Saintly Sundays: Memorize the Bible in 25 Years

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to memorize the book of Matthew. The idea came from a few different sources. The first was this post on Changing Your Mind, which in turn introduced me to the book How To Master the English Bible (only available on Kindle that I’ve found; linked through my Amazon Affiliates account.) The basic concept is to read each book of the Bible over and over again until you’ve mastered it– deeply absorbed it, grasped the themes and messages, made it your own.

I started with the book of Matthew, and in the course of my reading, read a lot about the way Jewish children were raised in Jesus’ time. I’m so impressed with the way Jewish children memorize the Torah from ages 5-12. Having read that often devoted students would go on to memorize the remainder of the Tanakh, I was struck by the idea that Christ might’ve had the whole Scripture (of his time) memorized!

So why not me? Although starting at five books would’ve given me a more leisurely schedule, I discovered that I could do the entire Old & New Testament over the next 25 years, at the rate of 1300 verses a year, or about 25 a week.

Now, I know that sounds like a lot, and that’s where the next piece of the puzzle slots in: Scripture Typer. Seriously, buy it– it’s well worth the $10 price. With Scripture Typer’s automatic system of review, I don’t have to get my 25 verses word-perfect in one week. I just have to be able to type it at 92% accuracy. Then, over the next few weeks as it pops up for review, I get more and more accurate with it. The upshot is that with about 20-30 minutes a day (which I do first thing in the morning while the boys have a snack and read in bed), I’ve memorized Matthew 1-7 since January 1st.

Eventually, I’d like to do a modified version for my kids to use. Perhaps starting with the first five books of the New Testament from ages 5-12, and then if they’d like to continue, handing them over to Scripture Typer with a plan adjusted for the books they’ve already memorized? I’ll have to think on it.

If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, here’s a PDF of my 25-year plan. And I’d love to hear of any resources for memorization or tricks you guys use!

Homeschooling: Science: gofindit Sensory Game

GoFindIt! At the State Park

Gofindit At the State Park

From the UK-based Sensory Trust, this little scavenger-hunt card game has been a happy little buy for our family. Basically, it’s a deck of cards featuring all different adjectives- wet, curvy, huge, crunch!, red, etc. With older kids, you could play by the rules: hand each kid five cards and race to find an item that matches each card. For the boys, though, we don’t make it a contest. It’s just a great way to engage with our surroundings, observe, and discover. They even love playing it indoors!

It doesn’t seem to be available in Canada, but for US-based readers, you can grab it through my Amazon Affiliate link here: http://amzn.to/1UFIzSg. It’s not particularly cheap given the dismal exchange rate, but it’s open-ended and friendly to all ages, so I’m definitely not worried about getting our money’s worth out of it!

Systems: Universal Packing List

In a lot of ways, I’ve grown up to be just like my mother. One way is our common love of systems. We both believe, somewhere deep in our hearts, that there is a perfect list for everything life throws at you. The schedules I draw for my kids, the chore and shopping lists I make, even my glorious but not-yet-complete bid to have a 365-day meal plan, are all rooted in the lists I saw my mother making as a kid.

So of course, when I stumbled across OneBag.com a few years back, I was hooked. Calling itself “a non-commercial Web site that teaches — in exhaustive (exhausting?) detail — the art and science of travelling light,” it has a wealth of information on the best kind of bag to get, what to put in it, and how to make sure it’s the only bag you bring on your trip. And while I certainly can’t claim I managed (or even wanted!) to make eight weeks’ worth of Georgia travel necessities fit in one bag, I do adore the universal packing list philosophy espoused on the site.

Basically, the idea is that you have a packing list that you pull out every time you go on a trip, and on that list is every single thing you might need to take. You don’t take everything that’s on the list, but you don’t take anything that isn’t on the list. And it works! Aside from the odd very trip-specific item (like, say, skis if you’re going on a ski trip), everything you’re going to need is on this list. I packed for a family of four’s eight-week work trip, and the only thing that we need that didn’t come with us is a DVD whose case I packed without checking whether it was still in the DVD player.

