Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Good Night Tales- The stuff that the best traditions are made of

“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”

― C.S. Lewis

As is always the case, C.S. Lewis speaks the truth with this quote- it seems truer and truer the more children's books I dive into with my kids. "The best kids books" has become my area of expertise in a pretty big way in these years of young kids and homeschooling. I honestly love my kid's favorites books as much as they do, maybe more so in some cases! I have always loved well done children's picture books-bringing home a big stack of them from the library was one of my very favorite things. I was so pleased to be able to renew that tradition with my own children when they came along. Since I have started homeschooling my children, I have found that the consistently best quality books are the classics from years gone by. I have memorized book lists of titles to be on the look out from generations past. It's always a very pleasant surprise indeed when I run across a modern new release that I feel is worthy of a place on my bookshelves. 

 C.S. Fritz's Good Night Tales: A family treasury of read aloud stories has proven to be such a rare treasure. I love everything about this rich volume. From the gorgeous illustrations to the meaty and mysterious tales. This is one of my very favorite children's books to date.  

 The hand sketched "maps" in the end pages and all the deep and moody images throughout the book are just so engaging, even entrancing. It's truly like entering another realm and painting new images in your imagination that will surely stick there. 

The stories within these pages, most are parables of the parables and I find them so heart stirring and fascinating. Honestly, they are not the most straight forward stories you will ever read to your children, but I kind of love that. Like Jesus's parables, these tales make you really stop and think. a few of the stories are even wordless to up the thought provoking quality. I am trying to train myself to let my children alone with stories and their morals and themes but I do appreciate the discussion guide in the back of the book with coordinating scripture and questions for each story. I think it will prove useful for many parents!

I honestly think I would have missed this book if i hadn't have been given the opportunity to review it, so I want to make sure I make it known to other parents looking to immerse their children in best of the fantasy worlds to discover the deepest truths of our world. This book will be on my "must gift" list, right up there with The Jesus Storybook Bible

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.-
Matthew 18:3

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for the opportunity to review this remarkable book.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Christian Biographies for Young Readers- Irenaeus

The world is a darker place today than it seemed to be growing up- of course there are multiple things that affect this perspective including the oblivious innocence of youth- I don't remember headlines flashing with the massacre of practically an entire church congregation, practically an identical size and demographic of our own church body, no less, and the targeted annihilation of believers by Muslim extremists in the Middle East. In the midst of all this chaos and fear, I am attempting to raise these Little People-Little Believers even- to follow Christ and always hope, no matter what. To procure such deeply important roots into my children would be practically too much if relying on my own wisdom and experience, thankfully I have most crucially the Scriptures and also the advantage of some wonderful resources on the Faith.

One such enriching resource I recently added to our family's library is Simonetta Carr's, Irenaeus: Christian Biographies for Young Readers. What an encouragement to any Christian's faith to hear the noble stories of the those who have walked those path before us and stayed faithful, even to the point of death. I especially admire that first generation of believers from the infancy of the Church who fervently lived out the gospel even in the face of intense persecution. The idea of especially my children enduring such trials shakes my Mother Heart to the core, but it truly seems that children can sense the cruelty and challenges of life and want those heroes to look to imitate in their own trials. My boys have loved the Torch Lighters series, specifically the story of Perpetua and it seems that this book on Irenaeus will be a great follow up in learning about the Early Church Martyrs and Heroes. 

I was impressed and challenged myself while reading through this comprehensive and engaging biography on one of the Early Church Fathers and Defender of Scriptural Integrity. The book begins by introducing us to the world Irenaeus was born into and those who influenced him and his beliefs during his formative years. We then learn of Irenaeus' becoming a leader in the church during a period of intense persecution and how he faced the task of comforting and strengthening the faith of his flock. 

I particularly liked the chapter- For the Love of Truth. I found Irenaeus' refuting the false claims of the Gnostics to be so relevant to even our Christian cultural today. From wondering how people could possibly not give credit to the Maker for the beauty of the starry night sky to calling out the Gnostics for manipulating verses to fit their teachings by taking them out of the context of the correct scripture passage- Irenaeus fought valiantly to protect his flock from deception and also uphold the validity of Scripture for even us today. I am so glad to have this beautiful book to introduce my children to a hero of the faith. The text is both informative and encouraging and gorgeous illustrations plus some fascinating examples of historic relics from Irenaeus' time period. I would highly recommend this book to Christian families!

