Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Somewhat Unexpected Joys



My, the last few weeks have been busy.  I think the nesting is officially upon us, and I've spent a lot of afternoons sorting through long-neglected corners of my house.  I've been trying to get things in order before this baby arrives, finishing projects, and spending a lot more time at home than I normally desire.  I'm typically an on-the-go type of person, but this pregnancy is bringing out the homebody in me, and I've been enjoying all our quiet days at home.  Actually I need the quiet days at home, because even a few hours out of the house these days leaves me exhausted!

All this being-at-home leaves me with a little more time to rediscover some simple joys.  These are a few things I've been surprised to be loving lately.

Sounds of the kids waking up from nap time.

Don't get me wrong, depending on the day and how exhausted I am this isn't always necessarily welcome, but the longer I'm a mama the more I like hearing my kids waking up from nap.  Maybe it's the fact that Wyatt doesn't nap at all anymore, so I've begun to let the "nap time is me time" idea go.  But seriously, they are so cute.  Some days they spring out of their rooms, cram their shoes on their little feet, and run outside.  Some days they are especially sleepy and wake up with mumbles and whines, and it's a prime opportunity to get some rare snuggle-time in.

Today, the kids have just burst out of the rooms after nap time and are upstairs right now, decorating the house with "fall stuff"; paper leaf and turkey creations that Wyatt put together while the others slept.  I am finding it really adorable.  I love that we've had this time to stay home and let their little creative juices flow.

Leggings.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm just not a leggings type of girl.  You will probably never find me in a grocery store in leggings or pajama pants.  I like some structure to my clothes.  So it's somewhat surprising how often I find myself reaching for my leggings lately.  Maybe it's because I am so sick of tugging on baggy maternity pants that won't stay up, or rolling down the band of maternity pants that are cutting into my bulging middle, but bring on the leggings!  Today I started out in jeans (they say to dress like you are going to be seen and you'll be more productive, right?), but now I'm sitting on my bed, typing in some glorious gray leggings, a tank top, and a chambray shirt.  Going-out appropriate?  (Not to me.)  But while pregnant-and-staying-home?  Complete bliss.

Making play dough.

I mentioned this on Instagram the other day, but it bears repeating here.  This summer, I was curious about Zdough, which is a scented play dough brand that was popping up on all the homeschool preschool feeds I follow.  I ordered some, and brought it out for the kids to play with the other day, and something about having play dough that smells good was just really fun for all of us.  In fact, pretty much anytime some normal thing can have a scent, I'm all over it.  

I popped back on Etsy the other day because I was thinking about getting some smaller tins for the kids' stockings this Christmas...and I realized that Zdough is only offering subscriptions right now since the owner is having a baby.  Which makes total sense, but also totally foiled my play dough plans.

This seemed like a good opportunity to just try to make my own, so I grabbed this recipe and gave it a whirl.  Then I made another batch.  And another.  I may have gotten carried away.

There is something weirdly therapeutic about making scented play dough.

So now we have three containers in our fridge, scented like pumpkin spice, almond, and orange cream (basically whatever flavorings or extracts I had in my cupboards).  The kids love it, and I weirdly love squishing it between my fingers too.  I promise I'm not turning into one of those wacko snowflakes who needs a safe space with play dough and puppy dogs in order to cope with life!  But if you have kids, use the excuse to try making play dough.  It's just kind of fun.

Bath stuff.

A few years ago, I purged my linen closet of all my bath products.  I was coming off of a stage of life where bath stuff was the go-to gift, and I just had way too much of it.  I figured that instead of limping along 8-year-old bottles of shower gel, I should just start from scratch and buy the stuff that I would really appreciate as a grown-up.  I still haven't really replaced the shower gel, but a few weeks ago I got a free $10 to spend at Ulta, and I chose bath stuff.  

Pretty much every time I have purchased C. Booth bath products I have not been disappointed.  Right now I have the Egyptian Argan Oil Body Butter and the Foaming Dry Body Polish And Cleanser.  Let me wax poetic for a moment, because I love this stuff.  It makes my skin feel clean and fresh and healthy and like I smell good (which is nice when my pregnant nose is picking up every molecule of weird scent from every corner of the world which I inhabit).

First, the body butter - I hate body butters that leave me feeling greased or sticky.  Heavy body butters usually get assigned to be my hand cream before I go to bed at night, and that's the only way I use them.  This is the stuff I actually use all over, because it feels light and refreshing on my skin.  And the smell is perfect - it doesn't smell like anything to me except clean.

Next, the body polish - this was a new product for me, but I'm so glad I splurged on it.  My skin has been feeling itchy lately, like it needed some exfoliating.  This is one of the more unique scrubs I've used - it actually is dry, like a powder, and I was a little taken aback when I opened the container.  But when you add a little water and rub it over your skin it doesn't feel like scrubbing with sugar.  It goes surprisingly far and does seem to foam a bit, and I like the smell.  It exfoliates without adding a layer of oil onto my skin.  It's just really nice stuff!  

Our math curriculum.

I mentioned in my first grade curriculum post that we are using RightStart this year, and more than once I've gushed to Derek about it in the evening when he gets home.  It just makes so much sense to me.  I think some people might have a hard time seeing where the curriculum is going with some of the activities, but I don't because it actually reflects how I think about numbers.  I can already see how Wyatt is grasping general math concepts and visualizing the numbers in his head, and it's kind of exciting to me!  I'm not necessarily a math person (though I did alright with it when I was in school), so I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying teaching Wyatt math.

Personality books.

