Review: Your Core + Book Giveaway!


Graham Blanchard Publishers just released an important new books called Your Core. In it, kids learn that PEOPLE have cores, just like apples, balls, and the earth, and that these cores all have a purpose. It is in our core (or soul) that God resides. The soul is a super tricky thing to explain to kids, and I think that this book offers a really simple illustration that will help kids to begin to form an understanding of their “inside life.” It ends with Ephesians 3:16-17:

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

The illustrations are super sweet and include diverse characters which I really value in a kid picture book. As always, this book gets a strong recommendation from me!

Learn more about Graham Blanchard at

AND, because I just love these books, I’m giving away a couple on the blog today!

Mud Puddle Hunting Day and Close as a Breath

Enter to win by just leaving a comment below :).

Edit: Congrats to Tracy as the winner of this book set! 

Review: The sticky faith guide for your family

When we find out that we’re pregnant, or we apply to adopt, many of us begin reading. Whether it’s What to Expect When You’re Expecting or The Whole Life Adoption Book, we start reaching out for any information that is going to help make this life transition a bit easier. We are eager to plan our baby or child’s room, decide who is going to take care of them after they are born and maternity leave comes to an end, and we even have some ideas about activities we can do to help them successfully meet the important developmental milestones.

But what do we do to prepare ourselves for our child’s spiritual health? Sadly, there aren’t as many books about that. Many of our churches are helpful in that they provide a good curriculum for kids to do on Sundays, but what about the rest of the 166.5 hours in the week?

Most of us care deeply about our spiritual development as well as that of our children. We pray for them, we fill their bookshelves and nightstands with Bibles and books that point them towards God. We probably pray at meals and bedtime, and maybe before we send them off to school (or start the school day at home). We talk about the moral compass, and encourage them to “be good”.

While all of this is good, there’s a lot more to their spiritual life than that. While God is absolutely the one who makes the garden of their hearts grow, He certainly uses family to plant seeds, provide some water, and weed :).


The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family: Over 100 Practical and Tested Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Kids gets that, which is why Dr. Kara Powell wrote this book. She and a team of researchers and practitioners at the Fuller Youth Institute have been researching families and the spiritual development of kids (from birth on through college) for many years now. While their first book, Sticky Faith, shares a lot of what they found in their research, this Sticky Faith Guide for Family gives some more practical tools for helping families evaluate where they are at, what their next step is, and lots of ways of how to get there. They get that families are very different, and that sometimes no matter how hard we try, our kids are going to make the ultimate decision about their spiritual  journey. I know that for me, even though this is true, I’m going to do everything that I can to help create an environment that is nurturing of their spiritual development. I definitely don’t want to look back and realize that I could have done so much more.

In this book, Powell talks about very common issues- mistakes/forgiveness, creating close family relationships, connecting with teenagers, building a Christ-centered community that our kids are a part of, communication, serving others, transitions, etc. While this book is probably geared best towards families with elementary-high school kids, I can’t really think of a reason why parents of younger kids wouldn’t want to start thinking about this. The reality is, faith formation starts at birth, and many of these thoughts could ideally be started in the toddler and preschool years.

I’m a huge fan of the Fuller Youth Institute. They have done some really careful research that doesn’t care about making news with numbers as much as they do with presenting the problem as clearly as they can, and then offering suggestions (not solutions) that are helpful and that have helped families and children who have come before us in this parenting journey.

While I typically say that books shouldn’t be bought, but instead should be borrowed, this is one that is a good one for the bookshelf. Libraries don’t like their books to be underlined, highlighted, and dog-eared :).

Thanks so much to Booklook Bloggers for providing the excellent book in exchange for an honest review. 

Please note that some links are affiliate links.

What Nerds Do for Fun: a Bend Your Brain review

What do nerds do for fun?

Well, I guess a lot of things, but one thing we do here at our house is puzzles- jigsaw puzzles, word puzzles, game puzzles, etc. If it’s a puzzle, we’ll try it out!


Bend Your Brain: 151 Puzzles, Tips, and Tricks to Blow (and Grow) Your Mind is a new book from Marbles: The Brain Store of fun, unusual puzzles that are truly mind-bending. The book is divided up into 5 sections of puzzles with 5 levels of difficulty in each section::

  • visual perception
  • word skills
  • critical thinking
  • coordination
  • memory

Each set of puzzles are designed to exercise and grow your brain in certain ways, which the book explains in a clear, concise way. The puzzles are super fun and mostly unusual. There are a few word searches, sudoku, and mazes but they all have interesting twists, for example one puzzle is a 2 page maze, but on the front/back of a single page- whew, talk about tricky! Another puzzle the kids enjoyed had pictures of objects and they had to create compound words, using each picture once. It was cute to see them all gathered around the book, trying to work together to figure it out.


