In 2019, I went back to school full time. For that reason, I decided not to set a reading goal at the beginning of the year. I still read quite a few books, but not as many as usual, due to having to write A LOT of papers over the year. Sorry to say, but the first half of 2020 will be much the same– until I graduate.
I won’t review every single book I read this year, rather, I’ll review the ones I had strong opinions on and just list the rest. If you want to know more about what I’m reading, be my friend on Goodreads. Maybe this will help as you make your book list for the year.
A Thousand Gifts
I’m probably the last person in the world to read A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I’ve read Ann’s blog off and on for years because her writing is so beautiful. Our ladies’ book club at church read this one and I was glad I did. It was heartbreaking, but at the same time game so much practical advice on how to live in this moment. I know the focus is on gratitude, but Ann’s suggestions really help bring you back to the here and now and learning to see and appreciate what is write at your feet. It was definitely a worthwhile read.
I had to take a refresher Comp 2 course for college, so of course, I had to read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It is a classic story. It is a super easy read for a classic science fiction novel. It was required, which is probably the only reason people still read Frankenstein.
Let’s Start with Jesus
I actually misplaced our physical copy of this book, but found it worthwhile to buy a second copy. Let’s Start with Jesus by Dennis Kinlaw is a great introduction to theology. The writing is intelligent, but not so scholarly that it is a difficult read at all. My teachers probably got tired of the number of times I referenced this book in writing. But when talking about the nature of personhood, sin, and redemption– this book is just excellent. I highly, highly recommend this book.
Trouble I’ve Seen
Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G.I. Hart was a heartfelt book looking at racism in the church and how we can address that in Christian ways. Hart explains the theological side of fighting racism and challenges the American church to be better than it has been in the past. An excellent, well-written book for any Christian to read. I recommend this book.
Simply Christian by N.T. Wright was another book we read in our ladies’ theology book club. The book was so easy to read and easy to digest. Wright has a way of simplifying the most complex topics and making them so easily graspable. I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it.
Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity
I know this is an odd book to include, but it was really revolutionary in changing how I think about certain things. I have to be honest, this was a textbook for one of my classes and it was a book the publishers sent me a free copy to review. However, I also purchased my own copy because I needed to have a paper copy in addition to my digital copy and I’m not the least bit sad about owning two copies. Entwistle lays down the approaches to integrating theology and psychology. While he does come at this from the viewpoint of someone who is secularly licensed, but biblically informed– I do find he provided so much information about all sides of the arguement that it really did allow you to choose for yourself what you think about the topic. I actually ended up with a completely different view than Entwistle based on the information he provided and followed up with many of his referenced sources. If you are trying to wrap you head around a career in psychology as a Christian or trying to wrap you head around the role of psychology in Christian persepctive, this is an excellent book to lay some groundwork and give you resources to keep pursuing the topic more in-depth. I highly recommend this book.
If You Can Keep It
I actually read this book aloud to the kids as part of our modern history in the beginning of the year in homeschooling. It is so compelling and interesting. Metaxis does a great job of writing in such an accessible way, even the kids were able to follow along and it prompted some very interesting discussions. Having just learned about the world wars, reading this book was very impactful for us to continue the conversation of the role of liberty in our lives and how that liberty can be eroded. I recommend this book to adults and even kids. My younger ones didn’t get as much out of it as the fifth grade and above crowd. As far as reading level, a 7th or 8th grader and above would easily be able to read and follow.
Spiritual and Religious
Tom Wright lays down the case for religion. You’ve heard people say that they are spiritual but not religious. Religion is almost a dirty word in many, even Christian, circles. This book will tell you what it is really like to have spirituality devoid of religion and why both matter so much. I highly recommend this book.
While I do plan on reading in the coming year, I’m not setting goals or making promises. I’ll be finishing up school this next semester and graduating in the summer. And I’m going to have a newborn. So, I know life will be hectic and I don’t want to add unnecessary pressure on myself by setting goals that aren’t productive right now. Likely, that means that like this year, I’ll probaby read between 25 and 30 books.
I mean, clearly, I was aware that the Old Testament is larger than the New Testament. But seeing it like this made it very vividly clear just how much bigger the Old Testament really is.
Looking at them side-by-side is a bit mind blowing.
Clearly, some of the books are massively thick and others are pretty thin. The thinner books have some extra blank pages in the back of them.
The minor prophets are combined, so there isn’t a book for each one. Additionally, books with a first and second (Kings, Chronicles) are combined.
Just like the New Testament set, you have the words of Scripture on the left hand page and a faint dot grid on the right hand page.
