February 26, 2015

Poetry for Children

Welcome to the last month in our 2014-2015 themes for Poppins Book Nook! We've had a great year with wonderful topics to explore. February is the last month in our cycle and this month we are exploring poetry. For many children, poetry can be dreaded. Some adults hate it too. In our family, we love it. We've been reading poetry to the boys from the time they were born and they both were eager to enjoy the poetry unit we did.
Poetry for Children: A Collection of Books and Activities

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I love poetry...well, let me rephrase that. I love poetry that rhymes. I have this thing about rhyme and rhythm when it comes to poetry. If it doesn't flow happily off my tongue, it's really not going to be very high on my list. I remember in college, that one of my English professors always gave me a hard time about the fact that I wasn't a fan of abstract poetry--in jest of course. But it's true. If I'm going to read it out loud, I want it to flow easily and I just have way more fun with rhyme and rhythm.

I didn't want to influence the boys by my opinions, so I made sure that I would read all different sorts of poems to them. I went to the library and checked out some older but fabulous poetry books as well as a brand new Dr. Seuss--a family favorite...and pulled a few off our own bookshelves.

The Classics

I think it's important to introduce your children to classic poetry by the great poets. I grew up with my mom reading classic famous poets to me, so I have a great love for them. I rediscovered the classic poets when I got into high school and then throughout college continued to seek them out. Here are some of the books that I found with great collections of the classic poets--with poems that are great for children.

by Robert Louis Stevenson
Illustrated by Susan Bonners

This is a harder edition to find, but this is the poetry I grew up with. I was gifted this book on my 2nd birthday and it was much loved and much read, as you can see from it's very worn out spine.

I memorized the illustrations because they were beautiful and they made me love the poetry even more. I love reading my book to my boys because they find great joy in the rhythm of the words and the illustrations that go with them. If you ever see a copy of this book at a thrift store, snag it. It is beautiful and well worth the money to add it to your bookshelf. Like me, my boys pore over the illustrations.

Aren't the illustrations lovely??
Robert Louis Stevenson is one of my favorite authors...perhaps because I have heard his words so many times by my mom when I was child. Know who one of my other favorite poets is? Robert Frost. Know who one of my mom's favorite poets is? Robert Frost. Coincidence?? LOL!

by Robert Frost
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

Robert Frost is another favorite poet. I love that so many of his poems revolve around nature and every day things. I really like this book because the illustrations really capture the beauty of the poem. This book is also part of the FIAR program, which means there is a lot of information using this book as a unit. I have linked one of the units up below.

We have enjoyed reading this book in the middle of all the snow we've been experiencing. I was very happy to add it to our bookshelf last year so we could pull it out whenever we wanted to!

By William J. Bennett

This book contains a lot of excellent things, including poetry by a host of authors, including a lot of popular "anonymous" works. I like that the poems are all related to a character trait (good or bad) and are pretty easy to remember. This is another book that I have had since I was a girl and it came with me when I got married for my own children.

This book has so much great stuff in it--beyond the poetry--that I think it's a great one to have on any family's bookshelf! I pull it out a LOT during homeschooling.

Compiled by May Hill Arbuthnot
Illustrated by Arthur Paul

I discovered this book at the library because I was looking for specific poems at the time. As I started flipping through the book I realized that it was EXCELLENT and brimming with some of the of the great poets as well as many of the lesser known.

The introduction is full of great information on how to use the poetry for children or to verse choirs. I must say that I enjoy this book as very little of it is abstract poetry. LOL. I wish I could find this book elsewhere, but right now I'm just thankful that my library has it and that I can borrow it for as long as I want! LOL! I fount the font and layout to be very easy for my son to read.
I love this easy to read font!

Compiled by Edward Blishen
Illustrated by Brian Wildsmith

This is one of the books highly recommended for anyone desiring quality poetry for their children. I have seen it mentioned in many literature groups, so I was glad to find that our library had a copy of it. It had quite a few poems that none of the books I've mentioned thus far have had, making it a great addition to our reading for this month. I also love the fun and whimsical illustrations scattered throughout the book.

