Tuesday, June 30, 2015

7 Family Ministry Essentials {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I'm interested in families and their relationships with the church, so I decided to review 7 Family Ministry Essentials: A Strategy for Culture Change in Children's and Student Ministries by Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman.

I didn't really know what I was getting into here.  I was thinking this was a book addressed to families, but instead, it is a book addressed to ministry leaders, particularly those in children's ministry.

About the book:
With decades of ministry experience, Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman capture the guiding essentials of life-changing family ministry.

These seven essentials for children and student leaders emphasize:

1. Empowering families to take spiritual leadership in the home
2. Forming lifetime faith that transcends childhood beliefs
3. Teaching Scripture as the ultimate authority of truth
4. Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit to teach and transform
5. Engaging every generation in the gospel of God's redemptive story
6. Making God central in every biblical narrative and daily living
7. Participating in community with like-minded ministry leaders

7 Family Ministry Essentials will energize and equip you with the practical steps, inspirational stories, and biblical foundation you need as you lead those in your ministry.
I don't normally talk a lot about the authors, but for this title, I think it is important to know where the writers are coming from.  They have impressive credentials for writing about this topic:
DR. MICHELLE ANTHONY is the vice president and publisher of learning resources at David C Cook and a popular speaker in the area of family ministry. She is the author of Spiritual Parenting, The Big God Story, and Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family. Michelle has graduate degrees in Christian education, Bible and theology as well as over twenty-five years of family ministry experience. Michelle and her husband, Michael are the parents of two adult children and live in Colorado.

MEGAN MARSHMAN is the director of student resources and production for David C Cook and has led and challenged thousands of students in their faith at Hume Lake Christian Camps. With a master's degree in organizational leadership from Azusa Pacific University, Megan speaks nationally at churches, conferences, and university chapels. She and her husband, Randy, live in Long Beach, California.
My thoughts:

I really like where this book is coming from.  One thing I've struggled with is the idea that parents are commanded to be responsible for raising their children in spiritual matters, but too often they don't step forward to do that -- and the church has been more than happy to step into that vacuum and assume responsibility.

But that isn't an entirely bad thing either, where parents simply will not do any of that training.

A better way seems to be proposed in this book though.  The church can still teach, mold, train -- but they can do things in a way that encourages parents to be involved.  One idea early in the book was instead of sending take-home papers with the kids after the lesson, why not send materials home with the kids the week before, so the parents who want to be involved can be going through the materials for the upcoming week?

Good information here, even if the book was not what I was expecting.

You can see what others had to say about the book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

To Win Her Favor {a Family Christian review and giveaway} #FCBlogger

I've had a crazy busy couple of weeks.  Mostly, we've been going through my mom's personal stuff and trying to figure out what to do with it.

That always means I need to do some decompressing by reading.  So I was thrilled to receive To Win Her Favor by Tamara Alexander while I was at Dad's.  I ended up staying up until 3:30 one morning, because I simply did not want to put it down.

From the publisher:
An Irish-born son far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He's come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and start a farm, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he'd wagered, especially when Maggie Linden's father makes him an offer he shouldn't accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the annual Drayton Stakes at Nashville's racetrack--the richest race run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance, and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder, Maggie's father--aging, yet wily as ever--makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail--Maggie must marry a man she's never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Cullen and Maggie need each other in order to achieve their dreams. But their stubborn, wounded hearts--and the escalating violence from a "secret society" responsible for lynchings and midnight raids--may prove too much for even two determined souls.
I loved this book.  I didn't necessarily expect to, as I'm not at all a fan of horse racing and know almost nothing about it.  One of my favorite time periods to read about is roughly the 1870s and 1880s, particularly stories taking place on the Plains.  This story is just a bit earlier than that, taking place in the South.  Something about it just clicked for me.

One thing is that I took an immediate liking to almost all of the main characters.  I especially loved the relationship between Maggie's father and Cullen, and was really wishing more of their interaction was included.  Cullen's relationships with the former slaves were pretty fabulous as well.

I did like Maggie also, especially watching her change her opinions on so many issues.

Great book, and I am so glad I read it!  I am so grateful to Family Christian for this opportunity!

I have a $25 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate  to give away! You can use that to purchase To Win Her Favor, or anything else you wish.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book and an appreciation certificate for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God {a BookLook Blogger review}

On my vacation, I picked up The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God by Jep and Jessica Robertson to read.  I expected it to be something I could read a chapter or two at a time.


Read half the book one night, and finished it the next.