Illustrations appear throughout. If they take up an entire page, they are on the left side. If they are small, they are on the right hand dot grid page.
If you’re curious how different media work with the paper, here are some examples from my Romans book. Our church had a small group on Romans, so I used my Illuminated Scripture Journal for that small group. The left page (above) has been watercolored on the back side of the page. There is some wrinkling, but no bleed through. The right illustration is watercolor colored pencil and micron pen, neither of which showed through or warped the paper much.
The entire set is just beautiful and well-worth the buy, in my opinion. I really enjoyed using these for Bible study. It was super convenient to be able to throw my Bible study book and the book of the Bible we were studying in my purse to read whenever I had the chance. I also really enjoyed taking notes and illustrating throughout the book. These are very much like my favorite journaling Bible, the Crossway Interleaved Journaling Bible. The paper is much thicker, and it isn’t quite interleaved, but the effect is very similar.
It is very large and takes up quite a bit of shelf space. I happen to think it is beautiful and looks lovely set out, so I don’t mind the size so much. I like both sets so much and am very glad to have both.
Crossway sent me this set free to review. I am in no way obligated to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.
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This year, I deviated from my usual homeschool planning. Being in school full-time and trying to homeschool 5 kids, I didn’t have the time to put into planning my own curriculum out like I usually do. So, I turned to A Gentle Feast.
I initally chose A Gentle Feast because it has four cycles, where each child is working at their grade level within each cycle. That is a very familiar form for me, as I have always done a four-year history cycle with everyone on the same page. I opted to implement A Gentle Feast fully, using it for Morning Time, Core Subjects, and Langauage Arts. This program is one where you can just add math.
If you’re new to Charlotte Mason, A Gentle Feast offers a lot of guidance along the way to help you implement the philosophies. There are scheduling helps, including how to schedule for a 4 or 5 day school week. For the Children’s Sake is a good book to help you understand the philosophy of a Charlotte Mason education, as well.
A Gentle Feast uses forms instead of grades. Grades 1-3 are in form 1. Grades 4-6 are in form 2. Grades 7-9 are in form 3. And grades 10-12 are in form 4. With A Gentle Feast, you get all forms in your purchase of the main curriculum. So, if you look at your 5th grader’s history book and think, “This is way too difficult.” You have the option to look at the form under the one they are currently in and swap in that book instead. If you look and think, “This is way too easy.” You can easily move up a form. Additionally, buying 4 cycles is buying an entire 12 years of education. So, let’s say Little Jimmy is starting in 1st grade. In 1st grade, you buy Cycle 1. LJ does Cyle 1 Form 1. The next year, LJ is in 2nd grade. You buy Cyle 2 and do form 1. The next year, LJ moves to Cycle 3, form 1. The following year, LJ moves on to Cycle 4, form 2. The next year, you don’t buy curriculum. LJ goes back to Cycle 1 and does form 2. Each cycle has plans for grades 1-12, so once you’ve purchased all 4 cycles, you don’t have to buy more.
I really love the Bible memory portion of Morning Time. It isn’t something we’d added to our Morning Time, and I certainly didn’t think to add big chunks of passages to learn over a term instead of a single verse here and there. I wasn’t sure my kids could handle it, but it turns out they are masters of memory, especially the younger ones.
We have also really enjoyed poetry memorization. I was surprised at how well they memorized poems and how much they seem to enjoy it. Even Daisy, who is 2, memorized a poem in the first term.
I also really like that the program in literature based. I’ve been utilizing literature to build up our education in the home for years, so it is something I’ve grown to love incorporating into our learning.
When you buy A Gentle Feast, you can choose to get a printed teacher’s manual (which is what the pictures are from) in addition to the online resources or you can opt for the online resources only. The printed manual is pretty and makes organization easy, but it isn’t as all encompassing as I would like and you still have to utilize the online resources. The online resources aren’t organized in the best way, often using Google Documents instead of PDFs, which I find to be more time consuming and less user friendly. As a whole, it could be much more user friendly and better organized. You’ll get all the information you need by purchasing the print or digital option, but you’ll need to spend some time navigating and putting it all together.
Now, I have several complaints about A Gentle Feast, which I will outline in detail so that you can see if it’d be an issue for you. A Gentle Feast has many users and it works beautifully for many families. It is working for my family. It isn’t that it isn’t functional. It is. I just have some issues that will likely be the reason I choose to go back to compiling my own curriculum next school year.
My issues with Morning Time are really a matter of preference. I like to have all my kids together for Morning Time. While I love the addition of Bible Memory and poetry memorization, I’ve disliked some of the other portions.