Contemporary Poetry

While classic poetry should be taught and explored, it is only fair to give equal share of time to some of the great contemporary poets who have brought such joy to our lives. Hands down, my two favorite contemporary poets are Shel Silverstein and Dr Seuss. These men are GENIUS when it comes to making word pictures and tongue twisters. I have always believed that the greatest test of phonics comprehension is to give your child a book of Dr Seuss. If they can successfully work their way through the made-up words, then they have phonics down!

I like to draw on these two poets whenever my boys start thinking that poetry is "boring." You can't help but smile or grimmace when you read Shel Silverstein and his illustrations are awesome. His books are ideal for the middle school age.

by Shel Silverstein

I think every kid needs to read this book. This is the best book to start with in "meeting" Shel Silverstein. I first read this book back in...I think it was around 6th grade. He was "new" and boy did we love him! We would read his books to each other at lunch and my how we giggled or yelled "ew!"

His illustrations were equally as captivating and really set off his poetry. Even the reluctant readers enjoyed diving into these books. I am getting ready to start sharing them with my boys as my oldest is definitely at the right age to appreciate the humor.

I am going to also share a carousel widget of some of my favorite books by Shel Silverstein if you want to investigate his books further!

by Dr. Seuss

We were tickled to find this newly published book of Dr. Seuss stories at the library the last time we visited. This is another story about the friendly little elephant Horton and also contains three other "lost" stories. Every story as usual is a poem and is a great chance to really give your children a love of rhyme and rhythm because these books are best read out loud.

I have found that these books resonate with the early elementary age and they are a big part of our schooling. My oldest loves to read them now that he can work his way through all the words on his own. These are some of the rare books that my husband will happily read aloud to the boys in the evening. He has very fond memories of his own mom reading them aloud to him.

Here is a collection of other Dr. Seuss books that are our family favorites:

So what did we do this month?

It worked out that our literature theme during the month was poetry. We are working through the Lightning Lit Grade 3 curriculum as a Beta tester and this was the first of two poetry units we will be completing. I really enjoyed the way this unit had us reading the same poems each day, but had us analyze them for different things with each day's work. We read poetry by Sullivan, Rossetti, Yolen, Frost, Morley, Fleming and Stevenson.

We were given a series of comprehension questions to go over after our reading of the poems.
The comprehension questions began geared towards more obvious things like asking if the reader knew what certain poems words meant. What a line might translate to, asking what season the poem takes place. As each day progressed, they became a bit more complicated and guided Little Britches to look deeper. He was able to do this by completing his worksheets each day. On the worksheets we began by reviewing vocabulary like stanza, couplet, imagery, rhyme, line and repetition. As the days progressed, each lesson helped him learn how to analyze the poems deeper.

Two additional activities which we enjoyed--we had to pick one our poems for the week to memorize and one to rewrite into prose. Little Britches quickly fell in love with "Dust of Snow" by Robert Frost and had it memorized in 2 days. He also really liked Christina Rosseti's "Who Has Seen the Wind?", so he picked that one for his rewrite. Once he got in the swing of it, he did well. And it helped him to think more carefully about what all his other poems were saying too. His favorite poets were Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost and Christina Rosseti. I applaud his choice...they are some of my favorites too.

We've read a lot of poetry, and I try to read poets of every style (yes, even the dreaded abstract) so that he can get a feel for what is out here. It is funny that after our week of poetry, he told me "You know those poems that don't rhyme? I don't like them. They don't make sense. I don't think they are even poetry. They HAVE to rhyme."--thank you, my son. THANK you. Bwahahahahahah. I promise, I never told him my preferences at all prior to this. I just find it funny that he too is drawn to the concrete poetry.

In closing, I want to share a few places where you can snag some poetry related printables, lapbooks or unit studies. They are very helpful and make poetry an adventure.

