I Tried Aldi


So many people have told me about the life changing magic that is shopping at Aldi. I have read forum posts in praise of the grocery store chain. I see Pins about the magical budget solution Aldi is. Friends have been aghast that I have never stepped foot inside the place. So, I finally took the plunge. With so many various people telling me about the glory of the store, it was time.
Imogene and I grabbed a quarter and headed to our local Aldi. First, they told me I needed a quarter for the buggy. They told me I would get it back. They did not tell me how to use this magic buggy. It took us a minute or two to figure out where to put the quarter. But we finally figured it out. No thanks to the 3 people than angrily huffed around us getting their own buggies and not letting us in on the secret quarter spot.
We walk toward the door, which is laid out completely backwards. The entrance is on the left, the exit on the right. That isn’t how this works. That is just anarchy. It was maddening to walk through the WRONG right way in. (Have I mentioned I have been diagnosed with mild OCD? I took my therapist’s advice and just made myself do it, despite my discomfort. “Live with the discomfort,” she tells me. And I did. Very much discomfort.)
Entering, it appears they are trying to have an IKEA type system here. All traffic flow moving one direction. No going back. Only this first section looks like a walk through a typical convenience store. Off brand chips and pretzels. Not at all what I am there for. And none are a seemingly good deal.
We get to the dairy case where people have raved about milk and egg prices. I was not at all impressed. $0.10 a gallon cheaper for milk than my beloved Kroger. The doors lead to some abyss that is their dairy cooler. I’m pretty sure the way things are just thrown and stacked around isn’t up to code. I wonder if grocery stores have health inspectors. I worked at a grocery store, you’d think I would know this information. My giant pregnant self has to try to move a cardboard pallet that has a couple squashed and leaking gallons of milk left on it to try to get to the new pallet underneath. The milk on the full pallet barely looks better. But I am squatting and leaning into a grocery cooler and am starting to loose feeling in my toes, so I grab a couple of smashed up gallons and hope for the best. I go to check the eggs. They are the same price as Kroger, but I am here, so I might as well buy these. All smashed. Like someone dropped a milk pallet on top of the eggs this morning smashed. No eggs it is.
We move on to the produce. We’ve heard about the wonderful prices. I supposed paying $0.11 per pound of bananas sounds fabulous, but very few of the bananas appear edible. Every single bag of clementines contains at least one molded clementine. Every single bag of potatoes contains at least one very rotten potato. (Super pregnant nose knows.) The prices are actually higher than Sprouts, but the food is almost inedible. Why pay ANY money for mushy onions?
We scan the canned goods. Dented cans. Prices the same or higher than Kroger. At this point, we decide to just pay for our milk and leave. The store is dirty, poorly organized, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get tetanus from the shelving. We escape before the zombies break out of the back room.
Aldi’s was straight up terrible. It reminded me of the tiny grocery store we had in rural Mississippi, only, if everyone had left the store unattended for a week. The Dollar Store is a better shopping experience, guys. I was told to expect Trader Joe’s. It was nothing like Trader Joe’s. It was like shopping at Mud Tavern grocery, which was located in a single wide trailer. It was super depressing. I asked Imogene her thoughts after. She said she felt like everything was falling in on her and she was sure this was the place of her burial.
So, there. I tried it. I hated it. I won’t be going back. But let me know, is your Aldi this terrible? And if so, how do they even stay in business? But hey, we did return our cart and get that quarter back.

2016-2017 Homeschool Curriculum Review

We haven’t yet moved into our next school year, but the planning for next year is coming along. This past year was our 7th homeschooling year. We had 4 official students and 1 who insisted on jumping into the fun with us. (Preschoolers do that from time to time. Sometimes they want to participate. Sometimes they don’t. Before age 6, we let them choose. Play time is learning time for that age, so I’m not comfortable pushing them toward rigorous studies just yet.) I figured I’d let you guys know what worked and what didn’t this school year. But I always like to give an update on what worked and what didn't, since my opinions may change by the time we get closer to the end.

Overall, we have used The Well Trained Mind throughout our schooling days. We’ve been a little more relaxed in the Grammar stage. Some of the suggested resources haven’t worked for us, so we have found alternatives that work.

I had two fifth graders this year, one third grader, one kindergartener, and one preschooler.

Math
We used Teaching Textbooks 5 and 3 for these guys this year. Teaching Textbooks has been the best math program for these guys. These two started with Singapore Math and then switched to Teaching Textbooks for fourth grade. We no longer buy the workbooks, because my kids only use the computer disc portion of the program. Each lesson is well explained, having them do practice problems as they go. If they don’t do well on a lesson, you can go in and delete the grade and let them try again. They get two tries at each problem, and the program explains how the answer is achieved. It gives immediate gratification, telling them if they are right or wrong on each problem before they move on. The kids do very well with this program. I have read some reviews that say the grade levels are off, but I have not found that to be the case. Each year starts off pretty easy, but builds back to more difficult concepts. So, a student may find it easy at first, but there is more challenge coming. My only issue with the program is the cardboard cases the CDs come in. I feel like for the price, they should come in some durable CD cases for long term use. I’ve had to move all our discs into a zippered CD case. That works, but for $99 a set (higher in the higher levels) they should come with something more durable than paper. The program keeps up with the grades and you can check them at any time. We don’t usually do grades, but since the kids were doing it all on their own, it helped me keep an eye on their progress.
We started the year with Essential Math K. He flew through it. It wasn’t a challenge for him at all. We switched to Life of Fred about halfway through the year. It introduced more complex topics and he liked the storytelling aspect. The preschooler joined us for these lessons, but will likely need to do them again.

