Monday, January 31, 2011

Starting a blog? Read my tips first.

If not writing here today.  Instead I have a guest post about tips for starting a blog over on Life at 7000 Feet.  Meredith (an OBU girl, which will only matter to my college friends) invited me to share my blogging tips on her blog since my MOPs event was canceled.

Thanks again, Mer, for the opportunity to guest post!  It was a lot of fun.

And thanks to everyone who left a tip or idea a few weeks ago.  I appreciate every one of you!

So go.  Read.  And don't forget to comment!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Courage of Sarah Noble :: Read Aloud Thursday

A couple of my bookish blogger friends often participate in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word.  I love the idea of sharing with you the books that we are reading aloud together.  And we read aloud A LOT!  So I hope to participate is this meme regularly.

This week I have one book to share with you:

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh.  Published by Aladdin Paperbacks, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, 2000 (originally published 1954).

In 1707, eight year old Sarah travels with her father from their home in Massachusetts to a new homestead in Connecticut.  Once there Sarah learns to be friends with the Indians (the term used in the book) who live across the stream below their home.  After their house is built, Sarah's father leaves her with an Indian family, returns to Massachusetts and brings the rest of the family to live in their new home.

We picked up this chapter book as a part of our home school American history curriculum.  If you do the same, I recommend a websearch for the title and you can find lots of activities to go along with this popular book.

My children really connected with Sarah.  My oldest son will soon be eight, so the thought of a girl his age cooking meals and taking care of their home really impressed him.  Also, we live in Rhode Island and frequently drive to Massachusetts and Connecticut.  Their familiarity with the locations helps the story feel real.

I only have one caution regarding this tale.  The historical negative attitude of the white settlers toward the local Native American tribes is very obvious.  No "bad" words are used but the prejudiced sentiment is clear.  Sarah's family is friendly with the Indians but even they have their limits.  This prejudice is especially prominent when Sarah's father leaves her with their Indian neighbors.  Sarah wonders if the Indian mother could possibly take good care of her children (she soon learns that the mother is an excellent caregiver).

I addressed this with my children by saying that their cultures were different so they didn't understand the Indians.  Not understanding different cultures makes some people afraid so they say and do unkind things.

Other than this one caution, I whole heartedly recommend The Courage of Sarah Noble.

Have you read this book?  What children's books about colonial American History do you recommend?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Benjamin Franklin Children's Book Recommendations (Part 1)

  • "When the well's dry, we know the worth of water."
- Benjamin Franklin

Several weeks ago I discovered that January 17 is Ben Franklin's birthday.  This fact, coupled with our study of early American history, led me to restrict our library books to just Benjamin Franklin (and bats for science).

When I say restrict, I'm talking almost obsession.  To the point that I maxed out my library's online reservation/hold system AND my husband asked me if I really needed that many books.  Why, yes, I did! 

After wading through 25 children's books about Benjamin Franklin, we have learned that he lived a fascinating life.  Printer, scientist, inventor, post master, politician, Founding Father, ambassador, musician and author were just a few of his titles.

Most of the books I discovered are really good but they also tend to be broad biographies.  Those have their place but I wanted to read details about specific parts of Franklin's life.  That's partly why I ended up with so many books.

Because I love to learn about great children's books from other moms, I'm sharing with you my favorite books about Benjamin Franklin.  I ended up with 12 favorites so I'm dividing them into 3 different posts.  First up...

General Biography - Not quite picture books but not chapter books either.

What's the Big Ida, Ben Franklin? by Jean Fritz.  Illustrated by Margot Tomes.  Published by Penguin Putnam, 1976.

Fritz has written many of the "gold standard" colonial history children's books.  It tells of Franklin's life from birth to death and has excellent illustrations.


Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire.  Published by Doubleday, 1950.  Reprinted (?) by Beautiful Feet Books.

Another "gold standard" among historical children's books.  The version I own has some colored illustrations and some black and white.  This is by design to go along with the curriculum we purchased from the publisher.  

My favorite part of this book is the short proverbs from Franklin on each page.  I think these quotes, such as "A sleeping fox catches no poultry," come from Franklin's Poor Richard's Almanac.


The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin by James Cross Giblin.  Illustrated by Michael Dooling.  Published by Scholastic Press, 2000.

I love the illustrations in this Franklin biography!  The pictures almost look like photographs and capture the culture and emotions of the colonial period perfectly. 

Activity Books - Even before we started homeschooling I liked to combine books with activities and field trips.  You don't have to home school to include this kind of fun in your family activities.

