Category Archives: giveaway

Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker with Sheryl Berk (Baker Books, 2016)

Book Review – Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker {plus giveaway!}

Everything is Possible by Jen Bricker with Sheryl Berk (Baker Books, 2016)

About the book (from the publisher):

Everything is Possible: Finding the Faith and Courage to Follow Your Dreams by Jen Bricker with Sheryl Berk (Baker Books, 2016)

Jen Bricker was born without legs. Shocked and uncertain they could care for her, her biological parents gave her up for adoption. In her loving adoptive home, there was just one simple rule: “Never say ‘can’t.'” And pretty soon, there was nothing this small but mighty powerhouse set her sights on that she couldn’t conquer: roller-skating, volleyball, power tumbling, and spinning from silk ribbons thirty feet in the air.

Everything Is Possible is her incredible story–a story of God working out his plan for her life from before day one. Readers follow Jen from the challenges of growing up different to holding captive audiences numbering in the tens of thousands. Everything Is Possible shows readers what they can accomplish when they remove the words coincidence and limitation from their vocabulary. Filled with heart and spirit, as well as Jen’s wit, wisdom, and no-holds-barred honesty, this inspiring true story points the way to purpose and joy. Foreword by Nick Vujicic.

My thoughts:

This book will encourage its readers. As a mother of a child with multiple special needs, I was particularly interested in reading it.

Each chapter includes the author describing something about herself or recalling an aspect of her life or an obstacle she overcome. Within each chapter, she features a brief note from someone important in her life who offers another perspective on Jen’s personality. The chapters wrap up with a summary of the message the author hopes to convey to the reader.

The writing is simple, which makes it a fast, easy read. Quite a few cliches make appearances (like “cool as a cucumber” or “Energizer bunny”) and, though this is a memoir, the writing tone sometimes seems a touch too self-praising, particularly in the early chapters. But, I think the intention is more to let Jen’s energy and positive outlook bust through each page rather than be bragging. This book isn’t meant to offer deep theological truths, but instead to share a story that might boost others.

“…the little choices we make–the small, the mundane, the minuscule ones–make the big ones possible.” – p. 170

Her story shines of courage and perseverance, and she attests to the power positive attitude and growing faith has in everyone’s life, especially in the special needs world.

Book Giveaway!

I have one copy of Everything is Possible to give away to one of you! Fill out the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Jen Bricker’s book. (US residents only; sorry!)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms of giveaway: This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end at the end of the day (Eastern) October 2, 2016. All entrants must be 18 years old or older. Enter through the Rafflecopter widget above. Incomplete entries will be deleted. Once a winner is selected, I will contact them via email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I will select another winner.

What is one of your favorite verses to lean on during struggles?

Want to try new books each month? Check out Book of the Month club:

Book of the Month

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family! For Book of the Month, if you click my referral link and join, I receive a small bonus.

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

A review of Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Insights from Author Susan Meissner {Plus book giveaway!}

On Friday, I posted my review of Susan Meissner’s stellar new historical fiction novel, Secrets of a Charmed Life. (If you want to read what the book is about or missed that review, click here to read it!)

Today, I’m honored to share some of Susan Meissner’s insights to writing this novel. (Plus, stayed tuned to the end of the post for information on a book giveaway!)

Q&A with Susan Meissner

Susan MeissnerSusan Meissner is the author of seventeen books, including A Fall of Marigolds, named to Booklist’s Top Ten Women’s Fiction titles for 2014, and The Shape of Mercy, named one of the 100 Best Novels in 2008 by Publishers Weekly. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. She and her husband make their home in Southern California. (Caroline’s addendum: Plus, she’s super sweet and genuine when you meet her in person! She kindly dealt with my introverted-ness at She Speaks years ago. Thanks, Susan!)

(Susan’s answers are beneath the bolded questions.)

A review of Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

Susan, where did you get the idea for Secrets of a Charmed Life? 