Kid’s Poetry Bundle Giveaway!
Every month the Poppins Book Nook group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month.

This month one lucky entrant will win the Kid’s Poetry Bundle. The winner will enjoy two books full of poetry for children. The two books that they will win is the Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry and Poetry Speaks to Children These two magical books will help your children learn about and have fun with poetry.

Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook.

By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the Rafflecopter terms & conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom's disclosures found here {http://enchantedhomeschoolingmom.org/disclosures/}. Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win:

Want To See More?
The wonderful bloggers that participate in the Poppins Book Nook are:

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God's Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy's Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things ~Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ My Bright Firefly ~A Mommy's Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~ Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~Where Imagination Grows ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~ Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~ Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A Peace of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am  ~ Simple Living Mama

Do you have posts relating to poetry to share? Feel free to link up so that we can visit!

I hope that you will introduce your children to poetry. Regardless of their age and gender, there is sure to be something for them to love. Don't be afraid of the classics--share your own favorites with your children! And maybe try a few of the ones that I've shared as something new!

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February 24, 2015

In Freedom's Cause: An Audio Theater Adventure! {Product Review}

If you read our review of Under Drake's Flag last year, you will know that we have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next audio drama by Heirloom Audio Productions, In Freedom's Cause. When the opportunity to review the new In Freedom's Cause Single Package was made available, my son urged me to hurry and try to get it! We hoped that it would bring as much enjoyment as our other audiodrama did.
Heirloom Audio Productions: In Freedom's Cause Review

Product Summary

In Freedom's Cause Audio CD Review
In Freedom's Cause comes from Heirloom Audio Productions, the producers of last years hit audio drama Under Drake's Flag. In this new adventure, listeners will travel back to the late 1200's early 1300's to meet the Scottish legend, hero and martyr William Wallace! Adapted from the classic adventure story In Freedom's Cause: A Story of Wallace and Bruce by G. A. Henty, the story revolves around William Wallace and his stand against the English oppression of Scotland. The story looks into the source of Wallace's passion, his faith in God. He forever changed the history of Scotland and inspired the leader who would eventually gain Scotland's freedom from England, King Robert the Bruce.
Voiced by an all-star cast including Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), Billy Boyd (Lord of the Rings), Skandar Keynes (Chronicles of Narnia) and James Cosmo (Braveheart) to name a few, this production is high quality and spectacular in bringing the story to life for the whole family!
With your purchase of In Freedom's Cause Single Package ($29.97 + S& H), you will receive the following:
*In Freedom's Cause (2 CD Set - Physical Copy)
*In Freedom's Cause Study Guide (Digital Download)
*In Freedom's Cause Soundtrack (MP3 download)
*Printable copy of The Prayer Of William Wallace. (Digital Download)

I received the In Freedom's Cause Single Package to review with my family.

How Did We Use This Product?

We decided to listen to it at home this time, during our evenings and recess time. I pulled up the study guide download onto my Kindle Fire and looked over it as we listened. Each of the sections in the study guide matches scenes from the audio drama and provides questions for testing comprehension and for taking it further, encouraging further research and vocabulary words. As we went along, I just picked certain questions from the study guide that I wanted to ask--pausing the CD as we went along. We listened to the CD's on our stereo system in the house and enjoyed the surround sound effect of the battles and excellent soundtrack.
When it was over, I read the prayer of William Wallace and printed it out (it was included in the bonuses) for us to examine.

What Were Our Thoughts on This Product?

Little Britches: "I like it. It is just as fun and interesting as the other one was! I like learning about the people. It has lots of funny parts too. Like the goat woo!"

Me: I love audiodramas and I enjoyed this one. I think they are a great way to learn a bit about history and historical figures as well as character lessons. As with Under Drake's Flag, it is interesting to learn how passionately the men and women of this time were about their faith and how it motivated them to do great things no matter the consequences. With the dramatic music and character dialogue, it makes the story far more entertaining than if I was reading the book myself. Once the story was completed it definitely made me want to seek out more information about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. When I looked it up, I discovered (as I already pretty much knew) that the audio drama took a VERY VERY VERY brutal story and greatly sanitized it (Braveheart anyone?)