Grammar
I signed the older two up for Wordly Wise Online through Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. They didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. The program isn’t well laid out. It is very confusing and takes a lot of time per lesson. I also felt like they weren’t really learning much for the effort being put in. We stopped it mid-year and will not be picking it back up.
We also grabbed the new Writer’s In Residence program from Apologia. Each student needs their own book. And the books are hefty. While I like some of the content, overall, the program didn’t work well for us. For one, it isn’t well laid out. The grading rubric is confusing. Everything has to be graded, which is weird for us since we don’t really grade things. Some of the assignments were frivolous. Also, it got really messy. It is a huge workbook, so I expect all the work to be done in the book and fit in the book. But there were several times when things were cut out of the book (which annoys me greatly) or they had to paper clip extra pages into the book. I felt like they could have made it all work, but didn’t. If the kids are needing to use separate paper, I would have just liked it in textbook format with all the work being done on their own paper in a separate notebook. My kids did learn from the program, but it was far too parent intensive and far too convoluted. You will need at least one of the Teacher’s Guides. I won’t be continuing this program. Even if I wanted to, I can’t. They released Volume 1 of 4 last year but haven’t released Volume 2 yet. I have such mixed feelings on this program. Some of it is SO good. But then some of it is SO bad.

I kept my third grader signed up for Explode the Code online. I absolutely love that program. It has worked so unbelievably well for him. He enjoys it. It challenges him. He is finishing up the program now, so he won’t be using it next year. I’ll be looking at buying it again for our rising first grader, though.

History
Our history years aren’t lining up smoothly because we spent longer than a school year on Ancient history. We use Story of The World. This year, we started a history co-op with some other families in our church. That slowed us down considerably, so we didn’t finish a full year of history this year either. We finished up Story of The World 2 and then moved into Story of the World 3. We tried the audio version of Story of the World 2, but the kids hated it. They did not like listening to the CDs. So, we went back to me reading it to them from the book. When we started Story of The World 3, I added interactive notebooks. It would have worked well for just my kids, but in the co-op setting, it got a little hectic. We will be continuing Story of The World 3 next year, but these two will be moving into the Logic stage, so they will be adjusting how they do history. (Technically, the Logic Stage begins in 5th grade, but my kids needed an extra year of writing and grammar before they could really tackle outlines and summaries.)

Science
We found a really awesome Science curriculum that works alongside Story of The World so well. Berean Builders Science is chronological science, studied by scientist and discovery. That has made so much more sense to my kids and given them a better understanding of how we come to know what we know. I’ll admit, they watched a few too many documentaries that had distorted their view of science. Because each documentary presents everything as fact, not theory. Then the documentaries would contradict one another or come from an atheistic world view. My kids became super skeptical and I was having difficulty drawing them back into the subject. The Berean Science books have been perfect to hook them back in. We started using Science in the Scientific Revolution along with Story of the World 3. There are experiments to better understand the discoveries made. It has been awesome. The kids love it, they are actually engaged, and they better understand the scientific process and how new discoveries change the way we see the world.

Handwriting
I have never used a proper handwriting program. However, my kids really needed it. They were having a lot of trouble writing clearly enough to communicate their ideas. So, I opted for an actual handwriting book. I chose Patriotic Penmanship. I liked the selected quotes. I decided to keep my third grader in print writing because he was only 7 and he needed some reinforcement on the proper way to make letters. One of my fifth graders did introductory cursive and the other did her proper grade. The workbooks are great. I had them work on a two page spread, one lesson, each week. Day one they would just practice making a letter. Day two they would practice key words. Day three they would work on a full phrase or two. Day four they would write the entire quote. It didn’t take more than a few minutes each day and I simply asked for very hard work for those few minutes. All of them have improved their handwriting significantly with just a little work each day. I will definitely be ordering Patriotic Penmanship workbooks again this year. Each child needs their own workbook as they are consumable.

Bible
For our Bible study for the older kids, we used Herein Is Love: Genesis. This one has a lot more lessons in it than the Leviticus book. The kids really enjoyed it and I think they learned a lot. It does a great job of weaving the whole story into the beginning story.
For the Little Guys, we used the Jesus Calling Storybook. I was not as in love with this Storybook Bible as I was with the Jesus Storybook Bible. It has little notes from Jesus, but they are worded oddly and it makes it a little difficult to follow in a read aloud format. But the kids liked it and they did learn.

Geography
We used my Operation World geography plan. It went really well. It helped open my kids’ worldview and show them more than what is outside their front door. I was really happy with how it went and will continue it next year.

Kindergarten
I purchased Alpha Tales and Phonics Tales at Costco for the little guys. We did not get into the Phonics Tales. It will really be a toss up this year if we do that book or The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading. I’m not sure which will work better for these guys.
I also signed them up for ABCMouse.com mid year. They have loved it. They can use their tablets to play. I signed up for the assessments, as well, but found that portion pretty worthless.

Reading
I basically let the kids pick what they wanted to read this year instead of using the reading list from Well Trained Mind. Turned out, that was a mistake. Well, the kids really loved reading, but they essentially spent the year reading junk books. I did strongly suggest a few classics that they did read and enjoy. The third grader loved the Roald Dahl books we have and finished all the Magic Treehouse books we own, plus ventured over to the Imagination Station books. The fifth graders read Peter Pan and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. They also read some Judy Bloom. But they did read a bunch of Goosebumps books and other junk type books. Next year, I’ll separate the required reading and the fun reading a bit more.