Each chapter gives a snippet about a specific time or event in Franklin's life.  Also included in each chapter are "Words to Know," "Fun Ideas to Try," and actual experiments.  The experiments and activities relate to the biographical information in each chapter.  

One fun experiment I'd like to try is to turn a regular pizza delivery box into a solar oven and bake cinnamon apples.  Having our yard covered with snow for almost a month has prevented us from testing this activity but I'm sure it would work in the summer.

I will say that I don't think the title is completely accurate.  I thought the experiments would actually be Franklin's but they are not.  So in that sense the book didn't meet expectations but other than that I highly recommend it!

Benjamin Franklin American Genius:  His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities by Brandon Marie Miller.  Published by Chicago Review Press, 2010.

This book is similar in format to the one just above, however, I think it is targeted for slightly older students of history.  Also, the activities are not specifically related to experiments.  Both books are excellent and different enough that owning both would be fun.

Miller includes a great deal of biographical and historical detail.  I would suggest students 9 or 10 years old as a good starting point but I think the info and activities would interest even a high school student.  I'd really like to try the dipping candles activity, Franklin's father was a candle maker so learning to make candles would fit well with the narrative, but I'm afraid my little guys might get burned.  Guess I'll just have to check out this book again in a few years.

What do you know about Benjamin Franklin?

Next month's book focus: George Washington (in honor of President's Day).

You might also be interested in:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Redecorating My Kitchen

My hubby and I spent Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend repainting our kitchen and hallway.  It's a small space but required a lot of prep work.  We pulled a chair rail off the wall, sanded the walls and trim so the paint would adhere better, washed the walls, spackled holes, sanded and cleaned the spackle and then painted 2 coats of paint.

You can understand why this is NOT a Family Fun Friday post!

Here's a before picture:

This is our kitchen AND dining room.

And after:

Notice the two electric outlets on the "large" wall.

You'll notice that things aren't decorated in these pictures. I have 3 plans for the room:  replace the vinyl flooring with a more modern looking vinyl, then order this table set from Walmart, and purchase Americana themed curtains and decorations for the wall.

I have a pretty good idea of what I want for the curtains - red checks- and throw rugs - oval braided rugs - but the decorations for the walls have me a little stumped.  I'm great for the big picture stuff but the details are hard for me.

The hardest part is that "large" wall with the two outlets in the middle.  I'm not sure how to work around those or cover them up.  I'm afraid one really big item (like a barn star) might look odd but a several small items might make that wall too busy.

I want to go with an Americana theme, with the country colors rather than bold.  If I have red curtains then I'm thinking green and blue for everything else. 

A few ideas I've had - plate holder, small chalk board, wooden American flag, a sign with a saying, wicker baskets hanging on the wall.

Do you have any suggestions?  Do you know of any websites or catalogs where I can order Americana items?

PS.  We are planning to put our house on the market to sell this spring so I want the kitchen to look cute and inviting but not overly "match-y" so that buyers won't notice how small the room is.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Proverbs15:1 -- Siesta Scripture Memory Team Verse 2

This year I am participating in the scripture memory challenge on Beth Moore's blog.

Basically you memorize 2 verses a month and post them in her comments on the 1st and 15th of each month.  I think this is a great way to memorize Bible verses together.

Will you join us?  The rules are here.  The first verse post is here.

Here is my second verse:

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."  
Proverbs 15:1 (NIV, NASB)

Are you memorizing scripture this year?  What system do you use?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snowday :: Family Fun Friday

"Train up a child in the way he should shovel and, when he is big enough, you won't have to." - Stephanie's paraphrase of Proverbs 22:6.

The great thing about shoveling snow is that my kids think we're having fun!  (In the interest of full disclosure I do very little of the actual shoveling.)  What they don't know is that Daddy is training them to take over the job when they are a little taller and stronger. {bwhahahaha!}

Ben helping Daddy shovel our driveway
after the Blizzard of Christmas 2010.

Until then we just hand them long ice scrapers/brushes and let them knock the snow off the vehicles.

Ellie (4 years) brushes the snow off Daddy's truck.

Ben (5 years) is a little taller so he gets to clean the van.

Letting kids help you with household chores, like shoveling snow, can take a little (or a lot) extra time but the memories you make together are worth an extra 30 minutes in the snow!

And when you are finished shoveling just throw in a few snowballs, snow angels, a snowman and you have a Family Fun Friday!

Have you been shoveling snow or building snowmen this winter?  When was the last time you had a good snowball fight?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst

Congratulations to Alicia and April.  You won last week's Made to Crave Giveaway!  I can't wait to hear your responses to the book!!

