End of Summer Favorites

I rounded up my favorite things lately to share with you guys. I do have a few things that I don’t like, as well.

We’ll start with these Pilot Frixion Ballpoint Gel Pens. I’ve been using these to write in my Gentle Feast planner as well as take notes in my textbooks. I just like the way they write. Sometimes on glossy paper, they do act a little funny and they will smear if you don’t let them dry. But overall, I’ve been reaching for these pens the most. The “eraser” on the top is the perfect size. (If you buy these pens, to use, you click the pen clip down.)

These Pilot Frixion Fineliners, on the other hand, fall into the dislike category. They do this weird disappearing thing on glossy paper. They don’t completely disappear, but they don’t look like they’re staying, either. They work well on Bible paper, so I’ve been taking them to church on Sunday to take sermon notes in my She Reads Truth Bible, but that seems to be their only use. The “eraser” part is also really large and clunky to work with.

This is a regular favorite– Zum Mist. I absolutely love this stuff. I swear I’m going to branch out beyond the patchouli scent one day, but every time I try, I end up rebuying patchouli because I love it so much. I came really close to buying the sea salt scent this time, but they were out. This is an essential oil spray. It doesn’t leave oil or color stains on clothes or fabric. You can spray it on anything. I usually spray it on my person. It is strong enough to notice, but never overpowering. This is also a great option for tweens and teens instead of their body spray. (Whoever made Axe body spray hates mothers.) This stuff is all natural, and your kids can spray as much as they want without knocking you down when they walk by. I get lots of compliments on this scent.

Another Zum product that I have been loving is this Dragon’s Blood Zum Rub. It is very oily and thick, but it is magic on rough hands. I’ve been having issues with really dry, cracked cuticles and fingertips, and this stuff is just magic. It smells nice, and it makes my hands look soft and pretty again in no time. It is very similar to the Badger Balm Healing Hand, but I like the Zum formula a little more. The Badger Balm can be a little bit gritty feeling as you’re rubbing it in.

Nubian Heritage soap is the stuff dreams are made of. I absolutely love this one. The Patchouli and Buriti scent is so perfect. It does leave your skin smelling like patchouli but not quite as much as a Zum Bar— much more subtle than that. I have tried a few of the other scents, and while they are lovely, I apparently have very strong postive feelings toward patchouli. It is just my happy scent. I also really like the Nubian Heritage deodorant. It isn’t my all-time favorite natural deodorant, but it is really nice. The smell is perfect. It is my go-to pick when I don’t have time to wait for my favorite to ship and need to run to Sprouts to pick something up.

Since we’re talking about deodorant, I posted on the Facebook page about this one. This ZionHealth ClayDry deodorant is the best natural deodorant I have ever tried. And I have tried A LOT of them. I’m currently using the Palo Santo scent (not this one), I really love it. The ClayDry is a bit firm, but if you have trouble with it, hit it with the blow dryer or warm it under your arm and it’ll spread better. This stuff not only smells awesome, but it also leaves you feeling great and fresh for a VERY long time. I do not order this from Amazon; no, I usually order from Adamaminerals.com. They send great coupons and have excellent customer service.

I’ve been wearing this lip gloss pretty much every day. It is the Dominique Cosmetics Lemonade lip gloss in the color Peach Tea. It is just the perfect color, and the gloss is shiny and moistuizing but not tacky or stringy. It is a gloss, so it isn’t super long-wearing and does need reapplication, but the light color makes it so that you can apply it quickly like chapstick without needing a mirror.

On to the two makeup products I very much dislike. This Becca Hydramist powder is the worst powder I have ever used. I usually love Becca products, so I was so confused to find that I hated this one. I was trying to upgrade my Coty Airspun powder. (Turns out, Coty Airspun is just the best loose powder, even though it is super cheap.) This powder feels wet when you put it on. It also doesn’t dry smoothly on my skin. It bunches up and has patchy spots. It is so weird. It is cooling, but it looks awful. I tried to bake the under eyes with it, which was a nightmare. I tried just using it as a finshing powder, but that worked out horribly, as well. It is just not a good formula at all.

