Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Review: The Berenstain Bears Easter Fun Book

My girls (ages 4, 7, 10) love activity books.  They are great for travel, time fillers, quiet time, and even for learning that feels more like playing!  My youngest girls love the Berenstain Bears, so I jumped at the chance to receive and review the new Berenstain Bears Easter Fun Sticker and Activity Book!

This activity book (geared according the publisher for ages 4-8) is colorful and of high quality.  There is a great variety of things to do- color pages, word search, mazes, patterns, numbers, sticker matching, matching, find the difference, cross word, etc.  There are many that require reading, so a majority of this book will not be great for the average four year old without help.  I'd say its more for young readers up until age 8 or 10 depending on if they enjoy the characters still or not.

While the book is titled "Easter Fun", most of the pages are spring themed.  Out of the 32 pages, only 10 have to do with church or the true Easter Story.

This activity book would make a great addition to a youngster's Easter baskets.  I'm sure my 4 and 7 year old will love doing this book together and sharing the pages appropriate for each other.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Review: Courage to Soar

I'm an olympic nut.  I can't help but get sucked in every 2 years (alternating winter and summer olympics).  The pageantry, prevails of the human spirit, the ups and downs of competition.  Ah!  I love it all.  Now, I'm a HUGE gymnastics fan.  I'm not an every four years kind of girl- I'm always up to date on the latest athletes, scores, and drama of it all.  Its a bit embarrassing, but I don't care.  So, when an opportunity to review the autobiography of possibly the Greatest Gymnast of ALL Time was presented to me, I jumped at the chance.  Simone Biles may have left into the hearts of living room watchers this summer at the Rio Olympics, but she has been making a case for greatness since 2013.  Her unfounded success in the gym paired with an unusual gymnastics backstory and a seemingly grounded personality makes her unique and intriguing.
Biles began her life in Ohio, living with her troubled and addicted mother and siblings.  After a stint in foster care, she and her sister were adopted by her biological grandfather and his wife.  A move to Texas and a family and stability she longed for allowed Simone to flourish.  Her extraordinary ability to bounce, flip, and climb was noticed, but more as a nuisance and a way for the diagnosed ADHD child to burn off energy each day.  Finally, at the age of 6 (late for elite gymnasts), she entered her first gymnastics class and quickly climbed the levels in the sport.  After a disappointing elite season in 2011, Simone came back stronger than ever and has been on top every since.  Multiple world championship medals and now a haul of olympic medals stamp her legacy of possibly the greatest gymnast of all time.

Bile's autobiography walks candidly through high and low points along the journey from foster care to olympic glory.  Given that she is still a young lady, many of the trials are of friendship, schooling, and the sort.  However, given the unique mindset of an elite professional athlete, there are deeper moments to enjoy.  I loved the insight into the US training camps held in Texas as well as some of the behind the scenes gymnastic tidbits.  This book is a fun easy read for gymnastics fans and a great read for tweens/teens.  I think my 10 year old may even like most of it, though some of the insights into foster care and adoption may be a bit over her head.  If you read this book to enjoy a great story from a remarkable athlete and young lady, you won't be disappointed. 

*I received a copy of this book for free in return for my unbiased review.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Book Review: Prayers & Answered Prayers

Teaching our children to pray can be a challenging task.  Prayer should be honest and open communication with God, but to some can feel silly as you talk out loud to 'no one'.  Prayer can often get habitual with the same 'Thank you for this day. Thank you for this food. Amen.' mantra.  I'm thrilled to see this new tool by Thomas Nelson Publishing to help your tween girl dive deeper into the spiritual discipline of prayer.  
First, this book is actually two small books held together in an outer cover.  The top one is focused on "prayer" and the bottom is how God often answers prayer, scripture, and promises of God to feel confident that the prayers from above are resolved or can be taken to the Throne.  The outer cover is sparkly and colorful, making it enticing for most girls.  The top and bottom books correspond, so when you do the top page you find the matching page number in the bottom book.  For example, page 15 "prayer" assignment asks "Do you ever feel upset?  Do you go to your bedroom or hide somewhere when you feel sad?  Draw a picture of where you like to go when you feel sad."  Then on the bottom "answered prayer" book the same page number says "God is always with you, and he loves you.  Look up Isaiah 41:10 and copy it here."  Some pages are fill in the blank, drawing, thinking, action oriented, or creative.  