The site encourages you to personalise your own version of the list, and tweak it over time. So I did. And I’m including it here in the hopes that some of you might find it useful. I’ve made two versions, a PDF checklist which, if you’re a real keener, can be printed double-sided, laminated, and used with a dry-erase marker. (I won’t judge if you’re a keener; I’m the girl who read the whole OneBag.com website to make this for you!) The second version is a Word document, which you could download if you’d like to edit and personalise your own version of the universal packing list.

OneBag.com has an extensive justification, as well as suggested brands, for every item on their list, and it’s worth a read-through if you have a boatload of time on your hands (as I once did, before I had kids). If you’re a little more pressed for time, though, you can always just check in on items of interest. After all, you may never need the kind of travel that requires you to have a compass, or paracord, or hot glue, and the point here is to find a list that makes things simple for you.

Do you have any go-to travel gurus or tips? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. I’m always looking for new and better life hacks.

Georgia Book Reviews: The Jesus We Missed


The Book: The Jesus We Missed, Father Patrick Reardon

Summary: A loving treatise on the way we should understand Jesus’ humanity as presented in the four Gospels.

Recommended By: This review on the Gospel Coalition blog.

My Thoughts: Although at times I felt Reardon was descending into mere speculation– offering lovely explanations for various actions of Jesus that may or may not have any actual basis in reality– for the most part, I dearly loved reading this. Reardon’s love for Christ shines through the pages, his translations of the original texts and his historical understanding both of the Gospels themselves, and the church history and tradition that built on them, were invaluable and insightful, and I came away from reading feeling my own love for my Saviour expanded and my desire to learn more about him deepened.

I especially loved the beginning chapters on Jesus’ pre-ministry life. Since New Year’s I’ve been memorizing Matthew, and am just now starting on the Sermon on the Mount, so for the last month, I’ve been saturated daily in those four simple chapters on Jesus’ birth, flight to Egypt, baptism, and temptation in the wilderness. The richness of historical detail and insights from Reardon helped me feel even more intimate and helped by these four chapters.

I highly recommend this book to anybody who would like to better understand Jesus in his historical humanity, and I will definitely be seeking out Reardon’s other works.

Georgia Book Reviews: The Secrets of Happy Families


The Book: The Secrets Of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler

Summary: Hacks from everything from business to the military to reality TV on doing family life better.
Recommended By: This Cup of Jo blog post on keeping the spark alive in your marriage (it quotes from the book and is a good little read in and of itself.)
My Thoughts: I love this kind of book, which pulls together a wide range of research and experience to provide, not a step-by-step guide, but fresh inspiration and ideas on doing something better. (A similar title that I thoroughly enjoyed was How We Learn.)

Feiler writes in a light style and pulls together a couple of different sources for each of his chapters, some more scientific/academic, and some just people with good life experience or who have done something well and in an innovative way.

The broader scope of the book suggests that happy families are those who are adaptable, invested in each other, multigenerational, directional (or perhaps purposeful is a better word), and deal with conflict well. Some of the specific suggestions explored that I like and might want to incorporate into our family life(/am already incorporating but found affirmed) are:

