Book Lover Baby Steps

Summer Reading Bookshelves.jpg

I wish my boys were avid readers. I make sure they always have a variety of quality books from which to choose. Since we started homeschooling using the Ambleside Charlotte Mason method, they are exposed to many classic living books in all their classes. They particularly love our read aloud selections (where I read and they listen), but when it comes to reading on their own, in their own free time, there are a million other things they would rather be doing than reading. [Sigh]

The only time they do read on their own is when we let them stay up a half an hour past bedtime to read. To them reading is at least better than going to sleep at bedtime, but that is not saying much. Despite all the excellent literature I have available to them, the only books I've ever seen them get really excited about are the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney (Is it a coincidence that my children's favorite author is also a video game designer?), The Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Recently, however, there have been signs of hope:

King started reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, a true classic! (Shout outs go to King's grandparents, Joan-Joan and Bob-Bob, for giving him a boxed set of Tolkien books; and to New Line Cinema for making the books into movies.)

After a long whiny debate with Mike over whether we had any good books to read, he reluctantly agreed to give the book Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata a try. (Shout outs go to Mike's grandma, Mimi, for giving us this book; to Grandpa Mike for bravely serving in the Vietnam War; and to Mike himself for being an animal lover.)

They are still only reading these books at (instead of) bedtime, but I am encouraged that they are truly enjoying books that don't have pictures! King says he intends to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy next. Michael was so excited about his book that one morning he was eager to share a passage that he had read the night before. My heart swelled.

He opened his book and read a few choice lines from a scene where Cracker is being bribed with hotdogs:

He reached into his pocket and took out his secret weapon: a wiener.
"Wiener?" he said in a low voice.
"Wiener for Cracker?"
Everybody in the world seemed to know her name, even this man with a wiener.

My heart shrank a bit. Mike thought it was hilarious. At least he was excited about reading, right? Baby steps.

What books did you love as a child? What books do your children love? Please share!

[This post contains associate links. Please read my disclosure.]

Fairy Tales Aren't for Sissies

This summer I decided I would read to the boys from a book that my brother recommended* called Favourite Grimm's Tales. It contains familiar stories like Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, Puss-in-Boots, Little Snow-White, Rapunzel, and Little Red-Cap. The boys were skeptical. When we were trying to decide which story to read first, they turned down all stories princess related because: "Ew!" Other stories were dismissed because they had "already heard that one." We settled on "The Bremen Town Musicians", as none of us were familiar with the story and the pictures suggested it might prove interesting, or at least amusing. We were right. It was an entertaining story and not at all predictable.

Next, we decided on "Puss-in-Boots". Thanks to Shrek, he was a familiar character, but none of us could really say that we knew his story. When the estate of a Miller was divided, all that was left for his youngest son to inherit was the family cat. "Bummer!" But wait... as it turns out, this kitty in his swanky boots was quite the clever puss and managed to turn things around for the poor fellow. The boys were impressed.

After being pleasantly surprised with our first two selections, we decided to venture into princess territory with Cinderella ("Ew!"). If you are not familiar with the true story of how Cindy hooked up with her prince, let me tell you it is not for sissies. Many parts of the story are similar, like the stepsisters big ugly feet not fitting into Cindy's little slippers. What I didn't know was that, at their mother's suggestion, one sister cut off both of her big toes and the other cut off both of her heels, so that their feet would fit into the shoes. It was all the blood leaking out of their shoes that tipped the prince off each time that he had the wrong girl.

Much to our surprise, the boys thought the story of Cinderella was kind of... "Awesome!" Ew.


*My brother's school has an Amazon Online Store with prescreened book recommendations for children. If you end up buying anything through these links, his school gets a percentage of the sale from Amazon, although you don't have to pay any more than you normally would for the item. I, on the other hand, get nothing for mentioning this book, or my brother's school, or the school's store. I just wanted to share a good book with you and tell you how I found it.

Handmade Holiday

The house was a mess, the laundry didn't get done, but I made some pretty sweet Christmas gifts this year for my family.

For my little nephew, George:

The Three Billy Goats Gruff (plus the Troll)

Needle felted billy goats and troll with embroidered accents.

For my little niece, Claudia:

Three Little Kittens (plus their mother).

Needle felted kittens with embroidered accents in a knit basket.

For my two older nieces, Eloise and Cora:

Purses, headbands and hair clips.

Purse sewn from felted cashmere sweater with button accents.Knit felted purse with fabric lining, acrylic handles, and knit felted flower accents.

Grosgrain covered headbands.Needle felted flower hair clips with embroidered center.

For my mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-law:

Iphone cases. (pattern from Alterknits by Leigh Radford)

Felted knit Iphone case with needle felted and embroidered accents.

Handle unbuttons to attach to a purse or bag.

Knit felted Iphone case with needle felted and embroidered accents.Knit felted Iphone case with needle felted and embroidered accents.

For my mother-in-law and my grandmother:

Tote bags (based on The Purl Bee's Twenty Minute Tote).

Wool fabric tote with needle felted and embroidered accents.

Wool fabric tote with needle felted and embroidered accents

It Is Well With My Soul.

Each week King and I sing a different hymn together before school. I also read a little background information about the hymn and its writer. This past week we sang, "It Is Well With My Soul" by Horatio G. Spafford. 

Horatio, his wife and four daughters were planning a trip to England in the fall of 1873. About the time they were scheduled to leave, urgent business came up for Horatio in New York, so he put his family aboard the steam ship, Ville Du Havre, without him, promising to follow soon.

On November 22, 1873 the Ville Du Havre collided with another ship and sank killing 226 passengers, including all of Horatio's daughters. Among the 47 survivors, was Horatio's wife, who was found barely alive, clinging to a piece of the wreckage. Upon arriving in England, her telegraph to Horatio read, "Saved Alone."

During his voyage to join his wife, Horatio was informed by the captain when they were sailing over the spot where his daughters perished. It was at that place, during those hours, that he said to himself, "It is well with my soul; the will of God be done." 


When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.



It is well, with my soul,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.


Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.


My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life

Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,

The sky, not the grave, is our goal;

Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!

Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,

The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;

The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,

Even so, it is well with my soul.


The tune for this hymn is called "Ville Du Havre" written by Phillip Bliss in 1876.

Information for the story came from Then Sings My Soul: 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories.

What Was Mother Goose Thinking?

We were watching Cheers reruns the other night with the kids and we were struck by how many sexual innuendos there were. We didn't remember it being like that, but there is nothing like seeing your enraptured five year old studying Sam Malone's every move to snap things into focus.

It seems to happen a lot, too. I'll be singing a song or reading a story that I've known since childhood and I'll be ambushed by some aspect of it that makes me cringe.  I certainly don't remember the nursery rhyme "Three Blind Mice" as being anything horrible, but you get into it and suddenly the farmer's wife is hacking off the poor blind mice's tails. Or how about "Goldilocks and The Three Bears"? What is the point of that story? As far as I can figure, Goldilocks is just a really annoying selfish bitch who ruins baby bear's day and then gets away with it.

I was reading the boys a story called Hedgie's Surprise by Jan Brett in which Henny the hen gets her freshly laid egg snatched every morning by the little tomten. So far so good... but then Henny sees a goose with her brood and she realizes that the tomten has been stealing AND EATING her babies! Do we really need to hear this? I think we'll shelf this one for awhile; getting the boys to eat their meals is hard enough without turning breakfast into an episode of Fear Factor.