2 Must Read Character Building Fiction Books for Tweens

2 Must Read Character Building Books for tweens

2 Must- Read Character Building Fiction books for Tweens


Today I have the honor of writing this article, 2 Must-Read Character Building Fiction Books for Tweens, over at LikeMindedMusings.com, as part of Lee Felix’s 30 Days of Tween Parenting Encouragement!

For each day of May, Lee is featuring another blogging mom of tweens on her site to talk about this phase of parenting. There’s so much information out there for the years of parenting babies and toddlers, and then it feels like the older your kids get, the less people want to talk about it.

Here’s a snippet of my post. Be sure to check out the other 30 days as well!

“Farmer Boy was an easy sell for my boys. (I don’t have any girls.) They were definitely not excited about this next one, Secret in the Maple Tree, by Matilda Nordtvedt.

They protested at first, but then they grew to love it.

Yes, in this book, the main character is a girl. Her name is Hilda, and she is one of the most real, relatable characters you will ever read. Almanzo in Farmer Boy was naturally a very well-behaved boy. Hilda has to work much harder at it. This character is based on the author’s mother-in-law, Mrs Ebertina Erickson Nordtvedt, the daughter of Norwegian immigrants, who migrated in the late 1800s.

Also, I have more good news.”

Click here to read the rest.


Be sure to subscribe to the other 30 days if you are a parent of tweens!


What I’ve Been Reading and That Famous Niemoller Quote

What I've Been Reading and That famous Niemoller Quote

I recently finished reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The funny thing is that I chose this book because I was confused. I was mixing Bonhoeffer up with Niemoller. I was so excited to learn more about the man who said this:

What I've Been Reading and That famous Niemoller Quote

Martin Niemoller

I took that photo on our 2012 trip to Boston.

Bonhoeffer had a lot in common with Niemoller, except he was executed about 2 weeks before Hitler killed himself. Hitler personally selected Bonhoeffer to be killed because Bonhoeffer was part of a large conspiracy of German aristocrats to assassinate Hitler.

In fact, they tried to kill Hitler and failed several times without Hitler even knowing it, until that last time when the bomb actually did explode, right at Hitler’s feet, and the evil murderous man didn’t die.

You’ve heard of the Gestapo, but have you heard of the Abwehr? That was another German government intelligence agency. The Abwehr was full of guys who wanted to kill Hitler in order to save millions of lives and to save Germany. It was dissolved by the Nazis in 1945 when they realized it was full of conspirators.

Bonhoeffer was a part of that group. Niemoller was not. Niemoller had already been in prison since the beginning of the war.

Don’t let Niemoller fool you. He was humble. He spoke out so boldly against the Nazis, from his pulpit, as a Lutheran pastor, that he spent pretty much all of World War II locked in a German prison cell. His support for Hitler was extremely short-lived. When Hitler first rose to power, some people just thought “Yay! Not Communist!” It didn’t take too long for the gloves to come off.

Did you know that when Alan went to Iraq he learned that their whole middle eastern society was indoctrinated to believe that the Holocaust never happened? They all believe it was a giant myth. They say it was propaganda put out by the Jews, because there is such a strong hatred of Jews over there.

History tells the true story. There are survivor stories, photos, videos, piles of their hair, remaining buildings of their death camps, and first-hand journal accounts of what happened to the Jews and to anyone else who stood in the way of the Nazis.

Niemoller and Bonhoeffer did know each other long before either of them were imprisoned. There was mutual respect there. They ran in the same circles. They knew many of the same people. They lead the Confessing Church movement, which pulled away from the German Church, blatantly disagreeing with Nazi policies.

It was so interesting to learn about WWII from more of a viewpoint on what was happening inside Germany.

No quote in the book beat Niemoller’s quote on apathy. There’s a reason it’s so famous, but here are a few quotes from the book on Bonhoeffer that I found interesting.

I loved what Bonhoeffer wrote in his Advent letter of 1938 to Confessing Church leaders. I love it because the fact is that good is not always winning. Sometimes evil is winning, but that doesn’t mean you should not do the right thing:

“And we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God’s cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be “unsuccessful”: and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm.”  (Bonhoeffer, p. 318)


Not every nation’s churches folded under the pressure of the government as Germany’s did.  Germany occupied Norway from 1940-1945, and their church leaders fought back, even if their government didn’t.

