Of Stillness And Storm



2/5 stars

So I just finished this book, and I'm sitting here with my mind whirling, trying to decide how to describe it.  I'm torn between knowing what the author's aim was and thinking she accomplished her goal really well, and also thinking that I am not completely thrilled with the final tone of this book.

I was going to try to keep this spoiler-free, but then I realized that if it were me reading this review, I would want enough spoilers to decide if it was going to be a book that was worth reading to me personally.  So there are some slight spoilers below.  You've been warned.

What I Liked

The best way to describe this book is a cautionary tale, on three fronts, and I guess what I liked about the book was that the author got her points across in a really powerful way.  

1. The first is a cautionary tale about what can happen when Christians put a supposed call to ministry ahead of their families.  This book follows Lauren and Sam as they meet, fall in love, and have a baby...then as they proceed onto the mission field.  However, it becomes clear pretty early on that "the call" is really Sam's exhaustive drive to bring about his own vision of what he wants to do with his life - and to bring his family along without regard to whether they are also feeling the same "call".  The results are disastrous and heartbreaking.  We watch Ryan, a happy six year old, slowly descend into a sullen teenager who feels rejected by his father in favor of Nepali villagers, and consequently rejected by God.  This brings him to a very dark place, and he attempts suicide.  This was especially hard for me to read, since I currently have a happy six year old.  However, I thought this is where the author made her point so well. The first ministry that we are given by God is to our own family, and any other ministry comes second to that...and mixing up the order can destroy lives and even faith.  This book is a sobering story, even chilling.

2. The second cautionary tale was about how easily one can slip into an emotional affair if they aren't careful.  In the process of the story, Lauren starts communicating with a childhood friend, and eventually becomes so infatuated or in love with him that it has negative effects on her marriage and family.

3. The third caution seems to be about submission, and how a wrong understanding of it can lead wives to submit to things that they know in their hearts go against God's plan.  This happened when Lauren kept submitting to Sam's missionary plans instead of listening to the Holy Spirit's still small voice that told her this wasn't right.  Unfortunately, Sam's character in this book is pretty single-minded in the worst way when it comes to the getting on the mission field (and though the book doesn't say it, I think it's for his own glory, not God's), and if Lauren stood up to him he would have gone without her.


What I Didn't Like

Appropriately, what I didn't like about this book can also be separated under those three points the author was trying to make.

1. First, with regards to priorities in ministry - I felt that in the process of making this point, the author didn't do a satisfactory enough job (to me) in clarifying that God does not call us to sacrifice our families for the sake of ministry.  The book talked about how Lauren and Sam neglected Ryan, but I thought the author could have done a better job explaining how Sam's "call" really wasn't from God if Sam was willing to sacrifice his family for his own idea of what mission work should look like.  Phoenix attempts to show this in the end when she writes about how Lauren turns back to "her God", the God who loves His children and is grieved by all they excused in His name, as opposed to "Sam's God".  But it wasn't quite good enough for me, because it wasn't God at all who "called" Sam to abandon his family, and I wish that was shown more clearly.

2. Second, on emotional affairs - I felt that what Lauren did was never really presented as wrong.  Sure, Sam was totally neglecting and disregarding his family for his own glory, but I still think Lauren should have been more on guard, and at least recognized what she did wrong with regards to getting so involved with Aidan.  I don't feel like she ever did.  We as the reader are just left to our own devices on the morality of her emotional affair (note: it's not okay).  The consequences are seen, but the repentance is not.

3. Third, I kind of hate how this book threw in phrases like "the tyranny of submission", without really explaining more about biblical submission.  It makes submission the bad guy, when really I think it was a misapplication of submission.  I don't think the command for wives to submit to their husbands involves standing by and doing nothing while your child is neglected and goes down a dangerous path because of his parents' poor choices.  Lauren's character acted like she was helpless because of "submission", when really she just didn't want the conflict that would result if she stood up for what God was showing her about the effects of Sam's plan on their family.  And instead of seeking God about her struggle, she just distracts herself with her emotional affair (see above).  Not a great example of biblical submission at all, and maybe that was the point, but again, I wish it was clarified more.

