Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Club, Boys' Edition: "Shoeless Joe & Me" by Dan Gutman

Baseball season has begun, and so our boys chose to step up to the mound with this month's book choice.  They read "Shoeless Joe & Me" by Dan Gutman.

As always, we began inside by summarizing and talking about the book.  While the boys aren't usually particularly loquacious, they surprised me this month.  The book is about the fixing of the World Series in 1919 and Shoeless Joe Jackson's part therein.  The boys compared this scandal to current drug scandals, brought up whether gambling is moral even if legal, wanted to know about steroids, and other issues related to the game.  What a discussion!

Then we moved on to baseball cards.  Each boy had brought a collection, and they were eager to check them out, although they didn't all value the same types of cards.

Next we made our own peanut-free version of CrackerJack.  It was yummy stuff!

While the CrackerJack set up, the boys designed their own baseball cards ...

and showed them off a bit ...

before deciding that all of this talk of baseball necessitated a game.

Of course, all of that running around made them hungry, and so we broke out our CrackerJack.

So if you're looking for a good baseball book this season, you won't go wrong with Shoeless Joe & Me.  Just be prepared to grab some friends and go play afterwards - you won't be able to resist the crack of the bat.

What are your kids' favorite springtime reads?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hearts for Home Blog Hop - April 17, 2014

Introducing ... the Hearts for Home Blog Hop!  A Nest in the Rocks is now one of the co-hosts for this weekly link-up, which means that every Thursday you'll find lots of great tips, recipes, and other family-friendly ideas listed throughout this post.  If you're a blogger, we'd love to have you link up your posts and join us.  You can find information about the other co-hosts of this hop here.

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The most clicked-on post from last week was Technology Tuesday.

Some of my favorite posts from last week were:

- King David lesson for kids

If your post is listed above, please grab one of our 'Featured Blogger' buttons!  Congratulations, and thanks for writing such inspiring posts.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mid-week Missions: Resurrection Activities for Kids

Great activities abound at this time of year - and I think that when working with kids, the very best ones are those that point to the cross.  We need to be sure that our children are hearing the story of Jesus' love and sacrifice over and over, learning the layers and shades of meaning and great love that are woven throughout.

That means that this week we're having "Easter School" at our house.  Each day we're doing a different activity that points to the cross.  While I don't have finished pictures from all of these to share yet, I can point you to where I found most of these ideas, so here they are -our favorite Resurrection activities for Easter.

1.  Resurrection Garden - This has been making its way around Pinterest, and we decided to try it this year.  We planted it several days ago and hope that it begins to sprout by Easter - but if it doesn't, we'll enjoy it next week.  The kids loved planning the layout of the garden and finding the perfect rock to seal the tomb - and as the week goes on, we'll be adding crosses to our garden.

2.  Resurrection Eggs - Directions abound for what to put in these eggs if you choose to make your own, but I purchased mine years ago during an 'after Easter' sale at a local Christian book store.  I've been using these to tell the story to My Big Helper and My Little Man for about six years now, and they get excited each time we pull out the bright orange egg carton.  This is a great way to make the storytelling interactive, and the symbols help the smallest children remember the main points of the story.

3.  "The Crossmaker" by See the Light Shine - This set of Easter-centered art projects is awesome!  There are lessons using creative lettering - seen above and below - as well as chalk pastels, watercolors, a story, and some really neat bonus features.  We're having fun working through these lessons together, and I appreciate the way that the Bible stories are so well tied into art projects where the kids are learning and producing 'masterpieces' that I can display and keep for years to come.

4.  Easter Cards - We send cards to our extended family members every holiday season, big or small.  At least, we try to - it's one way that we try to stay in touch with people who are far away. This year the kids chose to make cards several different ways, so not everyone will be getting the same style of cards, but some will be receiving this one.

5.  Empty Tomb Resurrection Cake - I don't think that our cake is going to look quite like this, but I am excited about the idea of morphing our traditional Bunny Cake into a Resurrection Cake.  I think we're going to have fun building a sugary garden, too, and I love the meaning that we can build into that.