From the publisher:
A Moving Story of Redemption and Second Chances

Jep Robertson, the youngest son of Duck Commander Phil Robertson, and his wife, Jessica, open up about their personal trials, their early years together, and the challenges that might have destroyed them both had the grace of God not intervened. Jep describes being molested as a child and his reluctance to tell anyone until only a few years ago, his downward spiral into drug and alcohol abuse, and the eventual intervention of his family. Jessica shares about the difficult failure of her first marriage while still a teenager and the hurt that came along with it, much of it from the church. Her insecurities spun out of control as she wondered whether she would ever be good enough or pretty enough. This book is their love story but, more importantly, their love story for God.

“We are desperate to let people know that no matter what you’ve done; no matter what you’ve lived through, you can come out of it. You can be washed clean. You are redeemed."

My thoughts:

I don't know what I expected.  We do watch Duck Dynasty some, and I've seen assorted interviews or public statements made by various Robertson family members.  I know I saw something that led me to suspect that Jep Robertson had followed in his father's footsteps a bit as far as addiction or something.  But I really didn't know a lot of details, and certainly didn't know much about the background of his wife, Jessica.

I loved how the story was told.  Chapters alternated between Jess and Jep, starting with where they first met (a hair salon), then going back through their childhoods and moving chronologically at that point to somewhere near the present.  It was fun to see their different takes on some of the same events.

One thing I really appreciated was how open Jessica was about her insecurities and her feelings of inadequacy.  I know that is something I struggle with too, and probably a lot of women do, but nobody really talks about it.  Or at least not the pretty, blonde, thin women.  It's usually people more like me.  "If I lost 50 pounds, then I'd feel good about myself."  Only with reading this from Jessica, I realize that weight isn't the cure for insecurity either.

Bottom line is that this book made these two celebrities far more real and human, and I couldn't put the book down.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers 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.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

You mean I have to PLAN our Homeschool High School?!?

People who have known me since the kids were all little find this confession shocking, I know.  But when it comes to planning for homeschooling, I'm pretty much a do the next thing until something else comes along type.

I don't plan well.

I don't have pretty little schedules that show what each kid will be doing to earn the perfect number of credits by the time they graduate.  In fact, well, yeah, I just suck at planning.

Fortunately for you, most of the folks doing this Homeschooling High School blog hop are far more together and on the ball, so you can read their posts.

But if you are a lot more seat-of-their-pants in your approach, maybe I'll say something worth hearing.

So, for lame-planners like me, how in the world do we pull off high school?

Here is my approach:

  1. I schedule a teacher-student meeting with each of my high school students sometime during the summer, and usually also the last week of December/first week of January.  Now that there are three of them, I start with the oldest and work my way down.
  2. I print out some forms and we go filling things in.  What courses have they completed since we last met?  What is in progress?
  3. We chat about what they want to be learning and what courses they would like to take.
  4. We make sure things add up to some semblance of 'this will look okay on a transcript' before we consider ourselves done.
  5. We talk about other stuff.
Let's talk at least a little for specifics.  I use the High School Planner from The Old Schoolhouse (available with a SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership!) and print out a handful of pages that I think we might use.  You can see those above.

I try to actually get just the individual student off somewhere with no siblings.  We've done Starbucks, we've done some restaurants.  Usually, though, I boot folks out of the dining room and we do it there.

That's what I did with Connor a couple of weeks ago.

He and I had a really good session, filling in a lot of information on pretty much all of the sheets I show above.  He has to whittle down what he wants to do, and we now have a plan for his senior year.

Today, I did the same with William.  That worked out a bit differently.  He's heading into his sophomore year and he'd be happy if he could just take 8 credits of history each year from here on out.

We had to work at getting more into his next year plan, but I'm pretty happy with what we did figure out today.  Algebra, English, Medieval history, Russian history, Physics, Latin, Driver's Ed, PE, and Art History.

I still have to sit down with Thomas and figure out things for him, but I have to work on some details for William first.  Like the art history.  I don't have the first clue what I'll do there.

For me, the bottom line in successful high school planning is just to meet with them twice a year and assess where we are and what needs to happen.  So much stuff is really a question of doing the next thing (math) or of turning something they are excited about into a high school course.  That stuff I tend to already be doing, I just don't always realize it.

I do try to go with a college-prep type of course load.  We shoot for 4 years of English, math, science and social studies, plus 2 years of a foreign language, something for PE and fine arts, and some electives.

Homeschooling High School Blog Hop 2015

Fortunately for you, my Crewmates on this blog hop are mostly much better planners than I am, so you can probably actually learn something by reading their posts.  Go.  Check them out!

