Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review: Instructions for a Heatwave

I feel like I shouldn't even review this book, since I basically skimmed it because it was due back to the library (on a hold list, so no renewal available).  I was intrigued by the premise.  A man leaves to buy a paper one morning and fails to return.  The family is thrown into an uproar as a result and long-buried secrets come to light.  Interesting, no?

Well ... it wasn't quite as fulfilling as I'd hoped.  The heatwave never really becomes a focal point, other than the constant mention of the heat and the water ban.  The meandering manner of revealing the "long-buried secrets" was a bit too "meandering" for my likes.  We are woven in and out of the lives of the various Riordan family members as they become aware of the disappearance of the patriarch.  The actual cause of the disappearance was a bit of a let-down, as well.  I guess I just wasn't that enthralled with the characters or the revelations.  They had interesting problems (infidelity, fear of childbearing, etc.) but left me cold.  I did keep reading (or should I say, skimming) however.  It wasn't poorly written, just not that appealing to me.  If I had to sum up the book, I would say it had potential, but ended up being "meh."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book Review: Tell My Sons

Several things hooked me when it comes to this book.  I'm always eager to read a book about the relationship between fathers and sons and when it comes with an endorsement by Mitch Albom, I'm sold.  Then, I noticed the sub-title: "A Father's Last Letters."  Oh, no.  Another end-of-life missive.  I'm such a sucker for these lately, even though they make me cry.

Lt. Colonel Mark M. Weber's book, Tell My Sons, is chock full of courage in the face of adversity.  With a military career on the brink of an exciting new assignment, Mark is diagnosed with some form of pancreatic cancer.  It is stage four.  I think one of the things I liked about this book was that the author approached his diagnosis in such a fear-less manner.  He is honest and vulnerable, but often unfazed by the cards he has been dealt.  His goal is to "just get on with it."  He returns to work and continues to attempt to keep things as normal for his family as possible.  Of course, normal is difficult when doctors have carved you open and left a giant open wound.  Typical of his fear-less nature, the author takes it upon himself to dress and care for the wound (and even names it "Buford").

Keeping a personal journal for twenty years prior to this gave the author plenty to draw from for inspiration.  The book is full of personal stories and gentle insights.  I think my favorite line in the whole book (because I could relate to it so fully, with a house full of destructive boys) was: "I once heard my dad yell that we owed him at least fifteen thousand dollars for all the doors, vehicle interiors, tools, and home furnishings we damaged or destroyed."  Ha!  I think I've heard something similar to that yelled in our house a time or two. 

While at times, I think the author comes off as a bit too intense, his life-lessons are apt and well-written.  This was a quick read. I was saddened when I learned from his Caringbridge site that he passed away in June of this year. Now if only my sons were devoted readers, I could pass this on to them and know that they would gain some wonderful advice for life.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Review: How I Live Now

Once again, I think the audio version helped me to like Meg Rosoff's young adult book, How I Live Now, more than if I had read it myself.  The narrator did an excellent job of speaking the story to life.  I feel that the author truly nailed voice in this story and did a great job of carrying the reader along (I definitely wanted to know how the story ends).

Fifteen year old Daisy is in a difficult spot.  Her mother died during childbirth (a fact she cannot help but feel somewhat responsible for), her father remarried to a woman she doesn't like, and they are expecting a child any day now.  So the "wicked stepmother" strongly suggests that the best solution might be to pack Daisy off to live with her aunt (her sister's mother) in England for a while.  Daisy, with a bit of an eating disorder (how else can she seize some control over her out-of-control life?), meets her cousins and aunt and instantly falls in love with the family, but especially with her fourteen year old cousin, Edmund, who shows up to the airport to pick her up, on his own, smoking a cigarette.

But this isn't just a story of young love (and in fact, I think the story would have been better if it left out the incestuous cousin-love element altogether and focused on the better aspects, like the survival episodes).  It is more a story of war (think WW III) tearing apart the lives of these young lovers.  Not long after their relationship blossoms, they are separated and sent off to live with foster families in nearby villages.  Despite being desperate to reconnect, and despite an uncanny ability to telepathically send thoughts and emotions, the two face unspeakable odds. They both must learn a new way to approach life.

