Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Already? How can that be?

A few friends are doing a couple of "looking back" and "looking forward" posts yesterday and today, and I decided I ought to join in.  This is part of a group where we are encouraging each other to "keep it real" -- so I'm not planning to sugarcoat things in my looking forward  to 2014.  Well, maybe a bit.  You know, 'cuz I'm an eternal optimist, clinging to the idea that this is the year I am actually going to lose weight, get organized, and be a better human being.

It could happen.

So yes, I have re-evaluated a lot of things, looking into 2014.  Setting goals, changing priorities.  Part of that relates to something amazing that happened here this past week.  I had a week off from practically everything.  I was ordered to stay out of my Schoolhouse Crew email for over a week (Dec. 20-29).  I haven't had a real break there in years and had no idea how much I needed it.  Food Pantry happened on Dec. 21 (Saturday) and now we only have Sunday ones until Jan. 11 -- plus, Care & Share is closed this week completely, so there really is almost nothing we could do.  No running into town to shop at Care & Share, almost no running over to church to unload vehicles from someone else going in, and no big days of having people come through.  Bountiful Baskets is taking two weeks off as well, so I didn't have to be up last (or next) Saturday and out the door before 5:00.

My only responsibilities last week were to sing at the Christmas Eve service, to attend practice Saturday night, and to sing at the Sunday service at church.  To feed my family.  To do all the normal family maintaining things.  And I slept.  A bunch.  And thought about how my priorities are messed up again.

At church on Sunday, just to keep me thinking, the sermon was about the new year, how New Year's Resolutions fail most of the time (94%, or something like that), and how we need to be clinging to the promises of God instead of trying to do things in our own strength.

I have no idea what Bible translation, or paraphrase, was being used on Sunday, but the main text was out of 2 Peter 1:5-7.  I jotted down in the margin (and I could have slightly mis-copied) "Make every effort to apply the benefits of these promises."  The notes in my Bible state, "The apostle reminds us that when we entrust our  lives to God, he expects us to follow his will and do our part {emphasis is mine} in the spiritual growth process. As we seek change in our lives, we will share in God's nature and receive the ability to think new thoughts and formulate new behavior patterns."

I spend far too much time trying to do things in my own strength, and not nearly enough effort trying to 'add to my faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.'

Not that I am completely sure what that means for me on a practical level.  But I do know that as a family, while we have moved back to being in fellowship with other believers by attending church regularly and participating in the life of the church (see my Looking Back post yesterday), we have moved away from being in the Word of God on a regular, consistent basis.  All of us.  And that isn't good.

So my biggest goal for 2014 is doing my part to get us back on track there.  Because all of the "work out daily" and "de-junk the stuff" goals are going to be part of the 94% unless I am "making every effort" in God's ways and not relying on my own strength.

Connor is making some decisions about what this will look like for him.  I need to talk with William still.  The other three are going to be working through the God's Great Covenant series from Classical Academic Press.  Me?  Still working on figuring this out for me too.  It depends a bit on what the big guys decide to do.

But we can't be applying God's Word to our lives if we aren't spending time with it... more than just on Sundays.

Of course, as we head into 2014, I have other, more typical, goals as well.
  • Be more active, so maybe I can take off some weight and feel better in general.
  • Be consistent with school, and work with the kids on the not-so-fun stuff, not just the stuff we all love.
  • Get rid of some of the junk in our lives.
  • Get rid of some of the good stuff too, to make room for "the best" stuff instead.
  • Solve the problem of world local hunger.
  • Maintain balance in my life/our lives.

What about you?  Are you making resolutions or goals?  Do you have big plans for the New Year?  And how in the world can it be 2014 already?

You can read what some of my friends had to say about their "keeping it real" looks ahead into this coming year too.  Tell them I said "hi" (and maybe today my computer will stay powered up so I can actually read some posts too!)

2014 - Love, Joy, Peace, Grace, and to Know Him Better by April E. @ ElCloud Homeschool: Busy Minds, Busy Hands, Busy Feet

2014: The Adventure Continues by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

2014 Prayers, Hopes, and Goals by Clara @ A Slice Of Homeschool Pie

Priorities and Goal Setting for 2014 by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

A Peek into My Plans for 2014 by Jennifer @ Conversaving

Anticipating 2014 by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

A Year to Sparkle! by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Saying Hello to 2014 by Tess @ Circling Through This Life

Goals For 2014 Homesteading & Homeschooling by Kim @Homestead Acres

Facing 2014 With Anticipation And Caution by Audra Silva @ Simply Audra Marie

Embracing Real Moments in 2014 by Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm

 2014 Goals and Why We Should All Set Them by April B. @ Coffee, Cobwebs, and Curriculum

Monday, December 30, 2013

I'm the Mom of three teen boys, and other highlights of 2013

A few friends are doing a couple of "looking back" and "looking forward" posts today and tomorrow, and I decided I ought to join in.  This is part of a group where we are encouraging each other to "keep it real" -- so I'm not planning to sugarcoat things in my lookback at 2013.

Like the title suggests, in November I became the mom of three teen boys.  Wow, just wow.  It doesn't seem possible, you know?  My big guys are now 16, 15 and 13, and time has sure flown by. 

That was hardly the most dramatic or important thing to happen in 2013 though. 

Probably the most important thing has to do with church.  Dale has been pretty anti-church ever since we got married (though, to be honest, I ought to have seen the signs before that).  Mostly, I've attended church on my own, or with the kids.  And he's gone through phases where he didn't want me attending at all either.  In 2012, Connor and I started going to church regularly, and we brought along others of the kids periodically. That was working up to the point where a most of us were attending with some regularity, and the pastor asked Connor about operating the media stuff during church services.  That meant I was taking him over to church on Saturday nights for the Worship Team practice, which gave me the chance to start getting to know some of the people a bit more.

