Thursday, September 22, 2016

In case you thought we all did was read around here...

We also find time to make crafts for fun and for others. 
 We take pictures in the cute pink chair with the arch of tutus at the dance store while getting new ballet shoes for Arabella. 
 We uphold the tradition of swimming on Labor Day at our friends' the Ostermiller's house. 

 The kids are using the blue cooler like a dive bell. 
We meet Lily's new teachers and play in the really cool learning lab. 

 Get all dolled up for church. 
 Start preschool - this is Jane Ostermiller who was super excited for her first day of preschool. Lily is indeed sporting Christmas socks! 
 We attempt potty training which goes really well for the first week and then takes a nose dive since but we will persevere. She will get it, right?!
 We put little girls in buckets! 
 We attend city council meetings for Cub Scout awards and...
 enjoy a beautiful night sky together on the way home.  (And Jon got more of his braces put on.)
 We collect giant trophies from friends to transform into the awards for the ward chili cook off. 
We get all dressed up for church a few more times and once mom makes you pose for a picture. (Don't they stair step down nicely height wise?) 

 We attend school fundraiser nights with In N Out burgers- yummy! 

 We go to pack meeting and Jon earns his Weblos award (stop growing up!).

 And we volunteer at the book fair where mom may need to entertain two year olds by taking pictures of them and selfies. 
September has been busy and fun and fulfilling. 
I also started teaching piano lessons this month to 9 other kids besides Jon and Arabella. That has made from some scheduling changes and we are still adjusting but it has been a fun experience for me to teach. I do love music and I hope to help others love it too. 
Peter and I have continued on our Dave Ramsey adventure and I am happy to report that except for our mortgage (Dave approve debt) WE ARE DEBT FREE!!! It is liberating! We still have plenty to get in order and our budget is a work in progress but I am feeling much better about where our money is going and how WE are choosing to spend it. We are praying we can keep up the momentum. 
September there are 8 days of you left and I hope they continue to be as good as the first 22. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Summer Reading Part 2

I decided back in April that I wanted to read the Book of Mormon in 100 days. I really wanted to read it and not listen to it on my phone.  I figured I needed to ready about 5 pages a day.  This seemed really reasonable and the first few weeks went really well and then school was out and life was a bit more crazy. So I started listening to some of those pages on my phone and reading when I could. I ultimately missed by goal by 2 days.  
I loved reading it and reading it quicker than I had ever before. I was moved by different parts and heard/read things that had specific meaning and content for me at this time in my life. It is a book filled with truth, meaning, teachings, guidance, direction, purpose, great stories, and love from our Father in Heaven. 
As my summer was winding up I finished reading the Book of Mormon and then listened to the book A Million Miles in A Thousand Years by Donald Miller. He said near the beginning of his book that the Bible is a good story about good characters but there is not a lot of direction given in it or something along those lines. I was a bit bothered by this notion and thought what is he talking about. He explains a bit further but in the end all I could think was that he needed to read the Book of Mormon because it was full of instruction and good stories.  The Bible is wonderful and he references it regularly but I felt so much peace in knowing that yes, I have the bible and it teaches me but The Book of Mormon is true and fulfilling. 

The second thing that occurred about 2 weeks after I finished is that we went and saw the new Ben Hur movie. We had intended to see a different movie but had our times mixed up and missed it so we decided to see this instead. I had not seen the original for 20 or so years and had forgotten most of the storyline.  I did not realize that Jesus was a key character in the plot.  He appears multiple times throughout the movie and influences the main characters multiple times.  The main couple in the story is separated for several years and the girl finds Jesus, listens to him and becomes a follower.  The man becomes a slave and his heart is hardened and he seeks revenge.  They are eventually reunited but it becomes obvious how Jesus and his teachings have allowed the girl to move past the wrongs that have taken place and move forward.  For the man, his need for revenge ultimately enrages the masses and plays a role in the desire for the public to crucify Jesus.  I do not know if this is historically accurate but it was very interesting to consider.  I loved the most how the power of Jesus and his love work in the lives of these people and they are able to find hope and new beginnings.  I was reminded of the Book of Mormon and the many people in it who are able to turn their lives around because of Jesus.  If we will come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit He will make us better than we could have every imagined. 

