Book Review

4 Book Reviews in Short

I’ve read a few books recently, which might be of interest to some.  Here are my brief remarks.

IMG_0666.jpg

One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

This is Fulwiler’s second book wherein she details the process of writing her first book and discovering her “blue flame.”  Her first book Something Other Than God was better.

However, I think One Beautiful Dream would interest those mothers who are really struggling and maybe drowning in diapers and Cheetos because she’s hilarious to read.  And let me tell you, her life sounds very chaotic.  The reason why I can’t give it a full, hearty recommendation is that I think it’s lacking something.  It would be a richer book if she had included what her family’s prayer life looked like (or didn’t look like) during those hectic years.

I recommend this book for:  Struggling mothers looking to commiserate or mothers who are feeling guilty about working a little on the side.

The Fields of Home by Ralph Moody

This is the fifth book in Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series.  Our family read and listened to the first four books via Audible, and I cannot tell you how much we enjoyed them.  They are excellent.  If you do not own the first four books in this series, you are missing out.  Yes, it is true that sometimes the language is rough, including such words as hell and damn, but they are always used in a such a way that the reader knows that it’s not the way one should speak.  Let me repeat, Moody’s first four books are awesome.

So, the fifth book, Fields of Home.  I intentionally previewed this book because my older children naturally wanted to read it after devouring the first four, but had held off because I heard that they contained material requiring a more mature audience.  And this is true.  While Ralph comes to live with his cranky grandfather, he notices a beautiful neighbor girl and wants to kiss her.  This gets a little tricky.

In the end, I’d hold off on this book until your children are a bit more mature.  The book  just isn’t as good as the other four books anyway.  I was bored from time-to-time because he waxes technical in his descriptions of farm life around the turn of the twentieth century.  But maybe older boys would like that?

Shaking the Nickel Bush by Ralph Moody

This is the sixth book in Moody’s Little Britches series and also not as good as the first four.  Again, my attention drifted from time-to-time, especially in his detailed descriptions of early 1900 cars.  This book, like the fifth, also requires a more mature audience, but for a different reason.  The main character, Ralph, lies to his mother about what he’s doing so as not to worry her.  This is problematic.  But then he also hooks up with a good-for-nothing mooch who in the end teaches Moody a lesson, which is good.

**The Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn Beer**

**Go Get this nonfictional book now and read it!**

I was fascinated and horrified by this book and couldn’t put it down.  Edith Hahn Beer, a young Jewish law student, survived WWII by taking upon a false identity, which eventually gets her married to a German officer.  But that didn’t happen until about halfway through the war, after she was forced into the ghetto and sent to work as a field hand.  She watched in horror as the world around her became a living Hell.

The eery thing is, many of the movements leading up to this war remind me of what’s going on in our culture, and this book exposes it all.

Warning.  There is definitely mature material in this book.  If you’re up for it, however, read it.

Book Review

Loosing the Lion: An Unscholarly Book Review

A week or so ago I received my copy of Dr. Leroy Huizenga’s Loosing the Lion.  I immediately* flipped to Chapter One and read the opening line, “Our age is numb.” Yes, and I’d probably add “and dumb.” Huizenga then went on to say that we need to shock our age into reality through the means of beauty. To which I thought, yes again, like the great Flannery O’Connor with her shocking short stories.

I had to put the book down, though, because I had six children clamoring for my attention at the time. My sons, however, noticed the cover and if critiques from 6 and 9 year-olds matter, they liked it—no sissified rainbows there, just fierce-looking lions.

LoosingLion.jpg
Praise from 6 and 9-year-olds.  Check out that awesome book cover.

It was only later upon picking it up again that I noticed Huizenga closes Chapter one with a Flannery O’Connor quotation. Man I’m good.

But I’m not very smart, being a recovering member of our numb age, so it was with great trepidation that I continued reading this scholarly work. After all, I’m a stay-at-mother, what do I know?

Incidentally, this is why I read the book. I don’t know much about Mark. Yes, I’ve read all four Gospels in their entirety, but really, I could stand a little more Biblical Education. And I like a challenge.

Part 1: Preaching the Gospel of Mark

This book is divided into two parts, and I was pleasantly pleased with Huizenga’s opening chapters discussing beauty. We all know our culture is desperately in need of a restoration of all things beautiful, especially in the liturgy, which he mentions.

His point I most appreciated, however, was that we ought to just read Mark as a whole—not chopped up into bits. It’s a short Gospel after all about one rollicking ride of a battle between good and evil. So just pick the Bible up and read it.

