Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Nest

With rich characters and a solid plot-line, Nest, by Esther Ehrlich should be be an instant classroom classic. Set in the early 1970's, Nest narrates the life of 12-year old, Naomi "Chirp" Orenstein, her neighbor Joey, and the ups and downs of life on the coast of Cape Cod.

Esther Ehrlich's experience as an oral historian serves her well in her writing, as I can almost hear her the telling the story with the beautiful rhythm and language she uses. This book is a wonderful example of an author staying in character within the perspective of this young girl. Ehrlich clearly shows that she understands how a young girl thinks that her thoughts and actions affect the outcome of situations. Chirp's whole world revolves around how she feels about the what's going on around her, which is so true of girls at that age.

The book also addresses difficult mental health issues in a real and honest way, as Chirp's mother suffers and Chirp tries to control the stability of her family. Staying true to the setting, Ehrlich reminds us that during the '70's, family matters were kept quiet, adults were respected, and childhood seemed unending; things today's social-media teens don't really understand.

This is a memorable novel that every middle-grade student should read, with unforgettable characters that makes family and friendships real and powerful.

*Special thanks to Random House Children's Books through for sharing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Music Review: His Kids United Christmas

Usually we don't listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving, so my kids all moaned as I turned on  the His Kids United Christmas album at the beginning of November. But, they were all pleasantly surprised as the music was fun and energetic. Here are their thoughts on this debut album:

My 13 year old daughter thought that the songs had a good beat and were pretty cool for kids' music.

My 7 and 8 year olds enjoyed dancing and singing along to some of their favorite Christmas classics as well as some new tunes.

The 4 years old was the most impressed and said, "Mommy, I love those songs. Can you play them again?"

As a mom, I was very pleased with what I heard. The songs were a good mix of classics and original songs from the group. There was also a good blend of upbeat songs and slower ballads. But, most of all the true message of Christmas, Christ's coming to redeem His people, was the main message of the album.

In forming the group, executive producer Jimmy Swan said, "Our mission with this series is to give kids an opportunity to be encouraged, inspired and drawn to the Lord through the powerful tool of music, and give them something to relate to."

I also love that all the proceeds of His Kids United Christmas (Volume 1) CDs benefit the Dallas Neighborhood Art & Music School where all of the tracks are recorded and produced.

This album is a great addition to our Christmas collection. I hope it will be for yours too!

Would you like a free sample?? Follow this link for a free download of Hark the Herald Angels Sing:

Special thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for providing this album in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Book Review: The Stories We Tell

What do Dexter, Pulp Fiction and Honey Boo Boo have in common? They all fill our desire for entertainment while, also revealing our need for redemption.

By examining movies and television, Mike Cosper demonstrates that every story we tell is longing for the truth of the gospel in his new book, The Stories We Tell.

Cosper goes into great detail of certain characters and plots from movies and TV shows, revealing how each one points to one of the four main gospel implications: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.

I love what Tim Keller says in the foreword, "Mike's book will help readers learn to put the gospel on like a pair of glasses in order to see the good, the bad, and the ugly in our culture more clearly...seeing God's story in the stories we tell today - will be a way for us to deepen our own understanding of and joy in the gospel we believe." I completely agree! After reading this book, I now watch TV and movies in a new way. Instead of just enjoying the entertainment of the story, I'm watching and looking for the storyline of the gospel - to see how characters are looking to redeem themselves or how a plot reveals our sinful hearts. (Please note, our stories are not the gospel, as some people like to think - if there is no mention of Jesus, it can't possibly be a complete telling of the gospel. Stories simply point us to different aspects/implications of the ultimate story, God's redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ.)

Cosper recognizes that "we tell stories because we're broken creatures hungering for redemption." Everything from fairy tales, murder mysteries, bedtime stories to horror movies are pointing out someone's mistake or looking for a solution to sin problem. Even if the authors and screenwriters don't recognize the spiritual nature of their tales, all stories reveal the heart's longing for the gospel. In the final chapter, Cosper says, "I've intentionally tried to view the stories in this book in the light of the gospel, treating their characters, plots, and images as signposts for a truth that the writers, directors, and actors might not even be aware of, but that we all nonetheless, long for."