Since my little Myers-Briggs "What AM I?!" mishap, I've picked up a few personality books and I am excited to read them.  I'm in the middle of one right now, and I'm hoping to get to the rest as soon as possible.  Reviews probably coming soon (also keep an eye on my Goodreads), but this is the list I'm working with right now (these are affiliate links):

Creative You: Using Your Personality Type To Thrive by Otto Kroeger (Have yet to start.)
Please Understand Me: Temperament, Character, Intelligence by David Kiersley (Have yet to start. Also, this is apparently a link to the second edition, and my library has the first...)
Reading People: How Seeing The World Through The Lens Of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel (Listened to Anne read the first chapter on her podcast and am anxiously awaiting my copy in the mail.  Also, the Kindle version is only $3 right now, so if you are interested, grab it!)
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (Almost done with it, and while I thought it was a bit hokey at first, it is making more and more sense now that I'm 3/4 of the way through the book.)

Maple pecan iced coffees.

The one on-the-go joy on this list.  Everyone loves pumpkin spice in the fall, but this girl is recently on a stricter budget, and I just can't swing $4-5 every time I want a coffee.  However, I have this horrible habit of thinking I need a coffee every time I'm running errands or heading to a playdate with the kids.  It's like the promise of the coffee is what gets me out the door and fuels my uncomfortable pregnant self to go to all the effort of strapping four kids into the car, then out of the car, then back into the car (repeat x amount of times).  

I was driving along running errands the other day, and decided to get something at Dunkin Donuts instead of the expensive-coffee-chain-that-shall-not-be-named.  I'm so glad I did, because they had their fall flavors out, and I struck coffee gold!  If you need a more affordable, and arguably more yummy, alternative to pumpkin spice, get yourself over to DD and try the maple pecan iced coffee!  It is so good.  I think I like it better than PSL, which was a happy and unexpected discovery.

Candy corn.

Of course.  Because it's fall.  I feel there is really no need for explanation here.  So maybe this little joy is the one that actually wasn't unexpected, but it's fall, so I have to mention candy corn.

What kinds of things are you surprised to be loving lately?





Loving My Actual Christmas



A little confession: I've struggled for the last several years to really enjoy the Christmas season.  Maybe it's the extra pressure that comes from being a mom and having more people to juggle, maybe expectations outside our immediate family have ramped up...I don't know, but no matter how much I prepare, the season still seems to be more stressful than I would like.

(Affiliate link below.)

Knowing this about myself, when I saw Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall, I knew I had to grab it.  Because I am self-aware enough to realize that I do need to take some pressure off myself and learn to love the actual Christmas I have, even if it doesn't look the way I want.

This book is less a how-to, and more of a personal memoir of how the author herself managed to enjoy her Christmas even amidst all the hustle and bustle.  Each chapter is centered around a week of the Christmas season and focuses on a theme - hope, love, joy, and peace.  She writes about how her actual Christmas season pans out as she tries to keep her focus on these different themes each week.  

It might seem like reading about someone else's Christmas experience wouldn't be overly helpful, but I actually found this whole book really encouraging.  Because it wasn't perfect, and she was busy, and she cried a couple times, but in the end she found she enjoyed the season more because amidst the busyness she took time to focus on her themes, and how they relate to the reason we celebrate in the first place!  

I loved how she ties it all back around to the nativity, and how God became a man in order to save us.  It wasn't preachy, just reflective, and it gave me hope that maybe this Christmas season I can find time to prepare my heart too.  That's really what I think I'm personally missing during December, the focus on Jesus's birth.  I've usually blamed it on not enough time or space to really reflect, but I have tried preparing early and the busyness still gets to me - I need to find time to focus on Christ in the midst of all the Christmas tasks, and this book encouraged me that it's possible.

(I also just have to say that I LOVE the idea of Christmastide that she includes in this book - i.e.. extending the Christmas celebration and reflection beyond the actual holiday.  I think this might provide me some of that space and time that I want so desperately at Christmas.)

The line that really got me was in the last part of this book:

"...I wondered if that's the point of this Christmas.  The over and over.  The message on repeat.  In all circumstances. Whether we acknowledge it or not, this message of "I love you" this love note of a Savior wrapped in swaddling clothes - more importantly, wrapped in skin - is to be the wave over us every year. "I love you."  And again, "I love you".  And a year later, when we've had a heck of a go at life and things aren't looking as we thought the would or should, "I love you" again." pg. 91

Isn't that a beautiful way to look at the Christmas season?  As a yearly reminder, a yearly "I love you" from the Lord.  I hope to take that attitude with me this year and leave some of the stress behind.

Overall, I recommend this book if you are consistently finding yourself stressed out every Christmas season - it encouraged me, and I'm hoping to take some of her ideas into the season in a couple months!

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Recent Reads




I had every intention of doing a reading update every quarter this year...and that obviously didn't happen.  I've been meaning to write this post for the last six months.  Whoops!  I've been really enjoying reading everyone else's book round-ups lately, so I finally felt inspired to write up my thoughts.  These are a few of my most recent reads...excluding the books that I've already posted about on this blog.  To see everything I've read in 2017 so far, you can check out my Goodreads shelf (I write full reviews for every book I read on there).

Fiction

I've found that I typically can't handle really heavy or depressing fiction since I found out I was pregnant...so I've felt myself drawn to middle-grade fiction lately.  I think I've discovered a new favorite genre!  Not only can middle-grade fiction be surprisingly deep, but there is no danger of inappropriate language or situations, which I also have little patience for these days.

(Some affiliate links below...to help support my reading habits, you know!)




Flipped (5 stars) - If you've never seen this movie, GO RENT IT FROM THE LIBRARY RIGHT NOW!  It's an adorable coming of age/ middle school crush plot.  And I think I've mentioned before how I'm a sucker for coming of age stories.  The book is basically the movie in written form - they stuck really close to the book with the movie, so you could really read the book or see the movie and not miss much.  Needless to say, I loved every minute of it.




Wonder (4 stars) - This is coming out as a movie soon, so there's been some buzz around the book...and the audio was only $4, so I decided to try it.  I really enjoyed this story, about a boy with a facial deformity, and how he copes with it as he starts at a new school.  I totally fell in love with the characters in this book, and I thought it struck a nice balance between addressing more serious topics (like bullying) while still being fun to read (listen to), and not too painful for my pregnant sensibilities. I took off one star because of some references to reincarnation, which I thought parents should be aware of should their kids read this book.



