Tuesday, February 28, 2012

FIRST Wild Card Tour: YHWH

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Authentic (June 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Mike Parker for sending me a review copy.***


GP Taylor is the New York Times best selling author of such young adult novels as Shadowmancer, Wormwood, and The Tizzle Sisters. He resides in England on the banks of a river in the midst of a dark wood, an arrow's flight from the Prince Regent Hotel.

Visit the author's website.

Paula K. Parker is a U.S.-based playwright and author whose works include stage adaptations of the Jane Austen classics, Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, and Emma. YESHUA: The Vine, The Demon & The Traitor, the sequel to "YHWH," is scheduled for release in the spring of 2012.

Visit the author's website.


YHWH is a collection of 20 Old Testament stories, re-told for the Harry Potter generation.

In a world where Children are probably more familiar with Harry Potter than Jesus, it’s often hard to encourage them to read the Bible in its traditional form. YHWH introduces the wonderful Bible stories to them in a way that captures their imagination YHWH is based on the scripture but adds description and other allegory to make the stories come alive.

The project is supported by Walk Through the Bible Ministries who teach the Bible to over 40,000 school children each year. It could be used by Christians as a tool for evangelism and would be ideal as a gift for children and young people unfamiliar with the classic Bible narratives.

Our Take:  Past the first chapter, my William (13) and Thomas (11) have really enjoyed this book.  They really did not like the first chapter though, which you can read for yourself below.  All the Gan-Eden, Marah and Havva stuff confused them.  They couldn't keep track o whether Marah was supposed to be Adam, or whether Marah was Eve.  After the first chapter, they told me they really did not like this book and didn't want to read more.

The second story, on Noah, convinced them otherwise.  Noah and his sons have the same names that they have in the Bible, and all four wives have made-up names.  The kids said they couldn't keep track of which son was married to which wife, but that really doesn't impact the story. 

I'm not always a fan of books that add details to the Bible, but (except for the first story) the kids and I were okay with this... and the kids are familiar enough with the stories to recognize what details are there to flesh out the story, to make it more, well, able to capture the imagination of the Harry Potter generation, to paraphrase comments above and on the back cover.

My kids enjoy this, but they did wonder a bit about someone who isn't already familiar with the stories, and how they would react going from YHWH to a regular Bible.  Would the added details from these stories help to bring the text alive?  Or would it frustrate kids who are expecting a version closer to what they read in this book?

We don't know.  But... for my kids, this is an enjoyable read... and it provides some new insights into the Bible stories they already know.

Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Authentic (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1860248004
ISBN-13: 978-1860248009


YWHW: The Flood, The Fish & The Giant
By GP Taylor & Paula K. Parker
Authentic Media

Chapter One: The Fall

In the early light of morning, by the Tigris River that ran through the valley of Gan-Eden, a long, black serpent slithered in and out of the eucalyptus trees. The creature was followed at a distance by a small and fearful rat. Wherever the snake went, so the rat followed, but always far enough away so the bright white teeth that were hidden in the snake’s mouth could not strike it. The cobra cared for nothing but itself. It neither ate nor slept, but just slid through the undergrowth as it sought a place to hide from the sun. The serpent raised itself up and puffed out its hood, then stopped and tasted the air as it flickered its blood-red tongue. Every creature in the garden sensed the advent of death and all was silent. Sensing warmth nearby, the snake edged closer to the body of a man that lay as if unconscious in the clearing of the forest.

As the first rays of sunlight broke against the tall trees, the snake sniffed the face of the bearded creature. He smelled different from any other beast of the forest. It was then, with no human eye to see, that the snake began to slowly transform. Inch by inch, the scales of the creature quickly disintegrated and took the form of pure, white skin. As if it were being peeled, the snake changed in appearance. Its head grew and took on the countenance of a man. As the snakeskin peeled back, the rest of the body emerged. It was distinctly human, the only trace of what had been the cobra were the slitted eyes and two sharp fangs that edged his ruby lips.

Soon, the snake was no more. Its transformation was complete. The creature was angelic, tall, with long thin fingers. Waves of white hair were brushed back to reveal a chiselled face – the beauty of which no one on earth had ever seen.

‘Wormwood … do you always have to stay in that form?’ the creature asked the rat as it crawled over the stump of an old tree and looked up at him.

HE … might not see me like this. I feel safe if HE can’t see me.’ The rat replied, as it brushed its face with clawed hands that looked quite human.

HE sees everything. There is nothing in the universe that HE can’t see.’ The man replied angrily.

‘But Lucifer, HE was your friend and master,’ the rat answered without thinking.

‘As HE was yours, Wormwood. Then the Creator cast us out – just for thinking we were His equal.…’ Lucifer answered as he looked about him, knowing he was being overheard. ‘And now, not only does the man Marah inhabit this place, but the Creator in his wisdom has made that – a friend for Marah; the man created from dust – blood and gall – now has a companion.’

Lucifer pointed to the body of a woman who lay on the ground in a deep sleep. She was covered in eucalyptus leaves, her long black hair trailing in ringlets across her dark skin.

‘She is … very beautiful,’ Wormwood answered as he looked down at the woman. ‘Is she an angel?’

Lucifer looked at Marah. He traced his finger along Marah’s naked skin and dug the nail into his flesh until he came to a long wound in his side.

‘Interesting …’ Lucifer mused as he traced the wound. ‘It looks as though HE has taken a rib to form this other one.’

‘Shall we kill them?’ Wormwood asked. ‘We killed many angels in heaven until Raphael put an end to our war.’

‘Not yet,’ Lucifer answered. ‘I think that here will be a fine place to wage our war on the Creator. If HE has one weakness, it is compassion. If I were King of Heaven, I would not have allowed us to live. All HE did was cast us down to this place. Even with our rebellion, He showed kindness. How foolish is HE?’ Lucifer asked the rat.

Wormwood did not speak. He stared at the woman and watched her breathing. Lucifer reached out and touched her face.

‘What will we do with them?’ Wormwood asked.

‘There will be time; after all, we have all eternity,’ Lucifer answered quickly as he heard footsteps in the forest.

Suddenly changing back to the shape of the serpent, Lucifer slithered quickly into the undergrowth. Wormwood darted to the cover of the trees.

Gan-Eden was still. The scent of death had vanished. Marah lay on the ground as if asleep. Around him, bushes covered in blossoms were once more humming with bees. The trees shadowing him were alive with birds singing, building nests and pecking at the ripening fruit. Animals walked up to gently sniff at the sleeping humans and then wander into the brush. The footsteps drew closer and closer. From amongst the trees and bushes, a breath as warm as sunlight and deep as eternity flared the nostrils of the man as the voice echoed, ‘Marah … awake.’

