Holly Furtick

Books I love… read alouds for kids

I love to read to my kids.  Chapter books mainly.  My boys and I have enjoyed so many great titles together.

Did you know that reading aloud to your children has huge benefits?  Research has proven that reading aloud to children increases their vocabulary, their listening skills and their attention span which helps them perform better in school.  For more information check out this article and this great book by Jim at Trelease.

So today I thought I would share a few of our favorites.

Now I will say, we have a rule that we do not watch a movie before we have read the book. If I know there is a movie of a great book we haven’t read, I won’t let my kids watch it.  I had an argument with Elijah about this one time because he wanted to watch the movie, Holes, but we had not read the book yet (we were waiting for Graham to get a little bit older).  I told him we couldn’t watch the movie because it would ruin the book.  My little lawyer replied, “Yeah but if we read the book, it will ruin the movie.”  What do you say to that? “Well, then, because I said so.”

I find my kids can hang with a chapter book starting around the summer before kindergarten.

Two of our favorites for younger kids (5-6) age are…

 

Charlottes Web by EB White.  Charlotte’s web is a classic tale of a spider and a pig.  The book also has some great illustrations.

 

 

 

 

Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.  Ramona the Pest is about Ramona going to kindergarten.  I have read this book to each of my boys the summer before the go into kindergarten,  They always love hearing about the trouble Ramona seems to get herself into.

 

 

 

Great holiday books
(actually book, I only have one)

 

The Best Christmas Pagent Ever by Barbara Park.  We have a tradition of reading this book every holiday season.  It is short enough to get through in a few weeks and teaches a great message about the true meaning of Christmas.

 

 

 

Award winning books.

 

Holes by Louis Sachar.  This is my all time favorite kids book (and probably in my top all time favorite books).  It is a clever story of a boy who finds himself  falsely accused.  I wish I could read it again for the first time.

 

 

 

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.  This is the story of a dog and a preacher’s daughter and all the lives they are able to touch in their small Florida town.

 

 

 

 

The One and Only Ivan by.  Ivan is a gorilla who lives in a small habitat in a mall.  This is loosely based on a true story. If you like books where animals talk and feel, you will love this one.

 

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An Unusual Act of Worship

I recently finished reading a little book called Stepping Heavenward, by Elizabeth Prentiss, which was recommended to me by a friend.  It is a fiction book first published in 1869.  It is a sweet little story that is like a Christian Anne of Green Gables meets maybe, Little Women.  I am not sure this book is for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

There was one line in the story that really stood out to me…

I think a mother, especially, ought to learn to enter into the gayer moods of her children even at the very moment when her own heart is sad.  And it may be as religious an act for her to romp with them at one time as it is to pray with them at another.

It kind of reminded me of this verse from Romans 12:1 (MSG)…

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.

Sometimes it is hard to remember that even in the ordinary acts of mothering I am worshipping.  And I must bring my best sacrifice when I worship.  That means sometimes I must be happy with my children when I am feeling the opposite inside.  Sometimes that means I sit on the floor and play princesses or sit at the table and play chess even when I have a thousand other things to do.  It means I read the same books and watch the same movies.

My calling as a mother may not be as helpful as being a missionary doctor or impactful as starting a church.  But my calling as a mother is equally important.  I am raising a human being.  A person that I am going to send out into the world and hope that they can make a difference for Christ. They will be impacted because I offered myself to God and to them today.

 

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Things you cannot say in our house

As a parent, I try not to have too many rules or too many absolutes.  But this is hard.  If I am not careful I can have a long list of don’t jump on, off, or over the couch, don’t bring blankets in the kitchen, don’t slam doors, take my phone charger and not put it back, don’t don’t don’ts.  And don’t hear me wrong.  We have a lot don’ts in our household mostly because while we are training our children to be kind and respectful and responsible, we also have the duty to train them up not to be wild animals.

But those are all actual, physical don’ts.  But there a few verbal don’ts in our house too.   Three phrases (to be exact) that absolutely are not allowed in our house…

1.  ”I hate you.”  For obvious reasons I do not allow this phrase.  Not in joking and not in a burst of i-didn’t-mean-it-anger.  We can hate things but not people.

2.  ”Not fair.”  I cannot stand this phrase (which bless my poor mother, I said my fair share of when I was a kid).  I simply cannot take my children accusing me of treating them unfairly.  Life is not fair and the sooner they learn this fact, the better.  I recently saw a picture that said, “Fair is the place you get cotton candy.”  I really wanted to get this for my kitchen.