Would I Recommend This Product?

Yes! Just as with Under Drake's Flag, we totally enjoyed this audiodrama. It is a great way to enjoy classic literature on the go! These CD's provide great entertainment for the car on trips (2 1/2 hrs of non-stop adventure!) and the boys continue to ask to listen to them. I value them most for the CD itself over the extra digital downloads, though being able to have the others on portable devices are great. I liked being able to have the study guide on my Kindle for quick reference--great for having in the car! I also loved having access to the bonus soundtrack that is included in the purchase. I preferred having everything either on the CD or my Kindle for easy reference.
I think that this is a valuable resource for any family and if you are studying this time period, a great educational extra! This time period was a very brutal one, but this audio drama provides a more gentle look at the events making it a great introduction to this history.
Would I purchase this product or more like it? I think I would purchase it as a homeschool resource over just entertainment. My boys learn well from audio resources in general and they remember these audio dramas very well.

Want to Learn More?
I was just one of the 100 reviewers of In Freedom's Cause Single Package from Heirloom Audio Productions. You know what we thought about it, why not head over and read about what some of the other families thought!
In Freedom's Cause Review
Want to stay up to date on things pertaining to In Freedom's Cause?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InFreedomsCause
Twitter: https://twitter.com/InFreedomsCause
Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/112701427096792421838/112701427096792421838/posts
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jointhecause
Crew Disclaimer
Did you miss out on reading my review of Under Drake's Flag? It was a our first introduction to Heirloom Audio Productions and is still much loved. I am pretty stoked because we were just sent an email announcing that the next audiodrama With Lee in Virginia is going to be released around Memorial Day! With these two previous programs being such loved, I don't doubt we will enjoy the new release when it comes out!

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February 23, 2015

IndoctriNation: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America {Product Review}

We are a Christian family. When we made the decision to homeschool our boys, this played a major part in our decision, because we could see the major shift in public education away from any and all things God related. We wanted to offer our children a God centered education and knew that it would be impossible to do outside of our home. It is easy to see why I was interested in reviewing the documentary IndoctriNation, a film that takes a closer look into the makeup of public schools and shares the challenges that Christian students, teachers, and administrators face on a day to day basis, as they struggle to maintain their beliefs and value system in an anti-Christian system.

indoctrination movie product review

Product Overview

IndoctriNation DVD ReviewIndoctriNation is a highly controversial documentary from Great Commission Films taking a closer look at public schools and the decline of Christianity in America. As the DVD jacket explains, "featuring interviews with whistleblower teachers, administrators, students, parents and others, this film is part documentary, part testimonial, and totally captivating." The DVD follows a homeschool father of seven who decides to take a field trip with his family across America in a big remade yellow school bus to seek out answers to questions like "Are my kids physically and morally safe in the schools?", "Are the public schools religiously neutral?", "Can the public school system be fixed or redeemed?" and many more!

This movie is geared towards any Christian family with children in the public school system who desires to take a hard look at the true state of public education: the good, the bad and the ugly. It is not recommended for young children due to some of the content discussed.

I received a copy of the physical DVD to review.

How Did I Use This Product?

Though I really wanted to watch this film with my husband, it didn't work out, so one night I just sat down and turned it on. I also opened up a WORD document so that I could take notes of what was being said (especially quotes).

The DVD is just like any other DVD, so easy to use. There is the availability of watching it in Spanish as well as English. There are a few Extra features including deleted scenes, words from the sponsors and a special interview not included in the film itself.

What Are My Thoughts on This Product?

"I know that when parents send their children to school they are wanting the very best for them too." I really like the way that this statement was made at the beginning of the movie. All too often there is an assumed judgement made by parents of public schooled children that homeschoolers must think that they (the public school parents) don't care about their children and that's why they don't homeschool. I appreciated that Colin Gunn began his documentary with these words.