“In March Quisling overreached again, establishing a Norwegian version of the Hitler Youth. A thousand teachers immediately struck in protest……On Maundy Thursday, Bishop Berggrav, the heroic leader of the pastors’ resistance, was put under house arrest. So on Easter, April 5, every pastor in Norway did what their bishops did six weeks earlier and what Bonhoeffer had begged the German pastors to do in July 1933: they went on strike.”  (Metaxas, p. 395)



A different 9/11.

In Europe, they write dates with the day followed by the month and then the year, so 9/11 is November 9th. Germany’s 9/11 was in 1938. It is called Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass. The Nazis beat up and killed Jews, destroyed their businesses, burned their synagogues, and destroyed and looted their homes. Broken glass was everywhere. The result thereof was only more terror.

Here is a little bit of what Bonhoeffer wrote in response to it. He read Psalm 74, the 2nd half of which reads “They burn all of God’s houses in the land.”

“This was when Bonhoeffer most clearly saw the connection: to lift one’s hand against the Jews was to lift one’s hand against God himself. The Nazis were attacking God by attacking his people. The Jews in Germany were not only not God’s enemies; they were his beloved children.” (Metaxas, p. 316)

Whether you agree with Bonhoeffer or not, he was a fascinating man who walked very closely with God. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more not only about him but about WWII Germany. If you can hang with the first half of the book, which is slower, you will be richly rewarded by the second half.

  $8.92?? What? I paid a lot more for it back at Christmas time. *sigh*
And here’s an Amazon affiliate link in case you want to read this book too. Just be forewarned. It’s like 600 pages, but you will learn a ton.

And for my next book, I have decided to read something quicker. I’m going with a Christian fiction novel involving some espionage and action. Excited to get into this one too.

What have you read lately that’s good? Leave me a note in the comments.

Our Favorite Books from Homeschool Year 2

favorite books from homeschool

There is a time of day that is my absolute favorite. It’s the hour at the end of the day when I read to the big boys. The children love it too because it means spending time with Mom. Do you think Joshua and Caleb would ever, in a million billion years, have chosen to read the entire Little House on the Prairie series?


They LIVE outdoors, so actually they have plenty in common with little Laura Ingalls.

This is a series of books that takes the time to describe the common things that little girls did every day in the late 1800s. There are chapters in which Laura describes their dresses, the color of their hair, and how to make maple sugar.

No, never, ever would my boys have chosen these books.

 But you know what? We LOVED them. They groaned a little through the first one, but once the Ingalls started having run-ins with bears or wolves, I had them hooked. We are now almost finished with The Little Town on the Prairie, which means there’s only one book left, and we are Sadness.

I cannot tell you how much the boys have learned from listening to this series. We have learned how they built the railroad, how they plowed fields, and how children were (and still should be) expected to behave. We’ve learned about blizzards that lasted for days, grasshoppers that destroyed people’s livelihoods, prairie chickens, and literary societies! We’ve learned from Almanzo a better work ethic and from Laura that sometimes it is so very hard to be good, but it’s worth it to help others.

Their vocabularies have expanded. They understand the western expansion period of American history in a way that you can only get from a first-person account.

Oh! And the morals! You know I adore the high moral value of these books.

The boys’ favorite part, though, is always the wolves or bears. Anytime wolves or bears show up, we are tickled pink. They also despise Nellie Olsen and delight in seeing Laura get the upper hand.

The Little House books have been my favorite part of home schooling, by far.

You can see why I so badly want to try a cross-country road trip, and squeeze in a visit to a Little House museum.

Here are a few other books that are also fantastic, most of which the boys actually did pick out.

To say that Caleb likes this book would be a gross understatement. Caleb LOVES this book, mostly because there are two pages about Megalodon, an enormous extinct shark that he’s sort of obsessed with. Like seriously. Lately most of his artwork is shark art.

The boys would much rather focus on science reading than history, especially Joshua. He is supposed to be “Writing through Ancient History” with his writing class, but writing lessons have improved 100% for us, since I started letting him write on science or sports topics rather than history.

