Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Technopoly


In November and December Justin and I decided to each read different Neil Postman books. I read The Disappearance of Childhood and he read Technopoly. He got his blog post done before me, so I'm linking his post right here. Please go visit his blog and feel free to share some feedback here or there.  

For sake of context, my husband works for a missions organization where part of his job is publishing a digital magazine for pastors around the world.

Here's my favorite line:

Second, Postman shows how, the more and more technological (vs. physical/organic) our societies become, the more we are governed by the tyranny of statistics. If something is not trackable, quantifiable, and sortable, we are duped into believing that it must be somehow less than real. The dangers of this idea for the ministry of the Gospel are profound. In a world ordered this way, which makes more sense (and brings in more donations)? A ministry strategy that can point to x conversions, y recommitments, and z baptisms or a ministry that patiently wades through the morass of sin in the human heart to bring a handful of men and women to a saving and lasting faith in Christ over the course of decades? Leaving the 99 to reach the 1 doesn't add up in the statistical realm.

And... for those of you looking for some good books to read, here is his Top 10 Books in 2012 (the top 10 favorite books he's read in 2012, not necessarily published in 2012). Some of the books he features include: 

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy, by Eric Metaxas

Civilization: The West and the Rest, by Niall Ferguson

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Really Matters, by Timothy Keller

Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ, by Russell D. Moore

Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry

The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

Enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: A Whiff of Pine, A Hint of Skunk

How's this for an opener? The other day I was using our online library system to look up every kid skunk book I could find. 



You see, ever since I checked out The Easter Bunny's Assistant by Jan Thomas, my 18 month old has been enthralled by "kunks" as she calls them :) I feel like I tend to cater to my 3 1/2 year old's reading needs and my 18 month old gets the leftovers, but now that she's talking some I can find things that she's interested in as well. I indulge my book whimsy, what can I say? And...in this particular case sniffing around for skunks turned up a rose of a book :)

I'll be honest, even though I'm an English major I'm not a huge fan of poetry. I can appreciate many that use the form well (i.e. pack serious word punches because the literary form lends to precise word choice), but I don't generally seek poetry out. However, the more children's poetry I read the more I am warming up to the  art form as a whole. 



Thus, we have A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems. First off, the name ought to tell you it's got good content. When I showed Justin (my avid hiker man) the book he said, "That's exactly what the woods smell like sometimes!". A clear endorsement from the man of the house :)  

Some things I enjoyed about the book:    

  • The poems introduce your child to all kinds of woodsy animals: wrens, orioles, beavers, skunks, badgers, foxes, turkeys, snails, woodpeckers, woodchucks, tree frogs, etc. 
  • The poems are not long which is good for wiggly kids 
  • The poems rhyme, which dovetailed with the short length is great for anticipation practice 
  • Several of them are loaded with irony so even if the kids don't quite get it yet, you'll get the joke
  • The titles are also very silly --  "Eau De Forest: A Woodsy Cologne", "Ode to a Salamander", "Proposal for a Squirrel Spa", etc.  
  • The poems are creative and funny. For example: 
A Wild Turkey Comments On His Portrait
I find it most insulting
that you traced around your hand
and colored all my feathers
either plain old brown or tan. 
Where's the copper? Where's the gold
that a turkey should expect?
Where on earth is raw sienna,
and where is the respect? 
Finally, I'm baffled
that you've made me look so dumb.
My head is quite distinguished
and it's nothing like your thumb.    
(Okay... so maybe I like snarky animal poems?) 

or... 
 Toad's Lunch 
The juicy mosquito
I snagged in midair
was uncommonly good,
yet it didn't compare
to the tongueful of ants
that I licked off the dirt,
which would melt in your mouth
like the sweetest dessert.
But I made a mistake
with the slug-on-a-stick--
a smidgen too salty --
and now I feel sick. 
I was smitten by this book after one reading (hence the book review) and I think you'll agree that if you start reading this book to your young children now it will "grow with them" as their understanding and vocabulary  increase and they will appreciate it for many years to come.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Call To Encouragement


Something interesting popped up in my e-mail box this morning: a public platform to nominate teachers/staff or community businesses/individuals that have made a difference in your life. The e-mail states:
"Do you know anyone who makes a difference in the lives of children across Hamilton County? If so, help us to celebrate these individuals by nominating them for a Public Education Award. Teachers, administrators, and support staff are often overlooked in their day to day tasks. While they perform ordinary duties, they do so extraordinarily well every day."
If you're in the Chattanooga (and surrounding areas) here's the link.

