Monday, May 16, 2016

In Remembrance of Our Children Who Have Attained the Prize of Heaven

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I doforgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14

This past Saturday was the due date of the baby we lost in October.  Russ and I were talking over the weekend about the honor of having two babies who have already attained the prize of Heaven.  We personally still have so much reaching and striving through sin and its effects to do, so much to press on through.  And we witness, every day, that same struggle and striving in our children on Earth.  

To be responsible for forming our children's hearts for Christ, while simultaneously working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, is an overwhelming and humbling thing for a parent.  I admit there are days that the earthly toil is so exasperating, I hardly give a thought to my heavenly home.  Even as I was trying to take a quiet and somewhat emotional moment to write this, Ruth came down from her afternoon rest time.  She was in tears.  And there was a large round hairbrush stuck in her hair.   Like really stuck.  The cycle of disobedient child (she knows not to go in my drawers), exasperated parent, earthy consequence (ten minutes worth of tugging and detangling), and apology and reconciliation, is a familiar one.  

I'm no fool.  I know that this is my relationship with my Heavenly Father as well.  But I have two children that haven't known this struggle.  They only know the prize!  

What an emotional dichotomy it is to be a Christian parent mourning a child.  I long to hold my child, to know what she looks like, to smell her baby skin.  But she's in Heaven. I wish I could see my other children hold her and kiss her and snuggle her so excessvely that I have to say, "Ok, enough for now!  You'll smother her!"  But she's in Heaven.  I want to introduce her to our friends.  I want her to be in our family photos.  I want to hear her cry and hold her close to nurse.  I want to see her personality develop, her loveliness bloom, her love for her siblings deepen.  These are all the things I want for me.  But she's in Heaven!!!!   And there is nothing more I want for her.  

Russ and I have talked about finally naming the two babies that we have lost to miscarriage.  The fact that we're having some, ahem, arguments about the names themselves, is a good indication that we've truly embraced these little ones as our own and are not taking the honor of naming them lightly ;)  Among other reasons, we think naming these dear children will help make them more relatable in conversation, and approachable in prayer, to their siblings here on Earth.  To refer to a brother or sister by name, one who is truly living in the arms of our Lord in the company of Our Lady and the angels and saints, is a reminder that their home is also our home.  There are two Blackstones already home.  I pray that those of us still striving will live this life - the daily struggles, the times of immense joy, the crazy loud fun of wrestling in the basement or splashing in the creek, the quiet moments of sadness, and life's little hairbrush dramas - so as to lay hold of the prize - eternal life in the presence of the living God.  Laying hold of that prize will also mean a reunion with our babies in the true home of the Blackstone family.  


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Easy Egg Bake -or- Busy Ladies, Get Your Morning Protein. Every Day!!

This post was written in response to, and in honor of, 69 cent/dozen egg week at Aldi.  Seriously, if you're not one of those people who has backyard chickens that deposit fresh eggs onto your plate every morning, rush to Aldi.  Rush.  But remember, limit four per person.  (so I'll be going back a few more times this week ;) ) 

I love to start my day with a pretty big breakfast.  I once read an article that said people that eat the majority of their daily calories at breakfast are healthier that those who save their calorie-packing for later in the day, so I feel justified.  I also try to get a hearty dose of protein in the morning.  My ideal breakfast is... only available at all you can eat Sunday brunches at swanky restaurants.  It involves fluffy omelettes, bacon, breakfast potatoes, fruit, waffles, whipped cream, and coffee.  And mimosas.  

Such as it is, I have to make due with breakfast at home most days.  Actually, all days.  And since all days are busy days, I don't usually have the time for making giant, fluffy , swanky restaurant omelettes.  

So I get my morning protein the busy mom way - I make a big egg bake on Monday and eat it all week long.  It works.  It's easy.  And I get my big breakfast.  And protein.  

I highly recommend this method if you're committed to starting your day with protein and veggies but don't have time for omelettes.  

Your egg bake can have any combination of veggies, seasonings, or cheese.   But here's what I recommend (complete with very helpful pictures to guide you through the most difficult of steps ;) ) 

Saute mushrooms and onions in butter until they're tender.  

Add a hefty helping of spinach.  I usually add two cups or more because it cooks down so much.  

Continue to cook until spinach is wilted.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 10 - 12 large eggs, a dash of heavy cream, salt, and pepper.  If I don't have any onions to add to the veggies, I'll throw some onion powder in the mix as well.

