Faith, Family, Love and Reviews

Crew Review: Inspiring the American Dream: Abraham’s Journey by Robert and Kathleen Basmadjian

I’ve heard of the American Dream but have never been sure what it really is, so when I looked more into it, I found it’s basically a set of standards that allows for the opportunity of success and prosperity through hard work.  Of course everyone’s American Dream is going to be different – one’s dream may to be rich and have a large house while another may be to save enough money to take a foreign mission trip.  Inspiring the American Dream seeks to help this generation re-realize what the American Dream is and they seek to do that through the book Abraham’s Journey.

I was very excited to get this book to read with my three children, ages 11, 8 and 6, however my excitement quickly turned to apprehension as I began the book.  The book takes place during the Great Recession, both mom and dad have lost their jobs so they are explaining to their children that there won’t be any Christmas presents – they’ll still put up a tree, decorate, sing Christmas songs, but there won’t be presents.  Abraham wants to ‘save’ Christmas by buying presents for his mom, dad and sister – so he gets on his smart phone to text his friends about job openings – and out pops Abraham Lincoln who takes him on a “cyber” journey to meet the people who have obtained the ‘American Dream’.

Abraham takes Abraham to meet with people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Norman Rockwell (who likes Abraham’s talent with art), Amelia Earhart, the Gates’, and Mark Zuckerberg.  After meeting these people and being given different ideas of what generates the American Dream, Abraham paints and sells his pictures, and he surprises his parents and sister on Christmas morning by saving Christmas.  The family also visit a homeless shelter in which they drop off items like blankets, books and money.

All three of my children were asking, if his parents don’t have a job why does he have a smart phone? as well as why does he need a smart phone to begin with?  The most stirring item of note that all my children noticed was the fact that Christmas needed saving – my children were somewhat upset that the children in the story thought Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without presents.  Also, one of my issues with the book was the fact of those who are esteemed in the book, with the exception of one – maybe two the other people who are featured are not my idea of the American Dream – what about the farmers, the nurses, the social workers, those in the Armed Forces – I could go on.

Abraham’s Journey can be bought for $14.99 but at just 32 pages in paperback form, I think it’s a steep price for a book that leaves out whatever faith Abraham was supposed to have – unless it’s faith in only himself.  All the striving for the American Dream and the source of the Dream is left out and I think this quote from the book on page 5 which says; “However, you must understand that you…and only you…are capable of making that dream come true” sums up the fact that the American Dream is something that a person is responsible for with no help from the Lord.  Abraham’s Journey is geared for ages 8 to 12 year old children.

You can read what other home school parents have to say by visiting the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

**Disclaimer:  I recieved a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.


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I’ve had many tell me I’m an inspiration and ask me what I’m doing to lose weight.  Honestly I don’t feel inspiring – I’m doing what I should have been doing all along – taking care of myself.  I’m thankful though that there are those who are reading my story and are finding it inspiring – I truly think it’s God working through me so that others can see it does work.  The picture below isn’t the best but you can compare it somewhat by looking at my post “Some Honesty”

Don’t mind the crocs LOL this is a picture I took of myself last week. I really need to have my oldest DD take a better one.

My goal isn’t to lose weight, it’s a nice side effect, but really my ultimate goal is to be off my diabetic medication.  That was my goal last year but I got sick and quit working out.  It’s now been a month, or close to it of 6 days a week working out and eating 1,550 calories or less a day.  My goal just got lowered to 1,430 calories a day since I’ve lost 10 pounds.  I use MyFitnessPal to track my food, exercise, water, etc and it does work.  As of 7:30p.m. on 2/27/13 I still have 815 calories remaining – it’s hard for me to eat all the allotted calories for the day – I’m not getting hunger pains like I used to as I keep up with drinking my water and that helps to relieve any fake hunger pains I may feel.

I’ve been asked what am I eating or not eating?  Quite truthfully my diet hasn’t changed, yes, I’ve cut out soda (I will drink Zevia when it’s on sale), no more snacking on potato chips, etc but honestly I’m still eating what I’ve always ate.  The difference is the fact that I’m not having three bowls of soup, or two plates full of food – I’m measuring everything – if it can’t be measured I won’t eat it.  Some may think that’s extreme but I’m only a month into this so I need that visual – there will come a time I can let the crutch of measuring go but for now I need that.

A soup I made the other night.

Do I still have ice cream?  Yep.  I found some ice cream bars that are low calorie and low carb and no bad artificial sweeteners so I can still enjoy a treat every now and then – of course gone are the days of having three in one sitting.  I now enjoy and savor each little bite so that when I’m done I feel satisfied, the same with my meals.  I made spaghetti bolognese last night and I could have 1 cup of whole wheat pasta and 3/4 cup of the sauce – out came the measuring cups.  Once I ate and let my brain and stomach catch up to one another (it’s really not a cliche) I felt full with just that.

I’ve also been asked if I take any supplements.  No, the only thing besides my metformin (for now) is a pro-biotic called Florajen – and while it doesn’t help you lose weight it has curbed my cravings for all things sweet.  I used to look at chocolate and not resist and now I’m okay if I don’t have it but if I do,  I no longer desire the whole bar.  I didn’t start taking Florajen for this reason though, it was another health issue that led to me taking it, but this is just a wonderful ‘side effect’ of the pro-biotic.

I’ve been using a variety of methods for exercising – specifically my Wii Fit Plus, Leslie Sansone Walk DVD’s, Shapely Girl DVD and also adding in hand weights.  I’ll add in hand weights whenever it’s feasible and that helps burn more calories as well as produce muscle so I can tone.  I aim for between 20 to 30 minutes a day at this point and want to work up to an hour a day.  I also have a kettlebell but haven’t started implementing that yet, I’m going slow and steady so I don’t burn myself out.  I do want to invest in some heavier women’s weights, a rebounder and an exercise ball to add in more variety to cause muscle confusion.