I kept track of everything in a composition notebook that I used like a bullet journal for schooling. This helped the planning significantly. I’ll be doing the same again because it worked so well. Though I’ll likely opt for a real bullet journal this year. (I’ve been using a bullet journal for a class I am taking and another one for the upcoming 2018 year. I’m liking the customization so much more than a standard planner. I also have one that I’ve been using alongside my 2017 planner for notes and things. I do like having separate planners for each of those areas, since I feel like everything together just gets too cluttered.)

** This post contains affiliate links. Using these links won't cost you more. But if you use the links, they do benefit me. Using affiliate links is a way to help support bloggers like me. **

Feng Shui Mommy & Musings on Being A Mother


I had the opportunity to review the book Feng Shui Mommy by Bailey Gaddis recently. It took me a little longer than usual, since we have been traveling for what seems like forever. And I see these Instagram posts of parents having this relaxing, chill time while traveling, reading and sipping pretty cups of coffee. That is so far from my life. For me, traveling is a bunch of yelling at kids to please, don’t scream in the bus. And please, don’t throw a half eaten orange on the floor. And then trying to get them settled wherever we are staying is trying. Please don’t break anything. Please don’t scream. Just behave for a couple days, guys! My kids really need time to run outside and be wild children. They just get all crazy without it. And then trying to find decent food on the road while the kids are yelling “Look! Burger King! We haven’t been there in years! Please!!!!” It is just far from relaxing. And there is zero time for me to accomplish anything other than keeping the kids alive.I wasn’t entirely sure about this book. Feng Shui isn’t my think, neither is Eastern mysticism. But I figured I had read any other pregnancy book I could get my hands on, why not this one too? And I am a believer that wisdom can be gained from anywhere. You just have to be able to put in the wisdom and leave whatever doesn’t work for you behind.

I’ll start with the good. Bailey is hilarious. I’m sure we’d get along great in a Mommy group. The book is very encouraging, yet honest about the process of becoming a mother. It is really applicable for a first time mom or a seventh time mom like myself. We all know pregnancy is this giant miracle, the piece of creative work here on earth. But we also know it comes with hemorrhoids, stretch marks, uncontrollable belching, and plenty of other super fun things they write entire pregnancy books about. Bailey acknowledges these unfortunate parts while still reveling in the miraculousness of it all. And the commonness. Let’s face it. My pregnancy is life changing. For me. And my family. Not so much for everyone else. Pregnant women are everywhere. Babies are born every day. We don’t stop and revel in that daily miracle, unless the miracle is in our arms or our circle. Not that you, pregnant woman, are not special and your baby isn’t the most awesome thing ever. But there is comfort in knowing that you’re not alone in your journey. This isn’t a path not taken. Women have babies. It is what we do.

She lays down a lot of good advice about letting go of fears and accepting and allowing this experience to shape and change you. Motherhood is going to change you. You won’t be the same. Not that you will not be you, you’ll just be a better you. Motherhood has the opportunity to let us get beyond ourselves, see things in a more broad light, and see the world not just for what it is, but what it could be for our children. You hear a lot of women talking about loosing themselves in motherhood. That has not been my experience at all. I have found myself in motherhood. I have tapped into creativity, problem solving, stamina, strength, wisdom, and more through becoming a mother. Motherhood has made me a more complete person.

There are other nuggets of wisdom throughout this book. There are little aspects similar to hypnobabies, for those not necessarily wanting to jump head in to that or wanting a little more than that. Each chapter has a riddle and the answer is the code for a free relaxation recording on her website. (Yourserenelife.wordpress if you are wanting to check out the website or just purchase the recordings.) If you are a bit high strung, this will definitely help you quiet your mind and rest. The recording go alongside the chapter. There is some great information about prenatal nutrition, exercising, dealing with your anxieties, figuring out your birth plan, breathing, breastfeeding, and postpartum self care. A lot of the things she suggests are very “woo” (hippie, might seem weird to most mainstream folks), but try them and you’ll find so many benefits (without side effects). This book is really packed with a lot of natural birth type basics, specifically helpful in the preparing stage.

I genuinely expected the major focus of the book to be decluttering and a form of minimalism in a family home. While there was a little of that, it was more about decluttering your mind and letting go of the junk you keep stashed in there, less about what you keep stashed under your bed. (Though it does briefly address that aspect, too.)

Now for my only big critique. As much as I enjoyed the book, Feng Shui isn’t my language. You may know what I am talking about. You read pregnancy affirmations and they just don’t resonate with you, not because they are wrong, but they aren’t the language of your heart or soul. Aligning my soul and my life with nature isn’t where I find myself. I appreciate the natural world, as a creation of our God that reveals His nature to us. So while I do find myself able to adapt and use much that I find in this book, it isn’t in the language of my heart. Same with the relaxation tracks. I can find wisdom in them. I can apply them to myself. But in all, they aren’t my language. My heart resonates with Scripture, with the voices of those for the cause of Christ. So, I did find that I had to leave some of this, and adapt the rest to fit my particular worldview. I find that Scripture is what I need to quiet my soul and release my anxieties. I memorize Bible verses, not birth affirmations because Scripture speaks to me. If you aren’t a solid Christian though, this can be much harder to do and not get lost with incompatible philosophies running around in your head. However, I think the overall tone of the book, being supportive and encouraging embracing motherhood and letting it change you, is completely in line with Christian beliefs and is what many Christian women need to hear. So, I do recommend the book, despite the difference of religion and worldview that is there.