Add veggie mixture and cheese of your choice.  I typically use feta, but will happily use cheddar if we happen to be out of the good stuff ;) 

Pour into a greased 2 quart baking dish.  

Bake at 35o degrees for about 30 minutes, or until cooked through.  Allow to cool before refrigerating.   Enjoy large slices throughout the rest of the week.  Or share it with your family; my kids love stealing mine!  

Enjoy!  And maybe I'll bump into at the egg cooler at Aldi.  I'll even share with you if there are only four dozen eggs left ;) 

If you're eating according to the Trim Healthy Mama plan, this is a fabulous S breakfast.  I love to have it with couple pieces of bacon and a small handful of berries on the side. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

One Week Post Car Accident (and the Giveaway Winner!)

Hi friends!!  The giveaway winner is....

... at the end of the post!  Hehe :) 
(you can skip down to there or you can read a few ramblings first to build suspense...)

So last Wednesday morning I wrote my first blog post (the book reviews and giveaway) in ages.  Then the two little kids and I hopped in the van to go pick up Ruth from the Study Center.  On the way home we were in a car accident that wasn't horrific, but wasn't a fender bender either.  I could give you my version of the story which would involve phrases like what the hell was the other driver thinking and why in God's name do they make airbags smell like the smoldering pits of Hell... but instead I'll give you little James' narrative of the incident:

Car crash, bang.  Scary.  Lunch flying everywhere, bang.  Jesus watching over us.
This is surprisingly accurate for a two year old who really just started talking a few weeks ago.  

It was scary.  We are still thanking God every day that we are fine and that the other driver was also fine.  And he accepted full responsibility.  And there were witnesses to speak to that effect.  So, thank you Jesus!  

I have a minor fracture in my right arm as a result of the accident.  But I have no cast (Alleluia!!) and am starting to use my arm a little more each day.  This means, yay!  I'll be able to crochet again!  But it also means no more milking the "I have a broken arm" excuse for not folding laundry, checking Aaron's blood at night, or getting myself a glass of water (which technically I could do entirely with my left hand, but you know...)  

Anyway, we were very generously helped by friends who brought us meals (and one who even did Clare's hair for me while she was here <3)  Thank you!), and my parents who've brought meals and helped us with transportation while we *gulp* shop around for a new van ("new" meaning a used, inexpensive vehicle that doesn't have dried vomit or rat poop in it - both exclusions making it an upgrade from our previous van....)  We currently have a gorgeous, shiny, glittery, pimped-out** rental Town and Country in our driveway (the kids still haven't realized there's a DVD player in there.........) but I'm too nervous to drive it.  Not because I'm afraid of reliving the crash or anything, but because it's just too fancy for my crew and me.  I mean, we don't really feel at home in a car unless there's a 1/2" of debris on the floor, grime on the steering wheel, and crusty old string cheese in the cup holders. 

Thank you to everyone who offered a prayer for us in the wake of my Facebook-ing and Instagram-ing about the accident.  I appreciate it so much!  Any additional prayers are welcome as we replace our van and navigate insurance issues for my arm -- it's a little surreal to have someone try to estimate what a healthy arm is worth to a stay at home, homeschooling mom whose only "wages lost" are perhaps the missed sale of a crocheted hat (and probably not even that ;) )

** The phrase "pimped out" refers specifically to a car, but sometimes a truck or SUV, that has been extensively modified, giving it a very expensive and extravagant look, or the "pimp car look" hence the term. This phrase is used very frequently in the Western New York State region. Examples of a "pimped out" car would be: Ground effects, neon lights, shiny or large rims, and very dark, or varied coloring of window tints in addition to many other things that would make an automobile look like it belongs in the movie "The Fast and the Furious."
Yo that ride is pimped out!
source: The OSD (that stands for Online Slang Dictionary.  Obviously.)  

*   *   *   *   *   *

AND NOW... the winner of Greetings from Somewhere: the Mystery of the Gold Coin is....

Sarah O!!

