Book Review: Different

Being the parent of a special needs child can be isolating and lonely. We often feel alone in our struggles, weary that we seem to be the only person we know dealing with these things. Life with Junior has been a lot of ups and downs, from day to day. Some days are good, some days are awful, and most days are a big ball of lots of good and awful all wrapped into one little 24-hour period.

I have read most of Sally Clarkson’s books, and have gotten a lot of helpful encouragement out of each of them (I’ve given all of these previous books 5 star reviews because they are all quite good), but in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but have the negative inkling of “this woman has the perfect life. Her children, her marriage, her homeschooling…all perfect. If I had the perfect life, I bet I could have a peaceful home/homeschool/marriage/life as well.”

Well, how surprised I was to see that Sally Clarkson was releasing a new book titled, Different, written with her grown son Nathan, who has always suffered from OCD, ADHD, and ODD among other things. This book is basically about how Sally managed to raise Nathan and to love him in spite of his issues, seeking to understand him, guide him, teach him, and show him unconditional love through and despite all his struggles.

This book was eye-opening, and allowed me to see Junior in a different light. I suddenly wanted to understand his world instead of trying to make him fit into mine. I no longer saw a little boy who was pushing my buttons for the sake of making my life difficult, but instead I saw a little boy who craved the safety and security of unconditional love and grace from someone who sees him as he is and adores him anyway-his momma.

Sally and Nathan wrote the book together. Two-thirds of the book is Sally writing from the mom’s perspective, and probably 1/3 is from Nathan’s perspective–the misunderstood child who was always an “out of the box” kid. Both perspectives were really helpful. As a mom, I only see this side of it, but Nathan gave some insight into what special needs kids go through in navigating this big world that seeks a one-size-fits-all personality.

Overall, I loved this book and will reference it frequently. I’ve already recommended it to many people, and even purchased another copy for a friend who is in need of encouragement dealing with her struggling child.

*I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Book Review: In the Shadow of Denali

I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska. In fact, my husband and I were planning a cruise to Alaska when I became pregnant with our firstborn, and 9 months of chronic morning (afternoon, and night) sickness got in the way of that. She’s worth it, but I still would have enjoyed Alaska. But, I digress.

There’s something about the thought of the untainted beauty of Alaska that just draws you in and refreshes your soul. Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse have teamed up to write a new series about early 20th century Alaska called The Heart of Alaska. Book one is entitled In the Shadow of Denali, and takes place in the 1920s near Denali National Park.

Allan Brennan is traveling to Alaska to find closure after his father, Henry Brennan’s death some 6 years earlier. Allan’s father attempted to climb Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley) and never returned. Henry was on an expedition with business partner Frank and local expert wilderness guide John Ivanoff. Frank returned to their hometown of Seattle and told the Brennan family that John allowed Henry to die on his watch. As a result, Allan has always harbored resentment toward the native Alaskan without ever having met him.

When Allan arrives to work at the Curry Hotel at the foot of Mt. Denali, he is stunned when his new boss is no one else than John Ivanoff. John and his daughter Cassidy both work at the hotel–John as a guide and Cassidy in the kitchen. Allan and Cassidy begin to enjoy each other’s company, but Allan still has too many questions about his father’s death to let anyone into his heart. When he begins to question Frank’s account of the story, Allan learns that sometimes the truth can have deadly consequences.

I really enjoyed this book. I could imagine myself at the Curry Hotel, in the shadow of Mt. Denali, taking it all in. There was a lot of good development in Allan’s character…you could see him work through his issues and grief, and eventually become a different man. I am looking forward to book #2 in this series.

I received a copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.

Why We Homeschool: 5 Reasons to Teach Your Kids at Home

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Homeschoolers get a bad rap sometimes. People think they’re weird (some are, most aren’t, just like the general population.) People think they’re unsocialized (studies have shown that homeschoolers are more well socialized than typical school children.) People think that you have to wear a denim jumper and cut your own hair and own a 15 passenger van in order to homeschool (just no…to all of that.) So, in defense of homeschooling, I want to share my top 5 reasons for choosing this for our family.

1. They Grow Up Too Fast
If you’re a parent, you don’t need me to tell you that time goes by too quickly. We all know that you blink and they’re grown. Let’s look at a typical school schedule…6 hours a day, 180 days a year. That’s 1080 hours every year that my kids would be away from me. From kindergarten until 12th grade it adds up to…wait for it…over a year and a half away from my kids. 14,000 hours…585 twenty-four hour days…18 months.

They grow up fast enough without my only seeing them on evenings and weekends. Last week Tater told me that she loves homeschooling because “We get to spend all day together.” These are moments I can never get back and wouldn’t trade for anything.


2. I Can Teach Individually to My Children’s Strengths
Each kid learns differently, but in a classroom setting with 20 or 30 other kids, there isn’t time to cater each lesson to each child. At home, I can tailor each and every lesson to my children’s unique learning style. They end up retaining more and enjoying their lessons instead of just trudging through the school day. This enables them to be lifelong learners instead of just doing their work so it can be done and over with.


3. I Know What They’re Learning
Most parents take great care in making sure they know what is going into their kids’ bodies and minds…we feed them good foods, limit their sweets, moderate the shows they watch and the video games they play. But, with 30+ hours a week in an environment I’m not in, I don’t know what they’re hearing or seeing or learning from the other kids who don’t share our same standards.

