Wednesday, December 30, 2015

God's Good News Bible Storybook from Billy Graham

Under the tree for my son this year was God's Good News Bible Storybook from Billy Graham. I was really pleasantly surprised by both the size and the quality of this book! It can be really hard to tell sometimes when you order books online, just what they are going to look and feel like. This book is quite large and has a durable cover and pages.

This is just an all around solid Bible Storybook. I haven't got the chance to read through everything thoroughly-- however, my kids and I have started working our way through it.

I really like that the selected scriptures are from the NKJV. The content is easy to understand for young ones, but it does introduce some more challenging words from the Bible. These have been great conversation starters. For example, today reading about Noah we got to talk about what "covenant" means. My son didn't know the word. I like that he can gain familiarity with some more difficult words and concepts from the Bible. Sometimes I feel like Bible storybooks are made so "kid friendly" that they don't do this.

The Storybook goes though the whole Bible, from beginning to end. Every few pages there is a "Note from Billy Graham". He offers a short devotional and tries to personally relate the stories to the kids. The illustrations are really lovely and vivid. This book really made a great gift. Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for the copy in exchange for my review.

Homemade Christmas

I knew things would be a little tight financially around the holiday season this year. Usually I pick up presents in the months leading up to Christmas. I find good deals and stash things away. Things had been so tight that I didn't have anything put up. I kept hoping that things would improve. Certainly, my husbands hours would pick back up and we would get a good check. However as Christmas grew closer, it became obvious that we weren't going to have much to spend this year. Two weeks before Christmas, looking at our last paycheck, it was certain.

Laying in bed one evening I was heartbroken that there wouldn't be much to give. I didn't need to get any presents, but I really wanted to provide my kids with something. I know it's silly. I tried to focus on what the season was really about, the birth of my Savior. I began to pray that the Lord would help me come up with something to make my daughter.  I have sewn for years and knew I had the skills to create something inexpensive but nice.

That night I began to brainstorm. I had two weeks until Christmas. Truly, the Lord inspired me. I wrote a list of ideas and began to excited. I knew if I could make most of my daughters gifts we would have more to spend on my son and his 5th birthday (two days after Christmas). I couldn't think of anything to make him, so I focused on Violet.

I decided to stock my daughter's play kitchen with felt food and kitchen things. She just turned three and loves to play restaurant. She takes our order and serves us imaginary food.

I spent a few hours on Pinterest looking at all the amazing felt food people have created. I knew I could make those things too! I spent $10 at Joann's and bought a huge pile of felt (I only used about half of it). The first things I made were felt cookies and then donuts.

I made a pear, apple slices, strawberries and banana slices. The only pattern I found online was for the pear. The rest I just created patterns for myself. By far the most time consuming piece I made was this cake-

I was finishing up the whip cream and strawberry slices night before Christmas Eve. I was so, SO sick of this project at that point!

I made her an apron and oven mitt out of fabric from my stash. I found her a rolling pin at Goodwill. I had some empty spice jars that I cleaned out and made labels for. I have been holding on to my old ceramic tea set to give her when she was old enough. This was the perfect time.

I had this old tin and decided to make a "teddy-to-go". Teddy was from Joann's. I made him a felt bed, blanket and pillow. He closes up snug in his tin.

I have some special little boys in my life who I wanted to give gifts to as well. These crayon wallets were really quick to whip up. They are not super fancy, but I think the boys liked them.

On Christmas Eve my husband and I sat down to wrap all the gifts we had for the kids. Truly, there was more than we could have imagined. The Lord really multiplied the little money we had. I found some great deals on other toys for both kids and birthday presents for my son. On Christmas morning as they unwrapped their things, I felt incredibly blessed. It was all so much sweeter and precious. The kids LOVED everything, both purchased and handmade. My husband even surprised me with a few small things.

It never ceases to amaze me how much the Lord cares. Truly, even if we hadn't been able to give our kids anything we are incredibly blessed with a home, food and safety. He provided when I saw no way that we could!   

Monday, December 21, 2015

Delighting in God by A.W Tozer

My newest read took me some time to get through! This book, Delighting in God by A.W. Tozer and edited by James L. Snyder was a meaty book.

If you are looking for a timeless and challenging non-fiction read this is right on. It is a amazing how relevant this book is to today's believer and church even though Tozer passed away in 1963. Whenever I sat down to read this I always had a pen in hand. It's the type of book I just can't read without marking up. A little more about the book,

"We were created in the image of God, and to understand who we are, we need to understand who God is. His very character and nature are reflected through us. Unless we fully grasp who we are, we'll never become all God wants us to be.

Delighting in God is the message Tozer intended to be the follow-up to The Knowledge of the Holy. He demonstrates how the attributes of God--those things God has revealed about himself--are a way to understand the Christian life of worship and service. We are here to serve and adore him, but we can only fulfill that role by acknowledging who he is, which is the essence of the Christian life and the source of all our fulfillment, joy, and comfort."

Next on my list is to read The Knowledge of the Holy while this book is still fresh in my mind. Thanks to Bethany House for the book, in exchange for my review. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Coloring Book

I am loving all the new coloring books for adults out there! This is my first one and I am excited to get coloring. This book by Payton Cosel Turner is suppose to be all about the 80's,

"Enter a magical world filled with your favorite little things.

Wander through a 1980’s-inflected dreamscape of stuffed animals and boom boxes, dance along with a joyful parade of woodland creatures--each page of this coloring book invites you to explore a different kaleidoscope-like universe of pattern, shape and image. From the mind of Payton Cosell Turner—the creative force behind the celebrated wallpaper studio Flat Vernacular—comes this all-ages ode to the wondrous objects that make life beautiful. The coloring journey you take through these exquisite hand-drawn pages will inspire and delight."

