Saturday, December 31, 2011

Books Read in 2011

There are so many millions of blog postings I could write about: the move and the setting up of the house and the car accident we were in two days before our move and the delays of fridge deliveries and celebrations of Christmas and my 31st birthday and thoughts on the new year . . . all of which will come. But since I read a friend's post last year, I have been keeping track of all the books I read in 2011 and couldn't wait for the day when I could post the list. This in no way is a recomendation list . . . there were plenty wastes of time in this list . . . it's merely a compilation . . . and I must admit, I originally wanted to read 100 . . . and then as it got closer to the end of the year, I thought 80 was a reasonable goal . . . drat the move - I was one short. (But I'm secretly celebrating that I finished a few more than my avid reader friend in Spokane . . . I love you Sarah . . . but I beat you this year!! Hee hee!!)

So here they are . . . in their wonderful, terrible, entertaining, thought provoking, pointless, encouraging, depressing, hilarious glory. Read on!!

1.       Vanishing Act by Jodi Picoult (search and rescue worker finds out she was abducted by her dad as a little girl – now mom and her dad is awaiting trial in Arizona)
2.      The Sunflower by Simon Wiestenield (holocaust survivor recalls story of being asked for forgiveness by Nazi solider – debate of decision and ramifications)
3  Bringing up Girls by Dr. James Dobson (research and advice on raising girls of quality and character in the current society)
4.       The Pact by Jodi Picoult (teen suicide deemed at possible murder –boyfriend claims suicide pact)
5.       Twenty Pageants Later by Caroline B Cooney (sisters - one in pageants one as backseat supporter. middle school pageant brings two together)
6.       The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (roman type “game” to the death of member of different districts in country – controlled by Capitol)
7.       Loves Enduring Promise by Janette Oke (second book about Marty and Clark and their growing family – build school house and church,  girls get married)
8.       Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (second book in hunger games series)
9.       Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (final book in hunger games series)
10.   Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani (single pharmacist in southern town)
11.   Summer at Tiffany by Majorie Hart (true story of two young women who leave small town in Iowa to get a job at Tiffany in New York – first ladies hired there)
12.   The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry – crusades and story of mystery and plots for control
13.   A Scarlet Cord by Deborah Raney – Christian love story of man in witness protection
14.    Mercy by Jodi Picoult – man kills his wife when she asked him as she was dying of cancer, goes on trial , police chief having an affair
15.   Loves Abiding Joy by Janette Clark – book four in Mary/Clark series train trip to west to visit Missie, clark falls in mine to save two boys and has to amputate leg
16.   Just Between You and Me by Jenny B Jones – Christian romance, aunt goes back home reluctantly to raise niece, faces fears
17.   What was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn – latch key kid turns spy with tragic ending
18.   Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman – true story of accidental death of their 5 year old little girl and the journey they’d been through 
19.   Twig by Elizabeth Orton Jones – Haley’s first chapter book about a little girl and her adventures with a little elf and a fairy
20.   The Ultimate Reality Show by Clay Jacobsen – Christian man gets swooped up in helicopter to participate in a week long survivor type show
21.   A Heart for the Prairie by Laurel Oke Logan – true story of author Janette Oke
22.   Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult – a custody battle for three frozen embryos between a born again Christian ex-husband and wife now living in a lesbian relationship
23.   Where Mercy is Shown, Mercy is Given by Duane “Dog” Chapman – story of the bounty hunter, his family and journey
24.   Safely Home by Randy Alcorn -  story of persecuted church in China and glimpse into prison and business practices as well as story of martyrs and heaven  
25.   The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison – a mothers memoir of whats important moments in the journey and not just the destination
26.   Heaven is For Real by Todd Burpo – true story of 4 year old boy who, during life threatening surgery goes to heaven and describes Jesus and angels and throne etc.
27.   Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan(with girls) – story of prairie family who sent away for a new wife and mom from Maine
28.   Harvesting the Heart by Jodi Picoult – a story of a young girl abandoned by her mom at age five then faced with becoming a mother and dealing with the stress
29.   Beautiful Things Happen when a Woman Trusts God by Shelia Walsh – progression of lessons learned by 10 people in the bible and her story of depression and growth 
30.   Healer by Carol Cassella – family loses everything in pharmaceutical research moves to small town where wife becomes doctor of clinic for migrants and discovery of connection
31.   Susannah’s Garden by Debbie Macomber – a 50 yr old women has to put mom in assisted living and face what ifs of the past
32.   Mr. Poppers Penguin by Richard and Florence Atwawter – read out loud with girls in preparation for the movie story of man who raises penguins in city and creates show
33.   Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik – story of a book club and their lives together through ups and downs and experiences
