Ruth Ann Adams

5 X Mama: Travel Tales, Faith Stories and Children's Literature

5 X Mama, Happy Mother’s Day!

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Head Shot   I looked at my young daughter, her stomach artistically decorated with bright markers. There was no doubt in my mind as to what had inspired her. The night before, we had read Purple, Green and Yellow by Robert Munsch, a children’s story  in which the heroine, Brigid, “…colored her belly-button blue. And that was so pretty, she colored herself all sorts of colors almost entirely all over.” The artwork faded from my daughter’s skin, but  her passion for books continued.  Now, as an adult in her twenties, Andrea  devours books, even if she refrains from plastering her belly-button with markers!

As a 5 X Mama, with four daughters and one son, I am convinced that one of the most important things you can do for your children is to read to them. Books have always played a huge role in my own life. My mother said, that as a child, I carried a book with me on outings, instead of a doll. Libraries were like treasures mines, complete with enticing covers, intriguing titles and dramatic tales. By the time I was eleven, I managed to talk the children’s librarian of our local library into hiring me as a page, to put books away and do other small duties. Finally, I entered the classroom as an   English teacher, sharing novels, poems and drama with teenagers, before embarking on another exciting career, as a 5 X Mama. Naturally, books were right, left and centre in our home.

My husband shared  my passion. When our babies were born, he read and re-read The Lord of the Rings trilogy, while he rocked fussy infants to sleep, and generously gave me some rest. Then when they were older – but not much older – he read the trilogy to them. When our youngest daughter turned 18 last November, her older sister, who once coloured her tummy-button, did much of the work planning a surprise Lord of the Rings theme party for her, complete with costumes, decorations and special food such as “orc pudding.”  My husband, dressed up as Gandalph, read to his now adult children, from one of Tolkien’s books.

All of our lives we tell ourselves stories, and we share those stories with others. Words have the unique ability to create, to empower, and ultimately to determine the course of our days. When children hear a wide variety of stories, the possibilities for creative and imaginative excursions are endless. Through stories, children learn how to respond intelligently and sensitively to the many influences and circumstances of their lives. They learn to look beyond themselves to the needs of others and to relate compassionately to people different from themselves.

In  5 X Mama, one of my goals is to share some of the wonderful stories I enjoyed with my own children, as well as to explore newer books. The possibilities are endless and in this age of digital distractions, it is perhaps more important than ever, that books make an immediate and emphatic presence in children’s lives. Besides all of this, reading books with children is just plain fun and gives parents, grandparents and educators opportunities to connect and converse, that would perhaps otherwise be lost.

the mothers day mice

An enchanting Mother’s Day book to share with your little ones is The Mother’s Day Mice by Eve Bunting. Three mice, Biggest, Middle and Little, go on a private adventure to find just the right gift for their mother. In spite of courting near disaster with a cat, each finds something special. Little discovers the best gift within himself  and in a spirit of generosity says that his present is from them all! Jan Brett’s detailed and colourful illustrations perfectly complement the text.

Do you have books you treasured as a child or enjoy reading to your children? I would love to hear about them! Have a memorable and blessed Mother’s Day!

Disclaimer: Copies of books discussed are my own or from the library, unlessotherwise stated.

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Written by Ruth Ann Adams

May 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm

Falling in love with Scotland

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scottland                scottland 2

My mother once told me, in her practical wisdom, that most of life consists of day to day living. She said that life has its mountain top experiences, but these are the exception, not the norm. Of course, she was right. Our days and weeks, months and years consist largely of the small pleasures of our normal routine. However, once in a while, something so fresh and unexpected comes along, that our outlook is never quite the same afterwards. This was my experience visiting Scotland for the first time.