I am going to have to figure out how to cut down on this rambling for a more concise Amazon review. But this book is a great jumping off point in discussing our expectations of motherhood and what the reality could be if we let go of our fear and become the mothers we were made to be. Our culture has a lot of myths about birth. We just don’t trust it because it is the wild, uncontrollable, unknown. We try to control it in any way we can. But pregnancy, birth, and motherhood are not beyond us- they are us. Their strength that we try to tamper because it is scary is our own strength. Our culture still paints women as these frail objects that are affected by birth. But women ARE birth. It is the work of women to BIRTH. We work alongside God in the creative act of bringing forth new life. That is amazing. That is powerful. And that is who we are and what we were made to do. For those without children, that strength is still there. It is still part of who you are. And I’m not talking about having some secret power you don’t use. You were made with the power of a mother, whether you are one or not. And you can embrace the strength given to you by God, too. One baby, ten babies, no babies. This is mystical. It is mystery. But it isn’t a nightmare or something to fear. Embrace it. Roll with it. Let it shape you.

** I did receive this book for free, however, I am under no obligation to talk it up or give it a good review. All thoughts are my own. **

How To Make Southern Sweet Tea

Down here in the south, we learn to make sweet tea really young. And you learn to make it your mama’s way. And then you grow up, move out on your own, and while you use your mama’s recipe at first, you eventually come upon your own way to make YOUR favorite sweet tea. 

So, this is how to make the perfect GODBOLD household sweet tea. In the summer, we switch to mint tea. Now, the mint is optional, but you should try it. 

First, I make my sweet tea using a tea kettle. My mama used a pan. My granny used a sweet tea maker. But I use a kettle. So you’re going to boil water in a tea kettle first. (My Dodah always said that hot water wouldn’t boil, so I always put cold water in my kettle. The Pastor thinks this is the most ridiculous thing ever, but I havent’ managed to straighten myself out on this issue.)

While your water is boiling, get you pitcher and add 3/4 cup of sugar and your tea bags. 

This is the kind of pitcher you need for sweet tea. A big one gallon jug with a lid. Yes, they get stained. That just means they are well used. And I do not like the solid colored ones. I like to be able to see my tea. 
This is a prettier pitcher, but you can’t properly make sweet tea in this one. I occasionally use it to make quick sweet tea for dinner, but it really isn’t the same. 

I use organic turbinado sugar. Using only 3/4 cups per gallon, the molasses flavor isn’t noticeable. If you made my Aunt Katie May’s tea with my sugar, it’d probably taste a little weird. She used 2 cups of sugar per gallon. Her tea was syrup. We drink far too much sweet tea to be downing that much sugar a day. 3/4 cup makes it sweet, but not too sweet. 

Also, if you don’t want to use real sugar, it isn’t real Sweet Tea. But don’t put fake sugar or Stevia in the whole gallon. It starts tasting funny as it sits. So, you’ll want to sweeten it per glass, not per gallon. And if you want to use honey, that isn’t real Southern Sweet Tea. If we’re talking Sun Tea, okay with the honey. But I don’t really know how honey sits in sweet tea, so do it at your own risk. Use real sugar for real Southern Sweet Tea. 

I usually use Luzianne tea bags, however, we go through a lot of Sweet Tea. (2 gallons a day in the summer.) My Kroger has this new P$$t brand, and the tea was $1.99 for 100 regular size bags of decaf tea. So, I figured that was worth a try. And it turns out, I really like it. It tastes a lot like Luzianne. For the mint tea, I have tried other brands, but the Bigelow Plantation Mint is the best for Sweet Tea. I also switch back and forth between decaf and regular tea. If I use decaf, I don’t have to be concerned about the number of cups of tea my kids have. But really, I don’t notice a difference at all. 
If you’re using regular size tea bags, you need 4 tea bags per gallon of tea. If you are using the family size tea bags, use 2 per gallon. And then add 1 bag of the Plantation Mint tea for Mint Sweet Tea. 
Once your water is boiling, pour it over the sugar and tea bags. Use a wooden spoon to mix and get the sugar all melted in. (Yes, you have to use a wooden spoon.) Do not leave the wooden spoon in the pitcher. It will make your tea taste like a stick. I set the spoon across the top of the pitcher while the tea steeps. Leave the tea to steep 15-20 minutes. If you forget and leave it longer, no big deal. After it has steeped, use the wooden spoon to fish the tea bags out. I press them against the side of the pitcher to get all the yumminess out before tossing them in the trash. Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with water. Use the spoon to stir. Put the lid on. Put it in the fridge. 

I always serve it with ice. My kids prefer no ice because they have no taste in such matters. 

**This post contains affiliate links!**

Pregnancy and Childbirth Books on My Bookshelf

I’m pregnant with baby #7. And I am working on teaching free childbirth classes in my community. So I had every single childbirth book I own scattered across my dining room table. I often have people ask for recommendations, so I figured I’d share that particular “bookshelf” and tell you my thoughts on each, in case you were interested. 


*In no particular order. Post contains affiliate links.*

1. Holy Labor: How Childbirth Shapes a Woman’s Soul

By Aubrey Smith

A really encouraging and insightful look into the theology that goes along with pregnancy and childbirth. Very eye opening and brings even more meaning into this part of your life as you better understand how pregnancy and birth reflect our God.  I very, very highly recommend this book. 

2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

By Ina May Gaskin

Full of birth stories and real practical advice for natural childbirth. Helps you more fully see the role women play in bringing forth life as well as gives you the practical tips and tricks of the birthing trade. Kind of a substitute for that passed down from woman to woman information that we have lost in our modern culture. Most of the birth stories are very “hippie”. And some of it definitely has a new age vibe to it.  
3. The Birth Book

By William Sears, M.D. And Martha Sears, R.N.

Very informative book on birth. A little dated. No frills. No fear mongering. Just information.