Congratulations, Sarah!  Why don't you FB message me your mailing address and I'll have this book off to you!  Hope your guys enjoy it! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

How We Homeschool Without a School Room

*but first* There is just one day left to enter for the Greetings from Somewhere: the Mystery of the Gold Coin giveaway!  So go take care of that and then come back here to read about how I homeschool in the heart of my home.  Or is it in the trenches?  Sometimes it's hard to tell ;)

This past August was the first time we started a new school year after I had joined several homeschool-related Facebook groups.  Want to know what you see a lot of in August and September from homeschool moms?  School rooms.  Bright, organized, spacious, packed-full-of-educational-goodness, drool-worthy school rooms.  I confess, I spent many an afternoon coveting the in-home school rooms I saw on Facebook last August.  

As much as I would love a designated space for us to conduct our lessons, display our school work, and corral our school books and materials, it's just not an option in our current home.  

And to make matters even a little trickier, we only have one table -- one table that serves as our gathering place at meal times and as our primary school-work area.  Things might look a little different at our house if we had a kitchen table for meals and a dining room table we'd primarily use for school.  But as it is, the dining room table is it.   It's definitely not a cozy, out-of-the-way educational nook. The room gets lots of traffic and it's used for meals, school, crafts, sanctioned and unsanctioned science experiments, play time, time outs (the disciplinary kind ;) ), game night, and basically... everything.   It's pretty much the heart of our home. 

The two main "issues" we have to take into account are (1) it's a multi-purpose space and (2) there's only so much room to store our designated school stuff.  Here's how we make it work...

* Clean up every morning, pick up all day long.  The dining room gets a good once over every morning after breakfast - wash the table and chairs, pick up everything off the floor, vacuum.  I will not start the school day walking around on crumbs.

* Only keep books/materials currently in use, or as much as can fit on our one shelf.  The is tricky for me, as I'd love to have all our materials at arm's length.  But it cannot be so.  So texts, reference books, and workbooks that we're not specifically using for a designated subject this year usually find a home in a cardboard box in the attic.  If we must have them, we can get them.  Note: we have a couple books shelves in the adjacent living room where we keep some educational picture books, our lives of the saints picture books, and our readers and series books.  I keep the "school shelf" in the dining room for curriculum materials, workbooks, texts, etc...

* We can't save everything for every kid.  It's so satisfying at the end of the year to look back through all the work that we accomplished, so I look through it and then toss most of it.  I can not not save all the finished workbooks and tests and artwork from everyone.  Instead of keeping it all, I keep a binder for each child and use it to save important stuff, like letters, etc... from our school district, our IHIP's, my own quarterly reports as well as those from the study center my kids attend, and standardized test scores/reports.  I may also save stuff like unit math tests or especially well done writing assignments.  At the end of the year though, it's best to go back through last year's work and purge again.  For example, last year's math tests will have lost their emotional significance in the light of this year's math successes, so they can go.  

* Each student has a bin for his/her current school year books and must use it :)  I have found it much easier on the kids and me if each student has a place to keep their consumable (and sometimes non-consumable) books in one place.  So instead of keeping all the math stuff in one spot and all the spelling stuff in another, each child has his current math or spelling level materials in his own canvas drawer/bin.  This makes it simple for the kids to retrieve and put away their books and materials each day.  Hopefully then, books and materials aren't lying out all day long only to blindside us when it's time to set the table for dinner  (sometimes happens... but it's not supposed to ;) )

* Use baskets to corral stuff.  We have one primary "school" shelf in the dining room.  I use baskets to keep similar stuff together on that shelf -- I have a basket for flashcards and math manipulatives, a basket for the All About Spelling and All About Reading cards, a basket for art and music stuff.  I love these baskets from JoAnn's because they happen to fit perfectly on our shelves and you can see what's in them.  I actually once wrote a post about how much I love these baskets... it's a lot.  

* Konmari the art supplies.  And other supplies, for that matter.  I have a definite weakness for art supplies.  But we got to a point where we needed the extra space for actual school books, so I had to give up some of my art supply storage shelves for the greater academic good.  I tossed all the sub-par colored pencils and crayons and markers, and try to keep what remains in good shape and all in one place.  

* Stop buying books and workbooks on a whim.  I remember buying several cute reusable dry-erase marker books at a discount store several years ago.  They were going to be for fun math, spelling, and phonics practice!!  They were so appealing to look at!  I kept imagining my kids having lots of educational fun writing in answers and wiping them away!  But the books didn't follow the math and spelling methods we were using and we never ever took them off the shelf.  They, and other similar purchases early on in our homeschooling days, turned out to be wasted money.  And they wasted shelf space.  Time to move them along...

