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Monday, March 28, 2011

Yo Ho Ho

Bentley and JennaBeth were invited on Saturday to a Pirate birthday party.  Cecily helped me take them since Mike had a sound board training he was attending.  The little birthday boy was Nicholas, who was turning 3 years old...
Isn't he just the cutest little thing?  He really is such a sweet boy.

The kids had such a good time.  Brandi, Nicholas's mom, organized such a fun little party for them!  All the little ones had an opportunity to dig for hidden treasure...
They also "walked the plank" and if they were successful snabbed some loot (a.k.a. candy!)...

JennaBeth would occasionally wander away from the activities and jump on the swing set.  Every time I turned around she had Nicholas's "poppa" (grandfather) pushing her...

Or she was climbing...
That girl thinks she can do WHATEVER the big kids are doing!
Bentley made a pirate's telescope...
Brandi had stations set up where the kids could make the telescopes or color a pirate treasure map.  Bentley and JennaBeth also got their own pirate vest, eye patch and hat!  After a little while outside, it was time to come inside and have chicken nuggets and homemade mac-n-cheese (Mac- a -cheese according to JennaBeth!)...
As you can tell Bentley (looking straight at the camera) had a mouthful!  That boy would live on Mac-n-Cheese if I would let him!  And then they had the cutest little cupcakes with a treasure chest on top of them...
Brandi told me she baked cupcakes and iced them.  Then she took Little Debbie Swill Rolls and piped some extra icing into them and added jelly beans and other candy to make it look like jewels in the chest!  They were almost too cute to eat, but of course you know we did :)

After Nicholas opened up his presents, the kids all went outside on one final "treasure hunt".  They had to look for clues written on different colored pieces of cloth.  Bentley found the green one...
At the end, all the kids ended up with bags of pirate lute...candy, beads, gold coins...JennaBeth was really proud of her find...
She is still toting that bag around today with her "gold boons" (what she calls the gold coins) in it!  Although most of the kids there were young, Bentley did have one of Nicholas's cousins to hang out with, so I had to get a picture of the big, bad pirates...
Thank you Brandi for the invite.  The kids had a wonderful time.

Arggggggh maties,

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I have just finished the best fiction/suspense novel I have ever read!  Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann was absolutely amazing and Ms Heitzmann is a brilliant writer.

Jonah Westfall is the Police Chief in a small Colorado town.  He not only has found two animals grotesquely maimed, but is holding onto past pain and an unbelievable secret.  There is also a growing drug problem involving the husband of one of his fellow female officers.

Then there is Tia who runs a candle shop and Piper who works at the bakery next door.  Tia and Jonah have a history that goes back several years when Tia was just a teenager. She was abandoned by her family and Jonah is part of the reason why.

This story has more twists and turns than a tightly wound pretzel!  I was completely drawn into the story from page one.  Ms Heitzmann writes in such a way that you can not help but to keep turning pages.  I took this book with me everywhere - the carpool line, the laundry room (I'd prop it open and read while I folded the clothes!). 

The thing I really liked about Ms Heitzmann's writing is that you become intimately acquainted with each character because she tells you what they are thinking and feeling. She reveals just enough along in the story to keep you hooked completely until the final page.  And what you learn in the end will shock you to the core!  I hated for the book to end and was not at all ready to be done with Jonah and Tia's story, or Piper and Miles, or Sarge and Jay or Liz or the coydog giving birth to her pups in Jonah's closet!

Here's the trailer for the book:

You can order Indivisible from WaterBrook by going HERE.
Or you can order from by following the link below:

This book was sent to me by WaterBrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review.

Happy Reading,

Friday, March 25, 2011

School Days, Golden Rule Days

There's my little classroom of two!  Bentley (age 5) is telling JennaBeth (age 2) the story of Goldilocks and The Three Bears using some figures he made in his Speech class he attends two afternoons a week at one of the local elementary schools.  He is learning about story structure:  beginning, middle and ending.  It also helps that he had to say "bears" a lot as the ending "s" sound on words is something he's had a little trouble with.  I am so proud of him!  He has really improved so much since he started these classes in November of last year.  He is even self-correcting on some words that have given him a great deal of trouble.

