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Life of a King

Life of a King

Last week, Lane and I watched another movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., “Life of a King.”

I don’t normally watch PG-13 movies, and so I hesitate to recommend one. This one I would recommend only if you had an edited version or a  filter for language and muted the rap music, which has some offensive lyrics. I would definitely NOT show this movie to anyone younger than high school age. There is also some violence, portrayal of immoral behavior, immodest dress, disrespect, and other concerns that I would NOT feel comfortable showing a younger child and would want to know the older child before showing it. But I think it has some great lessons in it for youth, especially if you can get a filter for language and music. The best suggestion I would give is to watch it first and see how you feel about it before showing it to any of your family members!

Here are some of the lessons that could be extracted from this movie: Decisions determine destiny. Laziness/slothfulness, alcohol and drug abuse, dishonesty, gang membership are all dead-end streets. Productivity, respect, humility, kindness, working for another person’s betterment can help a person be happy and succeed in life. Breaking the law can have negative, life-changing consequences. Strong families make a big difference in a person’s life and in their community. Growing up in an inner city can be very challenging, and others who help those who come from broken homes can make a very big difference in that child’s life.

The show is based on the true story of ex-convict Eugene Brown who starts an inner-city chess club to try to help the youth in his neighborhood think about the choices they make in life and avoid dead-end futures by poor choices. The Big Chair Chess Club gives the youth an alternative to participating in gangs.

We thought it was inspiring. This is the third movie that we’ve seen with Cuba Gooding playing the central role (Gifted Hands and Firelight being the other two), and we’re impressed that in these movies, he chose to portray people who want to make a difference for others. In this movie, he especially exemplifies someone who learned that blaming others for his poor choices does not let him move forward in life.  Here’s another example of choice and accountability, of the “Lord, is it I?” principle our family is thinking about this year.

It’s also another example of how the family is the first line of defense for solving world problems. If you can strengthen an individual so he can strengthen his family, then that individual and that family can reach out to strengthen a community. That’s why we’re preparing our children to serve missions, because we believe that “the Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Born of God, July 1989 Ensign“).”

So we prepare our children to teach people about Christ, no matter who they are or where they live. You can change a community if you can inspire the families within it to change. And it begins with one person in that family. (3/1/15: I just got a chance to visit with my niece who recently returned from her Spanish-speaking mission to Harlem, NY. She talked about a young woman who is her age who joined the church and in the course of her new friendships, was able to get involved in a college-assistance program and is heading to college this next semester. She also wants to serve a mission! The cycles of poverty and addiction can  be broken if we have sufficient determination and support. SO awesome!)

And if you want a simple way to learn chess or teach it to your children, check out this version.

Lane also mentioned a recent study that he read about, which says that the recidivism rate of criminals leaving prison is as high as ever, which means that we need to reevaluate what is happening within prisons to help those who are there to be able to leave changed internally. I know that is a challenging question that many have wrestled with. You can’t force change. I hope we as a community and nation will be able to come up with a better plan.

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Stopping when it’s time to stop

For years, I’ve tried to figure out how to teach a child a routine. And then I figured this out: I am not very good at following routines myself.

Ha!

But I’ve realized that just because we don’t follow our routines perfectly, doesn’t mean we throw them out, like a baby with the bath water.

I’ve liked the analogy of a body: we have the rigidity of bones in our skeletal frame, but the flexibility of muscles, tendons, and joints to allow us to bend.

Our days our just like our bodies. In my approximately 7,500 days of being a mother so far, I have never had two days that were exactly the same.

Never.

This reminds me of something that I heard once, and in my mind the attribution is to President Boyd K. Packer’s wife, whose name I don’t know. She had 11 children (?), and in my mind the quote went something like this: “The most important thing a woman can learn is flexibility.”

When we specialize in nurturing those around us, we do have to learn to be very flexible.

I would say I am not a naturally flexible person.

I’m learning, but sometimes!

So where is this going?

