Explode The Code Online- A Review

emery 2

This is Emery. He is a spirited little guy. He is very persistent. He is extremely passionate. He is very driven. He is a self-started. He is also not a fan of being told what to do. He dislikes workbooks. He has some super awesome qualities, but because of his independent and quite exuberant personality, he can be a challenge to teach.

Last year, we tried the Explode the Code workbooks. They were not a great fit. Emery and I butted heads for a month or two at the beginning of the school year, and then I just decided we’d wait a year for Kindergarten. Then something awesome happened. Emery decided he’d be his own Kindergarten teacher. He taught himself all his letters and letter sounds. He taught himself to count and do basic math. By the end of the year, he was reading. All without my involvement. The kid is driven. So, this year, it was time for first grade, since he mastered Kindy all by himself. I knew I needed something different. Then I saw it- Explode the Code Online!

It covers reading and spelling all in one online program. You pay per year and they progress through at their own pace. Each lesson awards them a badge. They get bees when they don’t do so well, ladybugs when they need a little work, butterflies when they do well, and paper airplanes when they do excellent work. I can log into my parent portal and see how Emery is progressing. It tells me how much time each lesson took. It tells me what areas need improvement. He is absolutely thriving on this program. He can do it completely without me and he loves that. He is proud of his badges and is progressing through first grade quickly. He may start tackling second grade material soon!

Now, some kids, you could help them in areas they struggle. Not so with Emery. What I usually do is leave books with the tricky words for him on the top of the book piles and highly visible for him so when he runs to grab a book to read, he will hopefully grab the book that will help him with his lacking skill. (Like bl- combination words or whatever it is that week.) I really could not have asked for a better reading program for this kid.

They do say you can use it on your tablet, but I have not tried. Emery sits at the computer in our kitchen to do his reading work.


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 Christian Zombie Killers Handbook- A Review


I received this book for review through the Amazon Vine program. I am not obligated to Amazon or the author to give a favorable review.

1 out of 5 stars. Only because 0 stars is not an option. Why isn’t that an option? To completely and utterly fail a book? Is this a “no book left behind” kind of system?

You know how I love zombies. You know how I love Jesus. So, while slightly embarrassing to admit, I was very, very , very hopeful that this book would be mind blowing for me. I know, I know. When will I learn to not have such high expectations of books? Probably never. I was extremely wrong about this book. I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that you cannot judge a book by its cover. I have had so many pretty books that I hated this year. So, bravo publishers on the marketing, but perhaps you should screen the content a bit better. You don’t have to publish everything, you know.

This book is really two books in one. One is the actual story, following a guy named Ben in a world full of zombies. The second is the devotional book that uses the fictional story as a lesson about the state of our souls.

First, from a theological standpoint, Kinley is coming from a different place than I am. He assumes a lot in his theology that I just wouldn’t say is so. You may find yourself starting from the same assumptions he does, in which case you’ll probably follow along better with the devotional aspect of the book. I just found the theological difference to be too much for me to get anything from the book devotionally. (I am free church Wesleyan, if that makes a difference to you.) The author, Kinley, is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary. This starting point, for him, is where I had many issues. (Eternal security, immediate and full salvation, no second act of grace- We just weren’t ever going to be on the same page for devotional purposes.)ch

Second, the allegory is such a stretch. And Kinley tries to make it all so literal and really stretch it. It just doesn’t work well and feels very stretched and very manipulated.

Third, the story is lacking. If you are reading it for the fictional zombie story, don’t bother. Kinley isn’t the best story teller. Character development is what you’d expect reading an amateur’s novel. The plot doesn’t even make sense at times, because it is being stretched to fit the allegory.

Overall, the book was not enjoyable at all on any level. I didn’t enjoy the story telling aspect. I didn’t enjoy the devotional aspect.

Small Steps For Catholic Moms- A Review

This was part of my 2012 reading list. I used this book as my daily devotional throughout the year. (I also used it to swipe some quotes for our family calendar.) I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, though now that I’ve used it for a year, I’d like to bump that up to 5 out of 5 stars.