Bentley's penmanship has really improved as well.  He now recognizes his first and last name in print when he sees it and can write his first name without having to copy it.  We were working on another word ending in "s" here with writing "sisters".  He can now say "sisters" rather than "tister".

Banner of Truth was very gracious and sent me a copy of Alison Brown's A Bible Alphabet and its companion A Bible Alphabet Activity Book.  

Alison Brown, a former primary school teacher and now full-time mother of five, lives with her husband David in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.
I am so thankful to have been able to review these amazing resources and am blessed to be able to incorporate them into our little school routine each week.  
A Bible Alphabet includes large and colorful illustrations which catch the eyes of little ones right away.  The story which corresponds to each letter of the alphabet is told in two to three sentences making it perfect to keep the attention of the very young learning the alphabet; however, the full scripture passages are included for each story at the end of the book, which gives the parent the opportunity to go a little more in detail with older children.

A Bible Alphabet Activity Book provides a coloring/writing page that corresponds to each letter and story in A Bible Alphabet.  Children have the opportunity to color the scene given with the Bible story and to write the word using the letter being emphasized.  The sheets are perforated making them easy to remove from the book.

These two resources used together are the perfect way to not only teach a child his/her letters, but to teach biblical truth as well.  Ms Brown's books would be perfect for Sunday School or Vacation Bible or Backyard Bible school use.  Grandparents would find them useful to have at their homes as well.  Anyone desiring to educate preschool to early elementary age children would find these books a great help.

Instead of sitting the little ones in front of the T.V. why not grab these two resources from Banner of Truth and open up a world of fun and discussion with the little ones in your life.  You will surely be blessed!  Just visit their website by clicking on the words "Banner of Truth" in the previous sentence.
*I was sent these resources by Banner of Truth in exchange for my honest review here on the blog.  I was compensated in no other way.

Grab the little ones in your life and these resources and have some fun,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Scars of a Chef

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a copy of Scars of a Chef:  The searing story of a top chef marked forever by the grit and grace of life in the kitchen by Rick Tramanto with Lisa Jackson for the purpose of review.  I was compensated in no other way and was expected only to give my honest review of the book.

I am a FoodNetwork and cooking show junkie!  My daughter and I love to watch Cake Boss and all those shows where cooking challenges are happening.  So, when Tyndale had the opportunity to review Rick Tramonto's memoirs in Scars of a Chef, was excited to have the chance to read his book. 

Where can a guy with 24 different tattoos running up and down both sides of his body, no high school diploma, a background of drug abuse and abandonment by his father, a mother with extreme emotional problems, and a job at Wendy's possibly go in the culinary world?  In Scars of a Chef Rick Tramonto tells the amazing journey God guided him through from flipping hamburgers in Wendy's to cooking with some of the top chefs around Europe and opening his own four star restaurant.

Mr. Tramonto's story is fast paced.  In so many autobiographies and memoirs, you sometimes get into pages and pages of unnecessary details; not here!  Tramonto keeps the story moving and you get a true sense of what his life really must have been like.  It was very hard to put this book down!  I devoured it in two days simply because I had to know what happens next! 

Tramonto doesn't soft soap his struggles with anger and drug abuse as ways he employed to cope with the stress and emotional troubles he experienced in his attempt to work his way into the heart of the culinary world.  I appreciated his transparency in the book.  You get to peak into a life transformed by the grace of God and see someone living it out for real.  You get to see what can become of someone, who by human standards deserved to go nowhere and be a nobody, but surrendered to the grace of God in his life has opened up his own restaurants and authored numerous cookbooks. 

What you get in Scars of a Chef is not just theology, but doxology; living day by day dependent on the amazing grace of God.

And an added plus is the amazing recipes of Chef Tramonto included at the end of each chapter.  These are signature recipes he created and some he adapted from his Italian heritage.  This book is going right beside some of my favorite cookbooks in my kitchen!