Each form has different recommendations for Morning Time. To keep everyone together, we’ve been utilizing the books from all the forms. For example, in term 1 of cycle 1, younger students are reading one of Aesop’s fables each week. Form 2 students are reading a Norse myth once a week. Form 3 students are reading Shakespeare once a week. Form 4 are reading a different book once a week. To keep everyone together for Morning Time, we read one form’s suggested reading each day. The result is that we’re never really making much progress in any of them, but we are hitting all of them each week.
I also really liked the balance we had going in our Morning Time and feel like we’ve lost balance with A Gentle Feast. Morning Time just isn’t flowing as well as it has before, and I can’t quite put my finger on anything other than we’ve spread very thin and there is little cohesion day-to-day.
The Language Arts portion of A Gentle Feast goes along with the readings from other portions of the feast. If you’re skipping Morning Time, History, or Literature, the Language Arts packet will have content that is foreign for your child. I really liked this aspect of the Language Arts program and chose it for that reason. However, the excerpts aren’t always aligned with their reading. So, they may have an excerpt from a book they’ll be reading in a couple months or one they finished weeks ago. I don’t know why it doesn’t all align with their weekly reading.
Additionally, I don’t think there is enough grammar instruction in the Language Arts packets. Charlotte Mason is typically light on grammar, but I tend to find myself somewhere between Charlotte Mason and classical education (even though many will say Charlotte Mason is classical, there are clear differences), so this falls a bit short for me. There also isn’t a lot of writing. That might be wonderful to hear for some people. My older kids do all their narrations for each subject in writing, so they are getting writing practice in somewhere. I would say this program is grammar and writing light. There is a little of each, probably enough for most people’s taste, but it was a definite step back in difficulty and comprehensiveness for my kids. My kids have had more comprehensive grammar instruction, so the light review has been fine for them for this year, but I wouldn’t want that every year.
For the youngest kids, there is 100 Gentle Lessons for both reading and handwriting. I find both to be significantly lacking. The handwriting moves so slowly and offers no variety or interest. The reading is just a disjointed mess. My kids have had such a hard time following along and staying engaged. I ended up switching them back to An Ordinary Parents Guide to Reading, as it just does a better job at teaching the basics.
The handwriting isn’t really necessary if you’re using the Language Arts pack. There is weekly copywork included there, so they get plenty of writing practice. Also, if you’re using the student pages for Exploring Nature with Children (which is part of the receommended curriculum for A Gentle Feast), there is copywork available there, as well.
This is my main issue with A Gentle Feast. In classical education, history rotates through a chornological cycle. Charlotte Mason taught an individual out history model. Instead of starting history at the beginning, you start with the child. So, A Gentle Feast has American history (or Canadian history) as the four-year history cyle. Form 1, which is grades 1-3, only has American history. Form 2, grades 4-6, add in British history alongside American history. Form 3 and 4, grades 7-12, also have Ancient history along with British and American history. This has been so confusing and scattered. So, even though my kids are all on the same cycle, they are not on the same history schedule.
Additionally, there is no history spine. You just skip from book to book, but there is nothing really tying it all together or keeping the path clear. Keeping a Book of Centuries is a necessary component because without it, the kids would have no clue where everything fits together. I just find that I prefer a classical chronological history rotation over the haphazardness of this history method. That is a completely personal preference.
Geography isn’t tied into history at all in this program. It stands on its own and kids work through their geography work as a completely seperate subject. My kids have been doing fine with geography. There is nothing wrong with how it is done, I just prefer more tie-ins between subjects and tying history to geography is so easy.
The literature readings have been very hit or miss for my kids. I like to tie history into literature, and while there is some of that in this program, it isn’t as merged as I usually make it. There is nothing wrong with the book selections in A Gentle Feast, I think I’d just prefer to choose my own. And while you can do that with this program, just input what you want where you want, you’ll disjoint Language Arts even further by doing that. And why buy a comprehensive curriculum if you’re going to tweak it in the big areas anyway?
This program is really weak in science. Using living books is very hard to create a science program that is deep and interesting. Form 1 has no science other than nature study. That is fine with me as our nature study tends to be pretty deep, especially for the younger kids who have lots of questions. It isn’t that I love textbooks, but using living books for science with no spine is quite difficult to get a decent depth. I also like to keep everyone moving together through science, which isn’t possible with this program. The upper level science plans utilize Sabbath Mood curriculum, so this isn’t included in your purchase of A Gentle Feast.
Forms 1 and 2 utilize Exploring Nature with Children curriculum in their Nature Study. I was already utilizing this resource before beginning A Gentle Feast and I really like it. I do not like the alternative plan A Gentle Feast uses for Exploring Nature with Children and stick to the original plan.