Tonight, I was working with my youngest to help her get her homework done, lunch made, backpack ready, PJs on, teeth brushed, and a little story before lights are out. And we REALLY need to get our 2 youngest children to bed on time because when they go to bed late, I go to bed late. And they are so challenging to get to bed on time because of our inconsistencies with the bedtime routine. When I go to bed late, I don’t sleep as long, which messes up the entire morning routine.

Talk about high maintenance! Tell me about it! I woke up at 3:20 am last night and didn’t get back to sleep the rest of the night. But today I was too tired to get up and get going after that, so, because I had no commitments in the morning that were critical, once the children were off to school, I went back to bed at 9:45 am and slept (off and on) for 2 hours.

You can’t do that when you have little children at home. That’s why it helps to have children when you are young!

And now to the reason for writing this: it is so important to stop when it is time to stop. I need to help my youngest children to stop whatever they are doing at 7 pm, realistically, if I want them to be in bed at 8 pm. And I need them to be in bed at 8 pm because they need to be up by 6:30 am. 6 am is the ideal, but we have such a hard time getting to bed at 8 pm (9 pm is the norm) that 6:30 pm in the cold and dark seems like such a hurdle!

SO.

My new desire is to teach my children to get up on their own at the same time each day. Can I do it? I don’t know. My sleep issues really add a challenge at this stage in my life. BUT, if I can get them up for 6:30 am family scripture study, then we can get self-preparation (“Fab 5″: say prayers, make bed, get dressed, PJs away, read scriptures), breakfast, practicing, and sometimes even a little homework in, even though my very verbal children who could talk away their entire morning struggle to stay on task. Who am I to talk? They are just like me.

SO.

If I can help them get up on time on their own, and THEN at night, help them stop when it’s time to stop and simply focus on getting ready for the next day and bedtime, THEN we might make some progress.

It is such a challenge when children are in different ages and stages. But, here we go again. Tackling the routines once more. Motherhood is one eternal round.

And I still need to remember: Flexibility. Flexibility. Flexibility. Say it with me. Breathe now. Flexibility.

Good night. Time for me to stop.

P.S. I read in the Wall Street Journal this week that a recent study claims that teens’ sleeping habits mimic their parents’ sleeping habits. If parents go to bed earlier, the children go to bed earlier. Hmm. Time for bed.

 

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3 things I’m excited about today

happy to have you home

1. Being home! My getaway with Lane this past weekend was HEAVENLY. Coming home feels wonderful, too! And having my children be excited to have me home (at least for a few minutes, until it’s time to wake them up and get them going to school and music lessons…) feels wonderful, too.

2. The new “Family Temple Time” that the church announced. Perhaps we will not be waiting in line in the baptistry for a couple (plus) hours without being able to do baptisms! This sounds like a potential solution to a wonderful problem. (Who knew that so many youth would want to go to the temple on a holiday morning as happened on this recent President’s Day? Now THAT is an awesome problem.)

3. The YouTube for Kids app. I’m happy to see Google doing something to make parents’ (and children’s) lives easier and cleaner.

 

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moses-gives-aaron-priesthood-39465-galleryI had the opportunity recently to fly from Utah to California for a getaway trip with Lane. Before we left, I prayed that I would be able to be in the pathway of someone who was searching for the gospel that would want me to share what I know.

I sat next to a woman who slept immediately after the plane took off. Later she told me she had gotten up very early to be ready to pick up some family members for their flight at 4:30 am. I could understand why she was so tired!

When she woke, she was very amiable and turned to me to visit. She said she was on the way to her grandson’s wedding in a Mormon temple. I knew that chances were that she was not a Mormon, and that perhaps this was an answer to my earlier prayer. I listened further as she asked me why temple weddings are private and non-members are not allowed to attend.

I happily explained! I noticed how loving and supportive she was towards her grandson for his choices as he had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints when he was 18, served a mission for the church, and now was getting married in a Mormon temple to his fiancée. This grandmother was not resentful that she would not be able to attend the sealing. She listened attentively as I shared our beliefs about eternal families and how the ceremonies we perform in the temple are sacred to us and as ancient as the Old Testament in which sacred ordinances are described.

