Thursday, September 29, 2016

Life Update ~ Practice Makes Progress

You know the old saying of "practice makes perfect"? Well, I need a re-write. My life isn't perfect. In fact, very little about my life is perfect, and honestly, I don't want it to be. At least not by society's standard of proclaimed perfection. I'm going for progress. Just some kind of effort being made to demonstrate that things can get better, and evidence that they have. Slowly. Very very slowly at times...

My daughter was having yet another meltdown explosion when I came to the realization that we needed a slogan that was much more forgiving than the seeking of perfection. In one of the many self-help books I've read lately, the author introduces the concept of "Imperfect Progress". This is the idea that most of our would-be progress is held back based on the fear of lacking perfection in our attempts. The gist of it is that we will fail. Repeatedly. But as long as we learn something and attempt to make progress, failure is better than the fear that keeps us from even trying. That's what grace is for.

So it was during yet another screaming episode from my 12-year-old that I waited for her to take a few breaths and asked her about the importance of practice when something is hard (such as self-control). The angry mutter of "practice makes perfect" came out of her mouth. Nope, wrong answer. So I told her that I'm not expecting perfection from her, that'd be ridiculous and way way too hard for her to get even close to in her current emotional state. Instead, I want her to just simply try to do better. Make progress. Practice makes progress. You may never achieve perfection, which is fine, because that's an unreachable or unsustainable goal in most instances anyway. But the only way you'll make progress is by trying - by practice. It took several times of walking her through our new "practice makes progress" slogan before she caught on to the full implications of it, but by the end she was less weighted down and had much more realistic expectations of herself (and the rest of the world). I'm not saying that the fight is over, or that she'll keep track of this idea in the heat of the moment - at least not at this point in time. But as long as we both can remember that concept after the cool down period is over, and find some sort of progress to be claimed, than it's served it's purpose in helping everyone through a hard spot with a little more grace in the moment.

So there it is, practice makes progress. Now, if I can only find a way to convince myself that progress is "good enough". Baby steps, right?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book Review ~ Discipline That Connects With Your Child's Heart: Building Faith, Wisdom, And Character In The Messes Of Daily Life by Jim & Lynne Jackson

Discipline That Connects With Your Child's Heart: Building Faith, Wisdom & Character In The Messes Of Daily Life by Jim & Lynne Jackson (Bethany House)

Discipline That Connects With Your Child's Heart by Jim & Lynne Jackson is a very refreshing dose of sanity in what has become the sheer chaos of raising four kids (8-12). This book focuses on teaching the Discipline That Connects approach to parenting. It shows you step-by-step how to build a relationship with your kids based on the following biblically-based messages: you are safe with me (foundation), you are loved no matter what (Connect), you are called and capable (Coach), and you are responsible for your actions (Correct). These form a rough pyramid with the largest emphasis being on the foundation (safety), and the smallest portion or peak being the correction (responsibility).

This book is not about quick fixes or easy answers. It also does not start by trying to "fix" problems with your child. Instead, it presents common scenarios and typical outcomes within a family where the parents are stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed, or simply at a loss and feel they've tried everything. Between my own childhood and dealing with my four kids over the last 12 years, there wasn't a single scenario in the book that I couldn't relate to in one form or fashion. Yes, I knew that what I was doing wasn't working. Yes, I'd get upset and caught up in the moment and say things I would regret or feel shameful/guilty about later. Yes, I had read countless parenting books and tried every idea I could come across in an attempt to regain "control" of an out-of-control child... Yes, I needed a new approach. And this is it!

This book focuses and calming yourself first and foremost, so you can approach your kids rationally in make them feel safe around you, even while being punished. If you've ever had a child shrink in fear because you were upset, then you should be able to recognize the need here. It then walks you through ways to modify your own behaviors that you know feel wrong but you just don't see a way around when you're caught up in the moment. There is hope. This book demonstrates how to show unconditional love while disciplining, how to involve your child in the problem-solving process so they learn to become responsible, and even how to pick up the pieces and get a "do over" when you mess up. Because you will mess up, just like they will. Over and over again, because we're all still learning and trying to get this right. The important thing isn't the getting it right part, it's the loving and forgiving and trying to do better next time.

