Flip Book Review: “The Bible is my Best Friend – 365 Days – Connecting Your Family to God’s Word and to Each Other” by Sheila Walsh

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My family has loved this flip book. It’s similar in format to a page-a-day calendar, but doesn’t have specific dates printed on each page. Instead, it is divided into numbered weeks and then is numbered by day within each week. It is spiral bound, sturdy, and self-standing. We have put ours on our table and use it as a good conversation starter at dinner. My youngest, in particular, enjoys getting to read the new page each day. The book uses bold, colorful hues that are visually stimulating for kids. I also love the whimsical illustrations. Each page is quick to read and is geared well to young families. I think any family with children between the toddler stage and tween stage would be a great target audience. Each day has something different, including thought-provoking questions, interesting trivia, challenges, prayer prompts, Bible trivia, riddles, games, and more. The week starts and ends with the Bible verse for that week. Most of the verses are presented from the HCSB, but each verse has the reference also listed so that you can use your preferred translation which is also great for helping children to learn where to find a reference in the Bible. My kids give it a thumbs up, and I’d recommend this fun product to anyone with children.

I received this book for free from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review as part of their Lifeway Bloggers Program. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Traveling on the Disney Dream

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A little while ago, I had a friend ask about my experiences on the Disney Dream. So, instead of just making a list for her, I decided that someone else might benefit from it as well. Later, I’ll also publish an article about our most recent time at Walt Disney World. All information relates to the Disney Dream. They’ve added some extra amenities last fall which I haven’t gotten an opportunity to experience yet.

Things To Do Before You Go
It’s important that you find a travel agent who you trust and will listen to your requirements. I love my agent. She has given me countless tips and helped me to find the best cabin in just the right location (midship, deck 8 for me). Here’s her information if you need someone:
Glynis at Mousetales Travel

Download the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) app. Once you are onboard, you will have wifi access to the app only for free. You will be able to use the app for an online version of the Personal Navigator and to text others with the app.

Be sure to complete your online check-in as soon as you are allowed to do so. While you are there, you can also schedule a fun call from Goofy or Mickey. I usually schedule mine for the time period that we are driving to the port. It helps to build the excitement.

What to Pack
You can find lots of information on what to pack for the cruise online. I usually try to select mix and match outfits that can use the least amount of shoe changes to save room in the luggage. As mentioned elsewhere, laundry facilities are available and usually on each deck. The bed in the room is elevated enough to slide all but the largest of suitcases underneath. Although I never measured, other websites have listed the measurement as 13 inches. One thing to bring that is often not thought of is a highlighter. It is great for showcasing on the Navigator what you’re interested in doing the next day. Although the app has an online copy of the Navigator, I still like planning from the paper copy that you receive in your stateroom the night before and have heard it is a little more accurate. Also, don’t forget your camera so that you can try to capture all the great memories you’ll make. Just like in the Disney Parks, feel free to ask the photographer to snap a picture with your camera as well. Most are more than willing to do this for the asking.

There are a few things that you should not pack. Irons, power strips, and extension cords are not allowed. I’ve read that these items will be confiscated by your stateroom attendant. Also, I’ve read warnings not to bring over-the-door organizers since they scratch the door and you will be charged for any damage. You also don’t have to pack towels. Towels are provided not only at the pools, but also on Castaway Cay. It is also not necessary to pack seasickness medicines. They are available onboard. In fact, we don’t find them necessary in our family. We generally take one Bonine at the port (half for the children) and have no trouble after that.

Embarkation
There is a parking deck right beside the port. The current rate is $15 per day. There are other off-site options, but we have been happy with the convenience of parking at the port. Upon arrival at the port, you will be directed to an area where you will leave your checked baggage with porters. A tip of at least $1 or $2 per bag is appropriate and appreciated.

After dropping your checked baggage with the porters, you will proceed to the parking area. Note that you can enter the terminal via the first floor (near where the porters were) or a covered walkway on the third floor. We have taken the third floor options both times and have found that the lines to have your identification checked move somewhat quickly. You will then move into the actual terminal. Enter the check-in line after picking up a form to declare that you and your party are healthy. Upon check-in, you will be issued a Key to the World Card (KTTWC). It allows you to enter your cabin, charge items (including charges for the use of the onboard washers and dryers), and also controls the lights in your cabin. Disney doesn’t provide lanyards on your first cruise. Therefore, you might want to bring one from home if it’s your first time. The cast members will process your paperwork and you will receive your boarding group numbers.