I was really excited about this Wander Beauty Glow Ahead Illuminating Face Oil. It is more of a serum-feeling primer, which is why I was excited about it. I’ve been looking for a glowy primer, but this isn’t it. It isn’t terrible. It doesn’t do awful things to my skin, but it really just doesn’t do anything at all. It looks pretty and shimmery in my hand, but on my face it looks like nothing. It looks just like any other serum. If you’re looking for a glowy primer, skip this one and try the Becca First Light Primer. It actually makes you glow.

I bought this book quite a while ago but just got around to reading it. Our ladies book club read it, and I’m really glad I finally read it. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting; it was so much better. I did not anticipate being so deeply moved by this book. I figured it would just be encouragement to read the Bible daily. Yes, it was that, but it gave so much more depth to holding tight to God through Scripture. This is one of those life-changing reads. It deals a great deal with grief and loss, and I didn’t know how much I needed that right now. I highly-recommend this book. I know I’m always recommending the She Reads Truth stuff. It is just all so worth checking out.

For The Children’s Sake is another book I’ve been planning to read for a long time and just got around to. We have been moving toward a Charlotte Mason approach from The Well-Trained Mind classical approach for the last few years, but this year we made the leap into a fully-Charlotte Mason curriculum. I felt like I needed more of an understanding of the methods as I began that endeavor. I’ve listened to podcasts and taken some online classes, but this book is just so much more. It feels a little dated, but there are some really great things all homeschool parents need to hear in this book. I’m really glad I read it. This is one I would say is a must-read for homeschool moms.

A book I greatly disliked was Defiant Joy. I was sweetly sent an advanced reading copy of this book; unfortunately, I just didn’t like it. It is so shallow. There is this push to put out Christian Living books, particularly for women, and so many of them simply lack substance. Many of them aren’t even Christian. I felt like she was saying the same things over and over, spreading too wide of a net, and not diving deeply into the subject at all. There were a handful of inspirational quotes for your Instagram wall but nothing truly noteworthy about the book.

I know I posted this in my Homeschool Resources post, but it is definitely worth repeating. These digital cards from Twig and Moth are just the most beautiful little things. You purchase the digital files and then print and cut them yourself. I print them on cardstock, and they turn out beautifully. I’m not kidding; I fully plan on giving some printed card sets as gifts this year— they are so lovely. I use these with our nature study. I print each kid their own card set. They love them. Each card has a beautiful watercolor illustration and an explanation with it. We used the Seeds and Seedlings last week and are breaking out the Minibeasts this week.

These are all my favorites and not favorites for right now.

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***Items sent to me free for review will not necessarily get a positive review.***

Homeschool Resources

I realized that I haven’t shared my favorite homeschool resources lately. I have been finding some really awesome things for the kids that we have all really enjoyed. I’ve also found a few things I thought would be awesome that were complete duds.

Firefly Nature School

I happened to get a resource from Firefly Nature School in a bundle pack I purchased. It was so beautiful and so well done. I immediately went and did a full year subscription. If you sign up for emails, they do send out coupon codes, so keep your eyes open for that. The lessons are really beautiful and fun. They can be used for a wide range of ages. You can incorporate them in as science or nature study curriculum or you can just use them as a fun, planned outdoor activity.

Twig and Moth

I have been loving the Twig and Moth resources. I print the cards onto cardstock and my kids absolutely love them. They are so beautiful with lots of information. They go well with our Nature Anatomy books and Exploring Nature with Children.

Exploring Nature with Children

This guide is such a good resource for science or nature study. It would also make an excellent and fun co-op, for anyone inclined toward that sort of thing. I have the guide, the print guided journal, and the cursive guided journal. The guide contains a year round curriculum for nature study. It includes book recommendations and activities. The guided journal has a poem for the child to copy each week and papers to go along with activities. We’re using it again this year because one year wasn’t enough.