I missed the 80's by a few months and honestly don't have any nostalgic love for the time period. I loved the animals though! I think 80's lovers might be a little disappointed at the lack of 80's related things. There are certainly a few references, but a lot of the book is different animals.

I enjoyed the overall style of the book, the kaleidoscope like pictures were really beautiful. The quality of the paper and the book itself were top notch. I would just suggest looking at some of the pages before you purchase to ensure the style is for you! I received a copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.    

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Storm Days

Everything is gray and cozy around these parts. We had a week of storms on the Oregon Coast, and it doesn't seem to be easing up just yet. I was watching the lightening strike behind the mountain range. I just love this crazy weather. No better time to hunker down with the fire burning and a good book. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

27 Weeks

27 Weeks
Every pregnancy I marvel at how time can go so fast and yet so stinking slow. It wasn't until kids that the passage of time seemed so distorted to me. I am both antsy to finish what has been a hard pregnancy for me, and simultaneously needing every moment to prepare myself for her arrival. I don't know how these feeling can take me by surprise even the third time around.

Health-wise this has been a rough go. My back has been the source of most of my pain. I had moderate back pain with the other two, but this time has been debilitating. Even with the help of a chiropractor I can't do much some days. I am thanking the Lord my Cholestasis (more about that here) hasn't begun yet. I generally don't get it until 30+ weeks and hopefully it won't be until the end of my pregnancy. Or maybe not at all! I can always hope!

I thought I would have everything ready to go for this baby, since we do have a lot of baby gear. I'm finding that after two littles, a lot of stuff is getting pretty worn out! My infant car-seat is expired, my moses basket broke and most of my bottles are missing parts. I am sort of dreading buying all of this stuff over again- especially considering that this might be our last babe.

We are all rejoicing that another little lady will be joining us before long. Despite some not-so-fun things, this has really been a special pregnancy. It fills my heart to the brim seeing the love my two big-kids have for baby Elsie!

Slow Days

We have been snug in our house around these parts. The wind and rain have knocked every last beautiful leaf from our trees. Winter is certainly upon us. I can't say I'm sad about it either. I love the stormy weather. Most days have a break in the rain for us to go on walk, which is currently keeping us sane. 

I have been keeping myself busy making homemade dolls. It began as a project I started for Violet's birthday. I made her and her sister (in my belly) dolls. Then a friend ordered three from me. I really enjoy making these little dears.  

Something about their little clothes and sweet faces gets me every time. The second set I dressed in a romper, shirt and skirt and a dress. My experience making human-sized clothes actually really helped drafting the patterns. 

Besides the doll factory, we have been chugging along with school. Titus is just over half way through with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Some days are slow for sure. There are moments when it feels like we are dragging through the lessons. However, I cannot believe the progress he has made. The process really works for him. After school yesterday we flipped through some of the old lessons. Looking back on what was once hard and now is a breeze, was really eye-opening. This kid is learning to read! He will be five in a few weeks and I am so proud of him. His penmanship has improved a lot too. He wrote that little message to his dad a few weeks ago!


Monday, December 7, 2015

The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider


I love Mexican food. In my town of 1500 we have actually have a Mexican restaurant. It's pretty much what you would expect a small town Mexican restaurant would be... cheesy beans and rice and various burritos soaked in sauce. They try, but it's really not very fresh. When I crave Mexican it pretty much always comes out of my own kitchen.

I loved the idea of this Mexican Slow Cooker book by Deborah Schneider. A good crock-pot recipe is gold. I have made enough same-tasting-goo in the crock-pot to be skeptical of some recipes. However, Deborah has a lot of really great and original ideas for the old crock.

The book features Soups, Mains and Guisados, Street Food Favorites, Basic Rice and Beans and Other Sides, and even Desserts. A lot of the recipes are simple, flavorful dishes. There were actually quite a few things that I plan to make. It seems like the dishes are very authentic, although I am certainly no expert in that area. There are a few specialized ingredients that I wouldn't be able to find locally, but others might. Generally when a special ingredient is called for, and alternative is offered. Which I appreciate.
I should warn, this is not a set-it-and-forget-it book or recipes. There are maybe a few recipes that don't require any additional steps. For the most part though, the recipes ask you to take additional steps after you add the ingredients. Meat needs browned or taken out, the lid needs cracked or things need to be added. If you need to throw it all in the crock-pot and head for work, these might not be the best recipes. Personally, I am home all day with my littles, so a few extra steps doesn't bother me. If it gives me more depth of flavor I'm up for it!   

I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for my review.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Brave Enough by Nicole Unice

 I am not very brave... It's true. It's something I have struggled with my whole life. It's sad to think sometimes, of all the opportunities I have missed out on because I just wasn't brave enough.

In college I shied away from meaningful relationships because I was afraid of all those awkward "getting to know you moments". I see those girls now on Facebook, they are each others life-long friends... and me, well I doubt they remember me.

After I got married my husband and I moved to a new town. I didn't know a soul. We got involved in an amazing church. The people took us in like family. They loved us and discipled us. I still wasn't brave enough to go to the Bible studies, the church activities or pursue having people over. It took me three years to let those people into my life.

These last few year I have tried really hard to overcome some of these fears. I know that the Lord doesn't want me to live this way, bound up in insecurity. I have always had trouble breaking through surface relationships to real, deep, meaningful ones. I have really come a long way. It's funny, but as my life has become more complicated (having kids) I just don't have the time or energy for meaningless relationships. It is so freeing not to be bound up by so much fear anymore, however I don't know that I ever really dealt with what was behind those fears.