She then shared with me about her church. Her beliefs included those shared by other religions, including reincarnation, messengers, revelation, prophets, and survivalism. The prophet of her church was a close friend, and they had worked together and raised their families together. She had served in executive positions within her church. I could tell that she has a deep love of her family and God and this friend.

Our conversation left me wondering: how does my new friend define truth? Her religion seemed to accept many dogmas yet reject others. So I wondered: On what basis did they determine what was truth and what was not? How could she prove that her friend was a true prophet? How had she personally determined that? How did she know that her friend didn’t just invent what she was teaching as truth? (Our flight ended, so I didn’t get to ask her that.)

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I reflected on our conversation as I read aloud to Lane in the car different articles on the internet about her church, as she had invited me to do. Lane and I talked about the clear patterns that God has established and revealed during many generations of his children on earth. These patterns are verifiable in the records He instructed messengers that He chose to write down (i.e. the Bible, e.g.,Amos 3:7). These records provide a basis, a structure, against which claims can be examined–a standard. It is very logical. While there are passages within the Bible that can be confusing, the overall patterns are very clear. It makes sense that God would provide additional scripture as time progressed, just as He has always done, and that He would follow patterns that He set up long ago. God is not a god of confusion, but of plainness, clarity, and simplicity, so that his children can gain an understanding of their relationship to Him as beloved children.

When we say we know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, for example, we not only say that we know this truth borne of spiritual witness, but also of a logical and verifiable examination against the standard that God established. Prophets never choose themselves. They are called of God. And they are given a power beyond their own abilities to accomplish their work. That power bears the same kind of fruit that previous prophets’ teachings bore. It is a simple pattern, and we can look at anyone’s claim to be a prophet to see if it matches up to the standard God gave.

Here is the pattern: God gave priesthood authority to act in his name to Adam. That same line of authority has had to be given to other prophets in exactly the same way as Adam gave it to others: by the laying on of hands. Joseph Smith received his authority from Peter, James and John, who received it from Christ. Our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, received it from the prophet before him who received it, going back and back, from Joseph Smith. It is an unbroken line direct to Christ, and then to further back to Adam. It’s very logical and simple. And verifiable. Documented. Does it require faith? Yes. You have to ask God to know that it’s true, to have that conviction in your heart, to get the answer revealed to you.

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I know that the best test of knowing whether Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God or not is the Book of Mormon. If you read it, you can simply ask God if it’s not true. Bottom line. And if you ask sincerely, with real intent to act on the answer and do what God asks, then you will get an answer. It’s God’s promise, not mine.

Book of Mormon

It’s very logical. Very simple. Plain. True. It’s how I know. And I’m grateful that it isn’t complicated or shrouded in confusing mystery. Daylight from darkness. That is God’s promise: that the truth is as easy to discern as the day from the night.

I wanted to write this post because Lane and I want our children so much to THINK about things rationally, logically. To CAREFULLY EVALUATE. Not just to follow. Just like you are taught at home and in college. Don’t believe everything you read, simply because it is printed on paper or on the Internet! Don’t believe everything someone says, just because they are nice or charming or beautiful or persuasive or appears powerful or talented or because it makes you worried. Remember the advice my mission president gave me about getting married: “Fall in love with your head first, and then see if your heart follows.” (Or I would say the same advice in reverse: If you are intrigued or smitten, see if your mind follows! Check it out! Be certain your mind and heart agree AND THEN that you get a confirmation from God.) We want our children, when they are presented with an idea, to evaluate it: logically, rationally. Test it out. What are the patterns? How does this claim match up with what is logical and proven over centuries? What are the fruits of this claim?

I think one thing to remember in evaluating truth is that ALL truth supports other truths. They are connected and helpful to understanding other truths. For example, in visiting with this new friend, I learned that she believes the Holy Ghost can purify us and help us heal from past injuries. I know that the Holy Ghost can purify us and that the Savior can heal us. It matches up with scripture and teachings of living prophets. I have experienced it in my own life. Knowing this doesn’t make me a prophet, though. Writing about it on my blog doesn’t make me a prophet, nor does it mean I have authority to start a church. As a wife and mother, I have received personal revelation to help my children and husband, which is a tremendous gift to us in nurturing my family. As children of God, we can all receive revelation to help us through life, regardless of our gender or religion or background, if we follow the pattern for receiving revelation from God.