This is Joshua’s current favorite. It’s highly educational, but even the photos on the cover are so gross that Caleb makes him place the book facedown on the table. Of course, grossing us out is what makes it fun, so Joshua keeps taking this book to Classical Conversations and using different sections from it for his presentations.

This one both Joshua and Caleb like. I have also learned a lot from it. Who am I kidding? I’m always learning just as much as they are!

This next book has been my greatest purchase of the year, for Caleb:

I have no idea what brought it on, but Caleb suddenly decided that he wants to keep a diary, and he wanted it to be like Greg Heffley’s. Oh my goodness, I’ve never ordered something so quickly. See, what you don’t realize is that I’m actually just as “thrifty” as Alan. Alan saves money by working sales. I save money by trying to never buy things. (I can just see my mom reading this with scrunched eyebrows. Okay. Yes, this does not apply to clothes. No one can ever purchase too much clothing.)

Caleb has been diligently writing and illustrating in his new journal. He even has it divided up into chapters. It is serious business, and all of this with no begging, like I usually have to do to get him to write! So I’m beyond excited. (Did he already have a perfectly good spiral notebook to write in? Yes, he has several, but whatever inspires him, I guess!)

We also still read Elephant and Piggy. For kids ages preschool-2nd grade, I’m telling you, you can’t go wrong with Mo Willems.

 These are also helpful for young readers. They are called Pathway Readers:


Whether you are a homeschool family or not, give these history stories a try!! They are in chronological order, and I promise you will learn just as much as your children. The stories are all short and interesting and packed with little-known historical facts. I read them out loud, but the big kids could read them too. We also have them on audio book. Joshua hates the audio book version, but Caleb actually asks to listen to them in the car!

There are even worksheets you can buy to go along with it, but I confess that we never get around to the worksheets or the color sheets. I figure they’re getting enough with the stories and the copious amount of map drawing and labeling that we do in CC.

I could talk books all day long, but the Dan Man is here asking me for milk.

What are your kids’ favorite books??

EEG Results: I finally have answers to my questions about Caleb’s epilepsy.




I held my breath (okay not really, but it felt like it) as I asked the question, “So did it show any seizures???”

{An EEG is a test designed to measure brain waves. Caleb wore electrodes all over his head for 24 hours to get a better idea of what is going on in his brain. Caleb has a history of seizures.}

She (the neurologist) said, “It was an abnormal EEG. Are his seizures on his right side, because the activity is happening on the left side of his brain, which controls the right side of the body.”

Sigh. Suspicions confirmed. Drat. Keppra treatment lives on.

I’ve never noticed if seizures were happening more on one side than the other. We had this EEG because he continues to jerk around in his sleep, and we weren’t sure if what we’re seeing is seizure-related or not.

She started to explain it, but the she said it would be easier to explain if she could show it to us, so she took us back to the testing room and pulled up several different photos of brain waves. She pointed to each place where the left, posterior portion of his brain is having spikes.

Dr. La Garda also asked if Caleb is still seizure free, so I was confused.

“We saw him jerking during this EEG, so were those seizures?” I asked her.

“No. Those weren’t seizures, just abnormal activity,” she answered.

“Are they related to seizures? How many people have this? Would this happen in a normal brain?” I asked. I can’t believe I was actually able to think of the right questions to ask. It seems like doctors never explain enough, and yet, I never seem to think of the right questions.

She said that about 6% of the population would show this sort of activity. She said she almost called it a normal EEG result, “but then he did this,” and she showed me another page and pointed to more spikes. She explained it, but I didn’t understand or memorize it well enough to regurgitate that information.

She also said that some jerking in your sleep is perfectly normal. That’s good to know!


I asked her about the portion of his brain where this is happening. She said it’s the visual area. On the map above, she showed me that his activity was between T3 and P3. She asked if Caleb is doing okay in school.

photo from https://www.headway.org.uk/executive-dysfunction-after-brain-injury.aspx Caleb’s abnormal activity is between the parietal and temporal lobes, the area associated with reading.

“Yes, except he has had a struggle with reading, from the very beginning.”
“Oh, yes,” the doc said, “That comes from this area. Dyslexia is also associated with this area not functioning properly. It looks like the brain could be healing here. The brain heals in sleep. Perhaps he is getting better. He has been seizure free for two years. I think he has a 50-70% chance of growing out of it. We’ll need to re-test and re-visit all of this when he hits puberty.”

