Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 book list

I had so much fun keeping a list of the books I read last year that I decided to make it an annual tradition. (Here's a link to last year's list of 41 books.)

1. Shift Your Habits by Elizabeth Rogers--An excellent choice for starting out the new year, this book offers lots of ideas for decreasing your energy usage.
2. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell--Interesting look at the "tipping points" that cause epidemics, businesses, etc. to really take off in success and popularity
3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak--Um, wow! When I saw this book had 550 pages, I almost put it back. But it was highly recommended by an English teacher friend, Kelsey, so I decided to give it a shot. I could not put this book down, and finished it in less than 3 days! I then passed it on to Eric who read it quickly as well. Rough language and difficult subject (Nazi Germany) but a very compelling story!
4. A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel--I did not know what to expect with this book, which Flower Patch Farmgirl listed as a favorite. It was an enjoyable reflection on the author's growing up years in a very small town. At one point, I was laughing so hard it hurt!
5. French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano--Having long been interested in the French culture, this was a fascinating look at how French women view food--something to be relished and enjoyed, but balanced with moderation.
6. Desperate Households by Kathy Peel--This was highly recommended on a blog I read regularly. It was an interesting read, but I didn't really take anything away from it.
7. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis--Wow, what a compelling story! I loved reading about this mature, compassionate, sold-out-to-Jesus young woman and her impact on people in Uganda (and their impact on her!)
8. Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard--A fascinating book by a recent college grad who decides to move to a Southern city with just $25 in his pocket. He moves into a homeless shelter, with the goal of having $, a job, and his own housing within a year's time. Rough around the edges, but definitely an interesting story.
9. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith--I read this at the suggestion of an English professor friend of mine. It's a very different style from what I usually read, but I really enjoyed it.
10. Mindset for Moms by Jamie C. Martin--I have read Jamie's blog, Steady Mom, for a couple years now, and often appreciate her perspective on motherhood. The goal of this book is to help you shift your mindset to one that is more joyful. A good read, though I didn't find it particularly impactful.
11. Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones--An award-winning novel recommended by my professor friend, this is a gritty story of a young woman growing up on a primitive, tumultuous island, and how her life is impacted by a teacher who reads aloud the classic book Great Expectations.
12. Simply the Savior by Nancy Parker Brummett--A book that encourages simplifying our lives to bring us closer to the Savior.
13. Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith--The next book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, filled with mystery and intrigue.
14. The Vow by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter--I flew threw this true story, especially since I was in the hospital at the time and could relate a little more to the agonizing trauma this amazing Christian couple endured.
15. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Hereafter LIW)--The comfort food version of a book. I read this while we were staying in the Ronald McDonald House and appreciated the escape to a simple, old fashioned and familiar story. I decided to read the rest of the series throughout the year.
16. Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker--I started reading this the day before Naomi was born, so I will always have a strong memory association with this book. I was struck that day by the chapter on wearing just 7 clothing items for a month because that's essential what I did during the 3 weeks I was on hospitalized bed rest: 2 pairs of pants, 4 t-shirts, and 2 sweatshirts; everything mix-and-match. Very thought provoking!
17. Almost Amish by Nancy Sleeth
18. An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff--Not quite what I expected, but a compelling account of the friendship that developed between an NYC executive and a boy who lived on the streets. It's difficult to swallow the situations these two encountered as children, but it makes you more grateful they found each other and became good friends.
19. Far From Here by Nicole Baart
20. Making Piece by Beth Howard--The author claims that she exists because of pie--her parents met over slices of banana cream pie and were married soon after. This is an interesting book about the author's grief journey after the sudden death of her husband, and about how pie helped her through that time and shaped her ongoing dreams. She now runs a pie stand in eastern Iowa. Unfortunately, the book is fairly crude.
21. Play These Games by Heather Swain--Thanks to my friend Carrie's review, my eye caught this book on the shelf of new books at our local library. Lots of creative ideas of games and activities using everyday objects.
