A little trivia fun…

Do you know the book this is from? It’s fairly popular but not new. And loosely related to my current multi-cultural journey, though it’s veered a bit off track and I haven’t had the opportunity to update you all on that yet – so that might not be a good hint at all. Nonetheless… here’s your quote:

The battle of good and evil reduced to a fat woman standing in front of a chocolate shop, saying, Will I? Won’t I? in pitiful indecision.

And that’s all I have… though it speaks to me a bit. You?


And so begins another literary journey…

I think I’ve mentioned before that sometimes I find myself caught up in a literary journey… I rarely am able to predict them but I always enjoy ’em. I have found myself at the start of one and I encourage you to join in. Recommendations are greatly appreciated, as I rarely have a plan for these things. Instead I just follow where the book path leads. I’ve never been disappointed in this sort of travel ūüôā

So Parenting Without Borders by Christine Gross-Loh book was really just picked up on a whim. It looked interesting and I was in the mood for nonfiction. I had no idea that it would be so meaty!

parenting without bordersHere’s the description from Amazon:

A primer on the world’s best parenting strategies‚ÄĒwith eye-opening research on the surprising disadvantages lurking in the typical American childhood.¬†

Research reveals American kids today lag well behind the rest of the world in terms of academic achievement, happiness, and wellness. Meanwhile the battle over whether parents are to blame for fostering a generation of helpless kids rages on. Christine Gross-Loh (who raised her young children in¬†Japan¬†for five years) exposes the hidden, culturally-determined norms we have about ‚Äúgood parenting,‚ÄĚ and asks, are there parenting strategies that other countries are getting¬†right¬†that we are not? This book takes us from Finland, and Sweden to Germany, France, Japan, China, Italy, and more, and examines how parents successfully foster resilience, creativity, independence and academic excellence in their children. Revealing the surprising ways in which culture shapes our parenting, Gross-Loh also offers objective, research-based insight into what strategies are best for children and why.

I just don’t think this fully does the book justice. I tend to shy away from books that tell me that as an American I’m doing everything wrong and some mom in France or China is doing everything right. I also don’t care for books that tell me that I should recreate some other culture here in my neighborhood so my kids can be successful. I truly believe that every culture and family has some great strengths. All we can do is our absolute best in the environment in which we live. I really felt that Christine Gross-Loh feels the same way. In reading the book, I didn’t uncover a long list of things that the American parent is failing at and every other culture is superior. I found the discussion of parenting styles to be unbiased and objective. She definitely points out where she thinks the typical American parenting is strong, for example our acknowledgement of each individual child and their needs. She points out our weaknesses, such as our¬†tendency¬†to over praise creating children who are over confident without a sense of accomplishment. She shares some great strengths from other cultures, such as their treatment of meal times as family bonding events. But I have to agree with her, there are some lengths that I think are a bit extreme and I have no desire to participate.

If you are mid- to late 30s, like me, you might remember a childhood full of freedom. Leaving out straight after school and making it back when the street lights came on. The time in between was filled roaming the neighborhood in packs. We made good choices, bad choices and narrow escapes. Thank God we made it out alive. But boy those were some great confidence builders! My children aren’t growing up in the same world. But they do need the freedom to have good and bad choices. I’ve never been a fan of helicopter parenting and this book certainly makes me feel justified.¬†I finished the book with a fresh perspective on my parenting priorities and the childhood that my children are experiencing.

My recipe was inspired by the chapter on the eating and meal preparation. It was a full family experience in eating. The french shaved salad provided easy opportunities for the little folks in my house to help in the kitchen.

shaved salad

Cut ribbons using a vegetable peeler from the following vegetables: Carrots, zucchini, cucumbers.
Thinly slice the following: celery, onion, red beets, snap peas.
Should equal about 3 cups total.

Top with:
1 – 2 T olive oil
juice of 2 lemons
crushed garlic
salt & pepper

And yes, since they helped make it… the kids ate it. Though I can’t say they’ll be begging to make it again.