I've seen programs like this before, but I guess this morning it reminded me of many unsung heroes we have around us every day. These people are modeling and shaping the next generations because of the level of direct influence they have with children. The e-mail said it's not just limited to teachers, but to cafeteria workers, custodians, bookkeepers.

I can still remember the custodian from my elementary school. Ray rarely talked, but he was always willing to do whatever job needed to be done. I never saw him complain and no job was too difficult for him. I went to daycare after school, so I saw him a lot. I wonder if anyone ever told him thanks for having such a strong work ethic? I wonder if any of us told him thanks for digging the hole and planting our class Earth Day tree? I wonder if anyone told him thanks for scraping the crayon wax of the radiators that us sweet daycare children left for him? I wonder if anyone told him how the school would literally fall apart if he was not there?

That's why I'm encouraging you all to encourage others. We all need encouragement and so many times it gets put on the shelf with so many other good intentions.

So here's my challenge to you this week (pick which ones suit you best):
  • Obviously if you're in this area, click this link to nominate someone 
  • If you were homeschooled, write a note to your parents or a co-op teacher that made a difference
  • Reconnect with a teacher/professor on Facebook and let them know how they impacted your life
  • Write a note to someone in your church that has invested in you (pastor, Sunday school teacher, mentor)
  • Pray for the people who are actively mentoring you or who you are actively mentoring right now  

Monday, January 28, 2013

Educational Trend: The Flipped Classroom

Thanks to Twitter (and Ethan at Math-U-See) I ran across this article about a new trend in some classrooms -- flipped teaching.  

Here's the gist: Teachers record a lesson for the students to watch for homework and then the students come back the next day to practice the concept in class.

According to the article
Flipped learning apparently is catching on in schools across the nation as a younger, more tech-savvy generation of teachers is moving into classrooms. Although the number of "flipped" teachers is hard to ascertain, the online community Flipped Learning Network now has 10,000 members, up from 2,500 a year ago, and training workshops are being held all over the country, said executive director Kari Afstrom. 
Under the model, teachers make eight- to 10-minute videos of their lessons using laptops, often simply filming the whiteboard as the teacher makes notations and recording their voice as they explain the concept. The videos are uploaded onto a teacher or school website, or even YouTube, where they can be accessed by students on computers or smartphones as homework. 
For pupils lacking easy access to the Internet, teachers copy videos onto DVDs or flash drives. Kids with no home device watch the video on school computers.  
It goes on to say that chemistry teachers were able to do twice as many labs, failure rate dropped, disciplinary issues dropped, and teachers got more time to interact with their students. 

This concept is really intriguing and I can see how this would be a great idea for math and science classes because you still get the lesson if you have to miss class. You can watch the lesson several times in the comfort of your own home if you don't get it the first time around. I would really like to see some demonstrations for English classes. It seems like it might work well for grammar lessons, but teaching a book?

Obviously, there are some hurdles to this catching on: 

  • The school administration has to be on board with the idea
  • Parents have to understand the idea and help their child when necessary  
  • Students have to understand and comply with the expectation of watching the video 
  • Teachers have to spend time after class videotaping lessons and then come up with creative ways to practice the lesson
  • In lower income schools, the DVD and flash drive idea would be MUCH more extra work and cost to distribute since many kids have to take the bus home and can't watch it on the school computers during the day.
  • What replaces homework grades? In class assignments?
What do you guys think about this idea? Would you want your children under this method of teaching?     

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Book Reviews: Beginning Readers

Before I get started, please know that I am NOT an expert on early childhood reading. I do have a Secondary English degree, but I taught novels, not phonics during my teaching career :) However, my oldest (3 1/2) is a very verbal/linguistic learner, so I got moving in this direction sooner than I thought I would.      