I served my meal on a salad plate, which is tinier, it also made me think I was getting more compared to had it been on a large plate I would have thought I’m not getting much. This was quite filling at its portion size.

I know what I’m doing is working – I had a yearly check up today and the dr told me I had lost 20 pounds since I was in last year!  That is huge, for me!  I go in on March to have my A1C re-checked and I believe that it will be normal or very close to it – my blood sugars after meals have been great, even lower than recommended, while my fasting is a bit high for my liking.  I chalk it up to not checking within 8 hours of taking my metformin which means I’d need to wake at 3 or 4 in the morning to check my fasting.  So far the effects of exercise and diet change have been a tremendous amount of energy!  To read a book takes more concentration because I want to be moving, to write this blog post is taking me longer than normal because I could be up and doing the dishes.  Physically I feel better, mentally I feel better and just feel much more happier.


FIRST Tour: Beyond the Rapids by Evelyn Puerto

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
Evelyn Puerto
and the book:
Beyond the Rapids
Pleasant Word-A Division of WinePress Publishing; First Edition edition (May 25, 2010)
***Special thanks to Evelyn Puerto for sending me a review copy.***

Evelyn Puerto left a career in health care planning to serve as a missionary for seven years in Russia. During those years, she met and was inspired by the Brynza family, whose story she tells in Beyond the Rapids. After her return from the mission field, she got married, inheriting three stepdaughters, two stepgrandsons and a cat.
Visit the author’s website.


Imagine that you are a believer living in a communist country. You live with the knowledge that at any time you could be imprisoned, tortured or killed simply because you are a Christian.

Award-winning Beyond the Rapids is the true story of Ukrainian pastor Alexei Brynza and his wife, Valentina, who endured persecution in a culture that was hostile to their faith as they struggled to raise their children as believers The Brynzas children were tempted by ambition, wealth, love and popularity as they struggled with the choice between embracing the communist system or believing in God. Beyond the Rapids is an inspiring story of God’s grace and faithfulness in all circumstances.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99

Paperback: 348 pages

Publisher: Pleasant Word-A Division of WinePress Publishing; First Edition edition (May 25, 2010)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1414116055

ISBN-13: 978-1414116051


Beyond the RapidsOne Family’s Triumph over Religious Persecution in Communist Ukraine
Chapter 1
Grandpa and the Firing Squad
Stone walls do not a prisone [sic] make.1

George Bernard Shaw

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:32

As told by Lena

My parents didn’t allow my three brothers and me to play with the other children in the neighborhood. They built a wood fence around the yard and installed a gate, which Mama locked every morning after Papa left for work. Then she let us amuse ourselves in the yard while she was cooking or planting potatoes or taking care of the goats. We often stood at the gate, peeking through the bars, stretching our hands into the air, rejoicing that our hands were free, even if we were not, waving at the neighbors passing by, neighbors who laughed at us, remarking we were like prisoners in jail.

Maybe the neighbors were joking; maybe they remembered that our grandfather had been imprisoned during the Great Patriotic War. Many Ukrainians rejoiced when our country was invaded. Some greeted the German army with bread and salt, the traditional symbols of welcome, hoping the Nazis would rule more humanely than the iron-fisted communists. After two years of German occupation, the Soviet Army drove the Nazis out, fighting so fiercely around Zaporozhe that the Dniepr River ran red with the blood of the dead.

The Soviet Army rounded up all the men who survived the occupation to take to the front. My grandfather, Gavril, was among them. He refused to fight. The Baptist church left decisions about participating in war or bearing arms to each person’s conscience. For Grandpa, it was clear. “I am a Christian,” he said, “and I will not kill anyone.”

To the Soviet authorities, this was traitorous. How could any citizen shirk his duty to defend the Motherland from the fascist invaders? The Nazis treacherously attacked our country, plundered wantonly, slaughtered millions of people, and carried off thousands more to slavery in Germany. Maybe my grandfather would have been more willing to help a regime that had not been so cruel to believers. He certainly wasn’t going to compromise his principles to help the Communist Party complete its Five Year Plan. He would remain true to his faith and convictions no matter what.

For many years the authorities sought reasons to arrest Grandpa for his faith; now they had grounds to execute him. He was tried, sentenced to death by firing squad, and flung into the death cell with others condemned to die. There he sat for an entire month. The guards distributed almost no food and offered no medical care of any kind to these prisoners, reasoning that the inmates were going to die anyway. Why waste good food or medicine on traitors and criminals?

Every morning, as the pale winter sun peaked through the tiny window high up in the wall of the unheated cell, the cell’s door grated open and a guard would appear. As he probed the faces of the condemned with his flashlight, the prisoners waited, resigned, knowing what was about to happen—one of their number would be called out never to return, and each one hoped to be spared one more day. But the guard’s light would finally settle on one weary face. “You. Let’s go.”

One morning the light drilled into Grandpa’s face. He calmly said good-bye to his cellmates. After a month in the death cell he still wasn’t sure why he had been arrested. Was it for refusing to fight in the army, refusing to kill another human being? Or was it simply for his faith? Now his sentence was about to be fulfilled; it didn’t matter why he was to die. He staggered to his feet, lightheaded from hunger, stiff from inactivity.

The weak light of the winter sun pierced Grandpa’s eyes when he left the cell. Each step was a struggle, every muscle protesting, pain shooting through his feet as he walked to certain death, his heart at peace. He knew that in a few minutes he would be rewarded for his faith and enjoy eternal life with God. The guards marched Grandpa along the muddy streets of the camp. As they passed the headquarters, an officer came out. “Where are you taking this man?” he asked.