The real eye openers came for me in chapter 6 when they're listing common problem areas and suggestions for how to be a better parent when you're not at your best, and also at one point when they explain that compliance is not obedience. The first 2/3 of this book are basically a how-to, with lots and lots of real life examples to help pull you through. It's the equivalent of actually being present for a weekend seminar on how to be a better parent and overall communicator. The last 1/3 of the book is appendixes that list even more specific problems and creative solutions for how to help your children grow in your love in order to make better choices.

This book is very highly recommended to any parent that is having problems dealing with the day to day messes of raising kids. Unlike most books that focus on younger children, you could easily pick this up and get a "do over" even if your kids are teenagers. It also addresses harder issues such as stealing, habitual lying, and hitting.

As soon as I finished this book, my two oldest were fighting and I took it as an opportunity to test the method I'd just learned. Within five minutes, there were sincere apologies, heart-felt communication and legitimate plans to try to do better next time. This was the largest impact of any parenting concept in years! 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Purchase Links:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Book Review ~ Missing Jesus: Find Your Life In His Great Story by Charles & Janet Morris

Missing Jesus: Find Your Life In His Great Story by Charles & Janet Morris (Moody Publishers)

Missing Jesus by Charles & Janet Morris is a collection of anecdotes that show you how different people (past and present) have refreshed their faith by finding glimpses of Jesus' story within their own lives. The reality is that many Christians today seem to get so caught up in the rules of being a Christian that they somehow gloss over the purpose of being a Christian: to follow Christ. Learn about ways other people have pulled moments from their own life to reflect upon the greatness of God's grace and mercy, and the beauty that is offered to us by re-focusing our sights on Jesus, rather than the laws (thinking like a Pharisee). My favorite part is in chapter 8, when the authors stress that we need to be "recovering Pharisees".

From the subtitle, "Find Your Life In His Great Story", I figured there'd be some kind of personal application section. But there isn't. There are just lots of nice stories, which would probably be great to just help you feel reconnected if you were having a bum day. My personal recommendation would be that instead of reading this straight through as a conventional book, I would use it more as a devotional for those days that life is just hectic and you feel drained or lacking. Each chapter is broken into several small stories that are typically detached from each other. If you simply read one of these stories a day (in order), you'd have a little over 40 days of stories to help you recognize that bonding with Jesus is as simple as looking for His touch in your daily life.

Overall, I'm giving this book 3/5 stars. It's not a bad book, but it's not great either. It'd be a good boost for someone that gets tied up in the daily grind and needs reminded as to the purpose for their life. It's not a good book for someone who has wandered far enough off the trail that they need a map, guide, and flashlight to find their way back.

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of this honest review.*

Purchase Links:

Monday, September 26, 2016

Life Update ~ Here's To Life...

Life's been hectic here. We spent most of last week prepping for our biannual Free-For-All event, which took place this last weekend. This season's event ran Friday-Sunday, with great success. We gave away books, toys, clothing, and household items to over 100 people during the three-day event. We also had several people donate items to the cause, which is always a tremendous blessing.

After spending all week sorting through items to put them out on Friday, we had to clean out the trailer in order to relocate the Christmas Project storage from the garage into the trailer. Three filing cabinets and over a dozen plastic tubs later, and our Christmas Project storage has a new permanent home! I'll get pics up from the inside of the trailer after we do a little reorganizing and make it look semi-decent. :)

Today was spent trying to get ZoKo's school efforts sorta back on track after she took Thursday-Sunday off in order to help out and get some Service Learning credit in. Speaking of credit, she's earned five quarter credits in the last week, all A's; Bible & Character, Visual Arts, Child Care & Development, Recreation, and Biology.

As for my little corner of the world, expect some book reviews coming in this week - I've got four books on my waiting list right now. Whichever ones I don't get through this week will be done during the weekend, since I'll have plenty of reading time at the KAMO rally.