Marah’s eyes shifted under closed lids and gradually opened; without turning his head, he looked around, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of Gan-Eden. Yawning he stretched, extending his arms, and touched … something.

He turned to see a figure sleeping on the ground. It was like him … but it wasn’t.

‘Creator,’ Marah asked, ‘… what … is this?’

The voice that had awakened him echoed in response, ‘She is woman. She will be your companion and your helper. Your wife. All the animals in the garden were made male and female. It was not good for you to be alone; in the entire garden, there was none equal to you. I caused you to fall into a deep sleep and took one of your ribs and, from that rib, I created her.’

Marah rose to his knees to inspect the sleeping woman. He brushed away the leaves that covered her body. Her skin was soft as a butterfly’s wings and thick dark lashes brushed cheeks the colour of peaches. Hair the shade of a raven’s wing flowed from her head, covering her to her thighs. Her lids fluttered and then opened. The eyes inspecting him were almond-shaped, their colour reflecting the grass beneath her. She looked at Marah curiously and reached to touch his face. She laughed; the sound was as light and fresh as the mist that arose each morning.

Taking her hand, Marah helped the woman to stand. Wife, he thought. A companion and a helper. Like me, but not like me.

‘You are bone of my bone,’ he told her, ‘and flesh of my flesh.’

Her brow wrinkled, as if not understanding.

Marah cupped her cheek. ‘You are “woman”,’ – then he touched his side – ‘for you were taken out of “man”.’

The woman opened her mouth, working to shape full lips. ‘Mmm … aaahhh.…’

Touching his chest, he told her, ‘I am “Marah”.’

‘Marah,’ she spoke as if tasting the word.

Pointing to her, he said, ‘Havva.’

That is good,’ the voice of the Creator echoed through the trees.

Havva looked around for the source of the voice and then looked at Marah, her brow furrowed in question.

‘That is the Creator,’ Marah said.

Havva looked at him and smiled. It was as if she knew all of what Marah spoke.

‘The Creator is good,’ Havva answered.

Marah smiled. ‘Yes, He is.’ Taking her hand, he said, ‘Now come … let me show you Gan-Eden.’

Together they walked through forests and meadows, up hills and down into valleys, enjoying the feel of soft grass beneath their feet. Marah led Havva to a river; releasing her hand, he jumped into the water, laughing. Turning, he extended his arms. ‘Water.’

‘Water,’ she laughed and jumped, gasping as the cold water hit her skin and filled her mouth and nose.

He held her hand as they waded through the water. Fish darted between the man and woman, tickling their legs and feet with brightly coloured fins. Marah showed Havva how to drink the water with cupped hands and wiped her dripping lips. Then they left the river and walked to a nearby tree. Plucking fruit from a laden bough, Marah handed one to Havva.

‘Peach,’ he bit into the ripe flesh, juice spurting and dripping to his chest. ‘Mmmm …’ he nodded.

She bit into her peach; her eyes widened at her first taste of food. She nodded and laughed as the juice ran down her chin. After eating several more peaches, they plunged back into the river to wash their skin and then laid down on the bank to rest in the sunlight.

As the sun slipped down the sky, changing from golden to orange, to disappear beyond the horizon, Marah led Havva to a spot beneath a massive oak. He showed her how to pull up armfuls of tall blades of grass and lay them on top of each other. When the pile of grass reached their knees, Marah sat down and reached up to pull Havva down next to him. He lay on his back, with his hands cushioning his head. After a moment, Havva lay next to him and placed her head on his chest. As the sky darkened the moon arose, creamy and full, and stars scattered like diamonds across the expanse. The man and woman’s breathing slowed and before they fell asleep, they heard, ‘That is very good,’ whispered across the night sky.

Through the days that followed, Marah showed Havva the length and breadth of Gan-Eden. As they wandered, they tended the plants. Marah showed Havva how to use a sharp stone to cut the pips and seeds from the fruit they ate; they stuck the seeds in the ground. ‘From these, the Creator will make more grow.’ They would climb the trees to toss down fruit for the animals that couldn’t reach it. And in the evening, the Creator would come. Not that they saw the Creator; they felt His presence as the sun warmed their skin and heard His voice whispering through the sky. They would talk about all they had done and the Creator would instruct them about the needs of the animals and plants in Gan-Eden.

Be fruitful and increase in number,’ the voice of the Creator whispered in their hearts, ‘fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground. I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has the breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’

One golden day when the warm wind blew in from the west, Marah and Havva followed the bank of the Tigris to where it met with the Euphrates to form the Great River. The waters rolled and cascaded, frothing over rocks. On the bank of the river, stood two trees. Both were gigantic, taller than any other tree in Gan-Eden and laden with ripe fruit, filling the air with spicy sweetness. As they looked across the waters, the Creator spoke. The voice echoed across the sky.

This is the centre of the garden,’ the Creator spoke above the sounds of the rushing water. ‘The trees in the middle of the garden are the tree of life’ the wind blew ruffled the leaves on the tree on the right, ‘and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.’ The leaves on the left tree waved in the breeze.‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely taste death.’

‘Marah,’ Havva asked, ‘what is “death”?’

‘I do not know,’ he told her. His face had grown solemn and thoughtful. He was not laughing now. ‘But we do not need to know. It is enough that the Creator tells us not to eat from the tree.’ He took her hand and looked into her eyes. ‘We will obey.’

She nodded hesitantly. ‘We will obey.’

As they turned to go, Havva caught sight of an animal she had not met. From a distance, it looked like the branch of a tree it curled around, but its skin glistened like a lizard.

‘Marah, what is that?’ she pointed to the snake as it bowed from the branch.

He looked. ‘That is Serpent.’

‘Why does it not come and greet us?’

Marah shrugged. ‘I know not.’ He took her hand. ‘Come, I saw pomegranates. Let’s eat some.’

As they walked away, Havva felt an itching sensation between her shoulders. Looking back, she saw the serpent watching her; it looked as though it was smiling.

Time passed slowly in Gan-Eden. Havva had grown accustomed to the land. She knew where to find the best pears and apples, when to pick the raspberries and how to choose the ripest tomatoes. All was well. The Creator walked in the land by the river and they listened to His voice as the sun set and the moon rose out of the mountains.