Meg from Adventures with Jude on Planning Your Homeschool High School

Chareen at Every Bed of Roses with thoughts on Planning to Homeschool through the High School Years

April from ElCloud Homeschool shares Homeschooling High School: Planning For High School

Michele at Family, Faith and Fridays shares Here's the Plan

Lisa at Golden Grasses says Don't Panic! Homeshcooling High School Blog Hop

Debbie at Debbie's Homeschool Corner Planning Out a High School Program

Gena over at I Choose Joy! shares her The Top Tip for Planning Homeschool High School

Kym at Homeschool Coffee Break shares on Planning and Preparing for Success

Tess from Circling Through This Life shares on Planning the High School Years

Erica over at Be The One shares Planning and Record Keeping for High School

Jennifer from A Glimpse of Our Life on Planning For Homeschooling Highschool

Carol over at Home Sweet Life on Making A Plan

Wendy at Life at Rossmont shares thoughts on Planning for High School

Cristi from Through the Calm and Through the Storm shares on Making High School Plans

Dawn Oaks at Double O Farms shares Planning for the High School Years

Leah from As We Walk Along the Road shares her thoughts on Making Plans for Homeschooling Through High School

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Friend in Me {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau. Subtitled How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women, this is not exactly my normal reading material.

I have reached the point, though, where I really should be acting in a mentor role, an older woman role, and I am starting to have those opportunities. I thought this book would be a good way for me to be more intentional about those chances.

From the publisher:
Young women long for relational connection with women further ahead of them on the journey. Yet, without realizing it, many of us tend to distance ourselves from those in younger generations.

Can we really have close relationships with women who have different thoughts on church, different experiences with family, and different ways of talking about God? Where do we start?

In A Friend in Me, Pam Lau shows you how to be a safe place for the younger women in your life. She offers five patterns women need to internalize and practice for initiating relationships and talking about issues such as faith, forgiveness, sexuality, and vocation. Most significantly, she reminds you that there doesn't need to be a divide between generations of women. Together, we can have a global impact---and experience a deeper faith than we've ever known.

My thoughts:

I think this is a hugely important message, and I’m glad it is getting out there.

But I struggled with this book. And that probably proves how much I needed to be reading it. I don’t know.

There were parts that really resonated with me. The chapter on grief (The Power of Comfort), for instance.  Or the chapter on compassion. 

But a lot of it made me feel guilty and like I’m not trying hard enough or that I’d never be capable of being enough. It felt like all the pressure is on me to be discerning and non-judging so I can speak life into the younger women I encounter in my life. And I suppose this is written to the older women, but it just never felt like the younger women were expected to do anything in this relationship except to be there, soaking up the encouragement offered to them.

I feel cynical just writing that.

Maybe at a different point in my life I'd be better with this book.  Right now, I just feel stuck with a generation of older women who have always been far too busy to bother with anyone younger than themselves, and a generation of younger women who -- according to what I'm reading here -- expect me to be the one noticing when they need an older friend, and for me to always respond perfectly no matter what because otherwise I'm being judgmental.

Not that this totally tracks with my real life.  I have had some older women who are fantastic encouragers, and I do have some younger women who don't seem to think I'm solely responsible for a relationship.

I do think there is a lot of great insights in this book, and maybe revisiting it in another few months might be good for me.

Go see what others have to say about this book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page

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

Monday, June 22, 2015

Old Fashioned Novel and Devotional {a FlyBy review and giveaway}

Last week, I reviewed the movie, Old Fashioned, which came out on the 16th of June.

This week, I have the chance to talk about a couple books related to the movie, and to do a giveaway.

Old Fashioned, by Rene Getteridge, is a novelization of the movie.  Gutteridge did a fabulous job with this!

We really enjoyed the movie, but like always happens with a book, the novelization gives more detail.  That meant that even though I already knew the plot, there still was some fun in reading the book, as I certainly learned more about what made both of the main characters tick.  And more about some of the supporting characters as well.  I might have liked that part the best.

From the publisher:
Turning his back on his reckless lifestyle, former frat boy Clay Walsh has settled down to turn an antique shop in a small Midwestern college town....and to purse lofty and outdated theories on love and romance.  But when Amber Hewson, a free-spirited woman with a gypsy soul, rents the apartment above his shop, Clay can't help being attracted to her spontaneous and passionate embrace of life.  Amber also finds herself surprisingly drawn to Clay, but his ideas about relationships are unusual to say the least, and they bring to light her own deep wounds and fears about love.  They say opposites attract, but can Clay and Amber move beyond their differences and their pasts to attempt an "old fashioned" courtship?