Here's what the process looked like for us:  

Like every parent, we started with letter sounds. There are a million ways and a million crafts you can do (Pinterest, anyone?) to reinforce the letter sounds. Then we moved on to putting the letter sounds together followed by incorporating blends (gl, st, br, dr, etc.). Then we moved on to sight words and easy readers.


One of the things that most educators will tell you is that any concept or fact can be committed to memory if it's put to a tune. I remember Bible verses and songs thanks to AWANA, Steve Green, and Josh Bales. Why not phonics concepts? The people at LeapFrog have a corner on this market and for a good reason -- their songs are really catchy and concise. I highly recommend the Letter Factory DVD series to get a start. They go over concepts like the silent e, the two consecutive vowel rule, blends, and more. After our oldest watched them a few times she was singing the songs accurately and allowed us to reinforce the concepts from the songs. I am NOT advocating letting TV be your child's teacher for everything (we hardly watch TV here), but I think the songs helped speed up the reading process and allowed me to work more confidently one on one with our daughter. We were able to check this DVD set out from our public library. I am a huge fan of free educational tools :) 

So aside from the DVDs we got from the library, here are some pre-readers/easy readers I have particularly enjoyed and some I have not. I generally recommend starting with series because your child becomes familiar with the character, making each book more comfortable and emotionally accessible to them.   

Mudge series (Cynthia Rylant)-- We started with these because it's what I saw on the summer reading list for kindergartners. They are cute stories about a big puppy named Mudge and his owner, Henry. I like this series because it starts with pre-reading levels and goes through Level 2 reading. So as your child acquires more skill, the character goes with them.   

Otto series (David Milgrim)-- Otto is a robot who tries really hard, but always seems to get tangled up in messes. Fun plots and good repetition to give pre-readers confidence.   

Jan Thomas series -- Some of my favorites are A Birthday For Cow, Rhyming Dust Bunnies, The Doghouse, and her newest one Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. All of her books are super silly, with super exaggerated pictures, and few words. In other words, there is not so much going on in the book that it distracts your child from reading the words. Love these books and her book website!  

Brownie and Pearl series (Cynthia Rylant)-- I was actually disappointed by this series. It's from the same author as the Mudge series (which I do like), but Brownie, a little girl, and her pet cat, Pearl are just too prissy for my taste. They just seem too Toddlers and Tiaras like for me to really like. In one book Brownie has to clean the house for punishment (instead of it being a part of a life discipline) and then does something cute to get off the hook. Didn't like the message for my kids.

Biscuit series (Alyssa Capucilli)-- Biscuit is a small, precocious puppy. He has lots of great adventures and friends that your child will enjoy. 

Mittens series (Lola Schaefer)-- Easy readers about a curious kitty named Mittens. Same assessment as Biscuit. 

Margaret Hillert series -- Some hits and some misses here. Our daughter really liked Cinderella At The Ball and The Baby Bunny, but some of the others were not as interesting. She has 57 books listed in our library, so I'm sure there's something for everyone in this older series.   

Go, Dogs, Go! (P.D. Eastman)-- A classic to be sure. Make sure you get the full sized book though. The small board books either shorten or totally change the original text. The board books are best for babies and toddlers.     

Beginner's Bible -- I Can Read series -- mixed bag on these as well (in my opinion). Some of them seem to impute wrong motives to Bible characters or oversimplify some biblical truths. Obviously, if you can only use sight words your story is going to be pretty simple, but some of the stories just made us feel like we would have to go back and explain or correct things too often when compared with the biblical account. By no means am I saying to stay away from these, but I would suggest reading them through yourselves before assuming the story will be something you feel 100% comfortable with reading over and over.        

If you're a techie, you'd be surprised at how many free apps are out there for sight words and phonics. Some are in bingo form, some are flash cards, some are in game form. We have no problem letting our 3 year old playing those apps for a bit while we are working on dinner.  

Do you have any books or tips for pre-readers?  

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mrs. Sandy

About 4 years ago I signed up for a Heart to Heart partner at church. Heart to Heart is a yearly informal mentor/mentee program we have for women. I requested someone older and what a blessing I received in Sandy!

She came to visit me at the school where I taught and we would walk around campus after my last class got out. She brought over blueberry bushes for us to plant in our backyard. She bought us a keepsake "Our First Home" ornament after Justin and I bought our house. She always had great stories and great wisdom to share during our year.