I'm sure I've got plenty more to say, but I can't come up with anything at the moment, so until next time... Peace.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Greek For Everyone by A. Chadwick Thornhill

Greek For Everyone: Introductory Greek For Bible Study And Application by A. Chadwick Thornhill

Greek For Everyone by A. Chadwick Thornhill is designed to allow anyone to learn the basics of biblical Greek at their own pace, even with no previous knowledge of the language. I really found the layout of this book to be easy to follow. The step-by-step progressions made it flow in such a way that I could keep track of and utilize what I learned every step of the way. Most of the chapters end with a "your turn" section encouraging you to put the new concepts to work, and a list of new words to memorize. By the end of the book, you will have memorized almost 100 basic words, which are critical to translating the New Testament. The author stresses to take your time with each chapter and really learn the material before moving on.

When I started reading this book, I had never studied the Greek language before. My own lack of knowledge became painfully obvious in chapter 1, when he first explains what Koine Greek is, and I'd never even heard the term before. So if I managed to follow and learn from this book, then I dare say the title is well earned, and it truly is "Greek For Everyone". By the end of the book, no, you don't know "everything" about the Greek language and how to translate it. After all, it is an introductory course. But you do end up with a sound working knowledge of biblical Greek, which will allow you to study and interpret the New Testament in more personal ways.

Here's a chapter listing to show the order in which concepts are introduced.
1) Language Learning, Koine Greek, and the Greek Alphabet
2) The Big Picture of Language
3) Phrases, Clauses, and Conjunctions
4) Resources for Navigating the Greek New Testament
5) Introduction to Greek Verbs and Nominals
6) Nominative, Accusative, and Vocative Cases
7) Genitive and Dative Cases
8) Articles, Pronouns, Adjectives, and Prepositions
9) (Independent) Indicative-Mood Verbs
10) (Independent) Imperative-Mood Verbs
11) (Dependent) Subjunctive-Mood Verbs
12) (Dependent) Greek Infinitives
13) (Dependent) Greek Participles
14) Back to the Big Picture
15) Comparing English Translations
16) Bridging Contexts
17) Word Studies
18) The Grammar of Theology (Putting It All Together)

*Disclaimer: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.*

Knowing Yourself Knowing God by Dr. John F. Shackelford

Knowing Yourself Knowing God: From An Ego-Run-Life To A God-Led-Life by Dr. John F. Shackelford

Knowing Yourself Knowing God by Dr. John F. Shackelford is a Christian counseling book focused on helping you learn more about your true self (ego), and expanding your knowledge of God. The purpose behind this insight is to move past your ego in order to form a closer personal relationship with God. The book is divided into three sections: (1) knowing yourself, (2) knowing God, and (3) the stories.

The first section (Knowing Yourself) walks you through personality tests including Transactional Analysis, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and the Enneagram. For each, there are websites provided for learning your specific type, and explanations as to what each test is for, how results affect who we are, and what we can do in order to function better based on those results. He also explains his reason behind each test being advised in a Christian counseling setting. Along with these personality tests to help you discover your true identity (ego), he explains the concept of a "false self", and how this affects your relationships with everyone, including yourself and God.

The second section (Knowing God) explains God's gift (grace and love), God's will, and God's desire. It helps break down some of the ideas that are imposed on Christians (particularly as children) as to why they should follow God, why they should "be good", what God expects from them, and what God provides for them. This section would be especially helpful to adults who were raised Christian, but at some point felt a disconnect with God or questioned their own motives for following him.

The third section (The Stories) contains portions of the journey stories of six people who have worked to move from an ego-driven life to a God-led life. These stories show starting points, breaking points, and some of the steps being used to patch their lives back together.

I found this book to be very informative and helpful in my personal quest to heal from my broken past and get closer to God and His plan for my life.

Note: There are a few areas where the content doesn't flow well, and the author seems to have "jumped thoughts" without a clear explanation. I also found about half a dozen minor typos while reading this book. Neither of these issues are frequent enough to detract from the overall appeal and usefulness of the material covered. 5 stars.

*Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book through BookCrash, in exchange for this honest review.*

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The 10 Greatest Struggles Of Your Life by Colin S. Smith

The 10 Greatest Struggles Of Your Life: Finding Freedom In God's Commands by Colin S. Smith (Moody Publishers)

The 10 Greatest Struggles Of Your Life by Colin S. Smith is intended to help the reader utilize the Ten Commandments in order to discover areas of your life that are out of sync with God's will, and receive wisdom to help you break through these struggles. The book contains an introduction, ten chapters, and a 30-page study guide to help you apply the lessons from each chapter. Each chapter is written to address a struggle reflecting the commandment it shares a number with. The struggles (in order) are God, Worship, Religion, Time, Authority, Peace, Purity, Integrity, Truth, and Contentment.