In addition, I received a devotional, The Old Fashioned Way: Reclaiming the Lost Art of Romance.

I wasn't sure what I'd think of this, but I have been reading a daily reading every day (there are forty of them) and I really do like this.  It isn't in-your-face about any "one right way" types of things, but is definitely designed to get you to think about what your boundaries are, and what is (or isn't) healthy.

I really do like this.

The publisher describes this devotional like this:

Contrary to popular opinion, being "old fashioned" doesn't mean you're dull or unromantic.  In fact, a true old fashioned relationship can be more exciting and romantic than anything you've ever experienced!  So what does it mean to do things the old fashioned way?  Sure, it means opening doors, holding out chairs, and taking things slow.  But a true old fashioned romance goes much, much deeper than that.  Inspired by the motion picture Old Fashioned, this book will show you how to reclaim the lost art of romance by introducing you to romantic love as God intended it.  Regardless of your past mistakes, where you've been, what you've done, or where you are now, you can find and create a love that will last a lifetime!  As you work your way through this forty-day journey of inspiring readings and questions for reflection, you'll discover all the unique and amazing benefits of doing things the old fashioned way.  And before you know it, you'll be well on your way to creating a love story for the ages.  
I have an Old Fashioned Package to give away!  It includes the movie, the novelization, and the devotional.  US and Canada only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Heart's Betrayal {a Lifuse Blog Tour review}

Every month, I've been posting about Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series.  This month, we're up to book four, A Heart's Betrayal.

I have liked this series so far, but haven't been wildly enthusiastic.  This book started off introducing a brand new character, Emmie.  Emmie is the sister of the bad guy from the first half of the series, and I like her.

Emmie has just lost her husband, after only a couple months of marriage.  She's distraught, but things are about to get worse as she finds out that she wasn't really married.  He already had a wife and child.

Emmie really has nowhere to turn, at least nowhere respectable.  So she ends up heading out to Fort Laramie, to help Sarah Montgomery.  A fresh start, somewhere new, where her non-marriage isn't known.

Only nothing can ever be that simple.

I really enjoyed this story, including the characters from the first three books.  Now that everyone is happily married, they are far more likable! 

Emmie just tugs at me.  She has a no-good scoundrel of a brother, a bigamist for a husband, and now the system leaves her with few choices.  No wonder she is bitter and untrusting when it comes to men. 

For the first time in this series, I am eagerly looking forward to the next book, and I'm guessing it will be waiting for me when I get home.


Emmie finds shelter in the arms of a soldier in Fort Laramie, Wyoming, but will her big secret drive them apart? Find out in book four, A Heart's Betrayal, of Colleen Coble's A Journey of the Heart series. Suddenly displaced, powerless, and ashamed, Emmie can’t stay in Wabash, Indiana. She makes a hopeful start for Fort Laramie to find her friend Sarah Montgomery and a new beginning. But when she arrives, she discovers she’s pregnant—and without a husband. The new start she’d hoped for slips from her fingers.

Melt into summer with a new giveaway from Colleen: four books (books one–four in Colleen's A Journey of the Heart series) and a box of chocolates to pair with your new books!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A copy of A Heart's Betrayal
  • A box of Colleen's favorite chocolate truffles from DeBrand Fine Chocolates
  • A copy of A Heart's Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart's Obsession
  • A copy of A Heart's Danger
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 30th. Winner will be announced July 1st on Colleen's website.


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

Friday, June 19, 2015

Two Roads Home {a Litfuse Book Tour review}

A while back, I reviewed Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney.  That book was a lot of fun, and kicked off the Chicory Inn series.

When I had the opportunity to review Two Roads Home, the second book in the series, of course I wanted to learn more about what was happening for the Whitman family.

From the publisher:
What if it's too late for dreams to come true?

Minor-but-nagging setbacks continue to sour Grant and Audrey Whitman's initiation into the world of innkeeping, but larger challenges brew when an innocent flirtation leads to big trouble for the Whitmans' son-in-law, Jesse. Jesse Pennington's friendly, outgoing personality has always served him well, especially in a career that has earned him and his wife Corinne a very comfortable lifestyle. But Corinne and Jesse are both restless---and for similar reasons, if only they could share those with each other. Instead, too many business trips and trumped-up charges of harassment from a disgruntled coworker threaten their marriage and possibly put their three precious daughters at risk. With their life in disarray, God is tugging at their hearts to pursue other dreams. Can Corinne and Jesse pick up the pieces of what was once a wonderful life before it all crumbles beneath them?