While you are waiting for you group to be called, you can enter another line to finalize registration of your children for the kid’s clubs. I’ve found this line to move rather slow, but I’m also thankful that they take the time to address any individualized questions and concerns such as allergies or medical conditions. Note that you can also make arrangements at the kid’s club entrance on the ship if the line in the terminal is very long. The terminal also contains a cool ship model and commonly has characters that are ready to greet you and pose for pictures. Restrooms are located at the right of the terminal. Also, try to find a copy of the Navigator (the listing of events detailing times and locations).

Once your hear your boarding number, you will be allowed to proceed to the gate at the back. Your KTTWC will be required, but it is not necessary to remove it from your lanyard pouch. After the KTTWC has been scanned you’ll be directed to a line for an embarkation photo. It is a photo in front of a blue background that has Disney Cruise Lines printed on it. After standing in several lines, my family wasn’t really in the mood for a photo and it showed when we saw the print. So, we chose not to stand in line to take it the second time. Politely ask the cast member if you can skip the photo and they will direct you towards the right where you can then proceed.

After crossing the gangway, get ready for a magical moment. A cast member will first confirm the pronunciation of your family’s name. You will then be announced on the intercom and welcomed by applause by several sharply dressed crew members as you enter the impressive atrium. Enjoy the moment!

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Also, take a moment to look around. Frequently, there are characters scattered around the entire atrium. The first time we cruised, we were able to walk right up to characters for pictures and autographs. These encounters are cherished memories.

Once you get onboard, lunch is likely to be being served. You can go to the buffet at Cabanas or have a sit-down meal at Enchanted Garden. We are a big fan of going to Enchanted Garden. It gives us a non-hurried place to enjoy a yummy lunch and get a game plan together using the Navigator. While looking at the Navigator, see if tickets are required for certain interactions. For example, meeting Anna and Elsa and also meeting all the princesses together were ticketed events on our last cruise. The tickets do not cost extra, but need to be secured as soon as possible. The Navigator will detail the place and times that these tickets can be found.

As with all cruises, a life drill takes place right before the ship leaves. Please make sure you know how to get to your muster station and be on time. You don’t want to be that person that everyone is waiting on. Please note that wearing the life jacket to the drill is no longer necessary.

Characters
Did you know that if you bring a souvenir from home, Guest Services will get it signed by the Fab Five or Princesses (or both) for you? Simply put the item and selected pens in a ziplock bag and write your name, cabin number, and instructions on the front. Present the bag to Guest Services on the first night. They will give you a form to fill out indicating who you would like to have sign the item. You will receive the completed item in your stateroom on the last night of the cruise. It’s a great way to soften the blow of realization that you are soon to be leaving this magical place. The first time we cruised, we sent in pillowcases and sharpies. They are years old now and still in good condition, but I’d supply fabric markers if I did it again. The kids still enjoy using them. The last time we cruised, we sent in photo mats.

Pools
The Dream has family pools, adult pools, and slides. The kids really enjoyed the Mickey Slide and AquaDuck. Let’s be honest, my husband and I enjoyed the AquaDuck too. I can still hear the giggles of my kids on the way down the slide. The line can get a little long sometimes, but it’s worth it. I’m less of a fan of the pools. Mickey’s Pool is shallow and usually crowded. I’m not a particular fan of the corners in the pool. Donald’s Pool is directly in front of the FunnelVision. It is 5 feet deep and is rather small for the population of the ship. Since Mickey’s Pool is shallow, it was very crowded on our last trip. After getting accidentally kicked and ran into several times, the kids wanted to try the “big” pool. I got in the pool as well since my youngest isn’t a strong swimmer just yet. I stood in the middle on my toes to help them if needed. On at least 3-4 occasions I had other children either grab onto me or ask me for help since it was over their head. A lifeguard was watching closely to be fair, but I can’t imagine why those children’s parents were nowhere to be seen. I guess my point would be to please watch your children around water and be aware that the high bather load could cause trouble for them if they are not watched closely.

