What I’m Into: July 2014

feet at beach





So Summer is 2/3 over for us. The season of swimming at the beach, swinging at the park, and fresh garden produce covering every inch of kitchen counter space. Why must it ever end?

We went vacationing with my family . . . we stayed in a cabin up north in Tobermory, Ontario, where the water is icy-cold and crystal blue. I got a chance to do lots of reading out on the porch. It was lovely.

And here’s what I’ve been into!



Hyperbole and a Half (Allie Brosh) — like everyone who’s ever been on the Internet, I’ve read and LOVED Allie’s brilliant and hilarious blog. When I saw that my brother owned a copy of the book I took it home and read it in two days. Some of the content is from the blog and still every bit as funny. And the new stuff absolutely slew me. It’s a very quick read, on account of all the pictures. Pure fun. (Also: language.)

A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions About Christian Nonviolence (Ed. Tripp York and Justin Bronson Barringer) — You guys, this book has been hard for me to read. Not because it’s too academic or too abstract — it’s not — but because it’s very compelling. And it makes me wonder if I really want to follow Jesus that much after all, because he asks a LOT of us. I’m not sure I want to give up my life. I’m not sure if I can do it. And at the same time, the message is so captivating and beautiful . . .

This collection of essays tackles all of the most common arguments against Christian pacifism, from “What would you do if someone attacked a loved one?” to “What about Hitler?” Each chapter is written by a different author, so each one has its own unique voice and perspective. It’s very readable while still being academically robust. And in reading it, I’m torn between not wanting to be a true follower of Jesus because it sounds so demanding and feeling like I couldn’t possibly do otherwise.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (Anthony Esolen) — This is the first nonfiction book in a while that I’ve actually found addictive. I couldn’t put it down. It’s exciting, challenging, and provocative. I was totally hooked from the first page. And while I didn’t agree with nearly everything in the book — I basically skipped the whole chapter on patriotism — I was definitely challenged in a lot of my ideas about education. He really got me to re-think my aversion to rote memorization and grammar lessons.

Esolen writes from the perspective of someone who wants to kill children’s imaginations — a la C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters — and thus explores ways to do that: keep them indoors, keep them under constant supervision, keep them endlessly busy, etc. It’s a very interesting trope, though he often seems to forget what he’s doing and gets rapturous describing the things he’s supposedly fighting against (spending time in nature, reading great literature, etc.) Also: he writes like a mid-century Oxford professor. Which is strangely refreshing — I’m a huge Lewis fan, after all — but it also means he writes from a very andro-centric, euro-centric perspective, which is mildly annoying. I kept having to check back at the date of publication to reaffirm that it was, in fact, published in 2010. He makes jabs at feminists and truly believes all the best literature in history was written by white men. Weird. Oh well.

Children’s Books


I recently started to think that at almost-three, maybe I should expand Lydia’s spiritual education beyond mealtime prayers and loving example. I thought it might be a good idea to introduce her to the characters and stories of the Bible. So I pulled out a children’s Bible I’d bought for her a year ago — The Beginner’s Bible. I had one like it when I was a kid.

Lydia absolutely loves it, and has spent tons of time poring over the pictures; but honestly, I am not a fan at all and plan to get rid of it once her fascination wanes. It makes all the stories seem too cutesy and cartoonish. It does not inspire one with a sense of wonder and awe. All of the fish in the pictures have big googly eyes and are grinning. Even the ones Jesus multiplies for the five thousand. What the crap? And look how Goliath is hanging out innocently with David, Jesus, and the other Bible characters on the front cover. How does that make sense?

Jesus is introduced as a nice dude who likes kids, who fixes owies and brings people back to life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesus is all, “Hey! Wanna be pals? We can live in the clouds together!”

I’m not crazy about the theology, either — the dictionary at the back defines a Christian as some who “believes Jesus has forgiven their sins and will someday live with him forever in heaven.” There’s a lot of emphasis throughout on how we’re going to go live with Jesus in heaven someday. Um. Not exactly the dominant message I’m trying to send my child. “Believe the right things and you can live in the clouds where everything is awesome!”