  • Handing over routines to kids to be their own responsibility (via checklists) and gaining their feedback into ways they can do it better. My own kids are a bit on the young side for it, but only a bit, and I always think it’s better to start something a little early and have some growing pains…
  • The notion that people are more motivated by fear of losing a good thing than by the prospect of gaining a good thing, so a smarter way to motive your kids via reward is giving it up front but making keeping it conditional on their behaviour.
  • The value of building resilience and stability in children through telling them the ups and downs of your family’s history.
  • Taking time as a family to define your core goals and values, and talking about those to motivate your choices, i.e., “We are the kind of family who…”
  • The Harvard Negotiation Project’s five-step philosophy for handling the world’s toughest disagreements:
    • Isolate your emotions
    • Go to the balcony (i.e. move away from the situation until you can objectively look at the big picture.)
    • Step to their side (try to understand how they’re thinking, listen, ask questions.)
    • Don’t reject, reframe (work to find alternative solutions that meet everyone’s needs by asking open-ended questions, moving the spotlight from two rigid opposing positions to new options you’ve come up with together, ‘expand the pie before dividing it’.)
    • Build the golden bridge (settle on a resolution that leaves neither party embittered; write down together a list of possible solutions, star the most promising and eliminate the others.)
  • Take off the training wheels in teaching your kids personal finance. Talk to them honestly about your money, hand over responsibility for good and poor decisions to them while they’re still dealing in pocket change, give them meaningful earning opportunities, and finally, consider the goal: that they be responsible, self-reliant, and creative with their money.
  • Play better with your kids by creating games for them that have challenges/failures as well as easy parts, ‘levels’, and rules that force creativity and strategic thinking.
  • This quote about being a sports parent: “The purpose of youth sports… is to create better competitors and better people.” The first goal is the domain of the kids and their coaches. “Parents have a more important job… You focus on the second goal, helping your kids take what they learn from sports into the rest of their lives… Let’s say your kid strikes out, and his team loses the game… You can have a first-goal conversation about bailing out of the batter’s box, keeping your eye on the ball, etc. Or you can have a second-goal conversation about resilience, character, and perseverance.”

At the end of the book, my take-away isn’t that we need to make a lot of changes to be a happy family, since I feel like we’re a happy family already. (It might, however, be more useful to a family that’s struggling in that regard.) My takeaway was more small ideas and hacks that I’d like to take on board to care for and enjoy each other better as husband and wife, parents and kids, and even as an extended family. It was a one-day read for me, and, while not groundbreaking, certainly helpful.

Disclaimer: Books linked through my Amazon Affiliates account. If you like the sound of this book, buy it through my link and help feed my reading habit!

Thursdays with Words: April Reading List

I’ve been reading a lot more than I have in I can’t even remember how long (thank-you, Georgia!), so I wanted to sit down and do some reviews of what I’ve read recently. Partly I want to just get it out of my head, and partly I hope you can find something that catches your interest. All links will be through my Amazon Affiliates account*. So, without further ado– what I’ve read this past month (well, six weeks-ish):

How We Learn, Benedict Cary
Steven got me this for Christmas and I loved it. I loved it for me, and I loved it for my children, and I can’t wait to read it again and sit down and write out how these ideas can be applied to homeschooling. It’s basically a series of ‘brain hacks’ to help you retain and memorize information better, solve problems more creatively and efficiently, and generally learn more effectively. I’m probably going to do a longer blog post on it so I’ll leave it at that.

The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
I read this right after he died. I had always had the impression that Pratchett just wrote kind of goofy fantasy, but I was wrong. Or at least, about this book. But I will definitely want to read more. I found his work a beautiful blend of humour and poignancy, his culture rich and detailed, his MC thoroughly relatable and awesome, and his imagination wonderful. This story made me laugh out loud and it made me think. I was wasting my time not reading him all these years.

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, Orson Scott Card
I got this because I am working on a fantasy novel; this is also the reason for most of the other books I’ve read this month and most of the books on my to-read list. I’m trying to get a handle on the genre and some of the aspects I am less strong in. I feel myself to be reasonably strong on the mechanics of writing, but this book focuses on aspects specific to speculative fiction– worldbuilding, magic systems, types of stories, and the SFF publishing market. I think it was a good base for me, and serves as a good jumping off point for reading SFF with a watchful eye for the elements that make it good SFF.