While I didn't exactly love the ending (and why did it start again with a new chapter one at the end of the book???), and couldn't embrace the level of intimacy the teens reached (that societal assumption that "everyone is doing it"), I did think the characters were strong and interesting. I enjoyed observing the relationship develop between Daisy and Edmund's sister, Piper.  It must be quite a challenge to convey the essence of day-to-day life during war.  The author is to be commended.  She did a fine job of placing the reader right in the midst of the suffering and uncertainty.  This is a short, quick read, sure to appeal to young adult readers who might like to explore the idea of living in war-time (although, given the sexual elements, it is a book I would want to preview and then discuss if I ever allowed a daughter to read it).

I will add that there is a trailer for the movie, which is set for release in November of this year.  I watched it and didn't really find myself wanting to see the movie.  Daisy looked completely different from what I'd imagined and has a coarseness to her that I don't care for.  Edmund is presented as the oldest (different from the book). The intimate moments seem to be emphasized fully in the movie, whereas the book discreetly touched on them.  Who knows, maybe it would be one of the movies that turns out better than the book.  I'm just not sure I'm going to bite.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: The Book Thief (Audio vs. Book)

When book suggestions were requested at my book club, I remember suggesting Markus Zusak's The Book Thief.  I declared it a "must-read."  Then, I read another book club member's book review of the book and began to second-guess my assertion.  She found it difficult to connect with the narrator, Death, and didn't find the book absorbing at the beginning.  Still, she muddled through and read the whole thing and wrote this review.

This was the selection for this month's book club meeting.  Previously, I reviewed my experience of listening to the audio version here.  In my review, I mention some of the drawbacks of listening to an audio version of a book.  For one, there were many times when I wanted to stop and ruminate on something I read.  This is not possible, without stopping the audio track and resuming after a time of reflection (not terribly likely as I usually listen in the car or while washing dishes).  Furthermore, if there are illustrations (which I discovered when reading the book this time around), then you lose something in not viewing the illustrations provided with the text.  Also, you lose certain stylistic elements of the book.  In this case, the author interjected side-notes among the text.  I'm sure the narrator read these side-notes, but in listening I wasn't as clear about what this looked like for the story.

There are certainly benefits to listening which cannot be duplicated in reading the book.  For one, the narrator becomes a central character more easily. I think this was Catherine's key complaint - not feeling connected to the character of the narrator in the story and thus, not caring fully for the other characters described.  Think of it this way.  The narrator is acting out, through voice, the story for the listener.  When you listen to an audio version, you are hearing a performance in addition to the story.  That performance can more fully sweep you into the story, if it is done well.  I think the narrator who read for the audio version of this book did an excellent job.  I was drawn in by his accent and by his interpretation of the text. If you want to hear a snippet of his enticing voice, drawing you into the story, you can click on the Amazon link and select "listen" under the picture of the book cover. He does a magnificent job articulating the story (be forewarned, though, it is not a book you can listen to with children in the vicinity, unless you don't care whether they hear both German and English cursing).

I will say that I struggled with the book more this time around.  It seemed unbearably long (at 550 pages).  I also had trouble connecting to the narrator this time around.  I understood Catherine's complaint that he seemed too detached from the story.  I didn't like him as a character, where I think I did like him the last time I listened to the book.

Another plus for the book version, is that you often get extras at the end of the tale.  In this case, my book provided discussion questions (which I found interesting and will probably be explored more fully at the meeting), related titles (including The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, another book I would recommend), Internet resources, and a conversation with the author (something I enjoyed reading).  In the author's comments, he mentioned that when he first wrote the book, he struggled with the narrator.  He admits, "Death was too mean. He was supercilious, and enjoying his work too much. He'd say extremely creepy things and delight in all the souls he was picking up ... and the book wasn't working."  So, he tried writing it from a different point-of-view, but ended up coming back to the original narrator and toning him down some.  In the end, Zusak says, "he would now be telling this story to prove to himself that humans are actually worth it."

And, I think that is why, in the end, this story resonated with me again (although, perhaps, not as strongly as the first time around).  By the end of the tale, I was weeping and marveling at the dichotomous nature of humans, how we can be so thoroughly evil and yet also offer up such hope and love and wondrous beauty in the midst of the evil.  This is a tale of pain and suffering and hardship, yes.  But, it is also a tale of love, determination, survival, and beauty from ashes.  Add in the fact that the book celebrates writing and words and books and well ... you can see why it would be appealing to someone who loves writing and words and books.