3.  ”I don’t have anything to do.”  This is a statement of ungratefulness in my opinion.  I started hearing this recently when I asked for tv and video games to be turned off.  I got so mad, my kids had to endure quite a lecture about all the blessings then have inside and outside of our house.  I told them that the next time one of them says this, I am going to march up to the playroom, pick out a toy that they love and give it to someone who will love it more.  I hope I have the guts to follow through with this.  I will let you know :)

I am not expert in raising kids, my kids are far too young for me to be giving out parenting advice.  But keeping these statements from my home help me stay sane and I think they teach our kids the values of our family.  And for goodness sakes, there is no place in the kitchen for a blanket, if you are that cold, put on more clothes.

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Own it

Last night I was talking to my friend on the phone.  We were talking about how one of her kids and one of my kids is “that kid.”

You know “that kid.”  When you see them coming you think, what are they going to do this time.  Who are they going to hit, kick, pinch, or scream at?  Whose toy are they going to steal?  What thing will they break?  And what will they say?

The thing is, chances are, if you have more than 1 child, you will have a “that kid.”

In our conversation, she was saying how she wishes her child wasn’t “that kid.”  She wishes she could drop her off at preschool and not worry about the report from the teacher when she returns to pick her up.  And while we were talking about our “that kids” I had this revelation.  Instead of wishing my child wasn’t always the one causing trouble I need to just own it and deal with it.

So I do have a child that causes trouble.  We are working on it.  When I arrive at the school, and the teacher has a bad report, that’s ok.  I will discipline even when I feel like it isn’t working.  I will make them apologize even though they don’t mean it.  I will apologize to the teacher and tell her we are working on it.  I am not ignoring the issues, I am just facing them rather than wishing they weren’t there.  Owning it also means, when she is having a really hard day, I am going to have to forgo the grocery store or the play date so that I am not setting her up for failure.

And I while I am owning it, I remind myself that there are indeed two sides to every coin.  And “that kid” is spirited and determined and a leader and decisive.  Some kids just don’t make good kids, but they turn out to make amazing adults.  And (with the help of the Lord) I am going to raise “that kid” to be a world changer.

Owning it isn’t just about raising difficult children.  It is about any situation that you need to face and not wish away.

You lost your job?  You cannot keep spending the way you used to spend, but you do have extra time to help people in need this Christmas season.

Your marriage is struggling?  You need to put your pride aside and get some help, but you are still married and your children have two parents who are going to work it out rather than walk away.

You struggle with depression?  You need to memorize scripture and see a doctor, but you can have empathy for others going through similar situations.

I don’t know what your situation is that you wish you didn’t have to.  But you have it.  And if you own it, face it then see the flip side of the coin, that situation cannot have control of you, you will have control of it.

 

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Best books… for kids!

Even though my stage of life prevents me from reading as much as I would like to, I truly love books. And I truly, truly love children’s books.  I want my kids to love books and love reading.  So we read a lot.

Today I thought I would share with you some of our favorite books, but I had a hard time knowing where to start.  Should I share our favorite picture books?  Or our favorite chapter books?  Or maybe our favorite spiritual books?  I could even share some of Elijah’s favorite series to read on his own.

Maybe I will come back and share all of these lists but today I want to start with my favorites… chapter books.  I got hooked on juvenile literature when I had to read Charlotte’s Web for my children’s literature class in college.  I read the entire book in two sittings.  Elijah was about 4 when we completed his first chapter book, the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Graham joined in not long after that and we have completed many books since then.  And then somewhere along the line, my husband joined in.  Often we will both have a book we are reading to the boys although we do not read to them every single day.

So enough of all that!  Here are some of the books we have enjoyed.


Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary.  The boys and I have read almost all of the Ramona books.  I think I love Ramona because she is the middle child of 3 girls. But Ramona the Pest is my favorite because it is about her first year of school.

 

 

 


Holes by Louis Sachaar.  This book is in my top 5 books of all the books I have ever read.  I have not actually read it to my boys yet.  I am waiting until they are old enough to really enjoy it.  Oh Stanely Yelnats, the boy whose name is spelled the same way forwards and backwards.

 

 

 


Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.  This is a sweet story about the daughter of a preacher in a new town and a very special stray dog who helps her make new friends.