The story began first as an image in my head of an impoverished girl on the brink of adulthood sketching wedding dresses in the tiny bedroom she shares with a younger half-sister. I could see her in my mind’s eye imagining a life far different from the one she is living. She wants a fairy tale life where love and comfort and happiness are in abundance, and for her, that charmed life begins with a wedding dress worn on that blissful day a girl’s childhood dreams come true. I decided to set her in London at the start of the war because I knew that even for a young woman not yet sixteen, war is a crucible. It is a tester of dreams and desires and determination. I knew the London Blitz was an opposition that would bring out the very best and the very worst in this girl, as war so often does.

What drew you to include in your story the evacuation of London’s children?

Prior to researching for this book, I was only minimally aware of what London’s parents did to keep their children safe during World War II. I’d long ago read C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and I knew the four children in those stories had been sent out of London into the countryside at the start of the war. But I didn’t know that for tens of thousands of children just like them that stay in the countryside lasted for the duration of the war. We’re talking five years. How difficult it must have been for the parents and their kids to be separated from each other – with just occasional visits – for half a decade, and during a time of fear, danger, and deprivation. From a storyteller’s standpoint, the emotional pull of this situation is intense. I knew I wanted to explore what this scenario might have been like for two young sisters.

Evacuees

Photos via Susan Meissner

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds (countryside where Emmy and Julia were evacuated) – Photos via Susan Meissner

What is the significance of Emmy’s wedding dress sketches?

Those bridal gown designs represent Emmy’s naïve notions about the happily-ever-after life that she believes begins for a girl on the day she wears a dress emblematic of bliss and perfection. Emmy sees her unwed mother as someone on whom fate has frowned and that she is somewhat to blame for that. Emmy’s vision for her future is to rise above the constraints of her mother’s unlucky life. But those sketches blind her at first to the larger forces at work. And there are always larger forces at work.

Many authors accumulate way more research than what actually makes it into the book. Roughly how much of your overall research do you think is included in Secrets of a Charmed Life? What is one piece of research that didn’t make it into the book that you’d like to share with readers?

I bought or borrowed perhaps twenty different books and read most of them, which makes me think that I perhaps ended up using only half of the content I learned. That’s pretty typical for me, though. I don’t actually know what I will need in the beginning when I am in research mode, so I collect it all. And it’s as I am researching that I find I make the biggest decisions on where the story will go. The one bit that I mention only briefly in the book that was actually a big deal was when the Germans started using V-1 flying rockets in the summer of 1944. These highly destructive missiles were also called harmless-sounding “doodlebugs” but they were nothing to joke about. Londoners knew a V1 was nearby by the rasping, grating noise from the jet engine which powered the missile. They also knew that if this noise continued off into the distance then they were safe. If that sound suddenly cut off however, then there was about 15 seconds to run for cover. Nearly nine thousand people died during the Doodlebug summer.

What were you most surprised by in your research for Secrets of a Charmed Life?

I think many of us who were born after World War II have a limited understanding of what England suffered because there were so many other more shocking situations, like the slaughter of millions of Jews, the occupations of nations like Poland and France, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the storming at the beach at Normandy, and the Bataan Death March, to name just a few. I didn’t realize the magnitude of what London suffered until I took a closer look. The city was never occupied by Hitler’s forces but it was bombed relentlessly. Seven of Christopher Wren’s beautiful churches were destroyed, as were thousands upon thousands of homes. More than sixty thousand civilians were killed in the whole of the British Isles. Those are staggering losses. And yet the British people were and are resilient. Their rallying cry of Keep Calm and Carry On (I truly can’t stand trivializations of this motto!) is truly the hallmark of that resiliency. You can go to London’s East End now and see street after street of 1950’s-era buildings, framed by a quiet horizon of much older buildings that the war did not flatten. London, Coventry and the other bombed cities rebuilt what was destroyed and moved on. The memories of the war aren’t in the streets but in the museums, and in national cemeteries, and sometimes, if you look closely enough, in the faces of those who survived it.