First, the things I like about this book... In the application suggestions (in the included study guide), there are three suggestions given for each chapter: Baby Step, Substantial Move, and Radical Life-Change. This allows the reader to find an application that correlates with their current level of progression on their spiritual journey... I also like that each chapter is broken into several segments, making it easy to read portions of it when you can't get a long block of free-time.

Unfortunately, my list of dislikes is longer than my list of likes. I spent most of my reading time trying to figure out the intended audience (knowing that somehow it wasn't me). It seems to jump back and forth between speaking to the new-believer and the longtime Christian, without much time spent in between the two. This could lead to a lot of confusion for new-believers, as well as potentially leaving them feeling very inadequate for the journey, rather than embracing it. Also, several parts of the book seem to be redundant and jump around a lot so it's hard in places to figure out what point the author is trying to make.

Honestly, my strongest complaint about this book is more of a warning than anything else. I think the subtitle (Finding Freedom In God's Commands) could be misleading to the wrong person. I'm at the point in my journey where I'm struggling with self-worth and shame, and was hoping that said "freedom" could help me embrace God's love and forgiveness more fully by rediscovering the Ten Commandments. That's why I got this book. However, most of the book is dedicated to pointing out our short-comings as humans and how we all fall short of perfection, and that none of us can live up to these Commandments. While I agree that we all sin and fall short of perfection, and that we all need God's forgiveness and redemption, focusing on your short-comings is not the best way to feel "freedom" if you are already in a pit of despair. I fear that to the wrong person, this book could simply add fuel to a chaotic spiral and make their already low sense of self feel even more devastated.

So, please, only read this book is you have a relatively strong sense of contentment with where your life is at this present moment, and are looking for ways to build a closer relationship with Christ by tightening your level of commitment toward following His example. This book is not recommended for use to build contentment if your present life is radically different than how you would desire to have it.

Overall, I'm giving this book 3/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review.*

SonRock In-Home VBS - Day Four

Yesterday, we completed day four of Gospel Light's SonRock VBS curriculum. The Bible story was Peter Denying Jesus, and the daily Truth was "Forgiven By Jesus". The critter of the day was a coon.

For the nature lesson part, we matched trivia, fur pattern, and track cards with animal cards to identify a wolf, bobcat, black bear, porcupine, deer, skunk, raccoon, and beaver.

Then came art time. Paper bag puppets! KiKi made two moose puppets, and the older three each made a skunk.

ZoKo with Neon Ice

B with Blue

Odie with Neapolitan

KiKi with Moose

The Coon and Kunk that showed up for a munchie when VBS ended :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Child Training Boot Camp by Pam Forster

Child Training Boot Camp: A Thirty-Day Bible Study by Pam Forster (Bible Study For Busy Mamas) (Doorposts)

Child Training Boot Camp by Pam Forster is one of the Bible studies in her Bible Study For Busy Mamas series, published by Doorposts. This thirty-day Bible study is not one of the journal/workbook style studies where you answer questions on blank lines in the book, thus it is only 103 pages. Each day instructs you to look up and study parts of the Bible and use a separate notebook to reflect upon the insight you've gained. There are also suggested activities to bring your kids into the study process and share what you're learning with them. The children's activities are optional, but they're also varied enough to make it easy to find something that will benefit and help you bond with your kids for each and every lesson.

This Bible study dwells a lot on word study, rather than just personal interpretation. One thing I dislike is that most of the lessons require you to use a specific website in order to follow Pam's instructions to look up certain verses, references, and words. The problem with this is two-fold. First, you have to have a computer, tablet, or smartphone with you in order to do the lessons. You can't just use your Bible (even if it has a built in concordance). Second, you get so caught up in following the how-to's of looking things up on the website, that you lose track of the purpose behind everything you're doing. It's hard to stay focused on the material at hand.

