Monday, November 30, 2009

Book review: God Made Your Body by Jim Burns

Title: God Made Your Body
Author: Jim Burns
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2009, hardcover, 32 pages 
ISBN-10: 0764202111 
ISBN-13: 978-0764202117

If you’re hoping to preempt what modern media would teach about sex and the role of the family to your youngsters, God Made Your Body – a colorful read-to-me book for the three- to five-year-old crowd – is a good place to start. This first book in the Pure Foundations series by Jim Burns introduces kids to the basics of sex from a Christian point of view.

Kids will learn that God made their bodies, their bodies are full of variety, and boys and girls are different. Burns explains these differences accurately using the anatomically correct names of body parts and line drawings (though in-the-main the book uses full-color photographs of kids and adults). He answers the question of where children come from. He also describes the baby’s growth within the uterus in general terms, and talks about birth and adoption. The book ends with an appropriate biblical passage, Psalm 139.

The book is attractive and sturdy with a colorful hard cover and photo illustrations printed on heavy glossy stock. The concepts are simple and presented clearly with a single idea-per-page spread. The tone of Burns’ writing is positive, warm, supportive and affirming.

In a “Note to Parents” at the front of the book author Burns (who is also a radio host and has founded a ministry to struggling families) states that he wrote the book as a countermeasure to help parents introduce values-centered sex ed to their kids – this in the hope that children will be less likely to become sexually promiscuous and have better views of their bodies and relationships.

l think Burns has done a great job. In a book designed to answer the questions of very young children he has introduced enough detail but not too much. His discussion about sex is direct, open, and respectful. I can see how this book could become the foundation for ongoing dialogue between kids and their caregivers. Reading God Made Your Body could easily lead to discussions that expand on the facts presented, as parents take advantage of teachable moments.

I received this book from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review. I’m delighted to recommend it to all the young families I know – and will make sure it goes to one of them!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

happy thanksgiving

... to our American neighbors!

If your memory needs jogging about things for which to be thankful, Rebecca Writes is running a November series of thankful posts. Not only will you see what she is thankful for, but each day she provides a list of links to other thankful blog posts. There's enough fodder there for an entire year of thankfulness!

water water everywhere!

The deluge continues. In order to get our walk in once a day we've taken to going whenever there is a break in the rain. Lately that's meant leaving the house a little closer to 7:00 (a little farther from 8:00) every morning. We're feeling like the three little pigs who had to get up earlier each morning to outsmart the wolf. Yesterday we left shortly after 7:00 and saw the sunrise - even as it continued to drizzle.

This morning it's warm, there are blue spots of sky peeking through the clouds, and the only drips you'll get are when you brush against or walk under water-laden branches.  But after it rained most of yesterday and through the night, there's water everywhere. Here are a few photos taken on our walk this morning. They will be an interesting contrast to the Nikomekl in summer, when it again becomes a trickling creek.

Last week there was water on both sides of the path and road here. Today everything's awash.

High water under the bridge that leads to Michaud Park

The bridge, above, as seen from Michaud Park

Looking west from Michaud Park - the Rotary path is flooded in many spots.

Of course the ducks are having a ball!


Niagra Falls - energy you can see, hear and feel.


Next week: WOOD (Buildings, Furniture, Toys, Trees, Boards, Pencils,...)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

a wordy, wet week

Well, I see I haven't written a proper post for a week. It is as I thought: my NaNo writing project has sapped all my energy. I am presently at 43,708 words - 6292 away from the goal of 50,000. If I reach that goal before the story is completed, I will be writing more than 50,000. But the end is definitely in sight!

Outside we're in the monsoon season. We've had a series of rain and wind storms in the last couple of weeks.

The flooded area above is usually all grass. But on Tuesday (17th) it was a a duck paradise. 

Several rivers in B.C. have flooded their banks, including our little Nicomekl. The paved path beside it was put in by the Rotary Club some years ago (thus we call it Rotary Park), and most days one can follow the river on it from 208th to 200th. Not this week. Here is the view of the path from the 206th St. Bridge. We usually walk UNDER the 206th Street bridge, but haven't been there for a while.