22. Some Assembly Required by Anne Lamott--For years, I've enjoyed reading Lamott's non-fiction. She has such a quirky, intriguing style. This book is the account of her teenage son becoming a dad, and about her own transition to being a grandmother.
23. Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas--Another book for Francophiles, especially those with a sweet tooth. The author travels back and forth between NYC and Paris, devouring and reviewing as many desserts as she can.
24. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey--We already implement a lot of what Dave talks about, and Eric has even taught FPU at our church, but I enjoyed reading the many testimonials found in the book. So inspiring to keep being good stewards!
25. The Healing by Jonathan Odell--Recommended by Amy, I was drawn to the book by her comparisons to two other books I've enjoyed--as well as the author's last name. =) Unusual, compelling story that takes place in the South.
26. Paris in Love by Eloisa James--Are you seeing a pattern?! Another book about a family who lives in Paris for a year.
27. The Penny Whistle Traveling with Kids Book by Meredith Brokaw--My mom sent this right before our big summer road trip, and I found several ideas to implement for our long drive.
28. Seven Secret Pauses by Macrina Weiderkehr--Mentioned in the other "Seven" book (see #16), this book encourages us to pause for prayer and reflection at seven times throughout the day.
29. SAHM I Am by Meredith Efken--This Christian chick lit novel about an on-line community of stay-at home-moms is not my typical style of reading material, but it was refreshing and a fun read for vacation.
30. Still Alice by Lisa Genova--Wow. Recommended by a dear friend of mine, this novel about a Harvard prof who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers blew me away.
31. 52 Simple Ways to Build Family Traditions by Paul and Leisa Thigpen--Inspiration for incorporating Christ-centered traditions. My mom gave it to me, and I passed it on to Katie when I met her because I thought she'd enjoy it.
32. The Red Herring by Brian Moriarty--Fascinating debut novel about rock climbing, relationships, and forgiveness (in draft form--in process of being published) by one of our closest real-life friends.
33. Farmer Boy by LIW
34. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova--By the same author as Still Alice (see above), this one was just as compelling. I'm a big fan of this writer!
35. Beyond Bath Time by Erin Davis--Had hoped to write a more thorough post about this book and I may re-read it at some point. Challenging thoughts for moms!
36. Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach--Written by a former editor at Real Simple, this book was a fun read. Though my tastes differ significantly from the recipes shared, I still enjoyed this peek into another family's "food life."
 37. The Backyard Homestead by Carleen Madigan--This topic is interesting to me, even though it's highly unlikely we'll ever be true homesteaders. Lots of practical advice for making the most of your yard to produce food.
38. Hurry Less, Worry Less for Moms by Judy Christie--Good reminders from a seasoned mom
39. Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic--My third reading--this is the most convicting book about being a mom that I've ever read (and re-read!)
40. Cleaning House by Kay Wills Wyma--I'd hoped to take the time to more thoroughly review this book and may do so in the future. This book is about teaching your kids to be self-sufficient and not have entitled attitudes. I really enjoyed it.
41. Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley (Hereafter, PG)--When I told a friend I needed something light to read, she suggested this series. I'm hooked. Very much like Mitford with endearing characters, small town life, and wholesome humor. I laughed out loud several times! I read this entire series this fall.
42. Little House on the Prairie by LIW
43. Just Shy of Harmony by PG
44. The Green Book by Elizabeth Rogers--I always enjoy books that challenge me to be more enivronmentally-conscious
45. The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck--Quite the departure from my usual reading selections, but I really enjoyed this Christian novel about a special wedding dress that is worn by 4 different women.
46. Signs and Wonders by PG
47. Christmas in Harmony by PG
48. On the Banks of Plum Creek by LIW
49. On the Shores of Silver Lake by LIW
50. Life Goes On by PG
51. The Long Winter by LIW
52. A Change of Heart by PG
53. Little Town on the Prairie by LIW
54. Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst
55. These Happy Golden Years by LIW
56. The First Four Years by LIW
57. Almost Friends by PG (The last of the series--sigh!)
58. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova--I read all three of Genova's books this year, and this was my least favorite, but it's an interesting tale of two women dealing with loss. Autism is a major theme of the book as well.
59. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty--Recommended on a blog, this was an interesting tale of a woman who had a head injury and forgot the last ten years of her life.
60. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young--This daily devotional continues to be a blessing to me!