Daily readings for busy moms. That is what the title could have been. I’m not Catholic, but I did enjoy this book. There are a few days and prayers that are more Catholic specific, but I did not find them off putting, they were simply different for me. If Roman Catholicism makes you uncomfortable, you should probably avoid this book (and rethink your position).

Each day, you read a short Bible verse or quote from a Saint. There is a short prayer to read and then a small task to do that day to fix your mind on the reading and prayer. Each month is a particular theme, so you aren’t jumping from one thing to the next each day. For a month, you cultivate and practice the same thing. It isn’t enough to really be considered a devotional for all the time, but it is a great way for a busy mom to start the day in the right frame of mind. I originally gave it 4 stars because I wish that each day had both a quote and a scripture reading for that day. I would say that you will likely want something else devotional, but for those days when life gets crazy and you can’t even get a shower, this small devotional book is exactly right to get you on the right track.

I very strongly recommend this book. And I’ll be using it for another year. I enjoyed it that much.

Life’s Too Short To Fold Fitted Sheets- A Review


This book was on my 2012 reading list. And I read it! Now what?!

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.

I almost loved this book. Really. It is funny and clever. It has lots of great housekeeping, decorating, and entertaining tips. Then she added some recipes. Her week night recipes were all pretty awful. I can’t imagine serving some of those things to my family. No, thank you. Her entertaining recipes and short cut tips are far from short cuts! Her “easy” pantry list is miles long and so complicated. Caviar as a pantry staple? Really? You’re gonna stand by that one? Her cheats for entertaining were way more than I ever do or would even consider. Her ideas for catering events are much more complicated than my from scratch home cooked meal. I’d hate to see her before she embraced the “good enough” life.

I actually would recommend reading it. It is amusing. Now, if you’re the type that will feel compelled to actually listen to here, then maybe you shouldn’t read it. If you want to read it for funsies, go right ahead. Just don’t take her too seriously. Real people don’t live like her, really.

Make Space- A Review


I received this book for free to review through the Amazon Vine program. I am not obligated to Amazon or the author to write a favorable review.

At first, I was a bit confused with the layout of this book. The book definitely lacks flow and just jumps from one idea to the next. Picking up the book to read from cover to cover, you end up scratching your head saying, “What am I doing here. What am I even reading here.”

Then, you decide to pick up the book for ideas, inspiration, starting points. And suddenly, it makes sense. You suddenly see the ideas flowing from the pages and you see what is being done and immediately start thinking, “Now, where can I use this? Could this solve my problem here?”

This book has ideas. Ideas. Ideas. Ideas. It also contains much of the practical nuts and bolts of said ideas. Use foam cubes as short term seating that can be stacked interestingly and also used to build temporary divides in the room should those be needed. Great idea. And here’s how you make that happen. Brilliant!

Now, not all of the projects or ideas are simple DIY projects. Yes, the basic gist is in the book, but there are some skills and some items I just don’t have on hand to make some of these ideas a reality in my home. (AV carts, plexiglass, translucent polycarbonate, etc.) However, the book does include resources for where I can find such things. So, I’m not just left looking saying, “Oh that’s nice.” But saying, “It may be a bit out of my comfort zone, but I could acquire these parts and make that. Maybe.”

It is definitely more geared toward business type spaces, but you could incorporate many of these ideas anywhere. Church. Home. School. Wherever. If you’ve got space issues or even are just trying to think outside of the box, this book is a good place to start to get your brain churning and moving to more unconventional solutions. (Plus, the pictures are pretty inspiring.)

Year Zero- A Review

I received a copy of this book for free for the purpose of reviewing from the Amazon Vine program. I am not obligated to Amazon or the author to give this book a favorable review.

I loved it! 5 out of 5 stars. Loved it.

Sci-Fi with a side of humor. Exceptionally funny and well written.

Earth is in peril of being destroyed by aliens because they owe us so much money from illegally downloading our music. Music seems to be something humans can do like no on else. What are the aliens to do when owed more money than is available in the universe? Well, destroy earth, of course.

Funny. Unexpected. Love it.

Read it. You’ll love it, too. Unless you don’t like sci-fi or humor. In which case, what do you read and is life boring where you are?