. This book made me think a lot–about gratitude, about faith, about real hardship, about grace, about compassion, about forgiveness, about redemption, about healing and about God as a true Father to the fatherless.

The other book I finished was Brideshead Revisited. I have yet to listen to the final Close Reads podcast about the last few chapters. This book was truly beautiful from beginning to end. It did not end quite as I might have expected, but when I finished I realized it had ended just exactly as it should have. It also was a story of conversion, but not at all in the same way that The Polygamist's Daughter is. The conversions that take place in Brideshead are quieter, more private, happening off-screen, so to speak. I really enjoyed this book and hope to read it again one day. I do think it helped me get more out of it by having listened to the discussions of David, Tim, Angelina and Andrew. I am sure there was still much that was lost on me, but at least their insights brought many ideas to the surface that I would never have had the eyes to see myself on this first reading. I can hardly wait to see what the next Close Reads selection will be!

What I'm reading next…

I might be pushing myself a bit here, considering what I said earlier, but I am going to try starting another non-fiction book! Since I have this lovely stack of brand new books from Amy, I want to keep reading them! (Plus, I think I will be having a giveaway or two in the near future to "pay it forward" and give someone else a chance to be blessed with some new free reads!) I just have not quite decided which one to start next. So, any opinions? If you have read one or more of these books already, please let me know what you think and if it should be added to my current reading list!

Your Powerful Prayers by Susie Larson (Thinking this one would be a nice devotional read since chapters are packed with Scripture and include study questions at the end.)

Josiah's Fire by Tahni Cullen (This one is about a boy with autism, written by his mother. It sounds really captivating, and would be a nice story-based balance to my self-help nonfiction list!)

Come with Me by Suzanne Eller (This one sounds great for me where I am right now in the midst of transition and uncertainty about the future!)

Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (Again, this sounds like a good one for my current situation. Moving can seem very un-lovely at times!)

Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction by Asheritah Ciuciu (This is probably at the bottom of my list right now. I probably could really use the message, though, since I do tend to self-medicate with food. Ahem. Moving on…)

Well, that's it for Volume 3 of The Reading Report! Here's hoping that the next issue is written from my new space in Tennessee! In the meantime, tell me what you are reading right now in the comments below! Happy Reading!