Thursday, October 1, 2015

Review: My God and My All


As a Protestant, I’ve been a little leery of the word.

As a child, I never learned much about the “saints.” I did hear of Saint Francis of Assisi, particularly in reference to quotes such as his peace prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

So I found it interesting, and all brand new, to hear about Saint Francis’ life in my 8yo daughter’s history curriculum. I could easily see him as a saint in the biblical sense of the word. And I was ready to take on a more in-depth look into his life with this book.

Synopsis of Book

mygodandmyallENPerhaps more than any other figure in Christian history, Saint Francis of Assisi has captured our imagination, for his is a story of extreme self-sacrifice, of love to God and man. How could this wealthy, handsome youth cast away all the advantages that were his by birth and choose instead a career of poverty and humility? How could he attract members of all strata of society to his mission? And how, when his order became established throughout Europe, could he renounce great personal power and humbly continue his life’s work?

Here is Francis, from his twelfth-century boyhood to his life as a missionary roaming the very boundaries of the known world. Here too are the men and women who followed him – Bernard de Quintavalle, the rich businessman; Peter Cathanii, the lawyer; Brother Giles, the farmer’s son; Lady Clare; and so many others – all drawn together by the personal magnetism and humble faith of their leader, all re-created by bestselling novelist Elizabeth Goudge against a rich medieval canvas.

Of Saint Francis, Goudge writes:
It is as a Christian that he matters to us, as a humble, poor man who set himself to tread as closely as he could in the footsteps of Christ, perhaps as closely as any man has ever done, and by so doing he shames us. Looking at him we see what it means to be a Christian and what it costs. His story is not only endearing, it is terrifying. Yet without the fear and shame he would not have so much power over us, for we know in our hearts that what is worth having costs everything. And so his power lives on and we cannot measure it because it is nowhere near its end.

About the Author

Elizabeth de Beauchamp Goudge (1900–1984) was one of the most popular British novelists of the twentieth century. She had two #1 New York Times bestsellers: Green Dolphin Street (1944) and Pilgrim’s Inn (1948); the first was made into an Academy Award–winning film.

Goudge also wrote many acclaimed children’s books. The Little White Horse, whichHarry Potter author J. K. Rowling has said was her favorite book as a child, won the 1946 Carnegie Medal as the most outstanding British children’s book of the year.

Elizabeth Goudge’s Christian spirituality pervades all her work, but nowhere as explicitly as in her books God So Loved the World: The Story of Jesus Christ and My God and My All: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi. The New York Times wrote of her work, “Elizabeth Goudge’s novels, long or short, have always been distinguished by a quality of lyrical joyousness more usually associated with poetry than with prose and, perhaps, with music than with writing.”

Genre:  Christian classic 
Physical Description:  Paperback, 310 pages, 5.5”x8” 
List Price:  $16.00 paperback; $10 Kindle (currently $12.69/$8.49 on Amazon)
To Buy:
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Mom’s Review:

This is not a quick read. With 310 pages of small print, it can feel a bit overwhelming at first. For someone who does a lot of skim reading, this was a struggle to begin reading. There is little dialogue. I got lost and had to backtrack and re-read over and over, since every word had its place in setting the context and moving the story along.

So I started reading it aloud to my 8yo, and the words just flowed, almost like poetic prose. She didn’t stick around long, to be honest, but oral reading made me start to fall in love with the writing style.

Wow. What a story. Anecdote after anecdote, each one as inspiring as the last. Like the one about his “son” Ruffino, who struggled with public speech. After refusing a command to preach at Assisi, Francis, in a temper, ordered Ruffino to go speak without his clothing. And he did, much to the mirth of the townsmen. Francis, feeling remorse, listened patiently to Ruffino stumble through his sermon. And then, taking off his own clothing, he joined Ruffino at the pulpit, quieting the crowd’s laughter with a sermon on Christ’s poverty and nakedness.

The author gives an underlying desperation to Francis’ story – a fear and determination not be be lost. However, the overwhelming joy, of the privilege of taking up the cross with Christ, is by far the dominant theme of his life. I love that blend of humility and joy – and the story makes me want to model that!