Fast forward to 2012. She is now our 3 year old's Sunday School teacher. Sandy is always telling me how much she enjoys our daughter and how much she contributes to the class. The past several weeks we have been out of town or our oldest has been sick, so on Friday we received this note in the mail from her. 
The letter says:
 I have missed you in Sunday School and hope that you haven't been sick. It is always a delightful time when you are there. Our Bible story last Sunday was about David. David's father gave David a big  job to do and David obeyed his father and obeyed God. When we obey Mamma and Daddy, we are also obeying God. Hope to see you Sunday, Mrs. Sandy.  
Of course, it touches my heart that she still cares so much for our family, but more importantly that she is constantly nourishing so many generations of people while she's in her 70's. Her husband still goes on mission trips around the world to teach strangers and they both have developed a deep relationship with a Hispanic family that rent from them. The Gospel fuels their desire to be intentional.  

Growing up, I too, had several devoted Sunday School teachers just like Mrs. Sandy. She and so many of the older generation of the church are good reminders of how we are to continue loving others and sharing the gifts God has given us. Ironically, I think the blueberry bushes she gave us are a perfect analogy of this. The bushes took some time to take root in the backyard, but little by little we have seen fruit from the plant. In fact, our oldest was picking several from each bush this summer. If we had given up on the bushes in the first year or two we would have never seen the blessings that are coming to us more abundantly each year. Invest and keep on investing!      

Do you or your children have someone in your life like Mrs. Sandy?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Simple Charm and Heart of Mister Rogers



Ever wondered about Mr. Rogers' sweaters? Watching this video is a good way to find out several things about everyone's "third grandfather". Here's what I observed about one of the most beloved TV educators from this video:  

  • He's an introvert. He speaks slowly and intentionally. He's not showy and never interrupts Joan Rivers.    
  • He seems so serious about his work. Joan sometimes does NOT know what do to with someone who doesn't lighten up (i.e. she's awkward). She's the celebrity host and seems so awestruck by HIS presence. That says something about Mister Rogers' influence.  
  • He says he has an educational philosophy behind his show! No "stringing cartoons" together and calling it a kid's show.  
  • Mister Rogers says, "Children are to be respected. I respect them very deeply. They've taught me an awful lot."
  • How many people do you know that can legitimately get a late show audience to sing "Row Row Row Your Boat" with a king puppet? 
  • He teaches Joan Rivers about character by telling her he loves her for who she is, not her appearance (irony alert!). Seriously though, what a great song!  
  • Mister Rogers says that "people will know we're not just babysitters" and he is 100% right.

To see kid shows today (which are, as Mr. Rogers prophesied in the video, mostly cartoons) Mister Rogers' Neighborhood looks slow and antiquated by comparison. What a shame for children to miss his warmth in their lives. I miss Mister Rogers (we were born on the same day!) and his huge heart for children. Do you?
 


Below is also a great video tribute to Mr. Rogers:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2013 -- A New Year for Reading

2013 Reading Challenge
Goodreads.com has pledges from its members to read a total of 12,287,175 books this year!
                                                          
As the new year is getting underway I want to issue a challenge to you --- read more this year!

Now if you take that comment at face value you might say, "Rachel, I don't enjoy reading, so stop persecuting me" or "Rachel, I struggle with reading and I think you're being unfair." But don't confuse the word challenge with competition. This isn't a competition against anyone else. This is an opportunity for you to consider some new possibilities for "reading" in 2013. For example:
  • Many of you process best through auditory means. Check out some books on CD from your library for your work commute. I have heard numbers of "non-readers" say this was a great option for them. Some books have exceptional narrators that turn a so-so book into something much more engaging. For instance, the Harry Potter books are great by themselves, but Jim Dale is a truly PHENOMENAL narrator for the series. You can also get on audible.com and download audio books, famous speeches, etc. Let the power of speech transform the words on the page!
  • Accept the challenge of a friend who gives you an edifying book to read (i.e. not the ones with bucksome ladies or silver ties) or a thoughtful blog post from a trusted source. Whether it's a devotional or just a must-read non-fiction or classic piece of literature, reading and discussing helps deepens the bonds of friendship and sharpens both your minds. Take the extra step this year! 
  • Get the kids involved. Read to your children both individually and as a family, have your children read to you, take them to the library and have them choose something they want to read to you, find a book on CD that would be good for family roadtrips. The possibilities are endless, but you have to be proactive and willing!    
  • Find a way to hold yourself accountable and have reasonable expectations (don't set the bar way out of reach). Justin and I have found Goodreads.com to be a great resource to not only record our progress (however slow it may be in my case...), but a way to dialogue with our friends about their choices. You get updates on what your friends are reading and what they thought about the book (like a mini-feed feature). You can respond to their reviews and add their books to your "to-read" shelf so you can come back to them later.  
So no matter if you only read one more book than you did last year, consider taking the challenge!               