I wish that I could give every one of my readers a copy of this book.  Unfortunately I don't have that kind of money.  But you can purchase a copy of the book through

You can also watch Lysa's webcast at Every Monday night into February at 8:00 PM (Eastern) Lysa will be airing a live webcast about her book.  If you can't watch Monday night then you can catch it on Tuesdays at 4 different times.

I watched the first webcast and was blown away by the personal stories and professional quality.  I love Lysa's passion for her message that we can choose to turn to God instead of food for our emotional needs.

Did you watch the webcasts?  If so what did you think about them?

I missed the second one.  My hubby and I spent the weekend (plus Monday and Tuesday) cleaning, sanding and painting our kitchen and hallway.  It's a small space but when you are keeping tabs on 4 kids at the same time the painting goes a little slow.

Here's a little video of Lysa talking about her book. Take a couple of minutes to watch. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Anne of Green Gables Pop-Up Books

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge
A Big Imagination: An Anne of Green Gables Pop-Up Book. Retold by Rebecca Anne Krafft. Illustrated by Thea Kliros. Published by Ottenheimer Publishing, 1993.

Adventures at School: An Anne of Green Gables Pop-Up Book. Retold by Rebecca Anne Krafft. Illustrated by Thea Kliros. Published by Ottenheimer Publishing, 1993.

I picked up these two books from my library to read for the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge.  I wasn't really interested in reading Anne again this year but was curious about the pop-up books.  I also thought I could use them to introduce my daughter, Ellie, to Anne.

These pop-up books skim the first two Montgomery books in the Anne series.  Condensing novels of any size into 6 two-page spreads must be very difficult, especially with stories that are full of interesting scenes!

The pop-ups in the copies I picked up didn't work very well.  I'm sure this is because they are library books.  Pop-up books need to be handled with care and library books certainly don't get the level of care that owned books get!  (Or is that just at my house?)

Also, it's hard for me to look at the illustrations and not compare them to the images from the Anne of Green Gables DVDMegan Follows IS Anne and any illustration that isn't her just doesn't seem right.

These pop-up books are an interesting novelty that a die-hard Anne fan might be interested in owning.  Since I'm not one of those fans I'll just chalk this up as a fun one time read.

Have you read in novelty Anne books?  Can you imagine anyone other than Megan Follows as Anne?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cumberland Caverns :: Family Fun Friday

n.  One who explores caves chiefly as a hobby; a caver.

For about 2 hours my family became spelunkers at Cumberland Caverns, Tennessee.  Well, as much as one can be a cave explorer from the safety of the marked mile and a half trail.

Our guide, Jessica, did a great job of patiently answering our questions and explaining the various rock formations to us.

The guided tour takes about 1.5 hours and is a hike through the large cavern.  We only saw a small portion of the caves that exist.  Another type of tour takes you through areas that have no electric lights and require fitting through small openings.  You understand why we didn't opt for that one!

This was the first real cave my children have toured.  They were suitably impressed!  It's amazing how many different rock formations there are to see on and in our world.  Through the whole tour and for hours after we all marveled at the creativity of God.

Even Sam did great on this tour.  There were parts where we had to climb up and down steep steps cut into the rocks.  He insisted on doing it himself (while holding a hand for support).  I'm not sure if it was because he had fun climbing the steps or if it was because he's 2 years old.  Either way, Daddy and I were glad not to carry him for the 1.5 miles!

We had a great tour at Cumberland Caverns near McMinnville, TN.  I highly recommend taking your children.  It's worth the price of admission.

What caverns or caves have you visited?  Are there any near your home?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What should I blog about?

With the arrival of the new year I am evaluating my blog.  I'm thinking through and praying about why I blog, my goals for blogging and the content I want to see on my blog.

I have a pretty good idea of things from my perspective but I'd love to have your perspective on Stephanie's Mommy Brain!

Will you do me a favor and answer some, all, or just one, of the following questions in the comments?

  1. What is your favorite topic at SMB?  (grown-up books, children's books, Family Fun Friday, organization/family management, my RA story, my getting healthy journey, Habit Forming, food, home school, stories about my family, anything else that comes to mind)
  2. What topic would you like to read more?
  3. How do you feel about the title "Stephanie's Mommy Brain?" (Does it make sense?  Does it describe the blog?)
  4. What regular features would you like to see?  (something recurring like Family Fun Friday)
  5. What topics would you like to see go away?
  6. How do you read SMB posts?  (Through a blog reader?  A bookmark on your computer?  Follow Facebook links?  Other?)
  7. Have you ever commented?  (If not, WHY not?)
  8. Why do you read SMB?  (Because we're friends in real life?  For the tips and information?  Because you relate to the stories I share?)
  9. Which post is your favorite?
  10. Demographics:  single/married, male/female, age (just give decade), children (how many?), home school/other school.
Thank you for taking a couple of minutes to answer these questions.  I really want SMB to be beneficial so your input will help me accomplish that!