As an aside, Huizenga also makes a great case for classical education, whether or not he realizes it, with his emphasis on great story telling and rhetorical preaching and beauty and all the rest.
Huizenga-Headshot-Photo-2014-240x300.jpeg
Dr. Leroy Huizenga.  Professor, Speaker, and Author.  He and his wife also homeschool their 3 children.

Part 2: The Gospel of Mark in the Lectionary

In any case, after the opening chapters, Huizenga then digs into the Lectionary for the Year of Mark, which happens to be this year in our liturgical readings.   And it was a challenge for me to read this section of the book, for he mentions all kinds of foreign terms. You know, like chiastic structures, ABA sandwiches, and synecdoches.   (What any of these are I don’t know. It’s beyond my stay-at-home pay grade.)

But still his style of writing is engaging, and I did appreciate his analysis.  He wrote of many things that I had never thought of before.  For example, I have never read the stories of Jairus’s daughter and the hemorrhaging woman together, as a “sandwich,” not to be picked apart in Mark 5:21-43.

In this story, Jesus is on his way to Jairus’s house to heal his fatally ill daughter, only to be interrupted by a hemorrhaging woman reaching out to touch him, only to be interrupted again by one of Jairus’s servants announcing his little girl’s death.  (I understand this pattern is called an “ABA sandwich.”  Look at how much I learned!)

In both cases, ritual impurity is involved–one being a dead corpse, the other experiencing embarrassing bleeding.  One is a 12-year-old upon her “death,” and the other has had 12 years of bleeding misery.  Therefore, the good Jew that He is, one might think Jesus would stay away from such uncleanliness.  But of course he doesn’t.  Rather, he heals both women and calls them “daughter,” which is not insignificant.

But what’s my point?  Part 2 of Huizenga’s book is loaded with great information about Mark that only serves to help one enter more deeply into Scriptures.

St.Marks.jpg
This is St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.  I took this picture a bazillion years ago, when studying art.  I can’t think of Mark without thinking of this iconic Basilica and campanile.  You should look it up for fun.

Conclusion

The most important thing about Huizenga’s book, however, is that it inspired me to read Mark again–in its entirety–and to ponder Jesus Christ, true God and true man, a little more deeply.

Any book, painting, sculpture, or whatever that points one towards the Truth is worthwhile.  So my advice is to pick up both books–Loosing the Lion and Mark–and read on!

 Want More?

Dr. Huizenga will be featured on Jennifer Fulwiler’s Sirius XM radio station on Wednesday, January 24th, at 1:20pm.  You should all tune in.  Click HERE for Fulwiler’s website.  Some of you may remember that I mentioned Fulwiler in a previous post?  She’s hysterical.  Click HERE for that post and look under Point 1.

For more information on Dr. Huizenga, click HERE for his website.

And for those of you interested in my series “A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool,” I’ll be posting Part 3 very soon.

*Immediately.  Mark is particularly noted for his use of this word.  It was his favorite; he used it 41 times.
Homeschooling

10 Things I’ve Learned From Parenting & Homeschooling

I’ve been homeschooling now for almost six years.  This has been the hardest job I’ve ever had.  (Certainly harder than teaching sophomores at a high school.  Or the time I shelved books in a library.  Or the time I cleaned toilets at a state park.  Or, well, you get the idea.)  And I hate to break it to those of you just beginning, but it does get harder.  For example, six years ago, I only had a kindergartner.  Now I’ve got a fifth-grader, two third-graders, a first-grader, and a preschooler.  (Not to mention a toddler and another in the womb.)  But the good news is, it’s all worth it.

Well, to celebrate six almost down and about twenty-five more years to go, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned.

DSCF0881.jpg

10 Things I Wish I Knew Six Years Ago

  1.  Get up before the children do.

Yep, you just need to do it.  You’d never stroll into your old job at the office without being ready for it.  I mean, praying, showering, putting on “real” clothes…  If you can do this, your day is set.  Now that said, there are seasons when this is not possible.  For example, the three-month-old baby screamed all night and Susie puked and Timmy wet the bed.  Prudence, mama.

But just because I think this one is really important, I’ll give you Jennifer Fulwiler’s thoughts too:

“It’s not always possible, but if you can make a habit of getting up an hour before everyone else in the house, it will change your life. (I say this as the biggest non-morning-person in the universe. There are vampires who enjoy watching the sun rise more than I do.)”**

**Click HERE for Fulwiler’s complete list of things she’s learned while parenting.  She’s hilarious.

 

  1.  It is a bad idea to compare yourself to others.

I will never be a crafty mother.  I detest finger-painting, gingerbread-house-making, and sticker charts.  If my children can’t do the project on their own, forget about it.  Now I know some of you are very talented in these artistic areas.  This is a good thing, and I’m genuinely glad for your family.  I’ve decided not to worry about my creative disabilities, however, and it’s freeing.