*Special thanks to Crossway through for sharing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Oliver and the Seawigs

Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre is a fun and silly story about a boy looking for his parents that disappeared on a moving island. Oliver meets some unusual friends, including a near-sighted mermaid and a grumpy albatross on top of a shy Rambling Isle. In a quest to find his parents, Oliver and gang learn about confidence, courage and standing up to bullies.

I read this book aloud to my 4, 7 and 8 year olds as a bedtime story. They enjoyed the plot and the silly characters. Some of the detailed descriptions were long to read and lost their interest, but overall, we enjoyed reading this book together.

*Special thanks to Random House Children's Books through for sharing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book Review: The Fourteenth Goldfish

I'm always on the look out for good middle grade literature for my kids, which can be a daunting task because there seems to be a serious lack of good literature for middle school aged kids. So I was pleased to find Jennifer Holm's book The Fourteenth Goldfish to be a wonderful book for kids ages 10-14.

The main character, 11 year old Ellie is thrust into an adventure when her grandfather shows up in the body of a 13 year old boy. In the quest to retrieve his "fountain of youth" research from his lab, Ellie's grandfather helps her realize that science can be fun and interesting.

There are several things I really appreciate about this book. First, the author is not pushy about  certain scientific leanings. Several famous scientists and their accomplishments are mentioned with fairness - the grandfather, Melvin, shows them in a positive light, but Ellie does the research to see both the pros and cons of their accomplishments. Second, the author stays in character when presenting historical information - many books try too hard to be educational and veer away from what the main character would comprehend in the context of the story, but what Ellie learns about science make sense for her character and fits well in the story line. Third, this book deals with some of the tough relationship issues that preteens face in a way that's encouraging and enjoyable to read. As a bonus the characters are well developed and it doesn't have a cheesy ending. If her other books are of the same quality as The Fourteenth Goldfish, we will be reading more Jennifer Holm books in our family.
 *Special thanks to Random House Children's Books through for providing this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: God's Story

Brian Cosby's God's Story: A Student's Guide to Church History is an excellent introduction to the good, bad and ugly of Christian history.

In the first chapter, Cosby make an important distinction between the visible and invisible church. The "visible church" often means that much of what happened in church history was the result of unregenerate people  having authority and influence in their historical context. But, Cosby reminds the reader that God has always preserved a remnant of faithful followers (invisible church) to Himself.

The following chapters contains basic historical information on each of the major time periods of Christian history. This book is designed to be an overview for students, so there are not a lot of details, but the author still covers all of the major people and ideas that have shaped the Church over time. Cosby consistently presents the information with a theologically reformed worldview and clearly shows how different leaders and ideas have helped or hurt that orthodox view.

Even though the book is targeted toward students, I think it would also be an excellent resource for every Church member, Sunday School teacher, homeschool family...basically anyone who would benefit from understanding how the past has shaped the present state of Christianity. This book is short, fun, to the point, and would be a great springboard for deeper study on a particular person or time period.
For a quick, fun promo of this book, check out the Book Trailer on

*Special thanks to Cross Focused Reviews  for sharing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book Review: The Word of the Lord

The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets is Nancy Guthrie's fifth book in the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series.

Guthrie spends a week on each of these books: Jonah, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Malachi. Her goal each week is to help the reader see the predictions Jesus fulfilled, the problems Jesus solved, the people that prefigured Jesus and the pattern that was superseded in each of theses prophetic books.

Guthrie assigns sections of each prophetic book and asks probing questions to get the reader thinking about the passage in it's historical context and in it's gospel context. She then explains what should have been found in the Scripture readings using anecdotes and examples that make sense to the modern reader.

One of the things I appreciated most about Guthrie's writing is that she is very knowledgeable about the Scripture while being genuine and honest in her assessment of it, all while addressing her readers in a personal, friendly way - drawing them into her passion for seeing Christ magnified in His word.