Another complaint of mine falls in this category. Instead of reading one book, form 1 are splitting between two unrelated books each week, making it difficult for the little guys to really keep track. They learn about small mammals one day and birds on another. I would prefer to read each book quicker, rather than adding more unrelated content onto the table each week. I’d rather stick to small mammals for half the term and then move onto birds for the other half of the term. This curriculum just spreads the net too wide and too shallow, especially for the younger kids. I constantly feel the need to supplement for the younger ones because I don’t think the curriculum provides as adequate coverage of anything. I feel like it is just spread thin in an attempt to be gentle. I’m all for young kids being exposed to nature, science, and history and not forced into the world of facts. I just felt that with so much jumping around, a lot of the interest and wonder was lost.
Older forms have a single book for Nature Study, but only read it once a week since they are also involved in other science learning. I have been pleased with the book choices for the older forms.
I have always called this “character” and have typically included it in Morning Time. Form 1 have no lessons in this subject. I did swap out the Form 3 Charlotte Mason reading for something that they would find more interesting. I have a hard time slogging through Charlotte Mason’s writings and my 8th graders were having a hard time with it, as well. I usually make them keep at hard books, but I really couldn’t blame them on this one. We swapped it out for The Great Divorce, which they both loved and got a lot more out of. My form 2 student has loved the reading option for his citizenship and says it is his favorite book of the program so far.
There is no math included in A Gentle Feast. There are suggestions, but it is ultimately up to you what you do for math.
There are languages and singing lessons for A Gentle Feast. There are Spanish, French, Latin, and German options for languages. I opted for Rosetta Stone instead. My form 1 kids have been using the book suggestions for learning French, but my older kids have been using Rosetta Stone and really enjoying it.
There are drawing and art lessons, as well. We haven’t utilized those since I include watercolor painting in our Nature Study. My older kids also like to use Skillshare to learn art skills that interest them. We’ve been really happy with that, so we have stuck to Skillshare and Nature Study instead of utilizing the art lessons from A Gentle Feast.
I have been able to make A Gentle Feast largely independent for my older kids. I do Morning Time and Tea Time at the same time to keep my afternoons open for working on my own school work. My younger kids are finished very quickly, as there isn’t much to do for them in this program. My older kids do all their work outside of Morning Time independently and keep a narration notebook where they write their narrations for each subject down instead of telling me orally. Even if I had the time to listen to their oral narrations, this program is so light on writing that I think I’d still prefer written narrations.
Overall, this curriculum has been a big step back from our usual education. I’m not sure I’d call it gentle, I think light and spread thin describes it more accurately. For some people, this would be absolutely ideal. I just happen to lean a bit more toward the classical side and need a little bit more than this curriculum offers.
Additionally, this program was pretty expensive for me to implement. Now, there are ways to make it more afforable. Many of the books can be found on Scribd or in your local library. You absolutely don’t have to buy every single book. Some of the books are hard to find. Like most Charloote Mason programs, there aren’t a lot of new books suggested.
Overall, this is a good program, despite my plethora of complaints. It is a usable program that we’ve been successfully using during a very busy time in our lives with minimal modifications. The curriculum does work. I’m glad we have it for this year, even if I do plan to go back to creating my own curriculum next year. A Gentle Feast allowed me to take a step back and still have the kids’ education pretty well handled. It is similar enough to what they are used to that there was no big transition. There are aspects of A Gentle Feast that I will be adding to our own currilum next year, including written narrations, Bible memory, and poetry memorization.
The only part of A Gentle Feast I’d flat out not recommend is their 100 Gentle Lessons reading and handwriting programs. That has been the only complete flop of the program for us. Everything else is worth getting if you’re looking for things to be done for you. If you’re used to a box curriculum but want to switch to a Charlotte Mason method, this is a great option.
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Yes, we’re expecting again! It may be no surprise to anyone by now, but we’re excited to be welcoming a baby girl sometime next May. I’m pretty surprised to find out we’re having another girl. If you don’t know, our oldest is a girl, and then we had five boys. Baby seven was a surprise girl. And now baby eight is also a girl! The ladies are catching up. Being pregnant that many times, I definitely have my pregnancy favorites and I figured I’d share.
We’ll start with jeans. It can be VERY difficult to find pregnancy jeans. Let me just tell you, overbelly might seem ridiculous when you’re four months pregnant with your first belly, but they are all that will fit in month nine.
My favorite maternity jeans are the Levi Gold Label Jeans. The small, medium, large sizing might be a bit confusing, but they are true to size if you use the size chart. Always go bigger when in doubt. (Your nine month pregnant self will thank you.)