Second, the promises are all scripturally based.  I love the weaving of God's promises to answered prayer.  Even when our prayers seem to big to answer, God is always there providing comfort and peace.  There are also a lot of scripture and exercises that deal with body image, confidence, and how we were all uniquely and lovingly created.  I think it is a great way to reach tweens at a level they are concerned with.  But, it also stretches them to subject areas that are not on the forefront such as caring for the elderly or praying for our leaders.

These books are full color and thick, high quality paper- almost like postcards.  This would make a great gift, stocking stuffer, spiritual birthday gift, or devotional for girls ages 8-12, but I could see even some younger teens enjoying this layout without it feeling 'babyish'.  My 10 year old will connect very well and I feel this will help her in her spiritual growth.  My 6.5 year old is not quite ready for this tool.  I highly recommend the Prayers and Answered Prayers set from Thomas Nelson.

*I received a free copy of this book for my unbiased review.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Book Review: Rhythms of Rest

Finding time to rest, sabbath, and building white space into a rhythm of life is something coveted by most of our society, yet many fail to achieve at actually 'finding' the time to be still.  I know I often myself as a homeschool mom of four girls finding excuse after excuse of why I can't Sabbath.  It isn't that I don't want the rest, it is just the unending piles of laundry, dishes, meals to prepare, and children to keep track of simply don't lend themselves to what one thinks of a Sabbath rest.

Shelly Miller has come alongside women to encourage them to find a rhythm of rest, creating an opportunity to Sabbath.  She gives insights and inspirations through her Sabbath Society blog but has now taken her thoughts, stories, and Scriptural references and put them into a new book called Rhythms of Rest.  I found this book to be empowering and encouraging to find the Sabbath that works for me, my family, and also honors the commandment God has given to set aside time to make it holy.

Some of my favorite portions of the book were:

  • The difference between routine and rhythm
  • Resting is not a 'waste of time'
  • Seeing the Sabbath as a date or love letter between you and God
  • What Sabbath isn't (getting out of the legalism and rules of what sabbath 'should be'
  • Finding the Sabbath rhythm in each day or week that works best for you
  • Using the Sabbath to listen to God's whispers
Miller has inspired storytelling style of writing.  While seemingly disjointed at times or often bouncing from one story to another, Miller often brings it together in a later chapter.  Miller shares many personal stories, letters from Sabbath Society members, and quotes from other authors.  At times, these continual quotes from other authors caused a disruption in the flow of the story I was enjoying from her heart, but I do see the benefit of seeing how the Sabbath is God-breathed and for man's benefit.  

If you are looking into incorporating more rest or a rhythm of sabbath in your life, Miller's book is a great resource to add to your reading list.

*In exchange for my unbiased review, I received a free copy of the book from Bethany House publishers

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Book Review: Raising an Original

The word original can branch off into a few slightly different meanings.  When something has become a template, to base all others off of, it has become and "original" work.  A person who is apparently eccentric or unique they are often referred to as "original".  Something that is created with time consuming perfection to the tiniest of details by its artist is an "original" work of art.  Our children are all these things and more.  Created out of the template of humanity God originally designed, they are uniquely woven with personality, temperaments, and talents with greatest of care by the One who knew them before entering their mother's womb.  Our kids our originals- so why do we try to fit them in the squarely small box society expects all to fit into?  We are not in the business of raising cookie cutter kids- but rather embracing the unique and original people God has entrusted us to grow into adulthood and steward faithfully.

Julie Lyles Carr is a homeschooling, Christian mom of 8 Originals herself.  Her candid examples of life in raising each of her unique people were part of what made her book Raising an Original so impactful.  This transformational parenting book has won a place in one of the top ones I will not recommend to fellow parents.  This is not a manual of how to 'get your kids to behave' or 'chore checklists that work', or even a 'discipline that matters' type handbook.  It is getting to the heart of who God created each original person to be and how to encourage them to embrace, use, and adapt to the unique strands God has woven into their lives.