* Forgo a lot of school-ish wall displays.  This is a personal preference for me.  If we had a school room it would have wall maps and giant historical time lines, vocabulary and site words, memory work, Latin conjugation and declension charts, multiplication tables, artwork, and more on it.  But I prefer that our dining room keep a "family dining" feel to it.  It's ok for us to do school work in the dining room, but I don't want to feel like I'm eating dinner in the school room.  So, school stuff on the walls is very limited.

* Use all the rooms as school rooms.  We actually don't just "do school" in the dining room.  There's often a kid at the computer in the living room (visible from the dining room), and out of habit, the boys and I almost always do our afternoon science, history, and Latin on the couch.  The kitchen floor works just fine for math fact drills.  I give vocabulary quizzes while I'm changing the baby in his upstairs bedroom.  The boys often choose to do their silent reading in my bed or on cold days, they'll go sit on the floor next to the heater vent in their bedroom.  Now that the weather is warming up, the kids will have the option of working outside.  I actually love it this way, and often wonder how much we would actually use a school room even if we had one.  

* Other :)  A few other things that help make it work are noise cancelling earphones.  These are a must when kids are "doing school" in a main area of the house and there are other people doing other things in those main areas.  We also have a small kids table and shelf with little kids' "school-ish" activities adjacent to the dining room.  Often the younger ones will do drawing, stickers, puzzles, etc... at the little table while the bigger kids are working.  They're nearby and I can see them.  Bonus.  

Our systems are not perfect.  Often the dining room buffet looks like this (or worse)...

... and we might not always pick up everything before lunch time and the table looks like this (or worse)...

... but we make it work because we have to.  And it works because we've developed an attitude of school happens in and among the day to day rhythms and craziness of family life, and in general, it's hard to distinguish between the two!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

3 Great "Travel" Series for Elementary and Middle School Readers (AND A BOOK GIVEAWAY!)

I'm always on the lookout for books that are appropriate for early readers, and it seems especially hard to find ones that are interesting for boys.  There are so many series written for girls (most of them about horses, friends who have horses, friends who are horses, horses who are friends, and horse camps.  Judging by early reader series books, 8 - 12 year old girls are only interested in horses, and they all go to horse camp.  Who knew there were so many horse camps???)   

Anyway, good books for young boys are hard to find.  It's partly because I'm pretty picky (like we don't read books about underwear and boogers, and we try to avoid books with snarky kids, bickering siblings, or pushover parents.)  And partly because, in my experience, boys don't really want to read about all the female tween drama that takes place at sleep away horse camp.  

So, we're left with very little.  

In my post on all the books we got for Christmas I mentioned that we have even more new books floating around the house.  I've recently discovered three new series of books that I knew would be just perfect for my boys!!!!  (They're actually totally appropriate for girls, too!)  And of course, I'm going to share them with you!

Greetings from Somewhere
(I "rate" this for early to mid Elementary level readers) 


This series initially caught my eye because it's about a brother and sister who are homeschooled as their family travels the world. (Their mother is a travel writer for a newspaper.)   Before they leave (first book in the series, The Mystery of the Gold Coin), their grandfather gives twins Ethan and Ella a journal for taking travel notes and "solving mysteries," and the twins find plenty of "mysteries" to record and solve as they travel to China, to India, to Australia, Paris, and more.  

These books have at least one illustration per page spread, so it's appealing to younger readers and helps an early reader progress quickly through the book (b/c there aren't two full pages of text together.)  These homeschooled twins learn plenty throughout the world that is their school room - there are lots of language, cultural, and historical tidbits throughout the books.  

I think there are currently eight books in this series.  

Race the Wild
(I "rate" this for mid to late Elementary level readers) 


Russell enters an event which can best be described as The Amazing Race for kids.  He's hoping to participate with his friends, but instead gets placed on a team with four strangers.  Russell and his teammates use clues and their knowledge of the area in which they're adventuring (Amazon rain forest, the Arctic tundra, the Savanna, etc...) to advance to the next location and level of the race.  While the kids have to rely on their own knowledge, planning, and execution of challenges to succeed, there are adult supervisors.  So you can rest easy ;)

I've read the first two books in the series and haven't found anything I'd label objectionable.  One of the features that make these books interesting and a little different is that there are "extras" throughout  - additional information on animals, habitats, or concepts regarding ecosystems and the natural world mentioned in the text.  

There are currently four books in this series, with two more set to come out later this year.  