We had a camping trip planned, though, that would mean Connor, Richard, Trina and myself would be gone for a Sunday.  William volunteered to run stuff, and Dale volunteered to get him there for that. 

Dale found out that he really loved this church, and he has missed ONE Sunday since then (when he was in Minnesota).  He's been doing all kinds of stuff with streaming the services, and working with the audio and video equipment.  It is amazing.

Here is the "keeping it real" part... I'd love to tell you that I've been praying for him to really take hold of his faith for the past 20+ years.  Because a good wife should do that.  I'd love to tell you I've been praying for our family to attend church together for the past 16+ years.  Because a good wife & mom should do that.

But I had given up on it long ago.

And God blessed me, and blessed the kids, despite my lack of hope and faith.

I'd love to say, "if it can happen to me, it can happen to you" as I know there are lots and lots of others out there who would dearly love to be attending church as a family.  But really, we didn't have one of those truly tough cases.  He wasn't anti-God or anti-Christian.  Just anti-church. 

Lots of other things have gone on this year though too.  The Scout Troop and Pack that the boys have been a part of forever went through major drama because of BSA's new membership rule change about homosexual youth.  That was frustrating, aggravating, unnerving, unsettling, and just a huge dramatic ordeal, and I'm glad we seem to be past it to some extent.  The big three are still Boy Scouts, just with a new troop.  I still don't know what to do with Richard.

Trina has had a wonderful time as an American Heritage Girl.  So much so that I became a leader.  So I have roughly 13 2nd grade girls that I am now "leading" along with two other fabulous moms. 

I've gotten involved with the food pantry out here, which really kept me busy in December!  We are in such a depressed area, and there are so many people hurting.  It is nice to be able to make a bit of a difference.  I'm supposed to be running the numbers, and I haven't, but I'm pretty sure we served over 100 different families this month, which would represent something around 500 people.  That is HUGE in this rural community.

There have been some happy events, like my baby brother's wedding in September. There have been some times of mourning, like the funeral of a new friend and her 3 year old son, who were killed in a DUI accident in July.  Most of the year, however, was not that extreme.  Mostly the usual crazy of a houseful of teen boys and their two younger siblings.

Then there is homeschooling, which I think will be a bigger topic for my post tomorrow.  You know, looking forward to 2014.  The post where I touch on how things need to change, and I need to be more consistent, and maybe I ought to get to bed before 1:00 once in awhile.  Trying to stay real again.  I've dropped the ball so many times this year, I'm no longer quite sure where it is.  Life has to get in focus in 2014.  It just has to.

So, that's my "Remembering the Real 2013" post.  You can go read how some of my friends summed up 2013 too.  If you visit, tell them I said "hi!"

2013 - a messy but blessed year by April E. @ ElCloud Homeschool: Busy Minds, Busy Hands, Busy Feet

2013: A Look Back by Leah @ As We Walk Along the Road

Five Revelations From 2013 by Clara @ A Slice Of Homeschool Pie

2013 is Almost Gone by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset

2013- A Reflection on our Year by Jennifer @ Conversaving

Where Did 2013 Go? by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Embracing the Bright, Shining Moments and Growing in Our Struggles by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Saying Goodbye to 2013 by Tess @ Circling Through This Life

Looking Back Over 2013 Adventures In Homesteading & Homeschooling by Kim @Homestead Acres

2013 ~ The Good, The Bad, And The Beautiful by Audra Silva @ Simply Audra Marie

Real Moments of 2013 by Cristi @ Through the Calm and Through the Storm

It's a Beautiful Life--2013 Edition by April B. @ Coffee, Cobwebs, and Curriculum

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Bountiful Baskets: December 21

The last Bountiful Baskets of the year.  Oh, I am SO excited.  I love BB, really, I do.  But two weeks off?  Yeah, baby.

It was a good basket today.  Here is what one of my baskets looked like:

My two baskets contained:
  • Three bunches of broccoli (roughly 3 stems per bunch)
  • Seven ears of corn
  • Five English cucumbers
  • Three heads of Romaine lettuce
  • Three "bunches" of green onion bulbs (3 bulbs per bunch)
  • Four yellow squash
  • Five big yams
  • Eleven bananas
  • Three packages of blackberries
  • Two packages of red grapes
  • Eight oranges
  • Three pomegranates
As for how we'll use this, well:
  • I gave away a bunch
  • We're going to have corn on the cob tonight
  • I'm seriously considering making blackberry syrup that we can have on waffles on Christmas.
  • I'd love to come up with something similar with the pomegranates, but maybe we'll just do some Pom-Apple Crisp and eat a bunch fresh.
  • Broccoli is going to need some thought because we already had a lot here.  Lunches this week are going to include broccoli every single day.  Except Christmas, since Dale won't eat broccoli.
  • Everything else (fruit, lettuce, onions, yams) will just be used.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five of our favorite Master Books Titles

As the year is winding down, the Moms of Master Books group asked me to post a "top five" post about some of our favorite resources.  I was going to focus on the titles we reviewed this year, but instead I determined that I have five kids, and if each of them chooses their favorite Master Books title, I have covered a wide age range, and it is easier than me having to figure it all out.

So I'll describe a bit about the book and why it is that child's favorite, I'll link to a review if this is a resource I have reviewed, or I'll give a bit more description if I haven't reviewed it.

Trina (7): Tower of Babel: Pop-Up & Read, illustrated by Jon Taylor.  This was a gorgeous pop-up book, geared towards roughly ages 10 and under.  Trina adored it.  I had recently reviewed the grown-up title, The Tower of Babel, so I was fascinated to see how this presented the subject for kids. 