This puzzle book would be a great way to spend one-on-one time with an older child OR a fun book to take along on a date night (if you and your spouse are nerds like us!).


Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing these complementary copy in exchange for an honest review!

Super Christian Parenting Myths

No matter which way you slice it, parenting is hard. For those of us who are parents and are also an active part of a Christian community, you would think it’d be easier. We have a village to help us raise our children.We have the Holy Spirit to give us strength and wisdom. We have a constant stream of advice and encouragement as we make the tough decisions in discipline. While this is the case for some of us, the Christian subculture also comes with its own set of additional challenges. One of those are what I’m calling the Super Christian Parenting Myths.


Over at Graham Blanchard, the Mom Mentors are sharing what they think are the biggest myths that we as parents have to deal with. Here’s my contribution to the conversation:

The biggest myth about Christian parenting is that if we “do it correctly”, we’ll have good kids who respect us and love God. If our kids are not “good” kids, then it must be something we as parents are doing wrong.

However, I see in scripture, throughout history, and in my everyday life that there are a lot of people who reject or disobey God. Does their disobedience and lack of respect mean that God didn’t parent them well? Does it mean that He did something wrong? Of course not! So then, why do I think that I can do better at parenting than He, the Perfect Parent?

Once I really understood that, I began to ease up on myself. I still parent my kids with all the prayer, love, respect, and consistency that I can muster and while I certainly get discouraged when they choose to disobey me, I also know that at the end of the day, I’ve done the best that I know how to do.

How about you? What do you think is the biggest Christian parenting myth that you have to face on a regular basis?



Book Review: The Brainy Bunch

I first heard about the Brainy Bunch from the Today Show

Kip and Mona Lisa Harding are the mom and pop of 10 kids who have homeschooled their kids in a way that has them college ready by the age of 12. They seemed surprisingly well-adjusted on the show, so I decided to check out their book to learn more about their story in The Brainy Bunch.


It turns out that they are a Christian homeschool family, seemingly conservative in all the ways you might imagine. They believe that homeschooling is the absolute best choice and most biblical choice one could make, and also seem to buy into the quiverfull movement. I felt a bit annoyed at times when reading this book- they are the quintessential “Christian” that our media loves to exemplify as the only kind of Christian- but I was also surprisingly impressed with their courage to challenge their kids to dive deep into their area of interests, learn what they want to learn, and to take real risks, facing potentially hard things with courage and a sense of humor.

And their kids are actually doing great things at a young age and not just educated without a real job in their field. One earned a BS in mathematics at the age of 17 and is currently an engineer. Another is a celebrated architect who finished her degree at the age of 18. Another is a Navy physician and another who finished his masters in computer science at 17. Seriously these kids are amazing and obviously have parents who love them and have found a cool way to allow them to fast forward through some needless schooling. At first glance some might imagine this kind of schooling to be really pushy and stressful, but it seems to be the exact opposite. Kip and Mona Lisa cut through all the educational fluff, let the kids study what they want and don’t stress about giving tests or book reports or whatever. In fact, their method reminds me much more of unschooling than it does the ever popular classical learning that many christian homeschoolers do.

At times it does seem that the family is a bit of a closed system– not a ton of outside friends, their playmates are one another, and they like to keep it that way so that the kids stay respectful and the peer culture doesn’t rub off on them. On the other hand, some of the kids were in competitive sports leagues and the parents are pretty brave in letting some of their kids live away from them at a young age to finish up degrees in certain places when the family has to move. This book reminded me that people are really complex. :)

The writing of this book was not particularly great, but it was informative. I certainly learned exactly what i was hoping to, and it was a super fast read.

Crazy huh?

Book Review: Berenstain Bears and Blessed are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Jake and I memorized the Sermon on the Mount one of the summers we were dating, and it wasn’t until I hid those words in my heart did I realize how rich the words of Matthew 5 are, and how crazy often the Holy Spirit uses those words to instruct my heart many days. When I saw that Berenstain Bears just came out with a new book- The Berenstain Bears Blessed are the Peacemakers , I was super excited. I really like the Berenstain Bears- perhaps because I read so many as a young kid- and have passed this love onto the kids as well (much to the chagrin of Jake, who absolutely does not like to reread them to the kids again and again).


As soon as the book came in the mail, I handed it to Aly and she cuddled up on the couch and read it, twice. When Aly was done, Asante wandered by, saw it laying there, and decided to give it a read through (see! they can’t resist!). They both really liked it and asked for some of the other books that are pictured on the back (which are other Berenstain Bears books with an obvious Christian message). Wow! I thought. This one is a winner.

