Sunday, March 1, 2015

Yesterday, I was THAT Mom

You know the Mom I mean.  You see her in the grocery store snapping at her kids.  Or at a park with her kids with her eyes glued to her iPhone.

And you think some variation of "Don't miss this, Mom!" or even worse, "Why have them if you aren't going to pay attention to them?!"

I'll confess I've had those thoughts, though usually not from just one moment of observation.  After yesterday, I'm going to be even slower to leap to conclusions.

See, I haven't blogged about it yet, but my mom died this week.  I got the call on my birthday, though she didn't actually die until the next morning.

One of my very favorite photos of Mom

It was sudden.

It was unexpected.

I'm still shell-shocked.  Or numb.  Or completely overwhelmed. 

That depends on the moment you ask.

Yesterday, I had some running to do.  Richard and Trina each had $50 to spend at Family Christian for their birthdays, and there was a big sale on everything in the kids' department.  That meant they went along, which was a good thing.  But we had to hit a grocery store, and the bank, and get crickets for the gecko, and I don't even remember what else.

I melted down in the parking lot at church (we stopped there first) because the stupid truck wouldn't go into the right gear, and then I started spinning the wheels, and the kids are giggling and telling me, "Mom, everyone is staring at you!"

Not my best moment.  This is a family blog, so I'm not going to repeat what I said to someone who walked over to me.  At least I know him, and he knows I was just a wee bit out of character.

At Family Christian, the kids are bringing me adorable things like a Lego-like Noah's Ark and asking me how much that will be after the 30% off, and instead of rattling off an answer, I just stare at it and try to remember how to multiply.  That wasn't so bad -- math anxiety doesn't make you a bad mother.

Then we went to grab some lunch, because I knew they needed to eat something real.  On the Border.  So while we are waiting for a table, I'm on the phone -- ignoring my children -- trying to figure out if the van has been rented.

Once we are seated, I'm on my iPad, checking email.  Responding to my cousin who is expressing shock and condolences and letting me know that he'll be picking up his parents (Mom's sister) at the airport and driving them up to Fargo.  Responding to someone else that no, we still don't know for sure on the funeral because we still don't know when/if they are going to get Mom out of Texas and back to North Dakota.  Finding that no, I don't have a car rental confirmation in my email.

Of course, I called Dad to let him know that my aunt and uncle are coming.  And I had to call to try to straighten out the reservation.  And I checked Facebook and responded to some condolences.  And somewhere in there, I helped my kids make decisions about what to eat and I looked at my menu too.

Oh, and -- I confess -- I spent a bit of time just chatting on FB with a friend.

What I didn't do is pay any attention to my kids.  At all. 

My eyes were stuck on my iPad, my ear was stuck to my cell phone, and while I can tell you what they ate, I honestly have no idea if it was good.  Well, I assume so, as Trina declared this is her new favorite restaurant.  I did hear that.

I also heard the two of them chatting about how this was the best day ever and they were having such a good time.


I wondered, briefly, what people around us thought.  But honestly, I was just doing my best to get through the moment that I can't say I much cared. 

The grocery store too, I wondered briefly what people thought.  There I was buying cases of Mountain Dew, cans of Pringles (the world's most disgusting snack food ever, in my opinion), beef jerkey, granola bars, fruit snacks, string cheese, sandwich meat, sliced cheese, bread... and I'm pretty sure that covers the contents of my cart. 

I let the kids push the cart, which they weren't exactly doing in a nice, calm fashion.  They never ran into anyone, I will say that.  But I'll also say, I'm not sure how. 

And I'm standing in front of the cheese display, just staring at it, trying to remember why I'm there.

I'm sure someone at Super Target was thinking I don't deserve to have kids and I'm letting them run out of control.  And, of course, what kind of person buys so much JUNK?  And snaps at the kids too.

On the other hand, there was some older guy I had noticed from a ways off, who looked a lot like me -- you know, the weight of the world on his shoulders, and like he wasn't quite sure what he was doing.  He stopped his cart at one point, turned around, marched over to my goofing-off kids, and said, "Grocery shopping is serious business.  You are not supposed to be having this much fun."  He winked at me, and grinned when the kids giggled.

So maybe not everyone was thinking I'm a horrible mom.

