Friday, January 9, 2009

Grown-up Booklist and Reviews

Books I've read recently and what I think of them:

1. The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright. I would classify this book as light reading, although it touches on heavy issues at times throughout. It is a fictional account of the journey a family takes when they discover, after both parents die, hundreds of letters their father had written to their mother each Wednesday. I don't usually read books like this, but found that I had a hard time putting it down. At times it is a bit unbelievable, but if you let yourself simply enjoy the emotions it brings, you will be better for reading it. I give it a thumbs up!

2. It's Here.....Somewhere by Alice Fulton and Pauline Hatch. Excellent. This is a book filled with practical tips and solutions for those who want to get out from under the weight (sometimes literally!) of clutter. The authors' mantra is to streamline possessions first, then organize whatever is left. I've read a lot, I mean A LOT of organizational type books in my life. This one is by far the most practical and helpful, in my opinion. I am not a born organized type, so I need practical, easy to use advice. I also really like how the authors think outside the box and give suggestions for home organization that challenge the way we've always thought things are supposed to be done. It's Here....Somewhere is creative, helpful, and easy to read. Two thumbs up.

3. The Children's Year by Stephanie Cooper, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marye Rowling. This wonderful book is completely packed with seasonal crafts and projects for both children and families. It is *not* your typical craft book, however, and offers everything from old fashioned toy-making ideas (Jacob's Ladder, wooden baby rattles, rag dolls) to handmade quality clothing items (knitted baby bonnets, smocks, and mittens). There is so much I could say about The Children's Year! The authors have gone to great lengths to provide projects that enlist the help of young children and at the same time produce items that are both beautiful and many times functional. Some of my favorite ideas and projects we are attempting:

"The Plank"--simply buy a long board (they provide dimensions) and sand and oil to death to make an open ended plaything for outdoors. Could be a see-saw, could be a bridge, or whatever children decide.

"Magic Ball of Wool"--wrap small objects (charms, candy, stickers, etc) with knitting yarn so that as a child knits, the objects are revealed. I actually think this idea comes from the Victorian days, but it is such a cute fun way to encourage knitting. Dori has started to knit, so I'm thinking this would be a great Christmas present next year.

"Tissue Paper Stars"--These are colorful, folded just so stars that are meant to be hung in windows to brighten a room. I have some kite paper just waiting for the right rainy day. :)

"Card Stands"--Small pieces of wood with slits cut into them for standing up and displaying a special card. I just loved this idea and Pappaw was so kind to find some scrap wood pieces for us and even sawed the slits in. This will be a wonderful project for Micah, who needs hands-on activity as much as I can provide. It will be simple enough (sanding and oiling) to complete several at a time and feel a sense of accomplishment.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed reading this book! The authors' sparked my creative side and have a knack for using items already found in nature to create lovely items that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Books I have started, but not finished:

1. Don't Be a Slave to Housework by Pam McClellan. I'm finding it difficult to finish this book, even though I'm almost there! Perhaps the other clutter book was just so good, this one didn't appeal as much. This book is all about how you can have a wonderfully clean home and have a life, too. There are, of course, many tips and a breakdown of personality types and reasons why people do what they do (perfectionist, procrastinator, housework hater). I have found this book a little bland, but useful, nonetheless.

2. The Reason for God Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. Interesting. This book Jason and I started over the holidays. So far, I like it. Keller deals with tough questions presented by modern day skeptics by answering arguments in a methodical, thoughtful manner. His writing style is clear, but not dumbed down. We are really enjoying this book and I look forward to reading the rest of it. Very insightful.

3. Dare to Discipline by James Dobson. Okay, I know I'm way behind the times on this one, but honestly I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I know folks who both love and well....let's say severely dislike, Dobson. I don't know what camp I'm in, but will admit he has annoyed me many times. My honest impression so far, is that he has some good ideas--nothing revolutionary or earth shattering--but good solid principles, that he presents as part of his case for disciplining children. He promotes both spanking and some other strange neck squeeze thing. Uh...not totally clear on that, but I think I'll stick with spanking if and when needed. I find Dobson to be wordy (I know, I know....I'm the wordiest of them all!) at times and catch myself skimming to the next big point. This might be the only way I've read the book to this point. Sometimes he wears out the psychological side a too much for my taste, but so far, I'd have to say this is a useful book. He supports unconditional parental love and affection and also supports firm, clear boundaries for children. I will most likely finish the book, but I suspect it will take me some time, as it just doesn't draw me in. I think there are plenty of better parenting books out there for the Christian parent, but it seems to be a solid, if basic, book. Hey, it beats out some of the shall-remain-nameless quacks out there writing that their brand of parenting is God's way.

Checked out and waiting to be read:

1. Screamfree Parenting by Hal Edward Runkel. I picked up this book because I unfortunately raise my voice too much and too often with my children. About two years ago I made a New Year's Resolution to never yell at my kids. Well, of course, I haven't kept that resolution 100%, but I was able to cut down dramatically on yelling in times of stress or in the midst of crazy kid situations. I noticed this book on the shelf and it look interesting and I am constantly praying about the way I respond to my kids so....I'm excited to find out what's in this book. I just looked at the back cover and realized that it appears to be written from a scriptural perspective. Yay. Even better! I'm looking forward to reading this and hopefully identifying ways to respond calmly and correctly to my children.

2. Parents and Children The role of the parent in the education of the child by Charlotte Mason. I have been interested in Charlotte Mason for a while but have yet only read about her. I picked up this book so I could say I read it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) had a lot of interesting ideas about children and education and is regularly quoted by home schoolers. Here is what is listed on the back of this book: "Charlotte Mason on leading a child to abundant life: The child brings with him into the world, not character, but disposition. His original disposition, modified, directed, expanded by education; by circumstances; later, by self-control and self-culture; above all, by the supreme agency of the Holy Ghost. Charlotte Mason was 100 years ahead of her time in developing an educational philosophy that stressed bringing broad and stimulating education to a child in a noncompetitive, biblically based way. Mason's timeless, practical insights and her stress on the responsibility of the home have made her a founding influence in the home schooling movement." Hmmm. Should be an interesting and I bet tiring read. :)

3. Protecting the Gift Keeping children and teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin De Becker. I do not really know much about this book other than the title. I heard it recommend once a long time ago and noticed it on the bookshelf at the library. My guess is that it will be useful, but might also have the possibility to scare the ever-living daylights outta me.

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