Food Destination: Monastery of the Holy Spirit

This past week our family made a trip to the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. For us this was a full day trip, with a significant portion of it spent in the car. But boy, o boy, was it worth it! The Monastery operates as a retreat center. There were some folks there on a retreat during our visit. There is also a bonsai garden center, cafe & bookstore.

As recommended by their website, our family started our trip at the Welcome Center:

Welcome CenterThe Welcome Center is a fantastic walk through the history of monasticism. I was really surprised to see so much history outside of the Catholic/Christian tradition. Certainly I know there are monks outside of the Catholic religion, I’m just very impressed that the presentation was so extremely well rounded. After the general history lesson, there is the barn. This barn is the original location where the monk’s lived and worshiped early on. It has been transformed into a center that illustrates the life of a monk. Many of the exhibits offer an interactive feature which is always a blessing when touring with kids.

CellThis is a cell. Cell is how their ‘rooms’ are referred, which must make their mother’s proud ūüôā We were introduced to all aspects of their living, especially their commitments to prayer, silence, solidarity, and community. There’s a whole wall that shares the schedule of their day. Following the Welcome Center, we followed the Prayer Walk to the Abbey Church. The Prayer Walk is a nice stroll through beautiful, peaceful scenery. About half way, there is a marker explaining the history and practice of contemplative prayer. It was just fantastic and a great opportunity for our family to spend some quiet time enjoying our faith.

So your thinking… um.. food destination? That’s right, I said it. Food destination. Because while the monastery is worth the trip just for the quiet contemplation and history, the perk is in the fudge… or many other food stuffs available. These monk’s commit to financially providing for themselves through work. They do a wide variety of things from Bonsai trees to food. All of which, I might add, are located in the most wonderful BOOK STORE or at their online gift shop! While I’m sure the fudge would have been equally tasty without the visit, it was definitely worth the trip.

20130721-200708.jpg I’ve portioned these out to share. We selected two varieties: Maple Walnut is at the top. This is perfect for our family members that can’t have chocolate. It’s a maple-vanilla fudge with walnuts. It’s as smooth as velvet. The one at the bottom is the Southern Touch. The base is chocolate with ‘peach morsels and a touch of peach brandy.’ I think it is absolute heaven.

We enjoyed our day and ran into a monk from Ohio! ~ This was absolutely fantastic. I wish we would have had the opportunity to learn more about his journey to the Holy Spirit Monastery but will just be grateful for having made the trip at all.

Listening to NPR yesterday, I heard of The Jampot in Michigan. I agree whole-heartedly with this blogger, Monk’s are inherently cool. In addition to inspiring me to a higher commitment of service to our Lord, they offer us little earthly delights as well!

Miss Moore’s Books

We are big fans of playing with our food ~ every once in a while. Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough gave us a perfect reason too!

Miss MooreMiss Moore¬†Thought Otherwise is the¬†story of how Miss Moore an unconventional young lady¬†born in 1880 helped to open the doors of libraries to children. The book is a wonderful introduction to this period in history,¬†geography, and an appreciation for the historical view of children. It might seem that a picture book covering all of this might be dry or dull. But that just isn’t the case! I think in part to colorful and charming illustrations by Debby Atwell. Following the story of Miss Moore, the author includes additional information on other Trailblazing Librarians – perhaps that is what endears her to me so much! I think this would be a perfect picture book¬†to read aloud¬†prior to a library field trip or tour. This would help the children to understand what a priviledge it is to be able to participate in the library lending.

We decided to make books to celebrate Miss Moore. I originally found the idea over at Catholic Icing¬†with little Bibles. I intended to use it with my CCD class but time got away from me. Here’s a picture of her adorable little books:

photo courtesy of Catholic Icing

photo courtesy of Catholic Icing

Well aren’t those just adorable? I’m sure yours will look very similar to hers. She gives great directions. Here’s how I made mine:

Fig Newtons
Icing (massive quantities of powdered sugar and a touch of milk and vanilla extract)
Food markers

Trim the right edge off of the Newton. Spread icing over the top and sides so the book cover art shows nicely. Color in the design of your choice. Enjoy. That simple right? Here’s ours:

booksnewtonsPCan you tell we have an Erin Hunter fan here?

booksnewtonsAnd in the interest of full disclosure – we are food crafters. Not food artists or food stylists :o) They tasted delicious!