Brave Grown Home

We have been loving the nature guides from Brave Grown Home. I highly recommend the Full Nature Guide sets. For weeks when we have some more time for nature study or science, I love pulling and printing these lovely cards and posters for the kids to enjoy.

A Gentle Feast

I know I’ve already talked about it on the Facebook page, but we are going full in with A Gentle Feast this year. Being in school full time, I didn’t have the time to plan every detail of our curriculum myself, which is what I usually do. A Gentle Feast has all the planning done for me. I’ll give a full review in the future, but I am really happy with the choice and it fits our family really well. This is a Charlotte Mason curriculum that is meant to work well for people who have kids in multiple grades at the same time. The main curriculum has all the plans for history, science, literature, grammer, French, Spanish, and more. Just add math. The Language Arts add on pack gives all the copywork and dictation right there on the page so you aren’t pulling it for them each day. The Morning Time packets are for poetry, Bible, fables, art, and music. If you’ve never started your days with Morning Time, I highly recommend it. A Gentle Feast also has a reading program and handwriting program.

Our Handcrafted Life

This website has several beautiful free printables you can use for science or nature study. They are really lovely when printed onto cardstock. (My kids adore cards, can you tell?)

The Peaceful Preschool

This site only has resources for up to age 12, but they are beautiful. They have full curriculum, but also several unit study type packs. They also have some really nice free resources, including the book lists for their full curriculum!

Intentional Homeschooling

This one is actually in the dud category for me. I really thought I would enjoy several of her paid resources, and I was really disappointed in what I got. I bought the Guide to Annotating Books, thinking it would be great for my 8th grader. It was a 17 page document that was really just a glorified blog post. It should have been a free blog post. There was no technical information, just pictures and rambling about how she highlights and writes in her books. It was not helpful at all and I felt pretty ripped off. I also bought her mini planner, which I think I actually bought in a bundle pack with other brands and things. It was okay. Nothing spectacular. Most of the things in it were things I already have bullet journal spread for. It was just very basic. I just feel the content of her work isn’t necessarily worth the price.

Teachable.com

I’ve actually purchased a few things lately that use the Teachable.com platform. I’m just not a fan of things that come in the format. It is obnoxious. I’m usually just looking for PDFs. If I want to listen to something, I’ll listen to a podcast. These Teachable classes are just cumbersome and not the best way to get ideas out there. I’m sure some types of learners love these. But I have my current load of online classes with being in school full time and don’t want to waste my time on this.

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ESV Study Bible Review

Once again, Crossway sent me a beautiful Bible to review. This time, it is the ESV Study Bible. I was curious how it would compare to the ESV Heirloom Study Bible, since it is significantly cheaper.

The genuine leather of this Bible is slightly more stiff than the goatskin leather of the Heirloom. It is super nice leather, but doesn’t have that soft, floppy feel the goatskin has. It feels much better than bonded leather, but is a bit more firm.

This is really my only complaint about this Bible. It only has one ribbon marker. I’ve been spoiled by having multiple ribbon markers, so one ribbon just seems crazy now. (For the record, four is the ideal number of ribbon markers for a Bible: one for Old Testament, one for the Psalms, one for the Gospels, and one for New Testament.)

You have these pretty standard pages in the beginning of the Bible. Of course, it isn’t enough of any of the headings for a lifetime Bible.

Each book of the Bible has a pretty lengthy introduction, which includes maps, outlines, timelines– basically anything to help you understand the context of the writing. The maps are all full color. It doesn’t have as many pictures as the Heirloom Study Bible has, but it does contain a lot of study materials.

The Bible passages are single column, but the reference materials are double column down below. The font of the Bible passages is pretty large and very clear to read. The reference materials are smaller font, but still readable.

There are quite a few articles tucked into the back of the Bible, much like the Heirloom. These articles are fascinating, but as far as I can tell they are pretty much the same ones in the Heirloom Study Bible. (Not that it is a bad thing, just that you definitely don’t need both.) There are also several full color glossy maps in the back after the concordance.