ArtWall.jpg
This is the extent of my “craftiness.”  The children may draw whatever they want.  Then they can grab some tape and hang it on the Art Wall themselves.  Yes, this is the laundry room, where they have free reign to hang their “Art.”

 

  1.  Quit worrying about your children not learning anything.

This one’s absurd.  Anyone remember Andrew Pudewa relating his experience in a public prison, er, I mean in a public school?  How he would get so bored, he’d see how hard he could bite himself?  Then, when he’d get sick of that, he’d see how long he could hold his breath.  (I actually remember doing that one in public school too.)  The point is, our children are learning.  And in the very least, they shouldn’t have to resort to arm-biting and breath-holding.

 

  1.  Make a “Rule” or schedule for your days and stick to it.

This is really freeing–almost as much as not comparing yourself to others.   With my Rule, my priorities are set, and I know what I’m supposed to be doing at all times during the day.  If you’re looking for more about this, I recommend Holly Pierlot’s A Mother’s Rule of Life.  She’s really intense, but insightful.

RuleOfLife.jpg
This is my 3rd or 4th copy, as I keep giving them away.
  1.  Just because one child seems born to learn quickly, don’t think they all will.

I had a child who sat down and read the Old Testament for fun, at the age of five.  I can tell you, it was a piece of cake teaching that one to read.  And now, I’ve spent the last three years in purgatory, just sitting on my couch, praying to Jesus to give me the patience to not rip the book out of the kid’s hand, chuck it across the room, and storm out myself.  (May it please God to not test my patience any further with slow readers, for I may not make it.  Amen.)

 

  1.  Outsource those terrible subjects you hate.

I hate math.  And guess what?  When I attempt to teach math, my loathing for the subject comes out, no matter how hard I try to hide it.  But my husband loves math, so last year, he took it over.  (I will love him forever for it.)  In our household, math starts at 7am.  Yep, before breakfast, and it still goes well.  If there’s a subject you despise, think creatively.  Maybe switch a subject with another homeschool mom?  Or, budget for and hire a tutor?  Enroll in an online program?

 

  1.  Eat breakfast like a prison camp.

In our house, everybody eats breakfast at the same time; everybody eats the same thing; everybody cleans up their spot together.  We eat peanut butter toast every single morning.  We’ve done it for years.  There’s never any complaining about it because they know what to expect.  And I never have to worry about meal planning for breakfast.  (On the weekend, there is a reprieve.  Saturday is oatmeal.  Sunday is cold cereal, which is their favorite.)  You can imagine their excitement when my parents give them orange juice, as a present.

Toast.jpg
I keep the bread and PB right where Child Number Two can reach it, as it’s his job to make all 13 slices of toast every morning.
  1.  Learn to say no.

You want to destroy your family life?  Then frantically run from event to event, never eat a meal together, and never pray together.  As a culture, we are far too busy.  Little Sally does not need to participate in gymnastics and tee-ball while playing on the soccer team and taking violin, piano, and voice lessons.  This is ridiculous.  Pick one.  And let your children experience a childhood of climbing trees with their siblings, reading a book on the grass, eating dinner as a family, and receiving Dad’s blessing at night.  This other Chosen Busyness is Satan’s great attempt to divide families.  And it’s crept right into Catholic and home schools.

 

  1.  Are you going crazy?

From time to time, I have to put myself in time-out.  As I have a small house, this gets tricky.  I mostly prefer to hide in the bathroom, but there isn’t anywhere comfortable to sit, unless I take a bath.  This year has been the Year of the Bath.  I bought myself some lavender epsom salt.  It smells nicely.  I also prefer to take a martini and my book in there with me too.  What do you do to get away?  Furthermore, I recommend instituting quiet time every afternoon.  And if possible, take a few Saturdays off a month, and go on a monthly date with your husband.  Life is too short to do otherwise.

BathTime.jpg
This is the equipment necessary for a Proper Bath.  And yes, it is best to take the shaker in with you.

 

  1.  Lastly, think of all you’ve learned!

Yes, I finally have a fifth grade education.  Whenever I feel poorly about my job as a mother and educator, I console myself with the thought that at least my children know more now than I ever did at their age.

 

If you’ve found this post helpful, send it to someone else who might appreciate it.

Anyone have other thoughts or ideas?  I’d enjoy hearing about them.