Soldier Boys Review

“He knew that a hero shouldn’t fear death, but where was the glory in dying for his country and never knowing it.”

I first came across Dean Hughes’s Soldier Boys as a student teacher when my host teacher selected it for a book club that met before school once a week.  I knew as soon as I read the last page that this provocative title would be among the books I chose to teach in my own classroom.  As I expected, it quickly became a class favorite with students fondly recalling the time in my class we read that World War II novel.  The last time I taught the book I was expecting my now twelve-year-old daughter, so I was thrilled when she decided to read it for herself.  This book opened the door to her love of historical fiction, and she has since gone on to devour every young adult novel she can find on World War II, the Holocaust, and other major historical events.

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How Getting Out of the Way Improved My Children’s Learning: The Education of a Homeschooling Mom

A dizzying blur of grey passes by the window as I quickly glance at my eleven-year-old daughter, who occupies the passenger seat on our trek over Monteagle.  My children and I are heading to my brother’s for my nephew’s birthday party.  A has her laptop perched in her lap, and the faint but determined clicking of keys fills the silence, capturing my attention.  A pauses in her typing, and I know she’s critically eyeing her screen, brow raised in contemplation as she scrutinizes her latest sentence.

“What are you working on?” I ask.

“My newest short story.”  She pauses for a second then continues, “You know, Mom, I’ve been reading a lot of books, and you know what makes them good?”  She doesn’t wait for my answer.  “They’re full of details and descriptions.  The reader can picture it all in her head.  I’ve started adding detail to my stories.  Listen…..It’s a stormy day.  Marigold sits perched on the edge of her bed…..” Continue reading “How Getting Out of the Way Improved My Children’s Learning: The Education of a Homeschooling Mom”

Fast Track to Health

I’m often greeted with mixed responses whenever I mention one particular practice in  which my husband and I participate:  fasting.  “Why would you choose not to eat on purpose?”  “I could never do that.  I get angry when I’m hungry.”  “You’re crazy.”  These are just among the top of hundreds of responses I receive to the topic of fasting.

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Great Expectations

New Year’s Day is not my favorite holiday, if I’m honest.  After spending a month preparing for and celebrating the coming of our Savior, we suddenly turn from reflecting on God’s great love and grace and indulging in cheesecake and dark chocolate to this day of self-reflection and self-examination, which for me, always turns into a day of self-loathing.  New Year’s Day fills me with a sense of apprehension, this heightened awareness of my shortcomings and failures, a reminder of all those things left unaccomplished from the year before.  It’s a day where I’m forced to call myself to the carpet and anxiously await the litany of failed expectations with which I’m certain to berate myself. Continue reading “Great Expectations”

Letting My Kids Take The Lead

The coach finishes his post-game pep talk then holds up the coveted game ball.  He’s ready to announce tonight’s recipient.  I glance at my son, his eyes wide in anticipation.  I can almost hear his slow intake of breath, the butterflies of possibility fluttering in his stomach.  I’ve been there on pageant stages, at cheerleader tryouts, the waiting to hear your name announced yet knowing deep down it probably isn’t going to happen.  C closes his eyes hoping to hear his name.  Tonight was his best game of the season, but he plays on a team of standouts, and their plays and displays outshone his.  “Tonight’s game ball goes to….”  I don’t remember whose name was called; I just know it wasn’t his.

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Life Unplugged

I’m not sure how it began.  I think it all started with the chaos of moving to a new home in a new city in the middle of a school year.  However it commenced, it was clear:  my children’s use of electronic devices had gotten out of control.

“Mom, can I play on my i-Pad while you unpack?”

“Mommy, I finished all of my school work; can I play X-box for a little while?”

For two months, I acquiesced because it allowed me to unpack one more box, organize one more closet, and buy one more minute of peace.  Before I knew it, my children, particularly  my son, were begging for electronic devices on car rides, at dinner, and even attempting to slide them under pillows in case they awoke in the middle of the night.  Clearly, we had a problem.  Their dependence on smart devices for constant entertainment had even taken a toll on their personalities.  My son was moody and jittery when the iPad wasn’t in his hands.  Fights ensued over whose turn it was to play X-box. They were rushing through assignments simply to get to tech time.  When I finally decided enough was enough and attempted to set limits, I was met with mourning and gnashing of teeth, so I found myself continually giving in because that was easier than the hassle of dealing with the outburst over just saying, “No!”

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Because Sometimes You Need Help: Parenting a Strong-willed Child

I watch helplessly as my daughter rips the cushions from the couch and heaves them to the floor.  “I’m not going, and there’s nothing you can do to make me.”  She picks up a tray off the coffee table and stares threateningly into my eyes, daring me to move.  “Put that down,” I say calmly in my firmest “I mean business” voice.  “No!” she says and hurls it at the wall.  Before I can respond, she grabs my arm and sinks her teeth into the muscle above my elbow.  “Go.  Go.  Just go to your room and leave me be!” I shout.  I sink into the one remaining cushion on the couch and allow the tears to flow. Continue reading “Because Sometimes You Need Help: Parenting a Strong-willed Child”

Lessons from Moving

I can vividly remember the day my husband told me we were moving.  I had just come home from spin class and was contemplating requesting sessions from a personal trainer for my birthday when my husband burst into the bedroom and announced, “I’ve got an opportunity in Nashville, and I think we should take it.”  Like any good wife, I immediately burst into tears.   Continue reading “Lessons from Moving”

The One Where I Open Up About My Struggle with Body Image

I quickly post pictures of me taken at the finish line of the Gulf Coast Triathlon without examining them too closely. I just completed my first triathlon, and these pictures need to get to the world wide web as soon as possible. The people need to know. Later, when I’ve had time to recover, I scroll through the photographs taken by family and friends. I pause on the one of me proudly holding up my finisher’s medal, and I am disgusted. My first thought isn’t, “Look at what you just accomplished after years of battling injury. You go girl!” No, sadly, my first thought is, “Who is that big girl? I look so fat.” What should be my most triumphant moment in a long time reduces me to tears of frustration as I pore over every flaw, picking apart each inch of my body with a negativity I wouldn’t reserve for my nemesis. Continue reading “The One Where I Open Up About My Struggle with Body Image”

Review of The One and Only Ivan

I like colorful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings.  But any story will do.”

 It’s not unusual for me to choose a book for the kids and me to read based on the cover.  Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan is no exception.  The cover illustration of a contemplative gorilla sitting with his back to a grinning baby elephant glancing admirably at his large friend stood out from among the dozens of other books featured on the display of my local bookstore.  The gold medallion placed prominently in the bottom left corner indicating it was a Newberry winner sealed the deal.  My strategy did not disappoint.

The One and Only Ivan follows the story of Ivan, the mighty silverback gorilla, who is a resident of the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  He, along with an elephant named Stella, a poodle named Snickers, and a cast of other animals was at one time the main attraction of this once-thriving mall, but unfortunately, Ivan and his pals no longer bring in the crowds.  Mall owner, Mack, desperate to renew interest in the Big Top Mall purchases a baby elephant named Ruby, whose presence transforms Ivan from contented gorilla into an artist with a mission.

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