Francis’ story of humility and service is set in the historical context of a gluttonous church – full of power and wealth – and the details of history the author gives makes the story that much more meaningful. It is clear in my mind that, in spite of the flaws Francis was quick to admit to, God used him in a miraculous way to shift the course of Christianity upward from its downward spiral.

If you’re a history lover, if you want a story that will inspire you to greater faith, this book is for you.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Handlebar Central for coordinating this book for review. 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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: The Prince Who Was Just Himself

Fist bumps. High fives. Handshakes.

Doors held open for me.

Comments on what I’m wearing.

Talk about the weather.

Uncontrollable giggles.

Undeterred focus on a task.

Impromptu concerts with guitar and keyboard.

Costumes worn every day throughout the month of October.

Showing off Special Olympics medals.

I work with people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. It has got to be one of the most inspiring, friendliest fields of work available. I seem to have a smile on my face a lot – when I’m not holed up in my office tracking pennies…

So along comes Miss Esmé. “What’s wrong with these people?” she asks, not as quietly as I’d  wish. “Why are they so different?” 

I tell her how one lady brought her some favorite stuffed animals shortly after she was born, and every time I see her, she asks, “How’s Es-a-mé? She’s growing up, huh?”

I give Esmé the Wikipedia version of what I/DD is, what Down syndrome is. But it doesn’t paint the full picture, in her mind, of why I’m inspired every day at work.

So along comes this sweet book – perfect for all royalty-loving kids – that explains not only what is different, but what is right.


Synopsis of Book

Cover thumbnail of the book, The Prince Who Was Just Himself.The royal couple is looking forward to their third child. “He looks a little different,” muses the king at Prince Noah’s arrival. “He is not like the others,” agrees the queen. Soon they notice what a very special person he is, even though he can’t do everything his brothers can.

When the youngest prince disarms the cruel knight Scarface, the nation’s most dreaded enemy, with an act of compassion, everyone finally realizes how good it is that each person is unique.

This delightfully illustrated fairy tale for children three years and older instills appreciation for children with Down syndrome and other developmental challenges, making it a valuable aid for teaching tolerance in the home or classroom.

About the Author

Silke Schnee is a journalist and works as a television producer for a public broadcaster in Cologne, Germany. She is married and has three sons. Her youngest son Noah was born in July 2008 with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome). She writes: “At first when Noah was born, we were shocked and sad. The catalyst for this book was witnessing the effect he had on many people, despite being categorized as disabled. In fact, our little prince brings much love, joy, and sunshine not only to us, but to all around him. Children are a wonder, and we must see them with the eyes of our heart: each child just the way he or she is.”

Age Recommendation: 3-9yo
Genre:  Children’s book 
Physical Description:  Hardcover, 32 pages, 8.5”x11” 
List Price:  $16.00 (currently $14.25 on Amazon)
To Buy:
For More Information:

Mom’s Review:

  • The Topic. With 1 in 691 babies in the US being born with Down syndrome, chances are pretty good that your child will know someone who has it. This book is the perfect launching spot for a discussion on what it is, how we are more alike than different, and how we can appreciate the differences.
  • The Storyline. This fairytale storyline is perfect for grabbing kids’ attention! It’s got the royalty appeal for kids like Esmé. It’s got the adventure appeal with an impending battle. It brings up the differences in a way kids can relate to – after all, it’s important for all of us to be ourselves, and we are all unique. And the boy with Down syndrome becomes the hero because of, not in spite of, his differences.
  • The Illustrations. Sweet, whimsical, gender-neutral illustrations add to the appeal of the book.
  • The Personal Story. The author was inspired by her own family in writing this story. She has a son named Noah with Down syndrome, and it was observing his impact on others that led to this book. Her familiarity and appreciation of her son is evident in this book.
  • The Details at the End of the Book. For the kid who wants to know more specifics, there is a “What is Down syndrome” section at the back of the book.

