Monday, October 15, 2018

Bookmarks: Children's Books on Civil Rights

The Civil Rights movement in the mid-1900’s is a difficult topic to teach children since there was so much hatred shown. It is never enjoyable to read about people being treated unkindly.  But I think it is an important era of history for children to understand, even though I may not agree with all the actions of those who fought for civil rights

Here is some carefully selected books to share with your children to help start a discussion about God’s love for all people and the danger of prejudice.

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by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Slavery has ended, and education is now available for southern blacks. Virgie wants to go to school with her brothers, but they say that it is too far for her to walk. And, besides, girls don’t need school. But Virgie knows that everyone needs to learn. Based on a true story from Tennessee.

by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman
Before computers, inventors and scientists had to do the math figures needed. Learn about four amazing math whizzes and their impact on the U.S. space program despite the prejudice that surrounded them.

by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Learn about the impact that one pastor had on America. Comic-style illustrations combine into a great short biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.


by Ruby Bridges
When little Ruby walked into a New Orleans school surrounded by U.S. marshals in 1960, she didn't know that she was making history. Years later, Ruby recalls that momental event and the challenges that faced her community. Photographs and quotes from others help tell Ruby's story. Highly recommended.

by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford
Ruby was the first child to go to an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Despite threats and danger, Ruby's courage and faith in God is shown through this picture book.

by Deborah Wiles, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
A law has been passed in 1964 to end segregation. Finally best friends Joe and John Henry can enjoy swimming together at the pool. But they soon find that a law doesn’t change hearts. Colorful paintings share the story of southern racism, and the friendship that can surmount it.

by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Mama says to never climb over the fence when you play, but when the white girl comes and sits on the fence, Clover and Annie find a way to overcome the barrier. Don’t miss this sweet story.

by Sharon M. Draper
This is the only chapter length book on this list. I was searching for historical fiction books on civil rights for older elementary students and rejected numerous books before finding this gem. Stella knows that she lives in the segregated south of North Carolina, but when Stella see the Klan's fire by the pond, she feels danger for the first time. A view of the civil rights struggle through a close-knit community during the Great Depression.

Do you have any recommendations for books on civil rights?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

10 Free Things to do at Chincoteague Island

Our family has wanted to visit Chincoteague Island for a long time. Last fall, a few days before our planned vacation, our son had his accident, and we had to cancel. This summer between rain and Ed's health, we wondered if we should attempt a vacation. 

Last week we looked at the weather forecast and decided to try camping. We knew Ed's fatigue would curtail activities we formerly enjoyed such as kayaking, biking, and hiking. But we still found many activities that we could all enjoy. And the added benefit was that they were free. 

First a little background. Chincoteague Island is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It is a popular vacation destination with all the typical tourist traps like ice cream shops and mini-golf. A short bridge allows you to travel from Chinoteague Island to Assateague Island. Assateague is a wildlife refuge and no camping, stores, or homes are allowed on the island. 


1. Travel with a Fourth Grader
It costs $20 for a pass to enter Assateague Island. I think the pass is good for one week. (A year's pass is $40.) But because it is a national park, you can use a Every Kid In A Park pass if you have a fourth grader (or homeschool equivalent.) Just ask the park ranger or print off a voucher online. All your child needs is to sign their name. 

This pass allows the fourth grader - and everyone in their vehicle - to enter the park free. A great benefit for large families who frequently have a fourth grader. Just choose the year your family visits national parks to coincide with your fourth graders.


2. Climb a lighthouse. 
It is a short walk to the Assateague Lighthouse. (Bring bug spray because the mosquitoes are bad. We didn't not have bug problems anywhere else on the island.) 


The lighthouse was beautifully restored a few years ago.


We all made it to the top, even the two year old (and no, she wasn't carried.) The views are stunning.


3. Walk a wildlife trail.
There are many trails which allow you to see the waterfowl and wildflowers up close. We walked the Marsh Trail, which was one of the shortest. If you bring bikes, you can cover more ground. I would have enjoyed spending far more hours with a camera and binoculars on these trails.





4. Learn at a Visitor's Center
Both the Herbert Bateman Education Center and the Toms Cove Visitor's Center have displays to learn about the wildlife on the island. We happened to hit the Refuge Celebration Day, and they had lots of extra displays and crafts for the children.


5. Fly a kite.
The first day we were there it was very windy. It only took minutes to put our kite high in the sky.


6. Have a picnic on the beach.
Food always tastes better in the fresh air, except when it is full of sand. The wind that was great for kite flying wasn't the best for our lunch. But we had picked the windiest day of our stay for our picnic. You can pick up a fire permit at the visitor's center to have a campfire right on the beach.


7. Watch the ponies.
After reading Misty of Chincoteague, our children were eager to see the wild  ponies. I told them not to have their hopes too high, but we saw a whole herd of wild ponies soon after arriving on the island. Since the wild ponies never got very close to the road, we stopped at McDonalds where there is a pen of ponies to observe up close. 