4. The Lord of Birth

By Jennifer Vanderlaan

A devotion for pregnant women. Now, this one goes a little far out there. It definitely isn’t for everyone. I think Holy Labor is much better. But this book does have some good reminders, if you can take what helps you and leave the rest. If this statement bothers you: planning to have an epidural in a normal labor is lack of faith on your part because you aren’t trusting God to get you through. You should skip this book. The book is really short, only 70 pages, with a lot of breaks in there for questions and such.

5. Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born

By Tina Cassidy

If you are really hormonal and sensitive, this may not be best to read while you are pregnant as some of the information is really disturbing. (Human history is always tainted with the disturbing.) It really isn’t just a book for moms, but anyone interested in the history of how we give birth. It definitely makes you view birth choices in a different, more cultural, less “right and wrong” sort of way. Understanding where we have been and why some things still are the way they are. Very interesting, and slightly disturbing, read.

6. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth

By Henci Goer

As an information junkie, this book is one of my favorites. I have read and reread and rereread this book. I’m surprised my copy is still holding up. It is the science behind childbirth choices. Laid out in a pros and cons sort of way with all sources cited so you make your own birth decisions. Yes, the author does give her opinions at times, but the evidence backs those up. Extremely informative. Extremely helpful.

7. The Natural Pregnancy Book

By Avila Jill Romm

This is a really helpful introductory guide to having a natural pregnancy. What things should I really be avoiding? What nutrition should I really be focusing on? Is red clover safe during pregnancy? What can I naturally do for heartburn? Those are the sorts of questions this book answers. I even have mine all tabbed for quick and easy reference.

8. Your Best Birth

By Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein

You’ve seen The Business of Being Born movies, so you decide to grab the book. Good call. This is like a dumbed down version of Henci Goer’s book. It is much more for the average person who doesn’t want all the studies cited and statistics quoted. It gives you your options, pros and cons, and you make your choices. I mean, let’s be honest, you’ve seen the movie, clearly there is going to be a slant toward the natural side of things. But I do think they tried to be as informative and non-biased as possible on the subject. Some things in American Obstetrics are just wrong and it is hard to find any words to justify them. I do recommend this book. I actually recommend it in person more often than The Thinking Woman’s Guide, simply because of accessibility. This one seems more for the masses and not just science nerds.

9. Gentle Birth Choices

By Barbara Harper, R.N.

First, the picture on the cover is just adorable. Tell me that little face doesn’t make you look forward to giving birth. Gentle Birth gives you some of the history of modern obstetrics along with more natural alternatives to common practices. Very pro-midwifery. Very challenge the system. It has good information, even if you are planning a hospital birth. Although, if you know you are delivering in a hospital, you may want to try other books, since this one might increase your anxiety about it.

10. Birthing From Within

By Pam England and Rob Horowitz

When I first got this book, I thought, “What on earth have I just purchased?” However, it has been extremely helpful over the years. I have read and worked through it multiple times and recommended it to people. This book helps you recognize your preconceived ideas about childbirth and address your fears and traumas through art therapy. It sounds very woo, but it is incredibly helpful. It does have a slight new age vibe, as I find so many natural childbirth books do. But if you find yourself anxious about childbirth or needing to process your birth experiences, this book can help you do that.

11. The Christian Childbirth Handbook

By Jennifer Vanderlaan

Basically, if it has the words “Christian” and “Childbirth” in the title, I’m going to buy it. I am always looking for really good Christian alternative for the new age stuff that seems to be so prevalent when discussing natural childbirth. I have found I can glean wisdom from those other sources, but not deep understanding and deeper meaning. This is much better than her Lord of Birth devotional. There is the informative stuff, and the author is very pro- natural birth. But there are also Bible verses throughout, which I found to be helpful. I do like this book. And this book is much bigger. It is 400+ pages of actual information, not a devotional, though it does have devotional thoughts.

12. Christ Centered Childbirth

By Kelly J Townsend

Again, in my search for good Christian childbirth books, I came across this one. Some of this one is a little hokey and just not for me. It does have good information, it just isn’t laid out in the most user friendly way. I do like that it includes Scripture to read. However, it isn’t really the best Christian childbirth book I have read. It is good, just not awesomely great.  

13. Spiritual Midwifery

By Ina May Gaskin

This book is very new age. It has a lot of very hippie birth stories, which can help dispel the fear of the birthing process. I found the birth stories prepared me better for birth than anything else. This book also has a lot of really great information. The second half of the book is basically a midwifery textbook. And while I really enjoy that sort of thing, not everyone needs that level of information. The birth stories are probably the more popular reason for buying this book. The stories were similar to Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, but I still thought they were worth the read.

14. The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth

By Sheila Kitzinger

This book has a very basic week by week pregnancy guide in the front of the book. Then gets into the standard pregnancy book stuff. Like a better version of What To Expect When You’re Expecting. It has good information, full color pictures (some are graphic, because… birth), and helpful tips from pregnancy all the way through birth. A very good book to cover all the basics. Like a childbirth class in a book.

15. Easing Labor Pain

By Adrienne B. Lieberman

This book is specifically natural labor techniques. If you are planning an unmedicated labor, this book would be a good one to read. I found it more helpful than the Bradley method or Lamaze breathing techniques. This one has actual helpful things to prepare for labor and then for handling labor once you’re there.

16. Waiting In Wonder

By Catherine Claire Larson

This book is a week by week guide to pregnancy and a pregnancy devotion book all in one. Each week has information about your growing baby, a prayer list for that week, a memory verse, and then several individual devotions to do throughout the week. There are 4 devotions per week, so it isn’t a daily thing. But it has room for thought and reflection. This would make a really lovely gift for the expecting couple, or buy it for yourself as you walk through each week of pregnancy with your focus on God. It can be used as a journal, as there are places to write in answers to questions, thoughts, feelings, etc. on the pages.  