Overall, this Bible is very well made and an excellent study Bible. For preaching, it is probably much too busy and you’d be flipping pages quite often for shorter texts. It doesn’t have quite as much as the Heirloom Study Bible, but it is considerably cheaper. Crossway really makes some beautiful Bibles. I woud highly recommend this Bible to anyone needing a good study Bible. The ESV is a good translation for personal Bible study and the extra tools and insights in this Bible will help as you read the Scriptures to understand.

** This item was sent to me free for review. I am in no way obligated to review it favorably. All opinions are my own. **

*** This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links are a great way to support your favorite content creators as they do not cost you any extra money to use, but a small portion of the sale goes to the creator. ***

**** I originally said Omega Reference Bible instead of the Heirloom Study Bible. I can’t keep my Bibles straight, apparently. Click HERE for my review of the Heirloom Study Bible. No link to a review of the Omega Reference Bible, because I don’t have that one. (Puts face into palm.) ****

Good Enough Parenting

If you follow me, you’ll know that I have made the foolhardy decision to go back to school. Because, you know, homeschooling seven kids and being in full-time ministry isn’t enough on a person. I clearly lacked the pressure of deadlines and lamenting over formatting issues in the wee hours of the morning in case my toddler isn’t keeping me up enough. Smack dab in the middle of my struggle to be everything to everyone, I get to take a lifespan development class. Now, I was really not looking forward to knowing all the ways I was currently messing up my kids’ lives. I’d really rather just keep my head down and get through this degree program.

And right on schedule, as I dove into lifespan development for the third time (I’ve had lifespan development classes before from other perspectives), I was ready to feel bad about the stress I am putting my family under right now. At first, I got that— the guilt. Infants rely on the steady care of a single caregiver and are upset when that is disrupted. Sorry Daisy. Preschoolers need adequate scaffolding to help them acquire new and deeper skills. Sorry Pippin, can’t scaffold for you, Mama’s got to write a paper about it instead. School aged children need security and patience with close monitoring as they learn new skills and begin to see themselves as others see them. Sorry Topher and Ransom, I don’t have time to monitor your mud pit fun, I’ve got papers to write. You get the idea. Everything is a slap in the face when you feel like you’re messing everything up— especially when you’re a mom of seven in school full time.

Then I came across the work of Donald Winnicott. He was an English pediatrician and psychoanalyst who voiced the idea of the “good enough” parent. I’m going to be grossly simplifying his work and pretty much just talking about a singular aspect. I’m imagining that if you were especially fond of psychoanalytic theory of infant development, you’d likely be taking the class I’m taking or reading a much longer book about the topic. (And just as a point of interest, the class ended up being extremely interesting and insightful. I feel like I only scratched the surface and would need another year to follow all the little rabbit trails my brain made.) For Winnicott, children didn’t need perfect parents. Children needed someone they could count on, but that someone didn’t have to be perfect all the time, they just had to be good enough. They just had to show up, love the kid, and do their best. Winnicott said that was the best kind of parent.

In today’s “perfect parenting” world, where parents feel judged every time they turn around, a world where parents spend so much time comparing their own parenting (and life) to what they see on Instagram, it is a breath of fresh air to read an expert tell us we only need to be “good enough”. The idea that everything bad that happens to our kid will be our fault is never flipped. If I’m responsible for all wrong roads my child may take, I’m also responsible for the right ones. And really, according to Winnicott, if I show up and do my best, my kids will turn out fine. Winnicott realized something our society won’t mention. Moms are people. They come with their own burdens, insecurities, and issues. Learning to be there for a child while still being a real person isn’t the easiest task for some people. And if you’re showing up, trying your best, and meeting the kid’s needs most of the time— you’re doing a good enough job of it. Not all of us can be Instagram perfect. We can’t have the perfect house with everything in various shades of white and grey. (How do you people keep white couches clean with kids?!) We can’t all be stay at home moms with endless budgets for all the kids enrichment activities and the “right” toys, clothes, and baby gear. We can’t all have all organic everything from the local farmer’s market. Life is messy. Life isn’t always ideal. The good news, according to Winnicott, is that we don’t need all those things. We need to pay attention most of the time. We need to provide security most of the time. We need need to learn to sacrifice, but it is okay for life to not be all sacrifice. We won’t get the mothering thing right every single time. The good enough mom knows this and can give herself some grace, learn from her mistakes, and move on. 