“To the firing squad.”

“What has he done?”

“He’s a Baptist leech who won’t fight.”

“My mother was a Baptist,” said the officer. “I can’t allow you to kill him. Give him another trial.” At the second trial they sentenced Grandpa to ten years hard labor in a concentration camp in Siberia. Grandpa’s suffering was only beginning.


My Opinion:


I’m half way through this book and like the other books I have read about missionaries or the persecuted church, this one just speaks to my heart.  Knowing how fortunate we are here, in the United States, to be able to worship freely as well as be able to have the choice in where and how our children are educated makes this book all that more powerful.  It’s a wake up call for those who think it couldn’t happen here, and for those who think the trials described in this book couldn’t possibly have happened – it serves as a wake up call that not all countries are open to Christians.


If you have a heart for the persecuted church or if you want to read about others who have paved the way for others who have come after, then the story of Brynza family will be just what you’re looking for.  Told from the viewpoint of the children and their son in law, the story just exudes the reality of what it was like to grow up in a Communist country and not being free to express your own beliefs out loud and what it means to have to hide or be thrown in jail or even murdered for owning a Bible or teaching your children about God.

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FIRST Tour: Katie Opens Her Heart by Jerry Eicher

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
Jerry Eicher
and the book:
Katie Opens Her Heart
Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen for sending me a review copy.***

Jerry Eicher’s bestselling Amish fiction (more than 210,000 in combined sales) includes The Adams County Trilogy, the Hannah’s Heart books, and the Little Valley Series. After a traditional Amish childhood, Jerry taught for two terms in Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. Since then he’s been involved in church renewal, preaching, and teaching Bible studies. Jerry lives with his wife, Tina, and their four children in Virginia.
Visit the author’s website.


Jerry Eicher (nearly half a million copies sold) returns with the first book in another of his delightful series centering on Amish life.

Here is the story of a young Amish girl, Katie Raber, who finds she wants more from life than to be known as simply “Emma Raber’s daughter.”

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736952519

ISBN-13: 978-0736952514


The early morning sun was rising over the well-kept farms of Delaware’s Amish country as Katie Raber drove her buggy toward Byler’s Store near Dover to begin her day’s work. She squinted when she spotted an approaching buggy in the distance. The horse had its neck arched high in the air. Katie didn’t have to think long before she decided who was coming toward her. Ben Stoll would be holding the reins. It was his buggy. She was sure of that. Ben was one of the best-looking Amish boys around. Blessed was any girl who was invited to ride with him in his buggy—something Katie figured she would never experience. Ben was without a doubt the catch among the community’s Amish young men. A cloud crossed the sun, and Katie held the buggy lines tight as she kept her eyes glued on the approaching buggy. Perhaps she could catch a glimpse of Ben this morning. That was all she could hope for. He was from another world. Ben never spoke to her, and she only saw him at the Sunday meetings and the Amish youth gatherings Mamm allowed her to attend. There he would be laughing and talking with someone else—someone more suited to his taste than “plain Katie,” the out-of-step daughter of the odd widow Emma Raber. Katie could walk right under Ben Stoll’s nose, and he wouldn’t even know a shadow had gone by.Yah, she was Emma Raber’s daughter. That’s how most people in the community thought of her. She even thought of herself that way—just an extension of her mamm. Mamm was nice enough, and Emma really loved her. So, nee, she wasn’t really complaining. But sometimes her mamm did unusual things, and that made Katie seem so…well, weird to the other young adults in the Amish community. For one thing, there would be no rumspringa for Katie. Everyone else she knew among the Delaware Amish would have their time to run around and try out the ways of the world. But not Katie. Emma Raber wouldn’t even consider such a thing for her daughter. And the Amish youth gatherings were few and far between. Mamm was suspicious of even those. “Too much socializing,” she had said.

She could live without rumspringa. Or without Ben Stoll, for that matter. So what, Katie told herself, it might even be best for her if Ben were unobtainable. He might not be all that wunderbah if she ever got to know him. Katie sighed. These were desperate excuses, and she knew it, but lately Mamm’s restrictions were becoming harded and harder to bear. She was only trying to make herself feel better. Ben was wunderbah. Even her friend Arlene Miller wasn’t above stealing a glance at Ben—and that with her boyfriend, Nelson Graber, sitting right across from her at the Sunday night hymn singings!

Katie wondered if all the girls were as taken with Ben as she was. She was aware of everything about him. She noticed when he wore a new black suit at communion time every spring. She noticed the way his buggy shone when the sun rays bounced off the sides at the Sunday meetings. The boy must spend hours waxing the black vinyl of his buggy, she thought. And most of all, she noticed the way Ben smiled when he was happy, which seemed like most of the time. What would it be like to be the kind of girl who made Ben smile that smile? Ha! Certainly a simple, plain soul like Emma Raber’s daughter couldn’t be such a girl…ever.

Katie tried to look away from the fast-approaching buggy. She was way too fascinated with the boy. If Mamm knew her feelings, Katie knew she’d be given a lecture the size of the state of Delaware and right at the kitchen table after supper. Yah, Mamm would not understand how she felt. Life had been hard for Mamm, especially when it came to men. Hadn’t Daett passed away when Katie was still a young girl? The loss had been so painful for Mamm that she might never marry again.

The beat of horse hooves on pavement grew louder. Katie eased open her buggy door just enough to make sure that whoever was in the passing buggy could see it was her in case a greeting was forthcoming. With her hands on the reins, Katie held her breath as the buggy approached and passed without its buggy door opening even an inch. Katie saw the unmistakable outline of Ben’s face through the small window. His hat was tight on his head, and his eyes were looking straight ahead. The moment passed in a flash without the smallest flicker of a hand wave through the window. And then the buggy was gone.