Conclusions

I'd also just like to note that while there was a lot of talk of "reaching" people, there wasn't a lot of talk about what the characters were trying to reach them with.  Only passing references to the Gospel and Christ, but the characters themselves didn't seem to personally recognize what Christ did in dying to take away our sins and rising again, not in a way that impacted their lives - they were just going through the motions of "ministry", either to keep the peace (Lauren) or to do something "great" (Sam).  

Once again, maybe that was the point, but the bottom line is, I wouldn't recommend this to someone who didn't already know what it means to believe in Jesus to take away our sins, or have a strong foundation in their knowledge of what it means to be saved.  I appreciated what the author was trying to do here in presenting us with the perils of jumping recklessly into missions, but only because I am grounded in my faith.  For someone who doesn't really know what Christianity is about, this book presents a very negative view of "Christian" intentions gone amuck.  

I wish the salvation message had been presented more clearly through the ending in this story in case any non-believers pick it up, because without that this book lacked a shot of the Truth that I felt it desperately needed.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it because of that.  I would recommend it with caution to believers in Jesus if they want a book that gets them thinking about the kind of struggles missionaries may face, and a book that gives a good shot in the arm about the importance of ministering to your own family - but don't expect to leave this book feeling encouraged, because you will be disappointed.

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

Five Movies To Watch On Valentine's Day (And Other Fun)



Well, it's here! The day that keeps February from being a throwaway month.  The day of love.  Valentines's Day!

In the spirit of the day, I thought today's old-fashioned blog post could surround the holiday.  How often do major holidays land on a Tuesday, after all?  Not often.

(If you are here for the movie suggestions, scroll down.)


Valentine's Day Spirit

I'm sure you are all well aware by now that I love Valentine's Day - mainly because every year I mention repeatedly how I love Valentine's Day.  If you need to get into the Valentine's Day spirit, I suggest these previous musings on the subject.


Now that we are all on the same page...

The year that Gwen was born I started taking a Valentine's Day photo of the kids each year, so in the spirit of tradition I did the same this year.  I think this might be my favorite setup because it was so colorful!  The kids did most of the painting for those hearts, and they loved the little background I set up.




Best decision of 2016 - painting the house that grey color.  I just love it so much.

(More adorable kid photos on my family Instagram today!)


Valentine's Day Buckets

For the kids' Valentine's gifts I had to be a little thrifty this year, so we just kept it simple.






Cute Valentine's Buckets - Target
Educational Card Decks (wrapped in DIY wrapping paper) - Target
Valentine's Pencils - Walmart
Glittery Hearts - Walmart
Rolos - Anywhere

As of this typing they haven't seen their Valentine's treats yet, but I'm confident they'll be a hit.

I ordered a present for Derek a couple of weeks ago, but it has yet to arrive.  I was quite disappointed by this, because Derek always out-does me when it comes to gift giving, and I was excited to out-do him this time.  I've decided instead to sneak a little Valentine's gift into his work bag for each day leading up to the arrival of his gift.  That will keep up the suspense and gift-giving excellence, right?



Old School Movies For Valentine's Day 

Excuse me for using my old-fashioned post for something slightly Pinterest-y.  Last week I bemoaned the fact that there are very few new chick flicks out these days, and I am still stretching to think of a recent good romantic comedy.  I don't like my romantic movies heavy in any sense.  I appreciate light and happy.  I considered sharing my favorite modern chick flicks, but then I realized that I am sure all of you reading this blog have seen those many times over, so I reached a little farther back.  I present to you, for your Valentine's Day viewing consideration:

The African Queen (1951) - I admit, it's been quite a while since I watched this one, but I may have to remedy that soon.  Humphrey Bogart! Katherine Hepburn! A quirky love story that takes place on a boat! I can almost guarantee it will leave you grinning, for one reason or another.