 

Austenland/Midnight In Austenland (4 stars) - Total fluff.  I know it's total fluff.  But I loved every minute of these books too!  The plots of these books are based around a secretive vacation spot where women can go live for two weeks completely immersed in a Jane-Austen-era experience - included actors who romance them, so they can be just like an Austen heroine.  Some sexual innuendos in these books, but generally pretty mild compared to most secular fiction.  The plots were just too fun, I laughed out loud several times, and the endings were cute.  I liked the second one even better than the first, but start with the first.


 

The Ark Plan/Code Name Flood (4 stars) - These novels are set in the future, after biologists bring back the dinosaurs, and the dinosaurs take over the world, forcing mankind underground.  If that plot synopsis doesn't suck you in, I can't do anything for you.  Nothing too meaningful in these books, and some evolutionary references, but I could hardly put them down.




The Secret Keeper (5 stars) - I read grown-up fiction too, really!  This was my first Kate Morton book, and I'm kind of scared to fully dive into another one now, because I loved this book so much.  I'm not sure any of her other novels will compare.  The thing that really drove this up on my list of favorites this year was the way the book ended.  There was a twist, and I loved the way it all turned out.  I don't do sad endings.  See Goodreads review for full content disclaimers, but I really liked it.




The Husband's Secret (1.5 stars) - I keep trying Moriarty books because I liked What Alice Forgot so much, but I've generally been disappointed.  Nothing can measure up to Alice.  I really didn't like this one.  A lot more inappropriate content than some of her books, and I didn't like all the cheating.  It left me regretting the time I spent reading it.  Bleh.


Non-Fiction

I've read some pretty stellar non-fiction this year, and several of those books already received their own review on the blog, so please check them out here!   Here are a few more though.




Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide To Unshakeable Peace (5 stars) - I listened to the audio of this, and I thought there was a lot of encouragement and practical advice for homeschool moms here.  I'll probably re-read this one again, to catch some of the stuff I missed on audio, but I found it really helpful to gear me up for starting homeschooling this fall.




Boundaries (4 stars) - This is practically a classic, but I've never read it before a couple months ago.  I picked it up because I've recognized that I am one of those people that often has trouble saying no, and I've been trying to get better at it this last year.  This book is about setting boundaries in your various relationships, and also with yourself.  I didn't agree with everything in it, but it was still an interesting read!  If you're into psychology at all, you'd also probably find this one interesting.




Escape (4 stars) - Prepare to be disturbed if you pick this one up!  Carolyn Jessop tells her story of escaping the fundamentalist Mormon church.  I found a lot of the (pretty graphically described) abuse in this book disturbing, but it was also hard to put down because I wanted to see how she finally escaped.  It ended on a bit of a hopeless note though, which didn't help with my general level of disturbedness (that's a word, right?) - but I did learn a lot about Mormonism, and it made me add Jessop to my prayer list.



Why Men Hate Going To Church (3.5 stars) - I've heard this author speak on a couple of my podcasts, so when the audio of this book went on sale, I grabbed it.  He brings up a lot of interesting points about why church (as in church services on Sunday) is not appealing to a lot of men.  The thing that bugged me about this book was that a lot of his points were supported by personal anecdotes...I thought the book would have been a lot stronger if he could have provided some research to back up his thoughts.  However, it did get me thinking about how churches are generally more geared toward women (which is pretty undeniable), and what to look for in a church if you want your man and/or sons to feel at home.  It came in pretty handy since we've been in a position of looking for a new church recently.




Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church And What You Can Do To Stop It (5 stars) - I read this book for free online, and you can too!  Or you can buy the Kindle version for only $3 right now.  We are young earth creationists and Ken Ham fans in this house - if you aren't, your toes may be stepped on with this book, I'm not going to lie.  Ham argues that a big reason many young people have left church is because they do not take a strong view on the authority of Scripture (including Genesis) - and he presents evidence that they are picking this up because of a weakened view of Scripture in our churches (and homes).  Unlike the book above, this one was really well supported by a survey study, and Ham breaks down the results and gives his opinion on where we are going wrong.  I found it really fascinating, and once again, the points he made were good to think about as we were picking a new church.




Currently, I am reading World Religions And Cults: Volume One by Bodie Hodge (really interesting and informative so far), Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra KuyKendall (I need as much help as I can get in this area), and More Than Just Making It by Erin Odom (financial stuff, which I could also use help with since our budget is a lot more restricted this year).  I've also abandoned many books that just weren't doing it for me this summer (maybe those deserve an extra post).

Have you read any of these? What have you been reading lately?

Homeschool Curriculum Picks For First Grade



I’ve been gearing up for this year of homeschooling for months now, and I’m happy to report that I finally have all my curriculum choices ironed out!  

I wrote last year about different homeschooling styles, and if you are familiar with homeschooling philosophies you’ll probably guess that my style (so far anyway) is an eclectic Charlotte Mason.  I like learning through real books, but I do use some workbooks and texts too, which is where the eclectic side of it comes in.

Without further ado, here are my choices for the first grade!  I have high hopes for this school year and am curious to see how all these choices work out for us!

(Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links.)

Science

For science this year we are working through Apologia Zoology 1: Flying Creatures Of The Fifth Day.  I did Apologia science in high school when I was homeschooled and I LOVED it. I read through my science book just for fun sometimes - it was that good.  I was really excited to see that Apologia had a science curriculum for elementary school as well!  I love how it not only teaches solid science, but is written from a biblical worldview.  It points out where science and the Bible intersect, and I love that!  Wyatt is also very interested in “flying things”, particularly birds, so I think he’ll soak this science book up.

Some of the assignments/concepts are probably a bit much for a first grader, so we are just going to work through as much of it as we can, and I plan on keeping the book to repeat in a few years.  This science curriculum is really rich, so I think he’ll get a ton out of it even if we do it in a future year.

