Ella Builds a Wall by Ruth McKeague Book Review

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for free, but as always, this is my honest and truthful opinion. If you buy the book through my link, part of the money will come back to me. Just through reading this review you are supporting me, so thanks! 

I am very excited today to bring to you a review of a new book, Ella Builds a Wall by Ruth McKeague. As you might know, we are big readers in this house. I read a lot. My kids read a lot. We own over 1,000 books, 800 or so of those alone being children’s books. Needless to say, including library books, my children and I have read a lot of books. However, just because we have read a lot of books, it does not stop us from the Ella Builds a Wall by Ruth McKeague continued search for children’s books. Reading has so many benefits. And our continued search for children’s books helps to broaden my children’s view of the world. You can learn about so many people and places and parts of the world through books.

But enough about reading – let’s talk specifically about Ella Builds a Wall. 

Name of book: Ella Builds a Wall

Author: Ruth McKeague

Summary: I think that these videos do a great job of the summary, so instead of reading my summary of the book, I’d encourage you to watch the summaries below instead! You can also read about Ruth’s journey of writing this book. 

Rating:  5 stars

Reason for Rating  

In Ella Builds a Wall, Ella learns from her Sensei about the walls that we build around people. She learns about the walls that make us stronger and help us defend ourselves. She also learns the walls that make us weaker by shutting people out. As a kid, I was bullied and I was often told to Dominic Reading Ella Builds a Wall by Ruth McKeagueignore the bullies, which, to be honest, I don’t think is exceedingly helpful advice. Even if I didn’t ignore them, it didn’t change how I felt on the inside after hearing mean things. I feel like this book provides an excellent framework, as a parent, to be able to discuss with our kids what is in their control – which is their emotions and their reactions. I want to use this with my kids to be able to talk to them about how we are the master of our feelings. That’s something that I still struggle with as an adult. However, I hope that I will be able to give them the tools so they don’t have to struggle when they are my age. I loved that it wasn’t just about Ella fighting bullies. It was also about how to be a good friend to people that you think are strange and not at all like you. In the book that’s Sarah, who is not the bully, but who Ella thinks she has nothing in common with. The book shows them able to become friends. The book made me think about all the times that we build walls and shut people out. We think that their actions are directed at us. Really, they are just trying to live their lives and get through the things we are all trying to get through. Dominic told me the book was “very cool” and “great!” I’d recommend this book for kids who are struggling with bullies or with big emotions. I think that you could even use this in sibling relationships. I think it is a good read with Dominic now. However, I’m excited to see how he can grow with this book and how we can talk about it more as he grows and changes.

Thank you again to Ruth for providing me with a copy of this book! It was an excellent read and I hope that you enjoy it as well! If you’d like to purchase it, purchasing through the link is the best way to go as a part of the proceeds will come to me if you do! What are your favorite books that deal with feelings and bullying? Will you pick up a copy of Ella Builds a Wall

Child Marriage in America

Child Marriage in America is a thing, but it definitely shouldn't be

A lot of you know I studied political science in college, so paying attention to the going on in the world around me is important to me. Of course, since the kids, I can’t pay as close attention as I used to/as I’d like to, but I still like to think that I am aware of things. So when I read in the New York Times that child marriages are happening in America, I thought no way. This is America – we have laws against such things, right? And even if child marriage in America is happening, it can’t possibly be legal, can it?

Imagine my surprise and shock when I learned that no, these marriages are legal. And over half of states have no legal minimum age for marriage. I always just assumed this was one of those things you couldn’t do until you were an adult or at the very least, 16 with your parent’s consent. At least that’s what I’ve always heard and it does turn out that Wisconsin has a minimum legal age of 16. So perhaps that’s where some of my thinking that everywhere in the United States has a law like that comes from.

But I mean, it’s absurd. I don’t want to say that I think it’s always a bad idea for people to marry young. While I was not a teenager, I was only 20 when I married. So obviously, I feel that marrying young can be fine. But there is a big difference between a 20-year-old and a 13-year-old. Most teenagers can not even go to the bathroom at school without permission. They can’t vote or do other things that we consider to be adult things, so why should we be allowing them to get married? In one case, it talks about an 11-year-old being married. You can not tell me that the 11-year-olds you know are prepared to be married. At the very least, the 11-year-olds I know aren’t. I don’t want to rehash the article, but I think that you should definitely read it.