8. Go to Memorial Park.
At the famous Pony Swim each summer, this park is teeming with people. But when we were there it was a quiet place for the children to play. There is a great view of the lighthouse across the cove. 




9. Gather Shells.
Our little girls spent hours searching for shells then washing and sorting them back at our campsite. We finally persuaded them to leave most of them there for "another little girl to find."


10. Visit Wallops Visitor Center.
Back on the mainland, just a few miles from Chincoteague is the Wallops Flight Facility. We stopped by the visitor's center only 20 minutes before their closing, but we were able to learn a lot about their rocket launches and research balloons. Maybe it was good we only had a few minutes because some of our family could have enjoyed being here for hours longer than others.

There are many more things to do on the island. Museums, seafood restaurants, bikes and boats to rent. I didn't mention the obvious of playing in the waves. We didn't find it difficult to keep busy for a few days with very inexpensive options.

Those of you who have enjoyed Chincoteague, did I miss anything?



Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Sun and Waves


We spent the lovely October weekend enjoying the sun and waves.


I don't have to tell you how much we cherish these memories.


I want to share some camping hints and money-saving vacation tips in the next few days, but I'm still in recovery mode right now. Laundry for eight after a weekend at the beach is not for the faint-hearted,


Do any of you know lighthouses well enough to guess what location we visited?



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Changing Perspective

I've been thinking this week of those of you who are remembering your loved ones. When I read this post by Sara, I wanted to share it with you.

It was cold. At least, it felt cold to the two children dancing in the rain. Heads tilted against the torrential downpour, they came shrieking and laughing onto the porch for temporary shelter. Dripping wet, the younger one tapped my arm lightly the way you might touch a pan to see if it is too hot to carry. 
"Isn't my hand cold?" Her eyes glittered with happiness. "It is so cold out here! It is as cold as when it snows!"

Go read the rest of the post at Dewdrops of Joy.

Though we have never met, I've enjoyed reading Sara's blog for many years. But this short post is my favorite. Please go read A Matter of Perspective.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Not a Good Homemaking Week

Last week's schedule was brutal.

I always say that I can only be a good homemaker if I stay at home.

Last week I wasn't a good homemaker - or a good mom. I have no idea how women who work full-time outside the home keep their sanity. One week of a crazy schedule and I was losing it.

Somehow the monthly followup appointments for both Ed and my daughter ended up on the same week. That meant three days of driving over two hours both ways to appointments. I came home exhausted - but still needed to prepare meals, do laundry, and help with school work.

My week was salvaged by several friends who blessed us with meals. Nothing says "I love you" like a casserole on an extra busy week.

Sharing lunch between appointments.

I know that some of my stress was the dread of Ed's MRI report. I did not want to see the scan. The doctor always pulls up the last five scans on the screen and lets us flip through the images. Looking at the progression of his tumor the last months is enough to make me feel ill.

We expected this scan to look bad this time. Radiation causes swelling so it can be hard to discern on the MRI what is tumor growth and what is radiation-induced swelling.

But the MRI wasn't as bad as we feared. Some areas were swollen and larger compared to his last MRI, but in other areas the tumor look smaller. Ed's doctor considers this a "stable" MRI. That is more encouraging of a report than we've had for months, and we are praising God.

Our daughter's arm continues to mend, and she was able to trade in her huge cast for a small brace.



The week ended with a delightful trip to a cabin with two of Ed's school friends. I don't know either of these families well, but our children quickly connected, and we all had a great time. The ladies didn't let me bring any food (except some for Ed) so it was a vacation for me too.



Once again I thank God for His grace through another round of tests and consultations. I'm thankful for those who pray for us, drop by for a visit, and give in practical ways. We are blessed.

Now to tackle that neglected housework.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Loving Like Jesus

When we brought my daughter home from ER on the night she broke her arm, my husband voiced the question I was thinking. "Who should we tell?"

I thought about our options. Call my parents. Send a What's App message to all my siblings. Group text everyone at church.

"I don't feel like telling anyone," said Ed. "It feels like begging for pity."

"I know. But we won't be able to hide her cast, so everyone will know eventually."

"If we announce it now, at least we'll get prayer."

So we did. We typed a few words on Ed's phone, and we had a rush of encouraging messages and, hopefully, prayers.

Since then I've been thinking of the times we are reluctant to ask for prayer. In this case I knew that our friends wanted to support us, even if sometimes in the last year our family felt like the prayer request that won't go away.

But I know from talking to others that there are some needs that are rarely if ever shared as a prayer request.

Cancer may be an easy prayer request.

There is a firm diagnosis; no doubt that a real malady exists.

Everyone has been touched by cancer in some way. No one says, "Oh, that isn't so bad." Or "It is just in your head." Or "If you would just..."

There is no shame, because, in most cases, a cancer diagnosis is beyond your control.