How To Marry A Millionaire (1953) - Lauren Bacall! Marilyn Monroe! I realize I should probably stop exclaiming all these actor names, because unless you already into old movies it won't really make a difference to you.  But, just trust me, it's a winning combination.  This movie is funny, and outrageous, and just cute.  An old-school romantic comedy if ever there was one.

The Shop Around The Corner (1940) - Remember You've Got Mail (how could you not)?  This is the movie that inspired that movie.  I watched it several years ago, and thought it was different than the original but not in a way that ruined either one!

McClintock! (1963) - Imagine a John Wayne western and a romantic comedy got married and had a baby.  This is that movie.  Can't picture it?  Let me tell you, it's a lot of fun!  About a married couple on the brink of separation as they reconnect, all set in the old west.

If A Man Answers (1962) - And this one I'd call more of a "Galentine's Day" movie.  Not that you couldn't watch with your husband, but there is some (respectful) comparing of husbands to dogs, so it's more fun to chuckle at it with your girlfriends than with your man!

A couple of these are one Netflix, but if you don't have any luck there, I suggest checking your local library!

What are your Valentine's date plans (if you have any?).  We went bowling and shopping last week, so we'll probably just hang out and watch a movie tonight.

 (Photo taken by Wyatt!)


Old School Blogger Shoutout

I think I need to create a spreadsheet because I'm losing track of who I already mentioned! 

Elizabeth from Life In St. Petersburg - Elizabeth is an American mom living in Russia.  I always find her posts interesting, whether she delves into Russian culture or not!

Carol from Pur et Simple - Carol is a mom to eight kids spread across 20 years - so she has grown kids and little ones.  It's interesting to me to read what that looks like since mine are a lot closer together!

Both of these ladies are relatively newer reads to me, but it's so interesting to peek inside life with kids in different stages and places!

Who are your favorite old school bloggers?  If I don't get some new suggestions this section is going to peter out in the next couple weeks.  Or I might switch it to specific post shout-outs.  What do you think?  

Comment below if I haven't mentioned you yet and you'd like to be featured, or tell me your favorite old-fashioned blog to read (and read this post and this post again if you need a refresher on what I mean by "old-fashioned").

What I'm Drinking: Diet Lime Coke. I know. Where's the tea?  It's just a Diet Coke kind of day.









Silent Songbird Review (It Wasn't Great)



2/5 stars.

I picked The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson because I love a good fairytale retelling, and I had never read one of Dickerson's before. However, I have to admit, I skimmed the second half of the book because it just didn't grab me and I found myself getting annoyed at a few things.

Positives

I really liked the idea of this story, which was somewhat of a fairytale retelling...the main character was like a mix of Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Merida from Brave (let's just ignore the fact that both of those are at the bottom of my list of favorite Disney Princesses).  The bones of the plot had a lot of potential.  The part I liked best about this book was that I thought the author did a pretty good job of incorporating faith into this book in a really natural way, including a brief presentation of the Gospel.  A lot of times this feels forced into Christian fiction, but I thought it was done pretty well in this book.


Negatives

There are a few reasons I wouldn't recommend this book.

(One) - I didn't like the way this book represented men.  For the most part, all the male characters were either villians, had questionable character, or were made to look ridiculous or unreasonable at some point. This was also reflected in the way some of the female characters talked about men.  The only man who was not portrayed negatively was Westley, and even he was made to look occasionally clueless. 

They also made him apologize to Eva a little excessively, in my opinion.  Why does he have to apologize for not unquestioningly accepting her word?  He didn't even know her!

(Two) - I also found many (really, a lot) of the situations in this book really not believable.  If Westley was supposed to be some sort of a noblemen, I just don't think he would be fraternizing so much with the servants in his house.  Whenever anything happened to Eva, he was always right there.