My thoughts:

I think that what I enjoy the most about this series is following Grant and Audrey Whitman as they run a Bed & Breakfast Inn in their retirement, and to watch their relationships with their adult children.  The first book focused on their youngest daughter, Landyn, and on their efforts to open the Chicory Inn.

This book is focused on their oldest daughter, Corinne, but you do get to find out what is happening for the rest of the family too.  Corinne is the daughter I ought to relate to.  She's the oldest.  She's a stay-at-home mom.  She has more than the socially acceptable two kids.

I didn't find myself relating to her all that well though.  She mostly annoyed me in the first book, and I wasn't all that thrilled with her in this one either.  Her husband earns good money, but he travels a lot.  And her quest for a status symbol means they've bought a showpiece home that is enormous.  She's hyper-concerned about looking the part, and I know full well that is a pretty normal thing these days.  Buy more than you can truly afford, only purchase designer clothes, that sort of thing.

When her husband's job is threatened, they both worry a whole lot about appearances, and I just wanted to slap them both and tell them to get a grip.

That isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

Well, despite the fact that Corrine and I would never walk in the same social circles, I did enjoy the book.  I loved watching her parents, and although I believe they are a bit older than I am, they are the characters I relate to.  How do you continue to love your grown-up kids when they are making choices you think are not so good?  How do you set boundaries with them? 

Of course, Corrine grew up quite a bit during the course of the book too, and she was far more likable as the story closed.  I think I'd get along with the end-of-the-book Corrine.

I'm really looking forward to the next book, which focuses on Danae, the middle daughter.

Two Roads Home Deborah Raney

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Old Fashioned {a FlyBy review}

I planned for a family movie night to watch Old Fashioned over the past week.  But life has thrown one thing after another after another and that just hasn't happened.

So we are watching it as a family today, instead.  Grandma, three teen boys, two tweens.  And me.

About Old Fashioned:

A romantic-drama, OLD FASHIONED centers on Clay Walsh, a former frat boy who gives up his reckless carousing and now runs an antique shop in a small Midwestern college town. There, he has become notorious for his lofty and outdated theories on love and romance as well as for his devout belief in God. When Amber Hewson, a free-spirited young woman with a restless soul, drifts into the area and rents the apartment above his shop, she finds herself surprisingly drawn to his strong faith and noble ideas, which are new and intriguing to her. And Clay, though he tries to fight and deny it, simply cannot resist being attracted to her spontaneous and passionate embrace of life. Ultimately, Clay must step out from behind his relational theories and Amber must overcome her own fears and deep wounds as the two of them, together, attempt the impossible: an "old-fashioned" and God-honoring courtship in contemporary America.

So what did we think?

Everyone enjoyed this, and the hands-down favorite character was Clay's aunt.  She was a stitch. 

Clay and Amber were both very likable, and I was a bit surprised at the depth developed in both of them.  They both start off fairly flat and one-dimensional, a bit stereotypical.  They don't know each other at all, but find each other to be interesting.  As they get to know each other better, we get to know them as well.

That's when we start seeing that Clay has flaws, and Amber has some past hurts that have definitely left some scars.

This is rated PG13, and there are some topics that may not be appropriate for younger kids.  You don't actually view much, but one friend has been living with his girlfriend for quite some time, a stripper is hired for a bachelor party, quite a few one-night stands are suggested or implied. 

It makes for some great conversations with teens, but you might want to watch it without younger kids and judge for yourself if you think it is appropriate for them.

I'm glad I own it.

Watch this space, as I'll be giving away some Old Fashioned stuff later this month.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Join Odyssey Adventure Club for a Summer Challenge

With AWANA off for the summer, my kids are getting a summer break from things like memorizing Bible verses and reaching out to others.

That's not a good thing.

Fortunately, Adventures in Odyssey and Clubhouse magazine have an answer for that.

Take the plungebanner banner 

Summer . . . a time that kids pine for during the school year and parents may anticipate with something akin to dread. Fearing refrains of “I’m bored” or hours spent on the couch playing video games can make moms and dads nervous about the long, hot months stretching before their family. Focus on the Family’s Odyssey Adventure Club offers an answer, encouraging parents and kids to embrace faith and fun with the Take the Plunge Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse magazine’s Summer Challenge.

