Summer Reading

I must admit, I love summer reading week at the blog. Emily and I rarely discuss what we’re reading before we put it up, and I love seeing what she’s working on for the summer, and getting inspired to add a few new things to my pile from hers. We actually have fairly different literary tastes (as I’ll explain in a minute…), and seeing her stack inspires me to get out of my comfort zone a little bit.

Anna's Books

Lila, read together with Emily for our week vacationing together this summer: This is a completely new read for me. I am not a Marilynne Robinson fan, for reasons that are way too lengthy to get into here. I read Home several years ago and really had a hard time with it. I started Lila this summer very biased against it. After e-mailing Emily half-way through telling her I hated it, she gave me some helpful pointers that really did help me slow down and enjoy the rest of the novel. While it’s still not my favorite, having somebody who loves it to bounce ideas off of has immensely helped.

Side note: John Piper did a review of the book here. I haven’t read it yet, but am hoping to bring a copy to our reunion for further discussion. 

Also for our vacation together: Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in Lewis’s Chronicles.  Having read the Chronicles to my kids multiple times now, I’m really enjoying this look at some of the different themes. Life Under Compulsion by Anthony Esolen. Who doesn’t love Esolen? My husband and I will be reading this one aloud as we drive across the country over the next few weeks.

The other books in my pile have one central theme: my goal is to get back to enjoying reading again. So this summer I’ve tried to pick books that I’m pretty sure I’ll absolutely love, just to get back into the reading habit.

Bunker Hill and Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick. Philbrick is so easy to read, and I love history. I re-read his Mayflower this year, so when I saw Valiant Ambition at Costco, I grabbed it. I don’t always agree with his take on the Pilgrims, but I enjoy reading the history and then discussing the ways I think he gets the Pilgrims wrong with my husband and a history buff colleague of his.

Royal Road to Romance by Richard Halliburton. I started this this spring after finding it in a used bookstore. The book is nice short chapters about the author’s travels through Europe after college. It is well written and easy to read. If you frequent Ambelside Online at all, you know that his children’s works are recommended geography reading there. Reading this one, aimed at adults, has made me want to read the kid’s version.

Pioneer Girl. I am absolutely dying to read this one, but am making myself wait until we leave for vacation. It’s an annotated biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. The rumor I’ve heard is that it’s how she originally wrote the Little House books, but couldn’t get published in that form. Apparently it’s a lot grittier, portraying some of the reality of frontier life that doesn’t show up in the children’s books. Can’t wait.

And, to finish up, I thought I’d give you a couple books that I’ve been enjoying with my kids. I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus by Jack Prelutsky. Such a fun book of poetry. In the same vein as Shel Silverstein, but I enjoy them much, much more. I keep it next to my bed, and my son climbs up in the morning and we read a few pages together. Classic Fairy Tales by Scott Gustafson. I love the illustrations of Scott Gustafson, and my little kids and I have been obsessed with fairy tales the past few months. Someday I’ll do a post with our favorites :).

I’d love to hear what books you’re loving this summer!

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Summer Reading, 2016 Edition


What are you reading this summer? I have been reveling in our break from homeschooling, and I’m pretty ambitious this year.  In between the bouts of hard-core parenting, I’ve been letting the kids run around outside with the neighbors, eating popsicles, while I lose myself in books, just making sure to invite people over for dinner every weekend so we have to force ourselves to clean up the chaos at least once a week.  I sat outside in a deck chair with a mystery novel all afternoon the other day while about 10 kids dug in the sandbox.  Lots of quick historical fiction/detective novels on my nook for research purposes (I’ll tell you more about that later), but here is my “serious reading stack” on my nightstand.  At least half of these will be making that 5000 mile road trip with me this summer…