I liked the way the documentary was put together. I liked the glimpses of the Gunn family on their travels and all the LIVE interviews. I loved the extensive dedication to examining the history of school and the education system in America. I think there was a lot of factual evidence provided that can easily be researched by anyone watching.

I appreciated the variety of the interviews--especially from people who were part of the educational system for years, who made the choice to resign and leave it because of what they were seeing happen. This was very relevant to me. I liked the discussion with Christian teachers and administrators about what it's like to be a Christian in the educational system and the battles they face every day whether in the classroom in general, or dealing with the curriculum they are given. It is eye opening to hear firsthand from teachers the kind of things they are instructed to teach our children by mandated curriculum.

I agreed with almost everything that was being said, because I have researched, experienced or witnessed for myself what they were saying. I didn't really learn anything new--just had confirmation of what I had long suspected and evidence that it was even worse than I thought.

For instance, I always knew that there was a big issue with incoming college freshman and the fact that most were not up to the standards or levels needed for entrance. What I didn't realize was that the number was so high. According to the college professor/administrator they spoke with, it's up to 70% needing to take remedial level classes. I liked how the teachers talked about how it used to be that you could walk down the halls and see evidences of written reports, essays, and poems...but now all you see are pictures and art projects. That we have shifted AWAY from expressing yourself via reading and writing--so crucial to success outside of the school.

A few quotes that really stood out for me:

"Schooling is bad. Not education."~ John Gatto (former NYC teacher of the year) when discussing the problem with the way schooling is done.

"[they are] stealing our children, but because they are leaving the body of the child with us, we don’t even know it’s happening.“ Dr. Lutzer discussing the way that public school indoctrination is working

"At the end of the day a child gets to make up his own mind...[but] the outcome has already been determined by the curriculum; it undercuts the parents, the church and the absolutes of the Bible.” ~Talking about the problem with Christian children trying to make it in public schools

"Is there anything more radical than turning your children over to total strangers who you know nothing about and having those strangers work on your child's mind for a period of 12 years? Could there be a more radical idea than that? If you had proposed that in Colonial America they would have burned you at the stake." ~ John Gatto on the ridiculousness of the present method of schooling

I think the undercurrent message of the documentary was--if you are truly desiring your child to be able to hold fast to his or her Christian values, you have to be the loudest voice your child hears. And in the present school system today, that is not possible unless you remove your child from public school and choose another option. It was definitely a wake-up call for all Christian parents to check in with your children and their school and REALLY see what they are learning and experiencing five days a week for 12 years of their life. That everything you hold dear in relation to your Christian values is being destroyed openly and if you speak up--or if your child speaks up...you will be breaking the law. But if a child or teacher would speak out FOR things that are CONTRARY to the Bible or God and Christianity in general, they would be lauded and praised and protected and allowed to continue to speak as much and as loud as they want.

What did I not like?
Well it's not necessarily that I didn't like it, but this movie was definitely pro-homeschool and you get that from the very start. I think that just reading the DVD synopsis, you would think there was more a call for public school reform of sorts rather than just a push for complete abandonment and exodus of public schools. But then again, that might be what was intended--to show that there isn't any hope for the public schools, so "get out while you still can" theory is encouraged for any Christian family.

Would I Recommend This Product?

Yes--with reservations.
Here are my reservations--if you are a not a fan of the idea of homeschooling, don't watch it. You won't like it. If you are practicing Christian public school teacher and love your job and everything that goes with it, don't watch it you won't like it. If you are not willing to accept that public school could be the wrong decision for your Christian family--don't watch it. If you don't like hearing about how the government owns the schools and that they were designed in their present state to help make more pliable factory workers, don't watch it. If you have no interest at all in making any changes to your present school situation because it is working for you and you believe that there is nothing wrong, don't bother watching it.