But receiving revelation for ourselves is different for receiving revelation for others, because God has established patterns for that. He calls those whom He trusts to lead others, and this is super important, because who we follow will make all the difference in our lives! As a wife and mother, I receive personal revelation to help my children and husband, which is a tremendous gift from God in helping me to nurture my family.  I had just read this scripture as I began our flight: “And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked. And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith”(Jarom 1:4).

If we don’t study God’s words, we won’t know whether an idea is true or false, or a combination of both. We have to study and pray and search.

If it’s not logical, if it doesn’t match up to established patterns, if it doesn’t bring “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal.5:22-23), if their works aren’t good (Moro.7:5),  if it doesn’t invite you to do good or believe in Christ, we can know it’s not of God (Moro.7:15-16).

That’s the thing I want my children to remember, what I want to remember: Think. Check it out. Ask God.

(What are patterns that God has recorded in the scriptures about prophets? I’m going to make that a point of study this week, and I’ll try to share some of the things I find in some of my upcoming posts.)

 

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Wall Street Journal

I love reading the Wall Street Journal! When I was a college student, I subscribed to the Christian Science Monitor because student subscriptions weren’t pricey and because I loved what seemed to be their worthwhile journalism. Then my interests switched to the Wall Street Journal. I never purchased a subscription–too expensive!–but this year I was really wishing we could subscribe to the WSJ. Over the years, when we travelled and stayed at a hotel, I pick one up and read it.

Recently, I looked into subscription costs. You can get 12 weeks for $12 as an introductory offer. Woo hoo! I did it. I had cancelled my Audible subscription because I wanted to save money, and  I felt we needed to have a newspaper coming to our home again. This would help us discuss the news more as a family, which I want to do. So I looked into both: the WSJ and a local newspaper. Now I am enjoying having the Journal at home to read and for my children to enjoy. I love the breadth of topics covered. It was so fun to read about the Apple Watch this week, since we’ve been devoted Apple fans for so many years (Lane since he was 10!). That led to a discussion between me and Lane about the watch, its cost and utility (in contrast to the Fitbit Lane is wearing now) and then, of course, we had to watch the promo videos about in on the Apple website. Man, that advertising team knows how to woo a market!

(I love this photo! Anna was eating breakfast the other day and picked up the paper. No wonder this child is a good speller. She loves to read!)

 

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Got potatoes?

Potato ham casseroleMonday was a holiday. I didn’t want to spend a long time making dinner, because I wanted to sit down and read a book. Just for fun. And I figured I needed to start using up that 10-lb. bag of potatoes that I had bought for $1.07 the week before (!). What could I make from potatoes that would be a main dish, and that wasn’t cheesy or cream of ? soupy? That’s the question I took to the internet to see what I could find.

After a few searches–with nothing catching my fancy, I decided to just say a little prayer and see what I could come up with on my own.

(And I decided to take pictures, in case it turned out well enough to share.)

I opened the fridge door and saw the leftover ham chunks from our Valentine’s fondue dinner the day before. I pulled that out. And then I saw the garlic butter. Umm, that would be good. And so it went, until I had these ingredients out on the counter:

IMG_0092I got to work rinsing/washing potatoes and then chopping vegetables. The ham chunks needed to be smaller, and the rosemary needed to be rinsed, pulled off of the stems, and diced. I also decided to get an onion and chop it up.

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IMG_0091Next, I sautéed the onion. Actually, I put Anna to task on that job while I sliced the potatoes thinly.

IMG_0089I added about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the garlic parmesan butter to the pan before adding the chopped onions. It was starting to smell good!

IMG_0087After the onions were on their way to translucent, I dumped them into a large bowl, and added about 1/3-1/2 cup garlic butter. I stirred that around to melt it a little, and then I added the rest of the chopped stuff.

