Honoring My Mother

In honor of my beloved Mama this Mother’s Day, I am re-posting this letter I wrote to her last October — 7,670 days after her death.

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Dear Mama,

Oh, how I miss you. It’s been 21 years today since we said goodbye. Exactly 7,670 days. A small part of me feels like that tragic day was a hundred years ago and happened to someone else entirely, and another small part of me feels like that tragic day was not long ago at all, and I am still a grief-struck teenager wondering how I’ll ever carry on without you to guide me.

I remember a bedtime story you used to tell about a lost traveler. Actually, I don’t remember any details about the main character. Maybe it was a donkey? But I remember the moral of the story was to always know who you are and where you are going.

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Becoming a motherless daughter as a teen made me question who I was and wonder where I was going. God, in His faithfulness, drew me in close to Him and taught me that life’s really more about knowing Who you belong to and where you are going. I am so thankful that I belong to Him and am on my way to heaven. What peace, joy and hope I have in knowing this truth.

Yet the grief of mother-loss still comes in waves. Usually they are small, gentle waves, but even now sometimes the waves of grief can be surprisingly overwhelming. I long ago realized the grief won’t end this side of heaven. But by the grace of God, I am carrying on. Or actually, He is carrying me as I trust in Him to guide my steps.

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Being the mother of two little girls requires lots of guidance and wisdom, and so often I hear the lie that being a motherless daughter somehow makes me unqualified to be a mother. My new verse for fighting that lie is 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

I already have all I need to do this job! And being a wife and mothering these girls is a lot of work. It’s good work, but work indeed. I cannot imagine anyone else I’d rather spend my days with.

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And I am thankful that you met and loved Michael, even if you didn’t know back then that he would become my husband. He still re-tells the blonde jokes and OSU jokes you told him, and he laughingly recounts the time you told him sailboats only move by continental drift. He’s a wonderful husband and a great daddy.

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One of my deepest longings is for you to come to our house and meet our sweet little girls. These two lovely granddaughters of yours, each is her own dear and special person.

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But oh, how they both remind me so very much of you with their piano-playing, book-consuming, chocolate-loving passions.

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The oldest daughter is almost 11. I remember you always said that was the perfect age, and now I understand why. She’s so helpful and sweet. She has your big, dancing-blue eyes, beautiful, mile-long smile and slender little legs. She looks so much like the pictures we have of you as a little girl, and she fills our house with the snip-snip of scissors and the low steady hum of the sewing machine. I remember those sounds filling up your bedroom when you were sewing me a new dress or teaching me how to make a pillow. How I wish you could spend a day sewing doll clothes with this daughter. For the longest time it was too painful for me to sew with her because that was something you and I did together and I just didn’t feel confident without you. But this girl, she is a fearless seamstress with such nimble little fingers. Just a few weeks ago, she encouraged me to help her make her little sister a doll for her birthday.

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What fun we had picking fabric, stitching things together and being sneaky about the entire project so her sister wouldn’t find out.

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The youngest daughter just turned 8 and she has your big, dancing-blue eyes, too. Her hair is the same beautiful caramel-strawberry blonde as yours, and you’d be delighted to know that hers is naturally curly, as you always so desperately wished yours was. Like you, this girl is quick with numbers – and she especially likes double-checking her math worksheets on her new adding machine. Give her a little more time with that thing, and I can just imagine the rolls of adding machine paper cascading like a waterfall across our schoolroom table, just like the rolls of paper flooded the floor of your office on busy days. This daughter’s sense of humor reminds me of yours; she loves telling jokes and has a quick wit that catches me and her daddy off guard sometimes. At church the other day, when our pastor was talking about us becoming more like Jesus spiritually but not physically, she grinned and quipped, “That means we don’t have to grow beards.”

I guess that’s the sum of what all these 21 years of motherless days adds up to – your own little girl growing up to be a wife and mother and, by the grace of God, becoming confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

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I love you, Mama, and I can’t wait to see you on that glorious day.