Richard (9): Big Book of History, by Laura Welch. I reviewed this book TWO years ago, and it was still Richard's immediate answer when I asked for his favorite Master Books title.  No hesitation at all.  Well, okay, truth here:  he hesitated because he couldn't come up with the name of the book.  When I asked for his favorite, he said, "Oh, that is easy.  That one huge book that folds out.  You know, not the one that has the earth and caves and the atmosphere and space and stuff, though that one is great too.  The one that has the big huge timeline type of thing."

Yeah, I think he liked it.

Thomas: The Archaeology Book, by David Down.  Two and a half years ago, I guest-posted on the New Leaf Publishing Group blog, talking about Thomas and his dream of becoming a Biblical Archaeologist.  At that point, Thomas had been saying for 1.5 years that he was going into archaeology.  Now it's been four years, though he does still waver a bit with some other career thoughts.

But when I asked all of the kids for their favorite Master Books title, it was Thomas who spoke first.  Not that he gave me an answer, exactly.  He said something more like, "Really?  You need to ask?"

I did though, because I thought it was possible that Unveiling the Kings of Israel or Unwrapping the Pharaohs would be his favorite.  I guess I should have known though.

William: The New Answers Book 4 edited by Ken Ham.  This shocked me.  He is not usually the child who likes anything that seems like apologetics.  He rolls his eyes when his big brother starts arguing the accuracy of the Bible with various people.

And this is his favorite resource?  Even when I mentioned things like the Amazing Science DVDs?

I think he's growing up.  His statement to me is that he really likes how this book helps him to defend his faith.


Connor (16): Our Created Moon, by Don DeYoung and John Whitcomb.  Okay, so this surprised me a bit.  But it is a piece of the new Survey of Astronomy Curriculum, and I am very impressed with these curriculum guides.  What Connor likes about this particular book is that there is so much information in the book, it is very readable, and he thought it was just fantastic to have an entire book on the moon, when most astronomy resources seem anxious to get out to all the planets instead of spending time on a place people have really been.

So... these are a few of our favorite things.  You can see what other Moms of Master Books members highlighted at the New Leaf Publishing Group Blog.


Disclaimer:  As part of the Moms of Master Books program though New Leaf Publishing Group I was asked to write a summary post of five favorite books.  Some of these resources I had received in exchange for an honest review.  Some I purchased.  Doing this post is part of my responsibility as a Moms of Master Books Blogger.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The New Answers Book 4 {a New Leaf Publishing Review}

I've been reading The New Answers Book 4, edited by Ken Ham here recently.  This book is published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group. At one point, I had read the first book in this series.  That was a lot of years ago.

I was certainly interested in reading more, and I have to say that I have enjoyed this volume.  Let's read the description from the publisher though:
The Answers series has been a powerful tool in equipping believers to share and defend their faith. Now the newest book in this landmark series takes on hot button topics like climate change, ancient man, and many more. Too many people have walked away from their faith because they sought answers for what seemed a contradiction in Christian belief and scientific teaching. For those who desire a deeper walk and a thriving faith in the face of a growing cultural adversity, now find the answers to questions you have or others may use to genetic engineering, this powerful team of apologists is able to inspire you and those you know who may not yet believe.
I have a hard time with some of these compilation resources.  Some aren't well edited, so you end up reading basically the same thing in chapter after chapter, just written by a different person each time.  Some don't hold together well. Some are just covering the same information every other creation resource has covered.

While I did notice a bit of repetition on points, it was only a bit.  And the chapters were clearly written by different people, but the switch from one chapter to the next was never jarring.

Most importantly, though, this wasn't just another rehash of the same old information that everyone talks about.

I found myself laughing out loud at statements like this one from Roger Patterson in chapter 8, discussing the myth that religion is biased, but science is neutral.  Everyone is biased.  "The question becomes, which bias is the best bias to be biased by?"

Or I hit chapter 9, where the topic has to do with what church leaders have said about the Creation story over the millennia, and I find all kinds of information I haven't encountered before.  Chapter 19, about the materials used in Noah's ark gave all sorts of detail about construction -- and specifically WOOD construction -- that I've never seen.

Connor has been wanting to read the New Answers Book series, but worried a lot about whether he'd find new information that would make it worth the time.  I'm most certainly handing him Book 4, and he can decide if he wants the earlier ones too.

Be sure to read other reviews at the Master Books blog.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.   

Sunday, December 15, 2013

NIV Essentials Study Bible {A Booksneeze Review}

I have wanted to get the NIV Archaeological Study Bible ever since I first heard of its existence.  It is not something I've done though.  When I read about The NIV Essentials Study Bible, though, I knew I simply had to have it.  
I'll let the official description fill in the details, but one of the attractions for me is that this ONE Bible pulls together the resources from a number of different, amazing Study Bibles out there already.  Including the aforementioned Archaeological one.