The Patternist Series, Octavia Butler
I downloaded the first book (Wild Seed) because Card praised it in the above-mentioned book. Then I tore through it, dowloaded the next book without stopping, and tore through that, and so on ’til I’d read all four. A creative concept and I was very surprised the direction it took. All four books are connected, but in a loose, unexpected manner as they travel from the 1600’s to a post-apocalyptic society. The writing is spare without being unnecessarily so, and the plot is forefront without neglecting the skill and beauty of the language, which I find rare in plot-driven books. Content advisory: there is a lot of sex in these books. It’s not graphic, it’s just ubiquitous. The story features essentially the breeding of a new society and the characters are all part of that so they all just end up having lots of sex. You were warned.

The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
Read this for book club; it’s been a while since I read older fiction like this and it was a good shake-up for me, I think. Different language, different style conventions, different social mores and overarching values… I was interested in the story but I had a hard time getting away from the constant commentary on what females can and can’t do/feel/think. I read on Collins’ Wikipedia page that “He also wrote penetratingly on the plight of women and on the social and domestic issues of his time,” so maybe I was just too far removed socially from the time of the book to catch on? Maybe he was being ironic? He seemed to spend for more time than necessary pontificating on what women are intrinstically like, and he doesn’t usually decide on the more flattering choices (i.e. weak, emotional, stuff like that). Marian Halcombe is interesting, witty, intelligent, and totally not the love interest in the story, which role is instead fulfilled by her angelic, blonde, and boring-as-heck half-sister Laura. So that annoyed me the whole time.

Update: This was still bugging me so I did a quick Google of “feminism the woman in white wilkie collins” and came up with this blog post which does enlighten me a little. Commentary on unjust marriage laws, strong female character, types. Ok, cool. Still a little annoyed but less so.

Mistborn, Brandon Sanderson
Read this on the plane back home for Easter (and then all the next day when I was supposed to be actually doing stuff like mothering my children and unpacking). I’m working on writing a fantasy novel so I’m trying to read more in the genre, get a better feel from the sweep of fantasy and hit the big authors in the field. I enjoyed the magic system (Allomancy) in this book, which was intricate, internally consistent, and unique. The characterization and development was decent and the writing also fair to middling, although Sanderson did feel the inexplicable need to use the word ‘maladroitly’ like four times which is totally uncalled for. But (spoiler alert) Jordan used the word ‘rictus’ even more than that in Eye of the World so it was probably a good thing Sanderson was chosen to continue the Wheel of Time series…

The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
For the whole first section of the book I had a very hard time separating my opinion of the elements of this book that have become tropes from my opinion of the actual writing, but as I got deeper into the story, as things got more immersive, I was able to set that aside. The further in I got, the more I admired Jordan’s worldbuilding and creativity. I still don’t find the writing style very much to my taste, and I was annoyed throughout the book about the way he wrote women and the way he wrote male-female relationships (like, everybody had to mention about how they could never understand the other gender), but the story, the scope, the world, the magic, were all beautiful and well-done.

*And hey: if you buy any of these books through my links here, I get money! So, just a thought…

Toddler Tuesdays: Leapfrog Letter Factory

As we started working our way through School Sparks, I realized that before we could do the letters section, Scout Kid needed some serious phonics help. He knows his letters backwards, uppercase and lowercase, can write them all with minimal help, and has a few sight words, but he really only knew a handful of the phonics sounds despite, I thought, me being pretty regular about talking about them.
I got this movie on the recommendation of a friend— she used it for her kids in the past and apparently it works like magic for teaching kids phonics sounds. Since I am all about education in the form of magic, I bought it and, yep! It’s magic! Scout Kid went from basically not knowing more than a few letter sounds to knowing them all in two days! The video doesn’t cover long vowels, alternate sounds (such as for c, g), or digraphs, but it’s a good start and Scout Kid found it effortless and engaging.
Find it on Amazon for $15: Leapfrog: Letter Factory (link through my Amazon Affiliates account).