6.  Resurrection Rolls - This has been a popular side dish for years, and it never gets old around here.  We'll make and serve these at our Easter feast.

7.  An "Easter" Seder Meal - We're actually doing this twice this week - once with our church and once with our school group, but it's a pretty exciting event.  At the first one there was a Jewish rabbi and a Duke Divinity Professor present, and while one taught us the traditions involving the Seder post-Temple, the professor pointed to how Jesus fulfilled those traditions.  It was a great experience that led to a rather deep discussion with My Big Helper upon arriving home.

How will you point your children to the cross this week?

"Claiming Mariah" by Pam Hillman

After her father's death, Mariah Malone sends a letter that will forever alter the lives of her family. When Slade Donovan, strong willed and eager for vengeance, shows up on her front porch, Mariah is not ready to hear his truths: her father's farm, the only home she's ever known, was bought with stolen gold. With Slade ready to collect his father's rightful claim and force Mariah and her family out on the streets, Mariah must turn to God for guidance. Though Mr. Frederick Cooper, a local landowner, promises to answer her financial woes if she agrees to be his bride, Mariah finds herself drawn instead to the angry young man demanding her home.

With the ranch now under Slade's careful eye, he unearths more than he ever imagined as a devious plot of thievery, betrayal, and murder threatens the well-being of the ranch, endangering those who hold it dear. As the days dwindle until the rest of the Donovan clan arrives at the Lazy M ranch, Mariah and Slade must rise above the resentment of their fathers and see their true feelings before greed changes their futures forever.

Claiming Mariah is an adventure-romance in the best sense of the word:  Slade and Mariah encounter fistfights and rustlers, drunks and the hungry children - all while navigating the path to true love.  That's exactly what makes this book such a fascinating read: because while you can see early on just how well they might belong together, there are just so many obstacles in their path and you can't imagine how they might make their paths blend permanently.

And because of their good hearts, their strong sense of family, and their burgeoning romance, you really want them to.  You can't help but champion them on, all while feeling as if you're in the very best kind of Western.  With rustlers and an assortment of other bad guys, with gold mining and marriages of convenience and first class attractions happening, you feel like you're really there.  Hillman paints a fantastic picture of the Lazy M and describes realistic, likable, flawed characters, as well - the kind you want for your own neighbors.  

The mystery put the rest over the top.  It feels from the beginning as if you know exactly what happened between Slade and Mariah's fathers, but Hillman reveals detail after delicious detail as the pages turn.  You'll never guess the whole truth of what really did happen - and that mounting suspense will keep this book in your hands long after lights-out.

So, looking for a good historical-romance?  I definitely recommend Claiming Mariah.

Click here to read other reviews on this bloggy hop or here to purchase your own copy now.

Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of!

Learn more about Pam at:

I received a free copy of Claiming Mariah from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

GratiTuesday - "Let the Little Children Come to Me"

Have you ever seen Resurrection Eggs?  

It's a dozen plastic eggs, Easter-style, and each one contains a symbol of the Easter message.  They have numbers so you can get them in the right order, and I've been using them to talk about the Easter message with my kids since they were in preschool.

Last week, though, I asked them to keep quiet about the story.  We decided to use the eggs with our church's elementary-aged youth group, and I wanted them to be sure to give the other kids a chance to answer.  I figured everyone would be excited and talking and ready to shout out about what each symbol meant.

I was partly right.

The kids liked the eggs.  We sat in a circle on the floor, and they had hands in the air and wiggly bottoms as I held up each egg.  They were eager for the opportunity to open it and find out what was inside.

But they didn't know what the symbols meant.

They didn't know that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, or that He was whipped, or wore a crown of thorns, or that soldiers gambled for His clothes.  They were excited to learn, and they listened intently to the story, but they didn't already know.

One kid knew, though.  Funny thing was, he wasn't one of our usual kids.  He came because his mom helps lead, and he had to tag along that night.

See, he's not old enough for the group - he's only three.

But that little three-year-old kid had heard this story before - this story that the older ones either didn't know or couldn't remember - and he couldn't wait to tell the rest of us all about it.