We chose to stay on the ship while it was docked at Nassau. This was a good time to enjoy the pools, especially earlier during the day. It is also a good time to enjoy programs at the kid’s club, explore the ship, or watch a movie (some of which are first-run movies).

Castaway Cay (pronounced “key”)
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Wow, where do I start? I love the beach here. Just the thought of that crystal water and those awesome beach hammocks calm me and make me smile. In addition to the beach, there are kid’s activities, food, shopping, excursions, and bike rentals. I would definitely recommend getting some bikes to explore the island. There are less crowded parts of the island to be found on the bike paths. We even ran into Captain Jack Sparrow on one of the trails. You’ll find a few water stations along the way. My only warning would be to make sure you have adequate sun protection that you’ve tried before. I received a horrible sunburn here after using another brand of sunscreen than my old standby. Keep applying it regularly since it’s easy to lose track of time while you’re having fun. There is also a slide offshore if you’re interested.

Cookies BBQ on the island provides tasty buffet with plenty of choices. They also have lots of workers who are happy to help. One cast member navigated the buffet with my youngest, prepared her plate for her and found us seating. That was a great! There is also a huge fruit bar available. Make sure to eat before they shut it all down around 2. Also, be sure to purchase any Castaway Cay-specific items you have your heart set on. I don’t think they are available on the ship.

If you’re into running, you can sign up for the Castaway Cay 5K. It takes place early in the morning of the day the ship is docked at Castaway Cay. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to run this race. I didn’t want to run it alone, but it is held before the kid’s club opens. To complicate things, they don’t allow runners under the age of 12. So, unless you want to run alone, parents of younger children don’t really have an opportunity to participate.

There is a post office just off the ship on Castaway Cay. You will need cash to buy a stamp there, but it makes a great souvenir to have a Bahamas postmark. We mailed a post card back to ourselves at home. It came well after we returned home and served to remind us of our happy times on the island.

Food
The food onboard is very good. In fact, the steak at The Royal Palace is among one of my all-time favorite meals. If you ask my kids, their favorite food onboard is the ice cream. It is available at all times. Some of our best memories are heading up to get ice cream at different times (sometimes even though we just had some ice cream a few minutes earlier). Sodas, coffee, and tea are also available at all times on deck beside the pools.

If you have food allergies, make sure to let everyone know, including your travel agent, at check-in, kid’s club check-in, and even confirm when seated. We don’t have any food allergies in our family, but I saw several occasions where a chef was leading travelers though the line explaining what was included in each dish and whether or not it was allowed given the guest’s food constraints. From everything I’ve read and heard from others, Disney does a phenomenal job in accommodating all different diet restrictions.

Unlike some other cruise lines, most drinks are free with DCL. Notable exceptions are bottled water, smoothies, and alcohol. You should also know that any drink ordered at a bar is not included in the price of the cruise, including soda, coffee, and tea. However, there are usually free mini desserts at the adult coffee bar for the asking.

DCL using rotational dining. That means that while the location of your restaurant will change each night, your servers will not. We had exceptional servers on our last cruise. The interactions with them made tons of great memories. The kids still talk about them. Each restaurant is themed differently and has their own charm. The kids probably enjoyed Animator’s Palate the most due to the funny jokes provided by Crush from Finding Nemo. They also enjoyed the pictures made by the school of fish. Enchanted Garden was a nice place, just not our favorite. My favorite, by far, was The Royal Palace. I loved dark, rich wood decor and the food was wonderful! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it! Definitely try the steak. I should also mention that DCL is very accommodating at dinner. If you can’t decide on a dessert, they’ll let you have a taste of both. If you’re unhappy with your dinner, let your server know and they will bring you something else. If your child wants to try something off the adult menu, just ask if it’s possible. In our case, they were happy to oblige our requests. Obviously, I would not take advantage of their generosity, but special requests are ok.

There are options for food pretty much all day long, mainly up on deck at Cabanas or at the several food stations near the pool. The pizza is good and there’s always ice cream to be had.

Room service is free while on the ship. You only need to tip the delivery person. I have friends who order coffee and fruit at night for the next morning. I’ve also heard of some ordering Mickey Bars. We’ve always been full from everything else, we’ve never taken advantage of this.