“Oh. Puberty. What happens then?”

“Well, the seizures will either disappear altogether, there will be no change, or it will get worse.”

Great. Basically, no one knows.


Caleb enjoyed kayaking with Alan today. He looked forward to that all week. They saw a jellyfish and lots of seals and sea otters.

She filled out his sports physical, and we left. She said he’s fine for soccer, basketball, and baseball. She said he can even ride rides at amusement parks. (I asked because I’ve always wondered. Caleb loves the rides.) She said no to scuba diving (pressure) and fighting sports like wrestling and boxing. He doesn’t need to deal with head injuries.

He will continue to have follow-ups every 6 months, and his Keppra dose will stay the same.

I’m thankful there were no full-on seizures, and I’m thankful we don’t have to increase the Keppra. I don’t like that he has to continue to take a brain medication, but it is what it is.

Now I’m just hoping to read more on the visual portion of the brain, and I’m going to focus on patience with Caleb when doing reading and writing activities. The difference between he and Joshua is a massive gulf, but when it comes to math, Caleb is soaring high. This explains a lot.


Caleb, Xavier, and Joshua, all reading together

Caleb is just a smidgen behind in reading. He seems to be gradually catching up. He passed his reading exams this year, so on paper it looks like he’s fine, but if you listen to him read, you see that he reads slowly and monotone. If he’s reading to someone who makes him nervous, it gets much worse. If Caleb reads to you, please be very quiet and patient. Pleasing others is important to him. He thrives under encouragement.

I also hope to pray more for Caleb. I talk about prayer, and I pray off and on all day long, but there are so many things that I just plum FORGET to pray about. Because Caleb always seems fine, and we haven’t seen a seizure in two years, I forget to pray about it very often. This is why it’s important to keep a prayer list out and updated. It’s so rewarding, too, as you see those prayers get answered.

Thanks for taking the time to read and learn about Caleb and his epilepsy. For more of Caleb’s story, you can read my past articles on epilepsy here: Caleb and Epilepsy, Keppra Caleb and Epilepsy, Changing My Expectations.





This Week: Library Days, Bed Sharing, and Amanda

Art by Joshua: Grandaddy, with rocket boosters and lasers.

There are cupcakes in the oven. I can hear two children having a discussion about who knows what downstairs. JD is asleep, and another boy is serving penance in his room.

It’s over. I can’t believe it. The school year is over. I’ve been keeping records of grades and attendance all year, and now I need to actually put that into an official document. I printed out this one from donnayoung.org

Click here if you need one too! Report Card Printable

It’ll do for now, but I want to personalize it with the typed out name, address, and contact information of our school. Alan, do you think you could help me with that?

Poor Alan. He has been doing my helping me with my computer assignments since my senior year of college. I never bothered to learn Excel, and as an adult, wouldn’t you know, that’s the one computer program from my adolescence that is still relevant!

So here’s what’s new with us this week:

The boys have become obsessed with baking. Once one discovers that delicious food is actually not that hard to make, it’s really unavoidable.  This has become quite the delicious house to live in!

They are such practical boys:

Caleb was admiring Daniel’s uniform the other day, and he asked me, “Where’s my old soccer uniform?”

“You had to turn it in,” I reminded him.

“Oh. What sports let you keep your uniform?”

“Baseball. Would you like to sign up for baseball?”

“No, I just don’t want to ruin my own Saturdays.”


Joshua feels the same way, so when it comes to the sports circuit, we have it very easy as parents!

Daniel only has two games left, and he’s going to miss the last one because we will be on vacation. None of you are allowed to tell him that. He would be crushed.

sweet brothers

What we did on our last day of school:

We did quite a bit of testing, to make up for the teacher that had spring fever and wasn’t taking very many grades the last few weeks. Then I made them tell me everything they liked best and least this year and things they’d like to do this summer.

For Joshua, everything seems to revolve around Big Nate.

I broke the news gently to them, “I’m making you each a packet of papers, and over the summer you will still need to practice spelling and math…”

*Sounds of agony and protest*

“That way you don’t lose everything you learned over the summer. You have to practice to keep your brain working,” I explained to my reluctant work force.