I highly recommend this book! For parents, libraries, doctors’ offices, schools – this story is the perfect segue into acknowledging, understanding, and appreciating each others’ differences.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Handlebar Central for coordinating this book for review. 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.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Review/Giveaway: The Biggest Story

EveEsmé has grown up on Bible stories. When she was a bitty 3yo, she grasped tenaciously onto the story of the snake, acting the scene of the Fall out over and over again.

Concerned, I sat her down for a chat. What was her fascination with this serpent?

“Mommy, the serpent can really talk!” she exclaimed.

Of course, I thought.  My daughter has ALWAYS loved stories where the animals can “really talk.”  I generally explain that it’s just pretend, but for once, here is a story that’s NOT pretend, and the animal can indeed really talk.

Boy, can that snake talk. He’s distracting us, then reminding us of our failures, again and again.

But. Shining through the cacophony, there is the constant WORD – Logos – the ultimate communicator - the One who spoke and it was so. The Snake Crusher.

“In the beginning was the WORD, and the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God.”

“The WORD became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”

And the WORD, bruised for our failures, crushed that talking snake’s head.

All those colorful Bible stories – Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, the manger – they’re nice all on their own. Great for a bedtime story or a quick overview on a Sunday morning. But their power comes in their entirety. How do all these stories fit together into a vivid portrayal of the Snake Crusher and a return to the Garden?

Can a little kid understand The Biggest Story?

Biggest Story Esme Cover


Enter The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.

Synopsis of Book

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Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman. They were the happiest people on the planet.

True, they were the only people on the planet, but they were still terrifically happy.

Unfortunately, things didn’t stay happy and wonderful for long . . .

The Bible is full of exciting stories that fill children with awe and wonder. But kids need to know how all those classic stories connect to Scripture’s overarching message about God’s glorious plan to redeem his rebellious people.

In The Biggest Story, Kevin DeYoung—a best-selling author and father of six—leads kids and parents alike on an exciting journey through the Bible, connecting the dots from the garden of Eden to Christ's death on the cross to the new heaven and new earth.

With powerful illustrations by award-winning artist Don Clark, this imaginative retelling of the Bible’s core message—how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden—will draw children into the biblical story, teaching them that God's promises are even bigger and better than we think.

About the Author

Kevin DeYoung (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. He blogs at the Gospel Coalition and has authored or coauthored numerous well-known books such as Just Do Something, The Hole in Our Holiness, Taking God At His Word, What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, and The Biggest Story, as well as the award-winning books Why We’re Not Emergent, Why We Love the Church (with Ted Kluck), and Crazy Busy.

About the Illustrator

Don Clark is an artist and the cofounder of Invisible Creature, a widely respected and award-winning design studio based in Seattle, Washington. He has worked with clients such as Target, LEGO, WIREDmagazine, Nike, Adobe, XBox, The New York Times, and more. Don lives with his wife and their three children on a ranch thirty minutes southeast of Seattle.

Age Recommendation: 5-8 (read to me); 8-11 (read to myself) 
Genre:  Christian children’s book 
Physical Description:  Hardcover, 132 pages, 7”x9”
List Price:  $17.99 (currently $14.98 on Amazon)
To Buy:
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Biggest Story ContentMom’s Review:

  • The Story. I love how all those familiar little children’s stories are woven together in a bigger motif, a constant theme of God working to fulfill His promise. Each chapter is short enough to read easily at bedtime and wraps up nicely, but always with anticipation for the next chapter of God’s story.
  • The Illustrations. The colorful illustrations are what jump out immediately when picking up the book. Bright, bold, “cool designs,” as Esmé says. We would play a little game of looking at the chapter header designs and guessing what the chapter would be about. The illustrations make this an attractive gift book. They also tie the story concepts together. There are dark pages, monotonous pages, pages with a glimpse of light. Look at the bright, beautiful garden! biggest-story-related-media2x-1
  • The Humor. The writing is fun at times – not comedic but just enough to make you smile. Try reading this one aloud, and you’ll see what I mean: “How would God save a couple million people from slavery? It’s not like he could just turn the Nile River into blood and send frogs and goats and flies and disease and boils and hail and locusts and darkness and death until the king of Egypt let them go!”
  • The Age Range. The picture-book format, broken up into short chapters, can hold the attention of younger ones. However, the comprehensive way the stories are all tied together make this more than the ordinary picture book – it is thought-provoking for the olders as well.