It was the sun in his eyes, Katie told herself. That’s why Ben hadn’t slid open the buggy door or bothered to wave. But she knew better. Ben wasn’t being mean. No, she just wasn’t worth the effort. He had greater and better things on his mind than paying attention to Emma Raber’s odd daughter. Now if she were beautiful, or charming, or funny, or even talkative at the Sunday-night hymn singings, it might be different. With such qualities, perhaps her plainness could be overcome. But all that was a dream that would never come true. She couldn’t be what she wasn’t.

Perhaps she should settle for Joe Helmuth from down the road. Joe walked with a limp from a hay wagon accident when he was five. He would take over his daett’s farm someday, but the scars from that long-ago day would never leave him. The problem was that Joe didn’t pay Katie any attention either.

Well, at least thinking about Ben Stoll helped ease the pain a little, Katie decided. She was only Katie Raber, after all. The girl who could barely open her mouth without dumb words falling out all over each other. If she could only be more like the rest of the Amish girls in the community. But that could never be either, not with how Mamm felt about things.

Katie slapped the reins against her horse as her thoughts swirled through her mind. She couldn’t remember much about Daett. He’d been gone since she was three years old. She could remember happy times though. Going to the barn with him when they did the evening chores. But that was so long ago. If she only had a daett, Katie decided, life would be different. If Mamm married again, Katie figured both of them would be better accepted in the community and Mamm might change her ways. The most obvious possibility was widower Jesse Mast. And he’d come calling on Mamm again just the other evening. Mamm hadn’t said anything about the visit, but Jesse had surely spoken of marriage.

Yah, Mamm should marry again, Katie decided. Mamm’s sorrow over losing her husband was still written on her face after all these years. Was it not high time things changed? Yah, and Katie would pray about the matter.

Da Hah must already be thinking the same thing if He was sending Mamm a suitor in the person of Jesse Mast. So why couldn’t Mamm see this and accept Jesse’s offer of marriage? Was she turning him down because he wasn’t much to look at? Yah, he was a little rough around the edges. But it wasn’t like Mamm to be so concerned with outward appearance. She went more by a person’s kind heart than how he looked on the outside. Perhaps it was the fact that Jesse’s frau, Millie, had died and left him with a family of five children. Was that why Mamm objected? She didn’t want her household increased so dramatically?

Nee, Katie decided that couldn’t be the reason either. Mamm didn’t mind hard work. And if a large family was the problem, she should have been happy after turning down Jesse. Instead, Mamm had walked around the house with the lines on her face running deeper than ever. So why had she turned Jesse down? That was assuming Mamm had turned him down. The proposal of marriage was just a guess on Katie’s part, but she was sure she was right. It couldn’t have been anything else. The two had talked for a long time while sitting on the porch swing. Afterward, Jesse had stood in the yard for a few moments longer, still speaking with Mamm. He’d held his hat in his hand, the sweat ring in his hair still apparent from where the hat had been pressed tightly on his head. Then Jesse had walked back to his buggy, his head bowed. Even Jesse’s horse, Lucy, had looked depressed as they drove down the lane.

Katie had been ready to ask Mamm what Jesse wanted, but one look at her face caused her to change her mind. Mamm looked troubled and yet, at the same time, ready to give someone a piece of her mind. A question from Katie could easily have resulted in another lecture she didn’t want to hear. A lecture about being satisfied with one’s lot in life and not reaching for the stars. That was the standard lecture Mamm always gave when Katie dared complain about attending more of the Amish youth gatherings.

“You don’t know how nice you have it,” Mamm would say. “We have enough to eat, a roof over our heads, and horses to drive us to work and church. What more could we ask for?”

Well, Katie thought, there was plenty more to ask for. All kinds of things a young woman could want. Things that were out there just waiting to enrich one’s life—and, happily, things that were not forbidden by the Ordnung. Like liking a boy. Like someday loving a man who would love her back and consider his life empty without her. Someone who’s eyes would light up when he saw her. Someone who called her sweet things on Sunday nights as he sat on the couch beside her. Wasn’t that what dating couples did? Mamm wouldn’t say when Katie asked, other than muttering something about useless talking until all hours of the night.

How could such time be considered wasted? Katie wondered. It would be glory indeed to sit beside a boy—a soon-to-be man so near she could touch him. What delight it would be to hear his deep voice rumble when he spoke or feel his eyes watching her long before she looked up to meet his gaze. Nee, this couldn’t be wasted time. It would be a touch of heaven, and the most worthwhile thing a girl could set her heart on. Especially if the boy were Ben Stoll…

Katie sighed. So had Jesse Mast asked for Mamm’s hand? Had she turned him down? She’d sent him away looking disappointed, so something was going on. And then there was that look on Mamm’s face in the evenings after the sun had set and the house was quiet. Mamm didn’t like the loneliness of their house either—the hours without a man’s voice being heard. She’d been silent after Jesse left that night, staring at the kitchen wall and seemingly more troubled than usual.

What could she do to help? Katie wondered. She should do something, yah.

A car passed Katie’s buggy, its engine roaring. Katie forced her mind back on the road ahead. Her horse, Sparky, knew the way to Byler’s Store. He should after all this time she’d worked there. But even so, he mustn’t be allowed to go his own way.

Ahead of her, Bishop Jonas Miller’s place was coming up. His wife, Laura, was out in the yard hanging wash on the line. Katie leaned out of the buggy to wave, and Laura paused long enough to wave back before bending again to her work. At least the older Amish folk didn’t think she was strange, even with her Mamm the way she was.