Looking back over the list, I realize this was a year in which I made reading more of a priority, partly because reading was a comfort to me in the difficulties we faced this year. And I read a lot more fiction this year than usual.

I am so thankful my mom gave me the Little House box set last year for Christmas. Though we read them often growing up, it had been a decade or two and I enjoyed reading them more than I anticipated. And I enjoyed the Harmony series so much that I'd like to give a copy of the first book, Home to Harmony, away to get one of you hooked. To enter, just leave a comment on this post regarding something you read this year. A winner will be selected on January 3.

Happy New Year, friends!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Six pix

This kid turned six yesterday. Crazy! We celebrated with our tradition of breakfast in bed. Nathan asked for pancakes, and when I saw the snowman pancake with bacon scarf Monica linked to, I knew that's what I wanted to make. Adorable and yummy! (Sans bacon for moi, of course.)

Nathan loves most sports, but we went with a baseball theme this year, specifically the Detroit Tigers  (heavily influenced by his Michigan-native father!)
He took some cute donut snowmen for his school treats, and I made a simple baseball cake for the evening when he invited a few friends over for pizza and bowling.
We love you, Nathan, and are so glad you had a fun birthday. He asked last night if I could make it his birthday every day. Um, no. =)


I don't plan to post for the next week and a half, but I'll be back on the 31st with my annual book list and a giveaway!
Merry CHRISTmas, everyone.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday books

I mentioned recently that we started a tradition last year of reading one Christmas book each day in December, and I was asked to share my list of holiday books.

I use a Christmas gift bag or pillowcase, which allows me to not only avoid the waste of wrapping paper, but to make each day's selection that morning when I have a better idea of what our schedule entails. I also like to alternate books that are more focused on the nativity with books that tell about other aspects of Christmas. A couple of our books mention Santa, but we definitely do not emphasize him, and personally I don't want our kids thinking their gifts come from Santa.

In no particular order, here are the children's books in our Christmas collection, with my favorites in bold:

1. The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Mike and Jan Berenstain (Excellent lessons!)
2. Badger's Christmas Day by Alan and Linda Perry
3. Usborne Lift-the-flap Nativity by Felicity Brooks
4. The Stable Where Jesus Was Born by Rhonda Gowler Greene (I love the unique rhythm and rhyme.)

5. The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall
6. The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
7. The Story of Christmas by Vivian French
8. Baby Jesus by Lori C. Froeb
9. Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani (I like that this tells about Christmas celebrations around the world.)
10. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
11. The Story of Christmas by Patricia Pingry (I appreciate that this book talks about why we give gifts.)
12. The First Christmas by Allia Zobel Nolan
13. The Little Red Sled by Tisha Hamilton (A Clifford book--really more about winter, but I include it.)
14. The First Night by B.G. Hennessy
15. Mrs. Wishy-Washy's Christmas by Joy Cowley (Our kids love these fun stories--me, too!)
16. Christmas with You by Julia Hubery
17. Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell (I love this sweet nativity story and the cozy illustrations.)
18. Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson (All the Bear books are big hits around here!)
19. Can You See What I See? by Walter Wick (Pictures where you search for things a la Where's Waldo?)

We have received many of these as gifts, and the others I have purchased the last few years at garage sales and thrift stores. To round out the list to 24, I check out materials from the library. A couple of the days, I put in a DVD instead of a book. And on one of the days, I gave them each a Christmas coloring book, just to mix things up a bit.

I really like this tradition, and it feels manageable to me. I've seen so many neat ideas for daily December activities, but most of them seem overwhelming to me. I'm glad to have found something that works for us, and it doesn't have an ongoing cost once you establish a collection. Or if you plan ahead, you could even check everything out from the library.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


I can't remember where I first saw a mention of the book Unglued, but I know I read about it on a couple blogs. The title caught my attention, as I unfortunately have been struggling with coming unglued on a more regular basis. =( And to quote the book, "Instead of avoiding the reality that I come unglued, I'm tackling it head-on."

Though I let Unglued sit on the shelf for awhile, once I picked it up, conviction compelled me to keep reading. I learned a lot and there are many things from the book that I need to keep processing and applying. I love what author Lysa TerKeurst says in the first chapter: that the promise of the book is progress. "Nothing more. Nothing less. We won't seek instant changes or quick fixes. We'll seek progress."

Here are some of the many things from this book that challenged me:

"I can face things that are out of control and not act out of control." There are many moments when I feel overwhelmed, and there are multiple people/things clamoring for my attention. It never ceases to amaze me when so many things happen at once and chaos abounds: the baby's crying, phone is ringing, dog is whining to go outside, doorbell rings, child needs help in the bathroom. Everyone needs me. AND ALL AT ONCE! Even typing about it makes my blood pressure rise. There are frequently situations in which I cannot help everyone at the same time, and--sigh--I do not often respond in a manner of grace and peace. Depending on the who/what/where/when/why of the chaos, I feel stressed and frantic, and my actions and speech are not honoring to God or my family.

"Condemnation defeats us. Conviction unlocks the greatest potential for change."