Mother-Daughter Book Club How-to Guide

Do you have a daughter that is growing up too fast? Are you hoping to maintain that wonderful closeness that you’ve cultivated over the last 10 to 12 years? Are you, like me, unwilling to accept the cultural expectation that daughters and mothers should be at odds? I think that there is a simple and fun way to directly impact these concerns. A Mother-Daughter Book Club!

In library school, we worked on a unit about building family literacy. Most of the information was for developing readers. But there was a suggestion of starting a family book club. Further investigating brought about the idea of a mother-daughter book club with friends and their mothers. I loved the idea! This would give us an opportunity to talk about some weighty topics in a non-threatening manners. Discussing the choices of characters is not personal. We can disagree, discuss, and pass judgement without any personal pride investment. There are numerous great resources to help put together your own Mother-Daughter Book Club. Scholastic offers selections, reading guides, and guidance. This has been a good resource for our group. My favorites though were these two books:

mother daughter

The Mother-Daughter Book Club Rev. Ed.: How Ten Busy Mothers and Daughters Came Together to Talk, Laugh, and Learn Through Their Love of Reading¬†was written by Shireen Dodson. She’s the mom in the pair that started their own book club for many years. They enjoyed reading and growing together. This book was very inspirational for me. It captured the kind of environment and relationships that I hope to¬†establish over time. I have faith that we can be successful and nurture one another as well.¬†They found a workable structure for themselves. They have a good list of age appropriate, engaging, and thought provoking books. There are discussion guides included for some of their favorites.


Book by Book: The Complete Guide to Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs by Cindy Hudson is another resource that I find valuable. This is the road-map to success. The nuts and bolts of start with this step, consider this, plan that…. those sorts of situations and challenges that one might not anticipate.The recommended book lists were a great reference list as we started to learn the commonalities in our reading preferences. I think that these two books are a great tool kit to get any group off on the right foot.

The mother-daughter book club gathers much of it’s strength from the addition of daughter’s friends and their mothers. This is a great opportunity to bring in other viewpoints to add richness to the discussion. Remember the purpose of¬†my Mother-Daughter Book Club is to aid in shaping my girl’s choices and maintaining a close relationship with her. Yours might vary. But let this purpose guide whom you invite into the group. This was a challenge a bit for me. There are mother & daughter sets that I greatly enjoy. They are funny, entertaining and warm my heart. But our fundamental beliefs are so different that I have concerns.¬†Do I want¬†someone who is combative and disrespectful of organized religion discussing belief systems? Or someone that thinks that women only belong in¬†the home to shape career choices? My determining factor is whether they are able to be tolerant and respectful of other’s beliefs. I did feel it necessary to¬†add an extra filter here.¬†I enjoy the company of very¬†opinionated and varied women. I don’t offend easily. But when I think of inviting others into my village to help mold my daughter, I feel an extra level of responsibility to her.

We are still early on in our book club with just a few meetings under our belt. As time goes on, I look forward to sharing our successes and challenges with you. I hope to inspire you to consider creating a book club of your own, if you’re not in one already. Are there any mother-daughter groups out there?

Make a List Monday: Favorite Family Read aloud Resources

We love to read aloud as a family. My favorite books for this purpose are those that give us plenty to discuss. A great example of this is Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes. This book is the tale of a boy who has his beloved dog taken. He searches tirelessly. This provided a lot of opportunity to talk about stranger danger and how to protect ourselves. But not every book has to carry a moral or virtue. Everytime you read with your kids¬†you build vocabulary. The quality time also lets them know that you value them and their education. Oops, it appears I’ve mounted my soapbox. Let me just share my top five favorite resources for finding great family read alouds:

Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum

Ambleside Online A Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool curriculum

Newbery Medal Winners

1000 Good Books List (one of many lists – if this one does fit your fancy google for another)

Of course – last but not least-


Does your family keep a read aloud going? What are your recommendations?