Katie settled herself in the buggy seat again. If Mamm married Jesse, she might have to stay home from her job at Byler’s and help with the added work five children entailed. But that would be an attractive kind of work—more normal almost. And it could lead to other kinds of normalness in her life. And perhaps even to a boy sitting on the couch beside her some Sunday night after a hymn singing. Yah, somehow Mamm must be persuaded to accept Jesse’s offer of marriage.

Katie turned into the parking lot at Byler’s and pulled Sparky to a stop at the far end of the hitching rail that was located on one side of the store. She climbed down, unhitched the buggy, and led Sparky around to the back where he could munch at stray pieces of grass during the day. She tied him to the fence with a long rope before walking back to the buggy. She pushed both doors shut before heading to the employee entrance of the store.

My Opinion:

I read this one after I read the 2nd book, Katie’s Journey to Love, and I hated that I did that because while in book 2 I was wondering what happened to Emma to make her “strange” – this book didn’t grip me like book 2 did.  This book starts slower and explores more of Emma’s life and that of Jess Mast pursuing her for marriage, both have lost their spouses.  Katie, Emma’s daughter is exploring life outside of her mother’s house because she is simply tired of being seen as just “Emma Raber’s daughter”.  Having no friends to speak of in the Amish community and the Mennonites welcome her in and see her as Katie, and she relishes the attention that she is given and finally belongs.


There is some tension in the book between Ruth, who wants Jesse to marry her although she denies it and Jesse’s daughter Mabel, who doesn’t want her daett marrying Emma for her new mamm.  However, while I usually so enjoy Jerry S. Eicher’s books this one just didn’t hold my attention like the second one did and it took me a bit longer to read through it but it was still a good book – I do recommend however, the reader makes sure they read this series in order as I think that would have helped my overall opinion.  With that aside, I did enjoy the book, the characters stresses seem real and their struggles don’t just dissolve when something good happens in their life.



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Finis! (Latin for The End)

We began our school year in April 2012 and we are now at the end of February 2013 – this was also our first year of year round schooling, which has gone very well and allows us to take Fridays off for planning, errands, field trips or whatever needs to be done that.  We’ve covered much ground – having completed the entire text of Apologia’s Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day by December of 2012 and moving on to Apologia’s Swimming Creatures of which we are already in week 4!



We also finished Mystery of History Volume 2 last week!  Which was bittersweet, we all enjoy Mystery of History and the fact that it comes from a Creationist, young earth and Christ centered perspective makes it all the better.  The children enjoyed learning about Roger Bacon (mainly they enjoyed his last name), I enjoyed learning about Johannes Gutenberg (I’ll let my readers come up with the reason for that!) my oldest enjoyed learning about Joan of Arc.

My son holding up our finished timeline – while the oldest takes a picture.

A bit of an up close – yes we had lots of lines left so I know to spread them out more during MoH 3

Along with completing Volume 2 we also completed the time line, which we didn’t do with Volume 1, I’m disappointed we didn’t but we’ll cycle back through again later and will do it then.  Our timeline looks lovely – the only thing I did (with hubby’s help) was to cover it in the contact paper and put the duct tape strips on – the children decorated the figures themselves, I like knowing it’s their timeline versus my perfect one that I would have tried to make.  It’ll be a keepsake for years to come!


The children participating in the experiment of how well sound travels – using yarn and Styrofoam cups. It was fun and was much like the telephones I’d make as a child.


The other item of note that was finished last week was my oldest DD’s Writing Tales Level 2 – I made a deal with her that if she’d work on the Poetry course I’d been given to review, she could be done with three weeks early with Writing Tales.  She liked that idea.  Also my middle daughter finished her 2nd year of Latin!  She now knows 4 prayers in Latin, lots of vocabulary and declensions.  I’ll be drilling her on this until we start her new Latin in April.


Our assessment is already scheduled which makes me happy and I’m am so glad that our year has gone so well and I look forward to keeping on keeping on!


FIRST Tour: Friend Me: Turning Faces Into Lasting Friendships by Donna Carter

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today’s Wild Card author is:
Donna Carter
and the book:
Friend Me: Turning Faces Into Lasting Friendshipsx
Whitaker House (February 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling for sending me a review copy.***

Donna Carter is an author and popular women’s speaker whose fans have been clamoring for more since she released her book and DVD 10 Smart Things Women Can Do to Build a Better Life. Donna is known for her clarity, humor and the “light bulb” moments she triggers for women seeking spiritual direction. She grew up in a family of girls and continues to relish opportunities to share and learn from other women, maintaining that a good women’s retreat should include “laughing, crying, and hugging.” Donna and her husband Randy are the co-founders of Straight Talk Ministries, a non-profit organization committed to helping people find faith and apply it to everyday life. They live in Calgary, Canada, and are the parents of two young adult daughters and a new son-in-law.

Visit the author’s website.


Everyone from grade schoolers to grandmas are accumulating Facebook friends but fewer people than ever are developing close friendships according to Donna Carter, author of Friend Me. “Real face to face friendship is becoming a lost art,” she says. “In a world driven by social media, friendships can be a mile wide and an inch deep.” In her new book from Whitaker House, Carter maintains that humans need real relationships that require live interaction with real individuals. She shows readers how to win friends as well as how to take the risks associated with building, repairing, and preserving friendships. Filled with examples, humor, and framed by a poignant, personal story, Friend Me leads readers along the path to more soul satisfying friendships and challenges them to embrace, heal, and nurture the relationship of ultimate importance — a friendship with God.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Whitaker House (February 1, 2013)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1603746900

ISBN-13: 978-1603746908


Just One FriendMy friends all thought they were there to help me celebrate my fortieth birthday—to have lunch, sing, eat cake, and laugh. But that wasn’t why I had invited them to the restaurant. I had something quite different in mind. The poor waiter must have been confused by the whole event. One minute, he walked into the private dining room we occupied and found us laughing uncontrollably; when he came back, moments later, he found us all in tears.