Since we will be doing a lighter version of Apologia to fit our level, I am also planning on alternating and incorporating some lessons from Building Foundations Of Scientific Understanding.  I’d say this book is more of a guide for teaching science, but I really like how the lessons are laid out to build on each concept and teach the scientific method.  I think this will be a great guide to use especially in the middle of the winter when birds and insects become a little more scarce.

Math

For math, I decided to go with Rightstart this year.  Over the last year I’ve started to figure out Wyatt’s learning style a bit, and I think he will do well with the manipulative and games that are used in the Rightstart curriculum.  A lot of friends use Math-U-See because of the manipulatives, and I was considering that one because I really like Steve Demme - but I’ll be honest, sometimes the way he visualizes the math in that curriculum confuses ME (and I already know how to multiply/divide, etc).  I went with Rightstart because it looked a little more doable for ME as the teacher, and because I think Wyatt will really enjoy the games that reinforce the concepts. I also like that Rightstart is a bit of a “spiral” math curriculum (as opposed to a “linear” curriculum like Math-U-See) in that it circles back to concepts, because I think we will all need the review to really tie everything together.  

If you know anything about Rightstart though, you know that it is NOT cheap.  I would have paid the full price because I am really thinking this will work for Wyatt, but I was so blessed to find it used at a used curriculum sale for about a quarter of the price!  

I also got a math workbook, called Math Lessons For A Living Education, because I think in those couple months after the baby comes this will be a great fill-in.  It’s a book that introduces math concepts through stories, and will be an easy thing to do with Wyatt sitting next to me on the couch while nursing Baby or whatever.  I wanted to get this just to make things a little simpler on myself until I can get back into a regular routine again after the baby.  This book can be a full curriculum itself, but I think we’ll be using it as a fill-in/review this year since it’s an odd school year for our family - and I’ll hang on to it for Gwen, because she is definitely a workbook girl!

History

I am probably most excited about teaching history to Wyatt this year, because I decided to go with Beautiful Feet Books!  I got a big box of beautiful REAL books to read to the kids, with all kinds of wonderful stories about people and events from history.  Beautiful Feet Books sends all the books I need along with a study guide with a schedule, questions and assignments for the students, etc.  This curriculum can be done in one year or two, and we will definitely be stretching it out for two years.  We’re doing the Early American History 1 course, and I’ll do another vlog soon to show you all the books.



Reading/Writing

For reading and writing we are continuing on with Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons until we finish it  - though we’ll see how it goes.  I loved the first part of this book, but I find myself getting annoyed the further into it we get, because a lot of it is really repetitive, and my Type-A side is irritated that we’re already moving on to two-syllable words and consonant blends before we even cover all the basic consonant sounds.  It makes it tricky to incorporate most early reader books using this curriculum because a lot of basic sounds/rules aren’t covered until later.  I’m adding in phonics rules and sounds as I deem appropriate.  We are also working in some Bob Books for days when Wyatt (and I) get sick of using the same old reading book.

Either way, we will finish this book before the end of this semester, so we’ll roll into Rod and Staff’s first grade reading curriculum after that.  Rod and Staff incorporates workbooks and readers, but what I really love about Rod and Staff is how Bible-focused the curriculum is. Wyatt has also enjoyed their preschool and kindergarten workbooks in the past year, so I think he’ll like that aspect.

For writing practice I ordered Teach Your Child To Read, Write, And Spell 100 Easy Bible Verses to use as a companion to the Teach Your Child To Read Book, because I love how the whole point of it is to get your kids memorizing and writing Bible verses.

Language Arts

I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do for Language Arts, because a lot of grammar can’t really be covered until a kid can, you know, READ (and write).  However, I found First Language Lessons For The Well-Trained Mind at the homeschool conference with basic language arts concepts that I can start to introduce now, even before the kids are independently reading and writing.  These lessons are simple and quick, and I think it looks really doable.

Bible

I agonized a bit over what to do for Bible this year, because in a way Bible is incorporated into every subject.  Everything can be related back to Scripture and our faith in Jesus, and I intend to teach that way.  However, I did want something more specific particularly for myself, to make sure I won’t start to neglect spiritual instruction in the midst of the busyness of all the day-to-day subjects.  

I went to Cathy Duffy’s site and started looking through Bible curricula, and I landed was interested in Bible Treasures, which covers Genesis to Ruth in the first grade year, but after ordering it and looking through it, I decided against it.  I didn’t like how it explained salvation (it almost made it sound works-based).  I could have worked with it and explained things better to the kids as we worked through it, but I have a tendency to get irritated when books geared toward children don’t explain these concepts well.  So I sent it back and now I have no Bible curriculum to work with after all.  

We are currently reading through some of our Bible storybooks, reading from scripture, and learning catechism questions, which is great, but not exactly the well-organized plan I was hoping for.  If anyone has any suggestions for a Bible curriculum, I’m all ears!



Extras

I'm planning our Fridays to be the day for extras - including poetry, cooking lessons (with Usborne's Start To Cook), crafts and art lessons, and maybe some music/composer exposure (using Spotify and My First Classical Music Book).  I'm planning to loop schedule all these different things, so we won't be doing each thing every week.


So there you go!  Our curriculum list.  you may have noticed that for several of the subjects I bought two resources instead of just picking one - which, I’m going to be honest, may be a mistake.  I’ve heard it said that you should specifically NOT buy extras, because it is likely that you will never use them.  However, for the subjects that I bought two curricula it was either because one of the curricula will only take us through half the year, or because I needed something less fussy to use in the couple months after the baby is born.  The exception is science, but we’re just going to play that one by ear and see which curricula sticks (if our jump-start this summer is any indication, it will be Apologia).  I do think that between this year and next year we will end up using all this curricula though, and I’m excited about our choices!

Homeschool moms - what curriculum are you using this year?


Books For Littles - Night, Night Train Review



 
(Affiliate link below.)