I think this book deserves the praise it has been given.  While I found it more difficult to latch onto the second time around, it was still a story worth repeating and worth the hard work of getting to the point of caring about the characters and their stories.  I still love Liesel Meminger and her relationships with the key players ... her foster father, Hans Hubermann, her best friend, Rudy, her book enabler, Ilsa Hermann, her Jewish friend, Max Vandenburg, and her foster mother, Rosa Hubermann. I still feel a surge of pride that there were good people in a terrible time of history and I pray that there will be good people still when our society ventures into the terrible times which probably lay ahead.  There may always be evil, but good can and will triumph in the midst of it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Sleepy Bear

Sleepy Bear has been on his last leg for some time now.

He has been loved to death.  He has been flung as a weapon, twirled on the arm, wrapped on the head, and curled around the fingers (the holes becoming an increasingly favorite part to tug at).  We keep thinking, "any day now Sean will grow tired of his security blanket and toss him aside."  But, no, he loves him just as vehemently.  I was afraid to wash the bear after CBLI because one of the arms is almost completely off.  I suppose if Sean weren't our last child, and if we didn't have cousins who literally loved on and continued to embrace their security blanket well into their twenties (one said she almost cried when she took her blanket with her to camp and it was lost), we would have put our foot down and taken steps to sever the strong bond he displays.

Instead, we have taken steps to replace Sleepy Bear with a newer version.  This morning we found this on E-bay. 


Score!  I can't wait to see the happy face when his new Sleepy Bear arrives.  Auntie Miriam will be happy to know that her initial gift to our youngest son was dearly loved, more than anything else he has ever owned.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Book Review: Gregor and the Code of Claw

In this final installment of The Underland Chronicles, Suzanne Collins once again drives home the futility of war.  Beginning with another prophecy, this time one predicting the death of Gregor, the warrior, the book opens to scenes of war.  While still desperately trying to save the Nibblers, the mice, from the fateful end the rats have planned for them (think Nazi concentration camp scenarios), the humans in the Underland are desperately preparing for an attack from the rats and possibly other of their allies.

Gregor, his mother, and his sister, Boots, remain in the Underland and are soon joined by the final member of the family to visit the Underland, Lizzie, the puzzle-solving middle child.  While it was once thought that Boots would solve the code of claw (a special code used by the rats to transmit messages freely in the Underland), it becomes apparent that Lizzie is far more proficient at cracking codes.  Although Gregor would like nothing more than to transport the women of his family back to their home above ground, he is forced to allow them to remain and to face his own part in the prophecy and speak down his inner demons to rise bravely to the challenge of facing the Bane (the chief rat who is responsible for unspeakable evil).

The action moved at a swift pace.  There was a bit of romance thrown in and several unexpected twists and turns in the plot.  While still not my favorite in the series, this book kept up the same standards of riveting story-telling from previous installments.  With coded passages to figure out, plenty of gruesome battle images, and constant progression toward the possible end of the main character, this book is sure to appeal to male and female readers alike.

Strangely enough, my middle son has just latched onto the idea of wanting Daddy to read The Hunger Games to them in the evenings.  It seems he saw a copy of it in his elementary school library (he is now in a school that houses 3rd through 5th grade) and has therefore assumed that it is age-appropriate for him. They have started with the first chapter, but on my next trip to the library, I plan to bring home the first book in this Underland series, because I believe this would be a more appropriate series for them to tackle now.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: The Heavy

This book has weighed on my heart and soul for several weeks, partly because it has taken me several weeks to listen to the audio version (few opportunities and a gap from attending camp), and partly because it deals with an issue we currently struggle with - the weight of our child.  Perhaps, I should even say "children," since according to BMI charts, both of my two younger sons are not in the healthy range. 

I clearly remember the time, a few years back, when someone approached me at camp and asked if my oldest had been chunky like my younger two.  I drew back with astonishment that she had lumped Sean into a category with Trevor.  He doesn't strike me as "thick" or "chunky."  He is, in my eyes, perfect.  However, the current BMI charts beg to differ, placing him in the overweight range.

With Trevor, we have always been aware of his tendency toward extra pounds on his frame.  He was a large baby and has always had a voracious appetite.  In many ways, I have attributed this to his being very similar to my deceased brother-in-law, Rob.  He shares Rob's build and even some of his personality traits (scary, since Rob was an alcoholic who eventually took his life).  If honest, I am equally mortified at the possibility that others might look at my middle son and assume that he gets his weight problem from me.  It seems petty to say that I allow my child's weight issues to cause me emotional anxiety because of how it would make others view me.  How low, right?  But, it is certainly a weakness on my part, the desire to not be personally held responsible for my child's weight problem.