But...if you are at a point where you are making the decision whether or not to homeschool your children--watch it! If you are trying to figure out why your children are struggling in school, watch it. If you are a Christian teacher or administrator thinking that you are going to be able to keep doing your job and somehow lead others to Christ by being "salt or light"--watch it. If you think you are doing your child a favor by sending them in their young budding faith into the public school system, convinced they will be able to influence others for good--watch it.

Another group I would recommend it to--anyone having issues within their family where they do not have the support for your homeschooling decision with constant pushing for public school. This would be a great movie for "family movie night" to maybe open some eyes on what school is like today.

I had been thinking about getting this DVD for awhile, since I first saw it advertised in homeschooling catalogs and magazines--I am glad that I was able to get to experience it and already have a few friends in mind that I want to send it to!

Want to Learn More?

I reviewed IndoctriNation from Great Commission Films along with 99 of my fellow TOS review crew members. You know what I think, but what did some of the other families think about this hot topic DVD?
IndoctriNation DVD Review
To learn more about Great Commission Films: IndoctriNation, keep in touch with them on these social media outlets:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IndoctriNationMovie
Twitter: https://twitter.com/indocmovie
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/indoctrination
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/IndoctriNationMovie

Crew Disclaimer
This movie was very eye opening and I think that I will still try to get my husband to watch it. I have a few friends who are on the saddle about public school vs. homeschool with children getting ready to start Kindergarten. This video would be very helpful for them and I hope to get a copy into their hands.

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February 20, 2015

Random 5 on Friday ~ Winter Storm Edition

The Pebble Pond
It's another Friday and that means another Random 5 on Friday post! This week, I am calling it the winter storm edition as I ramble about all things cold and wintery...

1. If I wanted to live in the tundra and have extremely cold winter weather I would live in the tundra. Until I moved out here to Kentucky (remember I am from the Pacific Northwest), I never had long cold winters. There is a misconception that living in the Pacific Northwest means that I had lots of snow and such. This is false. I lived on the Columbia River Gorge...we had wind, freezing rain, and ice. We rarely had snow. According to my parents, they only recall two times since I've been born when they had more than 8" of snow. Once the winter I was a baby (Jan 1980) they got snowed in and then again when I was very little we had 20" I guess. I remember NEITHER of these. LOL. Needless to say, getting use to the frigid winters here that we have been having since I moved here is a challenge. But getting use to these sub-zero temps...well I DON'T want to get used to them. They need to go back to the tundra where they belong.

2. I LOVE super deep snow. Prior to this snowstorm we had earlier to this week, the only time I can remember being in more than 10" of snow, was when we would go tubing or skiing on Mount Hood. We used to do that every New Years Day growing up. I loved the deep snow...and I have enjoyed it this week too! We got 12" Monday and then about 4 more inches on Wednesday morning. 

3. There comes a point when cold is just cold and frigid is just frigid. When it comes to negative temperatures, I find there isn't a lot of difference between -10 and -20. It feels the same. FRIGID. I mean, when someone says it's "dangerously cold"--well, they could mean ZERO or -15 degrees or -20 degrees. It's all dangerous at that point! LOL! I'm sure I feel JUST as cold at -15 as my friends do at -20...we are bundled up the same and avoiding the outdoors just the same. LOL.

4. Thanking God for our woodstove. I have never been so grateful for wood heat as I have been the last couple years. The temps have gone well below zero the last few winters and having the wood heat has saved us A LOT of money. I remember what our electric bills were with just normal winters and our furnace! We were pushing $250+ per month during those months. With this sub-zero weather, I can imagine we would have pushed it even further! And you know even with a furnace, you never really get warm to the bone like you do with wood heat. Yep, I love wood heat.

 5. I am ready for spring. I have gotten my big snow, so now it's time for it to go away and let me start having spring. I have a feeling though--spring is going to be a late bloomer this year. I think I will have to do quite a few seedling greenhouses this year. I already have one to start my tomatoes and herbs. Next week I hope to get it started...and we will be placing our seed order this weekend! I love the beginning of spring out here. So many of the trees are deciduous and when they start getting their leaf buds, they just start looking so alive! Not only that, but I love being out here in farm country in early spring when all the baby animals start arriving! Our baby calves begin to make their appearance and they are just so cute!