17. Our Bodies, Ourselves

By The Boston Women’s Health Book Collective

There are specific versions for pregnancy, but I have the big women’s health reference book. Honestly, I just don’t like it enough to bother with the Pregnancy version. Extremely liberal. Not my cup of tea at all. With information from everything from addiction and relationships to anatomy and menopause. I just found there was way more political and opinion writing that actual scientific information. It isn’t a book about health, but rather, feminism with some anatomy and health related issues thrown in.

18. A Good Birth, A Safe Birth

By Diana Korte and Roberta M. Scaer

This book goes through birth options and birth issues. Even a chapter called, “How to Have A Normal Vaginal Birth”. (How sad is it that we have gotten to the point where to norm is now something we have to seek after and really try for?) It has really good information, I just think The Thinking Woman’s Guide to A Better Birth and Your Best Birth lay it out a little better. A good book, but not necessarily my highest recommended one on these specific topics.

19. Great With Child

By Debra Rienstra

This is more of a memoir. The ramblings of a mother through her pregnancy. It is very poetic and thoughtful. I wouldn’t necessarily say it is of any “help” in pregnancy and childbirth or even a book to only be read through pregnancy and childbirth. It is more of the internal musings of becoming a mother and carrying another person inside you.

20. Baby Name Wizard

By Laura Wattenberg

They now have a hugely popular website, which kind of makes the book obsolete, unless, like me, you prefer an actual book to information on a screen. The website is way more in depth than the book could ever be. The books also focuses more on the trends of the names than the meanings or where they came from. So, it isn’t a typical approach to naming, that is for sure. But check out the Baby Name Wizard website if you’re wanting to search naming trends. A lot more information. And its free. (The book isn’t free.)

21. The Mama Natural Week-By-Week guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth

By Genevieve Howland

This one is really, really new. I have been following her YouTube channel, so when the book was coming out, I pre-ordered it. It came out April 2017. (So, super new as I am writing this.)

This is a week by week guide, which I love. Something about weekly pregnancy guides. It must not just be me since there are dozens of week by week pregnancy guides and apps out there. This guide is for us crunchy mamas. Although, I would actually say it is Demi-crunchy. I have definitely seen more hippie types. This si much more balanced. Very similar to The Natural Pregnancy Book, only laid out in a weekly style. My favorite thing about the book is the recipes included for each week. The specific nutrition focus is based on how the baby is developing that week, so big brain weeks, the recipes are fish. Plus, the recipes are ones I will actually use. Like, stuff I can actually find and make and will willingly eat. I am absolutely loving this book!

22. Cool Names for Babies

By Pamela Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz

Again, another silly baby name book. This one is primarily lists. What did celebrities name their kids? What about rappers? Ooh, what are names of models? How about their kids? Those are the sorts of things in this book. You’ll find normal name along with Danger Mouse and Moxie Crimefighter. It is totally amusing. You may find THE NAME in here. Or maybe you’ll just find a name to tell your Mom to get her to stop asking you what the baby’s name will be.

23. From Conception to Birth

By Alexander Tsiaras

This is a coffee table picture book. It has the little close up pictures of sperm meeting egg. Then you have the pictures as the cells duplicate. Then pictures of the baby as he develops. My kids love looking through this book. I’m not standoffish at all about how babies are made or how they are born. These are the facts of life, so I don’t hide these from my kids. They mostly focus on the development pictures and like finding pictures that correlate to their new sibling’s current stage. Look! She has a tail! We have gotten a lot of use out of this book.

24. Your Pregnancy Week By Week

By Glade B. Curtis and Judith Schuler

This was my old favorite week by week guide. Now, I have a new one. But this one is so much better than What To Expect When You’re Expecting. (Can you tell I hate that book?) Still more on the mainstream medical side, but not too much horrible freak you out information. I think Mama Natural is prettier and has better information, but if the word “Natural” freaks you out, this might be the way to go. (Though I still recommend Mama Natural, hands down.)

25. The Pregnancy Book

By William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N.

I still have the old version of this book, not the new updated version. So my take is that the old version is old. It is more of a month by month guide, but I don’t think in terms of months when I am pregnant. I think in weeks. When someone asks me how many months pregnant I am, I honestly have no idea. Purple? My brain just doesn’t process pregnancy in months. Maybe that is an age thing, I don’t know. I think the book has good information in it. It just never was my “reach for” book. I read through it once or twice, and then it has been a bookshelf sitter.

26. The Babycenter Essential Guide to Pregnancy and Birth

By Babycenter (a bunch of people who work for Babycenter)

I can feel some people rolling their eyes so hard right now. But seriously, you gotta keep it balanced, people. I need info from all sides. And then I can roll my eyes at them. This is a week by week guide with actual mom concerns. It is very mainstream. And it has some bad information in it. It isn’t bad, but you can honestly get this information on Babycenter for free, along with the asinine comments from random people along with it. Plus on Babycenter, you’ll get the added bonus of someone’s drama that is better than watching soap operas. Really, I don’t know why Babycenter is considered “expert” advice. It should just be considered “advice”. And like all free advice, take it for what you paid for it. Now, the book, sure, buy it if you want. But Mama Natural is a much better week by week guide and other books have much better “experts” giving advice.