Hugs and kisses,

Diana

The Story of Two Little Hands

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

On March 23, 2003, we dedicated to the LORD our firstborn. During the ceremony that Sunday morning, just before her daddy played Jeff Deyo’s song “These Hands” on acoustic guitar, I read a letter to her. Here is part of that letter.

Today is your dedication day, and we praise God for what a blessing you are to our family. You are three months old and just figured out that you have HANDS! You bat them at toys, try to hold your bottle with them, and just love to put them in your mouth and slobber all over them. Most of time, though, you clasp them together and just stare at them as if to say, “What are these for?”

Before too long, these hands of yours will be coloring and tying shoes and learning to do lots of things. But our hope today is that someday your hands will point to God’s greatness and praise Him.

You see, God’s hands created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. And not too long ago, His hands created you. God loves you and cares for you and has a specific plan for your life.

We praise God for you. Always remember how much we love you, and that the ultimate purpose of your hands is to praise God.

In the meantime, don’t eat those hands! You’ll need them for later!

Those two little hands, she didn’t eat them after all. And since that day I’ve so often held them in my own. I’ve washed them. I’ve dried them. I’ve clipped the fingernails and polished those all shades of pink. I’ve squeezed one or both into my own warm pocket when little mittens were forgotten. I’ve kissed them. I’ve helped them fold together in prayer. I’ve showed them how to turn book pages gently. I’ve taught them to hold a crayon, a pencil.

I’ve watched them reach way up to pick apples from trees.

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And I’ve watched them reach way down to pick up sand dollars and seashells from Atlantic and Pacific beaches.

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I’ve taught them how to fold towels and t-shirts. I’ve taught them how to button buttons and zip zippers. I’ve seen them work puzzles, dress baby dolls, fill tea cups, and dribble basketballs. I’ve watched them write the alphabet in print. And then I’ve watched them learn the alphabet all over again in cursive. I’ve held the left one delicately as the right was wrapped up tightly in a cast for a broken arm. I’ve watched them paint flowers and stitch doll clothes and knit scarves.

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I’ve watched them kindly hold her little sister’s hand in the backseat of the minivan. I’ve taught them to wash dishes and wipe down countertops. I’ve watched them gently behold the wonders of God’s creation.

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I’ve watched them clasped together and dripping with lake water on baptism day.

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And I’ve watched them gracefully glide across the ivories day after day…

Week after week…

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For more than five years now those hands have made music.

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Oh, those sweet little hands and I have been ever so busy together. And God has lovingly and faithfully held these little hands and mine in His mighty hands. He held each and every moment. He held us by grace.

And yesterday — 11 years and seven days after her dedication day — He called those little hands to bravely do what I never imagined them doing when I wrote that dedication letter so many years ago.

Yesterday those little hands went to church and played “Glorious” right along with the worship band. And then the band left those little hands all alone at the keyboard, left my firstborn perched high on a barstool, like a songbird ready to sing. And those beautiful little hands played “Amazing Grace” for the offertory.

And even when her foot struggled to reach the pedal below and those slender fingers pulsed with frustration and momentarily lost their way across the keyboard. Even that moment was all grace. Those sweet little hands just stopped and played it again from the top — “Amazing Grace.”

How sweet was the sound as the little fingers met the keys, the notes sang out beautifully, and the joyful noise of it all filled the whole room.

An answered prayer, a moment of grace, an offering and a gift.

Oh little hands, may you continue pointing to God’s greatness, may you continue praising the One whose hands made you!

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with an 11-year-old

My 10-year-old turned 11! Here’s a fun little interview with her, in honor of her special day.

bdaypicxWhat verses are you reciting lately? Philippians 2:1-11

What are your favorite books? (Such a challenging question for a bookworm.) Some of them are: The Adventures of the Northwoods series by Lois Johnson, Wendy Lawton’s Girls of Faith series, and Windcatcher by Avi.

What is your favorite Bible story? My favorite Bible story is when Jesus rose from the dead.

What is your favorite movie? One of my favorite movies is Epic. Another is A Christmas Candle.