When Elizabeth I ruled England, one of the biggest uncertainties was her future successor.  She died in 1603, without a child of her own, and the crown was handedto King James VI of Scotland. In 1707, the Act of Union created Great Britain, consisting of England, Scotland and Wales. The Scots had always had a strong sense of their own nationality.  In the time of Roman Britain, the Emperor Hadrian was unable to occupy Scotland and instead built Hadrian’s wall, to keep the Celts out of British territory. Heroes such as Braveheart and Bonnie Prince Charlie  fought for their country, hoping to free Scotland from outside interference. Even now, Scotland has its own currency, the  Gaelic language, and a unique culture. A referendum has even been set for September 18, 2014, to ask the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

During our first day in Scotland, we sailed down Loch Lomond, admired the  breathtaking scenery, sipped complementary tea and listened to the stories of a Scottish tour guide. Later, while my family went up the side of Ben Nevis in a cable car, I remained sensibly on the ground, browsed through some local stores in Fort William, and compared the products to what we sold at the department store I worked at in Canada. That evening, at our hotel in Newtonmore, a Highlander, dressed in full regalia, played the bagpipes and in a short  ceremony artfully presented the haggis, a dish made of sheep’s liver or intestines. The next day, we toured Blair Castle, built in 1269. Our guide told us that Queen Victoria and Prince Andrew had once visited the castle and gifted the presiding duke with his own private army. For lunch, we stopped at  St. Andrew’s, which has as at least three claims to fame, as a well known golfer’s paradise, the city where Prince William went to university, and the setting for the opening and closing scenes of Chariots of Fire. In the evening, after a meal of salmon and potato chowder, I had a conversation with a charming Scotsman who very obligingly explained to me the different parts of his costume.

In the morning, we drove to Edinburgh, took a tour of The Royal Mile and Princess  Street, and  enjoyed some free time to explore on our own. At the Writers’ Museum at Lady  Stair’s House, we saw displays on three famous Scottish authors: Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott. Robert Burns, my daughter Hannah’s favourite poet, has remained so famous that many people still celebrate Robbie Burns Day each year on January 25th. Burns’ poem, Auld Lang Syne (“for old time’s sake”) is often used to usher in the new year.

While my family lingered over lunch, I walked up the street  and forced my way through a very heavy door into a gift shop on the lower level of St. Gile’s Cathedral. Since many of the cathedrals in the UK charge admittance, I was pleased to discover that St. Gile’s did not.  I ran back to encourage my dawdling family to finish lunch, so we could tour the cathedral together. Inside the cathedral was a statue of John Knox, a famous Calvinist preacher, who once graced the pulpit of St. Giles and preached a reformist message of salvation through grace. He had a particular antipathy towards the beliefs and practices of  Mary Queen of Scots and is credited as an instrumental player in the development of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. At the John Knox house, we saw some fascinating  manuscripts and descriptions of his life and work.

Hannah and I went off look through some stores and were drawn into a little shop with the unusual  name, The Tappit Hen. When I asked the saleslady what the name meant, she said that it referred to a type of drinking mug and showed me where it was located in the store window. The shop also sold Celtic jewelry and an intriguing  item called a quaich, a  two -handled cup which is presented as a friendship gift on special occasions.

On the bus, our tour guide played the Scottish song, “Loch Lomond” and for weeks afterwards, its haunting tune  played in my mind. We drove through the Scottish highlands, saw the heather on the hills and the  cows called “hairy coos” roaming the fields. Perhaps it was the romantic story of the lovers in “Loch Lomond,” the beauty of the landscape, my love for my husband who sat beside me on the bus or the brogue and friendliness of the Scottish people. Perhaps it was because Scotland caught me off guard, a place I had always thought would be interesting to visit but had never dreamed of, as I had  England. Whatever it was, my unexpected love affair with Scotland is something I will never forget and never recover from.

Written by Ruth Ann Adams

April 17, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Coventry, a lesson in forgiveness

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In Coventry, England, two churches stand side by side. One is a bomb shelled husk, a grim reminder of the flames and devastation of World War 2. The other is the new church, built after the old one was destroyed. Two churches. Two messages. One symbolizes the horrors of death, while the other the miracles of life and restoration.

Why is the old church still standing? To the people of Coventry, the sight of the bombed structure is a reminder that good triumphs over evil. When German bombs destroyed lives and property, in a 10 hour attack on the city, the people chose to focus on forgiveness.

As Easter approaches, Christians focus on two symbols of faith: the cross and the empty tomb. One represents sacrifice and death, the other resurrection and life. We are reminded that as Christ sacrificed his life for us, we need to share his love with others. Sharing Christ’s love in an imperfect world always requires forgiveness.