One morning, the sunlight streamed into her eyes and woke Havva. She looked over at Marah; he was sleeping on his side, with a large leaf covering his head. She smiled at her husband, who snorted and rubbed his nose, and snuggled into their bed. Havva stood up to gather food for Marah and herself.

Wandering, she plucked an apple from a nearby tree; the fruit was sweet and crunchy. She washed the sticky juice from her fingers. She pulled a large leaf from a tree and used it to gather fruit for Marah and herself: more apples, raspberries, dark red cherries, peaches, a small melon. When she came upon the pomegranate tree, she found herself standing near the Great River and the two trees the Creator had told them about.

The fruits on both trees were unlike any she had seen before: larger than any Havva had gathered, and their fragrance made her mouth water and filled the glade with its essence.

‘Havva,’ a voice said from deep within the glade.

She turned. There, slithering towards her was the serpent. As it neared, she could see that it began to slowly change and stand up on two legs. It looked like Marah – its eyes were tilted slits, the mouth wide. The creature shuddered joyfully.

‘How do you know my name?’ she asked.

‘We all know that Havva and Marah are favoured by the Creator,’ Serpent spoke, hissing out each word. ‘I see you are gathering food,’ it said. ‘Have you come to pick fruit from these trees?’ It walked towards the tree on the left.

‘But not fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,’ Havva answered.

‘Is it true that the Creator really said, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’

‘No,’ Havva said. ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but the Creator said, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’

‘You will not surely die,’ Serpent said. ‘The Creator does not want you to eat it, for He knows that when you eat the fruit, you will be wise like Him, knowing good and evil.’ Plucking a fruit, it bit into the flesh. Serpent closed its eyes and hissed, ‘No other fruit tastes so good.’

Havva took a step closer to the tree. The fruit was large and plump, its aroma filling her head. She dropped the leaf filled with the fruit she had gathered. None of the fruit I picked looks or smells as good as this, she thought. Surely becoming as wise as the Creator is a good thing.

Slowly lifting her hand, she reached up and – hesitantly – touched the nearest fruit. It was firm and ripe; one slight tug and the fruit fell into Havva’s hand. She sniffed it; the aroma was sweet and set her mouth watering. She extended her tongue and licked it. She waited … nothing happened … no death … it tasted like the dawn. She took one bite – then another and another. She consumed the fruit, grabbed another and ate it. Hand over hand, she ate several pieces of fruit, unable to assuage her hunger.

‘Havva!’ shouted another voice. She whirled around, a fruit in one hand and a half-eaten fruit in the other.

Marah stared at her, stared at her hands. ‘What have you done?’ he whispered.

Havva stepped towards her husband. ‘Marah … I woke before you … wanted to gather food … the serpent told me that the Creator didn’t want us to be like him … I ate one … the fruit is unlike any we have eaten before … nothing happened … I’m the same –’

‘No,’ he shook his head, ‘you are different….’

‘I am like the Creator….’ She lifted the uneaten fruit to his mouth. ‘Don’t you want to … be like Him?’ She lifted the other fruit and took a bite. ‘They are wonderful.’

Marah stared at his wife … opened his mouth … and took a bite.

The ground was soon littered with fruit, some eaten, some just bitten into. Other fruit was just thrown to the ground and smashed underfoot in their haste to grab more. No matter how many they ate, their hunger remained.

‘Marah …’ she said, her voice anguished. ‘Something is different.’

‘What do you mean?’ Marah asked, his mouth full of fruit.

‘I do not know. We should know,’ Havva’s voice was rough and sharp as a stone. ‘We ate the fruit … the serpent said we would be wise as the Creator and know everything.’

‘Havva …’ Marah said, ‘the serpent is not the Creator and we did as he told us, not as the Creator told us.’

Havva grabbed her waist. ‘Marah … something is different … in me.’ She doubled over, crying out in pain. ‘Something is twisting inside.’

Running to the river, Havva retched as she coughed up the half-eaten fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It twisted her guts and stuck in her throat as she retched and retched. Again and again she tried to rid herself of the pain in her stomach and her heart. She was distantly aware of Marah kneeling next to her. She heard his cries of anguish and pain as he emptied his stomach of the fruit.

Reaching out, she pulled a leaf from a nearby bush and wiped her mouth. Not enough. She grabbed another and, opening her mouth, wiped her tongue. Still not enough.

Pulling leaf after leaf, the man and woman tried to clean the feeling from their mouths, their bellies, their hearts. Shivering, Havva took fig leaves and knotted the ends, until she had formed a covering for herself. Noticing that Marah was also trembling, she formed a covering for Marah.

‘Marah … Havva …’

They looked at each other, hearts pounding.

‘The Creator,’ Marah whispered. ‘He is coming.’

‘He will see us … He will know.’ Havva said. Turning, she ran down the path, stumbling over rocks and stumps, scratching her legs on bushes, until she found four trees that leaned towards each other. Several small bushes growing at their base formed a small shelter. Dropping to her knees, she crawled inside. A moment later, Marah crawled in beside her. She could hear Marah’s heart beating in fear.

Marah … Havva … where are you?’ The leaves on the bushes trembled … ‘Marah?’

Marah looked at Havva and shook his head. ‘I must answer …’ Taking a shuddering breath, the man stuttered, ‘I-I am in here …’

Where is Havva?’

Havva looked wide-eyed at Marah, who nodded.

‘I … I am in here with Marah.’

‘Why are you in there?’

‘We heard you in the forest and we were afraid you would see … us … as we are … naked … so we hid from you.’

Who told you that you were naked?’ the Creator spoke in a sad whisper. ‘Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?

The pain in the Creator’s voice tore at Marah, the knowledge of his disobedience too heavy to confess.

‘The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’

‘Havva.’ The woman cringed under the weight of His voice. ‘What is this you have done?’

Havva’s thoughts were as rapid as her heartbeat. What can I say? How do I explain?

‘It was Serpent. He told me it would make me like you …’ her voice dropped to a tearful whisper, ‘and I ate.’

The leaves at the door to their shelter began trembling, shivering, as the wind began blowing, howling. The presence of the Creator rose above the earth, His voice swelled to cover all creation.

Serpent, because you have done this, you are cursed above all the creatures of the night. You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.’

What will He do to us?’ she whispered.

‘Havva.’ The woman wrapped her arms around her legs and laid her head on her knees. ‘You will give birth to children and they will bring you pain. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’

‘Marah.’ The man turned from his wife, as the Creator spoke to him. ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat of it”: cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’

A sudden, sharp sound rent the air. It was unlike anything that Marah or Havva had ever heard before. It pierced their ears and tore at their hearts.