So if I have to delegate some schooling tasks to Dad for the next year, that is okay. If afternoon reading time has to be audible books, that is okay. If my cooking slips to eating PB&J a little too often, they will survive. If I’m not sewing them cute clothes and instead slipping them into hand-me-downs, I doubt they’ll notice. I’m here. I’m doing my best. The kids will be alright, I’m good enough. 

Preaching Bible Review

Crossway was awesome enough to send me this beautiful preaching Bible to review. This Bible is only available in premium black goatskin leather. Seriously, listen to me when I say, if you know someone who is going into full-time ministry and you want to buy them a Bible– do not waste your time on some bonded leather “looks nice” Bible. Buy them a premium leather, love the goatskin, Bible that will last their entire ministry. It was so sad when the bonded leather Bible The Pastor was given at the beginning of his ministry started to completely fall to pieces after less than two decades of use. He really did take care of it and hoped it would be used for his entire ministry– unfortunately, it wasn’t made to last. This Preaching Bible by Crossway is not only built to last, but has a lifetime guarantee.

This Bible is so beautiful. I’m told by The Pastor and several of his preaching friends that it has the right feel in hand. You can hold it in one hand with the Bible closed and use it to point at people, which I am told is necessary in a preaching Bible. It is very structured feeling in the spine while the pages still feel nice and floppy. You can see the beautiful ridge detailing on the spine.

The leather is soft and supple. It actually feels a bit squishy in hand.

It lays completely flat. So you can set it down and not loose your place. It does loose a bit of flatness at the very front and very back, but overall, it is a pretty flat lying Bible.

The only complaint I actually have with this Bible is that there are only TWO markers. Now, for my personal Bible, two would be acceptable. But for a preaching Bible, where you’ll have four passages to read each week, two just isn’t enough.

The print is slightly larger and single column. The numbers, both chapter and verse, are clearly visible to help guide the way as you’re reading in public. In a study Bible, this would be distracting. In a public reading Bible, this is necessary. It also has slightly wider than normal margins. There are no cross-references or distractions of any kind on the pages. The paper is a brighter white and isn’t too very see through for thin Bible paper. The edges are gold, but look reddish when the Bible is open.

A few maps in the back and a table of weights and measures are all you’ll get in terms of extras with this Bible. Even those seem a little superfluous to the point of this particular Bible. They are large or splashy or a distraction from the words on the page.

This is a lovely Bible. It is absolutely perfect for preaching. Of course, it is English Standard Version, so that may not be what everyone wants for preaching. I find it poetic enough of a translation that is sounds nice when read aloud but the language is updated enough to be more understandable.

This Bible is perfect for anyone reading from the Bible in a public setting. It is simple and not distracting. It is easy to find and keep your place while reading. It would be an excellent gift for anyone who may be going into the ministry.

** I received this Bible free for review. I am in no way obligated to give it anything other than an honest review.**

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Not About “Me-Time”

There is this myth in our culture that we have to look out for number one in order to get anywhere successfully. “Put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others.” It sounds like such wise advise. It sounds like wisdom. 

People hop from church to church because they aren’t “fed”. Even worse are those that use multiple churches to meet all their own “spiritual” needs. Sunday morning here, Bible study there, women’s group over here— using what they consider to be the “best” of each “option” to build their perfect spiritual atmosphere. 

There is a very big book industry based on this concept. You’ll find options to fit every person, every religious affiliation, every type of person. Moms need “me-time”. Christians need “me-time”. Women need “me-time”. It sounds like wisdom. 