Another option that I have not taken advantage of is that if you have late seating for dinner, you can arrange for cast members from the kid’s club to pick your children up about 45 minutes into the dinner seating to go play. This would allow the adults to enjoy a leisurely dinner. This option doesn’t appeal to me, but it is available nonetheless.

Kid’s Club
Disney does a good job with their kid’s clubs. I consider myself to be an overprotective mother, but I felt ok with letting my kids enjoy the club since they were both in there together (and after reviewing all the rules, yet again, that surround them being away from us – much to my children’s exasperation). The kids are kept in the club by a gate that is monitored. My kids didn’t really want to stay in the clubs that much since they preferred to stay with us at the pool or working on the Midship Detective Agency (MDA) game. (MDA is a scavenger-like clue game that involves gathering clues from various parts of the ship. My kids loved this and it was a great way to explore the ship. You can start the game by learning about your mission on deck 5, midship at the self-serve kiosk. Try this out.) Perhaps the kids would take advantage of the clubs more if we took a longer cruise. We did enjoy time in the clubs during open house. The kids enjoyed showing us the area and working on crafts or playing video games. Their favorite activities included a cooking class and science experiments. They also enjoyed getting a pillowcase at a pajama party there. You should note that any allergies or medical concerns are visible to the cast members on the child’s bracelet since they receive a different color button than other children that don’t have any alerts.

Rooms
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There is a slot beside the light switch as you come in that requires you to insert your KTTWC to enable the electricity to work in the room. You might want to bring an old Disney gift card to put in the slot to keep the electricity on instead of having to pull your KTTWC out of a lanyard each time you enter the room. Recently, I saw an idea of adding a magnetic strip to an old Disney gift card and sticking it to the wall above the light switch (since the wall is metal) so that it’s always available. Here are the instructions I saw:
Light Switch Tip

Although my family has never participated, many cruisers participate in hanging something called a Fish Extender from their door that gets filled with trinkets, small toys, candy, and other items from other cruisers that have agreed to participate (you will be responsible for giving the others in the group something as well). Months before your departure, you’ll need to signup online in order to participate. This website covers this topic if you’re interested:
Fish Extender Basics

Even if you use the app on your phone for the Navigator and keeping in contact with others, you’ll need to make sure that you keep the Wave phones in your room charged. If you allow them to run out of battery, you may be kept up by it’s warning beeps.

Your travel agent can help you with deciding on the best cabin for your needs. We have chosen a verandah room both times and enjoyed it. The best part of having a verandah room for us is having a warm place to wait on our turn for the shower after visiting the pool or Castaway Cay. We’ve also enjoyed hanging out on the balcony before and after dinner or while gazing at the stars. In my opinion, it’s worth the extra money.
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Cabins in DCL are larger than the ones I’ve had at other cruise lines. The use of bunk beds are fun for kids and space-saving during the day. The couch turns into a bed and the stateroom attendant pulls the top bunk down from the ceiling while you are at dinner. The top bunk features art that looks like the stars. My kids argue about who gets to sleep on the top so we had to make a schedule to keep the peace.

Shows
The Broadway-type shows are professionally done and entertaining. We loved attending the big show each night on our first cruise. You should know that the show also airs on the TV in your cabin. Since the shows had not changed since our first time, we skipped the shows on our second cruise and really enjoyed having the ship practically to ourselves. I’d say 95% or more of the guests were either at dinner or the shows.

Pirate Night
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Pirate Night is loads of fun. Go ahead and dress up for the occasion. You will see everything from people just donning the bandanas they leave in your room to people in full pirate regalia. The most important part is just to have fun! Pirate Night is also an opportunity to meet Captain Jack Sparrow. Check your Navigator for times. Following a theatrical show, complete with dancers and a surprise entrance from Jack Sparrow on the pool deck, the guests are treated to a spectacular fireworks show. My favorite place to view them are on the starboard side, on deck 12. Then join in the huge dance party on deck.

Disembarkation
Now here’s the sad news: all good things must come to an end. For all the pampering and magic that you’ve experienced, reality is headed straight for you like a freight train. However, there are things you can do to ease the pain. One thing I find that makes things easier is to pre-pack our checked luggage before dinner on the last evening. That way, you can spend more time dancing and enjoying your last night instead of packing to have you luggage outside your cabin door.