But, back to the book.  In The Heavy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet, Dara-Lynn Weiss candidly shares her journey dealing with an obese child.  Pronounced "obese" at the tender age of seven, her daughter Bea sounds an awful lot like my middle son.  She proclaims her hunger more often than the average child, many times even on the heels of a substantial meal (oh, how I can relate).  The trouble is, of course, that we're talking about a child, not a grown-up.  This is where things get tricky and opinions seem to fly.  On the one hand, you have people who swear parents should never put their child on a diet.  On the other, you have people who judge parents of obese children, assuming that it is something in their parenting which must be causing the child to be so large.

This hits a nerve!  What amazed me about the book was that the author never once gave in to self-centered whining, something I am often prone to.  I feel angry that my child is unable to go about life in the usual manner with usual results.  I am indignant over the fact that despite feeding our sons an identical diet, one son suffers with a weight problem.  It seems so unfair on his behalf.  He is just a kid.  Shouldn't a kid be able to eat when they are hungry, without being limited in their intake?  Shouldn't a kid be allowed an occasional treat like ice cream?  Why did my child have to be the one God chose to saddle with a tendency toward weight issues, while some other parent glibly attributes their own child's healthy weight to some magical thing they are doing differently? While I rant and rave, Dara-Lynn Weiss merely gets down to brass tacks and determines to do whatever it takes to get her child back on track and into the healthy range according to the charts.

I will admit, I don't know if I fully believe these charts.  Can you lump everyone into the same category of needs for a certain percentage of body fat?  There are certainly different builds and my son clearly is of a stocky nature.  His bones are big.  His legs are big.  He is line-backer material.  Can he really be held to the same standard as a child who has a different body structure?  Or am I just grasping at excuses to justify his higher weight?

What must be obvious, is that a parent with an overweight or obese child definitely struggles with emotional issues surrounding the right course of action.  I could relate to so many of the sentiments expressed honestly in this book.  I appreciate the author's willingness to bare her soul on this difficult subject.  She articulates the self-doubt, the personal recriminations, the worry about carrying the role of "the heavy" when it comes to limiting the intake of a child, and the intense desire to give your child the very best that they can get to be the best they can be.  She fully gets what it feels like to be the parent of an overweight child.  It is an issue you can't sweep under the rug.  It is clearly visible to your circle of friends and acquaintances.  I myself have been guilty of judging parents of other morbidly obese children. It is hard not to assume that faulty behaviors are entirely to blame.

But, even more significant, is the fact that it can't be swept under the rug because it is harming someone you care about deeply.  I love my son and want him to be healthy.  I don't want him to develop diabetes.  I don't want him to suffer the emotional battle doled out by harmful words from peers.  I want the very best for him, without having to nag and cajole and obsessively focus on something so touchy as his weight.  Moreover, I worry that my desire for him to be at a healthy weight will somehow sour our relationship due to my vocalizations of those worries and my insistence on limiting harmful snacks or desserts.

We eat a fairly healthy diet already.  The boys have vegetables and fruit with every meal.  Instead of red meats, we focus on chicken or fish.  They rarely eat fast food.  They are not allowed to drink pop or sugary juices or Kool-Aid.  Yet, our efforts at eating a healthy diet are not paying off in the loss of unwanted pounds.  Yes, we could take away all desserts and chocolate covered granola bars and ice cream and what-not.  We could rid our house of all processed food and the occasional bag of potato chips.  There are steps we could take which we have not implemented yet (like insisting he take a carefully prescribed bag lunch instead of purchasing the supposedly healthy school lunch, where he can get a snack if he eats everything on his tray).

In the book, the author details her efforts at limiting the number of calories her daughter consumes.  While I balked at the idea of offering those convenient little 100 calorie packs of snacks simply because it entailed fewer calories than a healthier choice, I understood the mother's heart and her desired goal. For me, the best thing I derived from this book wasn't a strategy for reducing my own child's weight, but rather a sense of solidarity with someone else who understands where I'm at in this struggle.

Here is a recent photo of my younger sons:

They don't look overweight and obese to me.  Sean, my youngest, looks healthy and Trevor looks overweight.  According to the BMI charts, Sean would have to lose 3 pounds to put him in the healthy weight range.  For a boy as little as he is, 3 pounds sounds like an immense goal.  For Trevor, the story is even more bleak.  Trevor would have to lose 35 pounds in order to put him in the healthy weight range.  That sounds downright impossible.  How does a child lose 35 pounds?