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

All Dogs Go To Heaven?


This was not a post I intended to write, but life's circumstances often dictate otherwise. My family's dog (Emme) is in full liver failure. Though I am married now with my own family and only get to visit Emme occasionally, I am reminded of how pets are a huge part of life's education.

I was at a church friend's house a few weeks ago for the first time in 5 years. I had no idea that her family owned so many pets. They had finches, a lizard, a cat, and a dog currently but many more pets had come through their home in the past two decades. She said that she and her husband let their children have them because they wanted to teach them responsibility, consequences, and the ability to deal with the grief of losing something special. I really appreciated that they were so intentional about owning pets and how they saw it as an opportunity for their children to learn some of life's essential lessons.

Justin and I are in different camps about family pets. He does not want one and I want one eventually, but not while we have toddlers and babies running around the house. However, after hearing the news about Emme I am weighing the emotional cost (i.e. is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all?). I am never so aware of how badly I take news about pets until I lose one. It hits me like a ton of bricks. If I choose to have a pet, I not only have to deal with the enormous grief individually, but have to shepherd my children's hearts as well. It's the cost of being an adult and a parent. 

Thus, I am torn between my mind and my heart. My mind says to eventually get a pet for the children, but my heart says no way. I believe that pets are a part of life's education, but yet I still hesitate.    

Those who have pets, please weigh in! It's okay if you tell me I'm an emotional coward :)   

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Quietly Wigging Out About School

I was talking with my college roommate yesterday about having babies. I have 2 and she has 1 and we both eventually want another. This discussion got me thinking about how my oldest will be starting school in a year and a half! Where did the time go?

Of course, since we're homeschooling I started panicking.  Some of you may think it's ironic that I would a) panic so early AND b) over a method that lends itself to being okay if everything's not together every morning. However, that's kind of what set off my panic. If I have another baby and my toddler how do I teach my oldest? Since she's really verbal/linguistic and can already read Level 1 books do I just not focus on reading as much because I don't have to? Or should I try and keep boosting her reading level? Work on more math and logic? Work on Spanish some more? Have her memorize a ton of information that is perhaps meaningless to her right now? Do I just chuck most everything and do crafts and enjoy life when they're young? Some days there are so many competing voices in my head about education.



When I occasionally have these panic attacks I usually get mopey and want to just print off K-12 TN state standards and mark her achievements off the list, but I know deep down that's not what I want to do. Luckily, I had a bit of encouragement by way of my cousin this afternoon.

When we got together this Sunday for our annual post-Christmas gathering, my cousin handed me a heavy tote with tons of preschool material that she had cleaned out from her house. She, along with my aunt, and my cousin (by marriage), are all teachers, so since my children are the youngest I get some awesome educational hand me downs from them. 

This afternoon while my youngest was taking a nap, my oldest (3 1/2) and I worked on some floor puzzles my cousins had given us for Christmas. It had shapes, numbers, and animals all cut out in different ways. We talked about pentagons, hexagons, and octagons. Once we finished, I asked if she wanted to get out some of the materials my cousin gave us. We probably sat at the kitchen table for at least an hour covering everything from sight words to primary and secondary colors to what things go together. My oldest thrives on one-on-one interaction which is why she stayed motivated. When we were finished I felt yesterday's panic subside. Not because my daughter did so well -- it had nothing to do with performance-- but because I felt like I got a glimpse into the future of our schooling. I enjoyed spending one on one time with her. Laughing at her silly rhymes and helping her remember some things we hadn't gone over in a while. No pressure to learn, just fun and quality time while learning. 