I was relieved to see that the floods and wars and other horrific violence weren’t present — I still feel she’s too young for those kinds of things — but it kind of made me question what exactly I do want her to know from the biblical stories.

I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of literature would be the best for instilling a sense of reverence for God and a love for goodness and God’s beloved creation. Perhaps the Bible is out entirely until she’s older? Suggestions?

Moving on . . .

Harold and the Purple Crayon (Crockett Johnson) — this book is delightfully original and imaginative. The word play is clever but simple enough for a three-year-old to enjoy. Thanks to this book, Lydia has added a number of new words and phrases to her vocabulary, such as “frightening” and “drop off to sleep.” I love it. The only downside is that it has inspired Lydia to colour on walls with purple crayons.


Arabella Miller’s Little Caterpillar (Clare Jarrett) — lovely illustrations, pleasant rhythm/rhyme, learning about the life cycle of butterflies. What’s not to love?


No movies here! It’s summer, remember?


OK, so we have been watching some TV. Ben lured me into watching the first episode of The Mindy Project, and we’ve gotten pretty far into the first season already. That show is hilarious. I love what a charmingly complex character Mindy is — she’s intelligent, confident, and independent; but also often silly, gullible, and melodramatic. The jokes fly so quickly you’re not even done laughing at the first one before you’re laughing at the next. Very addictive.

With the Munchkin

I spent way way too much time working on these sandpaper letters for Lydia.

Montessori sandpaper lettersThey’re inspired by the popular Montessori material meant to aid children in learning the phonetic alphabet. You introduce each letter not by its name but by its phonetic sound, and have the child trace over the letter while she repeats the sound. The tactile experience is supposed to help her associate the sound with certain muscular movements, which will be helpful in writing. (I followed this tutorial.)

Anyway, cutting out the letters from sandpaper took a million years. Fortunately we did most of it while watching Mindy Project.

We also tried this craft — making flower mandala sun catchers. The result was pretty, but I’ll have you know that Lydia whined and complained through every stage of their creation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat was my month! How about yours?

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Linking up with Leigh Kramer.

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  1. Hi Kathleen, it’s been a real treat reading your linkup. I paused part way through to order ‘A Faith not worth fighting for’ on my Kindle and in these days of terrible news seeping in from all over the world I know I will benefit from reminding myself why I am a pacifist and what that means even as my heart cries out for the establishment of peace and justice everywhere.
    And I did have a wry chuckle over your comments on the child’s Bible. they can be very hard to get right! I think we had a Lion children’s Bible that was quite good but it was a long time ago now. Mine are all grown up (and not great Bible readers at all at the moment but very kind and loving young women!). Thanks for the good read.

  2. I agree, a good children’s Bible is so hard to find! We have the Children of God Storybook Bible, which is great for the littles. One of my daughters is slightly younger than Lydia, and she enjoys it just as much as my five year old. The book has Desmond Tutu’s name on the front, although I kind of doubt he authored every single story. The book is illustrated by authors all over the world, so sometimes Jesus is white, sometimes he’s black. I think there might even be an Asian Jesus. The picture of the Last Supper is particularly gorgeous. It also handles topics like the Flood in an appropriate manner, focusing on Noah and his family and the animals, rather than all the suffering and devastation. There are 56 stories in all, divided pretty evenly between the Old and New Testaments. And it contains stories that I’ve never seen before in a small child’s Bible, like the story of Isaiah and Naboth’s vineyard. Anyways, that’s my plug for what is the best children’s Bible I’ve come across. Then when they get a little older (5ish?) there’s the classic Egermeier’s Bible Story Book; there’s a reason that one’s been around for 100 years.

  3. And I’m wrong; Desmond Tutu apparently did write the stories.

  4. Hi Kathleen,

    Another children’s Bible to consider is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. The illustrations are vibrant and the writing is beautiful, especially in that every story really is tied back to Jesus and his great love for us. No googly-eyes in this one. We love it!