From the publisher:
The NIV Essentials Study Bible helps you quickly and easily understand, interpret, and apply God’s Word to your life. The variety of features in this Bible presents a multifaceted, exciting format for studying Scripture. There are many different ways to explore God’s Word: question-and-answer studies; detailed in-text study notes; timelines, photos and charts; helpful devotional insights; and profiles of Bible characters. Now you don’t have to choose, because the NIV Essentials Study Bible provides you the chance to explore the Bible using all these study methods and more. With each of these lenses included in one Bible, you will discover how to best understand the essentials of Scripture.This edition includes the entire NIV Bible text with the world’s best notes for learning. It incorporates the finest content, images, and study tools from the most popular Bibles that are loved and used by Bible readers just like you. It features:
  • Flyover Lens: Start each book of the Bible with the right perspective from easy-to-read introductions from the popular Essential Bible Companion.
  • Unpack Lens: Easily understand and interpret Bible passages with bottom-of-the page study notes and in-text charts from the best-in-class NIV Study Bible.
  • Dig Deep, Look Close Lens: Understand the fascinating historical significance of the Bible with articles and photos from the bestselling NIV Archaeological Study Bible.
  • Q&A Lens: Get concise, easy-to-grasp answers to your most perplexing questions about the Bible with questions and answers from the beloved NIV Quest Study Bible.
  • People Lens: View Scripture from the perspective of the 100 most important people in the Bible with notes for the student of any age excerpted from the timeless NIV Student Bible.
  • Guided Tour Lens: Get a bird’s eyes view of Scripture with a Guided Tour, also excerpted from the category-leading NIV Student Bible.
  • Insight Lens: Find meaning in the Bible by reading these magazine-style call-outs from the NIV Student Bible.
  • R&R Lens: Reflect & Respond with this quick inspirational focus time, which unveils the sweeping narrative of the Bible as seen in the award-winning The Great Rescue, NIV.
So what did I think?

The above description did have me wondering whether this was going to be amazing and fabulous, or if it was going to be overwhelming and cluttered.

The verdict?  I love it.  This definitely falls on the amazing and fabulous side.

I chose to read through Mark to check out the features.  Impressive. 
  • Each book starts off with an introduction that includes a timeline and great 3D-looking map. 
  • Then you start reading, and you have all the fabulous Study Bible types of notes you would expect.
  • Periodically, there are extra boxes with additional information.  In Mark, the first one is a Q&A Lens that talks about differences in details between the gospel accounts.
  • The next box is a Dig Deep, Look Close one.  Yeah, I like these.  These are the ones from the Archaeological Study Bible.  This one is about the town of Nazareth. 
  • The third one is a Guided Tour section.  In this case, it is talking about the notoriety that Jesus quickly gained.
  • A bit further into Mark, and there is a great map of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, with lots of description.
There is a lot more, too, that was just the first instance of a type within this particular book.

The study notes part is thorough, and the added information boxes are sprinkled throughout.  In spite of the overwhelming-sounding description, the actual content is comfortable.

I'm enjoying this Bible immensely.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Bountiful Baskets: December 14

Bountiful Baskets time again.

Included in my TWO baskets, that means:
  • Four heads cauliflower
  • Six bunches of celery
  • Two heads of Romaine lettuce
  • 18 chili peppers
  • 20 rainbow carrots
  • 8 bunches of broccoli
  • 9 onion bulbs
  • 2 bags of red grapes
  • 12 bananas
  • 26 Fuji apples
What in the world do I do with all of this? Right now, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all.
  • Fruit is all easy.  Very easy.  There is no thought required with any of it.  It will just be eaten.
  • I'm thinking seriously about a Mexican Lasagna for dinner tonight.  I have tomatoes that need to be used, and I'd use up some of the chilis and some onions too.
  • The rest of the peppers, I might chop and freeze.
  • Carrots will probably just be eaten.  I don't have to necessarily plan for them.
  • Celery - wow.  This is a lot of celery.  I really don't know how to use it all.
  • I'm going to be doing some broccoli/potato/cauliflower soup.  Like every night for dinner for the next week.  Oy.
  • Sending Dale with salads to work. 
I also got the fruit lover's pack -- the citrus edition.  Wow.

That includes:
  • Two absolutely enormous pomelos.  E-Nor-Mous. The photo does not remotely convey how huge these things are.
  • 30 oranges
  • 20 little tangerines
  • 6 lemons
  • 1 lime
I think we can all feast on a pomelo for breakfast, two mornings this week. The oranges and tangerines will just be eaten.  I still have key limes from last week's tropical pack, so I think I'll add this one to those to make dessert.  Something key lime pie-ish.  And the lemons, well, if I can pears, I'll use at least a couple of them.  Otherwise, I don't know.  I might do up some homemade lemonade.  You know, sleigh bells ring, frosty the snowman, and 60 degree temperatures -- sounds like lemonade time to me.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Raising Boys by Design {a Blogging for Books Review}

Having four sons here, I'm always intrigued by books that promise to help me figure them out.  Raising Boys by Design by Dr. Gregory Jantz and Michael Gurian is the latest title to catch my eye.  And it is a good one.

The publisher had this to say:
Your son was created for great things, but he needs your help to appreciate his unique male design and to grow into the strong, loving man God created him to be.

Packed with doable strategies and eye-opening examples of what’s really going on inside a boy’s brain, Raising Boys by Design offers a practical blueprint to help you build a HERO—one who values Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, and Originality. Among other things, you’ll learn how to help your son:
• strengthen his character, resilience, and self-discipline
• nurture genuine compassion and empathy
• process words and emotions in ways that fit his brain chemistry
• succeed in school and hone crucial life skills
• develop a healthy perspective of sexuality
• avoid the pitfalls of media and technology
• embark on a lifelong adventure of faith

This unique resource combines the latest research in brain science with timeless truths from the Bible to reveal the deepest needs shared by every boy of faith while also leading you to fresh insights for honoring the unique personality, talents, and God-given design of your son in particular.

You can help your son thrive today as the hero he is meant to be when you learn the secrets of Raising Boys by Design. - See more at: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?work=223379#sthash.0K4WTnxl.dpuf
Your son was created for great things, but he needs your help to appreciate his unique male design and to grow into the strong, loving man God created him to be.