34.   A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick – a mail order bride comes to discover plan to rescue lost son and twist continues as she planned with the lost son
35.   Playing by Heart by Deborah Raney – an author writes in a bed and breakfast and falls in love with the owner by notes written back and forth
36.   The Peculiar Miss Pickett by Nancy R. Julian – read with Hannah story of magical babysitter who, when she takes off her glasses, has amazing things happen
37.   Hope is Contagious by Kenneth Hutchesrson – incredible inspirational story of Antioch’s pastor
38.   Summer of Glorious Madness by Christy Yorke – bipolar man and his therapist and their journey through life with eachother and the many sides of the illness 
39.   Oxygen by Carol Cassella – anesthesiologist charged with death of little girl having surgery story of litigation and truth of events
40.   The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – a young girl discovers talent to taste people’s emotions through the food they make
41.   Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green – a Jewish girl hides a German boy on the run from a POW camp
42.   Glastonbury Tor by LeAnne Hardy – quest of young man through monetary looking for forgiveness and his place in the world
43.   Huge by Sasha Plaley – Wil’s story of attending fat camp forced by her fitness club parents
44.   Priceless Memories by Bob Barker – biorgraphy of famous tv host
45.   The Chasm by Randy Alcorn – a look at Christ’s sacrifice and the gift of grace
46.   Sold by Patricia McCormick – a first hand account of the sex trade industry in India  
47.   Across the Wide River by Stephanie Reed – story of the Rankin family who helps in the escape of slaves during the mid to late 1800s
48.   The Boy on the Bus by Deborah Schupack – strange mystery of lost boy replaced by look alike
49.   The Help by Kathryn Stockett – interviews of black maids during 50/60’s
50.   Moonface by Angela Balcita – true story man gives kidney to wife
51.   Forget Her Nots by Brecount White – teen girl who has ability to read flower messages
52.   The Ultimate Gift by Jim Stovall – gpa leaves billion to grandson after 12 mnths of tasks
53.   The Ultimate Life by Jim Stovall – family sues for billions and gson has to reprove tasks
54.   Three Weeks with my Brother by Nicolas Sparks – true story of trip around the world with his brother includes family stories all throughout  
55.   The Liberating Truth by Danielle Strickland – a liberal view of God’s plan for women
56.   Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda – girl adopted from India by family unable to have children. As a college student she travels to discover her roots and attempt to find birth mom
57.   From the Garden to the City by John Dyer – the redeeming and corrupting power o technology
58.   A Spoonful of Poison by M.C. Beaton – detective Agatha Raisin solves crime in small village
59.   Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah – couple discovering who they are and what they want after kids are in college and hubby offered job of his dreams in New York
60.   The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips – intense look at what the bible says about the gospel and living as an outrageous Christian
61.   So Much to Say Made Mathews Band by Nikki Van Noy – over detailed history of 20 years on the road
62.   Your Eight Year Old by Louise Bates – developmental and emotional overview
63.   What I Call Life by Jill Wolfson – teenage girl forced to move into group home 
64.   Playing Hurt by Brian Goins – a guy’s strategy for a winning marriage
65.   Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen – man reevaluates wealthy life after heart attack
66.   Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult – amish woman accused of killing her baby
67.   Refuge on Crescent Hill by – woman inherits grandmas house and discovers passage to underground railroad
68.   Become a Famous Writer before you’re Dead by Ariel Gore – tips and ideas
69.   Little Bee by Chris Cleave – refugee finds family whom she met on beach  
70.   The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer – author goes to island to write about effects of war and loves the life there
71.   Things I Learned about My Dad (in therapy) by Heather B. Armstrong – compilation of essays about fatherhood
72.   Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin – fictional biography of Alice in Wonderland told through the eyes of Alice
73.   The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad – first hand look at Afghani life
74.   Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult – teacher wrong-fully accused of rape with a minor tries to start over in a small town only to be harassed and framed for another crime
75.   Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult – seven year old talks to God after divorce and miracles start happening around her
76.   Amish Grace by Donald Krraybill, Steven Nolt, and David Weaver – school shooting in Amish community and their response
77.   Grace by Elizabeth Scott – young girl trained to be suicide bomber purposely fails then has to escape
78.   Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult – life in an abusive relationship with a celebrity
79.   Jars of Glass by Brad Barkley – family dealing with loss in different ways

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's FINALLY Happening!!

It's a long and personal story . . . one to detailed to type and send through blogger-space . . . but after much prayer and paperwork and processing and waiting for months and praying some more . . . we are MOVING!!! And yes - we are crazy to move four days before Christmas but I can't tell you how much we've needed this end result. And we can't wait to spend Christmas in our new home!!!!