Scars of a Chef can be purchased at by following the link provided bellow.

Happy Reading and Cooking,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big News from Tyndale Publishers

If you visit here very often, you know by now that I love to read and review books for various publishers.  Well, I have some exciting news about Tyndale Publishers!  They are launching a new book club enewsletter and in honor of that launch are running a 30 day giveaway on their website.

The Book Club Hub Newsletter will be geared toward people who are in or are running book clubs.  
It will feature suggestions, discussion guides and great ideas for your book clubs.  You might want to take a peak at the contest page by going HERE. 

You can return to the site daily for a chance to win books.

Happy Reading,

What The Heart Sees

Thomas Nelson sent me a copy of Kathleen Fuller's What The Heart Sees for the purpose of review.  I was not compensated in any other way and was expected only to give my honest review of the author's work.

What The Heart Sees is a collection of three Amish romances:  A Miracle for Miriam,  A Place of His Own, and What the Heart Sees.  The complete work is 414 pages so each story is relatively short and easy to read.  A reading group guide is included as well as a couple of Old Order Amish recipes.

While I enjoyed Ms Fuller's writing, her plots are a bit predictable.  Ms Fuller also occasionally uses a word from the language most commonly used by the Amish, which is known as Pennsylvania Deitsch.  I found myself a little frustrated at having to refer back to the glossary found at the beginning of the book.  However, she has exceptional skill in weaving a story that is hard to put down even though you know somewhat how it may end.  The characters in What The Heart Sees are endearing and help the reader understand the simple ways of the Amish people. 

If you enjoy simple and sweet stories and need some easy reading, then this book might be what you are looking for.  What the Heart Sees can be purchased directly from the publisher or from by following the link provided below.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Glorious Togetherness

Last week was one of those weeks where I was too busy doing life to stop and blog about it!  The week was filled with doctor's appointments for both girls, conferences with teachers and all the other stuff like laundry, dirty dishes, meals to prepare, groceries to get the point.

Speaking of doctor's appointments...
this little stinker had her two year old check-up.  She weighs 26 lbs. which puts her in the 70th percentile for her weight and she is 36 inches tall putting her in the 95th percentile for her height.  JennaBeth's vocabulary is growing every day and she has developed quite a cute sense of humor.

I took those pictures on Sunday before we left for church in an attempt to capture the pig tails!  She doesn't leave them in for long, so I wanted to get the before she got a hold of them.  I thought the little yellow dress was appropriate for the first day of Spring.  Gotta love hand-me-downs!  Thank you Faith for all the cute little dresses you shared with us!!

After a very busy week, we enjoyed a relaxing Saturday. It was a much needed respite from the "gotta be there by so and so time" and the "gotta have this done by such and such time".  Cecily and I had some crazy good coupons for Bath & Body.  With  those coupons and a fun store promotion they were having, we got $100 worth of stuff for $21.00!!  We will be smellin' good for a while!
As you can tell by my oldest's expression, she wasn't happy with Mama snapping pictures while she was strolling through the mall.  I guess I was messin' with her coolness or something!
Now speaking of cool...little miss priss sure thought she was!  She looked too growny walking down the mall with her big "sisa" with her little bag hanging from her arm!  She and her brother had made a trip to the Disney store with daddy while Cecily and I were in Bath & Body.  She would not let anybody else carry that little bag either!
Bentley of course had nothing to do with the "smellin' good store".  He wanted to try out the hurricane simulator; you know tough big boy stuff.
Later on Saturday evening, Mike, Cecily and I observed the Super Moon.  The picture doesn't come close to giving justice to the brilliance of the moon that evening.  The moon was so bright that it was hard to look at for very long.

As I went to bed Saturday evening, I was thinking about how bright the moon was and my thoughts turned immediately to the holiness of God its Creator.  How humbling it is to think that the Creator of such a beautiful and powerful thing cares for me.  But not only that He cares for me, but loved me enough to send His Son to die on a cross to save me from my sins.  But not only did He save me from my sins, but desires fellowship with me.  And not only that He desires fellowship with me, but that He thought before the foundation of the world the things and people that would be part of my life and the works He'd have me do.