And the bottom line is, my kids know that I'm just a wee bit stressed this week, and they understand.  They are trying not to make random noises when I tell them I'm at a breaking point, and they are enjoying jumping in snowdrifts in the parking lot, or savoring a good meal.  Their opinions are the ones that matter.

I already was pretty good at telling myself -- when I'd see someone like the me of yesterday -- that all I'm seeing is a snapshot, a sound bite.  That I have no idea what is going on in their life.

Yesterday really brought that into focus for me. 

Take the next step.  Do the next thing. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Mineral Book {a Moms of Master Books review}

It's time for another Moms of Master Books review.  This time, it is for a new title in a series we know and love.  The Wonders of Creation series is fantastic, for multiple ages, and we own every title in the series.  This review is about the newest one, The Mineral Book.

The newer books have a feature I really, really love.  There are different colored backgrounds for different "age levels" of material.  Theoretically, that means I can go through the book with all of my kids, but have the younger ones drop out as I add more complex information.  Or, I can go through the book multiple times with the same child, just adding a new colored background as they get older.

Both of those options are cool.
  • Level One has a dashed blue border, and is "basic" information and visuals.  This is great for elementary ages, I think.
  • Level Two is on an off-white background, and gets into more vocabulary and deeper information about identification of minerals, and collection of them.  This is great for middle school ages.
  • Level Three is on a green background, and has more advanced concepts/theories, and is meant to inspire students to dig deeper into other sources too.  This is great for high school ages.

For my family (of science geeks), the 3rd grader is good with the Level One material, and she really doesn't care to get any deeper. Though once in awhile I catch her listening to Level Two stuff

The 5th grader is good with the Level One and Level Two material. 

The teens (8th grade and up) are all ready for the Level Three information too.

I am hoping -- even though it will mean spending more money -- that more of the Wonders of Creation books are going to be coming out -- and that more are going to be updated to this format, as I really love it.  The Weather Book is being updated, and that definitely excites me.  Watch for a review of that one in June!

Go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about The Mineral Book.

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My American Heritage Girl

 I posted about two and half years ago about how intimidated I was to be taking Trina to her first ever American Heritage Girls meeting.

I'm not a girl mom.  I'm a boy mom.  But I have this beautiful little girl, and I am her mother.  So as intimidating as I find a room full of females, well, I sucked it up and we went.

Trina has loved it.

And now, as she is nearing the end of third grade, my baby girl is going for her Sacagawea Award.  There is a fair amount of effort required to earn this award, and she is really close.

One requirement is to create a presentation about what she likes about AHG, and put it up in a public place like her church or school.  Well, school isn't very public.  And there aren't that many people at church who would truly be interested (and those who are will find me on Facebook too).

So, she created a video, to post publicly at her mama's work.  You know, my blog.  And my Facebook page.

We'd love to hear your comments :)


Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Story for Kids {a BookLook Blogger review}

I'm always looking for something a little different for working through the Bible with my kids.  I've heard a fair amount about The Story, but I haven't ever actually seen it.

I had the chance to review the kids' version, The Story for Kids, written by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee, and thought that would give me a good opportunity to figure out what this is about.

Bottom line first:  I really like this.

From the publisher:
Revised edition of The Story for Kids for ages 8-12 using the updated New International Reader’s Version (NIrV); part of the church-wide campaign, The Story.
Now God’s great love story is told in a format for kids ages 9-12. The Story for Kids parallels the adult and teen edition of the book and can be used as part of The Story campaign or on its own.
The adventure, humor, and drama found in The Story for Kids compel kids to see the Bible as relevant and transformational. It’s the perfect resource for parents, grandparents, and teachers to use to introduce their children to the Bible as a complete story—one that tells about God’s great love for his people.
  • Characters, events, and teachings of the Bible arranged chronologically
  • Interior line art to engage the imagination
  • Transitional paragraphs set off in italics guide you through the stories
  • Discussion questions for small group or book clubs
  • Includes Scripture portions from the easy-to-read text of the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV)
Okay, apparently just like in the original version, the teen version, and the little kid version, the Bible is split up into 31 "chapters" or stories.  The chapters average around eight pages, usually with a half-page illustration in there. 

This is in NIrV, so the text is fairly easy to read.  It also looks like most other books, so all the verse numbers, or two column formats don't go confusing anyone.