I am taking lots of before and after pictures to share the process of setting up in the new space . . . our new space . . . a space to laugh and grow and fellowship with those around us and rejoice in God's goodness.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Kindergarten Fun

I recently had the opportunity to join Haley and her kindergarten class in the infamous building of the milk carton gingerbread (but really graham crackers) house. It was a messy, great time. Haley borrowed Hannah's shirt (two sizes to big) because, "Mom, it's perfect. It has the gingerbread man on it!!" She's right - it was perfect!

The last picture shows her incredible, patient, organized teacher - we are so thankful to have him as a part of Haley's education. It was soooo fun to watch the full gammet of techniques. From the type A kiddo whose roof was perfectly covered with pretzel sticks exactly lined up in a row. And the kid who haphazardly threw things on with way to much frosting and no plan what so ever. To my favorite, the kid who put two things on his house and then ate the rest of his bag of decorations (ie - candy). The grand finale of the volunteering was carefully carrying the finished houses back to the classroom (and fixing a few falling roofs on the way) and wiping down each kid. They somehow managed to get frosting on their hands, on their faces, in their hair, on their clothes and all over the table and floor. Sorry janitors - you don't get paid enough for gingerbread house day!!

What's not to love about Kindergarten? It took everything bit of adult restraint I had not to jump in, grab a milk carton and get to work!! As grown ups, we don't have as many opportunities to be so creative in such a fun and silly way. And the gingerbread house Haley made is sitting on a shelf gradually losing it's decor as little fingers rip things off with each passing by!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Not So Little Anymore

On Tuesday this week, my youngest daughter (who was just born yesterday . . . wasn't she?!) turned 6 years old. It used to drive me up the wall when well meaning women further along their mothering journey would say, "oh it goes so fast" . . . or "you won't believe how quickly they grow up". . . but I'm finally understanding and am becoming myself, a well meaning woman further along on my mothering journey saying the same things to mommys of younger kids.

So where did the time go? It has gone by with more precious moments than I can even recount . . . but I'll give you six in honor of her six years.

1. She was born at around 3:30 pm (isn't it funny how on the day she was born I could tell you the exact minute and each little ounce she weighed? Perspective . . . ) It took one push - the doctor had finished putting on his gloves, turned around and there she was - beautifully pink with a great set of lungs.

2. She was a busy little baby - always on the move. Her favorite activity was her Jump Up (the crazy contraption you hang in the doorway?!). We used to set Hannah's little trampoline in front of her which would make Haley just crack up and jump faster watching big sister.

3. Three years old for Haley was . . . I can't think of a way to sugar coat it . . . challenging. Sure there were lots of sweet moments and endearing kisses but that kiddo had a defiant little spirit like you wouldn't believe. I remember Travis coming home one day to find me in tears. I said, "Am I a terrible mom if the minute she woke up today, I was counting down the hours till she went to bed?" To which he scooped me up and said, "I'm sure you're pretty normal" . . . I love that man.

4. Four was absolutely incredible. I think working so hard to discipline and shape and mold the crazy three year old into a functioning little person made the other side that much sweeter. Hannah started school and Haley became my little buddy. We ran errands together, made lunch together, read books together, took rests together (mostly for Mommy's sake) and I truly enjoyed her to bits. She found a great love for cooking and I spent so much time making anything and everything we could just so I could watch her smile while she mixed and stirred and poured and was so proud of her end results.

5. Haley has the most incredible sense of humor. Since as long as I can remember, she makes our family laugh harder that anything else. She has perfect timing, a hilarious dry delivery and knows how to work the room. I can't begin to tell you all the funny things she's said, funny things she's done and how many fall-off-our-chairs-tears-down-our-faces-laughing-so-hard-we've-almost-peed moments we have had thanks to her. And when something strikes her as funny, she laughs with pure abandon and it's sooo contagious we can't help but join in.

6. She is the most versatile little girl I have ever met. She looooves to be outside - bugs, dirt, plants, running, climbing, jumping, you name it, she loves it. She looooves to draw and she is incredibly good at it. She going to be a great pictionary partner someday! She looooves getting fancy - lip gloss, 'hair-dos' eyeshadow, the works. She loooves to play with dollies. She is so nurturing and tender and it is so precious to watch. And she loooves to love. She is a snuggly kid and the hugs, kisses and times she wants to sit on my lap are so sweet to me.

I am so blessed to be your Mommy little one . . . I am so excited to continue down this path with you my little buddy . . . God has given you such a sense of wonder, a surpassing beauty and a journey ahead full of blessings. Happy Birthday Haley.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas at Country Village

On Saturday, we had the opportunity to celebrate the season in two amazing ways. One of our favorite cousins Mandy took Hannah to see the Nutcracker in Seattle. She was so excited to go and have a big girl date all her own. And thrilled with the special ornament Mandy got her as a memory.