After the kids were in bed, I finally got the time to take a look myself. Sadly, I was disappointed with not only the writing but the message as well. The first issue is the message that being a peacemaker is really easy. Brother Bear and Sister Bear step in to mediate an argument between the school’s two groups (the rough kids and the smart kids) and are hailed as peacemakers. All they had to do was tout a Bible verse and the argument stopped, all involved parties humbled. Unfortunately, peacemaking is not so easy. It’s hard. It takes a long time. Most often it takes a lot more than telling someone a verse.

The second issue I have is that the writing is definitely different than the other Berenstain Bears books. It’s important to note that this is by Jan and Stan’s son, Mike. I’m incredibly thankful that he has continued to write after his mom and dad have passed, but it’s important that readers go in knowing that although the characters are the same, the writing is in a different voice, sometimes leaving the characters a bit more flat than in the older books.

I give Mike a thumbs up for trying to bring this incredibly complex reality of peacemaking to a level at which preschoolers and early elementary students can understand. Perhaps this is a starting place, or a book to start a discussion:

  • What would happen if someone was being mean to your friend? What would you do?
  • Do you think your friends would obey a Bible verse? Why or why not?
  • How would you feel if the situation happened again and again? Would you still do the same thing?

Learn more about Mike here, as well as the entire Berenstain Bears here (they have a really fun website!).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: Goodnight, Ark

I’m always on the lookout for good children’s picture books that are based on stories from the Bible.  I must admit, though, sometimes I’m a teeny bit nervous to review these kind of books because many of them are not very engaging.

Goodnight, Ark, written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman is one of the few that has really kept my kids’ attention- it’s really funny! Sassi takes us inside of Noah’s ark… and it’s not a tame picture! The first night on the ark, Noah nestles into this bed, only to have his sleep interrupted by wild animals! How will he ever get them all back into their beds?

Moms and Dads will like this book because we can probably relate to Noah. Who hasn’t had small “wild animals” bound into bed with us in the middle of the night during a bad thunderstorm?! Kids will love it because of the catchy rhythm and rhyme, the top-notch illustrations and because one of the animals is…. a skunk. Ha! It’s pretty funny, especially for kids who think that stinkyness is hilarious (or is it just my kids?!). It ends in a really sweet, cozy way- perfect for bedtime.

Overall, this is a super cute book that is a great way for the story of Noah’s ark to really come alive instead of seeming like a story from the past that is sterile and impersonal. :) I’ve read some reviews that were disappointed because it “played with the Bible”… but my take on this is that if a book gets my kids excited about stories of the Scriptures, I’m all for it!

Enjoy this book trailer; see what you think!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

**Please note that this review was first posted on Play Eat Grow.**

How do you cope with tough days?


That’s what we’re talking about over at the Mom Mentor page this month. Tough days are kinda my thing, so I was totally able to share my brilliant response, right? Here’s to the community of mommas! (as I raise my spoonful of ice cream in a toasting gesture)

Parenting 4 kids, ages 6 and under, leaves this momma weary and tired nearly every day! After the kids are all angelically sleeping, snuggled deep into their covers, I plop down in front of my computer with a bowl of Hyvee Brownie batter ice cream and see who is on Facebook. Not only is this evening routine delicious, but it’s also life-giving to me.

I check in with a friend from Missouri to see how she’s doing and how nursing is going with her brand new baby boy. My not-so-cryptic status update regarding my rough day and need for prayer leads to an exchange of text messages and then a 30-minute phone call from a good friend in Pennsylvania.  Right before I log off for the evening, a friend from across town messages me to share a funny parenting quote and then asks if I want to meet up with her tomorrow at the park.

It’s the community of other mommas- both near and far- who encourage my tired, weary heart– their kind, gentle words and their life-giving prayers that offer the truth and love of God that my heart so desperately needs to hear.

I’m curious– what do you do to make it through those tough days?

Review: Sacred Roots

6a00e54fc7cbdb8834019b045f1b15970d-200wiEver started a book and never got around to finishing it?

Do you ever find yourself thinking, “Wow, this author could have said everything they have to say in just 3 chapters. Too bad some publisher made them fluff it out.”

Or, “Well that book started out awesome but the last half of the book went downhill.”

Me. Too. That’s why I really like the FRAMES series, put out by Barna. These small books cut right to the chase and engage in some important cultural topics in a potent way. No fluff- every word counts. These little books are perfect for small group discussion and take about an hour or two to read.

What is this book about?

