Great Bedtime Story for Little Ones

Night Night, Mommy by Amy Parker is an 8 inch by 8 inch glossy board book. This sweet rhyming story is told by baby otter, recounting the day with mommy otter. From a day at the zoo, dinner, bath time, story time and prayers, Night Night, Mommy follows a schedule that is familiar to many toddlers. I love the way baby otter looks into the mommy’s eyes. Illustrator Lee Holland did a great job of capturing the emotions of the otters. The soothing rhythm of the story and the earth tones in the illustrations are quieting for little ones winding down from the day.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review.

Night Night, Mommy is now available at Little Free Library #36424, Nonni’s Place.

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Perfect for Rainy Days or Car Trips

The Berenstain Bears, Bear Country Fun Sticker and Activity Book is a paperback activity book for children ages 4-8. It has 26 activities spread over 32 pages. Activities include matching, crosswords, find the word and circle, and many activities use the 50 stickers included in the book. The stickers are said to be reusable. To test this I selected one of the stickers and stuck it to the appropriate page. I waited 20 seconds (about the length of time it would take for a child to change their mind, or decide they wanted to reposition the sticker. The sticker was easily removable and stuck back to its position in the back of the book. I don’t think they would stick well enough to reposition them more than once or twice. The coloring pages are glossy and would be good for crayon but probably not coloring pencils. All illustrations are trademark Berenstain Bears, familiar to anyone who has read any of these books. The bears engage in summer activities. Zonderkidz has produced another charming book that will be great to take on vacation trips to keep little ones occupied on rainy days or long car trips. Perfect for Spring Break.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”IMG_5403

A Special Mother’s Day with the Berenstain Bears

The Berenstain Bears Mother’s Day blessings is a paperback book for children ages 4-8. As with other Berenstain Bears stories, this one is sentimental and sweet. It centers on the bear cubs going to Papa Bear for advice on how to honor their mother on Mother’s Day. Papa Bear suggests taking Mama out to eat after their Sunday Church service and the cubs agree, adding that they want to also invite Grizzly Gran. My favorite part was how, along the way to the church service, Mama bear had a sermon of a type of her own. She points out the many workers in the town who still had to work on Mother’s Day and their importance in the community. I appreciated the author giving a nudge to children to think about other’s sacrifices for the community even at the expense of their own family time. Some of the working moms include; a police officer, a doctor, and a farmer. It was nice to see all moms included in the storyline, working moms and stay-at-home moms. The illustrations are colorful and bright and very familiar to Berenstain Bears fans. The last page has Activities and Questions. I liked this page as it gives action ideas for the values represented in the story.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Hands-on Activities for Pre-teens

101 Ways to Have Fun from the editors of Faithgirlz and Girl’s Life magazine is a great go-to book for those rainy days when your pre-teens say “I don’t have anything to do.”
This book’s bright and colorful pages will give them tips on mini-makeovers, staycations, scavenger hunts and book swaps. For the crafty or crafty wanna-be, there are sections on building your own party games. My favorite are the entrepreneur ideas such as “Start a dog walking biz” and “Set up a Spritzer Stand.” The ideas are wholesome and provide ideas for fun that promote imagination and ways to stretch personally. The books are listed as appropriate for grades 4-7. With a dearth of books available in this genre for this age group, this book provides many great ideas to stretch their mind and imagination. This book will be one you keep around and pull out time after time when you and your pre-teen need that extra boost of ideas for fun. I was happy to see most of the ideas listed were low cost to do. The section listed as “Fun Ways to Make $ Fast” had helpful tags with breakdowns of what they could expect to earn from each suggested job. I wish there had been a book like this when my girls were young, as we would have had great fun trying out the hands-on ideas.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My Bedtime Story Bible for Little Ones

My Bedtime Story Bible for Little Ones, by Jean E. Syswerda is a board book just the right size for little hands. This toddler appropriate book features 8 Bible stories ranging from Adam & Eve’s Garden Home to The Lost Son Comes Home. The stories are just short enough to hold a toddler’s interest and are happy and upbeat. The illustrations are bright and simple, eye-catching for little ones. The pages are sturdy cardboard and have a glossy finish which would probably wipe clean easily. This is a quality book produced by Zonderkidz and would be a great little book to slip inside this year’s Easter basket!