    • I second The Jesus Storybook Bible. =)

    • I actually disagree with this. We were given this Bible at our daughter’s dedication at church, and although I haven’t read the whole thing, I wasn’t too impressed by what I did read. When talking about Jacob, Rachel, and Leah, it describes Rachel as the kind of girl who was pretty, popular, and got invited to all of the parties. What!? I just found that line particularly ridiculous. It was trying too hard to be hip and trendy.

  5. Hi Kathleen! I love that picture of your happy daughter in that clear, clear water. And I love that you included children’s books in this list. Maybe I will do the same next month!

    Thanks for pointing me to 10 Ways… I’m going to check it out next on amazon.
    Erica Layne recently posted..Wholehearted Living: Moving Through ShameMy Profile

  6. “And look how Goliath is hanging out innocently with David, Jesus, and the other Bible characters on the front cover. How does that make sense?” <— that made this ex-Catholic (read: one who doesn't know the Bible all that well) laugh!

    Rebecca recently posted..Project Choosing Raw: Week 1My Profile

  7. Thanks for sharing all of this. I love finding new books to read, and I really appreciate your opinions. I think my daughter (same age) may have the same bible, and yes, I found it a stretch. I think in ours, the author doesn’t even say that Jesus dies, just that he goes to live up in heaven.

    We recently got the Spark story bible as a gift. I haven’t read very many of the stories, but so far I love it! They’re a little wordy (a lot of words per picture) but my daughter still loves the stories and it will be something she grows into. Anyway, I just think the way it is written is very creative and actually good writing. The pictures are still cutesy, but I don’t mind.

  8. Hi Kathleen,

    Thanks for sharing this! I just started following your blog today :)

    Have you heard of AWANA? From their website: “Awana is a global, nonprofit ministry committed to the belief that the greatest impact for Christ starts with kids who know, love and serve Him.” Here is a link to learn more about it: http://awana.org/about

    Churches usually hold AWANA one night of the week and it’s from ages 2 – highschool. There’s lesson and children memorize Scripture and hear the Gospel. But they have at home programs as well. Are you planning on homeschooling? AWANA offers homeschooling kits with the curriculum. Your daughter is about 3 years old? She would be in the Cubbies program. http://store.awana.org/store/Cubbies%20%283yr.%20olds%29%20Home%20School%20Kit/MV-Cubbies3HS,default,pd.html?start=2&cgid=home-school-family

    Hope that helps! Have a blessed weekend!

  9. I loved reading Jesus Story Book Bible to my godson. We read it right through a few months when he was 2 and 3, and I cried a number of time. (I do remember not loving the Leah and Rachel one as much as the others.) I would say, don’t be afraid to skip phrases or sentence for now that you don’t think she’s ready for (just remember if you do, because she’ll likely want it read the same way next time.) Also, you can tell her the stories from memory! For a long time they were oral traditions! My goddaughters get a Jesus and the Disciples story from their Dad almost every night before bed. Your summer looks awesome!
    Amy Rogers Hays recently posted..Newbery Review # 13 (Invincible Louisa, Meigs, 1934)My Profile

    • That’s an interesting idea, Amy — telling the stories from memory. I don’t know if I’d feel confident enough to do this without re-reading the stories first myself, though. :)

  10. I had the same kids bible as you when I was younger and we did not get that for our kids. It was just silly and seemed to ‘nice’. We really like The Jesus Storybook Bible. There are a few funny lines here and there, but I read it to my toddlers, so I’m ok with funny business. It’s my go-to baby gift.
    Also, LOVE The Mindy Project. I loved her on The Office and I love her even more on her own show!