What is your favorite food? raspberries and Pizza Hut breadsticks and pizza

What is your favorite part of mealtime? the dessert

What is your favorite animal? lion

What is your favorite thing to say? “Can I have chips and French onion dip with that?”

What are your hobbies? knitting, crocheting, reading, playing with my sister and my friends

What do you do in your spare time? knitting, crocheting, reading, playing

What songs do you sing while playing piano?  I sing along to the Christmas ones. I’m also playing “Night of the Tarantella,” “By the Sea,” and “Drifting Leaves.”

What other songs do you sing? songs at church, Christmas songs, Jamie Grace songs and some others from my iPod

How high can you count? I probably can count to 999,999,999.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be? I’d go to Oregon because it is so beautiful there.

Besides being tickled, what makes you laugh? funny jokes and puns and sometimes when Daddy does funny things

What are your favorite colors? light pink, blue and purple

What is your favorite game? Rack-o!

What are your favorite subjects in school? science and geometry

What is your favorite extra-curricular activity? piano, art class and jazz class

What is your favorite new thing in 5th grade? art class with Mr. K

Who is your best friend? my sister

What do you like the most about homeschooling?  being with my mom

What do you like the least about homeschooling? multiplying by double digits, like 433 X 62

If you could live anywhere besides Minnesota, where would you live?  Oregon

What characters do you like to dress up as?  I don’t like to dress up as characters anymore, but I sort-of like dressing up in Mommy’s old clothes.

“Is It Christmas, Mommy?”

PLEASE NOTE: Happy Advent! I’m re-posting this sweet tale from five Christmases ago.

 

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Every day this month, my youngest has asked at least once, sometimes more frequently, “Is it Christmas, Mommy?” I keep saying over and over, “Not yet! It’s Advent.”

For some reason, my answer isn’t getting through to her 3-year-old brain.

This afternoon I wrapped all of my gifts for the girls and my hubby while the girls were playing in their rooms. When my youngest came downstairs, I told her to look under the tree. She noticed the gifts but didn’t seem too excited. Then I explained that all the gifts in the red wrapping paper with gold stars belonged to her. Her eyes bugged out and she put the most shocked expression on her face. “For me! What did you put in them?” As if I would tell her!

I explained that the gifts would be a surprise that she would unwrap on Christmas Day. She started jumping up and down with the child-like Christmas excitement you’d expect from a 3-year-old.

Later the girls wrapped a gift for their daddy. They almost used all the Scotch tape in the process. When he arrived home from work, my oldest met him at the door reporting excitedly that she had wrapped a present for him and it was waiting under the tree. My youngest, not to be out-done in the reporting, said, “Yes, Daddy! We wrapped you a present! It’s pajamas!”

As you can imagine, big sister was pretty upset with little sister for ruining the surprise. Tears were shed. But I’m sure they both will be telling this story over and over again for Christmases to come; someday it will be funny to them.

7,670 Days Later

Dear Mama,

Oh, how I miss you. It’s been 21 years today since we said goodbye. Exactly 7,670 days. A small part of me feels like that tragic day was a hundred years ago and happened to someone else entirely, and another small part of me feels like that tragic day was not long ago at all, and I am still a grief-struck teenager wondering how I’ll ever carry on without you to guide me.

I remember a bedtime story you used to tell about a lost traveler. Actually, I don’t remember any details about the main character. Maybe it was a donkey? But I remember the moral of the story was to always know who you are and where you are going.

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Becoming a motherless daughter as a teen made me question who I was and wonder where I was going. God, in His faithfulness, drew me in close to Him and taught me that life’s really more about knowing Who you belong to and where you are going. I am so thankful that I belong to Him and am on my way to heaven. What peace, joy and hope I have in knowing this truth.

Yet the grief of mother-loss still comes in waves. Usually they are small, gentle waves, but even now sometimes the waves of grief can be surprisingly overwhelming. I long ago realized the grief won’t end this side of heaven. But by the grace of God, I am carrying on. Or actually, He is carrying me as I trust in Him to guide my steps.