Reading this book Brave Enough by Nicole Unice has helped me examine what has really gone on in my heart. Nicole's friendly voice shares her own struggles and insecurities. Nicole get's to the heart of where our bravery comes form and examines the things that hold us back. This is a great book to read if you are ready to get real about the fear on your own life. I love the quote at the back of the book,
"find the courage to be who you are-- not who you wish you were."
I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

HASK Keratin Protein

 Lets just say that I am overdue for a hair cut...  I was just noticing a week ago that the ends were feeling dry and sort of gross. I know I need to get into the salon and get a trim and touch-up. Things have been so busy, it might be a little bit until that happens.

These Hask Keratin products are holding me over until then. I have used Hask products before, but never this keratin protein one! It has really helped moisturize and smooth my distressed hair. The smell is great and it leaves my hair super shiny. The keratin goes a long way in restoring and strengthening the hair shaft. My hair has seen its fare share of styling and the keratin helps revive after heat damage.

I love that these products are free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, gluten, drying alcohol and artificial colors. If you have color-treated or over-styled hair I would recommend giving these a try! There is a shampoo, conditioner, hair oil and deep conditioner. The hair oil doesn't leave my hair a grease slick like other products. It adds a lot of shine and is definitely more of a dry oil. The deep conditioner is just the treat dry hair craves. If you have color-treated or over-styled hair I would recommend giving these a try!

I was sent these products to try in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Parable Treasury by Liz Curtis Higgs

 This Parable Treasury was such a joy to read to my children! The book contains four seasonal stories.

The Parable of the Lily. a grace filled message about Easter and the joy of forgiveness.

The Sunflower Parable, a meaningful lesson about sharing God's love with our neighbors.

The Pumpkin Patch Parable, an uplifting tale of how God  can make us new inside and out.

The Pine Tree Parable, a tender story about the joy of Christmas and unselfish giving.

The stories are sweet and simple. My children were able to easily understand the underlying message of the stories without being told. I love to be able to celebrate the seasons with my children and this is such a fun way to do that.

The book is actually pretty large. The cover is lightly padded and sturdy. All the illustrations are bright and cheery. This book would make a great present!

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

 I *might* be a major speculative fiction nerd... I just love a good fantasy book. I was already familiar with Patrick Carr from his book A Cast of Stones. I read it on a whim a year or so ago. The book was free on the Kindle (and still is). I decided to give it a go and was pleasantly surprised. Free Kindle books can be hit and miss, usually a lot of miss. This book was interesting and unique and caught my attention. I was excited to see his newest work The Shock of Night published by Bethany House.

The book centers around one man, Willet Dura. Willet is the king's Reeve and basically acts as a detective in his city Burnard. When he is called to the scene of the newest murder in town, his life gets infinitely more complicated. He is gifted a dying man's mysterious power. Willet's dark past and the complexities of the gift intertwine in an interesting and dangerous story.

The Darkwater forest is somehow infecting people who enter, making them unstable and downright evil. These people snap and kill with an unusual strength and speed. The man whose death Willet is investigating, Elwyn, belongs to The Vigil. The Vigil monitors the forest and those who become infected. Willet's new gift binds him to the Vigil. Willet himself was forced into the forest years ago, but survived. His memories of the place are locked away and his experience unclear. Will Willet become the member the Vigil desperately needs or will he too snap?

For the first half of this book I was absolutely captivated. There are so many mysteries and interesting twists, both internally for Dura and externally in the story. I found myself questioning who to trust and whether Dura himself was the real enemy.

Carr builds the city of Burnard around you; one really gets a sense for Willet's world. The reader comes in contact with every class of citizen from the king and nobility to the poorest street urchins. Willet himself is a natural detective and interesting main character. I thought all the character development was great. There were a lot of different characters in the book but Carr made them all come to life. The friendship developed between Willet and his guard Bolt was one of my favorite parts of the book.

There were so many small threads in the plot that were left unexplained. I had great anticipation for the second half of the book, believing that these things would eventually come together. There are perhaps a dozen instances left unexplained and not fully fleshed-out. To me the mark of a really good fantasy book is when you have all these dangling threads--- and then almost magically it seems the author weaves them back into the story one by one. Each one coming together to make the story more interesting and complex. Details that don't seem to have a purpose suddenly hold meaning.

My problem with this book is that these details are just not added back into the story. Obviously, this is the first book in a series. There is no need for the book to end on a complete note. However, I thought the book just left too much unsaid. More details of the story needed to come together and make sense. The end of the book felt rushed and unnatural. It felt like it was missing an ending and the reader was left with no resolution. I think at times this sort of ending can aid in a sense of anticipation for the next story, however this just annoyed me.

There were a few instances in the book where I had to re-read a section to understand what happened. One instance was a major plot-changer and I couldn't figure out what was going on. I just had to read on and try to piece what happened together.

Even though I found myself much more interested in the first part of the story than the last, I still enjoyed it. I know I will seek at out the next in the series when it becomes available. I really enjoy Carr's writing and I think he has grown into a great fantasy author. I never imagined when I read that free ebook ages ago that I would find a writer of such great depth.  

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Trim Healthy Mama

 I have have been meaning to review this book for a few weeks now-- I just don't know where to start! There is so much I could say about Trim Healthy Mama. I'll give you a quick rundown on what the plan is, and then my review of the cookbook itself.

Pearl and Serene are the sisters behind THM. Back in 2012 they wrote the first book Trim Healthy Mama. The book is about losing/maintaining weight and having a healthy lifestyle. There is a lot of content in that one book. It is packed with advice and recipes. The books was so helpful to me. Besides cutting sugar and most carbs I learned how to fuel my body so that it didn't store fat. The downside of the book was how confusing the format was. The layout jumped around a lot. There are no color photos of any of the recipes. While Pearl and Serene's writing is very enjoyable, the book really needed an update.

Which is just what the ladies have done. Now you can purchase the THM cookbook  and the separate THM Plan book. The cookbook doesn't go into any detail of how the diet works, so you really need the companion Plan book if you are new to this. I only have the cookbook right now, and refer to my old copy of the original book if I need help.