One particular scene stood out as a little ridiculous to me.  Eva is practicing her archery (and of course Westley happens to be there), and a friend of Westley (who Eva saw trying to kill Wesley earlier in the book), comes up and greets them in a friendly way.  Eva swings her arrow around and points it at the man, to "protect" Westley, and accuses and threatens the other man. 

Let's go over why this bugged me: 1) In the real world during this time, I'm pretty sure she would have been fired on the spot for the way she handled that, even if she was right about the man. 2) I hate how this situation made Wesley seem clueless and helpless.  Once again, it felt like a negative view of men being reflected in this scene.  3) I have a HUGE pet peeve about women "protecting" men in fiction or film, with the clueless man standing there doing nothing.  This always seems to me like a cheap ploy to make the heroine seem strong and "empowering", and it just really irks me.  It's a lazy way of making a woman seem "strong".  And I don't know what's particularly strong anyway about foolishly threatening to shoot a nobleman and accusing him without any proof!

And finally, I just have to mention how at one point the characters end up walking, eating food at a festival, and laughing together about how they just fended off the bad guys who almost murdered them.  Like they had just finished watching a movie instead of fighting for their lives! Oh boy.

(Three) - On top of all that, the writing in this book left much to be desired.  The characters felt really one-dimensional, and the plot didn't have a lot of internal tension, it was mostly driven by external situations.  It felt like the author just thought of a bunch of characters and events, and wrote it all out linearly without taking time to paint the scene or develop the characters or relationships.  Many of the scene-shifts were jarring (like the above scene for an example - one minute we're practicing archery, the next we are threatening to shoot somebody, with no real transition or glimpse into Eva's thought process for this rather foolish move).  It also felt like there was a lack of historical research for a book that was supposed to be set in 1300's England.  Dickerson threw in a couple nods to history and a few old English words, and seemed to think that was good enough, but I think even the intended audience of teenagers appreciates a well-researched and well-thought-out book.


Bottom Line - Though this book had the potential to be a cute story, the writing was not great, and the portrayal of men was troubling to me.  I wouldn't recommend this book to adult women because of the lack of depth, and I wouldn't recommend it to the intended audience (preteen/teen girls) because of the (in my opinion) generally negative portrayal of men.

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

How My Parents Made Valentine's Day Special (Even When I Was Single)




I have many great Valentine's memories from when I was growing up...and the thing is, almost none of my memories have to do with actually having a Valentine.  I never had a boyfriend until I met Derek, and I met him when I was eighteen years old, so there are a lot of years in there that could have been lonely or depressing, especially when other girls my age started dating.

My parents are the biggest reason why Valentine's Day was never depressing.  There are three things we did as a family that made it fun:

1) We ate an excessive amount of candy hearts (a tradition I continue today).

2) We all broke out the construction paper and made paper valentines for each other every year.

3) My parents gave each other sweet Valentine's Day cards (it's good for a child's heart to see their parents loving each other).

4) My parents always got us a little gift that would be waiting on the table on Valentine's Day morning.

That was enough, even during those tumultuous teenage years.  I think we underestimate the impact of the love of a parent on Valentine's Day.  It doesn't have to be anything big and flashy, just something small to remind your kids that no matter their relationship status, they are seen and loved by you.

I plan to do these things with my kids, and I also am hoping to spread the valentine joy outside of our immediate family to our cousins and friends as well!  I think I have a subconscious goal to not let any children in my kids' circles to feel forgotten on Valentine's Day.

If you are of a mind to join me...I have a long list of Valentine's Day gift ideas for kids on Tommy Nelson this week! Ideas for classroom valentines, and Valentine's Day gift ideas for your own kids too!  Read all my ideas here, then come back and tell me if I missed anything, por favor!

And Happy (early) Valentine's Day to you!








A Homeschool Usborne Book Wishlist (First Grade)



One of the most fun things about homeschooling so far has been researching and trying to decide on different curricula.  For Kindergarten we haven't really done a curriculum per se, we've just been working our way through a bunch of different books, doing crafts, and working on reading and math skills.  I haven't quite made up my mind what curriculum we will use for first grade this next year, but I've been searching through different options, and I've come to a conclusion - whatever we pick, I want to use (or build) a curriculum that uses real books.