Why had I arranged a gathering of my friends at the restaurant that day? Because I was determined not to repeat a mistake for which I was still struggling to forgive myself. On that day, I told my friends—all of the dear women who mean so much to me—how much I appreciated them, the specific ways in which each of them enriched my life, and how thankful I was that God had brought them into my life. I knew I might not have another chance….


I could hardly believe it. After twenty years of living at least half a continent away from each other, my dearest childhood friend, Sonja, and I would finally be living in the same neighborhood again. After years of missionary work in Europe and ministry elsewhere in Canada, Sonja, her husband, Brian, and their children were moving back to Calgary.

I first met Sonja when I was ten, and we were inseparable from that point forward. When we grew up and got married, she was my maid of honor, and I was hers. At my wedding reception, I introduced her with several lines from “Seasons in the Sun,” a song by Terry Jacks that was popular then—specifically, the verse that reminisces about the joys of childhood friendships and the shared lessons of life and love learned in that season.

Shortly after our marriages, our paths diverged. And it wasn’t until August 2000 that we were together again.

But there was a problem.

During Sonja’s second pregnancy, thirteen years prior to our reunion, she had developed a pesky cough that wouldn’t go away. The doctors suspected pneumonia. After performing some tests, they delivered some good news: Sonja was carrying twins. They also delivered some bad news: Sonja had cancer—specifically, a very aggressive cancer called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

She and Brian were stationed in Germany at the time, and because the doctors couldn’t guarantee the effectiveness of the treatment protocol on a pregnant woman, they scheduled her for an abortion. Sonja and Brian both refused, and they brought their family back to Calgary, where she underwent aggressive chemotherapy, even though the doctors weren’t sure how it would affect her unborn babies. Their speculation about deformities and other severe birth defects challenged Brian and Sonja’s faith daily as Sonja endured the treatment and its side effects.

But the treatment seemed to be working. The twins were born three months premature, and, while they faced profound breathing problems and other issues common among preemies, they were otherwise healthy and whole. Immediately after the twins’ cesarean birth, Sonja’s radiation treatment began.

Only months after Sonja and her family returned to Germany, the cancer came back. So, it was to Canada again for further chemo, followed by a bone marrow transplant. The treatment was successful, in that Sonja was cured of cancer—yet the treatment also resulted in complications that now posed a new risk to her cancer-free body.


I met Sonja halfway through the school year in fifth grade at Mapleridge Elementary School, when she moved to the area with her family. I remember thinking that my new classmate looked very grown-up and very, very, groovy. Her hair was long, styled in a wavy shag, and her blue eyes peered somewhat shyly through her oval wire-rimmed glasses. She wore denim hip-huggers and a macramé belt. She was tall and curvy; I was skinny and, well, skinny. I was very impressed by this cool new girl, and I wanted to be her friend. So, I introduced myself. And our lives were forever changed.

A few weeks later, we were standing outside the school, talking, as usual, until we had to part ways. We couldn’t walk home together because Sonja lived to the west of the school, while I lived to the east. That day, Sonja told me that her parents were getting a divorce. I felt sad for my friend. I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel if my parents decided to separate.

I started inviting my new friend to attend various church activities with me, including girls’ club, camp, and Sunday school. Sonja seemed happy to oblige, and it wasn’t long before she made the decision to become a follower of Jesus. Faith in God was just one more thing we had in common. Beyond our shared interest in boys and books and clothes and music—and our mutual, alarming lack of athletic prowess—we now shared the unique bond of those who have given their lives to Jesus. What had been a close friendship became much more. We were, in the words of L. M. Montgomery’s character Anne of Green Gables, “kindred spirits.”

As Sonja’s parents’ divorce was finalized, Sonja’s mom, Bonnie, decided that she wanted to get away from Calgary—away from her ex-husband, away from the memories, just away. She decided to move with her three girls to Lethbridge, a city about two hours south. Sonja and I were devastated. We couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing each other every day. We moped and we mourned.

And then, the house across the street from mine went up for sale.

My bedroom window overlooked that brown bungalow, and I’ll never forget the day Sonja and I knelt together at that window and prayed to God that Sonja would live in that house instead of moving to Lethbridge.

The next phase of our plan was to march up to the door of the house, knock, and request entrance, to find out whether it would be a suitable home. (We needed to gather some ammunition for our argument to Sonja’s mom if we hoped to convince her that she should move six blocks away rather than leave the city altogether.) I can only imagine what the homeowner across the street thought when two twelve-year-old girls showed up to talk real estate.

The house was all wrong for Bonnie and her three girls. It had only three bedrooms, the basement had not been finished, and, most significant, it wasn’t located in Lethbridge. Still, I knew it was meant for Sonja and her family.

Bonnie bought the house. To this day, I don’t know what made her change her mind and make such a radical change of plans. It must have had something to do with our childlike faith in a great God who loves to give good gifts to His children. For I can think of no greater gift in those early years of adolescence than having my best friend close by. Besides my family, Sonja was my whole world. To this day, I can’t imagine what my teenage years might have been like without her.

Living across the street from each other enabled us to spend even more of our time together. Sonja became part of our family, and I part of hers. If she wasn’t at my house, I was probably at hers. My other friends would actually phone Sonja’s house and ask for me. More than once, I went along on a family vacation with Sonja, her sisters, and her mother. Maybe Bonnie wanted to avoid all of the hugs and tears that went on whenever we had to spend a week or two apart.

Living so close also meant that when I went to church, Sonja came, too. When my parents dragged me to girls’ club, I dragged Sonja to girls’ club; if I went to Bible camp, so did she. It was through these contacts that she learned to love God with her whole heart, grew a strong faith, and met a young man named Brian—with whom she eventually fell head-over-heels in love.