IMG_0088The potatoes went in last of all. When it was all tossed well, I poured it into a Pyrex baking dish that I had sprayed with some Pam. I also added 1/2 cup of water (which ended up being too much. I think I would go with 1/8-1/4 cup of water next time. I just didn’t want a dry casserole.) I covered it with aluminum foil and stuck it in a 350-degree F oven.

An hour later, I removed the foil. The potatoes were still not done. They needed more time for sure! I turned the timer to 30 minutes more and went back to my novel. When the timer beeped, it still looked like a few more minutes would make the top a little crispier, so that’s what I did.

I think I finished the book before dinner was ready. PERFECT! Love days like these!

Lane picked up some salad mix on the way home and tossed up a salad for us. I sliced brightly hued oranges and placed them on a plate, and we cup up the last of the French bread. With the jar of cinnamon honey (do you know Miller’s cinnamon honey? Oh my!) and butter dish on the table, it was “A table, tout le monde!”

Soup’s (or rather, potatoes) on!

(P.S. I timed myself, to see how long it would take to make. About 45 minutes. And you may have noticed that we didn’t end up using the leftover bread chunks from the fondue. That’s because Anna and I were enjoying nibbling on them while we cooked. Glad I didn’t use them. Also, all of the family enjoyed the meal. Even Sarah, who is my most, shall we say, discerning eater?)

Here’s the recipe!

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ballet shoes and bagThis week I went to ballet class, only to discover that the news cameras were coming at the end of class.

My first thought? Thank goodness I didn’t wear my leotard and tights! Yoga pants must have been an inspired fashion choice today! LOL.

And my second thought? I am NOT the student anyone needs to film. Seriously! I am SO out of my league in this class that I often am holding back the tears–either from laughing at myself or wanting to cry because I’m so lost. But I don’t cry. I smile and enjoy it (or grin and bear it), because that is the main reason I go: to enjoy it! I love ballet! It’s my time to do something fun, and so I had better enjoy it! I’m not doing it to become a professional dancer or certify for anything or earn a scholarship. I have nothing to prove except that I want to keep learning. I’m there to have fun, to stretch, and hopefully tone a few muscles in the process.

My dancing is pretty comical. I’m telling you the truth: I’m plié-ing next to professionals in this class! These are women who graduated from college in dance, who have danced with companies in their former lives. Or women who danced all growing up. And they are very kind to me.  I’m the one who just wants to be in the beginning class!

Once in a while I ask the teacher (a company director for decades and professional ballerina) to please explain the step. “Is that step called ciseaux, like scissors?” I ventured, trying to decipher the French. I mean, hey! I’m using my resources! “No,” she replied, “sissonne,” and she shows me how to move my feet. With all of my blunders, I figure I’m secretly helping the other women feel even better about themselves while they are there! And that’s OK.

But the TV camera? Well, I shied far away (hopefully) from the scope of that wide lens. Our teacher was phenomenal. She is the nicest, warmest ballet teacher you will ever meet, and she dances so beautifully. She’s part of the reason I didn’t stop coming after the first class. Her sincere “Welcome, Liz!” makes me feel like even if I am the odd one out, I still belong.

(Thanks, Jenny.)

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Thanks, Facebook, from this missionary mom!

 

Elders Livi and Boxberger

Yesterday we didn’t get any emails from Nate. I watched the computer all day until I knew his P-day was over.  I felt peaceful instead of worried.  (As I think about it, I think it is part of that comfort that Nate promised me I would feel during his mission when he gave me a priesthood blessing before he left. ) We knew transfers were taking place and figured that something happened in his new area that prevented him from being able to go to a place to access the internet.