We got Wyatt the Usborne Children's Encyclopedia for Christmas, and he poured over it for two days.  He asked me questions about all the pictures, and I told him what the words on the page said, and he was just fascinated.  It was so fun to watch him learning just for the joy of it.  While I think we will follow some sort of curriculum, I want to make sure we have plenty of interesting books around that fit in with what we are learning, to make the whole year more fun.

I've been making book lists galore, but today I wanted to focus on Usborne books!  A friend of mine, Brittney, asked me if I would host an Usborne Facebook party, and it sounded like a lot of fun - so I've been going through their thousands of books and making a list of the ones I'd like to get for school next year.  I'll share the ones I'm thinking about getting, but first, let's talk quickly about the ones I have, shall we?

Usborne Books We Already Have




The Children's Encyclopedia - Like I said above, this one has been a hit.  I think it's the full-page gorgeous illustrations that have really sucked Wyatt in.  I'm not going to lie, there were a few pages I felt the required more explanation (like the world religions or aliens pages), but they are easy enough to skip if you don't agree with or your child isn't ready for some of it.







How Things Work - This book is just so cool.  It's a flap book, and under each flap it gives pictures and descriptions about how the different things in this book work. 






Horses & Ponies and Weather - I bunch these together because they are the same type of book.  These books have fun illustrations and less text because they are meant for younger readers - but I love it because the few words are used really well, and these books get a lot deeper into the topics than you would expect them to.  They have a bunch of these on different topics, and I'm hoping to get more!




Birds Pocket Book - Have I mentioned that our family is really into birds?  We don't know a lot about distinguishing birds, but we would like to learn more.  All of my kids love flipping through the Audubon bird app on my phone, and this is like the book form!

Starting Chess (not pictured) - I forgot I had this one until I sat down to start typing!  Derek is very good at chess, and I picked this up as a supplement for when Wyatt is ready to start learning (which probably is sooner than I think).

So those are the books I have, now on to the books I want.

Usborne Books On My Homeschool To-Buy List

These are the books that I would love to have as we introduce different subjects over the next few years, in addition to the ones I already have.


Science And Nature

The Outdoor Book - I think we would love this for ideas of activities to do outside and nature study!

Human Body Reference Book and Shine-A-Light Human Body Book - This is my area of interest (biology), so I think this looks fun.  And the shine-a-light book adds an interesting element!

Poisonous Animals (etc.) - This is one of those great books for young readers!

How Things Grow - I think I need this book to help my black thumb.

Astronomy And Space Reference Book - I don't know if I even need to explain this. Yay for space!

100 Science Experiments - Someone told me I need this, and I think I do!

History

Big Picture Atlas - I think this will be good for context with different historical events.

Living Long Ago - I'm still not sure my kids grasp how different life was 200 years ago, so this looks great!

Christopher Columbus - One of the few American history books.  Usborne, I know you are British, but more on the American History front please!

See Inside Exploration And Discovery and The Story Of Inventions - These looked really interesting to me.


Reading and Writing

Illustrated Grammar And Punctuation - We are a way off from needing this yet, but my grammar nerd is coming out!  I love this idea!


Illustrated Classics: Huckleberry Finn And Other Stories - This is one of a few classics collections that are condensed and rewritten for young readers, and I am really curious about them.


Miscellaneous (aka. Just For Fun)

Over 50 Secret Codes - I would have loved this as a kid.

Fingerprint Activities: Animals - This just looks adorable, and would be so fun for everyone, including the little two!

First Book About The Orchestra - The kids love Maestro Classics (#affiliate), and I think this book would be a great visual to understand the different instruments.

Big Keyboard Book - We are still hoping to teach our kids how to play the piano, and this looks useful!