Room service will not be available on disembarkation morning. Your choice for breakfast is either go to Cabanas or attend a super-early breakfast. Your servers will tell you the time the night before at the last dinner service. We have done this both ways and prefer the seated dining. (As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of the huge buffet at Cabanas. The food is tasty, but it can get too crowded for my taste.) Our children fell in love with our servers on our last cruise and wanted to see them one more time. Note that you will have to take your carry-on luggage with you to breakfast, so only leave the essentials for that morning.

After breakfast, you’ll probably be cleared to leave the ship. You’ll head towards customs to pick up your bags (don’t forget what character is on your tag so that you can find your luggage easily). Once you have your bags, you can proceed to customs. This part is very quick as the customs agents keep you moving. You’re then cleared to claim your car from the parking deck and make the best of the drive back home while dreaming of your next cruise!
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What I’m reading now: the newest from Jill Savage and Anne McClane

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I’m excited to announce that I am on the launch team for the new book Better Together: Because You’re Not Meant to Mom Alone by Jill Savage and Anne McClane! I met Mrs. Savage at a speaking event and was impressed with her honesty and forthrightness. She is an inspiring speaker and knew I wanted to gather more knowledge and wisdom though reading more about her “momming” experiences. I have just started reading it and love it so far. I’ll be sharing more about the book with you, including a full review, later on. The book explores the importance of developing strong relationships among mothers. I know first-hand how important these relationships are and can’t wait to finish the book. The book is now available for pre-order at many book retailers and will release on March 1st.

Book Review: “The Midwife’s Choice” by Delia Parr

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The Midwife’s Choice is the second book in the At Home in Trinity series. I was so excited to read the latest installment to find out what is happening in the lives of all the characters from Trinity, Pennsylvania since reading the first novel, The Midwife’s Tale. The novel continues to follow the story of midwife Martha Cade and her relationships with the townspeople of Trinity, including her daughter, Victoria, and potential love interest, Thomas Dillon. As with the first book, it was interesting to see the hardships facing this small town in the 1800’s where things such as a winter storm can wreak havoc in the lives of its’ citizens. This book also offers a new mystery for its’ readers that hooks them from the very beginning. I love the way that Parr again weaves an easy-reading story that centers on romance, family, friends, and faith while having many twists and turns to keep the reader interested. While I would recommend reading this series in order, Parr does provide some background so that a reader would not be confused if they haven’t already read the first novel. This book was just as good as the last and leaves me counting the minutes until the third installment is released this spring!

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “Fervent” by Priscilla Shirer

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After seeing the movie War Room, I wanted to read this book by Priscilla Shirer. I wanted to explore the subject of prayer further. I was met with a well-developed guide that warns the reader of ten specific areas where Satan tries to attack and therefore where we should be careful to pray for. The areas that Mrs. Shirer point out are:

Your Passion
Your Focus
Your Identity
Your Family
Your Past
Your Fears
Your Purity
Your Pressures
Your Hurts
Your Relationships

I could easily relate to the illustrations in this book, particularly in the chapter on pressures. Those relatable experiences were bolstered by Scripture references at the end of each chapter. Shirer points out repeatedly how the devil tries to break down the heart and mind of women. I so appreciated her directness in pointing out just how he uses things against me. For example, on page 57, she says, “He’d rather conspire to keep you in a constant state of mourning, grieving over who you wish you were, instead of relishing who you really are, exacerbated by insecurity and crippled by self-doubt.” My notebook is now filled with beautiful Bible verses referenced by Shirer as well as her ideas to help to combat attempts by Satan to defeat me.

I’d whole-heartedly recommend this book to people who would like to be further enlightened about the devil’s strategies to derail our lives and how to be strategic in prayer to combat him. It was spot-on in her descriptions of how the devil can use certain arguments and ideas to discourage the heart of women. After reading this book, I’m further inspired to improve my prayer life more each day.