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Bonhoeffer Abridged, by Eric Metaxas

This detailed biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life is laid out methodically and skillfully by Eric Metaxas. The narrative flows time-wise from the early years of Dietrich’s life and progresses unerringly to Bonhoeffer’s last day on this earth. The chapters in between paint a rich theological and academically full life of Bonhoeffer, a life that seemed set on a collision course with evil. Students of World Wars I and II will appreciate the events portrayed in this book.This book is somber and startling in it’s similarities to today’s world situation. Readers are challenged by Bonhoeffer’s commitment to Christ and the quotes at the beginning of each chapter both enlighten and set a high bar for the reader. This is not a quick read, nor one to sit and enjoy as light entertainment. This is a serious telling of the life of an individual sold out to Jesus Christ and His church. However, having said this, this book is a treasure for the soul. It is like a vitamin and will benefit greatly those who read it.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”Bonhoeffer

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone, by Jay Milbrandt

The Daring Heart of David Livingstone is a cohesive look at a complicated man. Jay Milbrandt does an excellent job of trying to present Livingstone as a human being with flaws as well as a strong moral compass. Most of us are only familiar with Livingstone as in the quote by Henry Morton Stanley, “Dr. Livingstone I presume?”.
I found Milbrandt’s depiction of Livingstone to be interesting in that the Dr. seemed to be sincerely trying to bring about the end of slavery, an aspect of the man I had never heard about before. Livingstone used America’s abolition of slavery to champion a similar movement in Britain.
I found this book to be a detailed read and it seems to be well researched. I enjoyed the many quotes from the journals of the actual people in the story.

#BruceSpringsteen and the Boy in a Coma

I don’t remember his name. I’m ashamed of this. He lay still, his eyes barely open, his breaths soft. Hands cupped neatly at his sides. His hair curled in brown waves, stale and oily, the way coma patients get.

“What was he like before the accident?” I asked, trying to gain some foothold on his personality. “His mother said he loved Bruce Springsteen,” My instructor said. “But his mother said a lot of things. She’s one of those religious types, believes he will come back to his senses.” She laughed derisively, low and throaty, resembling a growl.

“Good luck, let me know if you need anything.” She headed out of his room and down the hall to her office. The door swung shut with a click and then all was silent in the small room.

All but the breaths of the boy.

The next therapy session I showed him a tape recorder. I told him how his Momma said he loved Springsteen, that I borrowed this tape just for him. I pushed the play button and a melancholy voice started low, like a lullaby.

The River, by Bruce Springsteen.

As the last strains of the song faded, I glanced at the boy. I looked closer, willed him, Show me you’re in there. There was no movement and yet, something small and shiny flickered at the edge of his eye. I leaned closer. A single tear welled in the corner of his eye. I watched in amazement as it wound its way down his cheek and onto the pillow.

The boy heard.

Somehow Bruce brought back the boy who remembered. Maybe he had a girl once, or wished he had. For one brief moment, the boy in the coma spoke with the only voice he had.

Tears.

“Now those memories come back to haunt me

they haunt me like a curse

Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true

Or is it something worse

that sends me down to the river

though I know the river is dry

That sends me down to the river tonight

Down to the river

my baby and I

Oh down to the river we ride.” The River, Bruce Springsteen 1980

I graduated with a degree in Occupational Therapy that year, 1981. The boy in the coma still haunts me. I like to believe the prayers of his mother came true, and that he was made whole. Mr. Springsteen, if somehow this makes its way to you, know one thing: your song opened a closed door in the mind of a young man. Your music made a difference.

 

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The Month of Socks

It is once again the month of socks at our house! If you were around for my post last year you may remember I wrote about a gesture that has become a tradition running three years at least (I’ve lost count.) My sister Patricia Spence works as a nurse for a detention center for girls. These girls have seen anything but a happy Thanksgiving or a Merry Christmas in their lives. They are more acquainted with the hard knocks of life. Many have been suspected of being trafficked. At any rate, my sister is a mom, sister and grandma to all these girls. She has earned their trust and she treats them like human beings, human beings who are beloved of Christ. Being in a detention center, what is allowed as a gift to them is very limited. We finally came up with socks, which are personal, cheery, and comforting while still meeting the stringent safety guidelines of the institution. The thing I wanted to talk about today is this; now the girls are starting to ask my sister if they are getting socks this year! What started as a simple gesture has become something they look forward to and remember! This year we are once again collecting Christmas themed socks to send. Each girl gets a pair of socks and a Christmas card, wrapped in Christmas paper. It may be the only thing she gets this year. This has touched my heart so much, the fact that they remembered and asked for them. I wanted to remind you all, the smallest act of kindness, which may seem nominal to you, may mean the world to the person who receives it. May God bless your home abundantly!
Matthew 25:37-40 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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Pip, Tuppence and George

