Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What I've Been Reading Lately: October 2018

Every month I share quick reviews of the books I've been reading.  It's been a busy month, but I was still able to fit in a bunch of reading time.  What have you been reading lately?

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I loved this sequel to the beautiful The War That Saved My Life.  A powerful story that touches on many important themes (judging others, loss, war, forgiveness) , but does it in an approachable and enjoyable way.  I'm planning to read this aloud to my kids at some point.

The Read-Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie

Such an inspirational book for any parent.  It's full of great information such as WHY reading aloud is important, but not only that it's encourage and doable.   The lists of book recommendations are a treasure trove.  She goes beyond the well-known, often recommended read alouds (Narnia, Charlotte's Web, which are delightful and are favorites for a reason) and suggests many books I have never even heard of.  Super exciting for a bookworm like me!

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I'm not quite sure what to say.  I didn't love this book.  I liked the characters, the writing was excellent, the story is important and engaging. But I found I was having a hard time following along.   It jumps back and forth in time, and it would always take me a little while to catch up to where we were.  I was confused by some aspects of the story. I don't want to give too much away, but the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad that was built underground.  It's an interesting premise, but it just didn't work for me.  By the end I really wanted to see what would happen, but I never felt like I was fully invested in the book.

Maniac Mcgee by Jerry Spinelli

This was my first time reading this modern classic.  We enjoyed this read aloud and it spurred a lot of great conversations.  Race and judgement are topics that we're going to have to face often in our family and I want to have these conversations be a normal, healthy part of our lives.  So you'll probably see a lot of books centered around this topic here over the years.

The Spartan Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins

This was another read aloud for our History curriculum.  It had moments of adventure and a few humorous bits, but over all it was slow-moving and gentle.  It does paint a vivid picture of life in Ancient Greece and Sparta.  None of the kids complained when I pulled it out, so that's worth something.

Medicine Men: Extreme Appalachian Doctoring by Carolyn Jourdan

This short book was fascinating and fun to read.  It relates outlandish and unbelievable true stories from Appalachian doctors.  It's like a more modern version of James Herriot, set in rural Appalachia.   I was so delighted by many of the stories that I shared them with my family at dinner.  They listened with mixed horror and humor.  Loved it.

The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame

I've never read this short children's classic.  The kids and I enjoyed it together at breakfast over a few days.  Sweet and funny, we all enjoyed it from the 4 year old on up.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

I picked this book up from the library several months ago because I'd heard it recommended as a favorite from multiple people.  I hate to admit it, but I totally judged a book by its' cover.  I didn't love the cover and so this book went back to the library without me ever even opening it.   I am glad I decided to give it a try on audiobook, though.  I cruised through it quickly because it's just so good. It alternates between the viewpoint of a modern writer and the character in a book she's writing.  The characters are well developed, the pacing is exciting and enjoyable. This is my favorite book from the past month, for sure.
Head to Modern Mrs. Darcy to see more short and sweet book reviews.
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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Scripture Journal Template: If God Be For Us, Who Can Be Against us?

If god be for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

This powerful verse is beautifully restated by Dieter F. Uchtdorf: "Perhaps it is true that we are weak. Perhaps we are not wise or mighty. But when God works through us, no one and nothing can stand against us".  His simple yet profound testimony of this concept holds so much power for me.

I assume that many people feel the same way I do: not quite good enough.  I try to accomplish all that I should, to serve my family and others well, to teach and love my children, to learn and grow as an individual, to draw closer to my Father in Heaven. But if left to my own devices, I know I would fail at each of the roles I have been given.  

But with God, nothing is impossible.

So I keep trying, and I keep praying.  

How to use the Scripture Journal Template:

Print out the template (below).  You could print it on clear sticker paper, or

Trace the template into your scriptures using a light box. Or do an image transfer using packing tape.  Or cut out and apply the sticker if you are using the sticker paper.

If you are painting, you may want to use clear gesso to cover the page and let it dry.

Use watercolor, colored pencil, acrylic paint (or your favorite medium) to make the page your own.  Choose colors and techniques that you enjoy.  Simple is beautiful.

While you paint or color, meditate on the power of God.  Think of the times during your life when He has strengthened you.  When you were given what you thought was an impossible task, but with His help you were able to complete it.  Perhaps you'll want to make a list of experiences as reminder of the things you God has helped you to accomplish.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Peek Into My Art Journal (plus a crazy adventure story)

Jason and I had the chance to spend almost a week in New York City last month.  It was a much-needed get-away for the two of us.  A time to reconnect, to explore a new place (one of our very favorite things to do together), and to have new experiences.