Winter has come. Now it's time for it to leave. Winter brought a lot of beauty--for there is nothing quite so lovely as a blanket of snow in the stillness of a snowfall, surrounded by skeleton trees dusted with snow or glistening with ice. When the sun hits it, it is DAZZLING! But, I am ready for spring. I need to be able to be outside enjoying the land we live on...and I need to be able to send the boys OUTSIDE without fear of frostbite! LOL!

But we will be bracing ourselves for another round of winter storm weather this weekend...will the predictions of 3-5" of snow be accurate? Will we get the promised freezing rain? I will let you know!

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February 13, 2015

Random 5 on Friday 2/13 ~ Family Edition

What day is it again? With travelling out of town in the middle of the week and then not getting back to normal right away...well I had to look at the calendar a few times to remind myself that today was indeed a FRIDAY! It's also Friday the 13th, but that's something different all together.
The Pebble Pond

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1. As I said before I have been travelling. We left last Wednesday to fly back to WA to visit family. That's what the trip was all about...family. My grandma was in the hospital and not doing well, so they flew us in to be with her and hoped that she would perk up. She did. Like night and day difference. Even her surgeon commented on it before he did surgery last Friday. I am extremely close to her and she had been wanting to see me (and my family) desperately. The feeling was mutual.

The difference in her condition was incredible and I went from feeling like I was going to lose her any moment, so being able to spend three hours straight just talking with her and spending time sharing memories and old stories. I was able to witness her standing up during physical therapy--something she hadn't done in over 2 weeks. Everyone agreed we were the best medicine. Unfortunately we couldn't stay. That's the downside about being the one family member who DOESN'T live close. You always have to leave.

2. Family rocks. If you have a family where everyone is close, you get such a high from spending time together. Soaking up the love and sharing in the laughter. There is nothing like it. My whole family lives in the same area--except for me (and my brother who lives out here too). I grew up with my cousins who were like siblings to me. So we are all very close. When I come "home" it's a big deal. The only cousins my boys have right now (at least until the year is over when both my SIL will be having babies!), are my cousin's boys. We love getting them together because they have so much fun. They are all boys which makes is wacky and wild. One of my cousins is expecting..a girl. Boy will she be outnumbered in this wild bunch. I'm sure she'll survive and throw punches with the rest of them.

3. Discovering your ancestors is grounding. While we were out there, my aunt had all of us cousins look through our grandma's big family trunk. The old one. With our family history inside. Us girls (because we are predominately female in our generation) had a blast looking through old photos, old greeting cards, old diaries and old everything. We met our past. We howled when we discovered a long lost ancestor who had my cousin Nikki's son's HUGE ears. A lot of us were shocked when we discovered my cousin Aaron's son is the spitting image of our Great-Great Aunt as a baby. It was crazy how similar they looked. We yelled out cries of "va-va-voom" whenever we stumbled across relatives who looked like 1940's movie stars and came together to peer at the photo of our great-great-great-great grandmother named Jane who came from shores of Ireland as a young woman. The stories we wanted to know about why she did it and what she experienced in her life...my oh my. What would she have thought if she could jump forward and see all of us admiring her photo? It gives you a sense of purpose when you reflect back on where you came from. It grounds you, but also gives you a sense of the importance of future.

4. Birthday's with family are special. My boys have never been able to enjoy any kind of large celebration or gather for their birthday. We usually only have me, Love of My Life and maybe his parents for a dinner. Nothing like when I grew up and you got one day when the extended family gathered en masse to share their love for your place in the family. Well, it worked out that we were going to be back there for Little Britches' birthday. Needless to say everyone was more than willing to come together to share their love for him! It was great to see him surrounded by cousins he only sees MAYBE once every 2 years calling him by name and laughing and patting him. To see my cousins teasing him and my aunt and uncles squashing him with hugs. He enjoyed it and declared it the best birthday ever. Even my grandma. She had my aunt buy him a LEGO set for her and then my grandma gave it to him. It meant a lot to them both.