 

 

 


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  I read this book for the first time aloud to my fifth grade class and got choked up while reading.  Then I read it to Elijah when he was 4.  This summer, my husband read it to the boys.  Elijah did not remember that I had read it to him (Ha!) and they all loved it.

 

 

 


Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  Currently my husband is reading this book to our boys.  I love to hear him read it because he reads the whole book in a deep south grandpa accent.  It is a story about a boy and his two coon hunting dogs.

 

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love, respect and parenting

I got to do a Q/A with one of our eGroups today. This eGroup is a group of Elevation moms with young children. We had the best time talking about marriage, and motherhood, and ministry.

One of the things that came up was the idea of teaching our children to respect their dad. Now of course, children need to learn to respect all adults. But I am not really talking about teaching them to say yes ma’am and no sir (although that is really important). I am talking about respect in the terms of Ephesians 5:33, “So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Here are a few of the ideas we discussed…

1. Greet your father when he comes home from work. Nothing is worse than when my husband walks in the house and we are all to busy to even acknowledge that he is home. Most days my husband texts me when he is on his way home from work, I then remind my kids, “Hey guys, daddy is about to come home. When you hear him, make sure to come and give him a hug and say hi.” We don’t get this right every day. But we make an effort. I want my husband to want to come home from work. And I want him to feel like we are glad he is home.

2. Teach your children to respect their father’s space. In our house, Elijah uses my husband’s nice piano/keyboard to practice piano. Elijah knows that using his dad’s keyboard is a privilege. He needs to turn it off when he’s done, and he needs to put his music books back in the bag. This goes for anything else like “borrowing” a charger, or a pen, or toothpaste because your brother never puts the cap on the one you share with him.

3. And of course, modeling is the best way to teach something. I saw an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (the sitcom all about what not to do in marriage) where Deborah would bet the kids things Ray wouldn’t do like notice her haircut, or come home when he said he would. The way that I talk about my husband to my kids (and my friends and family) is a huge indicator of my level of respect for him. And why would my kids think highly of their dad if I never speak highly of him?

I don’t do this perfectly. But I do want my children to understand that respect goes far beyond being polite. And when they understand how to respect their dad, maybe they will understand how to respect other authorities and maybe (just maybe) even learn to respect each other.

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Act your age

I had a conversation with my good friend this week.  She said she felt like she was being too hard on her oldest child who is 4 years old.  She said she put a post-it on her mirror saying, “He’s 4!” to remind herself to let him act his age.

This really got me thinking.  As a mom of young children, my main goal is to teach my children to obey and learn responsibility.  But there is a fine line between teaching them to be responsible and expecting them to just automatically be responsible.  Only, I am not sure exactly where the  line is here.  The teaching part is a process.  Sometimes I want to skip the process and go straight to the result.  Maybe the solution is something like: believe the best, expect the worst.

I know you know not to walk through the house with muddy shoes, but I also know you are only 5 and may have more important things on your mind.

I know you know not to leave your trash in the back of our car, but I also know you forget sometimes (I do too).

I know you know our morning routine, but I also know you are only 7 and we all have a dragging morning every once in a while.

I know you know how to come in this house (hang your jacket up, put your shoes away, get your lunch box out), but I also know you are only 5 and you are easily distracted.

I know you know not to throw the pillows off the couch and act like it is a trampoline, but I also know you have more energy than you know what to do with.

Sorry to run my point into the ground, it is just a real source of contention around our house.  The thing is, if I believe the best and expect the worst, I will find myself with more patience for them.  If I anticipate that I will need to remind them to hang up their towel every single night, it is just part of the job.  If I don’t remember this, I start to feel like a failure.

I think I need a post-it on my mirror too.  After all, you are only 2, 5 and 7 once.

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Draw it out

I once heard a preacher say, “A question convicts a conscience but and accusation hardens the will.”  I have never forgotten that.

When you ask someone a question, they consider their actions.  When you accuse some one of something, they automatically go into defense mode.

So in parenting, let’s say one of your children gets angry at another one of your children and punches his brother until his brother starts crying (hypothetically speaking).  Instead of accusing which leads to more anger, “You are such a bully, keep your hands to yourself,” you could try questioning, “What is the rule about punching in this house?”  This may not result in any less drama, but it does cause my child to think about what he did wrong.

It applies in marriage.  Let’s say your husband and you get into an argument over money.  He spends too much, you never spend at all (again, hypothetically speaking).  Instead of saying, “You don’t care about our finances,” you could try, “what did you think we could use this for?”