I could go on, but you get the idea! There are just a lot of really fun books.  Clearly it's probably going to take me longer than the next year to collect all these!  Maybe I should retitle this post "Usborne Books For Early Elementary", because I think all of these will last well beyond first grade!

Now for a little plug - the Facebook party is tomorrow night at 8 PM EST, and Brittney has a bunch of fun things planned - including a drawing for a book prize!  So if you want to check Usborne out, this is a good chance! If you comment below saying you want to join, I'll send you an email to add you to the party!  Or if you have your eye on something and want to buy without attending the party...can you purchase through any of these links and select my eShow on the left before checkout? Because then I can earn discounts on books! (Shameless plug, I know.)  Party is open until next Monday!

Do any of you have some Usborne books?  What would you recommend to me for the elementary school years?  

I'd love to hear!




P.S. Brittany also made me this handy graphic for Usborne books that go with different curricula!  Pin this!






Two Dates (This Never Happens, People)

(Note: This is not actually what I wore on our date, I just am feeling lazy about taking a new photo this morning, and outfit photos seemed like a good fit for this post.)

Derek and I went on two, count 'em two, dates last week!  This is very noteworthy.  I know there is that big push to do a weekly date night as a married couple, to which the only thing I have to say is - "ha!".  We have four kids under the age of six.  There is no possible way we could do a weekly date night.

Babysitters

For our dates, we rely exclusively on the goodwill of our families as babysitters.  Which made me curious, does anyone hire babysitters for their kids?  If you do, I have questions.

Where did you find your babysitter?

Have you ever regretted who you hired to watch your kids or felt the need to switch babysitters?

What is the going rate these days? I'm pretty sure I can't afford it (x) four kids.

I only ask these things because I am curious, because I think it would have to be a pretty special young lady for me to feel like she could be an acceptable substitute for grandparents.

Bowling Date Night

First date night - we went bowling! (Thanks to my sister for watching the kids!)  I haven't been bowling in forever, but Derek and I have been thinking of starting a monthly bowling night for the last...three years?  We clearly can't seem to get our act together.  However, they just opened a new bowling alley in our mall, so we went to check it out.  It was so fun!  

I've determined I need to develop my bowling style though.  I always feel self-conscious when I see everyone around me (my dear husband included), bowling with such flair, and I pretty much just walk straight up and swing the ball.  Derek tells me my style is girly, but I know it's also boring!

Even though I wore something else for our date, this would be a good bowling outfit, no?  Just switch the boots out for bowling shoes (I am proud to say that I actually have my own bowling shoes.)








Earrings: $0.50 at Forever21
Shirt: Francesca's
Moto Jeans: JustFab
Snap Sweater: Jane.com
Bag: JustFab
Button socks: Target
Booties: A Christmas gift.


Lunch And Shopping Date

This was our early Valentine's Day date, because next weekend is Wyatt's birthday, and the weekend after that we already have plans.  So we dropped the kids off for a day with Gramie and Poppa, and went out to lunch at Macaroni Grill.  I got the lasagna, but unfortunately it was cold.  We asked them to heat it up, but I didn't finish it because then it felt soggy.  You win some, you lose some.  After lunch we walked around the mall, and Derek won his way into my heart (again), by telling me to pick whatever candle I wanted in Yankee Candle (Yankee candles may be my love language).  

I chose Meadow Showers.  I was going to pick Emerald Isle, but they only had three of those left, none of which was oily enough.  If you don't buy a really oily Yankee candle, it's just not worth the money.  But pick one with lots of oil, and it will fill an entire floor of your house with scent.

We topped off the date with ice cream at Cold Stone creamery! 

Notice The Lack Of Movies

We did not go to a movie for any of our dates, and the reason is that I am convinced Hollywood can't come up with anything worth seeing anymore.  The last three movies we went saw were a disappointment, and I just wasn't sure I was willing to risk more money on a movie I might not enjoy.  Derek and I have discussed at length what we think the problem may be, and here are a few of our theories:

1) They can't come up with anything original anymore.  So many movies lately are remakes of stories that have been successful in the past.  And they still manage to mess some of those up!  Case in point - Tarzan.  One of the several movies that have been a big old "wah wah wah" over the last year.