Packed with doable strategies and eye-opening examples of what’s really going on inside a boy’s brain, Raising Boys by Design offers a practical blueprint to help you build a HERO—one who values Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, and Originality. Among other things, you’ll learn how to help your son:
• strengthen his character, resilience, and self-discipline
• nurture genuine compassion and empathy
• process words and emotions in ways that fit his brain chemistry
• succeed in school and hone crucial life skills
• develop a healthy perspective of sexuality
• avoid the pitfalls of media and technology
• embark on a lifelong adventure of faith

This unique resource combines the latest research in brain science with timeless truths from the Bible to reveal the deepest needs shared by every boy of faith while also leading you to fresh insights for honoring the unique personality, talents, and God-given design of your son in particular.

You can help your son thrive today as the hero he is meant to be when you learn the secrets of Raising Boys by Design. - See more at: http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?work=223379#sthash.0K4WTnxl.dpuf
Your son was created for great things, but he needs your help to appreciate his unique male design and to grow into the strong, loving man God created him to be.

Packed with doable strategies and eye-opening examples of what's really going on inside a boy's brain, Raising Boys by Design offers a practical blueprint to help you build a HERO -- one who values Honor, Enterprise, Responsibility, and Originality.  Among other things, you'll learn how to help your son:
  • strengthen his character, resilience, and self-discipline
  • nurture genuine compassion and empathy
  • process words and emotions in ways that fit his brain chemistry
  • succeed in school and hone crucial life skills
  • develop a healthy perspective of sexuality
  • avoid the pitfalls of media and technology
  • embark on a lifelong adventure of faith
This unique resource combines the latest research in brain science with timeless trths from the Bible to reveal the deepest needs shared by every boy of faith while also leading you to fresh insights for honoring the unique personality, talents, and god-given design of your son in particular.

You can help your son thrive today as the hero he is meant to be when you learn the secrets of Raising Boys by Design.
My take:  I had a hard time getting started with this book.  Stuff like this, I know I ought to read it.  I know it would be good for me to read.  So I do things like request it for a review, and then it arrives and I let it sit.  <sigh>

Once I did start reading, I was very interested.  I've read a lot of books about raising sons, and this one is hitting things from a different perspective.  The publisher's comments about "fresh insights" really are true.  This isn't just the same "boys are different" mantra, nor is it just the observations about how we have in the last half-century or so designed classrooms and a lot of society so that more typical "girl" behavior is what is rewarded, and typical "boy" behavior is punished and/or medicated.

This gets into a lot more in depth material and gets into more practical suggestions.

One chapter fairly early in the book talks about the types of parenting that dads tend to do (the previous chapter was about moms).   Parenting behavior that boys need (and I presume girls do too) and some information on why it is important.  I'm a merit badge counselor for a group of Boy Scouts for their Family Life merit badge, and I fully intend to use some of the material from this chapter with these young men when they are to discuss roles of a father in a family.

Practical, insightful, and it gave me new information.  That's a ringing endorsement from me.  You can get a sneak peek at Waterbrook Multnomah's website.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Don't Miss the Boat {a New Leaf Publishing Review}

Over the past couple of months, I've been reading an interesting book by Paul Taylor of Creation Today.

Don't Miss the Boat: Facts to Keep Your Faith Afloat is published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group.

The publisher gave this overview:
Here is your comprehensive guide to creationist thinking on the Flood in an easy-to-understand style!
  • Get your facts and misunderstandings about the Flood straightened out!
  • Study the history of the immediate post-Flood world, as well as modern considerations of the histories of earth sciences
  • Read four fictional short stories that place the reader back in time just before the Flood-showing a world filled with non-belief and the few who reached out to save other with God's truth.
Don't Miss the Boat provides various perspectives on the biblical account of the Great Flood that speak to both the technical and scientific evidence we see around the world today. This book contains information for the layman who wants to know the basics, as well as the solid evidence that can be shared with anyone. Theological considerations, historical essays, and scientific implications are included, as well as fictional representations that convey the emotional power of God's judgment on a wicked pre-Flood world, rounding out this unique resource.
The book and my thoughts:  The book is split up into sections, with the first section (of four chapters) being "exposition" where, as the author explains in the introduction, "Science is kept to a minimum."  The first chapter is also one of the longest chapters in the book, and for whatever reason, I just had a hard time getting through it.  Probably because I wanted to be reading science.

The second section (three chapters) was "history" and I enjoyed that.  The chapters were pretty short, and it was good to read.  The sixth chapter, "Why Our Society Stopped Believing in the Flood" was particularly enlightening.  This was the point, actually, where I started seeing this book as truly offering something different. 

Once I hit the third section (eight chapters) on "science" I was definitely to the part of the book I was interested in.  These chapters were short also, and I found myself a bit surprised to be reading things here that I haven't seen elsewhere.

The next chapter is fiction, and I thought this was well done.  It tells about the time before the flood from the point of view of four biblical characters, and it is most definitely labeled FICTION.  I enjoyed this.

The final chapter wraps up the book, and is quite short.  I'll confess that I skimmed it.

Here's the book's trailer:

This is a book I plan to have my teens read.  You can check out other reviews of Don't Miss the Boat at the Master Books Blog.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from New Leaf Publishing Group.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.    

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Devotions from the Torah {review and giveaway}

I've been working through the first book in a new devotional series, Devotions from the TorahDevotions from Genesis by Nicole Love Halbrooks Vaughn has been fascinating.  I also have her second book, Devotions from Exodus Part One, but I haven't done much more than look at it.

About Devotions from Genesis:
See for yourself how Genesis, the book of beginnings, is not just ancient history and that the Word of God is still alive and timeless.  Nicole Vaughn's Devotions from Genesis will take you on a journey from the Garden of Eden to the courts of Pharaoh in Egypt, allowing you to see your own hurts, struggles, and joys through the lives of patriarchs from Adam to Joseph.  You will gain insight into your heart and more importantly, insight into the very heart of God. One day at a time, you will be reminded that you are not alone.
About the books:  these books are set up with the idea that you read a chapter from the Bible, and then do the next devotional portion.  Each section starts off with a scripture quote, then a few paragraphs from the author, and finally a prayer.