I received this book for free from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review as part of their Lifeway Bloggers Program. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “The Healthy Mind Cookbook” by Rebecca Katz with Mat Edelson

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The Healthy Mind Cookbook has an intriguing premise that is spelled out in its’ subtitle: Big-Flavor Recipes to Enhance Brain Function, Mood, Memory, and Mental Clarity. This was very interesting to me since I have been trying to take more notice of the foods I eat in a quest to become healthier. I have noticed that my body responds very differently to healthy and unhealthy foods. Unfortunately, I have also noticed that sometime healthy food isn’t always tasty. This cookbook aims to correct that problem.

Each recipe has detailed instructions, nutritional information, storage directions and commentary from the author. Many recipes are accompanied by a color photograph. It is a hardcover book with 245 pages. Many great tips are provided on preparation and maintaining a good pantry of staples. However, my favorite part of the cookbook is how it teaches you to use a flavor combination called FASS (fats, acid, salt, and sweet) to balance flavors in cooking to make healthy foods taste good. It even has a chart that shows how to fix problems with taste in a recipe. I also enjoyed learning about the copious listing of foods that help with various cognitive issues. The recipes themselves look very appetizing and many are ones that my children would try as well. I look forward to using this cookbook to eat better and as the author says feed my mind.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World” by Kristen Welch

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I really enjoyed reading Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World – How One Family Learned that Saying No Can Lead to Life’s Biggest Yes by Kristen Welch. I have enjoyed several articles from her website We Are THAT Family and was interested in her perspective on this subject. I loved that she admits to still being in the trenches of motherhood and doesn’t pretend to have all the answers. It added a feeling of realness for me. I felt she was right on point with her description of the current state of parenting, including accurately naming one of the chapters “The Selfie Society”. The culture in which we live seems to extol the idea that parents should always be a friend to their child and should strive for that child to be happy at all costs, mostly by enjoying extravagant and plentiful material possessions. This book encourages parents to avoid that idea and instead embrace an attitude of gratitude.

The book starts with glowing reviews from Gary Chapman, Crystal Paine, and Sally Clarkson. Each chapter has a section called Going Against the Flow that contains action steps and good advice for all stages of life, entitled parents, toddlers/preschoolers, elementary, tweens/teens. Throughout the chapters, inset quotes are plentiful among the text that point out important snippets. One chapter of particular interest to me dealt with technology and provided a list of rules to help mitigate the risk of children having access to technology. Most were common sense ideas, but there were a few I hadn’t considered. The main text finishes up with a great chapter called “Dear Parents” with wonderful guidance. The book also contains a discussion guide for each chapter.

I think this would be a wonderful book for parents. I’ll say that I don’t agree with the discussion of rephrasing Proverbs 22:6 in chapter 2, but we end up the same place in terms of what should be done to help guide a child away from a sense of entitlement. It’s sometimes hard to resist the norm of spoiling your kids to the point that they feel entitled. This book gives good practical ideas on how to cultivate the idea of choosing to be grateful. It was a timely reminder to not spoil my kids, given that I was reading it during the Christmas season. I think the author expressed my idea of the goal of parenting well when she said, “If we fix every problem, cater to every need, and bend over backwards to keep our kids happy all the time, we are setting them up for a false reality because life won’t always offer them the same courtesy.” It’s important to make sure they are loved, but also to guide them into adults who are grateful and satisfied with what they have instead of one who is entitled and always searching for more. After all, as Mrs. Welch said, “…often our kids don’t need more stuff or more freedom; they just need more of us.”

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Run for God 5K: Completed!

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Well, today was the big day. The graduation, if you will, of a twelve-week journey to improve my physical, mental, and spiritual fitness. If you remember, I had joined a ladies’ Bible study that was following the Run for God 5K program. I was a little concerned about having the race today. I had traveled the week of Thanksgiving and had fallen behind on training, and the training that I had been doing was mostly on flat ground. However, I’m happy to report that I was able to finish the 5K and beat the goals I had set for myself. I got a great sense of accomplishment by crossing that finish line, but I’d have to say my favorite part of the race was going back to run or walk others to the finish line as well. I found it a privilege to see so many people attain feats they thought were simply impossible just mere weeks ago. There were just so many warm and wonderful memories that were made today that will be forever etched in my memory. Here are just a few:

-The encouraging words of our group leader were inspirational. She has always been so encouraging and kind. I can’t imagine the countless hours she’s put into this endeavor.
-The funny “Over the Hill” balloon that marked the top of the monster hill that we made into our warmup was great comic relief for my nerves.
-The beautiful vistas, upbeat Gospel music on my phone, and time of talking to God along the way was renewing to my spirit.
-The encouraging words of people I’ve met from church and more that I didn’t even know along the race path kept me going.
-The beautiful lady from Sunday School who has been experiencing health problems who sat on a park bench in cold and windy weather to cheer everyone on was in the exact spot that I didn’t think I had any more to give. Her encouragement and presence helped me to keep going.
-The pastor’s wife who jumped in near the finish line to show me the way and kept encouraging me to keep going was the last push I needed to continue.
-The young man who so graciously asked if I would like a bottle of water at the end was just the refreshment I needed to recover from the race.
-The cheering and encouraging words of everyone I saw was so heart-warming.
-The final crossing of the finish line as we all sang hymns was truly up-lifting.
-The shirt, the medal, gifts, certificate, and letter were all a great surprise to celebrate our accomplishments.

So, I guess the word of the day would be encouragement. I have made so many new friendships and am so thankful to God for that opportunity. He has guided my steps throughout this journey, and I know He will be with me always since He said He would in his Word. Oh, what a comforting thought! Thanks be to God.

Book Review and Giveaway: “This Means War” by Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick with Troy Schmidt

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This Means War is a self-described strategic prayer journal. It is targeted to preteen and teen boys. The authors do an excellent job appealing to their audience. The use of camo, the soldier theme, and short sections are engaging to this age group. I found it particularly interesting that they used the Twitter format to make a point about their prayer life in one section. I love the relevancy of the examples they use. There are plenty of spaces and opportunities for interaction through the book’s directed questions that relate to that chapter’s lesson.

The book teaches the reader about prayer life and how to improve it. The subject matter spans a lot of areas of the boy’s life, including family, church, school, etc. There is a clear presentation of the Gospel included. It also provides a breakdown of the Lord’s Prayer. The book concludes with the last sections devoted to common questions posed about prayer.

Being a huge fan of the movie War Room, I got this book for my son. I don’t think he’s been this excited about a book in a long time. His eyes lit up just from seeing the camo paint-slattered cover. He quickly flipped through the pages and declared it to be “Awesome!” He has since carried it to church and school to show it to his friends. Needless to say, he loves it!

This would a great journal for all boys. I highly recommend it based on the content and excitement it stirred in my son about such an important subject.

I received this book for free from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review as part of their Lifeway Bloggers Program. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

I’ve got some great news for you! The publisher has graciously provided me with an extra copy to give away here. In order to be entered into the drawing, comment on this post or subscribe using the box to the right of this post for two entries into the drawing (current subscribers will be entered already). I will hold the random drawing on Wednesday, November 18th. The winner will be contacted via email. You’ll have 24 hours to contact me, or I’ll draw another name.

UPDATE: The giveaway closed last night, and I’d like to congratulate Denise on winning the book. I’d love to thank those who so kindly commented and those who subscribed. It was great to see the interest from this giveaway, and I hope to do another in the future.

Book Review: “You First – Journal Your Way to Your Best Life” by Lea Michele

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You First is a journal that leads the reader in a journey of exploration of the following four aspects of their lives: you, ambition, relationships, and happiness. The book poses open-ended questions in each section that are thought-provoking and are intended to probe the thoughts and feelings surrounding the subcategories of each of the aforementioned aspects. Those subcategories are:

You – roots, fitness, diet and nutrition
Ambition – goals, role models, mind-expanding challenges
Relationships – friendships, romantic relationships, colleagues
Happiness – hobbies, charity and giving back, gratitude

As you can see, the book covers a lot of material. It has a beautiful purple color scheme. Particular emphasis is placed on writing goals and dreams down so as to be intentional about reaching them.

Overall, it is a nice journal. There are certain sections which don’t apply to me. However, I agree with with the author most definitely that the ability to reach goals can be directly related to one’s ability to articulate what the goal actually is and how it can be attained, at least in part. If you’re looking for direction on the areas the book covers, this could be a useful book.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.