The THM cookbook is full of a TON of new recipes and a few old favorites. Everything is updated and the photos are gorgeous. Having pictures of all the recipes is unbelievably helpful. I am now inspired just by looking at the photos. I'll be honest, there are certain recipes that do not sound appealing to me. However, looking at the delicious photos will prompt me to give it a try.

This is this resource I have been waiting for since I got the original book years ago. I am pleased that it doesn't disappoint. The only thing I would change about the book is that many recipes are written with their specific THM products as ingredients. Pearl and Serene sell their own sweeteners, baking blend and many other THM products. The products are reasonably priced, however I prefer to by my own sweeteners/flours elsewhere. Many of the recipes call for their baking blend. This is frustrating because now I can't make these unless I purchase their specific product.

All in all, this book is a great addition to my cookbook library. I received it from Blogging for Book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Goodnight, Manger by Laura Sassi

 The nights are getting colder, things are getting cosier. It's a sure sign that all things Christmas are right around the corner. This Goodnight, Manger book by Laura Sassi seemed like just the ticket. This book really surprised me, and not in a good way...

The appearance of this book was impressive right off the bat. This hard-covered book comes with a dust jacket and vibrant illustrations. The pictures are so rich and beautiful. The colors evoke such a warmth and sweetness. The illustrator, Jane Chapman did a great job.

Unfortunately, that's about all I liked about this book. The actual content of the story was just bizarre to me. The story centers around Jesus in the manger. The story of the magnificent and miraculous birth of Christ is reduced to frustrated parents trying to get a baby to sleep. First the animals are being disruptive. Then angels come to praise the new king and Mary tells them to be quite. Three kings show up with gifts for the baby and how does Mary feel about that? "Mama's frantic, in a tizzy."

I understand that this is just a storybook. The author has taken creative license and seen the story a new way. However, this isn't just any story, this is the birth of our Savior. She hasn't just changed certain details, she has changed the whole meaning of the story.

Being a new mom isn't easy. Certainly there was a lot going on that night. I can imagine that Mary was tired, sore. However the joy of giving birth to her Savior certainly must have outweighed those things. Can you imagine Mary telling the angles to be quite or getting upset at the three kings for coming?!

Bottom line, there are tons of great storybooks that retell the birth of Jesus. Why bother with one that misrepresents the story? The great illustrations and rhyming do not save this story in my opinion.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Vendetta by Lisa Harris

I love a fast paced mystery novel! Vendetta by Lisa Harris showed a lot of potential to be an outstanding read-- 

Nikki gets involved in a missing persons case that quickly becomes personal. While hunting for the abductor of a teenage girl, she finds clues that point to her own past. Years ago, Nikki's own sister was abducted and it seems he is striking again. Fueled by the desire to save the missing girl and uncover the truth about her sister, Nikki runs down the clues. The closer she gets to finding the truth, the more personal the case gets.

While the book didn't quite live up to my expectations, there were things I really enjoyed about it. I was pleased that it was such a clean book that didn't get wrapped up in the gruesome or overtly sexual. Any teen mature enough for some thrilling subject matter could read this book. If you are looking for a thrilling read that doesn't go too dark or gritty, this is a good option.

The book explored the guilt and frustration of Nikki and another character, Tyler. They both have suffered personal tragedy that left them helpless. In each situation they were powerless to save the ones they loved. Both struggled reconciling how God could allow these things to happen. There were no hard and fast answers, or easy solutions, just some good discussions.

While the book started out strong, I didn't feel like it kept it's momentum through the middle. It felt like a variation of the same situation played out over and over. Nikki finds a clue, the clue leads to a dead end, Nikki is frustrated and lets her personal feeling get the best of her. When things finally did pick up, the climax of the book did not feel satisfying.

While it wasn't a bad book, Vendetta just didn't rise above the rest for me. I did find myself caught up in the story and connected to the characters. It definitely wasn't a wasted afternoon reading it, however I don't think I will follow the rest of the series.

I received this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Every Little Thing

Cover Art"Making a world of difference right where you are..." Can I tell you how many times I have sat down and pondered exactly how I'm suppose to do that? This has been on my heart for years now. After my first child it felt like motherhood had pretty much closed off any ministries outside of my home. I hear about amazing ministries and my heart says "I want to help with that, I want to volunteer!" I want to love on the women at our Pregnancy Resource Center, I want to help at our overtaxed homeless shelter, I want to support that awesome ministry in China. I prayed about these things and found time and time again that it wasn't where the Lord wanted me. I have been given the very big job right now of caring for my home, my family and my children's education. While I can still support those ministries that touch my heart in prayer, right now I cannot physically.

I have found on the other hand, that motherhood has opened a whole other universe where I can make a difference. With my kids I have the huge, seemingly endless job of teaching, praying, leading and disciplining. I also have a new crowd of women that are trucking along beside me. Every week I attend a Bible study for mom's. I get to share my own heart and encourage those around me (and childcare is provided! WIN). I have seen God work there, and it is important work! So many stay-at-home-mom's feel alone and isolated. It is awesome to be able to reach out and say "I'm there too, you're not crazy."

Yes, God has placed me right here. Right in this impoverished county, in this tiny tiny town, at my church with dwindling numbers. Instead of lamenting the season of life I am in, I'm trying to embrace it. This book, Every Little Thing by Deidra Riggs has been seriously encouraging me,

"Everyone has had that moment--we see a need and we think, Someone really should do something about that, never imagining that we might be the answer. We don't have the time, the expertise, the money. We've got careers to manage, bills to pay, meals to prepare, and families to attend to. Besides, who are we to think we can change the world?

In this encouraging and empowering book, Deidra Riggs calls you to accept God's invitation to join him in making a difference right where you are, right now. She shows you that you were created with a purpose and with the capacities to fulfill that purpose. And she reminds you that while it's not up to you to fix the world, it is up to you to join God--and his people--in his redemptive work."