Thanks to Reformation Heritage Books and the Cross Focused Review program for providing me with this book to share with my readers. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Curious Christian- A Title I would Happily Wear

A sense of wonder is the feeling that envelops my childhood memories. Discovery, awe and time "lost"- in thought, enjoying nature, listening to music. A full life was taking things in- learning, exploring, experiencing. And then I grew up and a successful life was putting out- checking off to do lists and being productive. It didn't take me long to realize that to "grow up" didn't leave much time and space for those things my childhood were characterized by and I assumed that was okay because I had to mature. Then I had kids and I realized I pretty much was just "doing", there wasn't a lot of "being". My sense of who I was pretty well depleted- I had been so focused on the putting out that adult life and motherhood required that I hadn't been investing anything back in. As my boys grew and became more aware of the world around them, I saw that childlike sense of wonder in them and I wanted to make sure it was cultivated. The best way to teach is by example- I wanted my children to be life long learners so I needed to be learning my whole life long.

 A rich and intriguing book that helped me to flesh out the why and how of staying curious in life and even how that applies to and affects my christian life was The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper. Barnabas is the son of well known pastor and author, John Piper, but he gives the credit for his sense of curiosity and thus the content of his book to his mother. This made my Mama heart smile and was an encouragement to dive into this book with abandon.  I loved that Piper began with the side effects of the Uncurious- binary thinking, missed connections, depleted friendships and love lost; Things we'd all rather stay away from. The books premise is that a sense of wonder and curiosity enrich every part of life. "In the end I want you to see that curiosity is more than a mere habit. It is a discipline, a skill, a habit- one that will expand your life in magnificent, if subtle, ways." 

Piper starts out by tackling the very predicament I struggled with in "growing up"- leaving behind childhood pleasures for adult responsibilities. He poses the question, "What if we leave behind childishness but not childlike?".  he then reminds us that discovery is part of our calling by God- to explore both His word and His world. We can and should always be searching for Truth in the world and in the people around us. By being curious, we will constantly be learning, always be in awe and ever be deepening our relationships. Piper touches on how the best education makes us ever-curious people and solidified some of my reasons for teaching my own children at home so I can share in their pursuit of Truth, Goodness and Beauty. 

I appreciated Piper's ideas on how a spirit of curiosity, coupled with the fruits of the spirit, could really make the Church a more vibrant and engaging entity. "Curiosity in action will lead us to ask questions of those who we perceive as different that allow them to speak for themselves and express the beauty and strength of their culture." Being truly curious means we truly ask and want to see before we judge. I thought it was balanced and wise that Piper included that while "curiosity did not kill the Christian" there are also boundaries to where we allow our curiosity to lead us. We can be a person of curiosity and conviction by "being willing to to listen arguments carefully and process them honestly, but do not move from a conviction without ample reason to do so." He also makes a good point about how grace and wonder allow us to maintain optimism about people while being realistic. We can be curious to know who someone is and assume the best and worst about them simultaneously by being wise yet gracious.

Piper also goes beyond the theoretical and philosophical and offers some practical advice on being curious that I thought was very helpful. He challenges up to consider what media and the like we are "inputting". He offers some questions to ask ourselves such as "How does this shape my life?" and "Is this trustworthy?". In the section, "On being cultured", Piper shares suggestions on cultivating an appetite and appreciation for quality literature, music, nature and science. He hits on so many interesting thoughts on such a variety of topics that it's hard to even scratch the surface of the substance of this book, but I thought the last chapter offered up some solid points for living a curious life: Be Interested, Be Humble, Look, Listen, Record, Ask, Go and Explore, Try Things, Read and Always Come Back to Scripture. "Curiosity is about God and for God. It is an expression of worship and it honors Him by exploring the depths and breadth of His creation." 

This is a book I will be periodically be rereading to remind myself of the worthiness of the pursuit of Truth and the beauty in Wonder. I hope I never stop learning and being in awe. I hope I maybe rub off on my kids a little, like they have immensely rubbed off on me. I hope one day my children each have a lively spirit of curiosity and that I am a part of some of the memories that cultivated it.

