My Experience With Trim Healthy Mama

I’m sure you’ve heard of Trim Healthy Mama. It seems everyone has. I had heard about it from friends for years before I decided to buy the books and give it a try. I researched it for quite a long time before committing. I’m not really one to try diets, despite needing to loose weight. I did the Whole 30 a couple years ago with huge success. But since living that way is almost impossible for an active family, I decided to give Trim Healthy Mama a try. Everyone said it was whole family cooking and it wouldn’t leave me in the kitchen all day long.

The good:

  • The meals were made for large families in mind. I didn’t have to double and triple recipes, which was refreshing. Most family meals feed 6-8. They do have lots of single serve recipes in the cookbook for things like breakfast and lunch, too.
  • I found some ridiculously yummy recipes that my kids love in the cookbook. Swedish Meatballs in Cream Sauce, Slim Sloppy Joes, Blackened Chicken with Mango and Black Beans, Lentil Soup, Chicken Jalapeno Popper Soup, Tomato Chicken Bisque, Nacho Stuffed Peppers, Trim Healthy Pancakes. Amazing food. Really.
  • I found most of the sippers to be awesome and I love them! Good Girl Moonshine & Singing Canary are staying. Period.
  • The Pastor lost lots of weight in the first month.

The Eh:

  • I lost minimal weight. Very minimal. Likes, in 3 months maybe 8 lbs.
  • While it was a whole family plan, you have to tweak every single meal for every single person. This meant adding cheese to kid food but not adult food. Adding an extra side for kids. So while I was only cooking one “meal”, I was having to adjust at the table.
  • While they claim you don’t have to use specialty ingredients, I found that they were necessary if you don’t want to be completely frustrated. So, you’re buying special flours and weird stuff that are really hard to find and expensive.
  • They also claim you can do the plan without Stevia. After reading their stuff, I just started using the Stevia, even though I really didn’t want to. Cutting it out is a bigger deal than they make it.
  • You can have brownies! they say. Then you make the brownies exactly like the recipe and they are gross. The online community then tells you that your taste buds are just messed up from years of real sugar. You’ll adjust. But chocolate should never taste like chemicals. I don’t want to get used to that. So these beloved desserts are apparently all acquired tastes that will eventually be okay to you once you forget what real baked goods taste like.
  • Despite saying you can be a food purist to stick to the plan or a “drive through Sue”, I found that I was having to make a lot of concessions to food purity. I was eating things that didn’t seem normal for me to eat. So, I’m sure there was a way for me to not bend on my food standards, but they weren’t easy if they were available.
  • There are a lot of rules. It takes time to understand and properly implement the plan. While there is good support through their Facebook pages and such, you have to be careful what you say so you don’t offend the plan. (Really just never critique the plan. Just watch how much hate mail will come from this post. And not all of the groups will be like this. You’ll also find a lot of encouragement and a lot of help. Just don’t complain- they don’t like it.)

The Bad:

  • My milk supply tanked, despite doing crossovers as described for nursing moms.
  • My immune system plummeted. I had eczema and then Shingles. The nutrition just wasn’t there.
  • It was expensive. The specialty ingredients are very pricey. They say you don’t need them, but over half the recipes call for them. Want to price them yourself? Whey Protein, Trim Healthy Mama Baking Blend, Stevia, Super Sweet, Gentle Sweet, MCT Oil, Gelatin, Collagen, Glucomannan, Not Naughty Noodles. Now, some of these things will last quite a while, like the Stevia and the Glucomannan. But some, like the baking blend and the super sweet will be monthly expenses at least.
  • I was eating more meat and less veggies than usual. While they say vegetarian and vegan options are available, I don’t really see how.

My Conclusions:

I have seen lots of people loose weight and have great health on this plan. I will still be using my cookbook, despite my not using the plan because some of the food is really yummy. But this plan is clearly not for me. I had so many health problems that started when I switched to this plan. I did not see results anything like I would have liked to see. And my family was just eating too many things I wasn’t really super comfortable with. So, I am going to take some of the recipes, but leave the plan. It just didn’t work for us. It certainly isn’t for everyone. It worked fine for my husband.

Do I recommend you try it? I don’t know. I don’t recommend you NOT try it. I’m just not a fan because it really wasn’t a fit for me and my family. I had really high hopes and it just did not deliver.

I also think I am somewhat biased in my attempts. I’ve never been a Stevia fan. In fact, I think I might actually be allergic. I’m not a fan of processed foods. I’m not a fan of casseroles or crock pots meals. It isn’t that I am picky. I’m just more of a whole food, clean food person. So telling me no potatoes and limit carrots isn’t ever going to sit well with me.

**This post contains affiliate links.**

Affirm Their Worth

So, what is this common courtesy business? Well, I consider it a spiritual discipline. In fact, this spiritual discipline is more difficult for me than prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, hospitality- anything else. When God first started working on my heart about common grace, you could feel my soul yelling, “Anything but this!” Seriously. Some people find this sort of thing easy. I do not. A punk rock teen grew up to be a punk in adult’s clothing. Polite is almost the opposite of my core. To me, polite felt like a lie. It felt wrong. Chit-chat seemed like wasted meaningless words. A waste of the limited time we are given! Oh how wrong I was. I mean, I thought I was right. My logic made sense. But God has a way of taking those things we hold as true and exposing them to light, and we see that we only saw a shadow of the issue at hand.