By helping the reader understand the prophetic writing in light of God's completed redemptive work in Christ Jesus, I think Guthrie accomplished her previously stated goals to show how all Scriptures points us to Jesus.

*Special thanks to Crossway through for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Reflections of Glory

Real Life Faith: Here's another post where theology meets daily living...

I've given my life to the only one
Who makes the moon reflect the sun
Every starry night
That was his design

 -Chris August, Starry Night, 2010

February 9th Dr. Albert Mohler spoke at our church. (He's kinda a BIG deal.) He said many profound things (He ALWAYS does), but there was one thing he said that has been on my mind for the last few months. It wasn't even a main point, more of a side note. (Listen to the entire sermon to hear all the incredible wisdom: Scripture is Sufficient by Dr. Albert Mohler, 2/9/2014 High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, TX)
Ok, here's his mind-blowing comment for me: "We have no innate ability to glorify God...We were made to glorify...but as it turns out, we are unable to originate glory, we actually just reflect it."

Did you catch that? We don't create glory. Our good deeds, kind thoughts, best efforts don't do anything inherently new - which is a huge relief as well as the answer to many questions for me.
If all our deeds are tainted with sin, how can obeying God please him?
If my salvation is based on faith alone, what's the big deal about works?

The Chris August song quoted above was playing on the radio one day as I was thinking about this revelation on God's glory - and it was the perfect illustration to what I was striving to understand. We are just like the moon. The moon doesn't create light/we don't create glory. The moon simply reflects the light of the sun to light the sky at night/we reflect the glory of God into the dark world to spread the light of the gospel, that is Jesus Christ. The sun is the source of light for the moon/God is the source of light/glory for us.

So all my good works and obedience are only a reflection of God's mercy and goodness toward me in His son, Jesus Christ so that His name will be praised through all the earth.

Book Review: Surprised by Motherhood

Honestly, I was surprised by this book (yes, pun intended). I've written a few times for Lisa-Jo's "Five-Minute Friday" blogger community full of wonderful, talented, creative women. Many of them are very poetic and have an amazing way with words. However, sometimes it seems the message they are telling gets lost in the beauty of telling it. I really thought that would happen with this book. But, like I said, I was surprised. Lisa-Jo did a wonderful job of telling her story in an adjective saturated way without losing me as an interested reader. I found myself enjoying the re-telling of very personal experiences and perspectives on becoming and being a mother.

*Special thanks to Tyndale House Publishers through for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Worth the Wait

It's been a long time since I've stayed up all night reading a book, but I just couldn't put this one down. Laura Jackson wrote an excellent novel in Worth the Wait.

Ellie thinks she has the perfect life until it all comes crashing down. She had defined her life by her boyfriend and his goals. But when he breaks up with her, she has to discover who she really is.

I loved how this book shows the struggle with temptation, real hurt, confusion, and then real hope. Jackson handles several difficult subjects for teens in the light of finding true identity in Christ.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Book Review: Diary of a Real Payne

EJ Payne is a spunky 10-year-old girl with a very vivid imagination. Her daydreaming often gets her in trouble yet is her coping device to get through tough situations.

Annie Tipton has written a fun, silly and encouraging story in Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story. I really enjoyed reading it and can't wait to read it to my kids. I think my 13-year-old daughter will think it's cute and like it because EJ's opinion of her little brother is how my daughter often feels about her little brother. My 4, 7 & 8 year-olds will enjoy the crazy situations EJ imagines and the reality that follows. I like that my kids will be exposed to good, clean, fun literature that points them to obeying God.

This book is probably best suited for upper elementary readers, 3rd-5th grades. It would also be a good read-aloud book that can be entertaining and encouraging to any group of kids.