What would have happened if the people of Coventry had decided not to forgive? They would have lost the opportunity, not only for their own healing, but for the privilege of being an  example of faith and hope to the rest of the world. Forgiveness is always the most powerful option and Jesus has shown us the way through the cross and the empty tomb.

Have a blessed Easter!

Written by Ruth Ann Adams

March 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Kristen Lamb’s Blog

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An excellent writer resource is Kristen Lamb’s Blog, plus her books We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Try out these well written, highly readable, informative and often humorous resources.

Written by Ruth Ann Adams

March 21, 2013 at 12:02 am

Tadeo Turtle by Janis Cox

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51nYhveE+AL._SL500_AA300_Tadeo is a happy and contented turtle, pleased with how God has created him, until he observes the activities of Sammy Squirrel. Suddenly, Tadeo views his most unique feature, his shell or carapace, as a burden. He wants to be like Sammy and his shell is definitely in the way!

Canadian author and illustrator, Janis Cox, in her breathtaking  picture book, Tadeo Turtle, weaves a classic tale of adventure and self discovery. The simple plot line is high paced and the water colour illustrations enchantingly beautiful. The names of the major characters are  in  bold type, making it easy for young children to identify them.

Tadeo Turtle is designed for home schooling, Sunday School, Christian schools and individual use. Janis Cox is a retired elementary school teacher and teaches, as well as entertains. In addition to the story, she provides an activity section which contains craft ideas and research facts and links. A detailed curriculum is also available on Janis’s website: www.janiscox.com.

Tadeo’s name is acquired from the name, Thaddeus, which means “heart” or “praise.”  After a close encounter with a cat, Tadeo undergoes a heart and attitude adjustment, and is thankful to God for creating him exactly as he is. Both children and adults can relate to the timeless messages of gratitude and self acceptance.

Order a copy of Tadeo Turtle  at Barnes and Noble/Amazon/Chapters.

Written by Ruth Ann Adams

March 12, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Trees of the Book by Kimberley Payne

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540960_492598240776469_642487069_nDid you know that trees are traditionally “symbols of success,” that the prophet, Elijah, hid under a broom tree, or that a mustard tree is fully grown in approximately 40 days?

Canadian author, Kimberley Payne, in her outstanding 14 page activity book, Trees of the Book, allows seven trees of the Bible to tell their personal  stories.

“Hi, I’m a oak tree,” the first tree explains. The oak, cedar, broom, mustard, fig, sycamore and palm  trees describe their settings and significance in well known Biblical narratives. Included in each short chapter are also “Fast Facts,” “Think About” questions,  references to additional Bible verses and fun and informative activities.

After the trees have their say, Kimberley Payne helpfully provides project ideas and activity solutions,  plus a glossary and “People of the Bible” section to define bold type,  highlighted words.

The text is well supported by the beautiful art work of illustrator, Esther Haug. She uses bright  colours and extremely clear details to educate and entertain.

Trees of the Book, written for 7 to 9 year olds, is an excellent resource for home, school or church use. A Sunday School or Vacation Bible School could successfully plan a unit around the trees, their stories and the suggested activities. Trees are universal in their appeal and this is a book to be enjoyed  by children, parents and educators.

Kimberley Payne is a well known author of family, devotional and fitness books, including the award winning devotional, Where Fitness Meets Faith.

Trees of the  Book is available at Amazon/Chapters/Barnes and Noble.

Written by Ruth Ann Adams

March 5, 2013 at 3:04 am

Tower of London

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We walked up the steps from  Tower Hill tube station. I gasped in delight as we emerged into the sunshine. There, right before us, walls rising out of the mists of history, was the Tower of London! This was the England I had dreamed of. We were about to  cross the street and step straight back in time!

When William the Conqueror began assembling the White Tower in the 1070s, he intended to impress the boisterous Londoners with his authority. Future monarchs contributed towers, curtain walls, moats, furnishings and whatever else was required for safety and comfort. What was the Tower used for?  Some kings sought out the Tower for protection against angry barons and rebellious mobs. The Tower contained The Royal Mint, the Office of Ordnance and a menagerie (a forerunner of a zoo), which housed, among other unusual occupants, a bear, lions, monkeys, a  hyena and an alligator! Of course, the most gruesome  and well known use of the Tower was as an execution site, including that of two of the ill fated wives of Henry VIII.

