Category Archives: Reviews

Books, Movies, Music, Games, even Blogs that we review.

War Room

For many years, we’ve been big fans of Sherwood Baptist Church, and the Kendrick brothers’ movies. First there was Flywheel, then Facing the Giants, then Fireproof and (breaking the ‘F’ mold) Courageous.

About a week ago, a new movie hit the big screen: War Room

An excellent movie, worth your time and money.

An excellent film, worth your time and money.

Kathy arranged to meet several other couples to see the movie at our nearby theater with reclino-seats, and we settled in to enjoy the show.

I unreservedly endorse this movie. It is a well-made, well-acted film made by people who really know what it is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Seeing this movie was significantly encouraging to me, and I expect it to continue to bear fruit in my life over the next weeks and months.

Afterwards, we noticed our Pastor and his wife sitting toward the front, and invited them to come to dinner with us. Eventually, we all ended up at Colin and Julee’s house, spending several hours eating takeout, talking about the movie and about how we handled the question of our children dating, and generally enjoying a very pleasant time of fellowship and ice cream.

Round up the usual suspects ...

Round up the usual suspects …

It is a little strange for Kathy and I to be entering this new phase in which we have relationships with other adults apart from our children. David and Sarah were away, visiting Grandma and Grandpa, and so we just hung out with these dear friends, almost as if we were grown-ups.

Project 365, Day 249

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A Cousin, Once Removed

We spent the Memorial Day holiday with my nephew and his bride, and their new baby, my Grand Nephew. We ate delicious burgers, played games, went for a walk, scrounged a casual dinner and watched the beginning of the third Hobbit movie.

A 'quick' game of Robo Rally with my niece and nephew.

A ‘quick’ game of Robo Rally with my niece and nephew.

It was a delightful day, much enjoyed. I managed to win all three of the games, although not without a certain amount of mercy when I forgot to take my entire turn (or took an obviously-foolish action). We played Robo Rally, Star Realms and the DC Comics Deck Building game — an excellent way to spend a day off.

John spent some quality time with Rachel, who sprained her ankle yesterday.

John spent some quality time with Rachel, who sprained her ankle yesterday.

I needed to talk a walk before supper to earn some extra calories (and to make sure I don’t have to pay Daniel a forfeit for missing out on our exercise challenge). We did two laps around a nearby lake, and managed to put John to sleep (in spite of my wild driving). It has been a long time since I drove one of those stroller things.

A mostly-staged photo for the blog.

A mostly-staged photo for the blog.

During the walk, there was much discussion about whether little John Mark was a second cousin or a cousin once-removed to my children. Fortunately, the interweb helped us understand that my kids (Joshua, for example) are cousins once-removed from Little John (as Joshua calls him). I removed Joshua into the underbrush to underscore the point.

We are so thankful to have Tim and Sunny and little John with us here in Washington!

Project 365, Day 145

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When I was a child we lived far from any of our extended family members, so summers were usually spent driving to either Virginia or Minnesota (sometimes both in one summer) from our home in southeast Michigan. The trips were long and (use your imagination here, young readers) took place with NO cell phones, iPods, dvd players, or other hand-held games. Eventually we acquired Sony Walkmans and earphones and could pass the time with our favorite cassettes (and music we taped from the radio).

To pass the time, my amazing mother would read aloud to us. For Hours! She held us captive with silly stories and dramatic tales. Our most often-read and favorite books were by a Canadian author named Gordon Korman. When Tim and I got married, Tim drove all around my hometown looking for copies of old Korman books so we could have our own collection.

David LOVES a good book.

David LOVES a good book.

And so a tradition has continued. We have read and re-read these books for years. Korman wrote and published his first book in JUNIOR HIGH!!! These fun young adult books are clever, well-written and full of memorable characters.

On this rainy day, Tim picked up Son of Interflux, and started to read. Such a great story. And a joy to me that Tim has continued this tradition from my family and passed on these hilarious tales to our children.

Snuggle, reading time!

Snuggle, reading time!

I can’t speak for ALL of Gordan Kormans books, but these are some of our all time favorites:

Can one student and his disgruntled classmates thwart a giant corporation's attempt to build a new complex on school land?

Can one student and his disgruntled classmates thwart a giant corporation’s attempt to build a new complex?

Running AWAY from camp has never been so funny.

Running away from camp has never been so funny.

A hilarious story about friendship, poetry and an attempt to reverse one's bad luck.

A hilarious story about friendship, poetry and an attempt to reverse one’s bad luck.

“Whatever you do, DON’T lose my apartment.” 3 friends crazy adventures in the big city.

A drummer, a

A drummer, a “flute-guy”, one celebrity and two theives make for a hysterically funny story.

A loveable con artist?  Attack jelly, Cow Experts?  So funny!

A loveable con artist? Attack jelly, Cow Experts? So funny!

One of my all time favorites!  The story of a high school that finds some spirit!

One of my all time favorites! The story of a high school that finds some spirit!


This post contains affiliate links to, which means that if you purchase a book through a link on this post, I will receive a small commission (4% of the purchase price) from Amazon.

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The Reading Challenge Begins … Again

In the weeks before David’s birthday, I began thinking of all the good books I read when I was a young teenager.

“Books are important,” I told Kathy. “They can cast a vision for what it means to be a man. I want David to read some of those good books.”

You know the kind of books I mean. The books that teach the important things — books about loyalty and honor and courage and self-sacrifice. Books with larger-than-life heroes who set the standard for manhood.