Take the Plunge

The Take the Plunge challenge features:
  • Master Mind Monday — commit God’s Word to memory
  • Ways to Play Wednesday — spend active time with your family
  • Faith Sharing Friday — share God’s love with others
The Take the Plunge challenge helps families memorize at least five verses, engage in five activities together and share their faith with five people before the school doors swing open again. Those who sign up will receive an 11-week plan with suggested verses to memorize, activity ideas (such as visiting a war memorial) and ways to witness (such as passing out popsicles at the park with an invitation to your church), making this challenge the perfect tool for parents who want summer to be a time of spiritual and social stimulation for their kids.
"Research tells us that the more senses we involve when teaching children a principle, the more likely it is to stick,” Plugged In editor and Adventures in Odyssey podcast host Bob Smithouser says. “Bible memorization by itself is great, but it becomes even more powerful when put into action. Know it. Share it. Live it.”

Families who sign up to take part in the challenge at www.whitsend.org/summer will have access to weekly verses to memorize, ideas for family fun and suggestions for service projects that allow a family to share their faith. Additionally, anyone who signs up to participate in the Take the Plunge challenge will receive a free scene from the latest Adventures in Odyssey album, as well as a free story from the book Strange Journey Back.

Disclaimer: As part of the Odyssey Club Blogger program, I receive access to the Odyssey Adventure Club and some other resources in exchange for posting about the Club. I am not required to give positive opinions.

Fatal Trauma {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

A friend of mine has been telling me for years that I really need to check out books by Richard Mabry.  I've looked a couple of times, and they sound appealing.  Medical suspense is certainly a genre that appeals to me, particularly when it is written by an actual doctor.

So when I had the chance to review Fatal Trauma, I simply had to go for it.

She was right to rave about Mabry's books.

From the publisher:
A gunman who has nothing to lose faces a doctor who could lose it all to prove his innocence.

When Dr. Mark Baker and Nurse Kelly Atkinson are held at the mercy of a dangerous gunman, the lives of every emergency room patient are at stake. At the end of the evening three men are dead. One of them is a police officer who couldn't be saved despite Mark's best efforts. The other two are members of the feared Zeta drug cartel.

Though the standoff is over, the killing is not, because when the drug cartel loses its members, revenge is not far behind. Facing an adversary whose desires are dark and efforts are ruthless, Mark finds himself under suspicion as a killer, yet still a potential victim. When he turns to his high school sweetheart, attorney Gwen Woodruff, for help, Kelly helplessly looks on, as she hides her own feelings for the good doctor.

At the height of the conflict, three questions remain: Who is the shooter? Who will the next victim be? And can Mark prove his innocence before the gun turns on him?

My thoughts:

I do not often find myself completely sucked in to a story within the first couple of pages anymore.  This book?  One paragraph of exposition, and the doctor we are just being introduced to is hearing a crazed gunman shout, "Nobody move!"

That got me involved in the story.

The plot twists and turns, and when you think maybe you've figured part of it out, you suddenly discover another strange piece of the puzzle that makes you second guess everything.  Who can Mark and Kelly trust?  What is true?

I didn't put the book down.  I couldn't.

The medical aspects all sounded realistic, which I'd expect from a physician-turned-author.  I'll be looking for more of Mabry's titles.

Can Mark find out who the shooter is before he becomes the next victim? You won't want to miss the suspense in Richard Mabry's new book, Fatal Trauma. Facing an adversary whose desires are dark and efforts are ruthless, Mark finds himself under suspicion as a killer, yet still a potential victim. When he turns to his high school sweetheart, attorney Gwen Woodruff, for help, Kelly helplessly looks on, as she hides her own feelings for the good doctor.

Richard is celebrating the release of Fatal Trauma by giving away The Perfect Prescription Prize Pack!

fatal trauma - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on June 20th. The winner will be announced June 22nd on Richard's blog.

fatal trauma-enterbanner

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

Sunday, June 7, 2015

God Breathed {a Family Christian review and giveaway} #FCBlogger

My church is getting ready for a Community Bible Experience, where we are all going to be reading through the New Testament over a period of eight weeks.  We're spending a couple of months gearing up for that as well, with sermons about how to hear God speaking through His Word and similar types of conversations.

Today, we heard about the things that keep us from engaging with the Bible.

What really struck me as I listened to the sermon was how the book God Breathed by Josh McDowell seemed tailor-made to prepare me for the sermon today.  Especially the first part on the power of Scripture. 

From the publisher:
Experience God's Word in a powerful new way! Through the story of a centuries-old Torah and other scriptural artifacts he's acquired, McDowell highlights the Bible's unique history. Learn how these writings were made, what makes an ancient document reliable, and why the Bible is the most trusted. Includes color photos of McDowell's biblical manuscripts.