Deidra uses her life experiences and examples from scripture to showcase how God can work through us right here. Deidra draws the reader in with her compelling stories. It is easy to get caught up into the wonderful narratives of her life; only to later see how she will incorporate it with scripture to make her point.

Perhaps you hunger to make a difference right where you are, but feel held back by fear and insecurity. I found this book incredibly encouraging. As a person who constantly goes to battle with my own fears, I have a feeling I will be rereading this in the future. 

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Beach Day

Somehow, we always end up at the beach. Always here. This is my favorite spot. We go at low-tide and climb over the rocks to our special cove. The water is always calm, perfect for little people to wade it. My husband was busy so the kids and I went with my parents. Those two little figures in the photo are my son and dad.They spent a majority of the time "rock climbing". My parents are amazing. Titus and my dad have a really special relationship. 

Mom and I hunted for sea glass. This is the best beach for finding glass in our area! Last time I found two purple pieces and a pink piece. My dad thinks the variety and interesting pieces we find might be due to the fact that there was once a dairy very close, right on the cliffs. We live in such an interesting area! Mom and I entertained this little peanut with peanuts. She spent about 30m picking away at her snack. It was a little chilly to swim, which is what she usually does. I plan on making something like this with my glass.

There aren't a whole lot of things that everybody in my family loves to do. My husband and I have totally different ideas of what a fun afternoon means. He would prefer to drive around in the woods while a cozy coffee shop sounds better to me. We both have learned to enjoy activities from each others worlds. The beach though, is something that is fun for everybody... especially if I let him bring his fishing pole ;)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Love Casts Out Fear

Cover ArtThis afternoon both of the kids were napping and I was left with a rare moment of no obligations. It was the perfect time to catch up on a little reading. In my stack of "books I need to read" was this book, Love Casts Out Fear. I was intrigued by the book when I read the description-

"As a boy in Egypt, Brother Nathan witnessed an unthinkable attack on his father, a Christian pastor in a majority-Muslim country. After the attack Nathan sought revenge and vowed to avenge his father. As a man, by God's incredible provision, Nathan ministers in the village where his father was targeted, as well as in countless other cities and villages across Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

Love Casts Out Fear tells a gripping true story of danger, overwhelming anger, and forgiveness that's beyond comprehension. Through Nathan's experiences in Egypt, his beloved homeland, you'll see firsthand the joys and difficulties Christians face in the persecuted church in the Middle East. And you'll marvel at God's ability to care for those who follow his call and to change hearts in one of the most dangerous places in the world to claim Christ as Lord."

This book was a really quick read. I finished it within a few hours. The story is very simply written, but powerful. The story follows Nathan from a very young age until present day. The scope of the book really allows you to see God's grace in Nathan's life. From his early-days, filled with hate darkness to his current ministry, God is clearly working.   

 The reader gets a sense of both village-life and city life in Egypt during the 60/70's. These details of everyday life really made the story come alive and transported you to a dry and dusty Egypt. I also thought the end of the book was very interesting, reading about the how the Arab Spring effected his ministry. I would be curious how current events are changing things now! The book was an easy read that I believe would be suitable for many ages. This is one I plan to lend to a few teenagers in my life.

I received this book from Baker Publishing to read and review.

18 Weeks

18 Weeks

Bump- pretty sure this picture is deceptive because my bump is really a lot larger. The angle isn't quite showing all my roundness ;) I grew so fast at first with this one. I have since slowed down a bit but this week I feel like I have really popped.

Craving- I crave certain foods pregnant or not. I'm just sort of weird like that. I will crave the same thing for weeks and then decide I don't want to eat it again. Right now I am loving anything salt and vinegar.

Aversions- I hated coffee until a few weeks ago. I have gone through that with each of my pregnancies. I go from madly in love coffee addict to cannot stand it. Right now I'm sort of enjoying it again.

Feeling- I pretty much feel invincible until 2. Right about when the kids go down for nap. Somedays it just feels like my whole body is shutting down. I hit a wall and have to lay down. I'm not much of a napper. It takes me so long to fall asleep and I never feel rested when I wake up. Right now I don't have much of a choice. If I can fall asleep for just a minute I feel a lot better.  

Emotions- Honestly, I go between excited and terrified. I really am happy for this baby to join our family. Late at night, when I am trying to fall asleep, all my fears get the best of me. Suddenly my confidence is gone and I have no idea how I'm going to do this. I'm also feeling nostalgic about my other pregnancies. Whenever I am pregnant I have what we have affectionately named "hiccaburps". It's a single hiccup like burp thing. My husband always teases me about these weird things. I got my first few the other day and had to chuckle.

Baby- We don't find out if it's a boy or girl until later this month. So far there has been lots of movement and the kids and my husband have got to feel the baby move.

Speaking of the kids- Babies big siblings are still crazy in love. Early on they named the baby "twinkles". We just go with it. Violet loves to talk to baby twinkles and spends a few minutes each day talking to baby. She is already bossing the baby around while in utero, "no taking my blankey twinkles!" This has been the most amazing thing about this pregnancy, the kids interaction. When I was pregnant with Violet, Titus was just over a year. He had no idea what was going on. This time they both are old enough to get excited about the process.  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

ICP Journey Part 2

I had intended to write this post up a few days ago, but my brain and heart have been heavy. On Thursday our community and family was rocked by the shootings at UCC. Roseburg isn't far from us and a lot of my family lives there. So thankful that the family that was on campus during everything is safe!! I have been a bit foggy and unfocused the last few days, praying for those who lost loved ones. I still can't believe something like that happened in our small area!