It was okay that I wasn’t popular at school. It was okay if I was mocked for taking a stand when my faith demanded it. It was okay to say no to peer pressure. Because, at the end of the day, Sonja was still my friend; I always had someone to walk home with. Cool or uncool, cheerful or ill-tempered, succeeding with flying colors or failing miserably, I knew Sonja loved me for who I was, and I returned her unconditional love.

Our loyalty faced occasional challenges. When we were approaching our graduation from ninth grade (long before Sonja met Brian), Sonja secured a date to the festivities—a boy she’d met in band. I had no such prospects. Unwilling to leave such an important match up to chance, I mustered my courage and invited a high-school boy named John, whom I knew only slightly from church but had admired from afar.

He must have been flattered, because he agreed to go. Soon after, we started dating. Of course, everywhere I went with John, Sonja came along, because wherever there was a Donna, there was a Sonja, too.

Somewhere along the line, however, John’s affections shifted. It turns out that I was the third wheel, not Sonja, and I didn’t even know it. When I was on vacation, John made his interests known to Sonja, and they started spending time together.

When I returned, the truth came out. Sonja admitted to having stolen “my” boyfriend. We talked about it—amazingly enough, without a lot of emotionalism or drama—and decided that no boy was worth jeopardizing our friendship. Sonja dialed his number, I picked up another receiver, and together we made a “Dear John” call. As cute as he was, our friendship was way more important.

When I look back at the depth and quality of our relationship, I am simply amazed. I know I must have driven Sonja crazy at times. Walking to school with me every day meant earning at least a dozen late slips a year, for which she was not to blame. I was the flighty extrovert; she was the voice of reason. I had the wild imagination; she, the dry sense of humor. Outside my family, no one but Sonja could have known how fragile I truly was. How often she protected me, comforted me, and steadied me! Without her, this social butterfly would have dissolved like tissue paper in a pounding rain.


At my wedding reception, when I introduced Sonja with those lyrics from “Seasons in the Sun,” I didn’t quote the line that came next. Now, it haunts me, because it’s basically a farewell to a dying friend.

During the summer months before Sonja’s return to Calgary, I had been studying the life of King David and was deeply touched by the biblical account of his final encounter with his best friend, Jonathan, who knew that he was about to die. In a moving scene of love, grief, loyalty, and commitment, Jonathan asked David to make a solemn promise: that when the battle was over and the dust had settled on his grave, David would take care of his family.

On Tuesday, September 19, I was on my way to see Sonja with the intention of making a similar promise to her. I knew her fragile body was failing fast, and I struggled to prepare myself emotionally for what I knew might be our last encounter this side of heaven. I stood in the main lobby of the Foothills Hospital, waiting for one of the six elevators to admit me. One set of doors opened, and out stepped Sonja’s mom, Bonnie, and her sister Paula. They were as surprised to see me as I was to see them, and we stood there, looking at each other, not sure what to say in such a heavy moment.

Finally, Paula broke the silence. “She’s gone!”

I stood there silently, trying to take it in.

I had missed my chance to say good-bye by mere moments.

Thankfully, I had been to see Sonja a few days prior. I had helped her into a wheelchair and moved her outside into the sunshine. She’d always loved the sun. We’d talked and prayed together. I’d hugged her and told her I loved her. But there was so much more to say.

I had tried to see Sonja two more times before she passed away, but neither occasion was convenient; either the room had been full of relatives or doctors, or Sonja had been taken elsewhere for tests. We never got to say all there was to say—to laugh at all our old jokes, to smile at all our long-held secrets, to relive all our precious memories. I wish I’d had the maturity when we were teenagers, or the sensitivity later, when the miles came between us, to tell her just how much she had always meant to me.

Losing Sonja was like having the core of my childhood ripped out of me. That sensitive, silly young girl still living somewhere deep inside of me feels such a profound sense of loss.

Yet, in other ways, I have not lost Sonja at all. I would not be who I am today if it hadn’t been for her. I would not enjoy the rapport I do with other women. The close connection I had with Sonja has become the standard, the template, for every friendship I’ve formed since knowing her—the foundation of empathy and trust on which all of my relationships have been built.

Thank you, Sonja, my friend.

My Opinion:

I’m still reading and will give my opinion when I’m finished.

Comments Off on FIRST Tour: Friend Me: Turning Faces Into Lasting Friendships by Donna Carter

Crew Review: Handwriting Without Tears: 3 Grade Cursive

Handwriting without Tears Logo

My 8 year old, 3rd grade daughter has struggled with writing since she began writing – it’s a fight to get her to do writing and she constantly complains how her hand hurts – so when I  had the chance to review Handwriting Without Tears for her I knew I had to give it a try.  I requested and received the 3rd grade cursive student workbook ($8.25) and teacher’s manual ($9.25) as I thought that cursive would be easier for her to learn since her grip is so tight when she’s printing.
HWOT 3rd Grade Workbook

The teacher’s manual is pretty much everything a parent will need in order to teach their child how to write using cursive, from pencil grip (I love the multiple ways that are given), to using different learning styles, different mediums and lesson plan guides on how and when to teach which part.  My daughter enjoys the ‘flip the pencil trick’ which gives her a lighter and looser grip but also allows her to hold her pencil correctly – she’s using this trick for most of her subjects now.  The teacher’s manual gives several ways to teach cursive such as the teaching with technology which requires and additional purchase, air writing, laser letters, the teacher writes, as well as cursive exercises and warm ups.