Now I will say it is best to avoid using the question, “Why?” because why can often come across as accusatory.  ”Why did you do that, (you idiot)!”  Also, “What were you thinking?” doesn’t count either.

It takes a lot of self control to question before you accuse but this small change can be the very thing thats allows you to get beneath an argument to the deeper issue of what is causing the argument.  In parenting, it can allow your child to take ownership for their actions rather than you telling them for the 100th time what they did wrong and what the consequences will be.  It also communicates to the other person that you truly want to understand them.

Proverbs 20:5 says this…
 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
    but one who has insight draws them out.

I want to learn to draw out what is in the heart of those I love, not jump to conclusions because I am frustrated by their actions.  I in doing so, I hope that my loved ones will do the same for me when I mess up.

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Never again

Teaching kids responsibility is a hard thing.  It takes a lot of restraint to not bail your kids out when they mess something up.  And I don’t think it gets any easier the older they get (at  least that’s what my good friend Lysa TerKuerst tells me).

Like the other day, my kids didn’t clean up after playing outside.  Later, I ran over a new basketball.  It was an accident but how can they learn to be responsible if it never costs them anything?  My husband made them each pay us $5 to cover the cost.  That’s hard considering the amount of money they have.  But if it didn’t cost them anything, they won’t think twice next time.

A while back we were running into a problem with our DSi games.  My boys love their Nintendo DS.  And I have a love-hate relationship with video games in general.  Sometimes I hate being the video game nazi but that is a whole other post.  DS games are small.  Tiny.  About 1 square inch and they are very easily lost.  A couple years ago I felt like my boys were always losing their games or leaving them at grandparents houses.  I felt like I was the only one who even tried to keep up with them.

So I made a rule: If you lose a DS game, you may NEVER own it again.  No one can gift it to you.  You may not save up to buy it again.  You can never own it again.

I know this seems extreme but can I tell you, we have only lost 1 game that I can think of in the past 3 years.

Sometimes you have to make an extreme rule to teach your children to care about their stuff.  Elijah recently lost his school sweatshirt (it did not have his name in it).  I found it funny that he didn’t ask me to buy another one.  Maybe he knows I will say no.  Maybe he doesn’t care because he doesn’t like wearing coat.  But either way I don’t plan on replacing it.  He can save up his money if he wants one this year.  Otherwise, he’ll have to wait until next year.

I don’t pretend to do everything right with my children.  But I have a big vision for each of my kids and getting them there is not going to be easy.  I have to remind myself that it is easier for them to learn it with a lost video game or a sweatshirt than a lost wallet or cell phone.  And if I have to be the bad guy, then I will.

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When to win

Dr. James Dobson says in his book, The Strong Willed Child, ”When you are defiantly challenged, win decisively.”  This is a great word of advice but the key is when you are defiantly challenged.  What about when you are not defiantly challenged?  What about those times when there is this issue that keeps coming up over and over and at the root, it really isn’t that big of a deal.

Let me explain.  We have coat issues in our house.  My children do not like coats.  They do not like sweatshirts.  Or sweaters, or hats or sweatpants that are fuzzy on the inside.  Apparently I have a different body temperature than they do.  This winter I made a decision: No one is required to wear a coat (well Abbey doesn’t have a choice).  The truth is, we live in North Carolina and they are not going to freeze to death.  (The other truth is I am worried about what others will think about me if my children don’t wear a coat to school.)

Now I must say that I had a really hard time staying true to this.  I started saying, “Now today, I would recommend a jacket, but it is your decision,” and then bite my tongue if they chose not to wear a coat.  I thought when I started this that they would have a couple of cold days on the playground and then they would choose to wear their coats the rest of the winter.  Actually the opposite happened.  The other day, my children were playing outside, barefoot and wearing shorts (it was about 50 degrees) and I had to remember they are not going to freeze to death.

While fighting over coats is not an issue we are going to argue about, changing clothes is.  My children wear uniforms to school and will often ask if they can change clothes when they get home.  This turned into double amounts of laundry and random apparel all over my house for me to pick up.  I will not budge on this.  It took months of saying no before they stopped asking (they still ask about once a week).

The point is you can’t make everything a battle because then your home is just a war zone.  Managing a home requires rules and expectations.  Wisdom is knowing the difference between when what is critical and what is incidental and acting accordingly.

 

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