Anyways, on to the second part of my ICP journey. Read part 1 here.When we decided to add another baby to the family, I knew the chances were high that I would have ICP again. I felt a lot more at ease with the entire thing. It just seemed a lot less catastrophic, I knew I could handle it. If the itching started, we would run the tests.

Without fail around 38 weeks I noticed my palms itched. Within days, the itch crept into my life again. We had moved and switched to a new midwife, but she was just as supportive as the last. I did the blood tests and waited for the results.

During that two weeks I noticed my itching eased from unbearable to annoying. My midwife decided that I could go to my due date, but absolutely no longer. When the results of my blood test came back, it was obvious that my bile acid levels were high, but not as bad as my previous pregnancy.

I felt a lot more confident in general this time around. I knew I could make it through the itching. I had my old tricks and I kept telling myself, "I have done it before!"

I think the reason my ICP wasn't as bad as the first pregnancy had a lot to do with a shift in my diet. Throughout my pregnancy and especially the third trimester, I was very conscious of what I ate. I tried to stay away from any fried or super fatty food that bogged down my liver. I laid off the chimichangas and tried to clean up my diet. This is something I have been trying to do during this pregnancy as well.

The day after Thanksgiving, on my due date, my midwife broke my water. Baby girl came hard and fast into this world, perfectly healthy (besides the cord wrapped around her neck 3 times). Once again I had survived another ICP pregnancy, and more importantly my baby did too!

I hope writing about my ICP might encourage and strengthen some mamas who are going through the same struggle. It is a scary road. Reading about successful, healthy births and babies always lifted me up during the hard itchy nights. If you are out there and you are itchy, you are not alone!! Our pregnancies might be rough but there is hope and relief when baby comes. I am 18 weeks with our third right now, and waiting on the itch. We will see what this pregnancy holds!       

Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Journey with ICP

I remember the moment I realized something was wrong with my pregnancy very clearly. Years ago when I was pregnant with my first, I kept repeating to myself that everything was normal. Sure, I had been a little itchy, well a lot itchy, okay maybe unbearably itchy. At 35 weeks though, a lot of weird stuff had happened to me during pregnancy. I figured this had to be another crazy pregnancy thing. Anybody who I mentioned it to seemed unconcerned, I heard "It's totally normal to be itchy, your skin is getting stretched ton!" or "It's probably PUPPS". None of those responses made sense to me. I wasn't really itchy on my stomach. It was mostly my palms and feet-- and well everywhere, especially when I tried to sleep. I decided to quell my fears with a quick Google search. However, instead I discovered something else, the three words that have changed each of my pregnancies since, Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy 

I finally stopped trying to convince myself that everything was normal. Something was wrong. Everything started to make sense, the weird pain below my ribs on the right side, the unbearable itch. I called my midwife and explained my symptoms. Without hesitation she sent me to get blood tests and told me she was fairly certain I had it. She explained that my liver couldn't handle the high level of hormones my body was producing. The normal flow of bile has slowed and built up in my blood. The bile salts exit through the skin which causes the insane itching. Worst of all, the baby is at risk and I could have a stillborn.

I remember sitting in the waiting room at our tiny local hospital, scared out of my mind. I had been trying to hold back tears all morning. The staff had no idea what tests they were suppose to run, they had never even heard of ICP. We waited over an hour while they relaid info from my midwife, trying to figure out just what to do with me. Holding my husbands hand it became very real that we might lose this baby. Even in the best case scenario they would have to induce me at 36 weeks. I wasn't ready to have the baby in a week!

I just kept repeating in my head "how could I have this?" HOW, is it that I have this crazy weird disorder. I was perfectly healthy in every way before pregnancy. I wondered why the Lord would allow me to struggle like this. I knew the answer of course, but it still seemed unfair to me. Friends all around me were having babies, they had normal pregnancies and normal deliveries-- and I had a constant unbearable itch and my liver was not working right.  

When the tests were all done I drove to the city to see my midwife. She told me it would be 2 weeks at least until they got the results. The more we talked though, the more convinced she was that I did have it. She wanted to work through the diagnosis and monitor my body. She didn't believe it was serious enough to merit an early delivery, even though it is standard at most hospitals. I went in twice a week for non-stress tests and ultra-sounds. I constantly kept tabs on babies movement at home. When my tests results came back it was obvious I did have ICP. My levels were low enough that she felt confident in allowing me go to my due date.

Friends and family were praying for me and trying to understand. It grew so tiring, trying to explain what was wrong with me. Not one person I knew had ever heard of it. Even after I was diagnosed, well meaning "experienced" moms would tell me itchy is normal. Obviously I had just developed an allergy, "did you change your detergent??" Truly, sometimes itchy is normal, but for me it wasn't.

I was so worried during those weeks, but truly the Lord was merciful. A lot of mom's have to fight to receive a proper diagnoses. Many O.B's have never had a patient with ICP, and don't recognize the symptoms. My midwife never doubted me for a moment and walked through everything with me. In so many ways the Lord kept encouraging me. I discovered that a shower before bed reduced the itch enough for me to sleep. Strangely, the greatest relief was just laughing with my husband about the absurdity of it all.  

It wasn't until I gave birth to my son, at 40 weeks + 4 days that the itching stopped. He was healthy and perfect. I finally felt free of the constant worry... That is until a year later when I became pregnant again with our second child. I'll continue the story in my next post!! Read part 2 here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Morning Book Review

 I have a quick little book review for you this Monday Morning! I am loving all these faith based Living Lights Berenstain Bears books.

This is a padded board-book that contains 8 Bible stories; Creation (Gen 1), Noah Builds an Ark for God (Gen 6), David Meets Goliath (1 Sam 17), Daniel in the Lions' Den (Daniel 6), The Birth of Jesus (Luke 1), The Good Neighbor (Luke 10), Jesus in Jerusalem (Mathew 20), and He is Risen (Mathew 28).