Sacred Roots: Why the Church Still Matters (Frames) digs into the somewhat over talked about, but under solved problem of why church attendance has declined. Author Jon Tyson doesn’t blame it on lack of morality, busyness, or general disinterest in God. Instead, he puts out a call for the church to move from “consumer centers in the Christian ghetto to provocative countercultures for the common good and renewal of our world.” (p. 52)

Often we think that if we can be more entertaining, the world will flock to our building and eventually to God. Better preaching, cooler videos, good music. Tyson wonders if perhaps that is not the answer at all. When talking about the downfall of trying to use entertainment to draw people to the church, he says, “Something happens when entertainment shapes our church. Our emotions may soar, we may have a shared sense of ‘us’, and we may resonate with the experience, but rarely does entertainment sanctify our hearts. It rarely challenges the practices that form our character or shape our lives.” (p. 45).

Why did I choose to review this?

What is the future of the church gathering as we know it? What is the point of gathering with a bunch of people, all while we stare at someone onstage, not interacting with those around us other than the 5 minute smile and handshake time. I can listen to a sermon anytime, anywhere. I can turn on some worship music and sing to God on my own or with my family. Questions like that are on the tips of my generation’s tongue. I was eager to hear Jon Tyson’s point of view, especially since he is a pastor of a large NYC church.

My takeaway:

We’re not 100% engaged in a church community yet – bouncing back and forth between a couple locations of the same church, trying to find a way to really get to know people. As we’re working on this, we need to remember that we need to have a community that lives kinda near us– driving 30 minutes somewhere doesn’t make it easy to be engaged in others’ everyday lives, which is kinda what the church is meant to be. 

Questions I’m now asking:

  • How could our church gatherings be structured differently- with more interaction and intention?
  • What parts of the church gathering exist to meet needs of 50 years ago? What parts serve needs of the community now?
  • Tyson describes how his church community has changed from being consumer/entertainment driven (maybe not on purpose, but as a default) to being intentional about living in and reaching the communities where the church lives. He didn’t talk a whole lot about how they made that shift- I’d be really interested in hearing more about that!

Where you can go to find more: 

You can learn more about Barna Frames, and also about the author, Jon Tyson.

Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for providing this mini book in exchange for an honest review. 

**Some of the above links are affiliate links.** 


Review: Slow Family Living


Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy is a book by Bernadette Noll, mother of 4 kids, who together with Carrie Contey, PhD in prenatal and perinatal psychology, began Slow Family Living.

It is our desire to help families and individuals find ways to slow things down, not with a recipe or a prescription, but rather by questioning how things are going, and finding ways that work for them. It is our biggest intention to help families find ways to slow things down, connect and enjoy life together. (from

This book is a collection of ideas, stories, and questions that Noll shares from her experience in raising 4 kids. The Nolls are thoughtful and intentional parents who seem to be gentle, structured, loving, and a whole lot of fun.

Why did I choose to review this?

Slow Family Living drew me in by its title– who wouldn’t want some ideas on slowing down and connecting? Jake and I tend to put decent hedges around our pace of life. We’ve said “no” to sports that demand us to be somewhere multiple days a week. We nearly always eat dinner together. Our weekends are crafted to include time where we have no place to be. At the same time, the buzz of class schedule, writing deadlines, household chores, kids’ needs, homework, “homeschool preschool” activities, various once-a-week lessons, library times, etc. can make us feel a bit (or a lot) frazzled by the end of the week.

My takeaway:

Bernadette Noll is super gracious in her approach to slow living. She writes out of a place of gentleness where she is simply sharing about her family’s experiences/desires/goals. She realizes all of those ideas are not for everyone, so she encourages readers to just take what you like and discard what you don’t.

Some of her ideas that we will be or have already implemented:

  • The “Do-Over”: When someone says something unkind, impatient, or downright rude, someone says “Do-Over!” which allows for the rudeness to be called out, but in a way that gives the person a chance to make it right. This simple phrase allows for the bad attitude to be corrected right then and there, and the air to be cleared of bad, grudgy feelings for the next hour.
  • Throw the Rules Out the Window: Eat dessert first. Abandon bed time (one night only, use sparingly :)). Lift screen time limits for a whole day. Wear PJs all day long. The point of this, I think, is doing something surprising that will make a memory and foster a fun family culture.
  • What Do You Need?: In a common area, place a whiteboard where everyone can write what they need throughout the week. Perhaps it’s more Triscuits or a carton of ice cream… but maybe it’s an hour of alone time, a date night, a hug, or additional screen time. Just because it’s on the board doesn’t mean that the person gets it, but it allows everyone to see the felt needs of the family and perhaps another family member can help meet those needs throughout the week.

Where can you go to learn more?

After reading the book you can head over to their website, Slow Family Living. On it you can learn more about Bernadette and Carrie, as well as other events, websites, etc. that they recommend. And of course, if you like what you see, you can follow them on FB and Twitter.

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