27. Pushed

By Jennifer Block

 Warning: do not read this book while pregnant. Don’t. It isn’t going to be healthy for you mental state. However, once you have birthed and processed said birth, read this book. For so many of us it is extremely validating. It is the book that tells us we aren’t crazy and the system is flawed. A lot of history. A lot of technical information. But all information is cited, which I appreciate. I know the book cover says you need to read this when pregnant, but for many women, it would just cause too much anxiety. You know if that applies to you. It is really good information about the inner workings of our system and the problems in how hospitals and insurance companies work. I wouldn’t say it is conspiracy theory. I think we are all awake to the problems in our medical system and the bed that is made between medicine and politics. This just looks at that from an obstetric side. As someone who was cut because of my provider’s malpractice insurance, I found it very validating. (And slightly maddening.)

She Reads Truth Review


If you follow the Notes From The Parsonage Facebook page, you may have already heard about She Reads Truth. I had signed up for their Auto-Ship program for their Devotion books. They release a new one each month, and most of the book is just Scripture. It makes devotional reading very easy to do on a daily basis because it is all right there. You can also scribble notes and prayers right there on the pages on not feel bad about “messing up” your Bible. (Not that I am at all averse to writing in my Bible.) The books are beautifully done. They contain beautiful art, scripture memorization cards, some have recipes, reflection questions, and charts. It is a very Bible centered devotion.

Now, they also have an app. You can download the memory verses each week to use as a screen saver on your phone or tablet. I have found this particularly helpful in keeping the memory verse in front of me throughout the week. You can also purchase the devotions in digital form for significantly cheaper through the app. (The AutoShip program of the books is $29 a month with shipping. Each book on the app is $1.99 to $2.99 each. They even have some shorter books for free.) The app also has a Bible on it, if you don’t already have a Bible app you like.


I have really enjoyed the books. They have Scripture reading from the Old and New Testament each day, which I really enjoy. They connect the Scriptures very well. I have been very blessed in my personal devotion time with this resource and I absolutely highly recommend it. They also offer a He Reads Truth version for men. I haven’t purchased any of these, personally. (The Pastor uses the Ancient Christian Devotional books for his daily reading.) All Scripture used for She Reads Truth is Holman Christian Standard translation. 


When She Reads Truth announced they were releasing a Bible, I preordered it immediately. I had a hard time choosing my cover and options, because they all looked so beautiful. I settled on the Gray Linen Indexed version. I have never owned an indexed Bible, so I thought I would give that a try. Now that it has come in, I can give you an overview!


It comes in a very sturdy box to match. The linen cover is very nice, like an old book. The indexed tabs have 3 books per tab.


The first thing you come to in the Bible is a “How To Read The Bible” article. It is extremely helpful. I often have people ask me just this question. This lays it our very succinctly. There are also study guides in the front of each book. They have a reading plan for that book that includes references to other places in the Bible for a deeper, fuller understanding.



Next, you come to an article called “This Is The Gospel”. As a Wesley-Armenian, I often have a difficult time finding theologically appropriate study materials. So, I was a little hesitant to read this article. I was sure they would disappoint me theologically and then I might not enjoy it as much. However, that was not the case. She Reads Truth is very based on Scripture, so theologically, they were right on track. It is sad when you are delightfully surprised to not find heresy in your Bible. But I was.


Each book of the Bible has the key verse of the book illustrated beautifully to begin the book. There is an intro page for each book, giving you the background and setting of the book to give you some context for the writing. Each book also contains a timeline, map, or chart that is helpful in reading that book. Genesis has a timeline. Exodus has a map. Leviticus has a diagram of the tabernacle. You get the picture. And as I said before, each book has a reading plan, complete with additional verses from other books. It is broken down into 5 days per week. The number of weeks depends on the book.



I love the formatting. Single column with a slight margin. This margin might be wide enough to do Bible journaling in, but I will reserve it for notes. There are also very clear footnotes at the bottom of each page. They aren’t tiny and hard to read. The paper is really thin. Thinner than most Bible paper. I’m sure you can tell from the photos that the paper is thin, since you can see through the page to what is printed on the other side. I found that gel highlighters work best for this paper, since they don’t show through at all. However, for margin notes, you’re going to have to deal with being able to see through it. You could use a pencil, but I am not a pencil person. 


There are also various devotions found throughout the Bible. They are a single page, two columns, and easy to find.


In the back of the Bible, there is a list of the key verses for each book. There is also a genre guide, telling you how the Scripture is broken up. Each genre is color coded and you’ll find that those colors are also on the title page for each book. Then you’ll find the apostle’s creed. (It includes that Jesus descended into hell, but excludes the word Catholic.) Next there is a Bible in a year reading plan check list. It also lists a memory verse for each month. A topical index is next, followed by some maps they didn’t put in earlier, and a chart with weights and measures. (Ever wonder how much is a shekel or a cubit? Chart!)


Another awesome feature is that this Bible has TWO satin bookmarks! So you can hold your place in two places at once! 


All in all, I am loving this Bible! I cannot wait to dive into it and use it on a daily basis. I think it is a wonderful resource and could be very helpful if you’re looking for something to help you get into God’s Word more regularly and with passion. They clearly put a lot of thought and attention to detail in their devotional plans and their new Bible. 


**This post contains affiliate links. I am not endorsed or sponsored by She Reads Truth, just a customer. **

Bible Journaling 

 Bible Journaling can be a great way to get in God’s Word on a more regular basis and change the way you interact with it. Artistic skills or not, you can Bible Journal and you can get a lot out of it.
If you have a hard time remembering to read your Bible daily or if you are just in a rut with Bible reading, you may way to seriously consider using Bible Journaling to rekindle your love of The Word. 