This book is perfect for toddler-aged children. the illustrations are classic Berenstain Bears, with the Bears as story characters. The stories are extremely paraphrased and shortened. Which on one hand, works great with little ones with short-attention spans. However, on the other hand, a lot of the story gets left out. I think this is a good jumping-off point for getting little ones familiar with the stories. As their attention span grows so can the length and depth of the material presented. My kids continually surprise and amaze me with what they learn and understand about God and the Bible.  

I received the book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, September 26, 2015


 After a week of unseasonably warm weather, I was relived to wake up to cloudy skies. I have been waiting for just such a day to get some garden work done. There is something so magic and freeing about saving seeds. I wasn't sure if I was going to get much done this year, due to my waning energy levels. However, with my tiny helper in tow, we got to work. She insisted on wearing an old shirt of her brothers, which was fine by me for garden chores.

After a morning of gathering we brought the bounty inside. I was surprised by how helpful she actually was. Generally, doing any job with an almost-three-year-old is rather inconvenient. I want her to learn and love this work so I do my best to say "yes". So, Violet and I got to shelling.

I found myself incredibly amused by her imagination. The beans were babies, being born from their mommies tummy. So sweet, and true in a sense. They are all the potential for new life! Each shell she popped open in surprise, "Oh! cute babies time to come out." I guess we all have babies on the brain around here.
 In the afternoon I prepped a huge turkey for dinner. After a major influx of meat from my husbands elk, a freezer clean was necessary. On the bottom of our chest freezer I discovered a forgotten turkey and ham (along with numerous other ridiculous things I had tucked away). We planned an epic family feast tonight. Unfortunately, just as the turkey went in the oven my husband got a call from a friend-- who had, of course, just killed a "monster bull". So off he went to help pack the thing out. It's funny, this is something that probably would have upset me in years past. After all the work I went to, to have him leave. I would have pouted the rest of the night and not enjoyed the time I did have with the kids. This time I just tried to focus on being thankful for the meal, the kids and the fact that he is so faithful to help a friend in need. Fall can be such an unpredictable season around this joint. Hunting is such a huge part of my life in the, but it's not a part of me at all. I'm glad he has a hobby he enjoys, that fills our freezer and is seasonal ;) The kids and I still enjoyed our feast. The turkey is, at this moment, sitting out *still*. I just can't bring myself to the unsavory task of carving that beast up and finding room for it in the fridge. After it's cut and the meat is put away then I still have to get the carcass in the crockpot for stock. Clean up is my absolute least favorite task of all. With candles all glow-y and kids tucked in, I had better get to it!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Week 3

 We have begun week 3 of the school year! Only forever more weeks to go ;) So far we have been up to some fun stuff around here.

My favorite thing about homeschool is the freedom we have. In fact, it's one of my favorite things about being a stay-at-home mom in general. I have the freedom to set my own pace, prioritize as I wish and make my own choices. It also is one aspect that can come back to bite me if I'm not careful though. Having that sort of freedom requires a lot of self-control if you want things to run smoothly. With the introduction of school, I am noticing that perhaps I don't have as much self-control as I thought I did... Sometimes things just need to get done, whether it's what I want to do or not. So I am working on my discipline, so that I get the most out the freedom I do have.

My son and I sat down and wrote out a list of all the things he wanted to learn about this year. It is long list. He is so hungry to learn and has so many questions. I love that I can take that natural hunger and channel it into education. One of the first things he thought of was "how his body works and what happens to food and stuff". Well son, I am happy to oblige.

I found this book at Goodwill and I couldn't pass it up. I knew it would be perfect for Titus. The pages have huge 3 dimensional replicas of body parts that pop off the page. On the first page the rib cage pops out, showing the heart, lungs and liver all placed underneath. It is hard to describe, I'll have to take pictures of it later. He loves looking at all the pages. Even though he can't read, the pictures are very educational. I have read through the book with him- we did a page a day. Although he didn't understand everything, he got a lot from this!

A great place to buy this book or any book is Thriftbooks. I LOVE that site and find tons of quality used books there.


Another fabulous Goodwill find was this Usborne book- Understanding your Muscles & Bones. This book has kid friendly pictures and an eye-catching layout. We haven't made it to the finish of this book yet. We read through 2 pages a day. Titus begs to keep going, but we are savoring it ;) It is fairly easy to understand, requiring only occasional anecdotes from me.

Yesterday we were reading about people who can bend their muscles and joints beyond what the regular person can. It talked a little about acrobats and gymnasts. I looked up a few videos of gymnasts on YouTube and both kids were totally amazed. We also watched a video of the Ross Sister (contortionists from many years ago). I have enjoyed all the additional learning this book has sparked!

The Magic School Bus Another fun way to learn about the body is The Magic School Bus! You can watch it on Netflix. I remember watching this show when I was my son's age. There are several great episodes on the body.

Ms. Frizzle teaches them about digestion (season 1 ep. 2)
what happens when you're sick (season 1 ep. 3)
how bones and muscles work together (season 2 ep. 2)
and how muscles work (season 3 ep. 9)

This has been a fun show to enjoy in the evening together.


This fun activity is one I have prepped for Friday. Confessions of a Homeschooler made this neat life-size human anatomy map! You can also use the pieces she provides to make a puzzle.

I have a large roll of kraft paper and we plan to do as she did, trace his cute lil' body, and then glue the organs where they belong. I know he is going to enjoy this because he loves to get hands on. I'll post a picture of ours when it is finished.