Little girl on bombed streets of London

Photos via Susan Meissner

Authors know a book comes alive when a reader reads it, so themes within are important. What would you especially like readers to take away from Secrets of a Charmed Life?

The title of this book, which I love, is meant to cause the reader to wonder if there really are secrets to living a life that has happily-ever-after written all over it. The title seems to suggest there are hidden truths to being able to have everything you’ve always wanted. But in actuality, and what I hope readers will take away, is that a happy life is not made up of what you have chased and achieved, but rather who you have poured your life into, who has poured their life into yours, and the difference you’ve made in the lives of others. Most of the dreams we pursue don’t have intrinsic worth, but people always do. It’s not a perfect world, and we can only play our own hand of cards – if you will – but if we play the hand as best we can with love for others as the motivation, I think we can rest content.

————————————————————————-

I love Susan’s answer for that last question! See my review from last Friday for some of my personal favorite quotes from the book, including some poignant thoughts on fear and hope.

Susan has graciously offered one signed copy of Secrets of a Charmed Life for one of you! Enter this giveaway through the Rafflecopter widget below. (For shipping reasons, this giveaway is open to US or Canada residents only.)

This giveaway is open from Monday, February 9th through Saturday, February 14th, 2015. See full terms for the giveaway when the Rafflecopter widget. (If you’re an email subscriber, you may need to click over to the actual post to enter the giveaway.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Since we’re talking history, What is a historical event you want to learn more about? (Share your response in the comments below!)

I am an affiliate for Signing Time and Amazon Associates. If you click on a Signing Time link or Amazon and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

 

Grapevine Studies New Testament Overview Part 1 Traceables - Review and Giveaway at Under God's Mighty Hand {Giveaway is open through 9/8/2013}

Review and Giveaway of Grapevine Studies

(Disclosure: I received a free copy of the teacher and student handbooks for The New Testament Overview Traceables from Grapevine Studies in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Affiliate links are present. Thank you for supporting this site!)

When you have young kids, how do you help them really learn the Bible? We’ve read to our children since they were born, and we’ve prayed with them at meals before they could say “amen.” But, how do you help young children begin to build that solid foundation of what real faith is?

I’ve read about Grapevine Studies for nearly two years now, and I’ve held it in my mind to try as soon as my kids were old enough. I then had the opportunity to meet Dianna at Grapevine Studies at the 2:1 Conference last April. Knowing most of the reviews I had read previously mentioned the studies being geared towards 5 years old and up, I chanced asking Dianna if they offered any studies for preschoolers.

Grapevine relatively recently began offering Grapevine Studies Traceables! These studies cover similar material to the beginner level studies, but with traceable stick figure images. When the opportunity arose to review a Traceable study, I jumped at it!

Grapevine Studies New Testament Overview Part 1 Traceables - Review and Giveaway at Under God's Mighty Hand {Giveaway is open through 9/8/2013}

What is Grapevine Studies?

If you haven’t heard of them yet, Grapevines Studies aims to provide Scripture-focused Bible study combined with the tactile component of drawing stick figures to aid in memorization and understanding.

They offer numerous studies, and each study focuses on a time period, a section of the Bible, or a person. Each lesson of the Beginner and Traceable levels looks at three or four small sections of Scripture (2-4 verses each section) with a stick figure drawing to illustrate each one. The lessons then end with 4-6 review questions and a memory verse.

The New Testament Overview (which we reviewed) has a section review halfway through the curriculum with more questions and 10 lessons total. They recommend using a whiteboard to draw the stick figures as a model for your kids. We had a MagnaDoodle handy, so we used that instead of the whiteboard.

Grapevine Studies Traceables Review and Giveaway via Under God's Mighty Hand

See sample lessons of all the levels offered here.