Most of the chapter consists of actual text from the NIrV, and then there will be some transitional material in italics.  The part in italics is usually summarizing the 'skipped text' to keep things going in a story format, not getting bogged down in a lot of detail.  For the book of Genesis, for instance, which is covered in the first three chapters, you read about Creation and the Fall, then there is some summary text to jump you to Noah.  Parts of that are summarized as well.  That ends chapter 1.

The second chapter tells of Abram and Sarai, with most of the chapter being NIrV text, and only a couple summary sections. 

Entirely missing are events like the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, Hagar and Ishmael, etc.  Which is okay with me, as this will not be the only exposure my children get to the Bible.  The "plot line" moves ahead, without veering off into all sorts of other stories. 

Each chapter includes a few discussion questions that seem appropriate for this roughly 8-12 age range.

My thoughts:

I'm really liking this, and I'm seriously looking at getting the Teen version, and possibly the curriculum items as well.  We've read the Bible straight through.  We've read the Bible in a chronological version.  I love the idea of working through something systematic, and something where my kids and teens can be on the same page, reading from age-appropriate materials that mesh together but aren't identical.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Runaway Radical {a Family Christian Blogger review and giveaway}

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ARC proof, and a copy for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program. This post does contain affiliate links.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Some reviews are a lot harder to write than others.

This is one of those harder ones.

Runaway Radical, by Amy Hollingsworth and Jonathan Hollingsworth is a challenging read.  I'm going to share the publisher's description of the book, and then chat a bit about it.
Runaway Radical serves as an important and cautionary tale for all who lead and participate in compassion activism, in the art of doing good— both overseas and at home— amidst this new culture of radical Christian service. 

You'll read about a young idealist who heeds the call to radical obedience, gives away all of his belongings and shaking off the fetters of a complacent life, travels halfway around the world. There he discovers, among the poor and the fatherless of West Africa, that he has only surrendered to a new kind of captivity.

There is no doubt that young people today are fully invested in social and human rights issues. They start their own nonprofits, they run their own charities, they raise money for worthy causes.

This book highlights the painful personal consequences of the new radicalism, documenting in heartbreaking detail what happens when a young person becomes entrapped instead of liberated by its call. His radical resolve now shaken, he returns home to rebuild his life and his faith.
I was interested in this book, mostly because I have a couple of fairly idealistic teens of my own, and while none of my kids (currently) seem set on giving away all of their belongings or sleeping in a closet, I can see them leaning towards this "new radicalism" and sometimes that gives me pause.

I finished reading this book a week and a half ago and there was simply no way I could write a review at that point.  I had committed to reviewing it by Feb. 13, but I wrote and basically begged for more time to think about what I had just read.

You see, this is a story co-written by the young radical (Jonathan) and his mother (Amy), detailing the events in their lives.  This isn't one of those feel-good stories where you marvel at the faith of the missionary who prays, thanking God for their breakfast even though there is no food in the house, and before he finishes the prayer, there is a knock on the door with someone bringing breakfast.

No, this is a story that involves a young missionary who is thwarted and exploited at almost every turn, and who ends up coming home early... broken... only to be shamed into silence by his church.  The kind of stab-a-mom-in-the-gut story that makes you want to never let those radical young idealists out of your sight.

My youngest idealist, posing for a Care and Share ad campaign

Or at least that was how my review would have sounded last week.

After letting this story sink in over the past days, some other lessons are starting to emerge for me.   Because there isn't anything wrong with young people wanting to change the world, or with them trying to change the world.  That is a very good thing.

Connor, especially, is passionate about rural hunger.  He's in this crowd of volunteers.

What I want to be doing, as a parent, is making sure that my young radicals aren't focusing on the results.  It isn't about doing something idealistic and huge so that God will love you.  It's about doing something idealistic, radical, and maybe even huge because God loves you and you know that is what you are meant to do.  And leaving the results with God.

And knowing you are loved.  Loved not because you did great things, but because God simply loves you.

Family Christian provided me with another copy to give away to one of my readers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Twisted Innocence {a Litfuse Book Tour review}

I love reading books by Terri Blackstock, but apparently, I haven't reviewed any of them yet.  That changes today.