I am preparing a post for next week about homeschooling and all our curriculum choices - it's exciting having older kids and introducing them to some of the books I loved as a kid!  I am loving that we get to dip our toes into chapter books, and when my kids recognize a literary character my heart is just so happy.

However, one thing I am trying to be cognizant of is that while I am a mom to an elementary school kid now...I am also still a mom to toddlers and preschoolers.  And they need some books geared toward them too.  I'm trying to make sure I make time to read books that are on their level during our homeschool day too!



Tommy Nelson has so many adorable books for younger kiddos, and my recent favorite is Night Night, Train by Amy Parker.  This book goes through different night-time routines as the characters prepare to board the train to "Sleeptown".  All in rhyme!  (I am particularly fond of books that rhyme.) If that doesn't give you an idea of how cute this book is, let's look at some pictures, shall we?




Not only are the illustrations adorable, but this book is about trains!  Trains are Clyde's current favorite subject, and one of the transportation words that Clarice has latched onto, so this book is perfect for our family right now.  We'll definitely be incorporating it into our nighttime routine!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from Tommy Nelson in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.


Praying For Girls Review



(Affiliate link below.)

I wrote a couple months ago about verses I want to pray for my daughters, and I mentioned in that post that I wish someone would write a book about praying for girls - well, little did I know that book was in the works!  I snagged Praying For Girls by Terri Lynne Underwood as soon as I saw it, because it seemed so timely.

This book covers 20 different prayers to pray specifically for our girls.  Each chapter starts with a personal story and commentary from the author, then moves into fill-in-the-blank prayers (a pre-written prayer where you can insert your daughter's name).  Each chapter closes with a section for moms (since we often struggle with the same things we are praying for our daughters!), and a practical suggestion section, with activities for opening up the conversation with our "little", "middle", and "big" girls.

I really liked the idea of this book and the way it was organized.  I thought the author brought up a lot of specific things to pray for girls that I wouldn't have thought about.  Though I was a girl once, I often forget just how many emotions and struggles I had as a girl - and this book was a good reminder for me to try to put myself back there when I'm raising my daughters, so I can remember the kind of things they are likely going through and pray for them!

Still, I kept having mixed feelings about this book as I read it.  At times I really appreciated what the author was saying thought this was a great guide.  At other times, I felt like it was missing...something.  I think in a lot of ways this book focused so intently on struggles girls may have in their growing-up years, and part of what was missing for me was a more wide-angle view of not only their current struggles, but praying for the kind of women we want our daughters to become.  Maybe not everyone will agree with me on that, but it's the closest I can get to explaining what wasn't quite working for me.  I wanted focus not only on the feel-good prayers for our girls (ex: knowing she's loved, loving others, having an undivided heart for the Lord), but also for qualities of character (love for truth, courage, honesty, etc).  I felt this book was a little more focused on the former, which are certainly important things!  But when I think about the women I hope my girls will become I also largely think about praying they will be women of character, so I would have liked more character-qualities addressed here too.

I also thought the author shared an awful lot about her daughter's struggles in this book, and I found myself wincing at times and hoping that she got her daughter's permission to share certain things!  She probably did, but I can't remember if she spelled that out for the reader.  

Overall, I would recommend this book, but I think a more general praying-for-children book would be a good companion read as well!

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

The Lucky Few Review



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I'm not sure what made me pick up The Lucky Few by Heather Avis.  I didn't follow her Instagram account, and had never heard of her before.  But I am so glad I grabbed this book!

In The Lucky Few, Heather tells her motherhood story - how she struggled with infertility, finally decided on adoption, only to discover that God was leading her and her husband to adopt a little girl with Down Syndrome.  

The author really tells this story well - even when she was describing the more ordinary bits of motherhood I found myself completely caught up in the book.  This is not only an interesting story, but also a powerful testimony of the beautiful things God can do with someone who is willing to take the gifts He is offering, even when they may not look they way we thought.

This book was a quick read, and uplifting and encouraging.  I highly recommend it!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

The Most Misused Stories In The Bible (Highly Recommend)



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I saw this book, and the title intrigued me.  I wanted to know "The Most Misused Stories In The Bible"!  I am so glad I picked it up because this book exceeded my expectations.

Bargerhoff tackles so many issues and misinterpretations in this book, some that I was not even expecting.  However, the part that I was really pleased with is how he incorporates principles for proper biblical interpretation while sharing these stories.  He not only tells you how and why they are misunderstood, but how a proper Bible study method and interpretation of Scripture can help us avoid similar mistakes.

Everything in this book was biblically sound, the author shows the biblical support for his arguments about how certain Bible stories are misused, and he really got me thinking about new things with some of the stories he presented.  He also is not afraid to shy away from controversial topics, taking a strong stand on the truth of God's Word.

The drawback of having literally no complaints about a book is that the review ends up being rather short - but it's a pleasant problem to have.  This book was excellent, and I'd highly recommend it.  I think I'll be picking up the other book by the author, The Most Misused Verses In The Bible as well!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Sweetbriar Cottage Review



2.5/5 stars.

Whenever I see a new Denise Hunter book up for review, I have to snag it because I always enjoy how her books are quick, easy reads.  She has a way of sucking me into the story, and even when I think I can't take the drama anymore, I somehow can't help myself from turning the pages!

In this Sweetbriar Cottage, Noah and Josephine thought they got a divorce 18 months ago - only to realize that a paperwork glitch resulted in them still be married.  Through the book we find out more about how their relationship started, how it ended, and glimpses into Josephine's troubled past.

I have to say, this wasn't my favorite book by Hunter.  The main character's past was pretty dark, involving r.ape, and subsequent promiscuity, all that she hid from her husband while they were married.  I thought Hunter handled it all in a tactful way, but it was more than I was expecting and the subsequent problems in Josephine and Noah's marriage got all psychological, more so than in her other books.  Hunter also has had a tendency in all her books to focus on the physical attraction between her characters too much for me, and it seemed especially pronounced in this book - I'm assuming because of the sexual sin in the character's past, and remembrances of previous intimacy in her marriage to Noah.  Like I said, it all ended up being too much.