Marah … Havva…’ The Creator’s voice sounded as painful as their hearts. ‘Come here.’

Marah dropped to his knees to crawl from their hiding place; after a moment, Havva followed. Standing, they looked around. Nothing seemed different about the land … yet it was. There, by a bush, was a slaughtered sheep. Its throat was cut, blood issued from its fleece, mixing with the dust of the earth.

The voice of the Creator rose above the trees again, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.’

The ground under the man and woman’s feet trembled and shook, as the sky grew blinding white. In fear, they watched as a figure descended from the clouds to stand in front of the two trees. It had the shape of a man, with wings like the mighty eagle. His face was terrible to see. In his hand was a flaming sword.

Looking at Marah and Havva, the angel lifted the sword and opened his mouth. ‘GO.’

The word echoed from one end of Gan-Eden to the other. Fire flashed from the sword; a tree near the humans erupted into flames.

Grabbing Havva’s hand, Marah began running, screaming, as first a tree and then a bush exploded before them.

They came to the edge of the river where Marah had first showed Havva how to drink and swam across the river, choking on the water that filled their nose and mouth. They crawled out of the water and collapsed on the riverbank, panting. After his heart and breathing had slowed, Marah rolled over and pulled himself to his knees. He looked up and gasped.

Havva grabbed his ankle, too afraid to look. ‘What is it?’

‘They’re gone,’ Marah’s voice was ragged.

‘What’s gone? The serpent?’

‘No,’ Marah dropped to the ground next to his wife. ‘The tree of life … it is gone. Gan-Eden has disappeared.’

Turning, Havva looked behind them. Across the river, beyond the far bank, was … nothing. There were bushes, forests, and hills; but they were not those of the garden. Arching her neck, Havva looked in one direction and then turned to look in the other. Straining her eyes, she could not see the massive tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were … gone!

‘Marah, where is it? Did the Creator destroy the land?’

‘I don’t think so. I think Gan-Eden is hidden from us. Maybe one day, He will let us return.’ He reached down and took Havva’s hand and pulled her up. ‘… For now, we must find shelter … the night is coming.’

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A is for Ancient

Hopefully I can manage to do this every week, but I'm joining a meme to blog through the alphabet.  I'm hoping it will give me a chance to post about things that aren't exclusively homeschool related.

And since this starts the day before my birthday... well... I simply had to choose that A is for Ancient, as I'm starting to feel that way.

Okay, so all my dad's cousins and such can stop laughing.  Please?

When I did that "photo shoot" a few weeks ago, there were far more pictures I just couldn't bring myself to use.  The one I put up on my blog, and the one I put on the Crew blog both showed more red hair than white, and not so many wrinkles.  The one below is much closer to the real me:

And yeah, touching up the photos did occur to me.  As does coloring my hair.  But I've earned these white hairs, and really, I don't want to be spending money on that.  And touching up the photos just sounds like work.

Getting older isn't a right, it is a privilege.  I try to remember that when I'm feeling ancient.  And there is something George Burns said (honestly, there is so much great stuff that man said.  I miss him.), "You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old."

Or, when I was searching for that one to get it just right, there was a quote from Bill Cosby that makes me think of my grandfather.  "Like everyone else who makes the mistake of getting older, I begin each day with coffee and obituaries."

Okay, now I'm not to that point yet.  But Grandpa?  Not quite as long as I can remember (but close), when I'd stay there, someone at the breakfast table would invariably ask him how he was doing.  His answer was always some variation on, "I get up every morning and check the obituaries.  If I don't find my name, I know I've got another day."

And maybe that's the tough part about feeling ancient.  It isn't so much me.  It's thinking about people I won't see again this side of heaven.  My grandparents.  Their siblings. Lots of other people too. 

Anyway... the more upbeat part of A is for Ancient has to do with Ancient history... which is what four of my kids have been studying. 

I remember taking an ancient history course in high school.  It was taught by the German teacher.  You know, the teacher who was quite upset that she wasn't allowed to teach 20th Century History, because she wanted to be able to set us straight about Hitler.  We heard that in German class.  He really was misunderstood, and the history books don't show how much good he did for Germany, she would tell us repeatedly.

I had a hard time taking her seriously.  I hated ancient history.  Totally didn't understand the point of studying it at all.  Lots of names (mostly unpronounceable) and dates and places that didn't correspond to anything I knew.

But now, doing history with my kids... well, the greatest part is that we are using historical fiction for a lot of it, and we aren't focused so much on dates.  I still can't pronounce the names...  but reading books like Hittite Warrior, or The Bronze Bow... this brings these time periods to life.

And having a son who still says he is going into archaeology (A is for Archaeology!) means that it is probably a good thing that ancient history is more interesting.  The plan is to do an archaeology unit this summer, where all three of my Boy Scouts (yep, next weeks post will be B is for Boy Scouts... as I'll have three of them by then) can earn their Archaeology merit badge.  And we may beef it up to get Connor a 1/2 credit class out of it too.

A is for Ancient and Archaeology.  Or A is for Alphabet, Apple and Amazon according to some of the other posts... go check them out...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Review: Apologia's Who Am I? Worldview Materials

In the past couple of years, Apologia has been expanding their product line to include more than just science.  I was quite excited when I first heard that they were working with Summit Ministries on a Worldview Study based on Summit's Building on the Rock series.  

I had tried using the Building on the Rock materials a few years ago, and while I loved the content, I simply could not make the format work for my family.

I purchased the first title,  Who is God? And How Can I Know Him? very shortly after it came out, and we worked through it on and off over a couple of years.  When I found out that the TOS Homeschool Crew had the chance to review book two - Who Am I? And What Am I Doing Here? - I was interested.

Who Am I? is intended for children ages 6-14, which as of last week, describes all of my kids.  And we are doing this as a group with all of us.

What does it mean to be fearfully and wonderfully made?  That and a bunch of other questions are addressed in this volume.  

There will be a total of four volumes in this series, with the fourth one coming out this year.  While the volumes build on each other, each can stand alone.  Who Am I? touches on ideas discussed in Who is God?, but none of us felt that we had to have completed Who is God? to make this work.

The greatest thing, though, was that we didn't just receive the text ($39) for our review.  We were given all the supplementary materials too -- 
  • a notebooking journal ($24) that is spiral bound, and includes space to answer the questions posed in the text, plus other pages including puzzles and other fun stuff
  • a coloring book ($8) which is great for kids who aren't ready for the notebooking aspect
  • a MP3 CD ($19), with the entire text read aloud.  
These extras make a huge difference in my home.  My kids took a look at the notebooking journal and coloring books, and everyone wanted one.  When *my* pencil-phobic boys are begging for a notebooking journal of their own, well, that says a lot.  And yes, I did go get some more, so the three older guys all have a notebooking journal, and both younger ones have the coloring book.