We are already implementing more exercise.  We walk the track at the high school so that we can keep track of the number of miles we walk.  Trevor jumps rope and bounces on either our outdoor trampoline or a small indoor one.  John even has him doing sit-ups and push-ups.  Yet, the weight continues to climb. I dread making the yearly check-up for Trevor because I don't want to experience the scolding I'm sure to get from our doctor (who at the last appointment mentioned a need to address the situation and suggested desserts be limited to once a week).

What's a parent to do?  Perhaps the answer is to follow in Dara-Lynn's shoes and place my children on a restrictive diet.  I could go on the restrictive diet with them, since the charts indicate I must lose ten pounds to be in the healthy weight category (and I'm not really dissatisfied with my present weight). Despite my willingness to be involved in the process, there's the question of how to get an eight year old to be committed, since his commitment level will be key to the success of any venture (and at this point, Trevor is not on board the way Dara-Lynn's daughter was). And what a strange situation to be trying to put weight on the wiry older son, for his role as a defensive end on the football team, while trying to reduce the intake of a younger son whose appetite is every bit equivalent to the teenager's appetite. 

Whatever we decide, I take heart in knowing that other parents are fighting a similar battle.  I am encouraged that I am not alone.  That, in itself, made this book worth the read!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Start of Football Season

Last night was the start of the football season, with a team scrimmage.  Bryce wanted me to come to the game to get pictures so that he could be included in something about the senior homecoming banner.  I have no idea what he is talking about and felt really bad that I'm not a better photographer. There I sat, in the stands, with my little point and shoot camera.  There was no way I would equal the photos of those parents who arrive with their gigantic zoom lenses.  My poor child.

Here's the one photo I shot of him from afar, feeling foolish the whole time:

He is number 48 ... the little ant on the field.

Afterwards, several of the mothers were getting a bunch of seniors together for a photo op and I shouldered in among them to capture a few shots:

I feel like such a failure as a sports mom.  My husband wants to take out a full page in the football program to highlight photos of Bryce as he's grown.  Bryce says he doesn't care about that at all.  We barely make it to very many of his games even.  Gone are the days when our whole lives revolved around our only child.  Still, he doesn't seem to mind, so I guess it's all good.

Here's to a great final football season (since I doubt he'll play in college)!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

First Day of School

Silence has once again descended upon my home and I have high hopes of many hours devoted to writing.  The boys all started school yesterday.  It seems a bit sad to already be done with our summer break.  We accomplished almost all of the things on our summer bucket list (we didn't manage a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's, as Sean requested, but I'm not complaining).

Here they are waiting for the bus at the end of our driveway:

Trevor is in one of his characteristic skateboarding beanies (although he has misplaced his favorite striped one, yet again). 

Both Trevor and Sean seem to be thrilled with their new classrooms.  Trevor is in a dual classroom where two teachers keep a combined open space and team teach.  I'm thrilled with the greater opportunities for community this provides.  Sean is equally pleased with his class so far and seems to have a much better attitude towards school (we'll see how long these pleasant feelings remain).  Sean's first grade teacher seems to have an intense passion for reading (thus, I like her already).

I began to wonder why we are beginning school a whole week earlier, while still getting out around the same date.  It turns out they have included a week-long fall break in October.  Oh, my.  We'll have to utilize that opportunity somehow.  For now, we've all had a great start to our 2013-2014 school year.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Another Great CBLI Experience With a Little Drama

Another great CBLI (Central Bible Leadership Institute - our annual Bible camp) experience has come to an end.  When I asked the boys if they were sad or glad it was over, they said a little bit of both.  Sad because they had such a good time and glad because they were going to see Daddy again.

We started off our trip with an overnight stay at Grandma's and then travelled on to DeKalb for an overnight stay with our friends, the Olsens.  While in DeKalb, we managed to fit in a visit to the skate park.  Trevor skated right into the path of an aggressive teen skater and hurt his ankle a bit.  I was quite worried he wasn't going to be able to handle all the walking CBLI entails.  He did complain from time to time, but it healed enough for him to manage well enough. I was blessed to see several of my old writer's group friends at an Open Mic event held at our old church.

Once we got to camp, we spent most of our free time hanging out with our buddies, the Carr boys, Bram and Jonas.

They went to the zip line with us and went fishing with us for the first three days.