What I like about this study is that each lesson is designed to take 15-20 minutes, but it's okay if it takes you longer or if you break it up and spend 3 days on one lesson. That makes it a lot easier to fit into a busy schedule. I also like that it starts out by discussing obedience, disobedience and how to teach obedience before covering specific issues such as whining and quarreling. This means you learn why it is important for your kids (and yourself) to be obedient and how to be obedient - before you learn how to teach obedience.

Overall, I'm giving this book 4/5 stars. I really like the approach she uses and there's a lot of good insight to be gained from this study. However, I found myself repeatedly trying to work on it during down time in the car - only to remember that having my Bible with me wasn't enough to actually do very much in the study.

*Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Domino Effect by Davis Bunn

The Domino Effect by Davis Bunn (Bethany House)

The Domino Effect is a suspense novel by Davis Bunn. It tells the story of Esther Larsen, the lead risk analyst at a top US bank, and her personal mission to uncover a banking scheme that threatens to crash the global economy. As the picture starts to become clearer to her, she is forced to pick allies and come up with a plan to share her insight with anyone that will listen. This creates a new dilemma, as to how to get the rest of the world to realize what's going on and take action. This novel paints a vivid, fast-paced picture of how fragile our current economic system is, and how quickly all the dominoes could fall if the wrong people make the right moves.

This is the first book by Davis that I have had the pleasure of reading, and I look forward to more. It has very short chapters (mostly 3-5 pages long), which are great for stop-and-go reading for those of us who hate stopping in the middle of a chapter and are constantly on the go or have kids. The story had me hooked by the second chapter, and I loved how there was just enough individual character development to make you feel like you could identify with each of them, without losing track of the main plot. The same could be said of the side stories; there's just enough to see what else is going on in everyone's lives without getting so sidetracked as to forget the point of it all.

I'm giving this book 5 stars, and I'd recommend this novel to young adults and adults with analytical minds who can relate to a concern over the current economy or enjoy reading stories about stock markets and financial happenings.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Bethany House publishers in exchange for this honest review.*

VBS Postponement & Manny's Visit To LifeWay

Manny (the Accountability Tiger), Paperback, Wilbur, Rotti

We decide to postpone this weekend's VBS lesson until Wednesday because this weekend ended up double booked anyway, and my Mutt cracked his head badly on Thursday and is still dealing with the aftershocks of a concussion. So it was one more thing than we could rightly handle.

Meanwhile, all of the kids got VBS shirts on clearance from LifeWay for their Submerged theme. We don't have any curriculum to go with it, but the kids have a collection of old VBS shirts that gets added to every time I find a new one on clearance. :)

After getting shirts for the kids, Manny (our Accountability Tiger) decided he needed one. So I went back and took Manny into the store, which was a huge deal for him seeing as how he hasn't been in a store since we rescued him from a flea market. He was super excited to try on shirts until he found one the right size. The employees thought it was cute and were watching him; apparently not many tigers frequent the local LifeWay.

Anyway, Manny got his shirt and picked one out for Rotti (ZoKo's rottweiler) as a surprise. He got it home and Wilbur (B's pig) and Paperback (Odie's dog) wanted to know where theirs were. So, after our third trip to LifeWay in two days, all of the kids and their critters each have a matching Submerged VBS shirt.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Vegan Scrambled Eggs

VeganEgg with rotel, kale, and daiya mozzarella

If anyone reading this happens to be vegan, or simply on an egg-free diet, here's a product you may not be familiar with. Follow Your Heart released VeganEgg several months back, and I was eager to try it but honestly didn't want to set myself up for disappointment. I buy a great egg substitute for cooking (Ener-G Egg Replacer), and have been very happy with it for years now. However, it doesn't work for things like scrambled eggs or omelets. And most of the other egg substitutes that I've tried over the years have not ended too well.

So when Follow Your Heart announced that they had come up with an egg replacement that you could use to make scrambled eggs or omelets, I was beyond skeptical. But, after much deliberation, I splurged and bought one carton off of Amazon (it wasn't available locally at that time). The package said that it would make up about 12 eggs, and the reviews were already very mixed by then.