5. When you have a close family, it's hard to say goodbye. I left WA knowing there was a strong chance I was never going to see my grandma in this life again. That's hard. It's heartbreaking actually. So I just have to be thankful for the time I had this past week to make EXTRA memories to carry me through the days sure to be ahead. But you know, life comes at you fast. There is no guarantee you will have another minute, hour, day, week, month, or year with the ones you love. That's why TIME is so important. TIME spent with your family is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your children. I am who I am today because of the family time I had growing up. I want those memories for my children so I have to MAKE them happen. That was part of what this trip was about. It NEEDED to happen for everyone involved.

Make sure you cherish family and relationships. They are what will get you through the good days and the bad days. Love is a powerful thing and the love your share as a family is one of the potent of all.

Have a lovely weekend!

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February 5, 2015

Fresh from the Bookshelf: Paper Hearts {A Review}

I love inspirational fiction. I love romance. So I REALLY love good inspirational romantic fiction. When I was offered a chance to review a new to the market (as of January 2015) book by author, artist, and playwright Courtney Walsh called Paper Hearts, I jumped on the opportunity.

Book Review: Paper Hearts by Courtney Walsh
Paper Hearts is a sweet heartwarming story about an “old maid” living in the romantically obsessed town of Loves Park. With a mother who signs her up for every online dating website she finds, a town that pities her for being the “last single girl” left in town,  and the unfortunate happenstance of being the great-great granddaughter of the founders (who were much revered for their great lovestory) of the town, Abigail Pressman is sick of everything related to love and marriage. She just wants to be left alone to run her much loved store, The Book Nook…and to buy the neighboring store, so she can live her dream of expanding her business to incorporate her love of antiques and local handmade crafts. She doesn't have time for love and considering all her history with it, she isn't sure she even wants it.

Unfortunately, she becomes an unwilling volunteer for the Valentine Volunteers who gather in her store to continue Loves Park’s tradition of stamping mail with the city’s romantic postmark.  To make matters worse, she suddenly gets a new landlord who is converting the building she wanted for herself into a medical clinic…and he’s threatening to end her lease. And he just happens to be extremely attractive. Can she keep herself heart whole as she tries to save her business to fulfill her dreams? Will finding a series of paper hearts, full of love messages, from an anonymous couple in the mail to the Valentine Volunteers, the key to rescuing her dreams…and possibly releasing her heart?
I really fell in love with both Abigail Pressman and Dr. Jacob Willoughby. I thought their characters were very well written and they each had a very good back story. I think that of the two, I actually preferred the doctor. He was so full of pain when he arrived in the story, that it was interesting to see how he was able to release his anger and guilt over time.  

The best part of the story were the paper hearts.  I just loved the concept and It was so well described that I could totally envision it.  Imagining Abigail’s store dripping with love note paper hearts, the people gathering to add their notes to the collection, the coziness of a small town bookshop…it was described so vividly that I just wanted to be there.

My least favorite character was Kelly. She was the epitome of a man-eater and oh how I just wanted to shake her. LOL. Totally a barracuda who was determined to have Dr. Willoughby at all costs and didn't care who she took down to do it. It was so nice when she FINALLY left the story!

The only thing about the story that I didn't like was all the mention of Valentine’s Day since it’s not a holiday I celebrate, but I don’t think it took away from being able to appreciate the overall plot and love story. 

There was mention of a town called Sweethaven in the book, and I discovered that the author Courtney Walsh has a series called Sweethaven Summer. I am definitely going to check it out now that I've “met” this author. 

If you love a sweet heartwarming romantic story that will make you giggle and sigh, I recommend that you give Paper Hearts a look! And for even more fun, check out this super cute book trailer (did you know they do those??) from Tyndale Press:

Paper Hearts
by Courtney Walsh
ISBN# 978-1414398693
Available as Paperback and Kindle

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