Sadly, after three days of fishing, we didn't fish again, with good reason.  The boys caught numerous blue gills and delighted in touching them and tossing them back into the water.

Tuesday morning, Sean woke up with a swollen eye, the size of a golf ball:

At first, we took him to the camp nurse (really shouldn't be called a "nurse" since he was only trained in first aid).  He said it looked like a stye and suggested warm compresses.  We headed back to the room after breakfast and applied a warm compress.  I sent him off to class, hoping it would resolve before the week was out.  But, when he returned from class for lunch at noon, the eye looked worse (much redder and hotter).  I decided to take him to Urgent Care in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

What a blessing that I didn't just use my typical Mommy refrain of "they'll only say it is a stye and suggest warm compresses, so why bother with the expense of a wasted trip?"  It was certainly not a wasted trip.  The doctor there diagnosed it as a bacterial infection and said "we don't mess around when it comes to the eye.  The infection is at the front of the eye, but if it were to travel to the back of the eye, it could migrate nearby to the brain and then we're talking meningitis and death." 

Sean was quite upset because the plan of action included a shot of antibiotic to get the meds into his system more quickly (especially so, after that horrible shot reaction from his kindergarten shots).  They gave us prescriptions for an antibiotic and an antihistamine and sent us to see an ophthalmologist in Racine, Wisconsin.  The ophthalmologist confirmed that the infection was only at the front of the eye and agreed with the diagnosis.  In the end, they all decided that it was probably the result of touching a fish and then rubbing his eye.  They had indicated in the camp booklet that it was unwise to swim or wade in the lake water because bacteria levels were quite high this year.  While we didn't swim or wade, we still got a feel for how dangerous such bacteria can be.

Thankfully, the medicine began to do its work and by Thursday (after a follow-up appointment back at the ophthalmologist's office on Wednesday afternoon) his eye looked much better and he could once again see out of it.  I think the hardest part for him was responding to the public attention.  It seemed everywhere we went, his eye was the topic of discussion and he grew tired of the kids in class asking what had happened to his eye.  Both Trevor and Sean grasped how serious it could have been and I think it sobered them into better behavior (at least Trevor was handling Sean more gently than usual).

Amazingly, because of fishing the first three days, missing free time both Tuesday and Wednesday, and then a restriction from swimming for Sean in the days following, we didn't go to the pool together once during the whole encampment.  The boys did get in some swimming because their class went every morning (and Sean just had to sit it out after the diagnosis).

One of their favorite free time activities this year had to be air hockey:

Every day the boys would board a tram that took them to the other side of camp where their class met (they were both together in the 6-10 year old class this year).  They seemed to really enjoy the class and sang quite a few of the songs from class when we were together.  I really appreciated all the hard work the staff put in for preparing fun and spiritual nourishment for my boys.

Meanwhile, I was able to attend an Adult Bible Study, led by Colonel Glen Shepherd, and a specific class on the book of Malachi, led by Linda Himes (an excellent Precept Bible teacher).  I enjoyed both of these classes.  Plus, I enjoyed sitting with Jeff and Valerie Carr during the Malachi class.

The evening programs were outstanding.  The first night we were treated to a concert by Sara Groves.  In the following nights, we had other dynamic speakers, including Shane Claiborne, Mike Donahue, Ray McElroy, and Bob Stromberg (who was so funny, I thought I might never recover from laughing - oh, how laughter is good medicine for the soul!).

One afternoon, I was invited to join a group of ladies to go in to Antioch, Illinois, for an ice cream shop and thrift store run. 

So thankful for Tom Westberg, who kept our kids while we enjoyed fellowship together.  It was great fun and I found an old Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories book at the thrift store (a wonderful find).  While we were gone the boys went to the high ropes course.  There were too many boys, so I asked for Sean to sit it out.  He was furious with me and sadly accepted that he will have to wait until next year.

This was the second year for the CBLI Book Nook.  Cheryl (in white in the photo above) collected 470 books to set out for campers to pick through.  We selected five (including some awesome shark books and a Maeve Binchy book for me) and went again on another day for three more.  Here's a photo of the Carr boys visiting the Book Nook:

The kids' track made tye-dye shirts and performed a song during the Saturday evening awards program.  Thankfully, another camper provided me with these photos of Sean and Trevor:

While we were grateful to make it home last night (especially since John and I celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary yesterday), we agreed that it was a wonderful experience and we can't wait to go back again next summer.