If it has been awhile since you read the Book of Mormon, I challenge you to start again and make it a part of your daily life. I felt an increase in the Spirit in ways I had not anticipated and I was so grateful for. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Summer Reading Book Report Part 1

So we will just say it now, most of these books I did not read but listened to through the app Hoopla using my library account. You cannot beat free audio books. I do read but I have much more time to listen to books while I am getting ready in the morning, making dinner, or doing the dishes or any other cleaning for that matter. I also like to listen while I exercise. 

Remember at the end of the school year our internet stopped working and it was not restored until the end of June. Well, that is when I really started using the Hoopla app. I decided it was a good idea to give a bit of a report on the reading/listening I did this summer. 
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is of course a classic. It was first read to me in my 8th grade English class by my teacher Mr. Robbins (my dad's best friend since they were old enough to walk). I love this story and how it tells of growing up, gaining understanding, learning how the world is different depending on if it is seen from the eyes of a child or an adult, people are regularly inaccurately judged based on heresay. It is of course a book about racial inequalities and the struggle this country had to find a way of making all men equal.  I look at our world today and wonder if we have actually made it. I know we are better than we are but it seems now we have so many fears about being politically incorrect that we are hiding our past which will lead to forgetting it and accepting everything as equal even if it is morally questionable. I do not know what the answer is. 
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Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall
I just found out this is being made into a movie. As Peter and I were sitting in the movie theater, I could hardly contain my excitement.  It is a book that will pull at your heart strings.  This is a true story that takes place here in Fort Worth, TX. There are amazing people in this world who earnestly seek to do good for others and not just once but every day or every week. They can then pull the best out of other people who may have forgotten that they had that kind of goodness or strength or value in them.  This book was truly inspiring to me and I am so excited to see the movie.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
I really enjoyed this book. I felt it was an interesting twist on a well used end of the world type storyline. I became interested and attached to the characters.  When I finished I was excited to start the next book. 
The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey
This book was still a good and interesting storyline but in the end I was really disturbed by what the author was having these children do and say.  Nine year old kids should not be turned into blood thirsty soldiers with mouths to match any adult military person.  The language was so awful by the kid characters in this book I could not bring myself to read the final book in the series. I also have no desire to see the movie that has been made of the first book. I have reflected on this book a great deal and been so bothered by the child soldiers and how wrong it felt.  Then just last week I heard a story on NPR about how ISIS (and I know many other radical groups in the world) take children as young as 9-12 and turn them into soldiers.  Suddenly this sci-fi-fantasy book of child soldiers killing in cold blood did not seem too far off from what some parts of the world are already like.
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The Selection
The Elite
and The One
all by Kiera Cass
After feeling so heavy and disturbed by the above book, I need something light hearted and this was a good pick.  I loved the characters and the Cinderella like story of a common girl becoming a princess.  Like many trilogies I think the first book was the best but the others were not bad and kept my interest. There is one more companion novel that I have not read but I did not really have a desire to read it.  The plot was a bit predictable in places but overall I really enjoyed these books and moved through them quickly.
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all by Caragh M. O'Brien
This author popped up as a suggested author based upon the books I had already listened to and so why not.  I loved these books. The main character has a burn on the side of her face which sets her apart from most everyone.  She is a midwife and in this (yes) post end of society as we know it, setting she has to deliver up the babies she delivers to the enclave within 90 minutes of delivery.  There are so many things that happen and parts of this book made me ponder on some of the practices that have taken place throughout the world like the one child rule and the overall lower birth rates in the world.  More than one civilization in this series is struggling to survive due to a limited gene pool but they struggle to make the hard decisions necessary to improve the situation.