Yes, I can offer one blessed reader an The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden.! We’re going simple with giveaway entries here: just enter a comment of any kind on this post, along with your email address or other way for me to contact you. A winner will be randomly selected on September 20. You must have a US or Canada mailing address to win.

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.

"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 coordinating this book for review and providing the giveaway prize. 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.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win this giveaway!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review/Giveaway: The Apologetics Study Bible

How do you answer the hard questions?

  • If God is real and we can’t see Him, why don’t you think mermaids are real?
  • If angels can become invisible, why can’t humans?
  • I know God created the world, but what do I tell other people who insist science and Creation are not compatible? Why do they think that?
  • How is Christianity different than other religions? Are the differences important?
  • My friend isn’t a Christian because her dad thinks it’s stupid, and he’s an atheist. But she’s a nice person. What should I say to her?
  • Why were people killed in the name of Christianity?
  • Why does God allow people to get sick and die? Doesn’t He want us to be happy?Apologetics

One of the challenges of raising Miss Esmé has been getting bombarded with such questions since she was 3yo. I love that she thinks about such things, but I don’t always have ready answers.

That’s where the Apologetics Study Bible for Students HCSB comes in handy!

Synopsis of Book

The Apologetics Study Bible for Students anchors younger Christians in the truths of Scripture by equipping them with thoughtful and practical responses for whenever the core issues of their faith and life are challenged.

Multiple research studies have shown that spiritual focus often weakens among teenagers as they head into the attention-dividing realm of young adulthood. Up to 66 percent of them leave church altogether. The Apologetics Study Bible for Students works against that trend by helping this audience begin to better articulate its beliefs. In addition to the complete HCSB text and dozens of articles collected from today’s most popular youth leaders, including editor Sean McDowell, this new study Bible also includes:

Two-color design-intensive layout on every page for the visual generation Sixty “Twisted Scriptures” explanations, fifty “Bones & Dirt” entries (archaeology meets apologetics) Fifty “Notable Quotes”, twenty-five “Tactics” against common anti-Christian arguments Twenty “Personal Stories” of how God has worked in real lives Twenty “Top Five” lists to help remember key apologetics topics.

Age Recommendation: High school/college 
Genre:  Study Bible 
Physical Description:  Formats available include black/tan, steel blue, or dark brown/coral imitation leather, as well as hardcover and paperback
List Price:  For Indexed Hardcover: $44.99. Currently on sale for $31.49 (30% savings)
To Buy:
For More Information:

Mom’s Review:

  • The Translation. I found this to be a very “readable” version. This was an introduction to the Holman Christian Standard Bible for me. It is a modern language translation that combines word-for-word with thought-for-thought philosophies to allow for a smooth reading experience. In the instances where it veers from a literal translation, footnotes allow the reader to still access that literal translation.
  • Articles, Twisted Scripture Notes (60), Challenges and Tactics (25). These segments, interspersed throughout the Bible, are the parts that answer all those questions Esmé pops up with. There is an index at the front if you’re looking for a specific topic, but it’s also fun to just start up a discussion on whatever shows up on the Bible section we’re reading. These are written by a variety of authors, and it’s interesting to see similar topics addressed from different angles.
  • Bones & Dirt Notes (50). If your student is into history, these are interesting to read. You can see how current events and places relate to the Bible text.
  • Personal Stories (20). This would probably be Esmé’s favorite aspect. Twenty personal stories make scripture obviously applicable to today’s youth.
  • Book Introductions. These are narratives in a conversational style meant to reach the student in a modern culture. The “What in the world is going on?” section is my personal favorite as it pulls together historic details from around the world. For example, while Psalms were being written, not only was the Iron Age beginning, but the “chiefs of the Olmecs, a pre-Columbian people group in southern Mexico, play an extremely violent, ritualistic ball game juego de pelota.”  It just intrigues me.
  • Index Tabs. The format of the book we have includes index tabs to help Bible students find the books of the Bible. We found that quite useful.
  • Formats. Speaking of formats, look at this pretty Espresso/Coral cover! Lots of format choices to meet your student’s preferences!