"God said, ’Let there be. . .’ " And when God spoke, things happened. Recapture the awe, the mystery, the passion and power of scripture in God-Breathed—where you’ll personally experience a life transformed by the One who spoke everything into existence, including you.
This book is very easy to read and understand.  I expected something a bit more academic, but found this enjoyable.  And the timing just could not be better.  As we get ready to go fairly quickly through the New Testament, it is nice to get yet another reminder that this is God's word.  Scripture is reliable, and can be tested.  That and more is discussed in the second part, on the Reliability of Scripture.

I really love the idea of having my teens read this book.

I have a $10 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate  to give away! You can use that towards the purchase of God Breathed, or anything else you wish.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book and an appreciation certificate for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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.”

Friday, June 5, 2015

Bible Dominoes {a Kregel Blog Tour review}

Today I'm reviewing a great game put out by Kregel.  Bible Dominoes, by Juliet David and Jo Parry is colorful and fun, even for kids who are "too old" for it!

This is intended for 2-4 players, ages 3 and up.  My kids are definitely over 3.  Trina is 9 and Richard is 11.

Trina loved it.  Richard rolled his eyes and played it because it made Trina happy.

This would be amazing for preschool to kindergarten aged kids, and I think it would also be a fabulous addition to a babysitting kit.

The cards are big, colorful and easy to shuffle.

Game play is just like regular dominoes, but it is a lot easier, as you can go for matching colors:

As you can see, there is a combination of letter names (the 'three' above), numerals (the '5' below), biblical characters (the shepherds below), and animals (like the ladybugs below).

As you can see, the game does take up a fair amount of space.  The cards are big, great for preschooler hands.  But that means that laying everything out leads to a massive spread.  That is still fun, of course.

The game also comes with a little storybook pamphlet that talks about many of the pictures on the dominoes.  There are five Old Testament stories, and five New Testament stories.  Each story is a single page.

This game is cute, and a great introduction to Dominoes for PreK.

Disclaimer:  I received this game through Kregel Blog Tours.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.   

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The New Weather Book {Master Books}

It's time for another review of a Master Books title.  Have you seen their new website?  It is so much more intuitive! 

Today, I'm reviewing The New Weather Book, part of the Wonders of Creation series.

I already own the original edition of this book, but no matter how many times I've tried, I just could not actually work through it with my children.  I know, that isn't a ringing endorsement, is it?

The thing is, I've been reviewing pretty much all of the new titles in this series though, and those I simply love.  They are easy to use, images are better, the text is better organized, and they just are something we can actually use as schoolwork, instead of only using as a reference.

Here is how the publisher describes the book:
Calama, Chile in the Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth and didn't have a drop of rain from 1570 until 1971. That’s over 400 years without rain!
  • Find out how forecasting is done, what “engine” drives weather on Earth, and why
  • Discover the importance and patterns of the jet stream, the global water cycle, and why water runoff is essential to the food chain
  • Learn the classifications of clouds, what causes ball lightning, the life cycle of thunderstorms, and amazing weather facts!

Our thoughts:

This book is fabulous.  As I've stated in my reviews of The Ecology Book, The New Astronomy Book, and The Mineral Book, the absolute coolest thing is that the book is color-coded for different age groups.

In The New Weather Book, the most basic information is on a white background.  This is for everyone, and we've been reading that aloud with all the kids (ages 9-18).  In the photo below, the white background is the entire right page that talks about the weather of the Great Lakes area.

For the middle levels, you would also read the yellow background areas.  This tends to cover more detail on weather and climate, and this is where weather vocabulary is covered.  In the photo above, the yellow section is talking about St. Elmo's Fire, which is fascinating.  I also read this aloud to everyone, as we do enough science around here that my kids are generally ready for a bit more detail. 

The most advanced material, which I think is good for at least upper middle school and above, has a gray background.  The idea is that these areas are getting into more complex theories, and the taste of the topic should give advanced students ideas for research.  I allow Richard and Trina (ages 11 and 9) to leave, if they aren't interested.  Most of the time they stick around.  The page above is talking about ball lightning.  That certainly keeps the attention of my younger ones.

This photo is of a section that is of particular interest to us.  Tornadoes.  Yeah.  There was a tornado warning here today (just barely north of us, actually) and you better believe all of my kids were attentive for this section.

I think the book is probably best for approximately grades 4 and up.  If you are doing it with a high school student, Master Books will be coming out with a Parent Lesson Plan (it's pictured in the book but not yet on the website) that pairs this book with The New Astronomy Book for a 1/2 credit course.

I will continue to collect every new book that comes out.  I love these.

And right now, if you are reading this, I'd love for you to go visit Master Books and tell me in the comments here what book or set you'd love to see me review.  I'll see if I can pull that off!