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Being the mother of two little girls requires lots of guidance and wisdom, and so often I hear the lie that being a motherless daughter somehow makes me unqualified to be a mother. My new verse for fighting that lie is 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

I already have all I need to do this job! And being a wife and mothering these girls is a lot of work. It’s good work, but work indeed. I cannot imagine anyone else I’d rather spend my days with.

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And I am thankful that you met and loved Michael, even if you didn’t know back then that he would become my husband. He still re-tells the blonde jokes and OSU jokes you told him, and he laughingly recounts the time you told him sailboats only move by continental drift. He’s a wonderful husband and a great daddy.

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One of my deepest longings is for you to come to our house and meet our sweet little girls. These two lovely granddaughters of yours, each is her own dear and special person.

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But oh, how they both remind me so very much of you with their piano-playing, book-consuming, chocolate-loving passions.

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The oldest daughter is almost 11. I remember you always said that was the perfect age, and now I understand why. She’s so helpful and sweet. She has your big, dancing-blue eyes, beautiful, mile-long smile and slender little legs. She looks so much like the pictures we have of you as a little girl, and she fills our house with the snip-snip of scissors and the low steady hum of the sewing machine. I remember those sounds filling up your bedroom when you were sewing me a new dress or teaching me how to make a pillow. How I wish you could spend a day sewing doll clothes with this daughter. For the longest time it was too painful for me to sew with her because that was something you and I did together and I just didn’t feel confident without you. But this girl, she is a fearless seamstress with such nimble little fingers. Just a few weeks ago, she encouraged me to help her make her little sister a doll for her birthday.

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What fun we had picking fabric, stitching things together and being sneaky about the entire project so her sister wouldn’t find out.

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The youngest daughter just turned 8 and she has your big, dancing-blue eyes, too. Her hair is the same beautiful caramel-strawberry blonde as yours, and you’d be delighted to know that hers is naturally curly, as you always so desperately wished yours was. Like you, this girl is quick with numbers – and she especially likes double-checking her math worksheets on her new adding machine. Give her a little more time with that thing, and I can just imagine the rolls of adding machine paper cascading like a waterfall across our schoolroom table, just like the rolls of paper flooded the floor of your office on busy days. This daughter’s sense of humor reminds me of yours; she loves telling jokes and has a quick wit that catches me and her daddy off guard sometimes. At church the other day, when our pastor was talking about us becoming more like Jesus spiritually but not physically, she grinned and quipped, “That means we don’t have to grow beards.”

I guess that’s the sum of what all these 21 years of motherless days adds up to – your own little girl growing up to be a wife and mother and, by the grace of God, becoming confident that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

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I love you, Mama, and I can’t wait to see you on that glorious day.

Hugs and kisses,

Diana

Simply Messing about in Boats

The following excerpt is from The Wind in the Willows.

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“Do you know, I’ve never been in a boat before in all my life,” said Mole.

“What?” cried the Rat, open-mouthed: “Never been in a — you never — well I — what have you been doing then?”

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“Is it so nice as all that?” asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

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“Nice? It’s the only thing,” said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half as much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,” he went on dreamily: “messing –about — in — boats; messing —”

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“Look ahead, Rat!” cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

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“— about in boats — or with boats,” the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. “In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not…”

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The Mole never heard a word he was saying. Absorbed in the new life he was entering upon, intoxicated with the sparkle, the ripple, the scents and the sounds and the sunlight, he trailed a paw in the water and dreamed long, waking dreams. The Water Rat, like the good little fellow he was, sculled steadily on and forebore to disturb him.

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My Golden Girl

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Frost said gold is nature’s hardest hue to hold. He was referring to spring’s earliest gold-green leaves. Nothing gold can stay, he said.

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Aye, fall’s golden leaves are nearly just as quick to flee. They linger just long enough for a photo or two.

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My baby, with her golden locks, celebrates her golden birthday the same week all the yellow leaves glow and glimmer in the trees. So we crown with her a golden wreath of laurel.

And we dig through a closet full of boxes to find the gold leaf tea set my grandparents used on their golden wedding anniversary more than 40 years ago.