If you have any suggestions I didn't cover in the questions feel free to include them.  I just ask that you keep your comments constructive.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's in your pocket?

While unpacking suitcases from our recent vacation to Tennessee I delivered my children's clothes to the appropriate rooms.  A few minutes later I returned to the boys' room to find my five year old pulling PINE CONES out of a jacket pocket.

A jacket I had just unpacked from a suitcase.  A suitcase I had packed in Tennessee and never noticed the extra bulk.

What is it about little boys and hauling things home?!  Be it rocks, sticks or PINE CONES?  After 7.5 years as a Boy's Mom I've learned to just laugh and shake my head about these things.

So, what have you found in a pocket?  Anything living?  Or does the boy in your life smuggle things home that are too large for a pocket?  I'd love to hear about it!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.  Published by Bantam Publishing, 1989.

I chose to read The Blue Castle as a part of the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge for two reasons:  I wanted to read a novel that wasn't Anne and I wanted to read the novel that my friend, Carrie, named her photography business after.

The Blue Castle begins on Valancy's 29th birthday.  She has never had a "beau,"  is plain looking, and is pestered and bullied by an overbearing extended family.  To escape the reality of her dreary life Valancy created a Blue Castle in her imagination.  After being told she only has a year to live Valancy develops a backbone and makes choices that leave her family believing she has lost her mind.

I'm going to try really hard not to mention any spoilers in this review but it's going to be really hard!

I love Valancy's imagined Blue Castle.  I remember having similar daydreams about handsome young men and beautiful dresses.  I am a little disappointed that Valancy's daydreams weren't described in more detail.  I had hoped to read a flashback of sorts of an experience at the castle.  Instead it's all kind of lumped together in descriptive narratives.

I also like that Valancy found her backbone!  I emailed Carrie after reading the third chapter and told her the girl better start standing up for herself soon because I was getting really annoyed with her.  Thankfully she finally did - and sent her family into quite a tizzy!

As with Anne, I found myself skimming Montgomery's flowery, must-this-go-on-and-on descriptions.  I used to love that kind of writing but not so much now.  I think I'm more interested in descriptions that move the story along.

Now comes the hard part of the review.  I'm not thrilled with the ending.  I feel like Montgomery had in mind two possible endings, couldn't make up her mind which she wanted to use, so she watered them both down and combined them.  I wish she had picked just one and made it strong. 

That isn't to say I disliked The Blue Castle.  Just that I feel it was ... eh, a'ight (that's "all right" for those who don't speak Southern).  A good read on a cloudy afternoon but nothing to rave about.

Have you read The Blue Castle?  Have you ever imagined your own version of a castle?  If so, what was it like?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Losing Weight by Craving God, Not Food

Edit:  Giveaway is now closed.

Shortly after Christmas 2009, my husband, Joel, and I sat in our living room discussing our weight and health - again.

After birthing four babies in 5.5 years I carried 25-30 extra pounds.  It doesn't sound like much but when you are barely five feet tall ANY extra weight makes a big difference.  And this extra weight was impacting my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.

At some point during the discussion with my husband I said, "We will NOT weigh this much next year."

He agreed with me, again, that we had to make changes.  We always agree that we need to make changes.  It's the actual changing part that we have problems with.

My efforts floundered along with minimal success until the beginning of June.  At that time I joined a focus group for Lysa TerKeurst's book Made to Crave:  Satisfying your deepest desire with God, not food.

Wow!!  While reading Made to Crave things started changing for me.  In chapter 3 Lysa's says you need a plan.  So I looked around and found a healthy diet plan.  In chapter 9 Lysa talks about exercising (ugh) so I found a couple of exercise DVDs and began using them.  And I continued to read Made to Crave.

Actually, I didn't just read Made to Crave, I highlighted it.  I underlined it.  I circled it.  I wrote in the margins.  And on the cover I wrote quotes that really struck me.

Quotes like:

"I'm not on a diet.  I'm on a journey with Jesus to learn the fine art of self-discipline for the purpose of holiness."

The "scale indicates body weight, NOT WORTH!" (emphasis mine).