Some Precautions:
This isn’t a fit for everyone. If you fall into one of the following categories, think seriously before purchasing.

  • Politically Correct. The notes are mostly written from a socially conservative perspective. They tackle abortion and homosexuality pretty directly, for example. One of the articles that was most pertinent to me was “Do Christianity and Politics Mix,” and I agree with the point that trying to keep secular and sacred separate essentially pigeonholes God.
  • Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness. There are sections that take on the biblical veracity of Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness beliefs head-on.

The notes go into doctrinal issues in depth, and there were a couple here and there with emphasis that didn’t exactly line up with my personal beliefs, for example, on the topic of hell. Overall, however, I found the notes to be insightful and a great resource for strengthening my daughter’s Christian beliefs and positions in a world that seems less and less tolerant of those positions every day.


Yes, I can offer one blessed reader an Apologetics Study Bible for Students HCSB! We’re going simple with giveaway entries here: just enter a comment of any kind on this post, along with your email address or other way for me to contact you. A winner will be randomly selected on August 19. You must have a US or Canada mailing address to win.

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.

Free Weekly Resources!

The good stuff isn’t over yet! There are some great video resources available to you for free! Maybe you’re interested in how to answer the accusation that the Bible demeans women. Or you’re not sure what to say to the media-favorite question: should abortion be allowed in the case of rape? Or perhaps you have a smarty-pants kid like mine who wants to know if God can make a rock so big He can’t lift it. You’ll find all these topics and more at

ApoSB_ChurchLeaders_Banner300x250 (1)

You’ll also have a chance to win the Confident Faith Sweepstakes – a free Bible, a mini Apologetic Library, or even a free trip for two to hear some Christian apologetics at NCCA! Apo_eBlstSB_SwpLogo_2 (1)

"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 coordinating this book for review and providing the giveaway prize. 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.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for your chance to win this giveaway!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Review: Passport2Purity

This past winter, I kept seeing these little signs that it was time for “the talk.” That birds-&-bees-&-so-much-more talk. I wasn’t ready for it, so I pretty much ignored them.

Then I got this review opportunity in my email. I wasn’t ready for it. I ignored it.

It showed up again.

OK, God, I get the point. I signed up for the review. I still wasn’t sure if this would just be something I skimmed through and reviewed, waiting for the right time for “the talk.”

As the review deadline got closer, I tentatively made plans for “the talk.” I was all ready for God to intervene and cancel the plans.

He didn’t. Instead, there were more signs.

So we had “the talk.”

Out of respect for my daughter’s privacy, I won’t be giving a lot of details on “the talk.” I just want to say that God’s timing is always right. If you’re seeing the signs, don’t delay!P1130176

Synopsis of Kit

A life-changing getaway with your preteenPassport2Purity® Getaway Kit

Your child begins the journey into adolescence in a world of sexting, bullying, online stalking and moral defiance. Innocence is under attack, and you cannot win the battle with a single awkward talk or a strict set of rules. The primary defense for your child is a strong relationship with you and with God.

FamilyLife has developed Passport2Purity® (P2P) to assist you in building heart-to-heart communication with your preteen while laying a foundation of purity that will prepare them for the turbulent years ahead. Through the shared listening experience, object lessons and guided conversations of a P2P weekend getaway, you can set your son or daughter on a journey of moral integrity—and strengthen the bond between you.

Passport2Purity® is designed to be used by a mother and daughter or a father and son when the child is a preteen. It is suggested that the materials be completed over a weekend away from home, as the child may be more open to discussing the topics away from his or her normal environment. If this isn’t possible, the material can be completed over a period of four or five weeks.