(I "rate" this for middle school level readers) 


These books also happen to be about homeschooled twins.  Brothers Gannon and Wyatt, and their escapades in the worldwide classroom, are based on the author's own real life twins, who were similarly homeschooled and well-traveled.  The books are written as if they were the journal of the brothers, who record their discoveries and adventures as they travel from Botswana and Egypt in Africa, to Ireland, Greenland, and Canada.  Though the brothers have very different personalities (which come through in their individual journal entries) they share a love of exploration, excitement, and travel!  Kids who enjoy the books will also enjoy the website with supplemental travel photos and video.  

The books contain maps and photographs of animals, land forms, etc... from the story.  Each book also includes a photo of the real life Gannon and Wyatt on location, which was cool for my son, who was super into the fact that they were actual adventure-loving boys :)  

There are currently five books in this series.  


OK, so now for the giveaway part!!  I have a copy of the first book in the Greetings from Somewhere series, The Mystery of the Gold Coin, to give away!  To enter, leave a comment here telling us about a series that your early readers have enjoyed (it's even cool if it's about horse camp!!).  Also,  stop by the Ordinary Lovely facebook page, and visit the Ordinary Lovely Instagram account and tag a friend in the the book giveaway post.  The more book-loving friends here, the merrier!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My Bag of Insanity ::or:: Possibly my Most Embarrassing Post Ever

I have a very large and very teal bag from Target that I love.  I love it.  But I use it and abuse it.

I've been meaning to clean out my purse for a while now.  Since I knew that I'd be "cleaning it out soon," I guess I didn't feel any need to monitor what was going in or what was coming out of it.  Well, quite frankly, nothing was coming out of it.  

It was starting to feel like I was toting around bricks.  And there were so many bricks in there that the ones on top were never really sure if they were in or out of the bag. 

I needed to do a total purse dump and figured hey, that's a fun blog post!  But really it ended up being an embarrassing blog post.  If the state of a woman's purse reflects the state of her mind, then here you will be given a most unflattering peek into my gray matter......

The weight of my bag before the purge was a back-breaking 9.3 lbs.  I did the old measure self with and without bag on our people scale, and I measured it on our kitchen food scale and got the same answer.  Pretty accurate scales, huh?

So I dumped it all out....

And was reminded about how much I love the inside of my bag...

And I got to sorting it...

The stuff that went right back into my purse...



mini pack tissues

makeup bag

lip gloss ($1 lip gloss from ELF is my fave!)


pack of gum (not random pieces of gum...)

The stuff that was a bit random.  Or really random...

2 pairs Sky Zone socks (haven't been to S.Z. since January, I think...)

plastic baggie with two plastic darning needles

broken candy cane

little baggie of pain killers, which may or may not have been smuggled into the country by a family member

check book

$2.01 (ooohhh!  I actually owe someone $2.  perfect!)

9 pens, 2 regular pencils, 1 golf pencil (probably swiped from church) (would you believe me if I told you just this afternoon I was whining about how I can never find any pens in the house....)

3 mini notebooks (to entertain toddler at Mass, not used since January)

Diabetes related stuff...

notebook w/ notes from a carb counting class that was 10 days ago

paperwork w/ most recent A1C from last Endocronologist visit (early Feb)

random pod (for A's insulin pump)

glucose tablets (not pictured - an oversight on my part)

EXPIRED emergency glucagon injection kit. (EXPIRED JULY 2014!!!!!)  Thank goodness I caught that!

Aaron's pediatric/diabetes specialist ophthalmologist appointment card for this summer (received at appointment last summer)

Books and papers...

half-used pack of HWT writing paper I bought at a curriculum sale (but haven't actually paid for yet...that's what I owe that $2 for...)

The Rule of St. Benedict (some Lenten reading.  I like it a lot :) )

In Conversation with God (tip: daily meditations don't happen if the book is at the bottom of your purse...)

2 checks from the same friend - one from December that I won't cash b/c she forced it on me after our families shared a plate of Christmas cookies from a church youth group sale.  And one from January that I should have already cashed.  Oops.

Evidence of my craft addiction...
(no pic :( )

a 4 mm crochet hook (so that's where that was!!)