Also, we find out a lot about Josephine and her past, but hardly anything about Noah's.  He didn't seem to have as much of a backstory, and I wish he had.

My final complaint about this book is that the salvation message was really weak.  Josephine asked Jesus "into her heart" as a child, but obviously turned away from Him.  She has a renewal of "faith" in this book, and "the cross" is briefly mentioned, but it is never clear what she is being saved from.  She is plagued by the guilt of her past sins in this book, but her sin is never called sin (neither is Noah's, as he acknowledges his lust several times) and it's never clarified that that's why Jesus died in the first place - to cleanse us of our sin when we repent and put our trust in Him.  He didn't die for us so we could feel less guilty about our sin, He died so He could take our sins away from us and give us His righteousness.  This wasn't communicated well at all, and that troubled me.  The message seemed to be about Jesus's "unconditional love" for us, but didn't address sin and repentance really at all - and that's pretty much crucial to salvation.  So I was disappointed in that.

All that said, I did shoot through this book.  Like I said, she always keeps me turning the pages to find out what happens.  But this book wasn't my favorite.

Note: I received a digital copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Of Austin Review

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As you probably saw on my list of books I brought on vacation, I have dipped my toes back into Jane Austen novels again this summer.  I have also read other books that I enjoyed by Hillary Manton Lodge, so when I saw that she had written a modern retelling of Sense And Sensibility, it was just meant to be!

In Jane Of Austin,  Jane and her sisters lose all their respectability when their father is accused of a financial crime - since they can no longer work in the financial world, they decide to open a tea parlor.  However, when their landlord dies they are kicked out of their tea shop's rental space, and decide to start over again in Austin.

First, I'll say that whenever I see that a novel has been published by a Christian publishing company, I expect some sort of Christian element to it, even if it's slight.  However, this book really had zero spiritual references at all, and I wouldn't consider it a Christian book.  So going forward with this review, I'm approaching it as a secular novel.



Content: The only objections I had to the content were some sexual implications.  One of the characters speculates on whether a couple of the main characters may have moved in together (they didn't). One of the characters suggestively says that Jane should "come back to his place" (she doesn't).  And there is a lot of making out.  

These things would have bothered me more if I had been thinking this was supposed to be a Christian book, but like I said, I figured out pretty quickly that it wasn't.  However, considering it is coming from a Christian publisher, I think it's just a good example of why we shouldn't necessarily trust "Christian books" to never present questionable morals.

Characters:  The story is told from the perspective of the "Maryanne" and "Colonel Branden" characters in this book, which I was excited about when I began reading.  Their love story is my favorite one in Sense And Sensibility, and I was excited to see how the book would play out from this perspective.  However, I have to say, Jane ("Maryanne") just really wasn't working for me.  I liked her character well enough, but she just seemed too Type A to be really "Maryanne-ish" to me.  My picture of Maryanne is that she is this free-spirited, creative type; and while Jane was creative, she was like snooty-type-A creative.  Lodge tried to make her passionate and emotional, but I felt like those emotions didn't seem to fit as well on the character of Jane because I saw her as more logical/Type A.  It just didn't jive with my vision of who Maryanne was.  That's just my personal opinion, others will probably disagree with me here!

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed the way Lodge managed to incorporate all the elements of the story of Sense And Sensibility into this book!  She did a really good job, and I found myself remembering different parts of the original story as I read.

I thought the tea shop aspect of it was particularly fun, and Lodge includes a lot of recipes for some of the foods mentioned in the book.  She did this in her other books too, and just from the writing it is obvious the author knows what she is talking about culinarily.  I just loved the extra coziness all the recipes add to Lodge's novels, and her food descriptions made me hungry.

If you'd like to read a Jane Austen retelling, this one was a fun, clean one, and I'd recommend it overall!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

The Separatists Review (Not Recommended)



I finished this book in one afternoon, not because I was enjoying it, but because I knew if I put it down I would probably not want to pick it up again.

The plot line of this book was interesting enough, and I thought the political thriller aspect of it was written well enough.  Erica is a news anchor, who investigates separatist movements around the country for a news special.  Little does she know that one of them is gaining a lot of political traction and is a much bigger threat than it initially seems.

Like I said, the political thriller part of the plot was interesting enough, but a few things ruined this book for me.

Unnecessary Political Jabs

Within the first couple chapters there are disparaging remarks about at least three different political opinions, all of which are held by the "right-wing".  Erica is the "good" guy in the story, and her political opinions are no secret in this book as she expresses her more liberal viewpoints.  The "bad guys" in the book come from the Republican Party or "right-wing".  

I thought this was poorly done.  I've read Wiehl's novels in the past, and they never got politically partisan in this way.  This novel could have been written without all the political statements, and it would have been much better.

The Fact That It Was Published By A Christian Publisher

There was absolutely no faith element to this story at all, which surprises me since it's coming from Thomas Nelson.  In addition there was some content I was surprised at in a book coming from a Christian publisher, such as minor cuss words, infidelity presented as no big deal, talk of women faking orga.sms, references to po.rno.graphic TV shows, etc.  I was actually really disappointed that Thomas Nelson published this, and I don't appreciate the trend of publishing secular books under a Christian publishing company.  

The Main Character

I just really disliked the main character.  She drove me nuts to be honest.  Half the book was about the political plot, but the other half was about Erica's personal problems, and I honestly just wanted to slap her.  She was so self-centered and narcissistic.  She was stuck up, expressing disdain for small towns and the people in them.  She didn't seem to think much of her husband and his career, and was so insensitive about the fact that she was in a better position in her career than he was.  She seemed cold-hearted, snapping pictures of a corpse she found in a bathroom so she could investigate for her story.  She was an awful mother, thinking her daughter was out to get her or ruin her career.  She obliviously thinks her daughter is jealous of her, when anyone could see that her daughter just wants her mom to be with her more.  She even tells her daughter in the end that she will never be the mother her daughter wants her to be because she gets annoyed at the demands of motherhood and loves her career (nice, huh?).  She was hypocritical, despising the villain's ambition and quest for power when she herself seems willing to sacrifice all the things in her life that really matter on the altar of her own ambition. 