"All things are permissible but all things are not beneficial."                 (1 Corinthians 6:12)

By the end of the summer my self-discipline had paid off.  15 pounds lighter, I fit into sizes I never dreamed I would see again!  My energy level had increased exponentially and my emotions were more even-keeled.  And I felt closer to God than I had in years.

January 1, 2010
That's not to say Made to Crave is the magic cure for my weight problems.  It isn't, but it gave me useful mental scripts and motivation to work through my unhealthy attitude toward food. I'll take hard work that lasts over a magical illusion any day!

Now here comes the fun part!  Last week I received 2 books from Lysa's assistant Holly.  One for me and one to give away to a lucky reader.

BUT I believe in the message of this book so much I am willing to buy my own copy (the final version has a few changes from the manuscript I received this summer) so I am GIVING AWAY TWO COPIES of Made to Crave.

Here are the giveaway rules:
  1. Visit
  2. Leave a comment on this post telling why you want to win a copy of Made to Crave.
  3. Comments will be closed the evening of Sunday, January 16 and two winners will be selected.  
  4. Winners will be notified by email and have until Wednesday, January 19 to respond with their addresses or another winner will be selected.  REMEMBER to include your email address when you comment.  Otherwise I have no way to contact you.
While you are at check out the Made to Crave DVD and the weekly FREE webcast with Lysa TerKeurst. The first webcast is Monday, January 10th at 8:00 PM and should be a lot of fun!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hiking in Central TN at Fall Creek Falls :: Family Fun Friday

A vacation for our family almost always includes a hike at a park. I don't really think of us as outdoorsy or athletic but we enjoy climbing easy trails through state parks. There's just something fascinating about seeing God's creation.

Fall Creek Falls State Park in central Tennessee is DEFINITELY a park we'd like to hike again.

There are multiple trails of varying levels of difficulty. There is also a scenic drive with overlooks for those who can't hike up a mountain. Multiple picnic tables and a great playground would be perfect for a packed lunch on a summer day (not so great for the December day we were there).

From the Nature Center we walked down to The Cascades.

After that we decided to cross the cable bridge and hike a half mile to Falls Creek Falls. What they don't tell you is that half mile is all up hill!!

Let me tell ya, crossing this bridge with 4 children was a little nerve wracking!!

We saw a lot of beautiful forest on our hike up the mountain. And then the trees cleared and we found ourselves on the edge of a cliff.

The state park has several waterfalls but this was the closest one. We had a limited amount of time so we didn't get to see all of them. Maybe one day we'll go back and hike to all of the falls.

Do you like to hike or get outdoors on a vacation?  If so, what's your favorite place to go?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge 2011

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

I am once again participating in the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge at Reading to Know.  It's kinda hard to be friends with Carrie (Reading to Know) and NOT participate.  Her enthusiasm for Anne and all things Montgomery is contagious.

Since I read 3 of the Anne books last year (reviews are here and here) I didn't really want to revisit them this time around.  So I hopped on my library's online catalog and searched for Montgomery.  After careful deliberation I reserved five books:

In looking through my archives for this post I was surprised to see I had participated in this challenge in 2009.  I'm not surprised I forgot.  At the time I had a 3 month old infant, was homeschooling for the first time, and was just generally sleep-deprived and stressed!

I also laughed after I read my challenge intro post from 2010.  In it I say that I have just received the Anne of Green Gables DVD for Christmas.  Really?  I own the movie?!  I had to go downstairs and check my shelves for it.  Sure enough!  I own it!  So, I may try to watch the movie with my children and see what they think about it.

My plan is to read and review each of these books throughout January.  We'll see how well I do this year.

Do you have a favorite Anne of Green Gables scene or quote? Please share it in the comments!

Monday, January 3, 2011

I have a question. Do you have an answer?

Next week I am speaking to a local MOPs group about blogging.  One or two ladies already blog.  I have about half an hour to speak to them and will have my laptop hooked up to a projector so they can see what I'm doing.

So I have a couple of questions:

If you are new to blogging (and going to be in my audience), what would you want me to talk about?

If you are a blogging expert, what tips, ideas and links do you think I should tell them?  What do you wish someone had told you in the beginning?

Thanks for your help!!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Siesta Scripture Memory Team :: Verse 1

This year I am participating in the scripture memory challenge on Beth Moore's blog.

Basically you memorize 2 verses a month and post them in her comments on the 1st and 15th of each month.  I think this is a great way to memorize Bible verses together.

Will you join us?  The rules are here.  The first verse post is here.

My first verse is:

"But forget all that - it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.  For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."  Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT)

Happy New Year's Day!!

Happy New Year!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...