Joshua was surprisingly calm and rational about it, “Oh, yeah, I read about that in Big Nate, so yeah.”

Yes, we have a new obsession. Yes, I sometimes exploit that to my advantage. For every 3 chapter books he reads, he gets 1 new Big Nate book.

I went on to tell the boys a few things we’ll be learning about next year. I mentioned ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Joshua perked up, “Like Greek myths!! I know all about Achilles, and his heel.”

He went on to tell the full story about Achilles’ heel, and that people now refer to it, meaning weakness. He learned all of this from Big Nate’s sister’s school assignment.

See, everything revolves around Big Nate. Wedgies aside, this has been one hobby that I have viewed favorably. He LOVES those books, and I love that he’s reading and learning so much.

Some parents look down on comic books. We do not. I love that my boys read Garfield, Charlie Brown, Calvin and Hobbes, and Big Nate. It encourages a love for reading. It’s a great bridge between picture books and longer chapter books. When I was their age, I read every single Charlie Brown book our library owned. I remember we had to dress as a book character for one of the Summer Reading Program days at our library. I went as Lucy. A local talk show host came and filmed it all, so I even got to be on t.v., in my royal blue flower girl dress, and my hair in the bun that almost never was. Trying to get my 30 pounds of hair into a bun was about impossible.

My mom hauled us to the library faithfully every summer. We went to every puppet show or children’s reading day there was. Those were great times. My mom was quite the trooper. My sister, Amanda, cannot walk, talk, see, or think past a 16-month or so level, due to a neural tube birth defect. Amanda was a year older than I was, so we’re talking about a 50-ish pound child, but Mom would rise to the challenge, and load up that wheelchair in the trunk of the car. Then she’d pile us in, along with the three kids she babysat, and cart us all off to swimming lessons and library days all crammed into the Mercury, sharing seat-belts. Those were the days! All total, that was 6 kids, including my sister who you can’t leave for a second.

I remember we would all take turns sitting next to Amanda. See, blind people have a need to touch things more. Amanda loves to grab the arm of whoever she’s sitting next to. That’s not so bad, except her hand was usually wet. Plus, she had this talent for squeezing your arm with her fingers, right between the two bones in your forearm—eeeek! I still shudder at the thought! Ha! It was just the kind of minor nuisance that would take you by surprise and about make you jump out of your seat! You better believe we were pretty happy when my parents bought their first mini-van!

Just thinking about those summers makes me smile. I hope I can give my own boys those kind of memories.

I’ll leave you with one more story: sharing beds!

The boys love each other so much, sometimes they try this, and we go along with it. Last night was one of those nights. JD climbed into the bottom of Dan’s bunk while we were putting Dan to bed. We let them try it, and they were very good and quiet for a little while. Eventually, Dan got JD out of bed, and we had to send him back to his own room, but they were awfully cute and happy for a little while.

Joshua and Caleb also tried sharing beds last night. They begged us to let them sleep in the double bed in the guest room so they could watch for our owl. There’s a great horned owl that frequents our yard. It’s as though he knew they were waiting for him last night, though. For the first time in ages, we never heard him once. Those poor boys. They waited in that room, silently, believe it or not, for a long time. By the time I went to bed, Joshua and Caleb were both passed out, each in their regular twin beds, as usual. Oh well. It is terribly difficult to sleep in a different bed than your own!

They might think it’s hard to share a bed with their brother, but you don’t know anything until you’ve shared a bed with Amanda, my sister! She used to pat the wall, over and over again, and she hummed a lot. The humming never bothered me, but she sure got me one night. I’ll never forget it. I was already asleep, and I was the kind of kid that had an overactive imagination. I regularly saw toys moving on my shelves and couldn’t get to sleep because I just knew a ghost was going to come into my room. (I read one too many 13 Ghosts of Alabama books.) I had just drifted off, when SPLAT! A hand cupped my face, straight across. I’m pretty sure I screamed. Poor Amanda. She was just giving me a good-night pat.

Caleb, showing off his latest drawing

I hope you all have a great weekend. I’ll be announcing the winner of the give-away tomorrow!

Click and done! It registers your visit from my site as a vote.


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