Bottom line, she was stuck in her own little narcissistic bubble, and really had no redemption or epiphany at the end.  I might have liked the book better if the main character had been even a little likable to me, but she just wasn't.

I thought it was unfortunate to publish this particular book at a time when the media's approval ratings are at such a low in the country.  People don't trust the media these days, and this character certainly didn't do anything to counter that trend.


I definitely cannot recommend this book, and I'll also be hesitant to pick up another book by Lis Wiehl after the unnecessary partisan spin this book presented.  I was disappointed in it.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.


Under A Summer Sky Review


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I read the first book in this series a few years ago, and though the ending was rushed, I really enjoyed it.  I decided to pick up Under A Summer Sky by Melody Calrson for a light, summer read.

Nicole heads to her mother's friend's house to run her gallery for the summer, and get's caught in between two sons who are vying for her attention.  She goes through mishaps in running the gallery and in figuring out how her relationship with one of the sons can move forward - because doesn't he have a girlfriend?

First I have to say that I would NOT call this a Christian book.  Aside from a couple of the characters shooting up a prayer before meals a couple times, there were no faith references at all.  So don't expect much in that department.  I would have loved this as a clean, romantic read, but it just irks me when it's presented as a Christian book when it really isn't.

There were many references in this book to the "ghosts" in Savannah, which irked me after a while. One of the characters briefly wonders if her love interest is living with someone - once again, not really representing how important following and obeying Christ should be in the lives of those who I am assuming were supposed to be following Him.  But I'm only assuming that because this was presented as a "Christian" book.  But it's not.

That said, for what it was, I really did enjoy this book!  The story was sweet, the different plot lines were all interesting.  I really liked the characters, and how it all played out.  The atmosphere of Savannah was described beautifully and made me want to visit.  Though the ending came quickly, I didn't feel like it was as abrupt as the previous book I've read by this author.  I did feel that a couple of the storylines could have been wrapped up better though, and in that sense it still felt rushed.  I always feel like this author's books could use another 50-100 pages.

Still, if you want a quick, light read, this book was fun, and overall I'd recommend it!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You Review (Highly Recommend)



I picked up the 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You audiobook, because like many of you, I feel like I often check my phone too much.  I thought this book would give me a good little kick to break some bad habits, but I got so much more than I was expecting!

This book goes over different ways smartphones, and technology in general, has changed us not only individually but as a culture.  The author incorporates different statistics and studies, and then takes a deeper look at the spiritual impact of our phone choices.  He doesn't tell you what you need to do with your own smartphone habits, he just neutrally gets you thinking.

There were two specific things in this book that really stuck with me.  First, the author wrote that checking your phone or texting while driving (disclaimer: which I obviously try NOT to do unless changing my music - which maybe I should be careful about too) is a disregard for your neighbor - the neighbor who is in the car whizzing past you.  You are not caring for your neighbor as you should, and as Scripture calls us to do, when you flippantly put them at risk like that.  I had honestly never even thought about the whole don't-text-while-driving thing like that and thought he made some really good points.

The other item that I remembered with this book, and that will honestly change some of how I handle social media is that we so often trade eternal reward for a few temporal "likes" on social media.  The example he used was those posts on Instagram with a picture of your Bible as you finish up your devotional time.  Any heavenly reward we may have received from spending time with our Savior is instantly traded for pats on the back by other people on Instagram.  This is supported by Matthew 6:1

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

How sad is that?  And once again, I never thought about it before, but I have been guilty too of trading eternal rewards for "likes" - guilty of caring more about men's applause than pleasing God.  Now whenever I see those Bible posts, or those "humble brag" posts, I cringe a little more than I used to.  Since listening to that chapter of this book, I've been trying to refrain from trading eternal rewards like that myself.  It's a bad trade.

There were so many other excellent points in this book, I'll honestly probably listen to it again.  I even thought about buying the print version so I could highlight some of the pieces that I like.  

If you are like me and feel that little itch for an eternal perspective on your smartphone use, definitely check this book out!   It's given me a lot to think about and has already motivated me to change some of my habits, and I highly recommend it.

Note: I received the audio of this book for free from christianaudio in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Glory In The Ordinary Audiobook (Highly Recommend)



On somewhat of a whim I decided to grab the audiobook of Glory In The Ordinary recently.  The subtitle caught my eye, "Why Your Work In The Home Matters To God".  As someone who has struggled with my identity, especially after I quit working as a hygienist, I thought this book sounded helpful.

This book was so refreshing to me, because I find so much of Christian non-fiction that is directed toward women to be...fluffy.  This book was not fluffy!  It was packed full of Scripture references to support her points, and focused on the biblical view of work.  The author writes to stay-at-home-moms and working moms, because both groups are also working at home.  

As a mom, I could relate to so much of this book.  I struggled for a while to find my "purpose", my meaning in working at home, because so much of the work it is mundane.  Kriessig writes about how our work in the home brings order out of chaos and loves and ministers to those God has given us, and that brings Him glory.  She emphasizes how work in the home is not only valuable to God, but this very work is preparing us for the work God will have for us in eternity.



The narrator of this book did an excellent job, I thought.  Her voice inflections differentiated the sections well, and she made it easy to follow along with what the author was saying in audio format.

I got so much out of this book, and I wish I had come across it a couple years ago when I was really struggling in this area!  However, even now when I have settled in and feel more content with my work at home, I found this book so challenging and encouraging.  I think it will be a re-listen for me! I highly recommend it to all wives and mothers - no matter your stage or time constraints or style of homemaking, I think you'll be encouraged too!