Jo-Anns flyers and craft store coupons--
7 expired sales/coupon flyers

2 current


3 full-size grocery lists

expired grocery coupons

6 ticket stubs to a show from Dec 6. 2015

a pediatrician apt reminder card from October, 2015

string cheese wrapper

15 receipts. The oldest was from last August, the next oldest was only from early January though ;)

After all was said and done, the "after" weight of my bag was 4.3 lbs.  So, a hefty five lbs of unnecessary such-and-such was eliminated!  That's quite the transformation :)

I've shared the (until now) unwholesome state of my purse with you in strict confidence.  Don't tell anyone about it, ok?  It will just scare them off, hehe!  Though I must admit, I was pretty surprised (and proud) that there were no dirty tissues, used bandaids, or bits stale food in there ;) ;) ;)  

How's the state of your bag?  Is it time for a purse dump??

Sunday, February 28, 2016

All the Books We Got for Christmas (Books. Lists. Love.)

The kids got a lot of new books this past Christmas, but you don't see me complaining.  It was my pleasure to write this fairly random, fairly long, and fairly awesome book list!  

Russ and I usually get each kiddo a new book or two (that they're expected to share ;) ) and everyone got new books from my parents this year.  Needless to say, we've all really been enjoying our new reading material these past few months!

So I get to do a major mega-force book review... because they actually all turned out great and there wasn't a dud in the batch!

Starting with a new-to-us treasure for the youngest...

(And these are affiliate links, so if you click through and buy something, thank you!)

How have we not had this until now??  I think the first I heard of it might have been from my friend, Mary.  And she's got good taste, so I should have known this book would be a delight!  I'm a stickler for good illustrations and non-cheesy text.  And this book measures up.  And it rhymes!  I usually avoid rhyming books because it's hard to get rhymes without sounding weird.  But this book does it!  It's filled with animal sounds, big trucks, little trucks, goopy mud, and all the things that boys and girls love.  It's a winner!

Sleep Like a Tiger

This book.  Think Bedtime for Frances, but not.  Like Frances, the little girl in this book has no interest in going to bed and engages her parents in all sorts of conversations to avoid bedtime.  But unlike Frances' push-over parents, the wise parents in this book successfully get their daughter in bed.  And she falls asleep :)  

I love the illustrations in this book.  They are beautiful and quirky (like the people are on wheels...).  Beautiful and quirky - it's one of my favorite combos for illustrations <3

Adventures With Barefoot Critters

Oh, goodness!!!  I just want to plaster the pictures of these sweet little woodland critters all over my house!!  They are so adorable I can hardly restrain myself from cuddling the book ;)  These furry forest friends enjoy adventures together all year long under the auspices of alphabet-themed activities. (But this really isn't an alphabet book, so don't base your opinion of it one way or another on that.)  Clare and I love this book... the illustrations make everything else about it lovely.  My only complaint, and it's a big enough one that I have to mention it... there's a triceratops friend.  ???????  I know!  I don't get it either.  The woodland squirrel, the woodland deer, the woodland fox, rabbit, and raccoon -- they totally make sense.  But the woodland triceratops is a little confusing to my brain.  Just had to mention it.  As is, the book gets 5 stars.  If they had left out the triceratops, it would have gotten 75,000 stars.  

Roses in the Snow: a Tale of St. Elizabeth of Hungary

We haven't had any books about St. Elizabeth of Hungary and I've had my eye on this book for a while.  The full page illustrations are bright and beautiful.  The girls have really enjoyed reading it over and over, as it's delightfully told from the perspective of a little girl listening to the tales her grandmother tells of St. Elizabeth.  They love the story of loaves of bread miraculously turning to roses, and I'm guessing we may have a bread-and-rose-toting St. Elizabeth among our All Saint's Day costumes year :) 

The Queen and the Cross: the Story of Saint Helen

I was so glad my parents gave this to us to add to our collection!  Ruth's middle name is Elaine, a derivative of Helen, so I've been wanting to make a point to learn more about St. Helen and to intentionally celebrate her feast day.  This is the story of her devotion to the cross and her search for the true cross on Calvary.   