The path on Tuesday

The path on Thursday.  As you can see, the water has subsided quite a lot.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The church ladies sing African

... and dance to the song in the YouTube below, which we first heard performed by the Watoto Children's Choir from Uganda.

Thursday Challenge

Next Week: ENERGY (Batteries, Power, Electrical Devices, Light Bulbs, Energy Efficient Things, Wind Mills, Walking, Cycling,...)

Friday, November 13, 2009

book review: Leaving Yesterday by Kathryn Cushman

Title: Leaving Yesterday
Author: Kathryn Cushman
Publisher: Bethany House, October 1, 2009, paperback, 320 pages. 
ISBN-10: 0764203827 
ISBN-13: 978-0764203824

What business could a police officer have with her except to bear the bad news that her son Kurt has been found dead, Alisa Stewart wonders as Detective Thompson’s car turns into her driveway. But a few minutes later she is saddled with an even greater burden as she discovers her 21-year-old drug addicted son is wanted for questioning about a murder. When he calls home a few days later with the news that he’s been in rehab – and for a while – she reasons it couldn’t be him, could it?

In Leaving Home Kathryn Cushman combines what Alisa finds in a box of Kurt’s things with old frictions between Alisa and her estranged husband, the need to keep up appearances at her church and, above all, the determination that her son will have the new start he deserves to give us the tug-of-war tale of a mother’s love.

The story, told in first person by Alisa, has a rapidly thickening plot. Pressure on her to look good in her position of women’s ministry leader mounts even as her relationship with her husband Rick deteriorates and questions about Kurt multiply. She finds she can be most herself with her neighbor Lacey, a retired lawyer who is canny, pragmatic and a mistress of rationalization. Cushman takes Alisa and the whole family through some tough situations and decisions in a book that is hard to put down.

Character-wise I found myself with mixed feelings about Alisa. Though I sympathized with her as a mom and understood her mother bear impulses, there was something Barbie-dollish and plastic about her too. She came off as shallow in her role as wife and women’s pastor, and smug as a public speaker. My favorite character was her 10-year-old daughter Caroline who was completely believable with her bouncy ways and excitable, dramatic clinginess. Alisa’s husband Rick rang true as well – even though he was a bit of a downer. Jodi and Monte were recognizable and fun as aging hippies. I wasn’t sure what to make of Kurt. He was sweet and genuine on the surface but showed just enough deviousness to keep me wondering, through most of the book, just how genuine his reformation really was.

Cushman does a good job of bringing up some weighty themes even as she weaves this entertaining story. No mother will be able to read this book without asking herself if she would she go to the lengths Alisa did if she were in the same shoes. The story touches on other issues of parenting as well, like permissiveness, tough love and the possibility that parents drive their kids to self-destructive behaviors with dysfunctional parenting. Cushman introduces God the Father as the greatest example of a parent. The story also makes us think a lot about guilt.

For a hard-to-put-down read that will prompt you to take a thoughtful look at your role as a parent and as a child, Leaving Yesterday is a good choice. 

Reading Group Guide for this book.

(I received this book from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Little brother's tale of woe

Of course big brothers know...

how to make it all better.


Next Week: MUSIC (Guitar, Playing an Instrument, Things that make sounds, iPods, Sheet Music, Noisy Things,...)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

we remember

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. In communities around the country we gather at cenotaphs to remember the soldiers who have died fighting for Canada's freedom and to honor those who are presently on assignment in places like Afghanistan.

The tribute below was put together by Global Edmonton for Remembrance Day several years ago.

There are many Remembrance Day songs floating around these days. Some are newly composed (like this one, and this one). Others (like "A Pittance of Time") have been with us for a while and are resurrected each November 11th. It's nice to see that Canada is developing its own brand of patriotism and expressing it in song.

Monday, November 09, 2009

book review: Things Worth Remembering by Jackina Stark

Title: Things Worth Remembering
Author: Jackina Stark
Publisher: Bethany House, October 2009, paperback, 320 pages. 
ISBN-10: 0764207113 
ISBN-13: 978-0764207112

Kendy Laswell can’t wait for her daughter Maisey and fiancĂ© Marcus to get home this third Monday in July. It’s a mere six days till Maisey’s wedding, and there must be a thousand things to do – though Maisey hasn’t told her much.