Here is Ephesians 2:8-10 in the Message translation:
"Saving is all His idea, and all His work.  All we do is trust Him enough to let Him do it.  It's God's gift from start to finish!  We don't play the major role.  If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing!  No, we neither make nor save ourselves.  God does both the making and saving.  He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He was gotten ready for us to do, work we better be doing."
John Phillips says this in commentary on those verses:
"Good works are part of God's plan.  They are not the price of salvation, but the proof.  The believer is not saved as a result of good works; good works are the result of salvation.  They are the result of God's working in the believer's heart.  They are the evidence that he is alive from the dead.  They are the proof of the glorious togetherness that exists between the believer and the Savior."
I am thankful today that God loves me and that He purchased my ability to enjoy glorious togetherness with Him and has blessed me with the sweetest husband and kids on the Earth!

May you and yours have a blessed week!


Friday, March 11, 2011

Plain Wisdom

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of Plain Wisdom by Cindy Woodsmall and Miriam Flaud from WaterBrook.  In this book, Cindy and Miriam, two friends from two very different worlds - one Old Order Amish and one Englischer - share the truths that bring them together.  Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author of several novels about Amish life and Flaud is an Old Order Amish woman who has lived within one of the most structured societies in the United States. 

In the introduction written by Woodsmall, she says of their unique friendship:
"Our friendship has shown us that whatever culture we live in, successes are possible...and failures are inevitable, but they're never final when placed in His hands."
The chapters in the book are very short, the longest one being maybe six pages making this book one easy to read by someone busy and not able to read long portions at a time.  The chapters stand on their own also making it easy to read a small portion and then maybe not pick the book back up until a few days later.

While the content of the book is endearing and inspiring, there are many things about its organization that I really did not like.  For instance, in each chapter there is constant flipping back and forth between Woodsmall and Flaud.  I would have better liked hearing from one of the women alone in each chapter.  While the reader will learn much about the Old Order Amish way of life, by mid-way through the book, all the stories began to sound alike.

There are Amish recipes scattered throughout the book and a discussion guide is included at the end of the book.  I give this book a three star rating out of five stars.  If the things I mention in the paragraph above would not bother you, then I feel you will enjoy this book and be inspired by the amazing story of friendship between two very different people; something only the amazing grace of God can bring about.

Plain Wisdom can be purchased through the publisher, WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing.  The book will be available on March 15.  You can read an excerpt by going HERE

The book can also be ordered through by following the link bellow:


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Call Me "Tiger Mom"

I read something last week that I haven't been able to get out of my mind.  It was this story about a mother who left her husband and two children ages 5 and 3, because she had an "epiphany" and realized she didn't want to be a mother anymore.  She was afraid of being "swallowed up" by motherhood.  She "had to leave my children to find them" and has opted for "part-time motherhood".

Now I have a question:  Exactly how can you be a "part-time" mother?

When Cecily (our oldest, now 13) was just a baby, I worked outside the home as a social worker at a state psychiatric hospital.  We had an older couple that kept her for us in their home.  One day after work, I had to stop at Wal-Mart to pick something up; Mike was picking Cecily up on that particular afternoon, so I was by myself.  We absolutely loved the couple taking care of Cecily at the time; they will always be known to us as Papa Noah and Mama Kay.  They loved our girl like she was their own.  Papa Noah gave her her first haircut (he had been a barber) and taught her to take her first steps.  She had her first McDonald's chicken nuggets with them.  And while I had complete confidence in the care she received from them and still feel like it was the best situation outside me being at home with her, I still grieve over missing so many things that first year of Cecily's life.