Houselove: Flylady

https://www.flickr.com/photos/suzettesuzette/6893524229/in/set-72157624099284654

So if you’ve hung out with me and/or been to my house in the last few weeks, chances are you’ve heard me mention the Flylady. Since a few of you have mentioned you’d like me to share, here goes.

Maybe a month or two ago, a friend posted about the Flylady and I just sort of ignored because she was posting from the perspective of having really fallen behind in her home and being totally swamped. I thought, my house is usually pretty clean. I mean, I keep everything tidy; I usually manage to vacuum once a week; sometimes I even mop (sometimes). I didn’t think about it for a while, but then two weeks ago, out of idle curiosity, I clicked over.

First things first, do not let the website put you off. The UI was, I believe, put together by a gila monster and the graphic design team was a squad of spider monkeys, but despite the ugly graphics and confusing navigation, the methods in here are pure gold.

The basis for the system is increments. Increments and scheduling. The two bases for the system are increments, scheduling, and a knowledge that it doesn’t all have to get done at once. The three bases for the system… ahem. Anyways. Increments. Tasks are never done in big chunks, you don’t spend a whole day turning your house upside to declutter or exhaust yourself trying to deep clean a room all at once, but do everything in short, timed increments: ten minutes of decluttering here, fifteen minutes of detailed cleaning there, two minutes of tidying there.

Since the website has the information scattered all over the place, I spent a day or so conglomerating everything for myself and typed up my own schedule. Here are the pieces of the puzzle for your viewing pleasure:

  • Have a morning and evening routine that includes:
    • Morning: Getting dressed and making your bed
    • Morning: Quickly wiping down your bathroom
    • Morning: Emptying the dishwasher and moving the laundry forward a step
    • Evening: Shining your sink
    • Evening: Setting out your clothes and whatever is needed for tomorrow
    • Evening: Going to bed at a reasonable hour
  • Having a daytime routine that includes:
    • 15 minutes of exercise (I use the 7-Minute Workout App)
    • 15 minutes of decluttering or detail cleaning
    • Drinking water every day (I love that she includes self-care in the home-care routine)
  • Having a weekly routine (I do most of these on days other than what she suggests because it fits my life better) that includes:
  • Having a monthly routine that involves focusing on decluttering/detail cleaning a different area of your home each week:
    • Zone 1: Entrance, front porch, dining room (for me this is entrance, porches, hall office)
    • Zone 2: Kitchen
    • Zone 3: Main bathroom/extra bedroom/kids’ rooms/craft room (for me this is bathroom, hall, and boy’s room)
    • Zone 4: Master bed/bathroom & closet (for me this is master bedroom/closets and office)
    • Zone 5: Living room/den/TV room (for me this is living room & basement)
  • Following Flylady’s daily missions for the week’s Zone in addition to doing that 15 minutes of cleaning/decluttering there.
Finally, if you haven’t been all linked out, here’s a link to the pdf of my schedule based on this. If you need a reason to sift through this rather complicated system, here it is: two weeks, mother of two kids under three, part-time work from home, and I have time to clean out closets and work out and clean parts of my house that have never been cleaned before and get all my regular housework done. I’ve been doing this for two weeks and my house is gleaming like a silver spoon.

Foundland Fridays: Soap Utopia

This recommendation is close to my heart because I love Canadian-made, and I also love natural beauty products. Soap Utopia makes gorgeous, natural soaps in Oakville, Ontario. I love the Baby Me unscented baby soap for the boys, and Steven and I use the Muskoka Boathouse and Oakmoss scents because they’re nice and unisex (well, they’re unisex if you’re me and you’re not into ultra-feminine, floral scents). I also love the lip-balms, they work better for me than anything I’ve bought at a drugstore (including Burt’s Bees) and have lovely scents. Lily treats her customers well and I won’t buy any other soaps for our family. Four-bar bundles for $22.60 with flat-rate shipping.