Sometimes, what sounds like wisdom, isn’t wisdom at all. 1 Corinthians 3:19-20 (CSB) says, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, since it is written, He catches the wise in their craftiness; and again, the Lord knows that the reasonings of the wise are futile.” This message of “me-time”— looking out for yourself first— that isn’t the Christian message at all. In fact, it is pretty much the opposite. As Philippians 2:4 says, we are to look out not for our own interests, but the interests of others. (If you want to argue the “not only” portion, do yourself a favor and look up the MOUNCE Greek translation on Bible Gateway and see that the “not only” has no Greek underneath, because it isn’t in the Greek. See Dr. Kinlaw’s The Mind of Christ for more on that subject.) 

Christ says, to find your life, you have to lose it. He doesn’t say that, to find your life, you need to set aside an appropriate amount of me time in order to better “center yourself” for that life. Nope. Following Jesus is dying to self. Anyone who loves his life will lose it. Jesus is full of paradox. Things that sound like wisdom are foolish. The last will be made first— not because it is fair, but because that is His way. Those who lead will serve. Those who seem wise will be fools. If you really want to live, you lay down your life and let Him live through you. 

I’m not saying to neglect your health. I’m not saying that anything you do “for yourself” is sinful. I am saying that perhaps we need to look a little closer at the wisdom of the world and not accept it just because it sounds like wisdom. Check it against what God says in His book. Check it against your cultural assumptions. (Gym time is a luxury not afforded to many in this world. If you equate your gym time with personal righteousness, you are saying something about who can and cannot be righteous according to your gospel.) 

If I find myself looking for the religious experience that best suits me, I doubt I will find it. If I’m not being “fed”, perhaps the issue is that I’m not out in the field sowing. (“He who does not work will not eat” could apply to spiritual feeding, as well.) Perhaps I need to stop treating church like a spiritual gym and more like the meeting together of the people of God. 

When I am tired as a mother, the Bible does not tell me that luxury (through gym time, manicures, shopping, hair appointments, massages, etc.) is the way to find rest for my soul and strength for my task; the Bible tells me that in my weakness, He will be strong. It tells me that I can rest in Him and His promises. The Bible tells me that I will not work alone and that my work in making disciples of my children is His great commission. I could write an entire book on the blessing of being a mother and the amount of grace I’ve received from letting God work in those tired, busy times— but for today I’ll save you all of that. What I will say to the fellow mother who is struggling, feeling weighed down— the answer isn’t “me-time”. The answer is Jesus. Throw your full weight of burden on Him and watch Him transform it into something beautiful, meaningful, and redemptive.

Be careful, dear friends, in listening to what seems like wisdom. There is nothing wrong with going to the gym, getting your nails done, getting a massage, etc. There is something wrong if you equate those things with what it means to be a godly person. There is something wrong if you see those things as your “right”. There is something wrong if you are so focused and intent on those things that your are putting them first. This isn’t a call to martyrdom— to smear yourself in ashes and sackcloth to prove your righteousness. This is a call to take up your cross and follow Jesus. This is a call to stop thinking about yourself so much and start thinking about how you can serve others like Jesus.

Crossway Heirloom Study Bible Review

The pictures of this Bible aren’t going to do it justice. You really have to hold this Bible in your hands to appreciate it fully. I’m pretty much going to let the photos do most of the talking. This is the ESV Heirloom Bible by Crossway. The cover is goatskin. It has four (!) ribbon markers. There are so many extras in this Bible. It is pretty big. This is not a compact Bible by any means. This is the big, fat Bible of your grandparents. And this one will last that long, too.

This is a study Bible. It has so many maps, charts, articles, and features. It is amazingly packed full of anything they could think of that would help you better understand the Word of God. The articles and insights are thoroughly Biblical. If you’re more liberal leaning, this will likely not make you very happy.

When I said packed with extras, I really meant it. It is PACKED with extras. The Pastor has been using this Bible as a preaching Bible for a few months now. (His preaching Bible fell apart at the end of last year. He preached the cover right off!) While this Bible is a bit large and weighty for a preaching Bible, I highly recommend anyone in the ministry to get a high-quality Bible like this one that won’t fall apart on you with excessive use.

** I was sent this Bible for no cost. I do use affiliate links to help support this blog.**