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

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Three (Homeschooled High School) Sons

A whole bunch of ladies on the Schoolhouse Review Crew were chatting about high school, and how scary the whole idea of homeschooling high school can be.  Somehow, in that conversation, the idea was born that we ought to do a Homeschooling High School Blog Hop.

Homeschooling High School Blog Hop 2015

I am totally in favor of that, as writing about what we are doing helps forces me to think through what we are actually doing.  And I love seeing what other people are up to as well.

And... this year, I have not one, not two, but THREE sons in high school.  How. Is. That. Possible?

So let me tell you a bit about them.

Connor is my senior.  He loves science and math, and loves to read practically anything.  He loves computers and geeky jokes.  In fact, he was messaging nerd jokes back and forth with the daughter of of one of the other participants in this blog hop just this weekend. 

William is my sophomore.  He would be thrilled if I allowed him to do only social studies -- history, economics, maybe some art history in there too.  His favorite book is Tale of Two Cities.  He'd rather be sleeping than almost anything.  And he's a pretty good cook.

Thomas is my newest high school student.  At one point in life, he was planning to be an archaeologist.  He loves art, hates math, enjoys history, and makes a mean cranberry sauce. 

So that's my crew.  I'm going to try to add a photo, but we'll have to see.  They don't always cooperate when it comes to pictures.

What is this Blog Hop about?

Well, there are eighteen or so of us, and we are all, once a month, going to be blogging about a single topic.  I'm sure it will be wonderful.

The first real one will be June 24, where we will be talking about Planning for High School.  This is something I'm in the middle of -- again -- right now.  What classes are they going to take?  How can I make it less work for me?  What about earning some college credit?

You can hop around to meet the other participants!  There are some truly amazing homeschool families here, and I'm thrilled to be introducing them to you.

Chareen from Every Bed of Roses - Introducing the 2015 Homeschool High School Blog Hop

Jennifer from A Glimpse of Our Life - Meet The Bloggers of The Homeschooling High School Blog Hop

Meg from Adventures with Jude - Hints for Homeschooling High School

Cristi from Through the Calm and Through the Storm - Some Homeschooling High School Friends

Leah from As We Walk Along the Road - Are You Really Homeschooling Through High School?! The Homeschool High School Blog Hop

Michele from Family, Faith and Fridays - Homeschooling High School Blog Hop

Lisa from Golden Grasses - You Can Do It! Homeschooling through High School Blog Hop

Wendy from Life at Rossmont - Introducing High School Homeschooling ... {A Monthly Blog Hop}

Gena from I Choose Joy! - Homeschooling High School monthly blog hop- Introduction

Kym from Homeschool Coffee Break - Meet the Homeschooling High School Bloggers!

Debbie from Debbie's Homeschool Corner - Homeschooling High School

Carol from Home Sweet Life - Homeschooling High School ~ What is it REALLY like?

April from ElCloud Homeschool - Introducing Homeshooling High School

Erica from Be The One - Homeschooling High School

Laura from Day by Day in Our World - Homeschooling High School ~ A New Monthly Series of Posts

Tess from Circling Through This Life - Introducing the Homeschool High School Blog Hop!

Dawn from Double O Farms - Tapping into Great Resources for Homeschooling High School

Monday, June 1, 2015

Libera: Angels Sing {a Family Christian review and giveaway}

For the past couple of weeks, I've been listening to an absolutely fabulous CD from Libera.  They are a boys choir from London, and oh, they are just fantastic.

Angels Sing may just be my absolute favorite CD ever.  I am so grateful to Family Christian for this opportunity!

Of course, any album that starts off with Beethoven has to be doing something right.

I tend to be a little picky with my music, I know.  And I have fairly eclectic tastes.

I love classical, and this collection does include some of that.  Not just Beethoven, but Schubert, Pachelbel and Sibelius.

I love traditional hymns, the type I sang in church growing up.  There is some of that in here too.  Amazing Grace, How Shall I Sing That Majesty, and How Great Thou Art.

I like folk music, like Wayfaring Stranger, or songs from the early 20th century like Morning Has Broken.  I like more contemporary things too, and there is a smattering of that as well, such as How Can I Keep Myself from Singing? and What a Wonderful World.

Plus a few more titles that I skipped in this list.

What is amazing is that all these very different songs blend together into a wonderful collection.

I had the CD in the car, and no matter what started playing when I started the car, it calmed me down.  Now I have it on my computer, so I can listen along with whatever else I am doing.

I tried to play this when I went to bed, but I find myself singing along and not going to sleep.

I have a copy to give away! You want this, really, you do.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this CD and another for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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.”