Twisted Innocence is the third book in the Moonlighters Series, and it makes a great final chapter.  This series features a group of adult siblings (a brother and three sisters) who keep ending up in the middle of criminal investigations, and Lenny Miller seems to pop up repeatedly.

This time, the many storyline relates to the youngest sister, Holly, who is trying to go straight after a pretty reckless lifestyle.  But you can read how the publisher describes it:
Holly Cramer's past choices have finally caught up to her, but she never expected them to endanger her baby.

Though Holly's stumbled through most of her adult life as a party girl, she longs to live a more stable life for her daughter. Then police show up to question her about the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw, Lily's father. She has kept his identity a secret from friends and family---she never even told him about the pregnancy. Now he's a person of interest in a drug-related murder case.

Determined to keep him out of their lives and turn him over to police, Holly uses her private investigating skills to search for him. But her bravado backfires when he turns the tables and takes her and the baby hostage. As desperate hours tick by, Holly realizes his connection to Leonard Miller-the man who has gunned down several members of her family. Creed claims he's innocent and that Miller is after him too. His gentleness with Lily moves her, but she can't trust a man who has held her at gunpoint . . . even if he reminds her so much of herself.

Dangers old and new threaten Holly and her baby, and lives are demanded as sacrifices for love. Through a complex web of mistakes and regret, redemption is the one hope Holly has left to hold on to.

My thoughts:

This book was fabulous, but don't start here.  The book does stand alone, so I guess you can if you must.  But really, go get Truth-Stained Lies and start at the beginning.  This book is so much better if you know the backstory.

One major message in this story has to do with past mistakes and past events, and how you have to work from where you are now.  You can't keep going back to the "if only's" and wishing you had made different -- or better -- choices.

It isn't just choices you make either, it is also the choices made by the people around you.  Holly, the baby of the family, was the one most hurt when their family was abandoned by their pastor father, and then basically betrayed by their church.

Holly is told at one point that, "God knows where you started and how you got here." 

That really hit me.

The other thing that really hit me in this book is at the very end.  Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler.  The author talks a bit about persecution and how in "the West" we don't usually have to actually be worrying about things like being beheaded for our faith.

But that doesn't mean that we don't endure tough times and refining fires.  It is just a different thing here.  We are pruned, and God can use that to deepen our faith.  That is happening to various people in the story.

Now I need to find another Terri Blackstock series.

In Terri Blackstock’s third and final book in her Moonlighters series, Twisted Innocence, readers are in for a story of suspense and redemption. Dangers old and new threaten Holly and her baby, and lives are demanded as sacrifices for love. Through a complex web of mistakes and regret, redemption is the one hope Holly has left to hold on to.

Celebrate the series' final release by entering Terri's Nook giveaway!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Nook GlowLight
  • The entire Moonlighters series
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 8th. Winner will be announced March 9th on the Litfuse blog.

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Keeping it Real: Of Mice and Library Books, Part 3

This is another one of those keeping it real posts.

Because the best way for me to keep it real is to talk about the library.  And mice.

And why they haven't sent me a cease and desist order and told me I can never check another item out E.V.E.R is beyond me.

Here's my current account online:

Other than the Jamaica DVD in the middle (the only one without big red warnings), I don't have clue #1 where any of the other books are.  Honestly, I am nearly certain that I returned the Native American History, Southwestern Indian Arts, Squanto, and Southwest Archaeology, but the librarian did a whole bunch of digging and she did not locate those three at all.

I know I did not return the three novels.  I have no idea about Echoes of the Elders.

Regardless, though, I have eight totally missing library books.

I just don't understand WHY I can't find them.  <sigh>

On a just as frustrating note, in the search for the above books, I ran across a dead mouse.  <shudder>  And Thomas found a dead mouse in one of those cartons of seafood broth.  You know, not something I'd normally purchase.  If the mice have to commit suicide by drowning themselves in broth, couldn't they choose chicken broth?

With the amazing weather we've had lately, we've had an influx of mice.  Again. 

I hate mice.  I also hate missing library books.

I'll update and give you the ghastly total I end up owing to the library.  Those are some expensive books there, so it is going to be awful.

I'm sure the fact that I'm still sick doesn't help my attitude toward either the books or the mice.

Feel free to tell me I'm not the only one losing things.  If you are perfect, just move along.  This is not the blog for you.