After going through security – and when you think of it security is what the Tower has been all about for centuries – we explored The Bloody Tower. This tower is set up with a display board portraying the mystery of two young princes, who were thought to have come to an untimely death at the orders of  King Richard III, their treacherous uncle.

What probably intrigued me most, though, in The Bloody Tower, was Sir Walter Raleigh’s study, complete with a desk, chair, writing materials, fireplace and a large, framed picture on the wall. I wonder what he thought about, as he walked the Tower grounds and sat at his desk, writing The History of the World? Perhaps he dreamed of far off places, because in between imprisonments, Sir Raleigh went on several  sea voyages. The second  led to his execution by James 1st.

The Crown Jewels, in The Waterloo Barracks, beckoned to us. For my daughter, Hannah, this was the most exciting part of the Tower tour. When Charles 1st was executed in 1649, the ruling Commonwealth insisted that the Coronation Regalia be demolished. In 1660, Charles II was freshly endowed with jewels, when he began his reign in 1660. We rode on a moving platform past exquisite treasures. My husband asked a young guard how much one of the jewels was worth. He replied, “It is priceless.” I suppose he was correct. What price could such a jewel, steeped in history and tradition, be sold for?

However, on May 9th, 1671, Thomas Blood evidently viewed the jewels as extremely lucrative. He and his partners bound the unfortunate Keeper of the Crown Jewels and proceeded to plunder the riches. They were caught, but in a world where thieves could be put to death, the robber managed to talk the king into a royal pardon. A version of this story was actually preformed in the Tower courtyard, where we sat for a time, eating waffle sticks with chocolate sauce and  conversing with a couple from Enfield, Nova Scotia. Hannah asked for cream for her coffee but was told that she was in the wrong country! Is coffee cream a Canadian tradition?

In the courtyard, we also watched the Yeomen Warders or Beefeaters converse with the crowds. These lively performers  provide tours and their own brand of entertainment. They are immediately recognizable in their blue and red  Tudor style outfits. The Warders live right on the grounds with their families, and I am sure provide their children with their own slant on history!

My husband, Andrew, felt the Tower was well worth the admission price, because it was like having a number of small museums in one place. He was especially interested in the exhibit Fit For a King, in the White Tower, which features suits of armour and gives tourists a good idea of the size of the kings wearing them. There is even armour belonging to either a very small king or a child. All kinds of details are explained and we could easily have spent much more time learning about armour and the kings who donned it.

No trip to the Tower of London could be complete without contemplating the deaths of Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey. Anne and Catherine, wives of Henry Vlll,were beheaded ostensibly for adultery, but a guide told my husband that they were most likely innocent. 16 year old Lady Jane Grey was queen for merely nine days and executed for solely political reasons.

According to a guide, Queen Victoria felt extremely sorry for the victims. Today, on Tower Green, there is a monument, designed by Brian Catling and put in place in 2006.  Around the base of the memorial is written Catling’s tribute:  “Gentle visitor pause awhile. Where you stand death cut away the light of many days. Here jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life. May they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage, under these restless skies ” (punctuation added). We were standing under the skies of Tower Green and could only imagine these victims of political circumstance laying down  their lives, while spectators watched nearby. Did Henry VIII feel any remorse as he watched his wives beheaded at his own command or did he feel, as supreme monarch, that he was somehow justified?

Andrew and the girls went off to see the instruments of torture, but I had spent enough time climbing long, narrow staircases and stood instead by Traitor’s Gate,where prisoners once arrived along the Thames in barges. I  thought of the prisoners and those who had power over them. Was Henry VIII, who by our standards, murdered two of his young wives, convinced he was right, overtaken by religious conscience or  merely a dictator who could get his own way? If he were to walk out into the sunshine at Tower Hill tube station, and look across the street at the Tower, would he gasp in delight, as a 21st century tourist might, or would he gasp in horror at a world he could barely comprehend? It is probably fair to say that we cannot fully comprehend his world either. Regardless, the Tower stands as a tribute to human courage, is a  famous  World Heritage Site, and is an absolute must to see during any tour of London, England!

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Written by Ruth Ann Adams

February 1, 2013 at 12:13 am