I'm also looking forward the second book in this series, which was recently released: Diary of a Real Payne Book 2: Church Camp Chaos

*Special thanks to Barbour Publishing, Inc. through for sharing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Eating from the Pantry Challenge

This week  I am taking the "Eating from the Pantry" Challenge over at Money Saving Mom. 
After splurging a little at Easter, my food budget was a little tight this week - so I'm getting creative with leftovers. Here's what I found in the pantry/fridge/freezer:

2 lbs. Leftover pork fajita meat        tortillas                                         
2 cooked chicken breasts                diced onions                               
Leftover Easter ham                        frozen mixed veggies
Boiled eggs                                     1 can diced tomatoes w/ green peppers
frozen hashbrowns                          Minute rice
northern beans                                 Corn Masa mix & corn husks
(plus seasonings and condiments)

Here's this week's dinner menu:

Monday: Ham & Hashbrowns
Tuesday: Sliced Ham and Deviled Eggs
Wednesday: Chicken Quesos and Spanish Rice
Thursday: BBQ Pork Sandwiches and mixed veggies
Friday: Homemade Pork Tamales and Spanish Rice
Saturday: Ham & Beans

Homemade Tamales:
Corn husks                        
Corn masa mix
salt & baking powder       
leftover seasoned shredded pork

To Prepare:
1. Soak corn husks in warm water until pliable.
2. Mix 2 c. corn masa, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 2 c. water, 1/2 c. margarine to make dough (should be the consistency of soft cookie dough).
3. Pat corn husks dry. Spread about 1/4 c. masa on a husk. Put 2 Tbsp. shredded pork in center of masa and roll husk and fold under ends. Repeat until all the masa and meat are used.
To cook: Steam tamales over boiling water for 45 minutes. Remove tamales from steamer with tongs and remove husks before eating. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Book Review: What Happens When Women Say Yes to God

In her devotion book, "What Happens When Women Say Yes to God", author Lysa TerKeurst shares personal and practical examples of how obedience to God in our daily lives can strengthen and grow our faith in Christ.

There are 40 short chapters, each includes a focus Scripture, a thought for the day, a prayer, and reflection questions.

I really like the set-up of this book, but to be honest, I'm disappointed in the content. This book is not gospel-centered, nor is there much talk of Jesus. Much of the focus is on personal benefit, not on being obedient followers of Christ.
Unfortunately, decent theology mixed with self-help advice leads to malnourished baby Christians. I'm afraid this book will leave you hungry for the truth. That truth will only be found when we believe the Bible is sufficient as God's revelation to man and that it must be used in context. God has spoken to us through His Word, we don't need to listen for a still small voice to know how to obey. Nor can we make singled-out Bible verses fit our own ideas and purposes.

If you are truly looking to grow in your faith and obedience to Christ, this devotional doesn't have the depth you are probably looking for.

*Special thanks to Harvest House Publishers through for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book Review: Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full

Similar to her first book, Gloria Furman has written another gospel-centered, doctrine-filled book for moms to help them think about, rejoice in, and be encouraged by Christ in the the daily tasks of mothering in "Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full".

Women who have followed personal-focused teachings instead of Christ-centered teaching for a long time may struggle with the attitude adjustment necessary to grasp the benefits of this book. But, that is exactly who this book is for. So, with humorous examples and sharing personal struggles with sin, Furman eases us into this attitude adjustment.  For example, she says:

"I write with the authority of a woman who has tasted a lot of soul junk food and suffered from painful spiritual cavities."

"When we make motherhood (or anything else) all about us, we eventually get bored. And of course we get bored with motherhood when we obsess over it, because motherhood was never meant to fully satisfy us."

Like having a cup of coffee with your best friend, Furman is candid with the truth. She kindly and honestly reminds the us that it is well worth the effort to refocus our thoughts on Christ instead of ourselves, 

"We need to remember that God is no less good to us when we find ourselves in a battle of wills with a preschooler in the checkout line at the grocery store than he was as his Son dragged a cross up a hill that Friday two thousand years ago."

Thank you Gloria for reminding us that our goal in motherhood is not to produce perfect little humans, but that God uses these years to mold us into Christ-likeness as He has "filled [our] hands with the good work of mothering".