My runner up jeans are the Indigo Blue Secret Fit Belly jeans from Motherhood Maternity. The belly portion is super comfortable, but it doesn’t hold up very well over time. They’ll last a single pregnancy comfortably, and then you’ll likely have holes in the belly portion by the next baby.
My least favorite jeans are Old Navy maternity jeans. The spandex in the jean fabric just gives out too easily and after one pregnancy the denim portion is all stretched and weird looking.
Maternity underwear are difficult to find. You may have luck just getting your normal undies in a bigger size. You may not find you need anything different, depending on the style you wear.
I love these Gratlin Over Belly Maternity Underwear. They offer belly support and smoothing, but not so much it is uncomfortable. They look seamless under clothes, even those form fitting maternity dresses. They are super stretchy and feel really comfortable. Even if you only grab one pair to wear under *that* dress, definitely try them!
There is forever the question of the maternity pillow. Do you have to have one? No. But you’ll end up with about 10 regular pillows trying to make up for not having one. I have two that I like.
The Boppy Pregnancy Support Pillow is a small pillow that only goes between your thighs and a tiny bit under your belly. This is a good pillow if you are short or if you just want a little support. I also really like this pillow postpartum because my hips are still sore, and it supports them without being in the way of feeding the baby at all.
If you want full body comfort, the Queen Rose Pregnancy Pillow is the way to go. It is huge and takes up the space of another person in the bed, but it is comfort to the extreme. You may be wondering why you need a pillow behind you when sleeping. Around month eight, you’ll realize why.
How to combat the pregnancy nausea? For me, upping my protein intake is the first way to decrease the all day sickness. If I can’t stand the thought of eating meat, hemp protein powder is the way to go. I specifically like the chocolate flavor. I mix it in the blender with ice, milk, and a couple coffee beans. It is delicious and easy on the stomach.
Ginger Chews are my second way to stave off nausea. Not only do they help with the blood sugar dropping that causes nausea, but the ginger helps soothe the stomach. I specifically love the Ginger People brand of ginger chews. If I can’t find the Ginger People, I go for Reed’s.
I’ve also had luck in a few pregnancies with using Sea Bands to combat nause. They are definitely worth trying to see if they’ll work for you since they are inexpensive and pretty much side effect free.
If all else fails, grab some Unisom and B6 and take it around the clock. Yes, you will sleep most of the time, but you won’t be throwing up. It definitely got me through my worst morning sickness pregnancy. Definitely check with your doctor. There is also a prescription version available that is time released, so you may want to ask about it.
It can be hard to find that perfect pregnancy dress that is effortless, comfortable, and cute. Definitely check out Amazon, and don’t limit yourself to the maternity section. Usually the reviews will tell you if a dress is good for maternity or not. There are so many cute and afforable dresses on Amazon, check them out.
My current favorite is this faux wrap maternity dress from Mother Bee. It is pretty, but feel like I’m wearing pajamas. It isn’t tight or binding anywhere. They also have a short sleeve version, which I rock in the winter with a cardigan. I do kind of wish I had sized up instead of buying my regular size simply because the sleeves would have been looser. (They aren’t tight, they just fit like a fitted t-shirt.) These wrap top dresses are also super handy postpartum for breastfeeding.
You’re not going to avoid stretch marks by using a specific cream. It is more about genetics and individual skin characteristics and not about some magic cream. However, the skin on the belly does get really uncomfortable during pregnancy and belly cream can help sooth the itching and stetching feeling.
Palmer’s Coca Butter is the original and the go-to for most moms. It feels nice on the skin, but the smell bothered me personally.
I really like the Motherlove Pregnant Belly Salve. It is natural, cruelty-free, and the smell didn’t bother me. I also liked the Burt’s Bee belly cream before they changed the formula.
Y’all know this is hard for me to narrow down. I have a couple shelves full of pregnancy and birth books. I’m just going to give you a short list of my favorites.
If you need a pregnancy support belt, I prefer this style. It offers enough support, but without feeling restricting. Definitely wear over a layer of clothes.
You may want a Belly Band. I used it with my first pregnancies pretty often, but not so much for later pregnancies. I just opted to break out my maternity clothes a lot sooner.
Postpartum, you may wand to use a belly binder. It helps hold your insides in and keeps your from feeling like you’re jello in the middle. I prefer the Bamboo Belly Bandit. It is the most comfortable, for me, and I felt like it helped hold everything together well. Note that your insurance may cover a postpartum binder from the hospital. Their version isn’t as nice and comfortable, but it does the job and it’ll save you money.
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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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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!
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.
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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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.) ****
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.
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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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.