Our first night we had a crazy experience.  I was having a tough time sleeping.  We'd taken a red-eye flight the night before and didn't sleep at all on the plane, so I was overly exhausted.  But the place we were camping didn't feel quite safe.  I'm not a novice camper by any means, but this place was unlike any we'd ever stayed.  It was simultaneously in the middle of a very busy city and also away from it all.  Just enough away that we saw a lot of suspicious traffic: drag racing, potential drug deals, creepy people sitting alone in their cars for hours.  A helicopter flew low over the campground and came close enough to rattle the tent around.  In my exhausted state, I was sure they were on a man hunt and that we were in danger.

While all this was tumbling around in my mind, I heard a scratching on the tent.  I looked down to see the clear shadow of a rodent near my feet.  Its paws scratching at the fragile mesh on our extremely light backpacking tent (had we been in a more robust tent, I may not have felt so unprotected, but this tent is made to be as light as possible and thus doesn't offer much protection from unwanted guests).  I swatted at the animal, trying to scare it away.  It jumped and left for a moment but quickly returned.  I punched at it and made good solid contact, through the wall of the tent. It ran away.

Jason, who had been sleeping up until this point, woke and found me sitting up.  He rubbed my back and asked sleepily, "You okay?"  I replied, "I'm freaking out!  I think bad guys are going to get us...Also, I punched a squirrel."  Jason, thinking I was delusional, said, "Okay..." and promptly went back to sleep.  I lay there for a few minutes, thinking for sure the "squirrel" was gone for good and I'd be able to rest.  What kind of animal would come back after being punched in the face?

Foreshadowing: A fearless animal who wanted to get into our tent.

 A few minutes later, the rodent was back.  I was fully awake now and could tell that it was much larger than I originally thought.  It began scratching at the tent again.  I was kicking, and pushing at it.  I probably yelped, or yelled because Jason woke up again.  He still thought I was dreaming and attempted to calm me down.  "Heidi, you've got to calm down," he said.  I yelled, "It ripped a hole in the tent!  It DID!"  At this point Jason woke up more fully and looked down to where I was frantically fending off a very determined raccoon.  Jason yelled at it, shoved it, picked up a backpack and used it as a battering ram, but that raccoon would not leave us alone.  It circled the tiny backpacking tent (which was barely large enough for us to kneel in) while we shone our headlamps at it.

It seemed so ridiculous. We are not unseasoned campers.  This is something we do often and enjoy it immensely.  But as we sat there in our tent, shaking and full of adrenaline, we were held hostage by a very aggressive raccoon.  We felt much better once we got out of the tent and were able to stand up.  The raccoon still came back multiple times, but Jason chased it off with his flashlight.  It didn't seem so scary once we had shoes on.

In the end, we decided to pack up and find a hotel.  We felt like there was no way the raccoon would leave us alone and allow us to sleep.  As Jason put it, "That raccoon was determined to get into the tent with us.  We either had to skootch over and let him in, or find a new place to stay."

We packed up our belongings and walked down an ill-lit and deserted runway to a bus stop.  We sat waiting for a bus to arrive at two o'clock in the morning and we still felt safer than we did while fending off that dang raccoon.  We found a not-so-cheap hotel nearby and after settling in finally fell asleep around 3 am.  Initially I felt guilty about leaving.  Why pay extra and change our cool plans? We'd been looking so forward to camping in this unusual place.  In the end, I am so grateful we left. 

It was completely bizarre and terrifying, but the rest of our trip was amazing!

We like to experience the less-touristy side of places we visit, so we found several off-the-beaten-path options that we loved. Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn Library, Prospect Park, were favorites. We wandered around DUMBO, we saw Jimmy Fallon's monologue rehearsal, visited Rockaway Beach and rode the Rockaway Ferry.  We took the tram out to Roosevelt Island and wandered there for a while, including visiting the abandoned Smallpox hospital and Roosevelt park.  We attended the Manhattan Temple, the  Folk Art Museum (with a fascinating exhibit about called Charting the Divine Plan with artwork by Orra White Hitchcock) and the MOMA.  We walked a bit through Central Park.

It was a lovely trip, and many of these pages were completed  either while we were traveling  or just after we got home.

What is your craziest traveling experience?

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