While Hannah and Mandy were off on their adventure, Haley, Grandma and I went to Country Village. In case you haven't been there (or don't live in the area), its . . . well its . . . a country village?! It is filled with sweet little shops to poke around in, cottages to explore and always fun places for kids (like a big boat play set when it's sunny and tons of ducks to feed). We've enjoyed Country Village for years but I've never been there during December and it was truly a treat.

We walked around and discovered they had pony rides!! Haley could not have been more excited.

She kept a straight face the entire time yet as soon as the ride was finished, she began jumping up and down saying it was the most fun she has ever had.

We walked into a little tea shop and looked into the display case. Haley saw some pink meringue and couldn't wait to taste it. (I must admit, it was the sweetest little girl snack ever!)

We found Mrs. Claus and Haley got to talk to her for a while.

After enjoying the beautiful decorations in some of the cottages, we stopped and bought some kettle corn (from the blasted cutest older man I'd ever seen).

We ended our time at Country Village with a ride on the train. It was a bit rainy at this point but the train conductor had fleece blankets to wear on our laps as we rode and it was all worth it to see the smile on Haley's face as we rode around the entire village admiring the lights and decor.

It was a wonderful day and the girls could not stop talking all the way home about their adventures. Hannah sat a few rows behind the orchestra pit and even got to play a violin during the intermission!. She will never forget all she saw. And Haley couldn't wait to tell Hannah every bit of her day as well.

We were almost home and were admiring the many homes decorated on our way when we noticed a nativity scene set up in a church window. We had to stop and get a closer look.

We had all had a wonderful day full of music and lights and food and fun . . . and this scene quieted our hearts. Our conversation changed the rest of the way home. We were still thrilled with all we had done but spent some time remembering the story of the nativity. Christmas is filled with so many incredible moments to experience so many fantastic things . . . but when you step back and pause for a moment, the reason for such a celebration is in honor of this precious sight . . . God's son sent into the world as a tiny baby to awe and inspire us in more ways than any show or ride or treat ever could. I hope you are enjoying all this season has to offer . . . and have had a few chances to pause the hustle and bustle to be still . . .

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Building a Memory . . .

My incredible in-laws have an amazing collection of village houses and people and carriages and animals and trees and . . . you get the point. They have so many that they have blessed our family with a full set of retired pieces, and are only able to set up one half of the items they have at one time. It's stunning really.

This yearly event of setting up and enjoying the village was closely related in memories to our dear sweet Nana who passed away three years ago. The emotions were a bit to raw to consider doing it without her enjoying the experience with us to do it any sooner. As a family, we decided this was the year to carry on the tradition anew.

Now this is quite an extensive process . . . it began in the morning when Marilyn brought out all the houses  from the safety of their boxes and organized them by type. When we arrived in the evening, the girls were slack-jawed to look at each piece and enjoyed hearing Grandma explain the significance of every item.

The men then began cutting huge styrofoam sheets into shapes to serve as the platform and hills of the village. There was lots of measuring, lots of cutting with an exacto knife, and lots of manliness.

The time began to place the pieces ever so carefully (and there were many times I held my breath) into their positions. The girls were so careful and did a fantastic job. It was so amazing to watch their patience and precious adoration of the whole thing.

The lights were then carefully put inside each house and plugged into outlets . . .

And finally it was time to step back and enjoy the incredible beauty of the village we just built.

No picture could begin to do it justice. It is truly an amazing site. But even more amazing than the village we built, were the memories we built together. Another generation experienced the magic of doing something beautiful together . . . and that is priceless.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Teaching Bible Stories

Many attempts have been made in teaching our kiddos the gospel . . . and try as they might, many leave some crucial pieces out. I was recently sent "Baby's Little Bible" to review from Kregel publishing.

Although the cover was soft and the pictures beautiful, I felt the organizing and details of the stories left a bit to be desired. I appreciate the effort of an author to share the good news with the early reader but found myself, as a parent, searching for more connection of stories and found a few crucial details left out (like the temptation and fall of man - even if done is a child-like way - is still a crucial part of the story).

And instead of just saying, it's not my favorite . . . I thought I'd share my favorite with you. I am greatly impressed by "The Jesus Storybook."

Using incredible story telling and captivating artwork, the authors are able to weave the story of the bible (from genesis to revelation) as a united story . . . not separate books . . . and all roads lead to Jesus - the savior and God's plan from the very beginning. It's very biblically sound, encouraging, inspiring and absolutely enjoyable to read. The girls and I have spent many nights cuddled up on the couch amazed by all God has done for us. We discovered this book while babysitting my nephew. My brother-in-law, who is a pastor, found it for his son and was blown away by it's child friendly rendering of the bible while sticking to the truth. In a recent parents bible study I attended at our church, our pastor even recommend this book to parents. And beyond reading it to the girls as a teaching tool, I am enthralled myself and can't get enough of this book.