About the Author
Dennis and Barbara Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, an international ministry to families and marriages, located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Dennis hosts FamilyLife Today®, a nationally syndicated broadcast bringing help and hope to nearly 1000 communities in the U.S. They have six adult children and a growing group of happy grandchildren.

Age Recommendation: Parent with preteen 
Genre:  Christian parenting
Physical Description:  one Tour Guide (parent), one Travel Journal (preteen), and eight CDs (5 sessions, scripture memory songs & MP3s that can be downloaded from the CDs)
List Price:  $39.99
To Buy:
For More Information:
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Mom’s Review: The Good 
This worked for us! Here are some of the things I appreciated:

  • The Special Event. There are step-by-step instructions to make this a memorable event for your child. If you follow them, this is something that will stick with your child forever.
  • The God Focus. It’s all about Him, and He is definitely a factor in all the sessions and discussion.
  • The Ease of Use.
    • Honestly, this isn’t the most comfortable topic! Having a third party bring up the topics and important factors via CD (not face-to-face!) takes away most of the stress, both on the part of the parent and child. The child doesn’t feel as singled out – other kids are going through this. Questions and discussion are much easier.
    • The sessions are lined up to cover easier subjects first and work into the more difficult ones later, so you can easily dive right in on a comfortable topic and float along for the ride.
    • Preparation is only as complicated as you want it to be. There is a separate to-do and supply list you can carry around as you get it done. The supplies are mostly items you probably already have, and a quick trip to the dollar store will wrap it up.
  • The Parents’ Role. This wasn’t a presentation with all the answers. There was a lot of emphasis on communicating with parents throughout the adolescent journey and respecting their boundaries and input.
  • The Interesting Presentation. Sound effects, audio skits, illustrations, personal experiences from a variety of people, and comments of other preteens keep the listener intrigued and engaged throughout all five sessions.
  • The Projects.  They seemed a bit simple to me at first, but they are memorable, give a nice break from the audio presentation, and the kids like ‘em.
  • The Scripture Songs.  These are inserted at various points throughout the presentation and add another bit of a break. Even if they are not your style of music, they grow on you and are very effective. I wasn’t particularly enamored with the theme song at the beginning, but it is stuck in our heads now and comes out at the oddest of times.
  • The Versatility of Experience Range.  The presentation gives enough information for those who haven’t a clue, but also has good content for those who have thought a lot about the subject already. I think it would be most effective at the beginning stages of pre-puberty.
  • The Grace Component. While the focus is on abstinence until marriage, there is a section covering those who may have slipped on the journey. I think this is vital to keeping the communication lines open with your child through the journey to adulthood.
  • The Follow-up Devotionals. Some of the best discussion happens after the event is over and information has had time to sink in. I like the extension given by the 25 student devotionals.

Some Precautions:
This isn’t a fit for everyone. If you fall into one of the following categories, think seriously before purchasing.

  • The Non-Weekend. Yes, this can be adjusted to fit your schedule, such once a week over a period of 4-5 weeks. But the presentation makes numerous references to your “special weekend” – so if you choose to schedule differently, prepare your child for the references and let her know why you’ve chosen to do it differently.
  • Abstinence as an Option. If you’re wanting a sex-ed presentation that covers the options and pros and cons of each option, e.g. gives information on safe sex and alternatives to sex, this isn’t going to do it for you. It presents abstinence until marriage as the right choice and draws the line pretty early in the physical relationship.
  • Nontraditional Family Structure. There are lots of references to family members in the intact nuclear format. If you have a nontraditional family structure, e.g. are a single parent, be prepared to deal with that.
  • Diehard Feminist. There is a little section that addresses how girls’ actions can influence the way boys react and treat them. I personally think this is a great topic to cover with my daughter, but I could visualize the nostrils flaring on certain people I know.