How We Modified Grapevine Studies for Special Needs

My oldest preschooler has multiple special needs, including a severe expressive speech delay (he uses sign language) and minor delays in all other developmental areas. The New Testament Overview was the perfect place for us to start since he’s extremely fascinated with “baby Jesus” right now.

I love that each lesson uses Scripture as the reading text and pinpoints verses to focus on so as not to overwhelm preschoolers with too much information at once.

Our Schedule

We aim to read from the kids’ Bible everyday. Grapevine Studies allows us to continue using whatever Bible we choose, but focuses and reinforces our learning.

We currently aim to read two lessons a week from Grapevine Studies and review those lessons on the day(s) in between. Due to the nature of my son’s special needs, repeating and reviewing material helps him immensely.

Review Questions

Because my son can’t talk, I needed to simplify the review questions. For example, in Lesson 2, I asked my son, “What did the angel tell Mary?” and he would respond “baby Jesus” meaning that the angel told Mary she was going to have baby Jesus. Some of the review questions are above my son’s currently capacity for understanding, so I replaced some questions with simpler ones. A few examples:

I would ask: “What does an angel do?”
His response (in sign language): “angel help God”

I would ask: “What does a shepherd do?”
His response (in sign): “farmer sheep”

I would ask: “What do the shepherds tell others after they meet Jesus?”
His response (in sign): “Thank you God” (to signify that they praise God)

Even those some of our modifications were simpler, these questions help him practice expressing his recalled memories.

Drawing

My son doesn’t draw or write like most kids his age, but we’ve amped up some prewriting activities, and he’s making progress! These traceables add motivation for him to practice more.

Grapevine Studies Traceables Review and Giveaway via Under God's Mighty Hand

I don’t harp on quality as much yet, but instead focus on effort. I helped with hand-over-hand modeling early on, then he tried tracing more on his own.

Grapevine Studies Traceables Review and Giveaway via Under God's Mighty Hand

When he attempts to draw a circle for the person’s head, I get excited with him. When he draws lines straight down for the body and legs, he’s getting the right idea. Small steps lead to big progress!

Grapevine Studies Traceables Review and Giveaway via Under God's Mighty Hand

The littlest even got in on the tracing action some. :-)

Sequencing

My son is working on the concept of sequencing, so I modified our review of each Grapevine lesson to incorporate sequencing.

I printed out the lesson pages from the teacher’s handbook. Then, I cut out the stick figure picture and pasted it on one side of an index card. On the other side, I pasted the teacher’s handbook notes for that particular part of the lesson. The front side with the picture acts as a piece of a sequence, and the teacher’s notes are now easily available for me to look over.

Grapevine Studies Traceables Review and Giveaway via Under God's Mighty Hand

After we review a lesson together through rereading and retelling, I pull out these sequencing cards and ask my son to order the three or four pictures into the sequence we read in the Bible. I’ll be honest: this skill is still difficult for my son, but more practice leads to better understanding, and he’s already shown progress here, too. I give him the opportunity to try sequencing the cards on his own first, then I offer verbal cues if needed. If he’s still struggling, I have him focus on just two cards and either “retell” the story to me, or tell me which came first.

Grapevine Studies Traceables Review and Giveaway via Under God's Mighty Hand

Scripture Memory

I love that these studies include memory verses for each lesson. We’re working to memorize about one verse a month for my son, and I have to simplify verses since he signs them, but Grapevine’s memory verses help pinpoint some good ones.

An example of our simplification:

The memory verse for Lesson 1 is Luke 1:63, which reads: He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, ‘His name is John.’”

We have to simplify this to: “His name is John,” which my son can sign.

Renewing

Just like we need renewing in our hearts and minds to hold to His truths, helping my children review and renew Scripture aids in using strong bricks for a sturdy foundation. My son has enjoyed Grapevine Studies so much, he pulls the papers down from the shelf on his own during the day and spreads them all out in a semicircle around him, pointing and babbling about each one, signing “angel, God, baby Jesus, thank you” as he goes.