My thoughts:  I've really enjoyed what Nicole has to say.  The very first one talked about the Hebrew meanings of many of the verbs - moving, said, saw, separated.

This appealed to my inner etymologist.

Other days don't necessarily get so deep into the meanings of words, but some do.  And so much of it made me think and ponder.  A couple readings later, there is a discussion of the creation of Eve, with this statement, "The man was given responsibility over his woman, not dominion." (italics in original)

I like that.

The prayers to close out each section are wonderful.  In so many of these devotional books, I skip over the prayers because they just sound so forced, or sanctimonious, or something.  These felt oh so very real.  An early one, after The Fall, reads -
Oh Father, That I would never forget your great love for me, nor the open arms you hold out to me.  I fail; even as your Holy Spirit-filled child, I fail.  I still stumble, and sometimes I have eyes that don't see and ears that don't hear and a mind that's been deceived, but still I am yours...
It goes on for a couple more sentences, and maybe it just felt oh-so-real because I had had one of those total failure days.  But something about the prayers makes me feel like Nicole is speaking truth about herself, and truth about me too.

I get to give away both Devotions from Genesis and Devotions from Exodus Part One!  This is the pdf version, and it these are really nice books!  These would be great for anyone from older teens on up.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Bountiful Baskets: December 7

It was so nice to have Thanksgiving weekend off from Bountiful Baskets -- but it was also incredibly nice to be back this week.

It was a very chilly morning, but take a look at my pretty basket:

I think it was worth it!  This basket includes:
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • a whole lot of organic broccoli
  • 4 organic on-the-vine tomatoes
  • 1 bunch lettuce
  • 4 green bell peppers
  • 9 rainbow carrots
  • 2 pineapples
  • 2 Oro Blancos
  • 1 mango
  • 5 gorgeous Gala apples
  • 6 bananas
I also got a tropical pack.  It is even prettier.

It contains:
  • 1 pineapple
  • 4 mangoes
  • 6 kiwi
  • 1 coconut
  • 7 limes
  • a bag of mint
  • two vanilla beans

And I split a box of pears with a friend.

What will we do with all of this yummy stuff?
  • tomatoes, lettuce, bell peppers, carrots, and most of the fruit is just eaten.  No planning.
  • I hope to can some pears
  • Broccoli will go into a skillet lunch or two (basically a tuna hotdish, adding broccoli)
  • Cauliflower - one will be eaten with dip, the other will probably be added to an alfredo meal
  • Pineapples may need to be dehydrated.  The one I got a couple weeks ago is just now ripe too, so I have four of them around.
  • Key lime pie, baby.  Oh, yeah.
  • I'm making more vanilla extract.  Love knowing there isn't any junk in my vanilla extract.
  • I need to come up with something fun to do with mangoes besides just eat them or use them in smoothies
  • Same thing for coconut
  • And I'm doing something fun with the mint.  I made mint extract last time, but I haven't USED any of it, so I don't need more.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tempest's Course {a Litfuse Review}

This is the third Quilts of Love series book that I've had an opportunity to review here in the past couple of weeks.  Tempest's Course by Lynette Sowell was such a great book.  I couldn't put it down, once I got started.

Before this, I reviewed The Christmas Quilt and Aloha Rose.  

The idea behind this series is that quilts have stories to tell, and the various authors are bringing together a variety of stories, whether women's fiction, historical romance, mystery, or a contemporary romance.  This particular title is probably a contemporary mystery/romance.

I love quilts, though I've never spent a lot of time thinking about the story that any of ours tell.  So a chance to do some light reading this fall, with stories that have quilts as key parts of the story, well, that intrigued me.

From the publisher:
Kelly Frost, a textiles conservator, is invited to the Massachusetts coastal town of New Bedford to restore a 150-year-old Mariner's Compass quilt, with one stipulation: she must live and work in Gray House where the quilt is stored. Tom Pereira, whose heart seems as hard as the rocky coastline, is the caretaker employed by the mysterious absent owner of Gray House.

Over the long-lit months as Kelly works to restore the quilt, she is drawn out of her self-imposed shell and embraces the family God has given her after her own family failed her. As Kelly reads stories in a journal penned by Mary Gray, she learns there is no transgression beyond God's forgiveness, but the real obstacle is forgiving herself. During her and Tom's journey to grace and love, an unknown force works to keep both of them from discovering a long-buried truth that will change their lives forever.
My thoughts:  I really, really enjoyed this book.  The plot synopsis above was intriguing... Kelly's job restoring old quilts was a nice twist on the whole quilt theme.  Going back to what was going on in the 1860s vs. what was taking place today was interesting as well.

But it was the groundskeeper that caught my attention, and his relationship with his parents especially.  I try when I write reviews to not go giving away much of the plot beyond what is in the description the publishers supply to me.  And if I do exceed that, I try to make it be things you learn in the first couple of chapters, or to keep the information pretty vague.

This may risk being a bit of a spoiler, but I don't think it really is.  You see, as they go through the book, one of the things that Tom has been hiding is the fact that he is dyslexic.  It isn't really any huge climatic plot point when that comes out.  But I already knew.  I just did.  As the mother of a severely dyslexic teen, there was just something about Tom that screamed out to me.  Not as a romantic hero to the story at all, but as a young man I wanted to protect and help. 

So, bottom line, I related best to the mother of the love interest.

I think that means I'm officially getting old.