2) Someone in Hollywood needs to take a class on character development.  The last several movies that I've seen, one of my main complaints is that I can't seem to connect to the characters.  I don't know who they are as a person, their personalities aren't presented well, I can't see the progression of their relationships in the movie, I can't really figure out why their problems are such big problems to them personally, they aren't relatable.  In short, I don't really care about them.  And that's Hollywood's job, to make me care about the characters! Something is going awry, and I would tell them how to fix it, but then what are we paying them the big bucks for?

3) Did someone forget that there is a category called "romantic comedy"?  The last time I saw a decent romantic comedy...well no, a romantic comedy at all, was several years ago.  So many of the romantic movies that are out right now are so serious and/or depressing.  What is going on here?  It's almost Valentine's Day, shouldn't there be a wealth of this category at this time of year?  Where are all the rom coms?  Am I missing something?

Basically, we've decided that there are no recent good movies except ones that are based on true stories.  If we want to see a movie these days, it better be based on a true story, or there is a better than likely chance we aren't going to enjoy it.  

Am I the only one with current movie woes?  Have you seen anything good lately (that wasn't a true story)?

Old School Blogger Shoutout

These are a couple ladies that I've gotten to know largely through social media over the last couple years, and their blogs have become some of my favorites to read!  They share thoughtful, encouraging posts, and I'm happy to introduce them to you today.

Gina at Baby Blue Mom - Gina always has great insights and encouragements for moms, and she really inspires me to be a better hostess!  I love her hospitality tips.  She is expecting her third baby, due pretty soon!  Her husband also works at White Horse Inn, a great resource that I have been enjoying (when I have time to read something other than books for review!).

Elisha at Grateful With Two - Pronounced "uh-lee-sha"!  Elisha is homeschooling her two boys, and she is also an avid reader...so I think you see why we have become friends! She is a sweetheart, and I love reading her thoughts!

Also, a repeat shout-out to Meghan and Alex, old-school blog friends who had their babies over the last couple weeks!

What I'm Drinking: Vanilla Jasmine herbal tea.  With candy hearts, of course! (A delight for my tastebuds, a bane for my waistline.  I will not be too upset when Valentine's day is over and this temptation is out of my life.)

P.S An old-school blog friend, Brittany, is throwing me an Usborne book party! If you are interested in joining the Facebook party on Thursday, let me know in a comment and I'll send you the link to join - otherwise, check out Usborne books here!  I'm hoping to have a post up tomorrow about my Usborne wishlist for homeschooling next year, so stay tuned!




I Suffered Through This One



1/5 stars.

I snagged this book because I have been listening to a lot more audiobooks over the last year while I work on other things.  This one peaked my interest because I like a good food-related fiction book every now and then.

Bottom line - I kind of suffered through this book.  Not for any one reason, but for a bunch of things, and I honestly found myself skipping chunks toward the end of the book just to get through it quicker.  Read below if you must know why.

Language: Several uses of the f-word, other curse words, and Jesus' name in vain (which I never appreciate as a Christian).

Sexual Content: From the very start of the book we learn that the main character is having an affair with a married man, and generally sleeps around a lot.  That kind of soured the book for me right from the start.  No lesson ever seemed to be learned related to this relationship either, even though I think people generally agree that having an affair with a married man is not a good thing.  Other sexual references. An extended and pretty explicit sex scene that I skipped past.  Another almost sex scene.  I honestly started skipping through the book after this because for other reasons I list below, I was just so tired of this book.

Politics:  Spoiler Alert - near the end of this book the main character finds out she's pregnant, and the doctor presents her with her "options".  Then we have an extended debate about whether she'll abort or not, including an older lady who suggests some herbs that could "take care of it" (an older lady who had an abortion earlier in her life and regrets not having children, so it felt like a weird character to have giving her this talk).  I am strongly pro-life and know that abortion ends the life of an unborn child, so I just cannot stomach casual abortion talk like this in my books.  Thankfully the character decides to keep her baby, but the serious abortion consideration put a sour taste in my mouth.