  • The Bird in the Tree, Pilgrim’s Inn, and The Heart of the Family by Elizabeth Goudge  Have you discovered Elizabeth Goudge?  She’s one of my favorites, and this year, my mom and I agreed to read the Eliot Family Trilogy together again.  We love Elizabeth Goudge for her beautiful prose and her insight into the inner lives of everyday people.  You can see the effects of grace on a person’s life (and all the lives they touch).  Her books are slow, but I savor them.  I often reread and recommend The Dean’s Watch and The Scent of Water, both of which have beautiful portrayals of self-sacrificing love.  Since I haven’t read about the Eliots since being married myself, I’m interested to see what I think of Goudge’s take on love/marriage/commitment/family/loyalty with the Eliot family this time around.
  • Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child by Anthony Esolen  After our scintillating E2S Group Read of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, this was an auto-buy for me.  And I’m looking forward to discussing it with Anna, Bethany, and Christina when our families have a little reunion in a few weeks!
  • Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton  I’ve had this book recommended to me by multiple people, and last week, I saw it on a friend’s shelf and commented on it.  She foisted it on me and insisted that I read it because it had so radically affected her mindset.  All too often, we think that we can just throw money at a problem and pat ourselves on the back for doing our part in mercy ministry.  The reality is always more complicated than that, of course.
  • Um, I am embarrassed to admit this, but in our move, I lost my personal Bible for several months.  It had gotten shoved into a box that I then shoved into a kitchen cabinet and forgot about, so I spent all spring stealing my kids’ Bible or using my phone to do my devotions and CBS homework.  I do still think that the YouVersion Bible App is pretty decent (particularly if you want accountability to do a read-through-the-Bible type reading plan like I do), but I have enjoyed actually holding my own Bible again since rediscovering it!
  • Union With Christ by Rankin Wilbourne  Rankin is our pastor, and we are so blessed to sit under his teaching and now to get to read his first book!  I can listen to one of his sermons 3 or 4 times and learn more each time, so this one was another auto-buy for me.  Rankin has such a heart for our spiritual growth and for helping believers enjoy and know God, and I feel like this whole topic is something that often eludes me in my personal spiritual walk.
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson  I think I’ve mentioned that this is the best work of fiction I’ve read since graduating from college with a degree in English Literature.  And I’m rereading it this summer along with my girlfriends to discuss at our aforementioned reunion!  I was afraid that it wouldn’t hold up to my memories the second time around, but I’m marking it up, weeping, and savoring it just as much.
  • Jane Austen’s Minor Works (particularly “Lady Susan”)  Did you see Love and Friendship?  I did, twice.  If you haven’t seen it yet and are even remotely a Jane Austen fan, Kate Beckinsdale is amazing as Austen’s most devious protagonist, and the costumes are glorious.  I purposefully did not reread “Lady Susan” before watching the movie based upon it because I didn’t want to be nitpicking every little change.  But as soon as we got home from the movies, I grabbed this off the shelf for a reread and am treating myself to a couple letters a night.  Teenage Austen is of course not as refined as mature, published Austen, but she is wickedly funny and so, so insightful about human nature.  C.S. Lewis said he pretty much always had an Austen novel going on his nightstand, and I think that’s a wise and appropriate thing to do.=)
  • Home by Marilynne Robinson  Okay, you may remember that this was on last year’s list.  I’ve heard it’s more of a downer than Lila and Gilead, and after I broke my foot last summer, I really just wanted cheerful/escapist stuff.  I pre-read a lot of children’s fantasy for my son and reread a bunch of Georgette Heyer to cheer myself up.  But my mom read Home this spring and brought me her copy all the way from Missouri so I’d be sure to read it and discuss it with her.  (She was tired of calling me up to read me a beautiful line and having me not able to reciprocate.  My mom is the coolest.)  Since I’m revisiting the world of Gilead, Iowa for the reunion, anyway, I’m going to buckle down and tackle Home for real this summer.
  • The League and the Lantern by Brian Wells  Okay, this one was given to us by one of my husband’s colleagues.  Apparently the author is trying to do a Christian take on the whole middle-school fantasy/adventure phenomenon (a la Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, et al).  Since our 9 year old is all about this genre right now, I’m interested to see how this holds up to N.D. Wilson (whose 100 Cupboards and Ashtown Burials series are well-written but too scary for my son just yet) or Andrew Peterson (whose Wingfeather Saga is so compelling–and the writing really does get better with each book).

Any more recommendations for me?  We’re hitting the road in just over two weeks, so things I can download to my nook are preferable.  I still have 7 weeks before we have to start up school again, so I’m going to relish my vacation by reading as much as possible!