Of course, I also got to thinking about co-ops over at my house. I wanted to call all of my homeschool friends and tell them that because of my cousin's materials we could do some stations soon and work with each other's kids as a kind of trial run. Another glimpse into the future. 

At least for now, I'll save my panic for another day and appreciate the encouragement from my family.            

Friday, January 4, 2013

These are a Few of my Favorite Things...


Although I referenced some of these books in this post, I wanted to give a list of some of the books that I have really enjoyed reading over and over with our girls (1 1/2  and 3 1/2). I figure some of you  have some Amazon/B&N gift cards burning a hole in your pocket after Christmas! Some of these titles I own and some I just regularly check out at the library. I have linked all the books to the Amazon reviews, so you can see that I am not the only one who thinks highly of the books :)

Pouch! (4.9 stars)
This is a very simple story with few words, but it's great for 1 year olds and up. When my youngest was 14 months old she would try to imitate the way I said "pouch" because we had read it so many times. If you teach Baby Signs, it's fun to do the animal signs with them. Both my girls loved this book. 

Stop That Pickle (4.9 stars)
This is a super silly story with unique illustrations. The vocabulary is elevated, but it's not a hindrance to the story. A clever pickle gets chased by all kinds of food like a PB&J, raisins, a pretzel, etc. What more do you need to know? :)   

The Green Gourd (5 stars)
A granny picked a green gourd 'afore it was ripe and it tried to fump her sure. Maybe it's because my husband is somewhat from Appalachia, but this story cracked us up. It's got a very thick dialect that will probably only make sense to people in the South (and more specifically mountain folk), but if you play the accent up it's a hoot. 

There's a Wocket in my Pocket (4.4 stars)
Classic Dr. Seuss. It goes through the house and rhymes its way to veritable silliness. His silly creatures rhyme with the household objects, so it's a great anticipation book.  

Hamburger Heaven (4.6 stars)
Pinky Pig helps turn the local burger joint around by creating a new menu that's more appealing to the customers. It rhymes, has a great story for the kids to follow, and the illustrations will make you want to look at every detail (many of which are very funny!). Something for everyone here.   

A House is a House for Me (4.6 stars)
I received this book through our state's great Imagination Station program. If you're in Tennessee and not a part of Dolly Parton's program, sign up now! The illustrations look like pieces of old magazines that were pasted together. A very peculiar style, but perhaps part of its appeal. It rhymes and alliterates, but more importantly it unravels the whole concept of a house. For example, it talks about pockets being houses for pennies and roses being houses for smells. No wonder this won the National Book Award :)  

Goodnight Gorilla (4.7 stars)
This book has very few words which lends to great interaction with your child about the book. You get to make all kinds of noises and ask all kinds of questions. The mischievous ape and the expressions on the zookeeper's wife's face totally sell this book.
  
Adam, Adam What Do You See? (5 stars)
Many of you know the Brown Bear Brown Bear book. Same author and same illustration style (though it's not Eric Carle). It's a not your typical "cheesy Christian" way to introduce your little one to some major characters to the Bible. You can easily connect and expand this book with what they learn in Sunday School.  

Planting a Rainbow (4.7 stars)
A simple story, but great pictures and a great way to teach colors and specific flowers. My oldest would see certain flowers in our yard and say "that's just like in my flower book!" It's a great way to connect a book with the real world.

Otis (4.8 stars)
This was also a book from the Imagination Station. We've seen a live version of the book (put on by some performers from Dollywood) twice at our local library. It's a wonderful tale of friendship, hard work, and the simple joys of life on a farm. 

What are some of the books you've been given or checked out from the library that you really enjoy?  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Talkin' 'Bout My Education: Anna Demme


How many of you were slow to start reading or perhaps still struggle with it? This unique post is from another Bryan College friend, Anna Demme, who discusses her journey from a slow start to reading several books in a month now. I see her updated lists on Goodreads, so I know she's telling the truth! 

When I read Anna's turning point it made me really sense God's larger purpose in gift giving. Something physical was given to Anna, but something immense and intangible was received. I hope you find encouragement from her post here at her personal blog.