Plot:  This was my main problem with the book - there was really just no plot to speak of for most of the book.  I kept waiting for something big to happen, but there was just nothing until the character found out she was pregnant, and you already know I wasn't thrilled with all the abortion talk.  Even after that one big plot point, the book seemed to move slowly.  I guess you could say this book was more character-driven, but I typically don't like audiobooks that are character driven.  I need a clear plot to drive the book forward when I am listening on audio, or I have a hard time paying attention.

Characters: The second prong of my disappointment was that I liked none of the main characters in this character-driven book.  From the start I felt like the protagonist was unlikable.  I felt like her personality kept changing, and I couldn't decide if it was the author's fault or the narrator's fault (I'm thinking a little bit of both).  Was she supposed to be high-spirited and sarcastic, or introverted and reflective?  I guess she could be both, but I felt like it was hard to see her growth in the book because I couldn't figure out who she was to begin with.

My second beef with the characters - the two main characters were so immature (once again, was this the author's fault or the narrator's fault?  I don't know!).  If I had read the book without any ages being mentioned, I would have guessed early twenties...but no, the girl was 32, and the guy was almost forty.  This was a big pet peeve of mine in this book.  I felt like both of them should have had their lives together, or at least had a direction, at this age.  Maybe almost-forty-year-olds aren't really expected to have their life together in this culture anymore?  But in fiction, I like my characters to be a little more age-appropriate.

Narrator:  I don't think I would have liked this book much even if I had read it on paper, but to me the narrator didn't do a lot for this book.  And I think that is honestly just a personal thing.  I didn't like the way she read certain lines (I think she added more sarcasm than I would have gotten from print, and her dictation made the main character feel more stuck up).  Her voice for the male characters came off as creepy to me as well (in all fairness, I think a lot of female narrators have this problem though, at least to me).

What I Liked: The positive about this book was definitely all the food descriptions.  Whenever I listened to it I would start to get hungry, and nothing I ate seemed quite up to snuff after hearing about all the food in this book! Books like this make me want to bake and cook more, which is a good thing because sometimes I need that extra motivation.

The ending was sweet, as it seemed like the main character finally found a place where she belonged and got the guy, so it all worked out.  I do love a happy ending.  However, this book was just really not for me.

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


The Best Classroom Valentines


(Some affiliate links in this post.)

Last week I shared our crayon-melt valentine gifts, and some Minted Valentine's cards to go with them.  Well, after much deliberation, I made up my mind and chose some cards for the kids to hand out to their friends! Minted had some great coloring/melted themed cards, but in the end, these are the designs that were calling my name for the kids, and I just decided to go with it.  

I was not disappointed!  The cards came and they are so cute! The quality is also excellent, and I'm almost sorry to waste them on preschoolers (but their moms will appreciate them).





Clyde is so into anything transportation-related, and I thought this message was adorable for all his little two-year-old classmates! 




I did let Wyatt have a choice between a couple different invitations, and this is the one he picked!  He liked the airplane on it, and I thought this was the perfect card for a six-year-old boy to hand out to his friends!






And then Gwen's.  I just knew it had to be pink!  My favorite part of this card is the gold pressed foil lettering on the front.  It's so fancy! For Gwen's card I also decided to try out the tic-tac-toe backer, and now I'm kind of regretting that I didn't choose it for the boys too - it's so fun!




So there you go, those are the cards my kids will be handing out to their friends! If you are ever in the market for classroom valentine cards, keep Minted in mind!  Their quality can't be beat, and these designs were just a few of the dozens of adorable options!

Where do you buy valentines for your kids? Are you going with a theme, or just whatever strikes your fancy (like me)?



Note: I received the above valentines for free from Minted in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

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