“Once we get over our egocentric arrogance about the fact that people don’t really want to know how we are when they say “How are you?” we can see that it is just an American way of acknowledging our presence. We can wave and acknowledge their presence too without feeling the need to give a prognosis on our latest headache.” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

Did that hit you as it hit me? Honestly, that single concept took me years to master. Years. And I still think I struggle with it from time to time. My brutal and completely open honesty struggles with this concept.

“The specific acts will vary from culture to culture, but the purpose is always the same: to acknowledge others and affirm their worth.” -Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline

You read that? Read it again. Let that sink in. Does my need for this ideal of brutal honesty mean more than the worth of the person in front of me? No. Does my internal punk screaming for truth matter more than this moment to affirm this person’s worth? No. In these seemingly small moments, we make people. We breathe into them that thing we find in our Great God- worth. We shine a light into their darkness and say, “Hey, you! You’re worth my time and my attention.”

Titus 3:2 (CEB) They shouldn’t speak disrespectfully about anyone, but they should be peaceful, kind, and show complete courtesy toward everyone.

pip handYears ago, the thought of someone touching my baby would have sent me into a tizzy. You’ve seen that Steve Harvey video? No, not the Miss Universe one, the one about the woman who didn’t want strangers touching her baby. (I linked that for ya, just in case you somehow haven’t seen it.) Well, that is the world’s wisdom. And years ago, I would have been the first person and the loudest person saying, “If you want to touch a baby, have your own baby!” But you know how God works in ways different than the world? And you know how God changes us sometimes, even those pieces we didn’t think needed to be changed? Well, that is what He did to me.

Not long ago, in a coffee shop, I had Pip all wrapped up snug. It wasn’t cold out, and his feet are so dang fat socks are just not an option unless he really might freeze without them. So, I am standing and waiting on my café au lait, and a woman approaches me. She says, “Oh! Those feet!” Now, the judgement police sirens are going off in my head. I am sure I am about to get a lecture about how he will certainly catch pneumonia and die in 70 degree weather. I smile and mention that his feet are too fat for socks. She says, “May I?” Nodding to his fat little foot poking out of the carrier. I say, “Sure.” The lady proceeds to just hold and rub Pip’s foot for a minute. She has this sad kind of smile while she does. Pip is just grinning at her, because that is what Pip does. She then says, “Thank you so much for sharing him with me today. You have no idea how much holding that fat foot meant to me.” And then she walks off.

Now, five years ago, I would have in no polite way told her that she may not touch his foot! I would have likely acted like I couldn’t hear her when she first spoke to me, since I assumed she was just being Judgy McJudgyPants. But God was working on me. And in this moment, I chose to just show simple kindness. We’re not talking about some incredible heroic act. I was simply kind and polite. I shared my baby’s foot with a stranger for a minute. I’ll never know what that woman was going through. And I will never know what that moment meant to her. But to me, it seems Pip and I were there as an act of grace to her that day. We simply acknowledged her, and somehow we brought a little light.

Common courtesy is a simple act of compassion. It is a small act of service. Are you like I was, unable to small talk because of your own ideals? Perhaps those assumptions of others are keeping you from the smallest kindness? Will you acknowledge others and affirm their worth? Will you pray for opportunities to practice small kindnesses to strangers?

Common Courtesy

Common courtesy. Small talk. A smile. Giving a little of your time to make the day of a stranger a little better. On the one hand, we gravitate toward stories of the small “random acts of kindness”. We post them on social media. They might bring a tear to our eye. But when it is us in a situation where we could use a little common courtesy, how often do we find ourselves showing that small grace?

IMGP2160

Usually our reasons to not be courteous seem valid.

We’re busy! We need to get home and get dinner started or we won’t have time to feed the kids before they need to be at the ball field. We have a ticking clock in our heads telling us there are not enough hours in the day to make our obligations. We certainly have no time for chit chat. We certainly have too much on our plate for patience.

We’re stressed! All those million things that jam pack our schedule full all fall on us my shoulders right this second. If the kids are late, my fault. If their homework isn’t done to perfection, my fault. If their dinner isn’t healthy & nutritious enough, my fault. It all falls on me and it is all bearing down every second of every day. Stressed seems too tame a word for what we feel!

We’re tired! Burning the candle at both ends, trying to make all of this work. Kids finally get in bed and we’ve still get a few hours worth of work before we can tuck in. And just as we do, someone is crying in the night needing us. We haven’t slept in a decade and that never seems to be ending soon!

We’re selfish! Let’s stop pretending. We don’t want to chit chat when we could be reading our e-mails or playing Candy Crush in a moment of zoned out peace. We like to talk about “me” time and try to sneak it any way we can.

We feel judged! Usually because we judge ourselves. We feel like every statement is somehow a commentary on our lives. We may find we are quick to judge others, and assume the same. And yes, sometimes this really is the truth, but so are all the other things I listed.

We’re oblivious! You might say, “Well, this belongs under selfish!” Stop judging me and let me talk! (Ha! JK) This is when the selfishness gets so engrained, that it literally doesn’t even occur to us to think of someone else. You might argue, but we’re parents, we are always thinking of others! Thinking of your kids and thinking of complete strangers are two completely different things. But too often we get so into our own lives that we are completely oblivious to the lives of others.

I have absolutely been there. God has been working on me with this issue for years. Honestly. You can ask some of my small group peoples. I don’t do common courtesy. Until this past year or so, that is. This anti-chit-chat girl has become friendly to strangers. It didn’t happen overnight. And I still have to actively force myself into this common courtesy business. But I think this is something we all need to hear. I think this is something God is calling us back to in our culture. I’m not talking about online. Redeeming social media is another discussion completely. I’m talking about real life. We’re talking about loving the neighbor right in front of you right now.

