Friday, July 31, 2015

Anna Marie Larsen Baby Photo

"Her name is similar to me!" my Anna exclaims when I tell her who is in the photo. This is my children's 3rd great grandmother, Anna Marie Larsen, as a baby (born 09 July 1886). She was the first of her family born on American soil as both her parents, Thomas True Larsen and Elsie Marie Madsen, emigrated from Denmark. Anna married Earnest "Lee" Beem on 05 Oct 1905 in Lincoln, Nebraska. She passed away 12 May 1972 in Onawa, Monona, Iowa.  Many thanks to Merriel Miller for providing the photo!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"Mazli: A Story of the Swiss Valleys" by Johanna Spyri

Swiss author Johanna Spyri knew how to put together a happy ending, and Mazli: A Story of the Swiss Valleys is absolutely celebratory. There are a lot of characters to keep up with, but this wasn't a problem. Spyri introduces and deepens our understanding of more than eight children and multiple adults in a gradual way that gives the community a rich history.

Small, kindhearted Mazli is the youngest of five siblings and is the darling of the neighborhood. Well, most people think so. She does have the unfortunate habit of repeating things she has heard her older siblings say, and she can ask sincere -- but possibly insulting  -- questions. Mazli adds some cute factor to the book, but, due to the large number of children involved, I wondered at first why she was the title character.  ...But, wait for the ending! It is Mazli's bold friendliness that breaks through the defenses of a stony heart and sets in motion a series of events that result in the restoration of lost relationships and broken families. 

Issues the children deal with are anger management, standing up for truth, the desire for close friendship, and the need for loyalty, obedience, repentance, and forgiveness.

This really is a multi-generational story as well. As a grown woman with children of my own, I found myself relating most to the parts of the book that featured the children's mother. Full of wisdom and the very center of her children's world, Mrs. Maza learns to further trust her Heavenly Father with the futures of her children.  I will share my favorite passage below:

"The mother knew that she had not the power to keep her children from pain and sin, but she knew the hand which leads and steadies all children that are entrusted to it, that can guard and save where no mother's hand or love can avail. She went with folded hands from one bed to the other, surrendering her children to their Father's protection in Heaven. He knew best how much they were in need of His loving care."

Johanna Spyri was my favorite author when I was a child, and it felt good to return to my literary roots and become reacquainted with her as an adult. She comes from a different time and culture, and, yes, some of it is a bit foreign to the way we do things now, but Spyri's worshipful reliance on our Heavenly Father transcends time and place. It is a breath of fresh air.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

"In Grandma's Attic" by Arleta Richardson Book Review

I recently finished the first book in the Grandma's Attic Series, and it was charming. Simply charming. In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson is my kind of book through and through. Each short story was a joy to read. They may have been intended for children to read, but really, they are perfect for any age.

Wholesome and sweet, the author recalls being a child who asked questions about her grandmother's own childhood as they quilted, cooked, cleaned, and played with buttons together.

Christian values shine through, and the family openly praises the Lord. Yet, this is not a preachy "too good to be true" family. Grandma Mabel was a mischievous little girl, and -- more often than not -- we are hearing about how she made mistakes and learned from them. Funny, my own childhood memories are much the same way.

I will be reading these stories to my own children in the near future and plan to look for the other books in the series.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Not a Blind Man

I thought I was onto something new tonight in my genealogy. A record was suggested for one of my ancestors -- the 1880 Schedules of Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes. I clicked on it, and it all looked promising. The name was right, the county was right, the economic status fit.

I almost decided that my ancestor was totally blind due to an accident with gunpowder and was only partly self-supporting. It was plausible. I was so close to merging the document into my family tree. It would have been careless family history, but I almost did it. Instead, I decided to double check two inconspicuous numbers -- the page and line number the individual appeared on the regular 1880 census. I checked, and the blind man's numbers didn't match my ancestor's numbers.

I went ahead and looked for the blind man on the regular census to double check that there were indeed two men of the same name in the same county. Yes, there were, and the two men were even of a similar age. Yet, they are not the same person. I almost didn't take that "extra step" but by taking a few additional minutes, I avoided adding incorrect information to my ancestor's biography. So, I am glad there is nothing new to report (for that ancestor) tonight.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Independence Day Thanksgiving and Reflection

I read the Declaration of Independence to my little ones last night (mostly for me). They “helped” me make potato salad this morning, and I spent part of the time praying out loud as I thanked the Lord for our blessings, freedom, and comfort. I asked Him to bring revival to our people. I repented on behalf of our nation. God doesn't owe America any favors and there is a lot of sin here, but I would still rather live here than anywhere else. We have it pretty good.

So, I dress myself and my little ones in red, white, and blue, enjoy chocolate mousse, and take pictures. I don't really want to be in a big crowd and sing "I am proud to be an American" at the top of my lungs, but I am still thankful and celebratory in my own way.

One BIG thing; no one is forcing me to do wrong. I am free to be in a God glorifying marriage (to a man), I am free to give birth to my own children, and I am free to teach them about Jesus. Praise God!

Looking at current events doesn't give us much to celebrate at times, and our country is very different than the one we started with nearly 250 years ago. That is why I celebrate the groundwork that was put in place way back when and the fact that sinful people didn't train-wreck our nation any faster. No nation is incorruptible. I am thankful for what we have and choose not to think too much about what I wish it was.

I am thankful for my country, and I love my home, my America.

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

"Five Little Peppers and How They Grew" by Margaret Sidney

I finally did it. I read Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney. My sister was given a beautiful antique copy of the book as a child, and I always intended to borrow it from her. The years passed by, and the book remained unread.

I am no longer a child, and I don't live with my sister anymore, but that doesn't mean I couldn't simplify my life for a few days and dive into this 1881 children's classic. I missed out on the pretty antique, but I was able to download it for free onto my Kindle.

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew is a simple children's story which encourages hard work, kindness, and generosity among even the littlest of children. These characteristics are rewarded in an almost rags to riches fashion when the poverty stricken Pepper family is taken in by the wealthy Mr. King.

I had mixed feelings about the story due to the extreme conditions the children find themselves in. The family is just barely surviving, and the widowed mother and two oldest children, 11 year old Ben and 10 year old Polly, work constantly to put the carefully rationed and simple food on the table. 

Polly in particular takes on too much stress for her young body. The family is forced to rely on her too much, and the guilt she feels at being unable to help more than she already does made my heart hurt. At the same time, I imagine I would have acted in just the same way if found in a similar position.  Thankfully, my life as a 10 year old was far easier than Polly's.

There are some sweet moments among the Pepper children and their friends, and the joy they feel in the simplest of blessings is something I wish I could teach my own children (just without the fear of starvation or complete ruin). I don't know how old my children will be when I let them read this, but I lean toward it being a book we read aloud together, so we can talk about the more difficult parts.

One thing of interest is that Polly bakes most of the bread for her family. My little girl (3) already talks about the day she will be able to bake on her own, so she has my full permission to emulate Polly in this area!