*Special thanks to Crossway through for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Preparing for Worship

*I love practical theology - when what I believe about God and redemption through Christ alone can be lived out in real, tangible ways. Sometimes though, connecting theology with real life is difficult. It usually helps me to write it out, so I'm going to do a few posts about "real life faith". I hope it will help others think through these ideas as well.

"God wants His people to prepare in advance to tell everybody He deserves to be worshiped."
Stones & Their Story 3/16/14 Sermon by Ben Wright
High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, TX

These thoughts has been running through my mind all week:
  • God deserves to be worshiped.  As a follower of Christ, my purpose in life is not to worship myself by seeking my own comfort and interests, but to worship the Triune God who created me to reflect His glory by obeying His Word.
  • If  I am going to be prepared to tell others this truth, then I should know what true worship is and how to do it well. I need to prepare and practice at worship so I can demonstrate and explain it well to others.
What is worship?
Louie Giglio said, "Worship is our response, both personal and corporate, to God for who He is, and what He has done; expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live." (For more on "What is Worship?" Read: TGC Worship)

How should I prepare for corporate worship?
Being prepared in advanced for Sunday morning is not usually a priority for most people. We just show up to church and expect the preacher or worship leader to entertain us. But that's not worshiping God, that's worshiping ourselves. We need to take steps to ensure that our hearts and minds are ready to hear the truth of God's word that will teach us how to respond to God and how to share Him with others.
Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but here are a few ideas from Pastor Ben's sermon and books on the topic (see resources below):
  • Read the Scripture that will be preached during the week prior to Sunday, before hearing the sermon - this will help us be ready to listen and understand the Bible better
  • Get plenty of rest on Saturday night - this takes discipline, but is respectful to our pastors, our church family and most importantly, God. We need to be ready to give our full attention.
  • Eliminate distractions - set phones to silent before entering church, don't text or email right before church begins
  • Prepare children to be in "big church" with sermon notes, paper, pencils, quiet snack, etc.

Other Helpful Resources:

Helping Johnny Listen by Thad Bergmeier

Listen Up by Christopher Ash

Sermon Notes for Kids by Jill Connelly

Finally, a song that always helps me create an attitude of worship:

 Speak, O Lord by Keith Getty

Speak, O Lord, as we come to You
To receive the food of Your Holy Word.
Take Your truth, plant it deep in us;
Shape and fashion us in Your likeness,
That the light of Christ might be seen today
In our acts of love and our deeds of faith.
Speak, O Lord, and fulfill in us
All Your purposes for Your glory.

Teach us, Lord, full obedience,
Holy reverence, true humility;
Test our thoughts and our attitudes
In the radiance of Your purity.
Cause our faith to rise; cause our eyes to see
Your majestic love and authority.
Words of pow'r that can never fail-
Let their truth prevail over unbelief.

Speak, O Lord, and renew our minds;
Help us grasp the heights of Your plans for us-
Truths unchanged from the dawn of time
That will echo down through eternity.
And by grace we'll stand on Your promises,
And by faith we'll walk as You walk with us.
Speak, O Lord, till Your church is built
And the earth is filled with Your glory. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Review: True Beauty

The newest book by mother-daughter team Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre is wonderfully encouraging and a helpful resource for discovering the source and purpose of True Beauty.

What this book is not:
  • This book is not about "inner beauty". In fact, the authors give a very clear explanation why this line of thinking is unhelpful.
  • This book is not prescribing a certain dress code or diet and exercise plan for Christian women. The authors expect us to think carefully about how our beauty reflects God's beauty and decide what is most appropriate and God-honoring as individuals.

What this book is:
  • An encouragement to think neither too highly or lowly of oneself. We all have value but apart from Christ, we are all ugly sinners who need to be rescued from sin.
  • It is an explanation of how beauty is a gospel issue. Through the beautiful sacrifice of Jesus, we have a way to understand our Creator's design for us and we can desire to reflect Him.
In seven chapters, the authors discuss how we should view True Beauty in relation to our culture, God, our hearts, our bodies, clothes, our trust and works.

Examples of great take-aways from this book:
Our Culture: Our culture has it all wrong. The standard is unrealistic and fake plus it is constantly changing.