VeganEgg carton (about 12 eggs)
So, I listened to the advice found on several reviews and made sure to use really cold water by throwing a water bottle in the freezer a while before starting the meal. So far so good. Then I had the brilliant idea to throw a can of rotel into the pan to stretch it out some, because this stuff costs more than I typically spend on myself for a meal. Let's just say that if you do throw something into this egg mixture, make sure the mixture is 99% cooked before doing so, or it'll be a gooey mess. They forgot to mention that in the reviews.

After about three more times of messing with this stuff, I splurged and bought a big jar. Why? Because prices on the cartons were going up and demand was higher than supply. So I ended up with a 2 lb jar of stuff that I knew I liked but didn't really know how to make it turn out nicely yet.
VeganEgg jar (about 90 eggs)

But, there's nothing like have a $50 2-lb jar of powder equivalent to 90 eggs sitting in your cupboard to motivate you to learn how to get better at cooking with it. After several more batches (and botches), I've now become very attached to this stuff come Sunday brunch.

I've used it to make scrambled eggs, omelets, potato casserole and French toast. My omnivore husband will even eat it, he just doesn't most of the time due to it's cost. Real eggs are much cheaper.

1) keep a bottle of water in the fridge, that's cold enough to do the trick
2) using a milk substitute may sound like a good idea, but both rice milk and cashew milk turned out to not be good for this - I did not try any other substitutes, so maybe you'll have better luck
3) make sure your skillet is hot before adding the VeganEgg, and do not use oil in the pan
4) use a larger skillet than you would for regular eggs, the more surface for this stuff to lay on, the more even it will cook
5) most of the time it won't stir in all the way and you'll still have powder floating in the bowl before adding it to the pan - this does not affect the final product at all
6) if mixing in other ingredients, wait until the VeganEgg is 99% cooked before adding anything past salt and pepper
7) if adding frozen greens (chopped kale or spinach), cook them to room temp or higher before adding - unless you like them to stay cold and crunchy
8) add salt and pepper
9) it will store in the fridge after it is cooked, and reheats just fine whether alone or mixed with other foods

Tonight's dinner:
Breakfast Burrito In A Bowl - Tater tots, Scrambled eggs (with rotel, chopped kale, and daiya mozzarella), Brown rice, Black rice, and Refried beans

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Upcoming Events And Posts To Expect

For those of you who don't know us in real life, it's been hectic around here. The last two weekends we've ended up short half the herd, which is why the VBS Bible sessions have not been updated. It's not that I'm neglecting my duties here, just that we have been postponing them until the whole herd is back together again.

Our current family itinerary for the next month or so is complicated, but then since when do we take the easy road?

September 9th-11th - Grandparent's Day and Gospel Light's SonRock VBS day 4 (Bible Story: Peter denies Jesus; Daily Truth: Forgiven by Jesus)

September 16th-18th - Gospel Light's SonRock VBS day 5 (Bible Story: Peter helps a lame man; Daily Truth: Living for Jesus)

September 23rd-25th - We'll be hosting our autumn biannual Free For All in support of the Springfield Stocking Stuffers project. If you're local, this is a great time to pick up free books, toys, and miscellaneous household stuff. We're still sorting through boxes so no telling what all will be included.

September 30th-October 2nd - We'll be attending the local KAMO rally. Expect pictures.

October 7th-9th - We'll be starting our journey through The Story study program by Randy Frazee. We're still negotiating as to which curriculum level we'll be working with this first time through the program, but expect pictures and updates either way. The program consists of 31 weekly lessons, but it'll take longer than 31 weeks to go through it due to breaks for holidays and such.

Looking Ahead:

November 4th-6th - We will take a break from our weekly studies of The Story, instead reflecting on the persecuted Christians worldwide for the International Day Of Prayer (November 6th). To do this, we will utilize The Voice Of The Martyr's Exile Night curriculum. I will post more information about this event a week or so before it takes place, so anyone who wants to follow our journey and participate is encouraged to do so. There are free resources on their website.