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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Summer Vacation


We’ve been out of school for about three weeks in my neck of the woods, and man, has it been hard.  I imagine most every mom–working outside the home or full-time at home, sending her kids to school or homeschooling them–has dreams of the fun, relaxing summer vacation that the family is going to enjoy together.  Pinterest is full of bucket lists, most towns have lots of free and cheap family-friendly activities, and if you’re lucky enough to be married to an academic, Dad even has more flexibility with his work schedule.  Except that along with all the freedom of summer comes the testing of boundaries and all that fun stuff.  Last week, as I was being kicked, bitten, and head butted for half an hour by a little girl who was having an out of control temper tantrum over a single disputed duplo girl, I thought, I totally get moms who have their kids come home from school and send them right back out to camp for the summer.  This is not how I thought summer break was going to go!

I’ve opted not to send my kids to summer camp, nor even to VBS, this summer.  We worked hard up through the last day of school, and we’re driving over 5000 miles on a month-long road trip this summer, so I wanted our six weeks of summer vacation at home to be a real vacation.  I’m glad I did this.  We’ve gotten to do some fun field trips with friends to local zoos and museums, we’ve had some leisurely days at home and an impromptu afternoon at the beach, and I’ve gotten to do a lot of parenting work.  During the school year, I’m parenting all the time, but our routine and general busy-ness (we were out of the house at least three times a week this spring) often prevent my girls from having enough time to play together long enough to start fighting over Veronica, everyone’s favorite duplo zookeeper.  It’s not that my kids are innately holier during the school year, but rather that their little sin natures are hidden under the generally compliant behavior of a child who is getting to play with her best friends several times a week.  When we’re not on the go, it’s much easier to see the state of all of our hearts.  And it’s not too pretty.  Everyone wants the same duplo.  I am beyond exasperated that they are fighting over something so stupid and just want to get rid of all our duplos.  Tempers flare.  Teaching opportunities abound.

So what is the solution?  Send them off to camp, distract them with tv when they get home, and then bribe everybody with popsicles in the evening, collapsing in bed too tired to fight anymore?  For some moms, that might be the right call for a season, and of course this doesn’t preclude heavy duty parenting in the spaces between activities.  But this summer, I’m trying to embrace this chance to train and shape their character.  I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting down to eye level and working on cheerful obedience.  I am embarrassed to admit this, but this month, I’m finally getting around to teaching the little ones to fold and put away their laundry–there’s no reason just the big two and I should be doing all the work!  I’ve mentioned before that extended free time at home over school breaks goes better when I’m purposeful.  In addition to that fun summer bucket list, I have some heart goals for each child, and I’m plugging away at them.  I also used our school marker board to write up 1 Corinthians 13, replacing “love” with “our family.”  It’s sortof an overarching goal for the summer.

Has your summer vacation been good, bad, or ugly so far?  Do you find yourself having to work harder at parenting once school is out?

Posted in Home Life, Parenting | Leave a comment

To War

Did you see that the Senate voted to require women to register for the draft, starting in 2018? It’s not a law yet; it needs to be passed in the House of Representatives and the President has to sign off, as well. But half of our law makers decided that this was the next step for the women of our nation.


I’ve got two thoughts on this:

First, this was an easy step to take. All the infrastructure is in place. If you were called for the draft and had a child or children, all you would need to do is find full-time childcare for them. Even one generation ago, our mothers would have thought long and hard about whether leaving their children for extended military training or deployment was a good idea. (If you don’t believe me, go watch the movie Beethoven.) Now, we don’t worry about it. Paying somebody else to raise your children is no longer a social experiment. It’s normal. Too bad we didn’t examine the data before we decided this.

Second, this is an official statement that moms are not important. Since the age when you would be most helpful for the armed forces corresponds directly to your best years for childbearing, it makes sense to conclude that many of these women being drafted could have children. By pulling them away from their children, we’re making it official policy that there is no reason a substitute cannot raise your children. In fact, as a friend of mine was recently told in a grocery store, an early childhood educator knows more about the abilities of your children than you do. The idea that there is something necessary or even special about a mother raising her own children is gone. Get the moms and kids out of the house: they’re not needed there anymore.

One final thought:

Will we all get a lot better at civil disobedience if this becomes law? I hope so.

Posted in Daycare, Importance of Mothers | Leave a comment
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