One of the most profound sections for me was the section on parenting 'successful' children.  While our children are a long way off from college and career choices (but it will happen in a blink, I know), it is powerful and encouraging to see how the world's definitions of success are not necessarily in line with God's, nor do they fit the way our children have been woven to be success in their Creator's eyes.

The must read section I will come back to again and again is the ROPES assessment.  A wonderful took mimicking the DiSC survey to help understand personality temperaments, strengths, and weaknesses of each Original.  Getting a glimpse of understanding into what makes my children tick, enthusiastic, or drained of life will help me parent them better.  It has provided valuable insight into the children whose personalities are very different than my own and therefore require stewardship that conflicts with my natural instincts.

This book is a must have for parenting shelves.  New parents may find it overwhelming, but those who are in the midst of the elementary years will find incredible connections and value.  It will also never be too late to get your hands on this book and make an impact in how you relate to your own original.

*I received a copy of this book for free in return for my unbiased and honest review.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review: Greater than Gold

I love the Olympics.  Every four (well two I guess) years the best athletes around the world participate in high level competition.  The human interest stories behind the scenes and away from the medal stand can be equally as captivating.  I remember vividly David Boudia winning the historic gold medal in platform diving in London, but knew little of his story.  After seeing his testimony alongside his synchro partner, Steele Johnson, and their proclamation that their identity is in Christ I became intrigued.  Therefore, when given the opportunity to read his autobiography shortly after the Rio Olympics (where he won bronze individually and silver in synchro) I was thrilled.
Greater Than Gold is a story of a young man searching for greatness.  He seeks it in all the right places- athletics, fame, notoriety, success, gold medals, endorsements.  Blessed with physical talent and mental toughness, Boudia ends up near the top of his sport yet feels completely empty and broken.  In his youth, immediate gratification brought addictions and pleasures in drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and parties.    Despite a religious upbringing with a family of high expectations, Boudia had mastered looking good when it counted.  But despite all the fame he accomplished, Boudia reached a physical, emotional, and spiritual breaking point in September 2009 when he was shepherded by his coach and coach's wife at Purdue.  Accepting Christ transformed Boudia's heart, mind, body, and approach to success.  He truly was a new creation.  Life began to have purpose and meaning beyond medals and accolades.  It also allowed him a fresh approach to his sport perhaps allowing him to finally break free of his own enemy (himself) and win Gold in the London Olympics.  What perhaps is even more impressive is his eagerness to continue to honor Christ after things went well and seek help before it was even needed.

This book is an easy read but fantastic in content.  Scripture runs abound as Boudia shares his heart with the world.  He is honest, genuine, and a gentle storyteller. I found myself wishing to have coffee with him and his wife and share life together.  His story is one of finding purpose, getting rid of sin and idols created in life, and finding ways to shine God's light wherever you are placed.  

I highly recommend this book to anyone.  I could even see teens enjoying this story immensely.

*I received this book for free as part of booklook blogger program in exchange for my unbiased review.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review: The Princess Twins and the Birthday Party

It doesn't get more perfect for a little girl than a book about princesses and birthdays.  My girls love anything princess- the dresses, the crowns and they love birthday parties.  Therefore, I jumped at the chance to receive and review The Princess Twins and the Birthday Party the newest in the series by Mona Hodgson.  
Abby and Emma are twin sisters and princesses.  The book follows their birthday as they wake up, get ready in their princess finery, enjoy a breakfast with their parents, and then have friends over for a party.  The King tells the girls how thankful he is that not only are his girls beautiful on the outside but also on the inside because they are kind and loving to others.  During then party when one of the guests feels left out because her dress is too plain, the reader gets to see this kindness in action as Emma then proceeds to share her crown with her friend.  

Based on Ephesians 4:32, this story shows little girls how to actively be kind and compassionate to one another.  I also loved how showing while birthdays are a fun event- it does not have to be a selfish endeavor.  Birthday parties can still be an opportunity to show kindness to others even though the day celebrates you. The beautiful illustrations and easy level 1 reader make this book perfect for little girls ages 5-8.  

*I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my unbiased review.