I’m breaking this down into smaller bites, because what I have to say may get long. And you may need time to digest each piece. I know I did. This is also written to Christians. I don’t expect the World to live like Christ. I expect that of Christians. So, my secular readers, read on if you find interest in the inner workings of Christian life, but know where I am coming from, The Cross.

2014 Books In Review

I’ll admit it, I did not read very much in 2014. I honestly don’t know what happened. I just had a slow reading year. I ended up reviewing a bunch of non-book products (crib sheets, stroller, baby carriers, vacuum, toys, etc.). But I did read, on average more than one book per month. Here they are:

revivalRevival: Faith As Wesley Lived It by Adam Hamilton

5 Stars

Written by a United Methodist Pastor, Revival is divided geographically. Each chapter focuses on a place in Wesley’s life and ministry and ties that back to Wesley’s teachings. You’ll find pictures of the author’s journey to these places. You could even use the book as a guidebook to a Wesley centered trip. He quotes Wesley’s sermons and relates them to modern life. This is a book easily understood by laity, and easily appreciated by clergy. You’ll find snippets of Wesley’s life, snippets of Wesley’s thoughts, and snippets of current Wesleyan perspective- all in one book. While not exhaustive, it is certainly a good peak into the life and mind of Wesley and into the theology of Wesleyans.

hereinisloveHerein Is Love, Volume 3: Leviticus by Nancy E. Ganz

5 Stars

I cannot tell you enough how much I love this book. I got it for homeschooling. We’d been going through the Old Testament and I found myself stumped when it came to Leviticus. This book is amazing. It ties the Old Testament to the New in a way that kids can understand. It is set up with lessons in the beginning and questions in the back. It can easily be used for Sunday School type curriculum, as well. This is understandable by grammar school age kids, but isn’t below middle or even high schoolers. My 5 year old was able to remember all the steps to becoming a priest! This book was a huge help and a huge blessing. I cannot recommend it enough!

soupclub

The Soup Club Cookbook by Courtney Allison, Tina Carr, Caroline Lasko, and Julie Peacock

5 Stars

At first, I just wanted this book for the soup recipes. And there are plenty of those! The range of the recipes is pretty wide, but if you’re not a foodie, not many of them are going to appeal to you. There are also some very difficult to find specialty ingredients in a lot of the soups. If you live near a large metro area, it likely won’t be difficult for you to acquire them. If you live in more rural areas, you’ll have a lot more trouble with a lot of the ingredients. (We’re talking about things like Marmite, specialty cheeses, fresh chestnuts, celeriac bulbs, sunchokes, masa harina, kombu, nori, etc.) There are also several non-soup recipes. I was thrilled with the recipes included. And the recipes are huge, which is a plus for this large family momma.
But what really surprised me is how much I actually like the idea of a soup club. I usually shy away from dinner clubs, mostly because they just don’t work for my family. But soup club is something I could really get used to. I look forward to finding a few friends to try soup club with me.
You’ll need a few things to make this cookbook work for you. You’ll need a huge stock pot. The soup recipes are intended to be split among 4 families. That means each recipe makes 8-9 quarts of soup. (And if you’re a large family mom, like myself, that means their might even be leftovers!) You’ll need an immersion blender for several of the soups. You may need a food processor for several soups. And if you’re starting a soup club, you’ll need quart sized jars, small jars for garnishes, and canvas tote bags for delivery.

crochetwithoneCrochet with One Sheepish Girl by Meredith Crawford

5 Stars

I am a very beginning crocheter. This book has the basics in the beginning of the book, though crochet is a little hard to grasp in book form, so you may want to watch some YouTube videos to help with the beginner basics. There are several patterns in this book, all of them pretty unique. (I hate it when I buy a craft book and can find every single pattern for free on the internet. This book isn’t like that.)
Patterns include: Granny Square Infinity Cowl, Color Block Ribbed Turban, Bow Brooch, Striped Bow Clutch, Sweater Makeover (Adding crochet hearts to a sweater, not the pattern for the sweater), Collared Shirt Makeover (Adding a crochet trim to a button up shirt), Scallop Stripe Cowl, Home Cozy Home Pillowcase, Crochet Edge Frames, Yarn Bag Makeover (Adding Crochet touches to a ready made canvas bag), Ombre Basket in Three Sizes, Crochet Hook Organizer, Heart Pocket Apron, Teacup Coasters, “Enjoy” Place Setting Placemat, Cottage Tea Cozy, Diana Camera Purse (looks like a camera, doesn’t hold a camera), Tablet Case, Gift Boxes, Chocolate Latte (crochet to go coffee cup, doesn’t actually hold coffee), Blueberry Muffin (again, a “play” muffin), Party Hat Garland, Snow Cone Garland, and Crochet Edge Cards and Tags (cards are printed in the back of the book so you can make copies of the cards she has or add the trim to your own).

charcuterieThe New Charcuterie Cookbook by Jamie Bissonnette

4 Stars

This is a well laid out book. There are plenty of pictures, even step by step pictures helping you wade through the unfamiliar territory. You’ll need more than the average American kitchen contains, though. You’ll need a meat grinder. For many recipes, you need a separate meat curing fridge. You’ll need a sausage stuffer. None of these recipes will make your kitchen more efficient or save you money. This is more of a hobby cooking type endeavor. (Telling you his first few hams didn’t turn out, so don’t worry if yours doesn’t won’t fly when you’re counting on that ham for dinner.)