But what about relationship difficulties, emotional struggles, marital conflict, in-law problems, or financial challenges? How about abuse, wayward teens, emotional breakdowns, unfaithful spouse, infertility, or church splits?

In my experience, there is so much pain that we don't talk about in our  prayer meetings. I've sat at prayer meeting feeling like we were avoiding the elephant in the room. It is easy to ask for prayer for my sick neighbor. Much harder to ask for prayer for myself for my own areas of temptation.

I know there are many good reasons, such as not hurting others, that we don't ask for prayer for the things that are heaviest on our heart. But what if we started with ourselves and asked for prayer for the areas that we have personal need? What if I asked for prayer that I'd be more consistent in my Bible reading? Or was a more patient mother? What if I admitted that I was struggling to forgive?

What if our churches were a safe place to ask for prayer for the hardest things? Not just cancer and broken arms but for broken relationships and sick hearts? What if we knew we'd never be gossiped about or had our story repeated? What if we knew that we'd not be analyzed or criticized but be carried before the throne of God?

What if the Church loved hurting people like Jesus did?

Just a few thoughts on my mind the last weeks, partly because some of you have blessed me by sharing your hearts with me and asking for prayer. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Four Middle-Grade Stories with Animals

I can't keep up prereading books for my children. This year I have had the goal of reading one middle grade book a week. With many hours spent in waiting rooms, I have almost reached my goal. It is easier to read a juvenile fiction book in a busy doctor's office than concentrate on an adult book.

I've had to discard many books, but I've found some excellent books as well. Since many of you have said that you also can't keep up with prereading books for your children, I've wanted to share some of the good books I have found.

But here is where I get stuck in perfectionism. I want a perfect list, separated into categories, rating each book. But I'll never find the time.

So here is four books, all of which include animals in some way, that we enjoyed. I'll share more books in the coming weeks.

This post contains affiliate links.



Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Sam wants to make money and chickens might be the answer. My son enjoyed this story because it was fast-moving with short chapters. Perfect for readers who are just transitioning into chapter books. And doesn't every child dream up plans to make money?



Honk the Moose by Phil Stong
What would you do if a moose came into your dad's barn? Call the authorities, of course. A hilarious story of how the town of Birora, Minnesota was impacted by Honk the Moose. Old enough to be a classic. Short enough to read on a long-winter evening.



Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins
Can a squirrel survive being carried away by a hawk? Will his friends be able to rescue him? Sounds rather, uhhh, nutty, but I loved this as much as the children. A fun story of squirrels, nuts, and friendship.



Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt
Fredle is searching in the dark kitchen pantry for food when he finds the most delicious food. But that night he is terrible sick and his mouse family pushes him out of the nest. His journey to the Outside introduces him to creatures like chickens and raccoons and the beauties of flowers and the moon that he has never imagined.

One of you recommended the Young Fredle audio book to us. We took it on a family trip and it captured the attention of everyone but the two-year-old. The reader was excellent with the voices of the many characters. Some children may find the references to  death  or "went" to be disturbing, but it is a fabulous story of adventure and growth.

I often get great book suggestions from you, so what have you been reading?

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Sometimes A Light Surprises

I don't know how to put the last weeks into words. They have been intense with end-of-summer activities and fall transitions. September is often a tough month for me. It is self-inflicted - this pressure to start a good school routine while scrubbing a tomato-splattered kitchen and making applesauce.


We've enjoyed many good times with friends and relatives these past weeks, including connecting with many of you readers at various events. It is humbling to know that so many are continue to pray for us. Thank you.

The uncertainties of Ed's health and the return of his headaches this past week has been hard, even when knowing this is a normal side affect to his radiation. We are adjusting his meds in hopes of improvement.



It is now sixteen months since his GBM diagnosis. Senator McCain's death was a reminder of how blessed we are to have Ed as an active part of our family life. But I still wish I could wake up and find this was all a bad dream.


Ed continues to work part time in the mornings and comes home for a nap in the afternoons. I've enjoyed having his help with making applesauce and canning tomatoes. One gift that cancer has given us is lots of extra hours together this summer.



A few months ago I was introduced to the hymn "Sometimes a Light Surprises." This week I was flipping through our hymnal looking for words of encouragement and found this hymn again. After reading a little bit about the author's life, it was obvious that he knew about God's provision during dark times of life.

Sometimes a Light Surprises
by William Cowper
Hymns of the Church #719

Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God's salvation,
And find it every new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say,
E'en let the unknown morrow
Bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing
But He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing
Will clothe His people too;
Beneath the spreading heavens
No creature but is fed,
And He who feeds the ravens
Will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the fields should wither,
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God, the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice;
For while in Him confiding
I cannot but rejoice.

I looked for a recording online of this hymn so that you could hear the tune, but though I found many tunes, I didn't like any of the tunes as well as the one in Hymns of the Church.

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