I really loved the relationship struggles Tom has with his family, and watching them interact was a high point of the story.  Of course, I wanted to see how the Mary Gray journal story would end, and how Kelly would emerge from her shell, and just who the mysterious home owner was.  But Tom and his mom.  They really kept me reading.

I have no idea if Lynette has personal experience with dyslexia, and it isn't like this is a huge plot issue here.  But it sure read "real" to me.  I love, love, love when a character in a story happens to be dyslexic.  Not a major issue, just part of his background. 

The book was also fun in that you did keep moving around so you saw things from various perspectives.  That meant that, as the reader, you knew how some bits and pieces connected long before the characters figured it out.  It was fun to watch them figure it out.

Lynette Sowell's Tempest's Course is the newest book in the Quilts of Love line, and Lynette is celebrating with a fun giveaway and joining Vannetta Chapman and Lisa Carter for the Quilts of Love "Christmas Bee" Facebook Party on December 10th!

 One winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire HDX
  • Tempest's Course by Lynette Sowell
  • The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman
  • Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on December 16th. Winner will be announced on the Quilts of Love Facebook page on December 17th.

But wait! There's more. RSVP for the "Christmas Bee" Facebook Party on December 10th and connect with the authors from the Quilts of Love series, Vannetta Chapman, Lisa Carter, and Lynette Sowell, for an evening of book chat, quilt trivia, and Christmas traditions and gifts, PLUS get an exclusive look at January's Quilts of Love book!

So grab your copies of The Christmas QuiltAloha Rose, and Tempest's Course and join Vannetta, Lisa, and Lynette on the evening of December 10th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the books, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER. Hope to see you on December 10th!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

A HUGE Give-away From The Homeschool Adventure Company!

A while back, I shared a review of a pretty fantastic Philosophy Curriculum that is created by Home School Adventure Co. One thing that had definitely interested me with that Curriculum was the plans to create a study of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.

Connor (16) is a huge Lewis fan, and I knew he would love to do this study. When I had the chance to get involved in the Mere Christianity Launch Team, you know I was on it immediately.

My review of this study will be coming in about a month, and I'm not far enough into it to really give you a preview of what I'm likely to say. So far, we've read the Preface, the Foreward, and answered questions in the guide about the Preface. Definitely not enough for me to have a real opinion yet.

However... there is a fantastic kick-off giveaway going on. You want to enter.

The Home School Adventure Co. Launch Team is excited to help celebrate the release of the Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal with a special giveaway filled with books that will compliment your classical studies, as well as a couple of special surprises.  

The best news is that there will be two winners, each receiving a very valuable prize package!  

We would like to thank the following friends for their generous sponsorship of this giveaway! Be sure to stop by their websites to say thank you!

Institute for Excellence in Writing

Nancy Pearcey

Trivium Pursuit

Bright Ideas Press

Raising Real Men

Here are the prize packages you could win! 

Prize Package #1

Our first prize package contains all of the print resources from Home School Adventure Co., as well as wonderful books, curriculum, and even a marriage retreat. This prize package, sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Writing, Nancy Pearcey, and Trivium Pursuit, has a value of $500!

Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal $28.95

Philosophy Adventure - Pre-Socratics Complete Set $89.95

Philippians in 28 Weeks ESV $28.95

The Wise Woman with Literaray Analysis Journal Questions $28.95

IEW Teaching Writing/Student Writing Value Pack (Winner's Choice of Levels A, B, or C) $249

The Soul of Science $11.99

Total Truth $25.00

Saving Leonardo $26.99

Teaching the Trivium Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style $20.40

The Fallacy Detective $22

The Thinking Toolbox $22

Prize Package #2

Our second prize package is filled with all of the resources offered at Home School Adventure Co. in their downloadable editions, as well as a set of all 3 volumes of The Mystery of History by Linda Hobar. This prize package, sponsored by Bright Ideas Press and Raising Real Men, has a value of $300! 

Mere Christianity Critical Analysis Journal Download $18.95

Philosophy Adventure - Pre-Socratics Digital Download $39.95

Philippians in 28 Weeks ESV Download $14.95

The Wise Woman with Literary Analysis Journal Questions Download $14.95

The Mystery of History, Volume I $49.95

The Mystery of History Volume II $49.95

The Mystery of History Volume III $59.95

My Beloved and My Friend book and Marriage Retreat Online $45

Pollyanna Audio Book Download $18

To enter, use the Rafflecopter below. Residents of the U.S., age 18 and older please.

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

The God Puzzle {a LitFuse Review}

We have recently had the chance to work with The God Puzzle by Valerie Ackermann.  This book, subtitled How the Bible Fits Together to Reveal God as Your Greatest Treasure!, is intended for kids ages 7-12.  I had kids ages 7, 9 and 12 when we got it (and ages 7, 9 and 13 now) so we worked through it together.

From the publisher:
The God Puzzle is a colorful, easy to use tool to help you communicate to your child the rich truths about God, His ways, His will and His love. The God Puzzle will help you address doctrinal themes of the Christian faith in a kid friendly way, present Bible lessons in an interactive way that will hold the child's attention and deliver quality teaching with no preparation needed. 75% of children leave the church when they leave home. Something isn't working. Sunday School isn't doing it all. Kids need answers, good ones. And they need them from you, the parent. This book enables you to give them simple, clear answers.
A bit about it:

One really cool thing about this is that there really is no prep time needed.  Grab the book, a Bible, and something to write with.  That's it -- you are ready to begin.  That is a huge plus to me!

Each lesson (there are 36 of them) is split up with puzzle-piece dividers, so you can sit down and do an entire lesson (a half-hour or so), or just a section or two.  Love that flexibility.