George pedaled his three-wheeled low rider bicycle along the median. He weaved in and out of the emergency lane, picking up cans and bottles. He threw them into a large burlap seed sack he had strung across the handlebars.
It was a damp February day. Sodden clouds hung low over Green Mountain. Fog skirting the street stretched its gray fingers upward until you couldn’t tell where fog ended and clouds began.
He stopped next to a large drainage culvert to pick up a Dr. Pepper can. Winter rains fed the waterfall that blasted its way down the side of cliffs before emptying into a culvert and the bowels of the mountain.
His foot slipped into a muddy hole, and had George been an ordinary man, he would have cursed. But George was a simple kind of fellow. The kind of man-child who would stop stock-still in the middle of a street to admire a rainbow stretched across the sky. He rolled his pants leg before continuing on to retrieve the can.
At the edge of the runoff from the falls he heard it. At first he dismissed it as the wind in the bare branches, but as he listened, the whine repeated. This time there was no wind.
A brown and black puppy crawled toward George from the culvert. Its fur was plastered to its body. The animal shook from the cold. George scooped the chilled puppy into his arms, wrapping it inside his coat. George shuddered for a moment as the cold, wet body pressed against him. Chills rippled down his back. As he was about to leave, a second puppy, this one white and mottled, appeared from the same crag. He lifted him and snuggled him in his shirt, next to the first.
George pedaled down the mountain to the only shelter he knew. Turning right onto the lot, he parked his contraption next to a blue metal dumpster. He hiked his pants up, buttoned the puppies more tightly into his ill- fitting wool coat, and climbed inside.
George landed on a cardboard box, which was fortunate, because another four inches and he would have landed on an opened trash bag of rotted potatoes. He was long-used to the stench in the dumpster. It hardly bothered him at all now.
Once settled, he opened his coat and pulled the puppies onto his lap. Their eyes were rheumy, bellies distended.
George rubbed the puppies with what little dry material he had left on the inside of his coat. He named them Pip and Tuppence, for, he said, the brown and black was nothing but a pip-squeak, and the white mottled, not worth a tuppence. They curled up on George’s stomach and fell asleep.To people traveling Cecil Ashburn Drive, George was just part of the scenery they encountered every day driving to work, or to the grocery. His three-wheeled bicycle with the yellow trailer melded into the tall pines, cascading waterfalls, and rustic meadows. Often he could be seen standing beside the trike, bending low, and mouthing words to the two dogs in the little bike trailer.
George was a simple man, and as such had a simple faith. He saw the trees as God’s spires, stretching praise to the sky. Rocks were a craggy altar. Waterfalls, a baptismal.
He knew God as the Creator and to honor Him, he sang. People laughed at the foolish man, singing alongside the road. But George’s worship was purer than any lifted in the most polished pews of the great churches of the city. George’s song came from the deep wellspring of his heart. It was offered up without coercion and without hope of gain.
One afternoon, as the sun burned laser-red across the hills, George was on his usual route. He pedaled along singing in a broken tenor, loud and raucous, making up words as he went along. At a high point in the song he threw his arms wide, his body enveloped in worship. At that point the front wheel of his trike struck a pothole.
An eighteen-wheeler chose that same moment to switch lanes, weaving erratically into the median on the slick road. Brakes squealed, the screech of rubber on asphalt, a rumbling, grinding tearing of metal, then silence.
The driver of the eighteen-wheeler exited the cab, his face white, legs shaking.
In the median, a three-wheeled trike lay upside down, one wheel off, two spinning lopsidedly. The dogs lay in the ditch, whimpering and alone. A police officer later carried them home.
They never found George’s body. Some speculated he’d been thrown down the mountainside from the impact. The
ones who thought themselves spiritual said he’d been taken up, just like Enoch of the Old Testament.
Whichever was true, traffic soon returned to normal. The same cars traveled the same road every day to work and to shop. Bland lives failed to notice a bit of beauty was missing from their daily commute.
But Pip and Tuppence knew, for late in the evenings, when the wind sang through the branches of the pines they’d perk up their ears.
The officer’s wife would often put down her reading and ask her husband, “Did you hear that?”
“What?” he’d ask, channel surfing.
“It was nothing I guess. Sounded like the wind. Sounded like it said ‘Amen.’”
Pip, Tuppence and George, Suzy Parish 2013

Originally published in Splickety magazine.

For some reason I think of this story every fall, when the leaves start to change and the weather becomes contrary. I think of all the Georges out there. This year I think of my own George, my brother in his live-in men’s home in Maryland. He is holding down a job and very active in his church with my sister. His health is greatly improved. God does answer prayers and He sees all the Georges out there. God bless you today.

(I would like to credit the artist who created the following Meme. If you know the person’s identity please leave a comment with contact information.Thank you.)

Pip and old man