You should also be aware that this book, particularly in the introduction, is quite crude and contains a few profanities. I wouldn’t usually expect that in a cookbook, but think it is pertinent info, particularly for those giving the book as a gift.

Overall, a beautifully laid out, well explained book. Just not something the average American home cook is going to necessarily employ.

goodadvice
Good Advice from Bad People by Zac Bissonnette
4 Stars
This makes for an interesting coffee table book. Organized with a quote on one page in large print and then the story of why the quote is so humorous coming from that person follows on the next page or two. Some of the quotes and stories are not so amusing, some are. Makes a great conversation starter, for sure.
afterworlds
Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield
3 Stars
This book is two books in one. You have the book, “Afterworlds”. Then you have the story of a young up-and-coming author writing “Afterworlds”. Chapters alternate between the stories. The timing between the stories is very well done.
“Afterworlds” by Darcy Patel would have gotten a 5 star review. And I would sit anxiously awaiting “Untitled Patel”. It was the second story of Darcy Patel flowing through the pages that brought the rating down. Don’t get me wrong, the book premise was genius, the timing of the stories flowing together was nothing short of epic. The characters in the Darcy Patel story just lost their fizz and definition as the love relationship in that story began. The plot took over and left nothing for the characters themselves to be. Darcy began acting not like Darcy, but by a pawn of the plot. Huge bummer because this book could have been epic. Darcy was just all wrong from the beginning. (She should have been a dude- that would have made so much more sense because she didn’t ever feel like any girl I have ever known. The soul of the character felt like an insecure boy.) Read it, because you have to- this is Scott Westerfeld we’re talking about. Enjoy the genius in the premise and in the Afterworlds story. But know that the Darcy Patel story is just a flat, soulless blah once you get beyond the perfect timing, insightful industry look, and innovative idea.Parental blurb: (This book is YA. Recommended for 14 and up. So I am dutifully including the info parents might want to know.) This book contains the following:
-terrorism
-cult in minor detail
– violence, but nothing excessively graphic
– violence against children
– cursing, not excessive, but a few f-bombs
– underage drinking
– sex in vague passing references, nothing graphic
– homosexual relationship is one of the main stories in the book

breastfeeding
5 Stars

I have breastfed all five of my children, so I am not new to this, nor was any of the information in the book really new or unheard of to me. However, this made me heart just sing reading about the beauty God created in the mother and child dynamic shared in breastfeeding. I will go back and read this again and again. And I highly recommend it!

Note: I am not Catholic, but I found the book amazing nonetheless. I am Protestant/Methodist.