The language is kid-friendly, as are the concepts.  And it is written in actual English instead of something from a few hundred years ago that I struggle to understand.

This is all presented as one big story, not a lot of individual things that really don't relate to each other.  Lesson 1 starts with creation, and lesson 36 (I peeked ahead, we're not that far!) deals with the world to come.  In between, it is a single narrative.

My thoughts: There is a lot too much looking up Bible verses for my daughter (the 7 year old), and the 12/13 year old seemed to think he was way too grown up for this.  I think to finish it off, I'm going to be letting him drop out, and I'll be doing most of the verse-looking-up parts myself.

My kids think it is good (and Trina loves the drawing parts!) but to some extent, they have this jaded "I know this already" attitude going too.  So if your young ones are already very familiar with the Bible, this may not be enough. However, I still think they are learning from it, just not necessarily the "Bible story" part.  More of the "how does this apply to life" part.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own. 

We're watching The Sound of Music Tonight!

The Sound of Music.  I remember how exciting it was whenever the movie version of The Sound of Music would play on television when I was growing up. We never missed it, I'm pretty sure.

I always wanted to go see the Broadway version.  Well, always as in "ever since I knew there was such a thing."  Not something that was terribly likely to happen, but it still sounded fun.

Well... now I can experience the wonder of the original stage musical, and I'll be sharing it with my family tonight as well.  And if you get NBC, you can too.

I am so excited.

Their description:
From executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron ("Smash," "Hairspray," "Chicago") comes an instant holiday classic: "The Sound of Music," based on the original Broadway musical. Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer star as Maria and Captain von Trapp in this beloved story of the young novice who falls in love with Captain von Trapp and his seven children, set against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Austria. The jewel in the Rodgers and Hammerstein crown, "The Sound of Music" contains some of the most famous songs ever written for the stage, including "The Sound of Music," "My Favorite Things," "Do-Re-Mi," "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," "Climb Every Mountain" and "Edelweiss."
This new version of "The Sound of Music" will be a faithful adaptation of the original stage musical, to retell the story for a whole new generation. And more than that, it will be broadcast LIVE, adding a whole new level of immediacy and excitement. Get ready to reintroduce your family to the most joyful, most emotional and most musical family adventure of them all.
We're going to be having pizza, popcorn, and the entire family gathered to watch this on NBC tonight at 7:00.

What are you doing tonight?

And aren't the kids cute?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stones for Bread {a LitFuse Review}

It is time for another "I couldn't put it down" book review from me.  This time, the book is Stones for Bread by Christa Parrish.  I really, seriously thought I could read a few chapters and set it down.  And I did succeed in reading two chapters and putting it down.

But then I picked it back up the next evening, started reading, and only set it down long enough to get a refill on my glass of water.

From the publisher:
A solitary artisan. A legacy of bread-baking. And one secret that could collapse her entire identity.

Liesl McNamara's life can be described in one word: bread. From her earliest memory, her mother and grandmother passed down the mystery of baking and the importance of this deceptively simple food. And now, as the owner of Wild Rise bake house, Liesl spends every day up to her elbows in dough, nourishing and perfecting her craft.

But the simple life she has cultivated is becoming quite complicated. Her head baker brings his troubled grandson into the bakeshop as an apprentice. Her waitress submits her recipes to a popular cable cooking show. And the man who delivers her flour --- a single father with strange culinary  habits --- seems determined to win Liesl's affection.

When Wild Rise is featured on television, her quiet existence appears a thing of the past. And then a phone call from a woman claiming to be her half-sister forces Liesl to confront long-hidden secrets in her family's past. With her precious heritage crumbling around her, the baker must make a choice: allow herself to be buried in detachment and remorse, or take a leap of faith into a new life.
My thoughts?  Well, it was a bit confusing to begin with, which kept me from being pulled in right from the first chapter.  There was something, though, that made me want to pick the book back up.  Partially, I think, it is that in a lot of ways I really felt like I could identify with Liesl.  She's not drop-dead gorgeous, she's most certainly an introvert, the guy who is interested in her is a good and solid blue-collar type of guy --- none of those are the usual recipe for success in women's fiction.

So it got my attention.

Then you have multiple storylines going, which was quite confusing at first, but fascinating by the end.

And -- Liesl is donating bread to local churches, and wow, oh wow, did I ever just love some of the descriptions of Liesl's feelings about doing that.  Here is one paragraph:
So I pack the bread in bags, like I will for any paying customer.  I don't send burnt loaves or stale loaves, or any kind of kitchen experiment I don't believe is quality enough to sell.  I will not give to the least of these anything I will not offer to my Lord, should he walk into Wild Rise one afternoon and ask for a little something to eat.
The story, of course, is so much more than that.  And it is one that is well worth reading.  The details about the history of bread are fascinating, and of course, there are recipes scattered throughout the entire story.

Christa Parrish is celebrating her fourth novel, Stones for Breadwith a KitchenAid Mixer giveaway.

#StonesforBread KitchenAid Mixer Contest #ChristaParrish http://bit.ly/1aBTNz9

Easy steps to enter:

1. Follow Christa Parrish and TNZ Fiction on Pinterest.

2. Then Pin the Stones for Bread book cover (below), the contest graphic (above), or both, and link to this post (using this URL: #StonesforBread KitchenAid Mixer Contest #ChristaParrish http://litfusegroup.com/campaigns/stones-for-bread-by-christa-parrish).

3. Then fill out THIS SHORT FORM to let us know. (There are also some additional ways to earn extra entries, as well as an option for non-Pinterest users. It's true—people like that do exist!)

Questions? Email info @ litfusegroup dot com.

Winner will be announced on 12/9 on Christa's Facebook Page.

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.