Notebooking is so NOT something that normally works here.  But this book is of such high quality -- not only the fact that the content is inviting, but the product just feels and looks nice -- that my boys were pulled in.  That Richard and Trina both wanted a coloring book did not surprise me, though I have to say that I seriously doubt the three older ones would ever have been interested, no matter how nice it is.

The MP3 CD though, oh, wow.  This makes it so much easier.  We can listen to the text being read, and pause after each track to discuss the questions or to work on the notebooking pages.  My struggling readers can listen to the text again on their own.  We can put it onto an iPod and listen to the story segments while we drive (the discussion question sections in the car don't work so well!)

The entire package makes this so much easier to do in my house. 

When we move on to Who is my Neighbor? and Why Does He Need Me?, you better believe I'll be going for the extras.  I'm assuming the extras will be available by then!  Volume four will be called What On Earth Can I Do? and that is one I'm really looking forward to.  You can check out samples of each of the available titles at the Apologia website.

You can read what other crew members had to say about the Who Am I? materials here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive the products mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Beeyoutiful

This is my second opportunity to try out products from Beeyoutiful.  Almost two years ago, I reviewed a product called Berry Well, which we really did like.

A few weeks ago, I received Tension Tamer and Peppermint Lip Balm.  I figure they must know me pretty well.

Tension Tamer is billed as "the ultimate de-stresser" and as soon as I opened the package, I opened this up and rolled some on the back of my neck.  I carry stress in my neck and shoulders, and that is where I have been using this.  I immediately noticed the wintergreen fragrence, but upon reading the ingredients, there is also peppermint and eucalyptus for stronger-smelling oils.  Other ingredients include oils like jojoba, sweet almond and grape seed.

I simply LOVE that this is so natural -- no artificial fragrances, no preservatives, no petroleum.

And three of us have had a chance to use it.  I've used it the most.  Like I mentioned above, I mostly used it on my neck.  William used it one day when he had a headache.  And Dale used it when he was feeling under the weather, tense muscles and a bit of a headache.

William felt this worked great and he threatened to disappear with it so that he would always have some available.  My results were a bit more mixed... but...

My mom reacts badly to eucalyptus.  I've never really used eucalyptus as a result.  And after using Tension Tamer, I think I was right to avoid eucalyptus.

Dale's experience was far better than mine.  He said that he could feel it working almost immediately.  So this is a product that I am thrilled to let my family use, but I will avoid it for me.  And at $11 for a bottle that seems to last forever, I will get more. 

I also received Peppermint Lip B.A.L.M, a brand-new product.  This I loved... especially because it smells peppermint-y but doesn't taste it.  This all-natural product is fabulous.  Shea butter, beeswax, grape seed oil, and in the case of the one I received, peppermint essential oil.  Orange is also available.

The lip balm feels good, and it feels healthy.  It feels healthy for a reason -- anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory, antioxidants...  all kinds of great stuff. 

This is something I will certainly toss into my cart when I order from Beeyoutiful in the future.

And although this was not part of my review products, I also have some of their Hair Shine -- and I can rave about this one too.  I've been using that on Trina's hair and it is fantastic.  She thinks the citrus-y scent is a bit too strong, but in the week that we've been using it, not only is her hair easier to brush but it feels more healthy besides. 

This is a spray-on, leave-in conditioner.  I spritz Trina's hair with all-natural stuff like essential oils... and I brush through it.  And, like I said... her hair is easier to manage after only a week.

Hair Shine, right now, is available for $12.75.

You can read what other crew members had to say about various Beeyoutiful products here:


Disclaimer:  As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I did receive some of the products mentioned above for the purposes of a review.  All opinions are my own.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Six Ways to Keep the "Good" in Your Boy

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Dannah Gresh is a bestselling author, a speaker, and the creator of the Secret Keeper Girl live events. Her books include Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl, 8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters, And the Bride Wore White, and Lies Young Women Believe (coauthored with Nancy Leigh DeMoss). She and her husband have a son and two daughters and live in Pennsylvania.

Visit the author's website.


Bestselling author Dannah Gresh empowers moms of with six proactive ways to raise sons age 8-12 to be honest, confident, and respectful. This encouraging, practical resource shows how the formative years can shape a godly, healthy teen and adult. Includes engaging activity ideas, and Scriptures to pray over sons.

My Take:  Every parent needs to read the first chapter (below).  You simply have to.  And if you have boys, you probably need the book.

One thing that makes me absolutely crazy as a mom of four boys is how many people -- including family members -- are so incredibly anti-male.  Bashing men is culturally acceptable, and it is something that I do not wish to have my boys have to listen to.  How do you avoid it though?  Reading this book, I'm reminded of how prevalent the anti-male attitude is... and instead of just moaning about how difficult this makes it to raise young men, Gresh offers solutions.  You may not agree with her -- I know I have friends who won't agree with her -- but if she can make you think about about these issues and forming another plan, well...

If you have boys, you simply have to read this. 

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736945792

ISBN-13: 978-0736945790


Is There a Mouse in
That Cookie Box?