Back to the Wal-Mart trip.  As I was standing in line that day, there was a young mother with her little girl with her.  The little girl had to be around two years old.  She was a cutie with long brown hair and big round eyes and the cutest little smile on her face as she looked at me.  I will always remember her looking at me.  This young mother was yanking on her and really being fussy with her.  Mind you there wasn't a peep coming from this child the whole time!  Someone who obviously knew this young woman in the line next to us asked her how work was going to which the young woman responded, "Oh I'm not working. I'm at home."  The friend responded to that with "Oh, I guess you are enjoying being with that little cutie of yours then."

The young mother's response is one that brought me to tears and one I will never forget:  "Oh h*** no!  I'd hang myself before I had to stay with this kid all day!"

I remember barely being able to check out without losing it right there in the check out at Wal-Mart.  There was no way I could turn around and look at those big round brown eyes again.  All I could think about as I drove home that evening is how badly I wanted to stay at home with Cecily!  I would have traded places with that young mother, apparently in a position to be able to stay at home, gladly, except I would have been overjoyed to spend the days with my sweet girl with me!

Since that day, approximately 12 and 1/2 years ago, God has blessed with me two more gifts in addition to Cecily:
(Bentley, age 5)
(JennaBeth, age 2)
Fortunately, and not without its sacrifices, I have been at home with both of them.  Now I'm not throwing a token into the "mommy wars" on the stay-at-home mother side!  I've been on both sides of that fence and being a mother any way you slice it is a very hard job.  There are days when I am "swallowed up in motherhood" and days when I don't respond to the challenge with as much grace as I should. 

But by the grace and mercy of God, prayerfully I'm learning to be the mommy that Cecily, Bentley, and JennaBeth need.  And I believe that whether you work outside the home or you stay at home or some variation in between, CHILDREN NEED THEIR MOTHERS AND FATHERS FULL TIME!  

I really don't mean to vilify Ms. Rizzuto ( the woman in the article ), but I can't ignore that at the heart of her "epiphany" is absolute and utter selfishness.  I guess this kind of thing shouldn't shock me so taking into account the times in which we presently live where everything is given value based on whether it is convienent or not.  

Years ago I read a book by Sally Clarkson titled "The Ministry of Motherhood".  In the book she explores five "gifts" our children need:  the gift of grace, the gift of inspiration, the gift of faith, the gift of training, and the gift of service.  Early in the book, while discussing the gift of grace, she talks the grace of time together.  She relays the story of a time when she and her husband had just moved the family to a knew town.  They had four children and they were all missing old friends and having a hard time adjusting to the re-location.  It's half past ten and as she makes the tour of the four bedrooms to tuck them all in, her last stop is her 13 year old son's room.  

His "puppy dog eyes" begged for some attention and she shares that "to be honest, I didn't think I had it in me.  I felt drained and wrung out just trying to keep all four children happy and cared for in their restless need for more than I had to give."  Ms Clarkson goes on to share how she ends up sitting on her son's bed, talking with him and scratching his back listening to him pour out his heart.  At the end he shares, "Thanks for taking the time, Mom.  It meant a lot to me."

Ms Clarkson ends the section by sharing this:
"I once had dreams of great feats I wanted my children to accomplish with their lives.  I wanted them to have a strong moral character and be a testimony for Christ.  I wanted them to be leaders to their lost and wandering friends.  I wanted them to be excellent in their manners and conduct, work habits, and schoolwork and to be gracious and patient to each other.  I wanted them to take up their cross and follow after Christ in whatever they were asked to do.  I still have those dreams of course.  But I've realized that my dreams are not necessarily what really motivate my children to become the best they can be.  What matters to them is my loving presence.  Nathan wanted me to be his friend, someone who would take the time to talk and scratch his back.  And that's what all my children need from me.  If I want them to be open to my messages, I need to be willing to serve them - to voluntarily give up my rights and my time to meet their felt needs - just as Jesus was willing to give for his disciples."
So rather than a text message, Skype event or IM with them a couple of times a week, I chose to be with my three blessings.  There is no other place I'd rather be.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Flight Plan

If you are a parent, you have probably asked at some point where the instruction manual was to your child.  I know I sure have.  Parenting is hard work and as Christians we seek to "bring them up" according to God's word, but we sometimes struggle to understand how to apply the biblical mandates we find there.