Grapevine Studies Traceables Review and Giveaway via Under God's Mighty Hand

Grapevine Studies Traceables Review and Giveaway via Under God's Mighty Hand

Interested in Grapevine Studies? See tips on where to start here. See frequently asked questions about the studies here.

A Giveaway!

Grapevine Studies New Testament Overview Part 1 Traceables - Review and Giveaway at Under God's Mighty Hand Grapevine Studies is offering one copy of the New Testament Overview Part 1 Traceables (for ages 3-5) student handbook and teacher handbook to one of you! (Side note: Their customer service and response is fantastic! That’s totally my opinion and my initiative to say so.) Enter this giveaway through the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms of giveaway: This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end at the end of the day (EDT) September 8, 2013. All entrants must be 18 years old or older. Enter through the Rafflecopter widget above. Incomplete entries will be deleted. Once a winner is selected, I will contact them via email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I will select another winner.

Don’t want to wait until the giveaway is over to purchase a study? Grapevine is offering a coupon code special for my readers! Enter the code “UGMH” at checkout for 20% off any item not already on sale. How awesome! (This code is valid through September 30, 2013.) Click here to visit the Grapevine Studies store.

What are you and your family currently studying in the Bible? Which Grapevine course looks most useful to you right now?

This post is also linked up with The Homeschool Village’s Ultimate Homeschool Link-UpHomeschool Creation’s Preschool and Kindergarten CornerHearts for Home linkupTender Moments with Toddlers and Preschoolers, and Free Homeschool Deals’ Ultimate Pinterest Party.

The Weekly Kids Co-Op

I Can Teach My Child's Show and Share Saturday link-up

The Homeschool Village

Well-Planned Day homeschool planner - a review and giveaway! This giveaway is open through August 25, 2013.

Review and Giveaway: The Well-Planned Day Planner from HEDUA

A few weeks ago, I shared 5 tips I’m currently learning about planning homeschool activities with a child with special needs.

One big resource that helps with planning is… well, a planner!

I’ve long been a planner girl, both as a student and when I was a teacher. I love (maybe need?) recording to-dos and ideas… and then checking them off when completed.

I’m currently torn between keeping digital-only lesson plans and/or writing my plans out on paper. I like having the digital copies for ease of copying and pasting website addresses for activities, as a reference in few months and years, and for a backup. But, I like the ease of having a pencil and paper in front of me, too. Due to the nature of our current development, I tweak our plans often, so I currently need to write them all in something that can be modified.

Well-Planned Day homeschool planner - a review and giveaway! This giveaway is open through August 25, 2013.

The Well-Planned Day Planner

I met some of the extremely helpful folks with Home Educating Family Association (HEDUA) at the 2:1 Conference last April and came upon the opportunity to review one of their planners, The Well-Planned Day, a physical planner.

(Disclosure: I received a free copy of this planner in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Affiliate links are also present in this post. If you purchase HEDUA products from one of these links, I receive a small commission without affecting your cost. Thank you for supporting this site and my family!)

This planner aims to provide a comprehensive product for homeschooling families. It includes:

  • Family memories sheets,
  • Contact lists,
  • Budgeting forms,
  • Cleaning/household management forms,
  • Responsibility/chore charts for kids,
  • Teacher and student schedules (for up to 4 kids),
  • Attendance reports,
  • Monthly calendars,
  • Weekly planning sheets with quotes, Scripture, and meal plan space,
  • Tear-out grocery lists,
  • Monthly encouragement articles for faith, family, and homeschool,
  • and fancy, cardstock report cards!
A review and giveaway of the Well-Planned Day planner

Left to right: monthly planning, encouragement articles, attendance sheets, and report cards

My favorite components:

  • The semester goals sheets. I love having a spot to write out goals for the semester for each of my kids and their specific needs. For my child with special needs, I discussed goals with his therapists and refined goals to focus our activities. I plan to keep this practice up throughout the years!
  • Monthly Book Lists and Field Trips pages. Including a planning page to list books read as a family (or individually) and field trips each month holds me accountable to plan those events!
  • Weekly Planning Forms. Obviously, these forms make up the bulk of the planner, and they’re definitely the most used. Each day offers a good amount of space, with options to write-in your own subjects. I love having the “Weekly Priorities” section on the side, where I typically write down components of therapy we need to focus on for the week. This sidebar would be a great place to write out a weekly or monthly memory verse, too.