But when the kids arrive, Maisey says she’s tired and goes straight to bed. Kendy hides her disappointment but inside asks, for the thousandth time, what is at the root of her daughter’s avoidance? The only thing she can think of is the months-long depression she suffered when Maisey was 13. Things have never been right between them since that dreadful summer nine years ago. Now, though, they still have the rest of the week to patch things up.

In Things Worth Remembering, Jackina Stark takes us through the week before Maisey’s wedding. Through the first-person voices of Kendy and Maisey we live the memorable six days, but much more, as incidents trigger memories. These, plus Maisey’s surprising outburst on Wednesday and a health crisis on Thursday, work together to create a heart-wrenching story about mothers and daughters, marriage and marital unfaithfulness, family, love, and forgiveness.

In Kendy and Maisey, Stark has created two flawed but sympathetic main characters. The supporting cast of Luke (Kendy’s husband), Marcus, Jackie and others also feel real and convincing. Stark’s style of writing current happenings in present tense with the back story in past tense helps dispel any confusion about now and then. Her contemporary American setting feels absolutely believable and authentic.

The story is seen through the lens of a Christian worldview. Stark works the faith of her characters into the story seamlessly and in a way that feels organic to its plot and characters. To underline how integral faith is to the story, we find that even the title hearkens back to a discussion of it:

Luke (to Maisey): “’Children of dust, Maisey, children of dust. That’s not an insult to the human race; it’s just a fact. Making mistakes is unavoidable; we are the created not the Creator. But it is also a fact that God loves us despite our frailty. And it’s a fact that life is good when we choose love and forgiveness.’
I close my eyes against his words.

Dad puts his hands over mine and I dare to look at him.

‘These things are worth remembering, Maisey – they really are.’” 248-9

Being a daughter myself and the mother of a daughter (with whom I planned a wedding a few years ago) I related to Kendy at a gut level. Maisey’s rudeness and the way she shut her mother out of all her wedding plans and activities made me wish I could take Kendy aside and tell her she’d better stop acting so passive and make an effort to get to the bottom of their rift. Yet Kendy downplays her hurt to the extent that at times she seems almost stoic when one would expect her to be falling apart. However, this downplaying is probably safer than over-emotionalizing, as Stark has created a minefield of a situation, and the tone of Kendy’s telling could easily have degenerated into sentimentality and self-pity.

Altogether, the book flew by far too fast for me. The way it explores the mother-daughter relationship, marriage and forgiveness make it an excellent choice for individuals or reading groups.

Discussion questions are here.

Read an excerpt here.

(I received this book from Bethany House for the purpose of writing a review.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

NaNo update

Just a little update on the last week. I've written. A lot. If you check the NaNo widget to the right, you'll see my word count is 16,110. My goal was to reach 16,000 before I quit for the weekend. Now the story gets a rest till Monday morning.

I'm learning so much!

  • I can write for long stretches at a time.
  • I don't work like I thought I would. I envisioned myself working for hours at the keyboard. However, I've discovered my best way of composing is longhand, with pencil. This is about the speed my brain works (I know, I'm slow). Then I read what I've written onto a minicassette tape and type it out as if it were dictation (good thing I kept my transcription tools)  making wee changes along the way but of course never officially editing. I've sworn off that for the month!

    (For your interest, check out this piece about the variety of ways 'real' writers work - sent to my by one of my NaNo buddies)
  • This story has been brewing inside me for years (I first had the idea and did some work on it in 2002). It feels very good to get it out of my head and onto  a document  - I was going to say 'paper' but I haven't even printed the thing out yet.
I'm celebrating the end my first week of NaNo with hubby, and friends. We're going to see and hear Adrian Plass and Glen Soderholm in the Story and Song Tour - Delta BC. Woot!

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Nuts 'n' Bolts
(A sweet sight for those of us with a salt tooth)


Next week: YOUTH (Young, Energetic, Optimistic, Children, Baby, Education,...)

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