God: God is the only perfectly beautiful being. He designed beauty and created us to reflect His beauty.

Our Hearts: Our hearts are jumbled and confused about what true beauty is. It can only be found in the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.

How we view beauty can have a large impact on our priorities and desires. Every woman would greatly benefit from reading this book to gain a godly perspective on True Beauty.

*Special thanks to Crossway through for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Monthly Menu : March

Here are my dinner plans for 31 days of March.
*We keep breakfast and lunch simple. Cereal or toast for breakfast. Sandwiches/soup or leftovers for lunch. 

*We usually only eat-out once a week. The rest of my meals are homemade, mostly from scratch.

 Week 1 Menu
1. Sausage & Sauerkraut

2. Vegetable Soup
3. Eat Out: Pizza
4. Italian Roasted Chicken with carrots
5. Chicken Caesar Salad
6. Baked "Fried" Chicken with Beans, Mac & Cheese
7. Pork Chops, Coleslaw and fried potatoes
Snacks: granola bars, oranges, apples, yogurt

Week 2 Menu:
8. Spaghetti with meat sauce, corn and rolls

9.  Beef Fajitas with peppers & onions, chips & salsa
10. Beef & Peppers over rice
11. Leftovers
12. Crockpot Hawiian BBQ Chicken
13. Hawiian Bacon BBQ Chicken Pizza (use leftovers)
14. Eat Out: Burgers & Fries
Snacks: apples, peaches, peanut butter cookies, cheese & crackers

Week 3 Menu:
15. Reuben Sandwiches & Fried Pickles

16. Cheddar Bacon Potato Soup
17. "Party" Chicken (chicken wrapped in bacon with sour cream and cream of chicken soup, put in crockpot on low 4-5 hrs.)
18. Sesame Chicken with veggies over rice
19. Baked Potato Bar
20. K's Bday: Cheesburgers & homemade fries
21. Eat Out: Sandwich Shop
Snacks: cheese & crackers, peaches, bananas, carrot sticks

Week 4 Menu:
22. Taco Night

23. Enchiladas
24. Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato sandwiches
25. A's Bday: Grilled Shrimp with Apple Mango Salsa & Garlic Mashed Potatoes
26. BBQ beef sandwiches with beans and coleslaw
27.  Leftovers
28. Eat Out: Burgers & Fries
Snacks: yogurt, berries, cereal trail mix

Week 5:
29. Breakfast for dinner: Pancakes & Eggs
30. Grilled Chicken, corn, green beans
31. Chicken Quesos (chicken, onions, cheese cooked inside a tortilla)
Snacks: no-bake cookies, bananas, blueberries, chips & salsa

P.S. I linked up with List It {Tuesday} over at Many Little Blessings today. Check it out for lots of good ideas and interesting facts.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Apple Mango Salsa

This quick and easy side dish is yummy and healthy!

1 mango
1 medium apple (I used Jonagold)
1 medium cucumber
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon cilantro

Core/peel mango, apple and cucumber. Finely chop all three and mix with lime juice and cilantro. Makes 3-4 cups.

This salsa goes great with fajitas, tacos, quesadillas, grilled chicken or shrimp or just serve with chips!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Monthly Menu: February

February is not only a short month, but a busy one for the Raulston family with 3 birthdays to celebrate this month. We are also trying to make healthier choices - however, buying healthy food during the winter on a budget is challenging, so with much dollar stretching and planning, here are our dinner plans for the month:

 Week 1 Menu:
1. Grilled Chicken, Steamed Carrots & Green Beans
2. Superbowl Party: BBQ Wings & Cheesesticks (not healthy, just fun)
3. Grilled Shrimp with Apple & Mango Salsa
4.  Pork Chops, Mashed Potatoes, Apple/Blackberry Cobbler
5. Leftovers
6. Beef Fajitas with pepper and onions, Corn Salsa, Rice & Beans
7. Beef Quesos (leftover beef and veggies with cheese toasted in a tortilla)
snacks: popcorn, pears, apples, graham crackers