The child begins with learning some basic strokes that are used for making each letter and since the cursive isn’t the slanted type it’s easier for the child to learn the strokes up and down, versus having to slant them.  There is some interesting reading in the teacher’s manual regarding why they do not teach slanted cursive.  The cursive the child will learn looks very similar to the printed letters they already know with the exception of the connection strokes.  The student manual is written in child friendly language so that they can read along by themselves and understand what is written.  There are no colorful, distracting pictures but simple large, black and white models for the child to follow step by step.  The workbook is also great for left handed writers as the child can see the model as they write instead of it being covered up by their arm.

My daughter at first was hesitant to begin cursive but after I introduced the first lesson and how to hold the pencil she is now asking and excited to do her cursive writing.  I’m hoping as we continue with even more lessons that she’ll use her cursive which seems to be easier for her.  I used the lesson plans in the back of the book omitting the ones, like the stomp your feet, because unfortunately we have no chairs in which the children’s feet touch the floor.  She has enjoyed most of the warms ups such as the “magic-C bunny” and the wet, dry, try and she loves to use the workbook.

Here she is working on the first lesson.

I try to look ahead so I can read the lessons and know what I’ll need to do or what I need to demonstrate before we actually begin so that I’m not flipping back and forth during the lesson.   We are still working on lower case, which is what the child will begin with, and what my daughter once thought would be hard has become fun.  We work through the lesson plans Monday through Thursday devoting about 15 to 30 minutes for a lesson, depending on how she is doing – if she begins to struggle or grow frustrated we put it aside and come back to it the next day, but as the name suggests, Handwriting Without Tears – makes learning cursive fun and easy and it seems her frustrations and worries about it have fallen to the wayside.

**Disclaimer:  I recieved a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review.  I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.  All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family.  I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.



Earn free Books, Bibles and audios



I’ve posted before about the new program from Tyndale, called Tyndale Rewards.  You accrue points for doing various things such as writing reviews on Tyndale Products on consumer sites, taking surveys, inviting friends to join and more!  We’ve been very blessed by this program so far we’ve received the following:





And I just ordered this:



It really doesn’t take much time to do a few things each month and let your points build up.  I’ve only been doing this since December, I think or maybe January?  If you’d like to join and help both of us out you can use my personal Tyndale Rewards code.

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Hands-On Science Fun

We are really enjoying our Apologia Swimming Creatures study.  We finished up Lesson 3 this week by doing an experiment to simulate blubber that both pinnipeds and cetaceans have to stay warm.  This was very messy but we all had fun with it.

I managed to get some video so if you’re interested feel free to watch the children.


Bethanne’s video


Hannah’s video


Christian’s video


So we discovered that blubber, or in our case, vegetable shortening, does indeed keep one warmer than not having blubber.  My son has been asking to repeat the process but I don’t think I’m up for it just yet – it got quite greasy.  I also must say that I was thinking that there was no way my children could have been able to do this experiment had they not been homeschooled.  It was great to see them get so excited over this experiment.

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Homeschool Mother’s Journal – February 22, 2013


In my life this week:


Well I cut my hair as did my hubby and children – you can read Hair Cuts! to read more about that.  I’ve signed up for another review company called WAHM Reviewers which means I hope to be able to bring you, my readers, more interesting product reviews!  This week marks the 3rd week that I have worked out everyday (well I still have to complete Saturday’s but since I’m posting today we’ll go ahead and assume I am going to do it).  My friend and I made the decision to put our 4H Club on hiatus and I am not trying to find a new Club for my children.  We also attended our first American Heritage Girls meeting this past Sunday – it was a blast and I know the girls are going to enjoy themselves.


In our homeschool this week:


We finished Mystery of History Vol. 2 – the girls took the semester test and did very well, not that I actually give them a grade, but it seems like they’ve retained a lot of what we learned.  I don’t give the tests to my son as he can’t read and he’s only 6.  My 8 year old also finished her 2nd year of Latin by completing Prima Latina!


Helpful homeschooling tips or advice to share:


Don’t get so caught in getting school done that life passes you by.


Places we’re going and people we’re seeing:


Sunday we went to our first American Heritage Girls meeting and there were a lot of parents and children there.  Tuesday was dance, which the girls missed as they weren’t feeling well but son did go to his martial arts class as he tests on 2/28.  Thursday was again martial arts for my son.  Today, we have dentists appointments for all three children and then we have to stop at the store and get some essentials.


My favorite thing this week was:


How great I feel between spending time in the Word and exercising and also knowing that my 2nd DD finished her 2nd year of Latin.


My littles favorite thing this week was:


Not sure about my oldest but my 6 year old is looking forward to the dentist and my 8 year old is glad to be done with Latin until April.


Things I’m working on:


Keeping up with exercising and watching portion sizes/calories.  Doing reviews, reading, and trying to be the best wife and mom I can be.


I’m cooking:


I’ve made Mongolian Beef, sloppy joes, and we’ve had frozen pizza a couple times just because of busyness (yes I can have frozen pizza as long as I cut it very carefully)


I’m grateful for:


My friends who are supportive, a husband who is putting up with my exercise and food obsession and being able to be at home with my children.


I’m praying for:


A friend of mine who had surgery last week and is still in pain.  Another friend who is dealing with some personal issues.  My children.  My husband.  The unsaved.


I rewarded my kids this week by:


I told my oldest if she’d do a poetry course we got for review that she could be done with her other writing curricula – this was a BIG reward for her since she came to dread it.  Otherwise, my hubby is going to let them pick out something at the Dollar Tree later today.


Something I am oogling or have my eye on:


I’d like a yoga mat (I don’t do yoga) but it’d be great for those exercises that require me to lie on my back on sit on my knees.  I’d also like some heavier hand weights and ankle weights as well as an exercise ball and rebounder.


A photo to share:


Grabbed this picture this morning as one of our dogs, Chico, was curled up sleeping with my son.



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