 There are many different journaling Bibles on the market. I have found that CBD.com offers the biggest selection for the cheapest price. There are single column versions, double column versions. Some with space to write or doodle at the bottom of the page. Some have doodle space to the side margin. Some have every other page blank. You’ll find many different versions available. Which one is best for you depends on you. Do you have to have a Journaling Bible to Bible Journal? Well, no. Not at all. You can journal the Word in other ways. But a Journaling Bible is nice to have.


 You’ll find many examples of Bible Journaling pages on Instagram looking under the hashtags #illustratedfaith #biblejournaling #icolorinmybible. You will also find plenty of inspiration on Pinterest, searching for Bible Journaling. Some people draw, some letter, some do more of a scrapbook thing, some buy or download prints to trace or to paste into their Bible. Some people like to play around with multiple methods. You’ll find that some people are okay covering the Bible text, while others like to keep all the text readable. What you decide is really up to you. But make sure that whatever you choose, it is about you saturating yourself with the Word and not just about trying to make something cool.


 Not every journal entry I make turns out awesome. Sometimes my ink smudges. Sometimes I just don’t like the result all that much. But that is okay. The end results are what it is all about for me. The process is where it is at for me. Reading Scripture, finding a verse that speaks to me, taking that verse and carefully lettering it so it sinks in good and deep. That is what I am working toward. Interacting with God’s Word. The results are just pretty proof and a good reminder when I flip through my Bible.


 My journaling Bible is quite hefty. I chose the Crossway ESV Interleaved version. So every other page of my Bible is blank. That makes for a very thick book. For that reason, it pretty much stays at home. I have another Bible that I keep in my bag for church and reading while I am out. It sounds very first world to have multiple Bibles. And it took me a long time to allow myself permission for this little luxury. But I have now given myself permission, and I am glad that I did.


 I don’t necessarily journal every day. Right now, I am, because I am working through a #letteringhislove challenge on Instagram. These types of challenges help me shake things up. I do read the Bible daily, but I don’t always have the time to devote to making a journaling page. It is never quite when I do my Bible Journaling or my devotions, for that matter. Quite is not something I get in my house. I do get time to sit and work on it. I might be interrupted a few dozen times. Some people like to put on music. I grab a cup of coffee or a glass of tea and sit and enjoy God’s Word. Sometimes a kid will join me at the breakfast table and work on their own art. My tween likes to make pages to tape into her Bible. Music isn’t always possible because someone may be watching Teen Titans or Paw Patrol in the next room. That is okay for me.


 My favorite tool in Bible Journaling is my Tombow Calligraphy Pen. I find it does lettering so beautiful and deep black. I usually do a quick mock up on a piece of notebook paper, then use a pencil to lightly draw my basic lettering onto the page. I then go over the pencil with my Tombow Calligraphy pen. To keep my words straight, I put a sheet of lined notebook paper under my Bible page. It gives faint lines I can follow without me having to mark the page with lines that then have to be erased. It is also helpful when I am using things that might bleed through.



 I have tried the Tombow Dual Brush Pens. I thought I would love them. Turns out, I don’t. Maybe I would like some of the colors, but the black and gray that I have are just not all that impressive.


 Pigma Micron pens are also great for Bible Journaling. I find the thicker ones (05 and 08) are best for me. But the smaller ones are great for tiny details.


 Water brush pens and watercolors are also excellent art supplies to try. The water brush pens keep you from using a huge amount of water in your work, so it doesn’t wrinkle the page as much. I have also used regular brushes and watercolor, and have liked the experience despite the page wrinkle issues. Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay ink is my all time favorite art supply. Unfortunately, it isn’t really best with Bible Journaling, due to the thin pages. If you want to use something that isn’t great on thin paper, you can always use it on better art paper and then use double sided tape, washi tape, or even a glue stick to glue it in.


 I usually leave my Bible open to dry after I am done, but if I need to close it, I just stick another sheet of ruled paper on the top and close it. With very wet watercolors, this isn’t the best idea. But once everything is close to drying, or you used pens, it is fine.


 I also have a love for washi tape. I use it to decorate my Bible book headers. I also use it to add some accent to pages. I use stickers, as well. Decorative paper can also be fun to work with and add in. I like to tab my artwork pages. I have used a few different kinds of tabs, but the Recollections sticker tabs from Michael’s are my favorite tabs. They are a really good size and they stick well.



 Gel pens, colored pencils, acrylic paints, watercolor colored pencils, stamps, and stencils are all good tools to use for Bible journaling if you like them. You can also add decorative paper clips, bookmarks, really anything you like. I have seen some people Bible Journaling with just a pencil to sketch lovely drawings. Use the supplies you like. You can use the title page or table of contents page as a test page to see what your tools are going to actually do on the Bible style paper.


 If you’re not quite sure about going the Journaling Bible route, you can always just keep a notebook of your art. Bookmarks are another way to begin Bible Journaling without committing to writing or drawing directly in your Bible. Another method would be to use double sided tape to tape pages into your Bible. I did this for a few months before I decided to buy a Journaling Bible.



 If you are not really wanting to create the art yourself, you can buy a Coloring Bible or a Bible Coloring Book. There are also several people on Etsy that sell Bible Journaling templates you can use to trace or glue into your Journaling Bible. You can scrapbook your Bible, if that is more your thing. Really, anything that gets you into the word and interacting with it in new ways is going to be a good thing.


Here are some additional resources you may like:

The Joy of Lettering 

Creative Lettering and Beyond

Complete Guide To Bible Journaling 

 

 So, where do you start? Start with your favorite verse. Start with a Psalm or Proverb. Start with a Bible Story you can illustrate. Start wherever you are currently reading. Start with adding one entry to each book of the Bible. Just get started!


** This post contains affiliate links. **