A box of cookies and a dead mouse.
The combination conjures up one of the proudest memories of mothering my wonderful son, Robby. (If you meet him, you can call him Rob. But I can’t. He’s still my Robby even if he’s the size of a linebacker.) He was a freshman at Grace Prep high school and was just returning from a school-assigned Random Act of Kindness when these two mismatched objects—mouse and cookies—mingled together to create an equally odd mixture of emotions.
Just hours earlier, armed with nothing more than a few boxes of cookies and several rakes, he and a few friends had set out to do some good. They’d come back a little flustered, but laughing their experience off like four cool 15-year-old boys should.
“We just got yelled at,” said Robby, wearing the words like a badge of courage.
“By whom?” I asked.
“Some crazy woman who thought there must be a mouse in the cookies we were trying to give her,” he answered defensively.
“What!” I was just a little aggravated, having been the one who had issued the assignment. How could anyone react with anger and suspicion (particularly in our small, friendly town) to a box of cookies and an offer to do yard work? Surely they must have misunderstood. “Tell me what happened. Play-by-play,” I said.
“Well, we knocked on the lady’s door to give her the cookies and ask permission to rake her leaves,” Robby answered. “When we tried to hand her the cookies she looked afraid and angrily said, ‘Is there a dead mouse in that box?’   ”
The other boys snickered. I could see that they thought it was funny, but that it also bothered them.
I was having a hard time believing it.
“We promised there wasn’t a mouse in there, but she just couldn’t believe we were there to do anything good. So one of the guys said, ‘Look, we just want to show you God’s love in a practical way.’   ”
This made me smile. It was what they’d been taught. “Transfer the credit of this good act to God,” I’d said in class.
“What’d she say when you said that?” I asked.
“She grabbed the cookies, said, ‘Rake if you want to,’ and slammed the door in our faces!” said Robby. “So, we raked.”
I could tell that the guys were still a bit shaken, and I was a bit angry that they hadn’t been met with the reward of a simple “thank you.”
A few weeks later, God brought the whole thing full circle with a letter that came in the mail. One of the members of Robby’s group got to read it out loud in chapel. I wish I still had it. It went something like this:
Dear Grace Prep:
Recently some boys from your school came here to deliver cookies to my daughter and me. They also raked our leaves. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t trust them. I am sorry. (For the record, they were really yummy cookies.)
I think God sent those boys here.
You see, my husband—my daughter’s father—died recently and it has been tough. Just that morning my daughter and I kind of put a test out there for God. We prayed, saying, “If you’re really there and you really see us, show up!”
When he did, we didn’t recognize him right away. But I have no doubt that God sent those high-school boys to remind us that he sees us.
Thank you.
You could have heard a pin drop in that room of high-school kids when the letter was read. We were all simply struck with the power of goodness.
But here’s why this wonderful memory not only floods my heart with pride, but also makes me sad: We’ve lost our faith in the goodness of boys and men. And not wholly without reason.
Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

A title of a recent Wall Street Journal article inquired, “Where Have the Good Men Gone?” A current Amazon bestseller seeks to answer the question, Is There Anything Good About Men? Since the 2004 coining of the word “adultescent,”  1 we’ve had something to call the young adult male who is so busy playing Call of Duty on his PlayStation 4 that he has no real-life call of duty. No honor. No integrity. No goodness. Just a seventh-grade mind-set and responsibility level trapped in the flabby body of an adult who often still lives at home or in a tacky bachelor pad with other adultescents. The phenomenon is what caused Kay S. Hymowitz to pen the book Manning Up, in which she writes,
Not so long ago, average mid-twentysomethings, both male and female, had achieved most of the milestones of adulthood: high school diploma, financial independence, marriage, and children. These days [the males] hang out in a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance.  2
High-school English teacher Joe Carmichiel has written a book entitled Permanent Adolescence: Why Boys Don’t Grow Up, because “a large number of today’s teenagers, especially boys, see no reason to accept or pursue adulthood since it is of so little value to the larger culture.”  3 So, with no motivation todo anything, many of these young men remain in a state of wimpy complacency well into their twenties, even thirties.
Along with this state of immaturity that many boys will embrace as they grow older is a culturally acceptable pressure for boys to be bad—both complacent and void of character. By the time a boy is finished with high school, he is likely to have three crucial areas of character ripped right out of him:
  1. Over 50 percent of young men will have become sexually active in a casual-sex culture where they’re likely to have an average of 9.7 sexual partners before they graduate from college.  4 (There goes his purity.)
  2. Most of them will be exposed to porn as a tween or early teen, with the median age of first exposure being about 11. This catapults many of them into a world of double-mindedness where they are one boy at home and in public—and another entirely in their private world. (There goes his integrity.)
  3. Many will have succumbed to an emasculated version of manhood that strips them of their drive to be leaders and protectors who do good. (There goes his honor.)

Our boys need to be taught to grow up.
And to be good.

While Six Ways to Keep the “Little” in Your Girl    cried
out for us to band together against the culture’s pressure for our little girls to grow up too fast, this book pleads with you to join us in raising sons who are prepared to embrace the responsibility of growing up.
It’s been our goal to create a character base for our son to be a man of integrity, honor, and purity. Bob and I want him to be good. Fortunately, our life work led me into the depths of research, and I learned that we had to start building a foundation for our son to rise to the call of manhood…when he was still just our “good boy”! Raising a son to reflect your value system when he is a man is—in part—a matter of introducing those values to him in an age-appropriate manner when he is a tween. Social science offers us statistical lines of footprints showing how a boy will turn out based on what he is exposed to and when. Sadly, our boys have got a tough battle ahead. It’s been a long time since they’ve seen anything but “adultescent” or “bad” examples of manhood dominating our culture.
Why Are Boys “Bad”?