As soon as each egg cracked, this little guy was talking a mile a minute - telling us all about what each symbol meant.  He knew the whole story.  He knew the scary parts, the super sad parts, the bloody parts, and the full-of-love parts.  Turns out his preschool teacher taught him the story - I bet she has the eggs, too - and he learned it well.

Our kids are never too young to learn about Jesus.  That little one was so excited that he couldn't hold it in - and he's only three.  What might he do with that excitement and enthusiasm?  Who could he teach - both now, as a cute kid, and later, as a wise adult? 

It reminded me of the part of the story where Jesus told the onlookers that if He quieted the "parade" attendees, that even the stones would cry out to Him.

This preschooler was like that - he just had to share.  Of course, many preschoolers feel the urge to talk your ears off - but when's the last time one just had to tell you all about Jesus?

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Menu Plan Monday - April 14, 2014

Happy Holy Week!  We're going to be exploring that theme in lots of different ways this week, in our school time, our art, and even in our snacks.  :-)   The weather has been forecasted to be beautiful for half of the week and a bit chillier the other half, so we'll be outside when we can and being creative inside when we can't.  That may dictate our menu plans a bit.  

Here are a few general ideas:


- scrambled eggs, juice, bananas


-Apple muffins and oranges



- Pizzadillas with Easy Bolognese Sauce, Pepperjack cheese, & onions; salad
- Grilled steak fajitas with peppers, onions, salsa, and rice
- Easter dinner:  baked ham, Guilty Good Green Beans, Mom's Baked Corn, S'Mashed Italian Potatoes, Resurrection rolls, applesauce, and Resurrection cake for dessert.
- Leftovers
We're going to bake a Resurrection Cake on Saturday to have for dessert on Sunday.  In the past we've made this Bunny Cake.

What are you cooking this week?

For more Menu Plan Mondays, visit OrgJunkie.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Living History: On Board the R.M.S. Titanic

I love history.

History means story and people and the hows and whys of the choices that they make.  It means understanding a different time and place and coming to learn how that time affects our own.

I come from a long line of storytellers, and I grew up hearing family stories, many of them dating back to the Civil War.  But when my grandmother took me to Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts and I walked into one of the tiny huts that resembles a Pilgrim dwelling from that first harsh winter in America, I was hooked on seeing history come alive.

Last week, it really did.

For a year a group of friends and I have been planning a Titanic unit with our kids.  The idea was that each child would choose a person who had a connection to the fatal maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic and then research that person deeply.  The family would study the ship and anything connected with it however they chose - but on April 4th we would come together for a Titanic-style luncheon.  Each child would dress as their 'character' and each family would come bearing a dish that was really cooked on board.  The parents would then serve the children, who would converse in character and share what they had learned.

One of our moms most generously offered to host this gathering.  It takes a rare and kind person to allow 18 children of all ages to invade her home, eating off of fine china and silver and wiggling happily on beautiful chairs - and she is definitely that kind of person.

And so, venture out we did.  

I couldn't help but wonder: what did passersby think of these antique-looking people?

As everyone arrived, we took pictures by family and with close friends.  Think Prom.  This turned out to be a really big deal!

Of course, the Titanic could not sail without Captain Smith.

Our hostess went all out.  The girls seated themselves in her dining room, amid many giggles and smiles,

while the boys all retired to the butler's pantry, where I heard many glasses clink to shouts of 'cheers!'

We ate very well, and we ate beautiful, wonderful food that was authentic to the voyage.

The children chose a wide variety of people connected with the Titanic.  The Astors were present, as was Harold Bride, Marconi operator; Thomas Andrews, ship designer; Violet Jessup, nurse/stewardess; Captain EJ Smith; and many others.  One family with an infant even dressed up the baby and chose a character for her!

This was an event that we will not soon forget.  Though it was fun, our children studied history, literature, science, scripture, writing, health, and grammar.  They talked about pride and money and etiquette and whether one really needs to eat nine courses of dinner.  

While we're all happy to live in a time that doesn't require such grandiose manners or focus on luxury in quite that way, we can learn a lot from those who lived it.

And we'll never forget the Titanic.