But this morning, I got this awesome message from a mom of one of his previous companions who I had contacted through a missionary mom FB group for his mission. Her son had emailed her these photos, and she was passing them on to me! They are from the area that he was just in, and I think (I’m not positive–I’ll have to confirm via email next week, hopefully!) that this is a photo of his district. Nate was the district leader in his area this time. Such short periods of time for all these experiences! Tons of learning experiences packed into 24 months! The companion with the pink tie pictured above is the one he had before. A great elder! I am SO thankful for both him AND his mom AND for Facebook, which allows us missionary moms to connect and share questions, concerns, and celebrate the news we get from our children missionaries! So GREAT!Elder Livi's district?It’s especially great to get photos because the internet access/speed varies, and sometimes he is simply unable to upload photos because of the computer and internet service available to them. It is simply wonderful to see that happy smile that I love. :)

Here is a brief update from last week’s audio letter: He had 3 people scheduled for baptism on Valentine’s Day, and they had been working with two couples who were married and considering divorce. But because of trying to apply gospel principles in their lives, both couples had seen more happiness together and were working on saving their marriages. Nate also was enjoying getting to help two young men prepare to serve missions. There was one father who was an alcoholic who stopped drinking for a month, and then had a setback. Elder Livi and his companion were praying for his wife to be patient with him as he tried to get back to his commitment to give up drinking. I know that leaving Huanuco must have been hard for Elder Livi because he loved these people so much and had been working so hard to help them. Alas! That is the life of a missionary: learning to trust God to take care of the people you work hard to serve and love. It is certainly one of the great privileges of being a missionary to get to love people so dearly with whom otherwise you would never have had any connection.

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The DeskCycle

DeskcycleI gave Lane a gift for Valentine’s Day that I thought he would think was SUPER COOL.

He was looking for ways to fit in exercise with his crazy work schedule! I saw this and thought PERFECT!

Um, maybe not.

I decided it might be perfect for me (LOL), so this morning I went to work assembling it.

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IMG_0077It was easy as could be. I just had to read the directions and follow them, remembering the handiest household tip:

LEFTY LOOSIE, RIGHTY TIGHTY.

That’s the direction to screw or unscrew something.

Assembly took maybe 10 minutes, and since then I have been posting and cycling. I have gone 12 miles (cycling for almost an hour), and my legs are starting to feel it. I’m only on number 2 for resistance.

I like it!

I might get it more exercise and get feeling better! Woohoo! (Maybe Lane will try it and find he likes it, too. Who knows?)

I’ll report back to you in a month and let you know how much I have used it.

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Leadership and Self-Deception

Winston Churchill BookLast month, our family read Leadership and Self-Deception and Winston Churchill: Soldier, Statesman, and Artist.

I know. Two diverse topics. That’s what I love about family book club: sharing with our children anything we want!

Leadership and Self-Deception has been a life-changing book for me and Lane, at home and at work. When we first read it years ago, it opened our eyes to a gospel principle that we hadn’t considered could be so pervasively affecting our lives. The principle is the beam in the eye. In the book, the author calls this “being in the box.” It means seeing things only from your own perspective and blaming others for problems. Being “out of the box” would be when you are trying to take the beam out of your eye, or Ether 12:27. It’s really powerful stuff. We’re still trying to apply it of course! We were interested in what our older children would have to say about it.

Rebecca said she thought “it was a book that everyone should read because it really puts a perspective on how you’re acting.” How did it change her life? “Now I’m thinking, Is this me?”

Julia said it has taught her to look at herself more and think that she might be the source of the problem first, instead of complaining and “to stop blaming others for problems.” She feels like the book is going to make her better.

Eliza said it “gave [her] a new perspective on life.” “It changed the way I look at people. It made me look at them more as people instead of objects.”

I read the Churchill book aloud to Anna, and she really enjoyed it! She even decided to do a “hero” project on him at school. We learned a lot about him, and were surprised to learn that he helped invent the tank! It was an interesting solution to a problem he saw when England was fighting in World War I (I think it was the first one. Could be the second! I have forgotten already!). He didn’t claim credit for inventing it; rather, he said it took a number of people combined to bring it about. I loved this, because that is truly how things happen. Someone may have an idea, but rarely it is the sole work of that person to turn that invention into reality.

Anna laughed when she called him “Winston Chillchill” once.

One of the things I love most about our family book club are the conversations we have and the connections we make after that month is over. I love being able to read together and enjoy a meal together talking about the ideas we’ve read. I hope we can continue this tradition for years to come. (I’m planning on it!)

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