If it were available, one thing I’d like to see in this planner is a “preschool planning form” organized specifically for preschool. Not all families would find this form useful, but many might enjoy it. Since we’re just in the preschool stages now, I modified the row labels to fit our needs.

A review and giveaway of the Well-Planned Day planner

Another “plus” would be a way to save all these plans and records digitally. HEDUA is currently working on a new digital option! You can sign up here to receive notice of when the digital Well Planned Day software is available.

HEDUA is currently holding a 30% off sale on all planner bundles. Check out their offerings here.

 

To see how someone with older kids uses The Well-Planned Day planner, check out this article.

This article on HEDUA’s blog shares 10 tips on using this planner, including some aspects you might not initially realize.

HEDUA is kindly offering one planner to one of you! Enter through the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms of giveaway: This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end at the end of the day (EDT) August 25, 2013. All entrants must be 18 years old or older. Enter through the Rafflecopter widget above. Incomplete entries will be deleted. Once a winner is selected, I will contact them via email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I will select another winner.

What planner do you use for homeschool planning? What’s one component you NEED a planner to include? 

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this planner in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. Affiliate links are also present in this post. If you purchase HEDUA products from one of these links, I receive a small commission without affecting your cost. Thank you for supporting this site and my family!

This post is also linked up with The Homeschool Village’s Ultimate Homeschool Link-Up and Hearts for Home linkup.

The Hard and The Good {Book Review and giveaway – Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher}

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10

 

Both having experienced betrayal from others and heartache in their lives, Hugh Brennan and Julia Grace meet when Hugh comes upon Julia’s farm while traveling west to find his sisters. Both quickly realize how well they can trust each other, yet both feel they need to hold back their trouble-ridden histories. Can beauty come from the ashes of their pasts? 

Betrayal by Robin Lee Hatcher book review
Betrayal is the second novel in the Where the Heart Lives series from Robin Lee Hatcher. Set in 1899 in Wyoming, this novel explores courage, fear, worry, trust, and grace. 

“Don’t borrow trouble from tomorrow.”

The author creates relatable, strong characters with genuine questions and concerns. Hugh and Julia’s back-and-forth inner dialogue frustrated me just a little, but it also kept me wanting to turn pages to find out what happens next. I love how both characters were molded. I grew attached to both within the first three chapters. Though the scenery descriptions aren’t a focus, I could well picture the gorgeous landscape. 

Zondervan kindly sent me both Betrayaland Belonging, the first novel in the series. I read Belonging first, so I could know the background to this book. Belonging follows the story of Hugh’s sister, Felicia, in the two years prior to when we pick up Hugh’s story. These books can stand alone well as single reads, but I do feel I was already invested in what happened in Betrayal because I loved the characters in Belonging. 

Betrayal quote by Robin Lee Hatcher

An intriguing read and a sweet story, both Hugh and Julia’s stories exemplify God’s presence even in our hard times.

 

Want to read these novels? Zondervan is also kindly offering a set of both Belongingand Betrayal to one of you! Enter through the Rafflecopter widget below. (Please note: This giveaway is open to US residents only {sorry!}. This giveaway is open from Monday, February 11th through 11:59pm Saturday, February 16th.) 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms of giveaway: This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end at the end of the day February 16, 2013. All entrants must be 18 years old or older. Enter through the Rafflecopter above. Incomplete entries will be deleted. Once a winner is selected, I will contact them via email. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, I will select another winner.
How have you seen God’s presence during hard months or years of your life?
Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.