The Money Saving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine
I have been really wanting and needing to fix our budget and saw this book and thought, why not? It was a good book with lots of suggestions.  There were several things that I looked into that are just no worth my time to make such a small return.  But, ultimately this book and my desires led me to talking with my good friend Lindsey Maas about her new budgeting plans. That conversation took place just before our summer vacation and so I picked up her recommended book from the library just before we left:
The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Peter and I read the whole book while driving in the car. We wold stop during and after each chapter and discuss what it was that we needed to look at in our budget, insurances, investing, and priorities.  We made a to do list of all of these things.  It was interesting that as we read and discussed we would say one thing and then read a bit further and come to realize that we were wrong or at least misguided.  We have joined the Dave Ramsey way of life and it does feel good. We have removed all credit cards from our wallets (Peter still has one for work which will go away eventually too) and we will be closing them out in the next week.  Every Dollar is the app we are using to track our expenses. We had money at 4 different banks- long story- and have taken 2 down to the minimum and by the end of this weekend we will be closing our accounts completely at the one bank.  I had been using cash for many of my transactions for a few years but now I do even more.  Our insurance policies are adjusted or completely changed and should be finalized by next week which will then allow us to pay our car off.  We will be debt free except for our mortgage which is already on a 15 year mortgage and we had been making additional payments at least once a year. Peter listens to Dave's talk show everyday.  They are like best friends now.  Peter has been amazing and has done so many calculations and spread sheets; I am so thankful he is a math nerd because it has made this process much easier.  I also decided to teach piano lessons when the opportunity kind of popped up in front of me.  We feel good about the direction we are going and know we will feel a greater sense of financial freedom.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
This was another recommended author.  This looked good and playful.  It was a bit rough though.  I listened to more than half of the book before I really felt much of an attachment to the characters. I don't know if it was the reader (that has happened to me before) or the storyline but I am skeptical if I will ever listen to any of the subsequent books.
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A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
I loved this book. I loved the idea of seeing the words that are attached to people.  I loved that the main character could understand so much about a person just by watching them and observing the words that stuck to them.  At one point the main character sees the word hope attached to a picture and describes it this way "Hope doesn't flicker or fizzle or burn out. Hope isn't the same as other words. Hope holds steady."  Someday I am going to sit down and pretend I can see the words that hang around the people in my family and list them all down.
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Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
This was a great book as well. What kind of story am I living? Is it a good one? Am I providing a good story for my children to live or am I setting them up to follow what ever story falls in front of them no matter how sad it may be? I am not certain that I have ever read a memoir before but I am so glad I read this one.  I actually heard about it while listening to Dave Ramsey.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
I have meant to read/listen to this book for quite some time but just never got to it. Joseph has really wanted to read it.  He tried to buy it at the book fair at his school but when he remembered to take money it was sold out. It was a really good book. There were definite reoccurring themes from other young adult literature but the added twist of powers like xmen or super heroes was fabulous. I am anxious to read the next book in the series.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
This was recommended to me by 2 different friends and so I decided it was a must. I loved it and look forward to listening to more adventures of Miss Flavia De Luce.  The reader was fantastic as well.  Clever little mysteries generously sprinkled with literary allusions.
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Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell
Now, some of you will think I am a hypocrite after reading the above review of The Infinite Sea and my disgust with the language and then read this book which I loved.  It is the story of a Navy Seal who is the lone survivor of an operation and his survival is quite impressive.  Now, I have mentioned that he is a Navy Seal and we have all heard the saying "talks with the mouth of a sailor", well, that is beyond true for this book.  It is full of swearing, although if I were in his shoes I probably would have used some choice words of my own.  As I have pondered my own hypocrisy I realized that what bothered me about The Infinite Sea was that the author had young children swearing like sailors and in this book they are grown men.  Swearing is still bad and I get really uncomfortable around people who swear a lot. This story is touching and I will never look at service men and women the same way.  Their bravery, courage, strength, valor, and commitment are enough to bring me to tears.  In fact, the other day I was listening while I was running and choked back tears a few times which is really hard to due when you are cruising along in the middle of your run.

Well, that is what I have for you today, I did finish one more book this summer but I will write about it next time. I hope you find a book or two that might interest you.