But, as with anything, I did not stop at one source. When I learn about something, I want to dig in all the way deep. So I did some more searching about child marriage in America. I thought I would include some more of the things I turned up in my search for further reading.

Like this older New York Times article that explains that while the minimum is 18 in most places, there are exceptions and even if it appears that the kids don’t want to be married, judges have little they can do about it and there are few laws explicitly forbidding forced marriage. Girls in forced marriages often have little resources if things go wrong.

If you are a numbers person, Pew has compiled some data on this issue. If you want a global perspective, the Independent has an article comparing the US to the situation in Europe and worldwide.

Marriage is a beautiful, wonderful thing and forced child marriage is a terrible thing to do.  But lest you think all hope is lost, states are starting to pass bills restricting this practice. There is still a long way to go. However, I feel like child marriage in America is an issue we could learn to all come together on. The stories are hard to read, but I don’t think we should shy away from reading things just because they are hard. We can’t change things we don’t know about or we won’t admit are problems.

Were you aware of this problem? What do you think should be done to solve it?

Photo by Celia Michon on Unsplash

Stay at Home Mom Guilt

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I have touched on stay at home mom guilt briefly before, in my other posts, I think, though definitely on Facebook. But today, I want to touch on it more directly.

Because sometimes, honestly, I feel guilty being a stay at home mom.

Stay at home mom guilt

Honestly, sometimes it’s hard not to.

We live in a society where our value is frequently measured by what we can do. What job we hold. What promotions we gain. How much money we make.

So what then, does it mean, to spend my life with no job, with no promotions on the horizon, with no money to show for it?

Sometimes it can lead to this overwhelming sense of guilt, that I feel like I’m not contributing to the family.

But then, this gets back to the idea of money. The idea that my only value is the money I can provide. But this is not true. In fact, this runs counter to everything in my value system. I have never believed money is the most important thing, but yet, for some reason, I get caught up in this societal idea that without a paycheck attached to my name, my value to society is worthless.

I struggle with feeling like I’m contributing enough, which is where the stay at home mom guilt comes in. This is ridiculous though! I do not say this to brag on myself, but I do a lot and not all of what I do can be quantified with a price tag and that’s okay. It’s not all about the money.

But yet, someone I know once called me a freeloader. And despite knowing that I am not a freeloader, despite knowing that I work hard, it has always stuck with me. The negative words do always stick too easily to me. Is that what everyone thinks about me? Are the sometimes subtle or not so subtle hints from other people that I should get a job proof that they think I’m a freeloader too?

Even if I did nothing, wouldn’t I still have value? I believe yes, in the same way that I believe babies and the unborn and the elderly and so on have value because they are human beings. I believe our value as human beings comes from God and it’s not something that can be taken away just by your status or standing in life. All people are valuable.

But the struggle with stay at home mom guilt is real. The struggle to run counter to the messages all around me is real. There is no reason for me to feel this way and certainly, in the moment, when I’m with my children, I don’t feel this way. It’s only in the quiet moments alone that I start to wonder. Maybe the solution is to never leave my children 😉 Just kidding, like everyone, I need time and space for myself to exist as well.

Sometimes, I don’t have a good conclusion for these posts that are just thoughts, because sometimes, there is no neat bow to wrap it all up. There is no perfect solution to the guilt. I can’t tell you how to overcome this guilt because every time I think I have, I find it comes right back again. But I know Christ did not set me free to live in this guilt. So at the very least (or perhaps, very most), I can turn to him to free me from my guilt. He is enough. And He has made me enough.

It’s not about accomplishments. Or money. Or the job I work or anything else that might give status for a moment, but in the end all fades away. Most people do not become famous in their jobs – sure, a small percentage of people do something world changing that gets remembered forever – but most people, most average people, don’t become famous in their jobs. And you can’t take all the money and accomplishments in the world with you when you die. But we chase after these things sometimes as if they will give us meaning. But they are only temporary things. Money can be lost. Jobs can be lost. People forget your accomplishments. That’s why you have to rest secure in your identity apart from these things.

I am more. And you are too.