November 18th-20th - We'll be taking another break from The Story, and participating in the Open Doors Blackout event, as another activity to reflect on persecuted Christians worldwide. The official Blackout has 24 or 48-hour options, and is a sign off from the internet - things like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in conjunction with praying for the persecuted. We plan on using the 48-hour version, and expanding it to be a Blackout from all electricity (with the exception of taking pictures for posterity). Again, I will post more information closer to the event, so please join us (at any level of participation) if you feel compelled. Visit their website for free resources.

If you have any input on any of these events, or would like more information - please drop us a line or comment below.

I also plan on continuing to post about one book review a week, depending on how quickly I receive books from publishers and how much free time I scrounge up to read. Right now, I'm working on seven books, so I should be done with one of them soon. If you have any reading suggestions for me, let me know. Thanks :)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

An Unexplainable Life by Erica Wiggenhorn

An Unexplainable Life: Recovering The Wonder And Devotion Of The Early Church by Erica Wiggenhorn (Moody Publishers)

An Unexplainable Life: Recovering The Wonder And Devotion Of The Early Church by Erica Wiggenhorn is a 10-week Bible study of Acts 1-12, which breaks these twelve chapters down verse-by-verse and reflects upon them over the length of 50 days (5 days per week). In the introductory material, Erica states, "In only fifty days Peter went from a timid man, full of fear and hiding in the shadows, to a courageous follower of Jesus... What do you suppose God could do in and through each of us in fifty days if we spent time with Jesus in this study of His Word?" This is not just another basic study of the book of Acts. Instead, this is guidebook for understanding the level of devotion and wonder that Peter and other members of the early church had, and bringing that forward into your personal life with God so that you may reach your full potential in His eyes.

I love the formatting utilized by this book; the questions for you to focus on are separated and in blue print, and there are blue "picture frames" for you to draw or write your impressions of the personal truths being discovered. I do not love the fact that most of the Bible verses you are expected to read are not included in the print. One particular lesson covers Acts 1:9, Daniel 7:13-14, Acts, 1:10-11, John 16:7, and Acts 1:14 (in that order), which requires a lot of flipping around in your personal Bible. While I understand the issue of conserving space and wanting to encourage people to work in and with their own Bible, it would have been nice to have a few more of the one-verse quotes included in the text. Also, with various translations having differences in wording, it would have been an aid in seeing the author's reference to each specific Scripture passage a little more clearly.

While referring to the closing exercise of Week 1, Day 1, Erica states, "You may be a brand-new Christian, so this next exercise may be a little difficult for you to complete." Here's the thing: I would not recommend this to a new Christian. While it is very thorough and digs very VERY deep, this also makes it understandably complicated. I frequently found myself having to re-read the same Scripture passages two or three times in order to fully connect the passage with the study. This is also not something I would recommend for you to take on as a quick relaxing study in between dealing with the kids. It's made to take all of your focus and make you really think about what you've read and how you can integrate that into your life. It's not the light fluffy Bible study that so many companies seem to be mass-producing. Overall, I'm giving this 4/5 stars.

Honestly, it's a bit complicated for me right now. I read through it, but am not at the point in my life where I can sit and fully focus on every one of the exercises to gain the full benefit of this study's impact. That being said, I plan on putting it on a shelf and returning to it in a year or so when my life is more stable and I can truly appreciate the changes that this study dictates.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this honest review.*

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Gluten-Free For Good by Samantha Seneviratne

Gluten-Free For Good: Simple, Wholesome Recipes Made From Scratch by Samantha Seneviratne

Gluten-Free For Good is an elegant cookbook by Samantha Seneviratne. It has a total of 101 gluten-free recipes sorted by the following categories:
          Homemade Essentials (11 recipes)
          Breakfast and Brunch (17 recipes)
          Soups, Sides, and Salads (17 recipes)
          Hearty Mains (26 recipes)
          Sweet and Savory Snacks (13 recipes)
          Desserts (17 recipes)
In addition to this mostly even division of the recipes, you'll also find full-page mouth-watering photographs of over half of the finished creations.