Note: I received a copy of this audiobook for free from christianaudio, in exchange for this review.  This is my honest opinion.

How I Listen To Audiobooks For Free (Or Cheap)





Sometime last year I became aware of the vast array of audiobooks that are available these days - and I also became aware of how much more "reading" I could sneak in through audiobooks!  Who says you can't read and drive at the same time?

I listen to audiobooks while I drive places, while I fold laundry, while I cook dinner, and while I clean out closets (the current project).  I've listened to them while doing yard work.  I've even listened to them before I go to sleep when all the lights are out.  On top of all that, there are a lot of books I know I would never even get around to reading that I've been able to cross off my list because of the wonder of audiobooks.  I'm a big fan!

So for those of you who might be interested in giving audiobooks a try, I wanted to share how I've obtained quite a few books to listen to for free (or very inexpensively).  Here are all my secrets.  You are welcome.


Overdrive

If you have not heard of Overdrive pull out your phone right now and sign up!  It's an app that works through your public library, so you do need a library card.  Once you are all signed up, you have access to an unbelievable array of ebooks and audiobooks!  I really got started through this app, and it's so nice because if you come across an audiobook that just isn't doing it for you, you've invested no money and there are many more waiting for you to try.  

Audiobooks.com

I signed up for Audiobooks.com because I saw a book I wanted to listen to on there, and realized that Audiobooks.com gives you a free audiobook credit for signing up!  Shortly after signing up, I also got an email with an offer for another free credit for leaving an iTunes review.  That's two free audiobooks!  It is a monthly subscription membership, but you can cancel anytime, so I just cancelled before I got charged for another book credit.

Audiobooks.com also has a fantastic selection of free audiobooks that you can download and listen to through the app.  These include a lot of classics!  Some are Librivox recordings that have been compiled into an audiobook format through the app, which is the most convenient way I have found to access Librivox audiobooks.  Some of the free books I am most excited about (for myself and for the kids) are Under The Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott, The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Chronicles Of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery (never read this one), Dr. Doolitte, Little Bear, The Bobbsey Twins books, and more!

Audible

Most people think of the monthly membership fee with Audible, but in case you weren't aware, you can download the Audible app and use it without creating a monthly membership.  And why would you do this?  Download the app now and go to the "Channels" tab.  Look at the top and choose "Featured".  Scroll down a bit and you should see a banner for free audiobooks to stream for Amazon Prime members!  I'm listening to Pride and Prejudice right now, under "Celebrity Voices, Classic Stories".  They have a selection of 20+ free, high-quality audiobooks that you can stream right now.

You can also sign-up for a membership trial for two free books, and if you don't decide to keep it, you can cancel anytime (even before you are charged the first time).  I haven't used the two-free-books deal yet, because I'm waiting until I finish more of the audiobooks I already have, but rest assured, I will be taking advantage of that in the future!

ChristianAudio

ChristianAudio is another audiobooks service much like the two listed above, and they also offer a free book for signing up for a membership (haven't taken advantage of this yet either, but I will eventually).  However, ChristianAudio is great because they actually offer a free audiobook each month, just for entering your email.  No other strings attached!  They also have a reviewer program that you can sign up for to receive free audiobooks - this is open to you even if you aren't a blogger!

Amazon Whispersync

This is the option where you have to pay, but at a deeply discounted price.  Amazon often offers Whispersync audiobooks as a package deal with their Kindle books - this is neat because you can switch between the ebook and audiobook anytime, and Whispersync will save your place.  If you are interested in a book, check the Kindle version on Amazon, and then look underneath the price.  If Whispersync is available, there will be a checkbox to "add Whispersync audio for $______."  These deals are often great for audiobooks, especially if the Kindle book also happens to be on sale.  The best deal I've gotten was probably the Anne Of Green Gables audiobook and Kindle book combo for $2.  Read the ebook in the Kindle app, and be sure to download the Audible app to listen to the audio - all of your Whispersync audiobooks will show up under your Amazon account in the app!

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And to finish this off, I wanted to answer a common question:  

"Isn't it hard to listen to audiobooks with kids running around?  I wouldn't be able to focus."

While I understand why you might think that, I don't have a problem with this for two reasons.  

First, I don't expect to be able to sit with my eyes closed and focus on every word of my audiobook (which is the only way I would hear every word of my audiobook).  You can enjoy an audiobook without being 100% focused on it, and you might just have to realize that even if you miss a sentence here and there, you are will still hear and understand and enjoy 95% of what's going on.  The question is, is it okay if you lose 5% of non-critical words through listening to the audio version as a mom of young kids, with all the distractions that entails?  I say it's okay.  It's okay with me.  It's the tradeoff for getting more books in through taking advantage of audiobooks.  And if the thought of missing a few sentences really bothers you, try picking a book you aren't as invested in from among some of the free options I listed here!  Sometimes I'll choose to listen to books I've already read, or books I feel a little more casual about, to ensure I don't feel like missing that 5% robbed me of something.

Second, earbuds.  A lot of audiobooks, even Christian ones, aren't necessarily appropriate for young kids, so most of the time I listen through my earbuds.  This also helps me to be able to still hear my book when I'm cooking dinner and the kids are running through the house driving fire trucks on the wood floors (very noisy).  I really want to get some sort of wireless earbuds (like these maybe? I can't afford Airpods, so these look like an acceptable alternative), because that will make my audiobook-listening even more accessible and convenient!  I'm thinking these would be great for situations like working out and listening without wires connecting me to my phone, or sneaking my earbuds in while waiting for a doctor's appointment.  This will open up even more audiobook listening opportunities!

So there you go, all my audiobooks tips and secrets!  

Do you listen to audiobooks?  What has been your favorite audiobook?

The only other word of caution is that a narrator can really make or break an audiobook, so I'd be interested to hear if anyone has a favorite!









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