Do you struggle with this guilt? How do you combat it? Or is there another kind of guilt you struggle with? 

P. S. I am not even touching on the other kind of stay at home mom guilt I feel, because that’s too big for this post and I don’t even know where to begin. But the guilt of your kids not listening and then you not parenting the way you want to parent and the resulting guilt from that is also a struggle to deal with. But that’s a different post perhaps for a different day. 

P. P. S. If you are a young adult in SE Wisconsin, Awake and Alive is having Pastor Jeffrey Bonack speak on guilt and shame. This is an awesome event and they pick their speakers very well. If you struggle with guilt like I do, it’s definitely something to look into. 

5 Comedies to Watch on Netflix

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good drama. But sometimes, you need to watch a show or a movie that makes you laugh. Here are my top 5 Netflix suggestions for when you need to laugh. For simplicity’s purpose of narrowing down just a little bit (it doesn’t really narrow it down that much but a little bit), I picked only movies and only those with a PG rating or less. So, don’t take this as an exclusive list as the best or anything like that. Just a list of 5 comedies that are good to watch. I could probably make 500 5 comedies to watch on Netflix lists and they’d each be different. So in no particular order, here are 5 movies from the comedy section on Netflix to watch.

5 Comedies to watch on Netflix

This picture isn’t from any of the movies, but it made me laugh in the same way. Plus, my sister has a thing for pineapples.

Trolls

I know I said they weren’t ranked, but this is probably still my favorite of the list. Yes, it is a kids’ movie, but we love kids movies around here. On our weekend away, we watched Zootopia haha. I have to admit, when I saw the premise of this movie, I thought it was kind of dumb. But I was wrong and I thought this movie was actually quite delightful. It has catchy tunes too, though it’s no Moana.

Johnny English Reborn

This is a spoof/parody of James Bond and you all know how much I love that genre. This is much better than any of the James Bond movies I’ve watched. It stars Rowan Atkinson, who of course, is brilliant. It made me laugh. It’s brilliant and the comedic timing, delivery, and set-up are well done.

Cool Runnings

Very, very loosely based on the debut of the Jamaican bobsled team into the Olympics, this movie had me laughing so hard. The members of the team are real characters and even though, after looking it up and realizing they changed so many details from the true story, it’s still a funny and entertaining movie to watch.

Around the World in 80 Days

While this novel has been adapted more than once, the one I recommend (and the one I found on Netflix – I’m not sure if the others one are on there) is the version with Jackie Chan. This version is heartwarming, funny, and charming all at once. You really fall in love with the characters and root for them. It’s not just a story about adventure, but also a story about love and friendship.

Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves

Okay, admittedly, this isn’t the best movie. I don’t think it’s winning any awards. But I feel like since having kids, I have a new and fun appreciation for this movie. I can totally relate to the parents and their feelings and emotions around being shrunk and also, their kids. It wasn’t as funny as some of the other movies, but it definitely had me laughing at points.

So, there you have it. Five fun comedies to watch on Netflix if you need a laugh or you have some time to kill. This list was current as of June 18th, 2017, but Netflix does change its selection frequently, so I can’t guarantee they’ll be there forever.

What comedies on Netflix do you enjoy? 

Picture from Gratisography. I love his unique pictures. 

When Getting Through is Enough

When Getting Through Is Enough

Today was a good day. But not every day is a good day.

Like last week Friday. Last week Friday was a disaster. My kids weren’t listening. I was exhausted because I caught a cold from my kids and I wasn’t sleeping well at night due to my throat hurting and my nose being so stuffed up I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I fell down the steps and landed on the toys I was carrying when I tripped (don’t worry, I was close to the bottom so I didn’t fall far and it hurt and I bruised the bottom of my foot so that hurt for a few days, but no serious injuries). And of course, this was also the day I had planned to make a pasta salad for co-op but then because of all the other stuff, I never got around to that, so I had to pick up something at the store, which made us late for co-op. We went to check out books at the library and that day was the day that I got billed for my missing book and then, when I was about to pay the fine, I realized that I left my wallet in the car on accident and so I had to separate my wailing child from his books and go back out to the car to get the wallet then come back in and pay the fine before we could check books out.

Needless to say, it was not a good day.