Thanks to B&H Publishing for providing this book to review. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Creating a Passionate Marriage for Life- the Mediterranean Way

This season of summer and pregnancy has been heavy on a parenting focus. My husband and I were able to take a little get away in early May to recharge as a couple before the busyness of summer and a new Little One joined our family. That was such a treat! We indulged in a classy hotel stay and had so much fun exploring a new to us town. We saw some amazing sights and enjoyed some delicious food. Even a short escape from reality is always such a refreshment for our relationship.  This time I enjoyed reading aloud to my husband as we drove from a great new marriage book The Mediterranean Love Plan: 7 secrets to lifelong passion in marriage.  

 Stephen Arterburn is an author I respect for the various titles he has released and was excited to see he was coming out with a book about marriage coauthored with his wife, Misty. The Arterburns have built a passionate and playful marriage over the years and share their "secrets" in this engaging book. They share in it's pages the secrets of attunement, playfulness, savoring food, enjoying beauty, creativity, health and longevity and how to blend the sacred and the sexual. Each chapter gives a picture of how the people of Mediterranean countries live out these areas and the satisfaction it brings to their relationships and lives. The authors then share very practical and applicable tips and strategies to enhance your marriage in the Every Day. 

 I was encouraged by this book to not only survive in marriage but continue to build a marriage that is both thriving and enjoyable. I feel there is a real need for resources to help Christian marriages in this department and the Arterburns have made a worthy contribution to this cause! 

 Thanks to Book Look Bloggers for providing me with this title to review.

A Faith that God Built: A great new children's book series

Wow, it has been so long since I have shared anything new with You All! Summer and a pregnancy that is so very close to coming to an end have really kept me preoccupied the last few months. We have enjoyed several fun adventures and a lot of baby sister prep this summer. But August has defintely brought the summer heat and with that, a reason to spend some time indoors with some fun, new picture books. One of the best in our pile has been The Frightening Philippi Jail by Gary Bower. 

 This is the first of his A Faith that God Built series that we've read and I was really impressed with it! Each book in the series features a foundational bible story and and introduces it in the build upon rhyming format of the house that Jack built. The Frighenting Philippi Jail is about the miraculous recscue of Paul and Silas from the the jail in Philippi. 

 The book starts out by introducing the very unpleasant conditions of the jail- complete with "bugs and rats and slugs" and intriguing illustrations to match. This defintely got my boys attention from the start!

The story proceeds to tell how Paul and Silas shouldn't have even been in this jail but we're nonetheless singing praises to God and witnessing to the other prisoners. Of how their shackles miraculously fell to the floor and this incident brought the jailer to Christ.

This book does a great job of bringing this important story from the Bible to kids in a captivating way. I am eager to add other titles from this series to our library! 

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for providing me with this title to review.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Different- Some Hope for the Mama of the Out-of-the-Box Child

Every child is unique and every child has their "issues" and challenges; but some children are a little out of the box in all areas, but specifically in the challenges department. There is a well earned general rule that parenting is straight up hard and each of your kids are individuals who need unique care, but some parents find that their child's needs are beyond the normal spectrum of child rearing. What a breath of fresh air to have a well known and much respected name in the Christian Mothering community step out and raise her hand and admit, "That's me." Sally Clarkson is not only an author I admire but also a "mentor" from a far- a woman whose life I greatly appreciate and strive to emulate. I always glean so much wisdom and practical insight from her books and am so impressed by the "fruit of her labors" that can be seen in her grown children. I really appreciate that she writes from a stage in life where she has seen the outcome of her methods and can share what was successful and what to avoid, but also has a humility and honesty that remembers what it was like to truly be in the trenches during the Little Years. 

In her latest book, Different: The story of an Outside-the-Box Kid and the Mom Who Loved Him, Sally and her son, Nathan vulnerablely pull back the curtains on what it looked like for Nathan to grow up with multiple challenges- including OCD and learning issues and what it took for Sally to parent him well. Sally is very honest with how overwhelmed and frustrated she was at times, but also so faithful to share how God met her there and gave her the strength and wisdom she needed to rise up to the task of really seeing Nathan's heart and needs thru his "issues" and how to love him like he needed to be. Nathan has bravely chosen to allow God to use the many struggles he's wrestled with over the years to be a connection to others who can relate and an encouragement to what a great God (and a good mom) can do for an out-of-the-box kid!