Robert Coles, a pioneer in the field of moral intelligence, brings clarity to the definition badness when he writes,
Bad boys display a “heightened destructive self-absorption, in all its melancholy stages.” In essence, we go bad when “we lose sight of our obligation to others.”  5
Badness is not simply the loss of innocence, purity, integrity, and honor, but also the loss of vision to see the needs of others and to act on them. It’s a complacent, self-absorbed lifestyle that is void of character.
I think we have a bad-boy mentality in our culture for two primary reasons.
The first reason boys become bad is that the feminist movement has told us they are bad. Michael Gurian, author of The Wonder of Boys, though seeming to embrace the feminist movement as a whole, points out a few devastating myths it introduced to convince our boys that they are “bad.” Here are two that resonate with me:
Myth Number One: “that masculinity is responsible for the world’s ills and femininity is the world’s salvation.”  6
Myth Number Two: “males destroy, females create; males stand in the way of positive spiritual/social values; males are inherently violent.”  7
While a deeper study of the feminist movement would betray an agenda to introduce these fallacies, we don’t have to get that academic to see how much we are influenced to believe these myths in our politically correct culture.
Just consider how prevalently they are portrayed in the media. Television alone reinforces them. Two and a Half Men, “the biggest hit comedy of the past decade” according to the New York Times, features a hedonist formerly played by Charlie Sheen. After eight seasons, the show was stalled when Sheen went into rehab for drug use. He was then fired for making disparaging remarks about the show’s producers. On and off screen he was self-absorbed and void of character. Other shows display the contrast of the valuable female to the valueless male. Reruns of The Simpsons portray Lisa as bright and beautiful and Bart as out of shape and selfish. Co-ed television commercials often portray the guy as a doofus and the girl as smart. It’s funny. It really is. But how much of it can we expose ourselves to before we believe it? And that takes me to my next concern.
The second reason boys are “bad” is that they have become what has been expected of them, just like any individual tends to fulfill what has been prophesied about them. Of course, they’ve had help from their parents (or lack thereof), their culture (and its emasculation), their economy (and its consumeristic “me” mentality), and their churches (who haven’t done much to stand against the feminist untruths). But today’s men as a whole have pretty much rolled over and taken it.
It’s probably a good idea for me, Bob, to step in here. I’m a guy. If anyone’s going to throw us under the bus, it should be me. It has always befuddled me that the prettiest, nicest girls are always attracted to the bad boys. From the jock who bullies everyone at school to the kid in a leather jacket who doles out drugs after school, nice girls often go after the bad boys. In the Twilight series, bad boy Edward Cullen makes good girl Bella Swan swoon. In real life, the stars live out the scenario. Kevin Federline was the top bad boy of the tabloids when he nabbed the most famous girl on the planet at the height of her career, Britney Spears. Katy Perry, former Christian music artist gone sexual tease, pledged herself to bad boy Russell Brand.
I think that the constant drip of these scenarios into our spirits makes us want to be bad boys. Let’s be real: A guy desires a beautiful girl, and while the ones in the headlines might not be all that chaste, they’re often portrayed as the good girl taken by the bad boy. And guess what? Guys want nice girls. So, we begin to believe that maybe we’re supposed to be bad.
And if we’re not, we’re boring.
Come on. The media glorifies the bad boys—from Grease’s Danny Zuko to Pirates of the Caribbean’s Captain Jack Sparrow—not the plain-vanilla good guys. I didn’t watch this show, but Dannah says Gilmore Girls played to this big time when Rory fell for beautiful boy Dean until bad boy Jess came to town. The bad boy is so often the one the girl wants and celebrates.
Conversely, there aren’t a lot of movies being made about Billy Graham, the kid who called 9-1-1 and delivered his mom’s baby, or the apostle Paul. These are true heroes…but they’re good. And good is boring, according to movie producers. Since no one rises up to celebrate the good, most guys—though innately built to be conquerors—roll over and become boring.
In some twisted place in our minds, we’d much rather be bad than boring because that’s how you get the girl. But many of us are afraid of being the real bad boy. So we just get complacent. We roll over and stay in some limbo—a state of in-between. Not really bad. Not really good. Or so we think.
In reality, this complacency is the absolute root of badness.
The Tree

Complacency was at the root of the first bad move among men. (Yes—the bad move of all time.) Adam had the most complacent moment of all when he stood at the foot of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was Eve who wore the pants in the first family during this catastrophic moment. She took the lead and reached for the fruit of the Tree. Adam just got all quiet, passive and…well, boring. The Scriptures don’t note that he was deceived, tempted, or lied to like Eve. Just that he went along with it.
Some theologians believe that there was something in the way that Eve was crafted which made her more vulnerable to deception. (Just consider how often we women are prone to think things like “I’m fat!” Haven’t seen too many guys obsessing over that thought. Or maybe you’ve been prone to believe the lie “No one really likes me.” Men don’t struggle with that as often or as easily. Women are just prone to believing lies.) However, many believe that Satan approached Eve because he was attempting to throw over the created order by getting her to take leadership over her husband. And Adam seemed to passively accept this evil situation to gratify his flesh. Sounds a bit too much like many men of today.
Complacency led to the first sin. (Perhaps, had Adam chosen to speak truth to Eve, he could have led her away from that horrible original sin.) His failure to lead changed the course of history. We believe that the same kind of complacency that showed itself at the foot of the Tree still leads men to badness.
Goodness vs. Badness

While a bad boy’s greatest desire is to live according to his desires, a good boy, according to Robert Coles, has an outward focus:
Good…boys…have learned to take seriously the very notion, the desirability of goodness—living up to the Golden Rule.  8
The Greek word for goodness (used in our take-to-heart verse, Romans 12:21) appears in the New Testament in three forms, all of which are rooted in the Hebrew word tod, which means “usefulness” or “beneficialness.” Are we bringing up boys who understand their call of duty to be useful contributors to society, to be beneficial to others?
Goodness is the quality that makes us put others ahead of ourselves. It’s the moral compass that keeps the world safe, happy, and working. It’s the drive that makes us want to function in families rather than isolation. It’s the internal road sign that takes us away from our own desires and toward the destiny of meeting the needs of others. Without it, we are “bad.” That’s probably why all of us—male and female—are called to goodness.
Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21
God is good
The ultimate reason we must raise our boys to be good is that it reflects the character of God. His goodness is a bedrock truth of Scripture and is inseparable from his nature. If we are to be a picture of him, we must possess goodness. He is good not only in a general sense, but he is good to us and forus. This element of his character expresses his selflessness and desire to exist on behalf of others. When people are good, they act toward and for others, as opposed to losing sight of others as their own needs and desires consume them.

My library is the best homeschooling bargain around

Blog Cruise time again.  I really want to be participating in these, but somehow it always sneaks past me.  But today is a lazy sort of day, so I will just do it. You can read what I have to say... and come back tomorrow to see what other TOS Homeschool Crew members wrote by clicking on the button...

The question:  What’s your favorite free or cheap homeschool resource?

While I could go on and on (And on.  And on.) about all kinds of free or cheap things I dearly love, my absolute favorite has to be Pikes Peak Library District.  And while I know my library is totally amazing, and not everyone has that... I also know that lots of homeschoolers (including me) overlook just how much they have at their fingertips.