hyperbole
Hyperbole and A Half by Allie Brosh
4 Stars
I don’t read the blog, but I bought the book anyway. I wasn’t exactly aware of how much the author likes the F word. I found the book amusing. I would caution readers that it does contain a lot of profanity, so if that is something that bothers you, skip this book. There is no getting around the profanity.
fallout
The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen
4 Stars
I did not think The Compound really needed a sequel. It was a great stand alone story. I wish authors would rebel against this new trend toward making everything a series. With that said, I liked this book. I didn’t want it tagged onto The Compound, but I did enjoy it.
baked
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
5 Stars
If you know me, you know how much I love baking. And I love the premise of these recipes- decrease the sugar where you can, add more chocolate where you can. There are recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, and more. If you’ve never baked a cake before, you might want to start with something simpler, but for those that know their way around a mixer, you’ll love this book!
lectures
Lectures in Old Testament Theology by Dennis Kinlaw with John Oswalt
5 Stars
As I was preparing to teach the kids about the Old Testament this year, I found myself with a lot of questions. So, instead of trudging along blindly, I picked up this book and began to read and help answer some of those questions. This book was undoubtedly a blessing to me. It helped me understand the Old Testament, helped tie it to the New Testament, and gave me more insight into the Bible than I have had before. While this book was written for academia, I find it very easy to understand with no theological or Biblical degree. I would recommend it for clergy and laity, alike.
bibleamongthemyths
The Bible Among Myths by John Oswalt
5 Stars
In addition to the previous book, I picked up this book to help further answer some of my questions. Living in a time where everyone spouts “truth” as it is known to them, it is easy to find yourself a bit confused on what is and isn’t actually true. This book helped frame the world when the Bible was written. It helps you understand the concepts of myth and history and how the Bible fits into that. It is a little more difficult to read than Lectures in Old Testament Theology, but readable nonetheless, for those with an interest in the subject.
Note: Dr. Oswalt was one of The Pastor’s seminary professors.
holdon
Hold On To Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate
5 Stars
I read this book at such an opportune time. My kids have just started playing with other kids around the neighborhood and I was able to see a lot of what the authors were discussing playing out in the early stages. And I was really surprised how quickly the kids’ attachments went from our home to homes around the neighborhood. It has definitely given me more to think about and more of a leg to stand on when certain relationships my children have make me uncomfortable. (And usually, it isn’t a matter of the other kid being a bad kid. It is just how much emphasis and how much of themselves they throw into the relationship, even at relatively young ages.) This is definitely a book to read, particularly for those entering the world of raising kids who have their own friends and relationships outside of the family. It is easier to foster healthier relationships from the beginning than to be scrambling to fix them when things go bad. (Though if you’re in that second camp, this book will help, too.)
angryconvos
Angry Conversations With God by Susan E. Isaacs
4 Stars
I really couldn’t relate to Susan’s story at all. I don’t know what it is like to be a single adult searching for your mate. I don’t know what it is like to move across the country while single. I don’t know what it is like building a career while searching for Mr. Right. I didn’t do those things. And that life is so foreign to me, I just couldn’t relate. I know nothing about church hopping and trying to find the perfect church. (I’ve always been of the “grow where you are planted” variety and try to make my church better and take the things that I dislike about it to make myself a better person. I’ve never moved to a new city and had to shop for churches. In every move, I had a church home waiting for me, and I made that the best I could.)
This book is funny and snarky. And I enjoyed it, despite the author being nothing like myself. I like peeking into the spiritual journey’s of others. It gives me more insight into choices they make and why they tick. So, I did enjoy the book, though I didn’t necessarily find it personally edifying or touching.
handsfree
You’ve already seen my review of Hands Free Mama and all the ways I dislike it. If you haven’t, go read it. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars, and I think that was being pretty generous.
protecting
Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker
4 Stars
I really liked Gavin de Becker’s book, The Gift of Fear. That book really should be read by all parents. This book, had its great points. If I was in a different situation in life, needing childcare providers on a regular basis or something, this book would have likely gotten 5 stars. There are screening questions for daycares, schools, and babysitters. There are tips on things to look for, things to ask that you may not think about, and just the general word to trust your gut. Parents today need to hear that. Trust your gut. We get so bogged down in the lists and the comparing that we often try not to listen to ourselves, even when we should. This book also helped me navigate some personal parenting issues that had come up in my life, which was invaluable. I just found that I really liked about half the book and then just kind of got through the other half. It isn’t a topic we usually like to dwell on, but Gavin de Becker does such a great job of getting right to the heart of the matter that it immediately deals with our anxieties and then leaves us with nothing but newfound strength.
makingafamilyhome
Making A Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom
2 Stars
The book is full of beautiful pictures… of the author’s perfect home and perfect kids and perfect life. Of course, likely all taken on the same day and likely not quite as perfect as projected. (I think we’ve all seen similar on social media.) It was seriously just room by room of her house and how to make your house like her home. I didn’t find it all that helpful or inspirational, it just felt pretentious. But the pictures were pretty.
lovingthelittleyears
Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jankovic
4 Stars
Overall, I enjoyed this book. There were parts that were very encouraging. Parts that had me tearing up. Parts that I felt convicted to do better for my kids. I think her views on how children change a mother’s body are amazing and could read an entire book just on that subject.
I did conclude that Mrs. Jankovic and I are very different parents. And to me, that is okay. However, I wish she wouldn’t have talked so much about discipline in her book since that is where she and I would majorly disagree. I also didn’t find it helpful to the overall grounding and encouraging tone of the book. I also found it humorous that a mom whose oldest child is 5 is talking about long term discipline approaches. She really should have left that part out, added a few more uplifting and encouraging chapter, and called it a five star book.
mamarazzi
Mamarazzi by Stacey Wasmuth
4 Stars
This book is overall a good help to taking great pictures of your kids. It contains tons of pictures along with the camera settings uses to take each picture. There are tips on how to make handmade photography helps, like diffusers and reflectors. It is a very good resource for the technical aspects of photography, explaining aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. There were tips and tricks for photographing newborns through teens. It also has info on how I choose a professional photographer when you need one.
The downsides of this book are small, but keep it from being a 5 star book. The book was copyrighted in 2011, so many of the website and specific products recommended are gone. Including websites in a book is helpful, but certainly dates a book. All the photo editing is specifically geared to Adobe Photoshop. There are recommended iPhone apps, which only scratch the surface of what is currently available. The advice on choosing a camera is really limited to Canon and Nikon. There are plenty of other options available. It also recommends a dSLR because of previous limitations with digital cameras. I own a dSLR myself, but there are plenty of digitals that are blowing folks away these days.
I think my favorite quote from this book is, “Buying a fancy camera does not make you a photographer.”
**This post contains affiliate links. **

Hands Free Mama: A Book Review

 

 