Well, I think I have found exactly the tool those of us who are raising sons need to aid us in the most important job of raising our sons to become faithful men of God.

Audra Jennings with the B&B Media Group sent me a copy of Flight Plan:  Your Mission to Become a Man by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady.  Brady is the chaplain of Presbyterian Day School in Memphis, TN and Burns is the headmaster of PDS.  Flight Plan was the response of Burns and Brady to many requests by parents to expand their year long curriculum Building Boys, Making Men beyond the 600 plus boys they serve at PDS.

What is unique about this book is that it is written directly to the young boys (middle school and high school aged).  The format of the book includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter to help the guys reading digest the information a bit further.  Burns and Brady encourage the boys reading to discuss the book with their fathers, mentor, coach or someone they respect.

The layout of the information is appealing with the use of pictures, bullet points and cool graphics.  The information is thorough and draws directly from the Scriptures allowing the boys reading to understand the foundation of the ideas taken directly from God's word, our most important "manual" for life.

These guys cover just about everything one could possibly think of when it comes to the many roads a boy must travel in becoming a man.  They corrolate the ideas in each chapter to that of a flight plan a pilot might have and do an excellent job of relaying the importance of actually having a plan rather than flying by the seat of their pants. 

Hear Burns' and Brady's heart for the reader in these words:
"God designed you to live a fulfilling and purposeful life as a teenager  and a man.  Your choices make a difference in the life you lead and experience.  Realizing the purpose and fulfillment God has in mind for you depends not simply on following certain advice and rules, though that's part of it.  The most important thing is developing a personal relationship with God.  It is experiencing fellowship with Him and the fullness of His love.  It is having a heart for the Lord.  God wants your heart more than merely your words or behavior."
From promotional materials for the book:
"How do you go about casting a vision or plan for what manhood should be ?"
"Flight Plan teaches the definition of manhood, that a real man glorifies God by seeking an adventuresome life of purpose and passion as he protects and serves others.  This definition of manhood, along with seven biblically-based virtues, serve as the foundation for a vision of godly manhood.  We take readers through each virtue:  the true friend, the humble hero, the servant leader, the moral motivator, the bold adventurer, the noble knight, and finally, the heart patient."
Flight Plan is so detailed and full of practical wisdom for our boys.  Burns and Brady do a really good job of not just giving a lot of information, but of giving the reader actual ways to implement the ideas into practical ways to glorify God and serve others.  They truly leave no issue untouched.  I especially appreciated the chapters that covered how to treat girls, dating, and sex.  Burns and Brady are candid in the chapter on sex, but handle the information in an informative and very helpful way.

I highly recommend this book!  If you have a son or a grandson, YOU NEED TO GET A COPY OF THIS BOOK!  It is certainly a resource that I will tuck away and bring out again when my now 5 year old son is around middle school age.  Flight Plan would be a perfect resource for use between father and son, youth boys and their leader, or in a discipleship relationship.

Flight Plan can be purchased at by following the link below.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Every Girl's Crazy About a Sharp Dressed Man

Bentley has been asked by a sweet girl in our church to be the ring bearer in her beach wedding on April 2nd.  Yesterday he had the fitting for his tuxedo.  I absolutely can not wait to see my little guy all suited up in April!
As you can tell by the look on his face, he was not overly thrilled to be doing this fitting!  He'll have the black tux with black shirt and a blue vest and tie.
That's the bride in the background of this picture holding JennaBeth.  JennaBeth loves her "Je-ee".  Jessi keeps her in the nursery during Sunday School and has cut our family's hair since we moved to Florida almost 4 years ago.  She'll be moving and we will have to find a new hairdresser!
Here little man is all smiles as he was taking OFF the shoes and pants!

I sure hope the groom and groom's men don't take offense with the ring bearer stealin' their thunder at this wedding, because he sure is gonna!

Crazy about my sharp dressed little man,