  11. I love your sandpaper letters! Very impressive. I did a busy bag swap about a week ago that entailed cutting out 20 sets of animal shapes and my arm was sore for the few days after from so much cutting. Pretty pathetic. Anyway, did you mount them on card stock or wood? I’m wondering if it would be possible to just use glue and loose sand, or if that would fall off with so much little finger touching.
    We have a few children’s spiritual books (like a gospel, christmas, and Easter book) by maite roche, I believe, that I think are pretty solid but yeah, a lot of hard stuff to understand happens in the bible. I think this will be one of our biggest parenting challenges: teaching our faith at an age appropriate level.

    • We mounted them on wood boards, since Ben always has tons of scraps from his work. I experimented with card stock and it seemed too flimsy. I wounder if there’s a good in-between . . . I’ve often heard masonite board recommended, which I believe you can get from hardware stores. I also experimented with glue and loose sand, but it also didn’t seem to hold up to much use. I tried this puffy paint, and it seemed like a decent alternative, acceptable, though if I were to use it I would make them much bigger and use a sturdier card/board. (I did it just like the tutorial, and they were too small and flimsy.)

      And I’m starting to think you’re right — teaching our faith at an age-appropriate level, without dumbing it down or making it seem trivial, is a real challenge!

  12. To play devil’s advocate here…what is wrong with books for children being childish? I mean, that particular Bible storybook seems a bit ridiculous, but you have to start somewhere. Children aren’t theological scholars; their focus is going to be on different things (like pretty pictures). And that’s okay. The point is to start exposing them to the stories. Things that are okay when you’re three aren’t okay when you’re five or seven or eleven or a teenager or an adult. (I’m not sure whether or not this is my actual opinion, since I’m still working through my thoughts on the subject, but thought it was something to consider.)

    Rex has a few different Bible storybooks, including one published by CPH (the Lutheran publishing house, since we’re Lutheran) that includes some prayers (I think the Lord’s Prayer and Luther’s morning and evening prayer?), and I like some stories and dislike others in all of them. But mostly all he cares about is pointing out the birds and dogs and “roars” (lions, tigers, etc.) and lifting the flaps on the lift-the-flap one. So y’know. Clearly he’s not absorbing much of any kind of message yet.

    He was also given an Advent calendar with a bunch of (mostly Christmas) Bible stories in it, but at the back it has a whole thing leading you through a “sinner’s prayer” so you can be saved, and that part got torn out since it made me mad and is very un-Lutheran. ;-) So it’s clearly something we’re struggling with, too. And I think that while we might keep some of the storybooks in the rotation, I’m really looking for a just a normal Bible with some pictures. I don’t know if that exists. I seem to recall having an illustrated Bible as a kid that was abridged (it definitely did not include some of the more gruesome stories from Judges!), but told most of the main stories more or less verse by verse, rather than as a summary. Basically, I’m down with the idea of reading the actual Bible even to little kids. But pictures are nice.

    Anyway, clearly that is the one part of your post everyone has latched on to! But I added some of the adult books you read to my library list, loved the pictures of your vacation, and agree that summer is free to hang on for several more months. :-)

  13. Your thoughts on A Faith Not Worth Fighting For, are very interesting! I never thought Jesus was asking us to be Pacifists. I understand in quarrels among believers he asks us to be peacemakers, but pacifists that is new to me! I know in the Old Testament God allows time for war and that there were allowances for self defense. I will have to read this book, thanks for posting! But I would encourage to walk moment by moment And not to be discouraged! These past few years I have gone through many trials that I never thought possible to get through, and I amazed at the strength God has given me in the midst of it all. He is definitely a God worth fighting for! Love your blog and thoughts! Thanks for posting!
    18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. Romans 8:18-27

  14. Ha! And I get how you feel about the children’s Bible, my daughter and son love looking at the pictures though! But I feel like it leaves a lot out, so I retell them the stories from what I read in the regular Bible and leave out tedious things or violent things. I try acting it out for them too. Sometimes if we are in a situation that reminds of a verse or story, I just start telling them one. Lol And they love to hear the stories! We even draw our own pictures. Brian Wildsmith has some really awesome books for kids about the Bible with great art work.

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