Overall, this was a perfect fit for our family, and I highly recommend it for yours.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to FlyBy Promotions for coordinating this kit for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Day 1: Swimming with Guppies

The first day of our trip from Oregon to Missouri breaks forth bright and sunny as we finally settle down to the stressful business of packing. Which means Mom and Dad run helter-skelter around reminding each other of what the other needs to pack while forgetting what we are packing ourselves. While Miss 8yo Esmé stresses over what color hair tie to wear, what lip gloss to put in her purse, starts reading the first of the 8 books her Mom said she had to take on the trip, transfers everything to a bigger purse, or wanders around the yard talking to moths or pretending to be a raccoon.Books

Finally all packed, in the car, driving around the backyard, I say, “I see the lawn maintenance guy you organized is at work already – good job! It’s gonna take him the the whole two weeks we’re gone to get through the whole yard.” Deer

And then, “Have you seen the cat?”

“No, that was your job to keep track of him,” is the response.

So we drive back around to the front door and take a check inside to make sure Mr. Flamey isn’t locked up in the bedroom, where he will die since his food and water is set up in the utility room. We don’t find him there, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t there, since he is a master hider when he chooses not to be found (as opposed to a master loud nuisance when he demands your attention). He has free access to the outdoors, so he could be anywhere. I make a few circles around the yard with no Flamey sightings. And I am doomed to live the entire trip in fear that we will find a dead skeleton of a cat in our bedroom on our return.

Finally, on the road several hours later than planned (if you can call anything we do “planning”), heading east along the North Umpqua River, wondering if anything else along this road trip can compare to its beauty. A few obligatory calls to Esmé to “Look out the window, for Pete’s sake” as we pass Mt Thielsen and Diamond Lake. Unfortunately, she can see absolutely nothing on the left side of the road since we have luggage piled up high, so I’m hoping most of the sights will be on her right. Daddy keeps forgetting and tells her to look anyway, so we revisit this issue numerous times. I snap another grainy picture through the windshield for your viewing pleasure.Road

As we approach the T junction on the other side of the mountains, we debate the merits of going north through Bend and Idaho or south through Nevada with the destination of Salt Lake City by Sunday evening. South is a half hour shorter, so it wins, even though it means Esmé will never in her life get to check Idaho off her “states visited” list.

It turns out to be a beautiful choice. We figure out how to get on Hwy 140 heading towards Winnemucca, Nevada. Eastern Oregon is surprisingly green along this road, which follows a beautiful little river a ways through forest and countryside.

A few hours into the trip, Esmé is ready for it to be over. At least for an opportunity to get out and stretch her legs a bit. So we pull over in a turnout – not much in the way of rest areas and shops and parks on this road. Esmé can’t find her flip flops. I start pulling out the luggage that is stacked at her feet and next to her, looking for them. Then Dad asks her, “Did you even bring them?” Apparently, just before leaving, she’d been cavorting through our yard, full of stickers and burrs, barefoot, which she never does. And I, stupidly sensibly, didn’t pack her flip flops because I assume she’ll sensibly wear them to the car. So I repack everything I unpacked and loan her my flip flops for the day, because we’re not going to get very far if she doesn’t stretch her legs. How much sadness can a mother take?Barefoot

I have a pair of flats, but they are packed in the very back of a suitcase in the very back of the trunk, so I’m pretty much car-bound unless I wear Dad’s size-13 boats.

She decides that she really likes oversized flip flops and claims my flip flops for her own. So much for painting my toenails yesterday.Shoes

We eat the sandwiches I’d packed and head on, making sure to buy gas regularly since we never know where the next station will be and cell service is sketchy as best. By this time, we are the only car on the road for miles at a time. It is still quite pretty, just in a different “dry” way.

Esmé is proving not to be a long-distance traveler at this point and regularly claims carsickness. We stop again for a leg-stretch break near Warner Canyon Ski Area, pretty deserted at this time of year – as we head into the Great Basin.P1120551P1120558

We stop and take the obligatory photos at the state line into Nevada. Much ado at this first border crossing – and it’s not like we’re holding up traffic! (And yes, we will be back soon, Oregon.)OregonNevada

Realizing Winnemucca is too far away if we want to camp, I do a search in a rare spot with cell service and locate Virgin Valley Campground, in Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge two hours short of Winnemucca. We have no idea what it will be like and are almost hesitant to turn off, since we are in the middle of desert-y nowhere with nothing around but sagebrush and hills.VirginSheldon

Immediately on the turnoff, we realize this is right choice. An opal mine, obsidian (and apparently geodes) lining the road, it is a rock hunter’s paradise. There are ponds all along the drive filled with fowl of the best kind, pretty orange heads, mallards, and much more. We find the campground with a nice assortment of other campers, and it’s free!