2 out of 5 Stars

hands free

I wanted to like this book, really, I did. It came so highly recommended, I thought it’d be life changing since so many other moms were saying it changed their lives. It was not life changing. In fact, I found the entire book useless and obnoxious.
So, hey, you decide you want to live “hands free” and put down your phone and computer and really be present. So, what is the first thing you do? Start a blog? Start a Facebook group? Write a book? No? Oh, well, I wouldn’t either, but this author did just that. Took a personal conviction and made it into a movement. Still not sure how that freed up her time. I guess she just felt less guilty about writing a book about limiting her commitments than she felt about the previous commitments. Baffling to me, really.
A lot of this stuff just didn’t apply to me. Not that I have it all going on, we just don’t all struggle in the same ways. I’m a homeschool, stay-at-home-mom. Clearly her drive to school issues will never be my issues. Clearly her “spending time with the kids” issues won’t be my issues. So some of her advice would just be bad advice to someone not in her predicament 100%. Example: She scolds herself/you (hard to tell with this one) about turning on music in the car and wanting to not talk to the kids in the car. She decides to be the “fun mom” and make every drive an opportunity to exert herself in entertaining and engaging her kids. Whatever, it works for her. It would not work for me. #1- I’m not a fan of distracting myself while driving around a full van of kids. #2- I don’t feel the need to entertain my kids in the car. #3- I spend plenty of time connecting with my kids, since mine are with me and not at school the majority of the day. #4- There is zero guilt in turning on some relaxing music and letting the littles just nap in the car.
She used the phrase “If there is anything I have learned…” a million times. Well, it was short of a million, but enough that it started driving me crazy every single time I read it.
Several of her good points were not original. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter were better than anything else on the pages. And much of the decent, worthwhile advice, I am certain I have heard in other places.
This book moves so slowly. For someone short on time, she really does use an awful lot of unnecessary words. She waxes on and on about the same dumb point endlessly. Honestly, the whole book could have been broken down into maybe a couple lengthy blog posts. She spends an awful lot of time just talking about nothing at all, it seemed.
She places significant pressure on moms to make everything for their kid magical. Life just isn’t like this. Sometimes chores and just chores and there is no bubbly musical montage moment in there. A lot of Mommy guilt could be heaped upon my head for having a less than Disney Magical Moment multiple times a day with my kids. In fact, most of this book is a giant Mommy Guilt bomb.
I tried to keep in mind where she is in life. She’s a mom of 2 out of the home schooled kids. That isn’t my life. She isn’t juggling the needs of 5 kids. She isn’t juggling a toddler or baby right now at all. Her perspective was simply a lot less helpful for me than I anticipated.
She is super sappy. Ridiculously so. Many, many pages of stories that are just dripping in saccharine sweet nonsense. She also seems to live her life in a very terrified place. “My kids may never walk back in…” “I may never get the chance to hug them again…” Is this some kind of new Mommy YOLO that I’ve not been privileged to encounter?
She kept saying, “The truth hurts but the truth heals.” However, she wasn’t offering much truth. In her over sentimentality, she lost almost everything she was trying to say. Most of the book was just fluffy vagueness.
“Is there anything that can’t wait until Monday on your schedule?” Well, actually, yes. That is why we have a schedule. Ballet only happens on Tuesday. The kid’s birthday only comes one day a year. Church happens to never fall on a Monday.
I understand that we need to live for today. Much more eloquent people than I (and Mrs. Stafford) have said that better. But there is a major fault in only living for today. In always living thinking you’re going to loose everything at any moment. You can grasp the thing so hard you crush it. Mrs. Stafford, I think, was heading in the right direction in her thinking, but came to all the wrong conclusions and sticking points. We need priorities. We need to live intentionally. Mrs. Stafford is all hung up in the nit-picky little details of it all and is still stuck in the web not seeing the big picture. Rachel Stafford needed to be present in her life, but she also needs direction. You can be busy without ever really doing anything.
You don’t get bonus points for doing what is needed when your kids are sick, hands-free or not. We all have to stay up all night with a sick kid sometimes. That is no indication of being on the “correct” path or journey.
I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. I would hardly call the author an expert on what she’s written. She wrote a book based on her popular blog and stuck and cute Pinterest worthy cover on it and now you buy it and she gets money. That is about all there is to this story. The book makes several contradictory points, mostly because, I assume, Mrs. Stafford’s head is full of these same contradictions. This is a book of someone who has been through this trial of being overly distracted. This is a book about someone who is still sorting this out, and missing much in the process.

The Book That Changed My Life

I mentioned in my 2013 Book Review List  that this book changed my life. That was not hyperbole. It really did. So much so that we decided to use it for a small group at our church where we saw it change the hearts and lives of other people as well. I’m going to tell you the full story.

Back at the end of the summer or beginning of the fall, whichever way you like to view your year, we were out to lunch with a group of people from church. One of the young women there, Candace, asked if Adam had read anything by the author Brennan Manning. Adam said he had not. I knew of the author and knew he wrote The Ragamuffin Gospel but that was as far as my knowledge of Mr. Manning went. Candace said we absolutely had to read The Furious Longing of God. A friend had loaned it to her and she was deeply touched by the book. I grabbed my phone and purchased the book immediately. (I am known to do this from time to time.) I informed Adam on the way home that I had purchased the book.

It arrived 2 days later. Adam had a stack of books by his side that he was reading and said he’d get around to it. For whatever reason, I decided to go ahead and dive right in. The book immediately began speaking into my soul, but on page 81, my life was changed. The chapter is titled “Healing”. And it brought that and more to my life and those around me.

A little back story now. I had a falling out with my parents in 2010. I had not seen them for 3 years. I had not spoken to them in over 2 years. It was a rift I didn’t forsee as being able to be mended. I was taking a very protective stance on the issue to protect myself and my children from hurt. Of course I felt justified in my actions. I had forgiven them, really I had. But reconciliation was completely out of the question for me. I just didn’t see that it could ever be possible. I didn’t think the fall out could be mended. I had honestly just given up. But in August, before Candace recommended the book, my heart had begun to change. I felt weights lifting off of me and began to wonder if the passing of time could heal old wounds. I didn’t think anything could be done about it in the near future, but began to see hope for maybe some day. Until I got to page 81.

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human what I have received from the Lord Jesus; namely His unconditional acceptance of me as I am, not as I should be.” (p.82)

“You have the power to give someone the courage to be, simply by your affirmation.” (p.94)

“The question is not can we heal? The question, the only question, is will we let the healing power of the risen Jesus flow through us to reach and touch others, so that they may dream and fight and bear and run where the brave dare not go?” (p.104)

The seed was planted. I could extend a healing hand to my parents. I could extend my hand and maybe they would be free of past hurt and anger and pain inside them. After all, the falling out was certainly not easy on any of us. I could change it. But the thoughts crept in. What if they were over it and didn’t want to be reconciled? What if nothing in their hearts had changed and we were right back where we started? What if they demanded an apology? Could I move forward without demanding an apology? Yet I felt the very strong and very real calling of God to offer my hand… to extend healing. The more I thought about it, the lighter I felt. I felt very strongly that God was telling me it would go well. I felt God telling me it would be different, they were changed and simply waiting on my healing hand. I could feel it so strongly.