First off, since this has to do with free or cheap... the cost.  Property taxes are paid whether I use the library or not, but even still, we're talking about roughly $90 per year of those taxes are going to the library.  I plan for another $20 or so per year in library fines, though I rarely end up with that much.  So for something under $10 per month, this is what I get in return:
  • The books, of course.  And being rural and served by the bookmobile, I get a 6 week check-out period.  Pikes Peak Library District has an amazing selection, and while I can't find absolutely everything I want, there is a really good mix of classics and contemporary materials.  Some books I am able to use for school.  Some I'm able to get a good look at so I can decide whether or not it is something I want to purchase.
  • DVDs.  These we are able to check out for two weeks at a time, and while a lot of what we get isn't educational, quite a bit is.  Right now, we have out the Canning video from Homestead Blessings, plus two DVDs about Colorado and North Dakota.  This series is fabulous.  We can watch biographical videos, science videos... the DVD option really expands our homeschooling possibilities.  Without having to pay a subscription.
  • Reading programs.  And these aren't just for the kids.  Dale & I are participating in the Adult Reading Program right now... I got a free chocolate bar and a ticket to the flea market.  I'll be turning in my form for the final prize on Wednesday, and in addition to whatever I get from that, I'll be entered in a drawing for a Kindle.  The kids in the summer always get cool things like free meals at Chick-fil-A, books, etc.
  • Volunteer work.  My teens volunteer for the summer reading program, which is a great opportunity to interact with the community in a different way... and they get stuff like t-shirts for doing that.  I love seeing them in their volunteer t-shirts.
  • Amazing staff people.  I adore everyone who works in Mobile Library Services (the fancy name for the bookmobile department!) as they are so wonderful and patient and helpful.  
Then there is the website.  Oh, wow.  I'd pay a monthly subscription for the amazing stuff I get there.  Just as a sample:
  • I can download three songs a week from Freegal.  I usually go for music that will add to what we're studying, and I do not remember to do this every week.  I wish I did.  They have all kinds of great stuff though.
  • We can stream video... stuff like newsreels of Winston Churchill speaking, or travel films, or films about science,  or a Ken Burns' series.
  • We can use either Tell Me More or Mango Languages to work on a foreign language.  We can even use Mango on the iPod Touch or iPad, which makes it much more likely to happen.
  • We have live homework help available... for grades 3 and up.  This includes math, writing, languages, etc., etc. etc.  
  • Test Prep -- oh, wow.  This includes online courses for the PSAT, SAT or ACT.  It includes timed practice tests for practically anything.  There are also printable tests for some of the exams.  We're talking AP, CLEP, DSST, among lots of other things.  I cried when I learned about this section.
  • There is a ton of research databases... we don't make enough use of this.  We do access World Book Online, and World Book for Kids too.  And Connor will do his author research here as well, as there is a literature section that includes bajillions of author biographies.  Okay 122,000 authors.  But still.  Everyone we've ever needed.
Then there are things like a science lab, which we will hopefully be able to start using (with only one car, we haven't been able to in the past) at least once a month (it's the 1st and 3rd Fridays, and they have amazing equipment).

Or an annual homeschooling fair where you can learn more about the library and other community resources.


Well, clearly, I get plenty of value from my library.  Definitely my single greatest homeschooling bargain.

I know all library systems are different.  What does yours offer that you love?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review and Giveaway: The Mighty Macs

My family and I sat down the other night to watch a movie.  This time, it was The Mighty Macs, which is being released on Tuesday.  This is based on a true story... that of Immaculata College and the first women's basketball championship.

Cinderella Stories are always enjoyable to watch, and this movie is no exception.  Even though it is focused on women's basketball, my houseful of males enjoyed it, and this has earned a spot on our DVD shelf.

There were a couple things we didn't like -- but given the shrill rhetoric spouted in the culture at large about women's roles in 1971, this movie did stay fairly tame.  My husband was bothered a bit by some of it.  But I saw the main message of the movie as one of pursuing your dreams and not saying no. 

About the Movie:
It's 1971. Cathy Rush is a woman ahead of her time ... and she's about to embark on an adventure for the ages. A new era is dawning in the country and in collegiate athletics, where a national champion will be crowned for the first time in women's basketball.

In the lead up to this historical season, major universities are preparing their game plans to win that first title. Meanwhile a tiny all-women's Catholic college in Philadelphia has a more modest goal: find a coach before the season begins. Providentially, Cathy Rush is about to find Immaculata College.

Recently married, Cathy is dealing with the aftermath of a truncated playing career. While cultural norms would have her staying at home, she's willing to do the hard work necessary to help her new team reach their goals—or perhaps she's just trying to achieve her unfulfilled dreams through them.

From the beginning, her challenges are as imposing as the big-school teams Immaculata will face on the court. Cathy learns there is no gymnasium on campus, she receives little support from the school's Mother Superior, and the school is in dire financial straits. To top it off, she may not even have enough players to field a team!

While it appears the Macs don't have a prayer, all hope is not lost. With the help of Sister Sunday—a spunky assistant coach—and the support of a booster club of elderly nuns, Coach Rush creates a new game plan that just might bring the team—and the school—together.

Will this pioneer buck cultural norms and spur her rag-tag team to unexpected heights? Or will her hard-driving ways create a wedge between the coach and everyone around her? One thing's for certain: there's never been anyone like Cathy Rush at Immaculata!
The acting is solid, the characters seem realistic.  We enjoyed the movie -- and I loved the chance to watch a family-friendly sports movie that wasn't about football.  The best part was all the very 70's clothes in the crowds at the basketball games!  My kids enjoyed hearing about their mother's purple plaid pants...

Okay, well, maybe the fashion wasn't really the best part.  Truly, I think the best part was the special features.  There is one that is a segment from ESPN, which was fabulous.  And the "making of" feature is exactly what I want in a "making of" segment -- why was this movie made, including lots of interviews with the real people, and lots of discussion about the messages they wanted to convey in this film. 

Would you like to win one?  I'm excited to be able to offer one to give away:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: Straight to the Heart of Acts

I've had the opportunity to read through one of the books in the Straight to the Heart series here in the past month or so, and I truly love this "devotional commentary" -- so much so that I recently purchased another title in the series.

Straight to the Heart of Acts is the one I've been reading for this review.  The cover advertises that these are "60 Bite-Sized Insights" and I really think this series lives up to that.  Each of the 60 sections is right around four pages, and I can sit down and read a complete section in just a few minutes.  So far, each reading has left me feeling like I learned something new.  And none have left me feeling like I needed to scramble for a dictionary or any other reference book to understand what I just read.  Phil Moore wrote this commentary using language meant for real people.  I love that.

From the publisher:
Straight to the Heart is a series of devotional commentaries for those who appreciate the insights and sound research found in commentaries but find scholarly writing dry and lacking in personal application. The Straight to the Heart series does not cover the whole text, but focuses on key sections that communicate the main themes of each book. Although the tone is light, the text is full of useful application and backed by substantial scholarship. Its clear, thought-provoking insights will feed both mind and soul.
What I love -- and what drove me to purchase Straight to the Heart of Romans -- is that it is very easy to read, yet it still feels "scholarly."

Now had I known this next little tidbit of information, I would not have made the above purchase.  I would have purchased Straight to the Heart of 1 & 2 Corinthians, or Matthew, or Revelation... and I would have signed up for Twitter...

...because starting next Wednesday, and continuing through Easter Sunday, Kregel Publications will be tweeting links to Straight to the Heart of Romans. The entire book will be posted as short, five to ten minute, daily readings.  Free.  Find it by following Kregel Publications or #Straight2Heart on Twitter.

There are seven titles in this series at present (those I mentioned above, plus Genesis and Moses) and I suspect I will eventually own most, if not all, of them. 

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