Week 2 Menu:
8. Spaghetti, Salad & Breadsticks
9.  Dinner out with friends
10. K's Bday: Order Pizza, Cake & Ice Cream
11. Baked "Fried" Chicken, Sweet Potato Fries
12. D's Bday: Eat Out, Ice Cream Cake
13. Saugage and Sauerkraut, steamed carrots
14. Chicken Fried Rice with squash, zucchini and broccoli
Snacks:bananas, homemade granola, yogurt, oranges

Week 3 Menu:
15. Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos
16. Eat Out: Sandwich Shop
17. Roast & Mashed Potatoes, Strawberry Shortcake
18. BBQ Beef Sandwiches, Mac & Cheese
19. Beef Stew
20. Grilled Chicken on Caesar Salad
21. N's Bday: Cheeseburgers, Cake & Ice Cream
Snacks: pretzels, carrot sticks, strawberries, string cheese

Week 4 Menu:
22. Roasted Chicken with Carrots and Broccoli
23. Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
24.Chicken Salad Sandwiches with
25. Really Good White Chili
26. Egg & Sausage Bake
27. Leftovers
28. Chicken Tortilla Soup
Snacks: apples, peanut butter crackers, fruit smoothies

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: The Beauty of Broken

The Beauty of Broken is the personal story of Elisa Morgan, former CEO of MOPS International.

Although I disagree with her on several theological issues, I greatly appreciate the depth of how her faith has been tested and refined. The raw honesty in which she shares about her life and the difficult situations and circumstances she has lived through will surely be a great encouragement to many who have also experienced similar trials in life. This book should also be read by those superwoman moms who think they have life perfectly planned out - just to be prepared if it all doesn't turn out as planned.
This is an inspiring story, however, I don't know how often I would recommend this book, simply because I think there are better resources for women to be encouraged in life and faith. It was a good read that gives clarity to the mission and motivation behind MOPS International. 

*Special thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers through for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

OREOS: Our Family Rules

When our family was doing foster care several years ago, I wanted to come up with an easy way for kids who came into our home to know what our expectations and rules were. So I came up with an acronym for OREOS:

Obey - Obey all the way, right away, with a happy heart.
       Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1 (ESV)
Respect - Treat others the way you want to be treated.
      And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:31 (ESV)
Effort - Give your best effort in everything you do.
      Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Colossians 3:23 (ESV)
Organize - Take care of your things by putting them away.
       A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. Proverbs 10:4 (ESV)
Safety - Is this a safe choice? If not, don't do it.
     Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
     Proverbs 10:23 (ESV)

I found that almost all of my specific rules and instructions, like no jumping on the furniture or put your toys away, fell into one of these five categories. So any time we had a specific issue, we could point the kids back to our poster on the wall that stated our expectations and more importantly point them back to Scripture.

Whenever new foster children came to us - we would have an OREOS party after dinner, usually the first or second evening they were with us. We would give each child some milk and cookies and explain our family rules and expectations while they were staying with us. We included our biological children in the party because it was always a good reminder for them about the house rules.

Even though we are no longer doing foster care, we still use these rules in our home and occasionally have a cookie party with our kids to remind them our how we conduct ourselves in this family.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Book Review: Travels with Gannon & Wyatt

I've been on a quest for some quality middle school literature. The new series by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet is a treasure of educational fiction. "Travels with Gannon & Wyatt" is an adventure/travel series where twin brothers journal about their global expeditions.

In the first book, Botswana, Gannon & Wyatt tell of their adventures in the African Savannah trying to stop a poacher and save an injured lioness.

While exploring for a "Spirit Bear" in the second book, Great Bear Rainforest, the boys go in search of the captain, a famous scientist and their parents who all go missing in the protected rainforest.

This series is great for 4th-8th graders. The books have short chapters, designed like journal entries that reluctant readers won't mind. Advanced readers will enjoy the animal and geography facts along with the suspense and adventure in both stories.

                                                The 3rd Book was just release this month:

 * I received these books from the publisher, Greenleaf Book Group Press through in exchange for my honest opinion.