Mother and Son chronicle the highs and lows of navigating a "different" kind of childhood. I could definitely empathize with Sally's struggle to just accept the cut and dry advice of christian parenting books who suggested just more discipline and consistency in it. I don't personally have a child with any above and beyond challenges but even just in raising some strong willed and high energy boys, I have sometimes had a hard time swallowing the notion of more sternness and less understanding and grace. I really feel this book will be a tremendous blessing to the mothers of those special "out-of-the-box" kids, I know it was a refreshment to my Mama heart.  

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for providing me with this book to review!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A little bit of nesting + the urge to spring clean= a need for E-Cloth!

Nesting is a very real phenomenon in my pregnancies and it usually hits towards the latter half of my second trimester. We are definitely there! Between my nesting instincts kicking in and a little bit of sunshine (finally!) showing up to inspire some spring cleaning, I've been on a bit of a house keeping spree lately. 

When I first got married and starting my homemaking journey, I honestly used all the conventional cleaning products on the grocery store shelf. Febreeze, Lysol, Windex- that's what the magazines and such said clean looked like and I didn't know better. I remember cleaning a bathroom or another such confined space with those cleaners and feeling so light headed I had to step outside for awhile for some fresh air; that's not a great sign of a healthy house. Once I became pregnant with my first son, I knew a clean and healthy house was now my goal and those chemical laden cleaners had to go! I did a bit of shopping around (mostly online since especially then natural products weren't readily available in my rural area) and started to stock my cleaning cabinet with products I felt comfortable exposing myself and my children to. 

With my last couple pregnancies, I felt the urge to take my cleaning habits to a new level and make some of my own cleaning products from natural ingredients I had around the house so I fully knew each and every element in what I was using. I did a lot of online research and a bunch of experimenting- some worked amazingly well and others were a flop. It seemed especially hard to find a product or DIY recipe for an all purpose spray I could feel good about using on all the surfaces that my family came into contact with multiple times a day- the dining room table, the kitchen counters,etc. I really wanted to find a product that wasn't going to leave much of a residue (hard to find in a store bought spray) but also wanted to know that it was going to be killing bacteria (hard to feel confident about in a homemade product). Then I heard about about microfiber cloths, specifically the best brand on the market- E-Cloth. I was instantly impressed with the idea of being able to clean and disinfect my house with just a cloth, no chemicals needed! E-Cloth products do just that- removing dirt, grease and grime and are proven to remove over 99% of bacteria using just water. They do it all without leaving a chemical residue on surfaces or spray in that air! I initially started by trying out a couple of their multipurpose cloths and was really happy with the cleaning power they provided with just water and no lint left behind either. 

A house cleaning dilemma I have never been able to solve is a greasy, streaky stove top surface! I try to keep it clean of food and grime by wiping it down with a natural spray and such but can never get rid of the streaky residue. I was excited when I found out that E-Cloth offered a special cloth designed just for stove top cleaning and even more when they offered to let me give one a try and share my results with all of you! The range & stove top cloth is a double sided cloth offering a smooth, "normal" microfiber surface for general cleaning on one side and the other side has blue scrubbing stripes for tackling those hardened on food messes. 

Here's a before picture of my stove top before I really felt it needed a "spring cleaning" makeover. I keep it fairly clear of really big food messes but it's always got that streaky finish and had some built up gunk around the burners. I took out the burners and their pans and scrubbed the whole range top really well with the scrubbing stripes side of the cloth. It did well at clearing up the hardened grease rings underneath the burner pans edges. I went back over the whole range top and the stove door as well with the regular side of the cloth and removed more grime! I still felt like there was a bit of a streaky film left behind so I got out the glass & polishing cloth that I already happened to have in my cleaning cabinet. I buffed the whole stove with this cloth and it really provided the finishing touch! 

And here's the "after" shots- look at that shine!

All in all, I was very pleased with the range & stove top cloth and will be using it regularly with my kitchen chores. I would recommend this product but also would suggest having the polishing cloth to really finish up the job well. In fact, I think I am going to be picking up a couple more for myself with their current 2 for 1 deal

With adding a new baby to our family again in just a couple, short months- I know I will be doing a lot more deep cleaning projects and will be shopping E-cloth's selection for my cleaning needs. I was also excited learn that e-cloth is now available at Ace hardware. You can visit the Store Locator at to find your local participating store. 

You can find out more about E-Cloth and find out the latest about what they are up to by checking out their blog or following them on facebookpinteresttwitter or instagram