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We set the table in shades of gold, pour amber-colored tea, and sing along with Britt Nicole as nearly a dozen kids masquerade through the living room. And the golden girl, she glows and shines.

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She lingers just long enough for a photo and a short interview because even golden birthdays cannot stay.

1. What makes you happy? That I’m turning 8! {Giggle.} I have another one for you. That I am going to heaven.

2. What makes you sad? That people get sick.

3. What makes you laugh? Daddy! And videos of my sister when she was little, like 2, running around the living room.

4. What is your favorite thing to do? I like to swim and read and play with my stuffed animals and dolls. I also like to nature bake.

5. What are you really good at? nature baking

6. What are you not very good at? Knitting and crocheting – that’s not my talent.

7. What is your favorite food and drink? I like Kraft macaroni and cheese and cream soda.

8. What’s your favorite color? Dark, dark green

9. Where is your favorite place to go? I like to go to the Children’s Museum.

10. Who are your best friends? Naomi, Noah, Grace, Joellen, Mommy, Daddy, my sister, and Jesus

11. What are your favorite movies or TV shows? Liberty Kids and The Emperor’s New Groove

12. What verses are you reciting lately? Philippians 2:1-6

13. What are some of your favorite books right now?  Cul de Sac Kids Series, Imagination Station Series, The Bible

14. Who are your favorite people? My grandparents and relatives

15. What are your favorite toys? Honey (my bear), my tea sets

16. If you were a character in Wizard of Oz, who would you be?  I would like to be Toto.

17. What does Mommy do when you’re not around? Wrap birthday presents!

18. What do you do when Mommy isn’t around? Go to ballet, piano, art class, play with my sister, play with babysitters, play with Daddy

19. What is something Mommy always says to you? “Goodnight, I love you!” “Good morning, I love you, but I’m busy doing my hair.”

20. What do you and Mommy do together? Read, hug, and bake

21. How are you and Mommy the same? We kind of have the same smile, like to bake, and we like to read, and we like to take pictures.

22. How are you and Mommy different? Mommy is a mommy. She has a computer. She has a phone. She has an iPod. Mommy can drive a car. I can play piano way better. I’ve caught fish and she has not.

23. How do you know Mommy loves you? Because she says it every night, and she hugs me and reads to me and I can just tell.

A Cricket

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“A Cricket” by Aileen Fisher

In a matchbox

Is a cricket

With a patent-leather shine.

It’s at Peter’s,

And he’s printed

“Mister Cricket” on a sign.

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In a fruit jar

That is open,

With a leaf on which to dine,

Is a cricket

That is Kathy’s

And she thinks it’s very fine.

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Nothing’s gayer

Than a cricket!

Nothing’s louder after nine!

But my mother

Thinks a thicket

Is the nicest place for mine.

More Favorites from the Bookworms

While I love reading aloud, my two girls do far more reading without me these days. Sometimes the girls get so engrossed in their books, I have to surgically remove their noses from the pages in order to get help with laundry or dinner!

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So what books are so incredibly riveting to my 7- and 10-year-old bookworms? Well, my youngest likes to read and re-read series of books, such as the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series by Betty MacDonald, the Imagination Station series from Focus on the Family, the Adventures in the Kingdom series by Dian Layton, The Cul-De-Sac Kids series by Beverly Lewis, and nearly anything by Beverly Cleary. She recently finished Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Moray Williams, and together we are reading The Racketty-Packetty House by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I also should note that she loved The Wonderful Wizard of Oz so much she insisted we read it together as a family this summer, even though I have a terrible fear of winged monkeys. We finished the book a few weeks ago, and thankfully my life is almost entirely free of those frightful creatures!

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Lately my oldest is adoring the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery and The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. The Borrowers series by Mary Norton, In Grandma’s Attic series by Arleta Richardson, and children’s fantasy books by Edith Nesbit are also among her recent favorites. In addition to reading fiction, reading biographies on various missionaries and famous Americans is another of her favorite genres.

Happy reading!