I just needed to get through that day. Forget making it wonderful, which even though I think is overrated, I still feel this pressure to do sometimes. I just needed to get through that day.

Sometimes getting through the day is enough.

Let me say that again.

Sometimes getting through the day is enough.

Somedays are just hard. That’s a part of life and a part of parenting. But sometimes we make those rough days ten times worse by telling ourselves all the things we should be doing that we are just not on top of. Like me, with the pasta salad. Did anybody care that I stopped at Costco instead of slaving over the stove? No. Me, I was the only one who cared. But we sometimes put all this pressure on ourselves to do certain things. We have these expectations on ourselves and when things don’t work it, it can be easy to feel like a failure.

But getting through a tough day is an accomplishment. And sometimes, I jokingly say at the end of a tough day, “We’re all still alive.” It’s a joke, but actually, it’s also pretty amazing. There are like a billion (a trillion if you believe every blog you ever read) ways that you could die. Getting through the day with everyone still alive is a success.

Yeah, the good days are great, but the bad days? They’re not the end of the world. You got through the day. And that’s enough for this day.

What helps you get through the days that are hard? 

P.S. In case you’re wondering, for whatever reason, I felt like this post needed a picture that would make you smile and/or laugh. So if you’re wondering about why I picked the pug in the blanket, that’s why. If you’re wondering why the pug is in a blanket, I can’t help you with that. 

Photo credit: Foter.com

The Amazing Universe We Live In

The amazing universe we live in

I have to admit when I was a kid, I kind of thought that space and the universe was pretty boring. I don’t know why but for whatever reason it didn’t hold my interest. I could barely name the planets.

Then I had kids and my oldest kid became space-obsessed. He can tell you so many things about space that I never knew before. And suddenly, I began to see the amazing things. The wonderful things that God created at for us to marvel at.

So in honor of this amazing space, here is a collection of links containing photos that showcase what an amazing universe we live in. And how amazing humanity is in some regards. It is easy to get down on all the terrible things that happen – because it is true, there are many terrible things that happen. But, we put a man on the moon. We have sent out probes that have traveled past Pluto. It’s remarkable to think about. The whole earth is really remarkable – today Dominic saw his first rainbow and that was a very special moment for him – but when you think about how remarkable the earth is and then add in space and the universe, it’s just clear what an amazing Creator we have.

The Most Amazing Space Photos This Week!

Hubble Space Telescope Top 100 Images

The 27 Most Mind-Blowing Space Photos of 2013 Will Put Your Life On Earth Into Perspective

The Most Amazing Space Images Ever

Top 10 Hubble Photos

Spectacular Photos from Space

The Most Amazing Images NASA Took of Earth from Space This Year

Top NASA Photos of All Time

NASA Image of the Day Archive

Amazing Space Images

20 Amazing Photographs of Earth, Taken from Space

15 Amazing Photos from Scott Kelly’s Year in Space

I hope you’ve enjoyed these remarkable photos! How do you feel about space? Do you find this universe amazing as well? 

Photo from FreeImages.com/Copernicus Johnson

It’s Almost Towel Day!

Keep Calm and Carry a Towel - Towel Day 2017

Tomorrow, May 25th, is Towel Day!

What is Towel Day? Towel Day is a day to honor the late Douglas Adams, beloved writer of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The basic premise of Towel Day is that you carry a towel around with you all day. It’s that simple. Anyone can do it, provided you have towels.

But if you aren’t familiar with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you may be scratching your head at the absurdity of carrying a towel around with you. And to tell you the truth, many of Adams’ books are absurd. But as absurd as they are, they are also absolutely delightful. I remember reading them as a kid and how much of an impression they made on me. They were so wonderful and I remember seeing the (disappointing) movie adaptation with my dad in theaters.

But this still doesn’t explain the towel thing. For that, you need to turn to a quote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

So you see, towels have immense value, which is why, in Douglas Adams’ honor, people carry around towels on May 25th. And really, it is a quite practical thing, especially as a mom. If you’ve never read any of his books, I highly encourage you to do so. To read more about it and find events that are happening, check out the official Towel Day website.

Happy Towel Day!

Are you a Douglas Adams fan? Do you celebrate Towel Day? 

P.S. Yes, that is a sticker on my computer.

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