Lysa identifies four main reaction types, and I definitely had some "aha" moments when reading the sections that explain each of them. I was able to fairly easily identify my (sinful) tendencies with the people I interact with on a regular basis. And Lysa said something else that I found to be true: that our reaction types often vary depending on the relationship. (For purposes of length and privacy, I am not going to write in further detail about this here. However, if you are interested enough to inquire or if you have read the book and would like to dialogue, I am happy to correspond with you on the subject.)

In talking about self-control, Lysa uses Isaiah 55:10-11 to remind us that God's Word will not return empty. "The answer to keeping God's power with me and working in me to produce self-control is letting God's word get inside me. His Word seeping into my heart and mind will accomplish things--good things, powerful things, things that help me display self-control." In a similar fashion, she later encourages us to look up verses that apply to issues where we are struggling: "The issues may not change at first, but over time your heart will change. God honors the heart that honors Him." Another reminder of the power of God's Word appears toward the end of the book when Lysa says she's learned that when she starts hearing lies speaking louder than the truth, that it's an indication her soul is starving for God's Word. Psalm 63:1 "You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water."

Lysa makes excellent insights about the ways we relate to one another, and I was so appreciative of her vulnerability and willingness to use very specific examples from her own life. (Unlike I'm doing here--ahem.)
I read this paragraph several times: "Have you ever tried to keep the peace by avoiding confrontation and pretending that everything is fine? I have. I just stuff down the negative emotions. And it hurts. It hurts me. It hurts the other person. And it certainly hurts the relationship, which slowly erodes." Can anyone else relate?!

One convicting question that Lysa suggests we consider: "Is my desire in this conflict to prove that I am right, or is my desire to improve the relationship?" She reminds us that though we may not be gentle, peaceful, or patient by nature, we can be so by obedience. Not easy stuff, but oh-so-important.

This next quote also stopped me in my tracks, because who among us has never wished to swap lives with someone else? "When I wish for someone else's life, I waste the limited life energy I've got to face my own challenges and opportunities." Like all sin, comparison and jealousy steals our joy, energy, and thankfulness for all God has given us.

I hate dealing with the ickyness inside of me, but I don't want to stay where I am, either. Lysa reminds us that "Outward expressions are internal indications. If our outward expressions are unglued, there's some brokenness internally."

This is stuff I will be thinking about for a long time. If you struggle with coming unglued, I heartily recommend this book. In the meantime, there's an entire website devoted to material related to the book. One of the resources on the site is an assessment to help you determine your reaction type, but I found the quiz less helpful than reading the examples given in the book.

Have you read this book? Can you relate to any of the quotes I highlighted?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Oh, I do love all the festivities this time of year. We have lots of fun things planned this month, and earlier this week, Eric and I had a special treat for our annual Christmas date.

A couple of months ago, I heard on the radio about a wonderful concert coming to a city nearby. I hemmed and hawed about buying tickets--I wasn't sure how I'd feel 3 weeks post-surgery (I'm doing great!), I didn't know who would watch our kiddos for such a long time (Some friends offered over a year ago to watch our kids, and the dates finally lined up!), I was concerned weather might be an issue (Ahem, we've been in the 50's for a week!) and I wasn't sure about spending so much money (Eric received some extra funds for a special project he worked on). As you can see, things worked out even better than I could have hoped for. And I even found a Groupon at a restaurant across the street from the concert venue, which gave us a yummy and frugal option for dining out beforehand.

Many big names in Christian music were part of the project, and in an uncharacteristic move, I bought the CD set off of Amazon so I could learn the songs before attending. (Humorously, Eric did NOT want to listen to the CD's before the concert--he said he wanted to be surprised!)

The music is beautiful, and tells the story of major characters from the Bible. For example, there is a song written from the perspective of such figures as Abraham, Daniel, Esther, Jesus and Paul. The discs are divided into the Old and New Testaments. My favorite song from the Old Testament section is a duet sung by Naomi and Ruth (Amy Grant and Nichole Nordeman, two of my long-time faves!), and in the New Testament, the first song sung by Mary (Francesca Battistelli) is gorgeous and poignant, especially this time of year. I encourage you to go listen!

There are just a few concerts left on this tour--you can click here to see if they'll be in your neck of the woods.

We pulled out our Advent wreath this past Sunday, and I look forward to lighting a new candle each Sunday, along with a song and reading from Scripture.

On a daily basis, the kids are taking turns opening a Christmas book to be read after breakfast. I am building up a collection of 24 books, with an emphasis on the REAL reason for the season.

Hope you, too, are enjoying the festivities of this wonderful time of year!