Not wanting to trust myself.  I finished the book quickly, knowing in my heart what I heard God saying. I knew exactly what I  was being called to do. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I knew it flew straight in the face of all conventional wisdom. I knew it would make me vulnerable. But I knew where God was calling me. I tested it. I handed the book to Adam and told him he had to put everything aside and read this book right now. He wanted to know what this was about. I explained that if I was hearing God correctly, Adam would confirm it. We’d talk after he read the book. I apparently conveyed the urgency of the situation and he read it that very night. (Which is remarkable, because the Pastor can be very stubborn about setting things aside to accomplish a new thing and also can be very slow in reading a book, particularly one he wasn’t dying to read in the first place.)

Adam finished the book and we sat down. I waiting to hear what he’d say about it. He said, “Your parents…” I cried. Exactly. He asked, “How?” I said, “I don’t know.” I knew I needed to do something. I just didn’t know what. We thought about it, we talked about it, we didn’t know how to accomplish this huge thing. I knew if I let time pass, I’d be frozen in the land of not knowing what to do. So, I picked up the phone and called my dad at work. Just before I hit “call”, Adam asked, “What are you going to say?” I said, “I don’t know.” And I hit send anyway.

My dad answered the phone at his work. I said, “Hi, Dad.” He said a hello. I said, “I don’t really know what else to say. That was as far as I got.” He said, “Hi is enough!” And I cried. (And I will tell you now, I am not a crier. At all.) We caught up. I called my mom. We caught up.

Driving Emery to gymnastics, I thought, “Man, it is August. It would have been totally cool to save this for my mom’s birthday.” Then I realized it was her birthday. So after getting Emery settled in the gym, I stepped out to call again and wish her a happy birthday.

And just like that, my life changed. My children’s lives changed. My parent’s lives changed.

We’ve seen them several times in person since then and have contact on the phone and through texts and Facebook. God healed us. He healed our family. He lifted a weight I didn’t think was able to be lifted. Imogene has even told me how happy she is that God healed our family and she’s seven. It is nothing short of a miracle. Lives changed. People made whole. That is what Jesus does. He heals people. He heals us.

granny & raj group

2013 Books

I wanted to read more in 2013. I really did. But then it just didn’t happen. Something about having a baby threw my number of books read this year way, way down. Boo.

4 out of 5 stars

I read this book last January in an attempt to organize my house again. I never ended up organizing my house last year. I say every year that it is something I will do and then I don’t do it. 2014 is my year! Right?! That is a post for another day. Overall is was a decent organizing book. I received the book for free for review purposes.

4 out of 5 Stars

I received this book for free for the purposes of a review. This book was a new take on The Island of Dr. Moreau. It was creepy and gothic. There were aspects that missed the full potential of what the book could have been. It could have been phenomenal, but the author strayed and missed the overall mark at times. These things happen.

4 out of 5 Stars

I didn’t realize this was a kid’s book until I got it. I love the pictures. They are fabulous. The words are heart warming, but not particularly for kids. Not sure where the intended audience actually was or what mark they were trying to hit. This isn’t a devotional or a story. It isn’t exactly a coffee table book, either. It is more of a pick me up on a bad day kind of book. I didn’t like it very much at first, but it has grown on me over the year. On my first reading, I gave it 3 stars. Now I give it 4.

5 out of 5 Stars

This is a wonderfully cute little embroidery book. It comes with iron on images, so you don’t have to hand copy them, which is worth the price of the book all by itself. The images are cute and sweet. I embroidered a few burp cloths while waiting for Topher last year using these patterns.

4 out of 5 Stars

I expected to like this book much more than I did. I had hyped it up so much in my head that the end product just didn’t live up to my head hype. It contains projects of various kinds. It contains parenting insights on how to encourage creativity in your child. I just… well, my kids just don’t cooperate with this kind of fantasy she lays out. My kids are very creative, but also destructive. So, I can’t have random stuff found from outside hanging out on my hearth. My kids tear it all to shreds. I can’t leave art supplies out. They mural my walls. In my fantasy world, I do these wonderful things from this book, but in my real life, things just don’t work out that way.

4 out of 5 Stars

I really loved Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth and as a natural birther and planning a home birth, I kind of felt like Spiritual Midwifery was a must read. It was set up much like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth– birth stories for the first half of the book and information in the second half. The information in Spiritual Midwifery is geared much more toward midwives (surprise!). It was interesting, for sure. The birth stories were a little more “woo” than I experience myself. I also really disliked Stephen Gaskin writing any portion of the book. The other dad perspectives didn’t bother me, though. Definitely not for the mainstream people. It also wasn’t particularly helpful for my home birth preparations. I just felt like I needed to read it so I could get my granola card punched.

3 out of 5 Stars

This book has some good activities for your little ones, but overall I think it is overkill. Plus it isn’t really doable, in my opinion, in real life when you have more than one child under five at a time. (And I currently have three under five.) Some of the activities were just dumb. I’m naturally inclined against things geared toward this age group. I find they are far too limited and seem to assume that preschoolers and toddlers are much dumber than they really are. If you find this book for free or at a thrift store, pick it up. But don’t pay full price for it. It isn’t worth it.

4 out of 5 Stars

I really liked the overall premise of this book. I particularly did not like the last few chapter, which brought my rating down from 5 stars to 4. But there was so much good in this book. I highly recommend it. Clearly, I am not Jewish, but this book contained so much great parenting advice. It did talk about Jewish tradition quite a bit, but I think any parent would find the book helpful if you are in any way spiritual. It talks about not sheltering your kids, letting your kids fail, letting your kids express themselves, not bulldozing your children, and giving your children the freedom to be themselves.