After finding my second pair of shoes, pitching the tent (surprisingly complete with no missing parts) and liberally applying OFF, Esmé digs for gold with a tent peg.P1120565

Then we make the discovery of the night. There is a geothermal pool filled with guppies, bass, and tadpoles. The water also feeds a couple of showerheads so you can soap up and shower afterwards. So Esmé has her first swimming experience of the trip in quite the memorable place, catching guppies and watching tadpoles dart up and snatch them for snacks. And I have my first spa pedicure as the guppies nibbled the dead skin on my feet. Lovely.P1120567P1120569

We survive the night with only a few mosquito bites and wake up ready for breakfast and the next day’s drive.P1120574

I take a photo of the pool in daylight, as well as a nearby building.P1120578P1120577

Then, because our car isn’t heavily loaded enough, we stuff nooks and crannies of our overloaded car with rocks choice obsidian specimens, though we don’t come close to the 7- pound-per-person limit. Then we head on down the road to Winnemucca, vowing to come back for a full weekend of camping sometime soon.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Jesus!


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Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Fragment: T I A Part 2

Originally posted July 27, 2008

Esmé pours rocks inside a plastic bag with no bottom. Her girlfriend had had this wrapped around her foot, and when she took it off Esmé was quite fascinated with it. She tried putting the plastic bag on her foot, too.

And girlfriend found some ribbon from a cassette tape in the rocks and was "flossing her teeth" with it. Esmé had to try that, too!
Another little girl who found plenty of entertainment in a piece of tape!
There is JOY in Africa, friends! Found amidst the rocks, plastic bags, cassette ribbon, and tape.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Fragment: T I A

Originally posted July 25, 2008

You know that joke about the employee who takes time off because he would like to attend his mother-in-law's funeral, only to ask for time off again the next month for the same reason? (The punchline is that she isn’t dead yet.)

Well, in Mozambique I don't think people would get the joke.

For starters, people refer to extended relatives as brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. So when someone tells you his “sister” has died, it might be his cousin. And his “mother” might be his mother’s cousin. Seems sweet, but it’s a little disconcerting from an employer’s perspective when one tries to be sympathetic and keeps giving time off and funds for employee family funerals.

Remember our gardener, Antonio? The beanless guy? Yesterday he informed me that his wife just died, and he needs 2 weeks off and some travel money to fetch his son.

What? His wife died late last year – he took a month off then. Did he marry again already?

No, no. That wife was his second wife, his Maputo wife. His primary wife lived 3 days travel up north. And his son now has no one to care for him. The grandparents are dead, too.

How many more wives does he have????

Just these two. No more. Now he has no wives left.

My heart grieves for the motherless son. And once again I’m troubled by my lack of sympathy and compassion as an employer.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Fragment: What Esmé Needs

Originally posted July 23, 2008

    Here’s how it works – Google your name followed with a verb like “needs." Copy the first few results and add your own commentary.
    So here are our Thursday Thirteen for this 15-month-old bebe:

    1. Esmé needs to go date about 3 different guys and have the time of her life. Okay – I can do this, but I’m not sure Mommy and Daddy would approve until I’m a little older, say 16 months?
    2. Esmé needs her story now. Did you know there was a song by Jawbreaker about me? Neither did I! It’s not exactly kiddie music, though, so I’m not linking.
    3. Esmé needs love. Definitely! I’ve got plenty of it, thank goodness.
    4. Esmé needs to address her bank accounts. And which ones might those be? I got a piggy bank full of change – maybe I should bank it?

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