Those are just a few of the things we have been doing for school. He also does reading (How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) and math work daily. I use school time to practice his weekly AWANA verse too. We have done a few nature hikes and journals with friends, which area total hit (mostly because they involve friends ;)

The picture of the kids at the top was from today-- I had them draw a picture with crayon and then fill it in with watercolor. I gave pretty broad instructions, but encouraged them to draw a fall scene. My daughter just does her own thing, which is awesome- she is 2. Also, I don't think I have a picture of her where she doesn't have yogurt on her face. Titus drew a fall tree, a bird, his dad, two trucks, grass and a road. I love doing art projects with them! In fact one of the things we are going to learn about is famous artists. That was one of the few additions to our list that I made!

Earth Mama Angel Baby

Organic Baby

     I received an exciting package in the mail today! One of my favorite companies sent me their Big Push Birth & Baby Kit to try. I remember the first time I saw Earth Mama Angel Baby in the store. Their packaging was different, their name was different and their ingredients were different. I was instantly intrigued. 

    I wasn't much of an "Earth Mama" until I had my first child. I loved the fragrant lotions from chain body stores. It seemed inconsequential that my cleaners were nearly toxic and shampoo filled with sulfates and parabens. I remember slathering myself with lotion and then picking up my sweet, pure newborn. It was the first time it had really occurred to me that everything on my skin is getting on his skin. His onesie and blankets were washed with any highly scented product I could find. Soon he would be crawling all over and putting everything in his mouth-- all things I cleaned with some intense chemical cleaners. I took a lot of care to eat clean and take care of my insides, yet there was little care to what I used on the outside. That was really the beginning of my "Earth Mama" journey. I started being a lot more conscious of the products we used. My allergies and asthma improved, my house has never been cleaner and everything still smelled amazing.

   Earth Mama Angel Baby was founded by Melinda Olson years ago in her Oregon kitchen. Their safe, herbal products contain zero toxins, without sacrificing quality or effectiveness. A little more about their mission,

"Earth Mama believes in the natural process of birth, and the healing power of nature. Our mission is to provide safe, herbal alternatives for pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and babies of all ages, and to help educate people about traditional plant medicine and safe personal care. We manufacture natural and organic products that work, combining generations of women's wisdom and traditional plant medicine with the safety and assurances of contemporary evidence based research. If it doesn't measure up to Mama's standards, it doesn't leave the building."

     The Big Push Birth and Baby Kit  contains a line of products perfect for postpartum care. Birth is no joke. Having a baby is seriously hard work and it takes a huge toll on your body. This is the time to take care of yourself and heal. 

     I used the Postpartum Bath Herbs after my second child and I loved them. Just taking a few moments for myself, drawing and bath and soaking was so important to my mind and body. Each sachet includes sea salt, organic oatmeal, organic witch hazel leaf, organic yarrow flower, organic plantain leaf,  and calendula flowers. I was a little scared to use it at first (sea salt? hello burning!) but there was no stinging. These are also awesome soaked and chilled for instant relief down there.

    If you're a first time mom, you might be thinking "do I really need bottom spray and bottom balm?" Let me just tell you, these things are totally worth it. I tore so badly with my first and I wish I would have had these products. The spray has cucumber, lavender and peppermint in it. It soothes, cools and heals. The balm is packed with healing herbs. Place is in the fridge for cooling relief.

   Also in the kit is their natural nipple butter. I used this product with my second as well. Did you know that the Natural Nipple Butter was the first lanolin free nipple cream and the first verified non GMO nipple cream too? Pretty cool. I always rubbed what was left on my fingers onto my cuticles or lips. This stuff is super moisturizing and healing. Perfect for cuts and scrapes too.

The two teas are products I have never tried before. The Monthly Comfort tea helps you recover after childbirth and manage the crazy hormones. The tea has cinnamon, lady’s mantle, red raspberry leaf, nettle, lemon balm, ginger and alfalfa. I brewed a cup and a did a little taste test for you all. It's delicious, a little spicy and very soothing. There were a few packages of the Milkmaid Tea too, which promotes healthy lactation and milk supply. Also, a shout out to their Morning Wellness Tea, for making my insane morning sickness more manageable.

Also included in the kit are some goodies for your new angel! There is baby oil, lotion, baby wash and bottom balm. It is so surreal to imagine using these products on my little one this March. You may have noticed I love richly scented products. The lotion and wash smell heavenly. They are naturally scented with sweet orange and vanilla oils. I love that the soap is castile based and super concentrated. The lotion is a total winner and I plan to buy the full sized for our whole family. The baby oil is grapeseed based, no need to worry about nut oils. The bottom balm is an all-in-one product that I have a feeling we will use a lot. Perfect for diaper rash; but also cradle cap, cuts and scrapes, small burns and itchy rashes. It contains lavender, tea tree and myrhh oils-- anitfungal and antibacterial super fighters.

I am so stoked to have all these products in my arsenal as our family goes from 4 to 5. I know many of these will be packed into my hospital bag when the time comes. I love that this company began in Oregon and creates amazing products for mamas like me! If you are in Oregon and looking to find these in store, you can check and see if they are available near you! Their products are also available to order online here.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Productivity and Reality

We woke up the other morning to rain in the forecast. We have had dribbles here and there this September, but not a whole lot. The kids and I bundled up to bring in some of the harvest. I set the kids to picking any ripe tomato they could find. This lasted about 2 minutes before they went to snack on grapes.  

This is about half of what I brought in- in all their cracked and split glory. I brought in a bunch of grapes too, as I wasn't sure they would fare well in the rain. It was a long afternoon of canning... By around 2 I was extremely exhausted. I'm about 16 weeks pregnant now and I haven't gained all my energy back. In fact the last few days I have felt terrible. I laid down and sure enough the rains began.

Happy wet everything.

 I feel totally at a loss as to how I am going to get everything practical done, while feeling like a zombie. This is such a busy time of year, more apples are waiting to be canned, more veggies to be brought in and froze. The reality is, it just isn't going to get done. So, here's to making the most of this season of not being able to make the most of the season. Instead I'll be here, curled up by the fire.