5 out of 5 Stars

I really wish more people in the Church would read this book. (See that I capitalized Church? That means the entire worldwide Church, not just my local church that I attend.) It is one of the Big Deals in my life that I think through decisions that I make. That Hideous Strength (which happens to be part of The Space Trilogy, only one of my favorite book series in the world- so much so that I named my kid after the main character, Ransom) is the fiction equivalent to this book. If I boiled it down, the point of the book is that in an attempt to control nature, it ends up controlling us. We try to be gods, but lack the necessary knowledge of God. This book is so relevant to today, you’ll find yourself amazed this insight came from the 1950s.

5 out of 5 Stars

It is no secret that I am not very mainstream. (Although I’ve recently found out that many people in real life didn’t know about my crunchy leanings. Surprise! I’m a hippy under these normal clothes!) This book is a great resource for dealing with childhood illness without running to the doctor for everything. It is completely exhaustive, there are plenty of other remedies than those listed. But it is a very easy to use quick guide. We successfully managed a few ear aches, coughs, chest colds, croupy coughs, and sore throats with the help of this book. If you’re just getting out of the mainstream, this book gives you brand name products to buy online or at your local natural grocer so you don’t have to go make your own tinctures and such. If you’ve got a crunchy card, you can make your own or buy similar products. I highly recommend this book!

5 out of 5 Stars

This book deserves its own post. And I will get on that. This book changed my life. No joke. It changed my heart and changed the lives of my family, as well. I cannot recommend this book enough. Full post about this story is coming.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

I was given this book free for review. The authors have a massive mega church plant down the street from me. I think the book skims over a lot of what made their mega church a success and it doesn’t delve into their limitations and problems quite enough. But this book wasn’t about their church, it is about them. It is a book for church planting families. How do you balance the work required in a church plant with your family life? How do you guard your marriage during the turbulent church planting times? It is something only those in full time ministry really understand. I appreciated their perspective and advice far more than I anticipated, even though I do not agree with all their advice.

3 out of 5 Stars

Honestly, I am still on the fence about this. It works. You loose weight. (I lost 17 lbs. in one month.) It does help you feel better toward the end. But it is so arbitrary. It is so limiting. It is not sustainable. (And not intended to be.) It is absolutely miserable. It will break your physical food addictions, but in my opinion can make the mental issues surrounding food much worse. I’m so torn on this. It worked. I physically felt better. I lost weight. The restrictions were ridiculous and arbitrary. But mentally, it put me in a much worse place than when I started. Menu planning now sends me to tears. Just ordering food in a restaurant begins an epic mental battle for me. I’m now having to heal my body image and my food relationship coming off of this. It is hard to do with a family. It is hard to stick to period. I don’t think this is healthy for life. Check out Go Kaleo. I’m beginning my healing from this diet there.

3 out of 5 Stars

A collection of essays about cleaning. It is interesting to look into the minds of others when it comes to cleaning. You’ve seen it in those you know- your aunts, your mother, your mother-in-law. They all clean differently and all feel differently about cleaning. They have their reasons and you might know them. There are underlying psychological reasons we clean (or don’t clean) the way we do. Has poverty led to a need to hold onto everything? Has a busy life resulted in a completely chaotic house? Has a military past led way to a need for orderly surrounding? Is housework a woman’s work? Is it a man’s? Is it a maid’s? It is interesting to look into the lives and homes of others.

4 out of 5 Stars

Unschooling fascinates me. It really speaks to me. I’m finding myself drawn in that direction myself, but have not fully given into the idea. This book explores five basic principles into unschooling. I actually felt that it explored 3 unschooling ideas and 2 parenting ideas. I enjoyed the actual part about unschooling. I didn’t really resonate with the parenting parts 100%. But such is life. (Have you ever noticed how hard it is to have other parent friends? You never 100% agree on parenting issues and it can get awkward. You really have to try hard to give them space to parent their way while also staying true to you. If you thought finding friends in junior high was hard, just wait until you’re a parent! Suddenly how your diaper offends a now former friend. How you feed your baby hurts someone’s feelings. How you discipline or don’t discipline your child is now a grand dividing line.) I am looking forward to exploring unschooling further. The anarchist in me says, “Go for it!”

5 out of 5 Stars

I didn’t think it was possible for a breastfeeding book to move me to tears, but this one did. With the science to back up the claims, the Church to back up the methods, this book is full of wisdom for breastfeeding moms (and dads). I very highly recommend this book. It doesn’t have a lot of the how to and problem solving of breastfeeding, but will deepen you resolve to breastfeed your child and turn it from a chore into something you love to do. It elevated my role as a mother. It elevated Topher’s role as my son. Fabulous read.

5 out of 5 Stars

I have 5 kids, he has 5 kids. Had to read it. Some of the content of this book is the same as his stand up routines, but it is still funny. In fact, it may be funnier that you can read it in his voice. So funny. This book is stories of fatherhood, thoughts on fatherhood and families and our society in relation to big families.

4 out of 5 Stars

This book needs a different title. The first part of the book is about choosing to have a large family and thinking through the logistics of it all. It does have some practical advice for larger than average families. Some is similar to other books about large families. I liked her writing style. Good thoughts for families of not so many kids thinking about maybe having more. Or for families that are wanting to have more but haven’t really figured out how it will work.