Upon viewing the cover, my hope was that "simple" recipes meant simple ingredients. Things I would mostly already have on hand or could easily find at my local Walmart. On this notion, I was sorely disappointed. When Samantha does a quick run-down of the ideal gluten-free pantry at the beginning of the book, she lists 15 "alternative flours", 4 "starches", and 2 "gums". And while she specifies that you can customize the recipes to suit what ingredients you have on hand, she also is very careful to state that "my recipes feature blends that suit the flavors of each dish." Most of the recipes that contain flour only call for 2-3 different kinds, but this still limits your ability to randomly pick and choose recipes if you don't have space in your freezer to have all 15 flours on hand.

Instead, Samantha's terminology of "simple" seems to be referring to the actual process of making the recipes once you have all of the ingredients ready to go. In this usage, she is very accurate. Most of the recipes only have 3-4 steps, and are explained well enough that they don't require a lot of culinary know-how.

Overall, I'm giving this book 4/5 stars, because it's just not what I was hoping it would be. It seems more appropriate for a small family of 2-3 or the hostess who wants to be able to make exquisite delicacies that will be enjoyed and appreciated by a much more sophisticated crowd than my 8-12 year old children. This is not a negative point by any means, I just don't find that it's congruent with my lifestyle as a busy mom in a house of six, working around three diets. I was also hoping it'd focus more on veggie alternatives rather than relying so much on other grains to move in and take the place of wheat.

*Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging For Books for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

KiKi - Homeschooling Update - September 2016

Kiki's Academic Record (as of 09/03/16)

Current credit (grade level) breakdown.
Science... level 2.00
Math... level 3.25
Social Studies... level 1.25
Language Arts... level 2.75
Health Education... level 1.00
Physical Education... level 1.75
Fine Arts... level 1.50
Practical Arts... level 2.00

Current hours for the 2016-2017 school year:
Science... 23.25 hours
Math... 53.00 hours
Social Studies... 9.75 hours
Language Arts... 23.25 hours
Reading... 8.00 hours
Art/PE/Health... 26.75 hours
Home Economics/Practical Arts... 51.75 hours
     Total hours... 195.75
Remaining hours... 804.25 total... 18.75/week... 2.75/day

Current areas of study:
Science - biology, ecology, physics, scientific technology
Math - consumer mathematics, logic and reasoning, patterns, sorting and matching
Social Studies - Bible and character, government, sociology
Language Arts - English (communication), reading
Health Education - personal hygiene
Physical Education - exercise, motor skills, walks
Fine Arts - art appreciation, music appreciation, visual arts
Practical Arts - building skills, clothing construction and care, computer operating skills, food and nutrition, household management, life skills, practical crafts

Thursday, September 1, 2016

ZoKo - Homeschooling Update - September 2016

ZoKo's Academic Record (as of 09/01/16)

2016-2017 school year hours:
Science... 30.50 hours
Math... 43.50 hours
Social Studies... 52.25 hours
Language Arts... 21.25 hours
Reading... 16.00 hours
Art/PE/Health... 31.75 hours
Practical Arts/Foreign Language... 31.50 hours
     Total hours... 216.75
Remaining hours... 783.25 total... 18.00/week... 2.75/day

Current High School Transcript:
SCIENCE: (.5 credits total)
     Biology - .5 credits - 3.7 GPA
MATHEMATICS: (.5 credits total)
     Algebra I - .5 credits - 3.0 GPA
SOCIAL STUDIES: (1.25 credit total)
     Bible & Christian Character - .75 credits - 4.0 GPA
     World History - .50 credits - 4.0 GPA
LANGUAGE ARTS: (1.25 credits total)
     Classic Literature - .25 credits - 4.0 GPA
     English I - .5 credits - 3.0 GPA
     Miscellaneous Literature - .25 credits - 4.0 GPA
     Thematic Literature - .25 credits - 3.7 GPA
PHYSICAL EDUCATION: (.25 credits total)
     Recreation - .25 credits - 4.0 GPA
PRACTICAL ARTS: (.50 credits total)
     Household Management - .50 credits - 4.0 GPA
FINE ARTS: (.25 credits total)
     Visual Arts - .25 credits - 4.0 GPA

Overall Cumulative GPA: 3.7

Main areas of current studies:
-Algebra I
-Art Appreciation (Art History)
-Bible & Christian Character
-Classic Literature
-English I
-Human Anatomy
-Instrumental Music (Guitar)
-Russian I
-World History