Now, I’m not “wrapping them in a bubble”, but at such impressionable ages, I want to do my best to shape and mold them in a way that reflects our values, not their peers’ values.

4. We Can Travel
Our family really enjoys traveling as a way to make school more hands on. We love taking long weekends to the National Parks. Our kids learn so much about science and history from these trips, and I love that we don’t have to “take them out of school” to go places…those places become our classroom!

5. We Can Learn Beyond the Curriculum

Sometimes we will learn about something, and the kids will take a real interest in it. Homeschooling gives us the opportunity to really explore beyond the original curriculum. For example, we have been studying world cultures this year. Tater wanted to learn everything she could about Russian history, so we did extra art projects and checked out a bunch of books at the library and really delved into it instead of just glossing over it. So far this school year we have checked out over 400 books from the library!

Those are only five of my reasons for homeschooling…there are many more, like not having to endure school traffic, not having to get everyone up and rushed and ready by 8am every morning, going to our favorite field trip locations when it’s least crowded, etc. In short, we love homeschooling and while it’s not easy, it is definitely the best choice for us, and I’m so proud of how much my children are learning and what kind and thoughtful little people they are becoming.

My 2017 Goals

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I apologize for being scarce lately. I’ve been trying to keep my priorities in order, and in all honesty, this is the first time I’ve sat at my computer in weeks. Life has been flying by, and at the end of the day, there is always so much that needs to get done, that I haven’t had much time for anything else.

2016 was a pretty good year on this end. We traveled quite a bit as a family, Junior made modest improvements in speech and language, I wrote my own social studies curriculum, Tater lost her last non-molar baby tooth, and we’re all alive and well to see another year.

I know everyone makes resolutions, and by February we all know those resolutions don’t stick. So this year, I’m making goals to achieve for 2017. The biggest goal this year is to be more present and more intentional with my time. Time has seemed to speed up ridiculously since I hit 30, and I know it’s only going to go quicker. I want to spend every second I can enjoying my family instead of letting the minutes, hours, and months pass by indifferently.

2017 Goals

-Spend more time being available to “mommy, will you play with us” and “let’s read”. The dishes can wait, the laundry can wait, but childhood can’t wait.

-Be the wife who is a joy to come home to. Sometimes I get exhausted by the end of the day and instead of being excited that my husband is home, I’m excited he’s there so I get a break. I want to show him daily what a top priority he is to me.

-Get Junior closer to age level in speech. He has gotten better, but is still a year or two behind where he should be. It would make his life a lot easier in a lot of ways if he were able to interact with people as a 4 year old, and not as a 2.5 or 3 year old.

-Get involved in a Bible study or mom’s church group. This one is a long time coming. I need a good network of like minded moms to encourage me in faith and life.

-Have more of a daily routine. Sometimes I don’t get everything done because I need a better schedule. I like freedom, so I don’t like rigid schedules, but it would be nice to have a better routine so I don’t feel like I’m constantly trying to play catch up.

-Make more lunches at home. We eat dinner at home most every night, but gosh I struggle with eating lunch at home. It’s so much easier to grab something while we’re out and about. This year, for health and budget sakes, I want to eat lunch at home.

What are your goals for this year?

Cookbook Review: Food52: A New Way to Dinner

As a busy homeschooling mom with a special needs child, cooking and prepping ahead is a lifesaver for getting dinner on the table. So, I was intrigued and downright excited to see that the popular Food52 team put together a new cookbook based on the premise of prepping on weekends so you can spend minimal time during the week to get meals on the table.

The recipes are divided by season…Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. Each season has several different full week menus (5 dinners plus a couple of lunches) using fresh in season ingredients. Then, there is a “Game Plan” page, that lays out all the things you’ll need to do over the weekend to prep, and gives an approximate time you’ll be spending prepping (times range anywhere from 1.5-3 hours). Then, there is a grocery list, divided up by category (produce, herbs, pantry, spices, meat, etc.)

Each recipe begins with an introduction, typically where the author learned about the dish, or to explain certain obscure ingredients. At the end of the recipe, it tells you what to do the day of, since the recipes are meant for prep day.

Some of the recipes include:

-Oven Roasted Char with Herbed Mayonnaise
-Grain Salad with Asparagus, Baby Turnips, Feta, and Preserved Lemon Dressing
-Garlic Scape Pesto Quesadillas
-“Low-Maintenance” Fish Tacos with Pickled Onions
-Summer Squash Pasta
-Poached Tuna
-Baked Pasta with Sausage Ragu
-Applesauce Cake with Caramel Icing
-Beef Short Ribs in Red Wine
-Oxtail Stew
-Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry

I loved the premise of this cookbook. Prepping a few hours on the weekend to get 5 healthy, home cooked dinners on the table in no time flat? Yes, please! That said, I have a few little complaints:

1. The recipes are a little “gourmet” for us. Homemade Lamb Sausage, Couscous Salad with Pistachios, Brussels Sprouts Salad with Anchovy Dressing, and Oxtail Hash Over Toast are not the kinds of things that will make their way onto my weekly menu…ever.

2. As a result of this, the format becomes a bit challenging. Each menu was meant to be made in whole, so picking and choosing will affect prep time, ingredients (since many ingredients are reused over the course of the week in other planned meals), and prep instructions.

I still really liked the cookbook, and while I am probably not going to use as intended by making a full week of their recipes in one day, there are a few recipes I will probably try.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to give a review, positive or negative. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced in any way.