David is a big fan of the Artemis Fowl series.

David is a big fan of the Artemis Fowl series.

So I did a quick pass through my library and wrote to a few of my friends and family members, asking for lists of books that they would recommend. Soon, I had a whole shelf’s worth. Except I didn’t have a shelf.

“Hey, Kathy, I need a shelf. How ’bout this one?” I pointed to a promising shelf in our living room at eye level for David. Immediately, I knew something was wrong, by the look on Kathy’s face.

Homeschooling Moms get a little territorial about bookshelves. Whenever we need a blank wall for a photo, we have to go outside or to someone else’s house, because we have bookshelves in every place that could possibly fit one. A quick survey of the house tells me that we have thirty (30) bookshelf units in our home, most with at least 5 shelves. But do you think Kathy will relinquish one in a prime location? Not likely. Eventually, she grudgingly made the top shelf of one of the units available.

Our new shelf o' good, manly books.

Our new shelf o’ good, manly books.

I talked it over with David, and he and I agreed that we would start a Reading Challenge. We would both abstain from playing computer games for a certain period of time — maybe a few weeks, or a month, in which we would focus on reading some of the good books on that shelf.

My newly-teenaged son wanted to start the challenge when he got back from the Middle School retreat (and after he had a full week to enjoy his new Lego Marvel Heroes game). Of course, Sarah wanted to participate too, and is actually the only one who has already finished a book (and written the requisite book report). She is a bit of an over-achiever.

David spent today abstaining from computer games, and trying to finish a book that Joshua gave him for his birthday. I had a few meetings this evening, and (when I finally returned from working out at the gym) I settled into my computer chair. Out of habit, I toggled to one of my favorite computer games, and was playing it serenely when my youngest son walked up behind me.

Sins of a Solar Empire -- hardly an auspicious title for one of my favorite games.

Sins of a Solar Empire — hardly an auspicious title for one of my favorite games.

“You’re playing a computer game!” he accused, aghast. “What about our Reading Challenge?”

“Oooh, you forgot about the challenge,” Kathy and Sarah joined in, gleefully.

I'm hoping David remembers the 'love mercy' part on his shirt.

I’m hoping David remembers the ‘love mercy’ part on his shirt.

As a father, I usually try to set a good example to my children, by rigorously keeping my word and being as honest and faithful as I can. It is so easy to compromise one’s integrity in our culture, I feel that I need to hold the line as faithfully as I can, to show my children that it is still possible. I hope that I can one day say, like Paul did to the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

This was not one of those days.

“How ’bout we start the Reading Challenge tomorrow,” I suggested, rather timidly. “It was an honest mistake, I’m sure you understand. The game was already running on my computer, and I just forgot … ”

One thing about parenting, it keeps you humble. I guess tomorrow we’ll start the Reading Challenge … again.

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School Starts

I would post a snapshot of my kitchen table if it weren’t so pathetic. It does not look like the organized, tidy office space of an efficient home educator. There are receipts from the first week of January in a stack next to the laptop. We have yet to close out December’s budget – there are too many loose ends floating around to be sure of our exact number and both Tim and are dreading the work of figuring it all out. I’m sure we didn’t overspend after all our hard work and determination to stick to the budget.

Wow, I almost said that with a straight face.

Can you say “DENIAL!”

.that's a LOT of snow

A picture of our street, three days before Christmas.

There’s a Vikings hat in the center of the table next to a birthday card. My birthday is in July so I’m not sure how that card found its way among all the Christmas letters. Just another sterling example of the pat rack motto we live by. A deck of cards is shoved to one side, the last remnant of our New Year’s parties. My new Nutrimill is at the head of the table, waiting patiently for me to mill some wheat.

Did I mention I was blessed with a new grain mill for Christmas??? Oh, yes!! Doing the happy dance here. I’m still in shock over the HUGE gift.

Can I ignore the start of school and just grind wheat and make bread all day? My friends and neighbors, hoping for a loaf of bread, would all shout a resounding ‘yes!’

At the other end of the table is my new, fantastic cookbook from my aunt. It’s the all-new edition of The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated.

Let's Bake!

I am completely in love with this cookbook. Can I say that about a cookbook? Is that getting too personal? I’ve spent hours pouring over the pages, reading, planning and making notations. I’ve already tried the hearty beef stew and mashed potatoes. Tomorrow I hope to make the pot roast dinner. All the BEST recipes with detail and precision that can’t be beat. You can imagine Tim’s delight as I cart this 1000 page book off to read before bed. It takes up practically half the bed.

do we have to go back to school?

We had enough snow for Christmas to satisfy all our snow bunnies.

The kitchen is mostly clean with a dirty dish here or there, a box of crackers and some party plates.

Where is the schedule for tomorrow’s school day?
The ingredients for our big breakfast, celebrating the first day back at school?
Fresh assignments for all the children?

Nope, no, nada.

All that you would see, beyond the mild chaos of a lived in house, is a squinting, tired mother who has stayed up too late the last three days ringing in the New Year.

Between the parties and the general fun, I’m exhausted.

david hits the snow flying

The slide served as a little sledding hill, right in our own backyard.

I need a mini vacation to rest up from the holidays. Sadly, even the snow that fell this evening doesn’t bring any respite. Homeschoolers don’t really get snow days.

I had better get to bed. That alarm is going to ring VERY early for this night owl crowd.

Happy New Year – shall we jump into 2009 with poised pencils and cheerful attitudes?

It’s gonna be a stretch but I’m always up for an adventure.


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