Beauty and the Beast



Pop-Up Books


WOW!  All I can say is wow!  Ok, not really.  I'm going to say more...
These books are truly a treasure.  Not only are they lovely retellings of the classic fairy tales, but they are amazing feats of art and engineering.  Each large page is an intricate pop-up illustration - the hideous beast lurching toward you, a magical horse drawn carriage seeming to float on air.  Each page also contains much smaller "books" with... if you can believe it... mini pop-ups that are just as elaborate and beautiful!  The kids, of course, love these books, and even I have been caught opening and closing the pages, peering at the paper constructions and murmuring, "how do they do that??"   These books are a bit pricey, and they're definitely delicate enough that young readers should be supervised (or very mature in handling books) so that the pop-up mechanisms remain in tast.  But you must check these out!  (Other titles include Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, The Wizzard of OzThe Snow Queen, and The Jungle Book)

Well, the kids are just ecstatic to finally own these!  (Thanks, Papa and Grandma!)  They were books we regularly had out of the library, so to own them, even though they are readily available at the public library, means they must really be good!  They are :)  These totally ridiculous books about Mr. and Mrs. Wastson and their porcine wonder Mercy, are as silly as they sound.  They're great for kids that are just on the cusp of graduating to first chapter books.  They illustrations are a bit over the top for my liking, but I'm willing to overlook them to enjoy the comical characters and absurd story lines that elicit belly laughs from my kids :) 

Isn't this cover gorgeous?!?  The whole book is eye-catching!  And informative!  I'm really going out on a limb here -- but if you have curious kids I think this book is be a must-have for your home library.  It has something for every science-loving kid - earth science, geology, weather, flora, fauna.  The hand drawn illustrations are beautifully done, but are also done in such a way that they inspire my kids to exercise their own nature-drawing muscles.  (This is not to say the illustrations are child-like, but they are beautiful in their simplicity.  A child can look at them and think, oh!  I bet I could draw a lovely daisy like that!)  A good portion of the text is hand-lettered, which helps to give it the feel of a nature journal as opposed to an informative text.  My older boys have really enjoyed looking through this beautiful and detailed book and they've been doing quite a bit more of they own nature drawing as a result <3  I highly recommend this book as well as its companion Farm Anatomy: the Curious Parts and Pieces of Country Life.

Small Adventures Journal: A Little Field Guide for Big Discoveries in Nature

We gave Dominic this book to accompany the previous one.  It's a sweet little nature journal, perfect for budding naturalists because it gently guides you through different kinds of nature walks and exploration.  On one occasion you're encouraged to look for the smallest things, on another you're encouraged to look for the biggest, or to examine the sky, etc... and then to draw what you observe.  It really is a little treasure of a book!

My First Book of Knots

We gave this book to Dominic (along with this game) at the suggestion of a friend.  Everyone's been enjoying the game, and Dominic and my dad have had some fun working on different knots from the book.  One day, out of the middle of nowhere, Dominic asked me, "Mom, do you know how to tie a sheepshank?"   So at least he's picking up some of the lingo ;)


These books are kind of self explanatory, right?  They both include lots of ideas and projects for boys that like to play with and whittle sticks.  Your boys like to do that, right?  Mine do.  They often take our kitchen knives outside to whittle the bark off of twigs.  Dominic got a proper pocket knife to go with these books so now he can practice his woodworking skills and I can not lose my mind trying to track down our knives around the backyard....


We are an Ernest Shackleton loving family.  It wasn't intentional, but it turned out to be a Shackleton-heavy Christmas.  The boys got these two books to add to the collection of picture books we have about Shack's antarctic adventure.  Shackleton's Journey is perfect for kids that can process more information than in a children's picture book, and can sit still for more in depth readings, but aren't reading chapter books on their own yet.   This book is a great read-aloud.  It's jam packed with info, but it's the illustrations that really shine.   Really, you must check it out!

Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey  was fun for Aaron, as it's written like a graphic novel -- except it's not a novel.  It's real life.  And it's a total nail-biter.  It's a great story to to use to prove that history makes for some amazing stories :)

I said it was a very Shackleton-y Christmas.  I got the DVD documentary The Endurance for Russ, as well as this Shackleton's voyage t-shirt.  Nerds.

Not into documentaries?  You could read the book by Alfred Lansing or listen to it on Audible!

Living History Library books from Bethlehem Books

Ok, to be fair, we haven't read any of these books yet, but I'm looking forward to digging into them with the boys.   The titles we bought were Red Falcons of Tremoine If All the Swords in England: A Story of Thomas Becket , and  Big John's Secret.  I'm guessing that I'll have some sort of review or another once we read them ;) ;) 

 Believe it or not, there actually were more books, but I'm saving them for another post, because even book lovers can get long-book-list burnout :)

Have you or your kiddos read anything great lately?? 

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