Book Review: A Mother’s Secret

In all my years reading Christian fiction, would you believe that I’d never read an Amish novel? I’ve always had the notion that Amish fiction was dull and boring, and not the kind of fast paced action novels I usually enjoy.

I decided to give Amish fiction a chance with Amy Clipston’s novel, A Mother’s Secret. The book is the second in the Hearts of the Lancaster Grand Hotel series, and follows Carolyn Lapp, a 31-year old woman with a 15 year old son, as she tries to rise above the people judging her for the mistake she made as a teenager and her quest to find true love. 

Early in the novel, Carolyn meets Joshua Glick, a horse breeder, at a local horse auction. Carolyn’s son Benjamin was mistakenly accused of injuring one of Joshua’s horses, and Joshua brings him on to work at his farm until the vet bill is paid off. Carolyn goes from being angry at Joshua, to wondering if this is the man God has for her. One problem remains…Carolyn has never told Joshua that Benjamin is her son. He assumes Ben is Carolyn’s nephew.

Meanwhile, Carolyn’s brother Amos, ashamed of his sister being a single mother, decides to take matters into his own hands, and arranges for a courtship between Carolyn and local cabinet maker Saul. Saul is a widower and is willing to marry Carolyn despite her past indiscretions to provide a mother for his daughter. Now Carolyn has to decide whether to pursue the marriage of convenience where the truth of Ben is acknowledged, or a marriage of love, knowing that the secret she holds could damage her relationship with Joshua.

This book was a very quick read. It was simple and refreshing, light and comfortable, although a little corny at times. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and am looking forward to the next book in this series to be released this Fall.

Bottom Line: 7.5*/10*

I received a copy of A Mother’s Secret for review purposes from BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own, and have not been influenced.

Book Review: Parenting the Wholehearted Child

Every once in a while, a book comes along that totally changes my perspective. Jennie Cunnion’s parenting book, Parenting the Wholehearted Child, has done just that.

For a while after Junior was born, in the midst of doctor’s appointments, therapies, surgeries…and homeschooling, homemaking, blogging, cooking, cleaning, and being chauffeur to Stinker’s various sports activities, I tried to do it all. I really, really tried. And guess what? I came to a point of exhaustion. Utter and complete, burned out to the core, exhaustion. I became less patient with the kids, more snarky to my husband, and downright emotionally draining to the people around me. (Sorry, Mom!)

But, I realized that trying to do it all actually gave me the ability to do less. I adore my kids, but most of the time I was parenting more out of duty than out of love because I was so focused on getting everything done. After I came to my breaking point, I stopped trying to do it all, gave myself grace, and let some things go. I started to really love life and even the challenges of parenting, again.

Jeannie’s book really spoke to me. The basis of the book is that the greatest gift we can give our children is to point them to the great, deep, and extravagant grace of Jesus. That they are not loved (or liked) because of what they’ve done or haven’t done, but because of what Jesus has done for them. Our trying to be a “perfect parent” raising “perfect children” is not only unrealistic, but harmful to our children’s sense of who God is…not a God who zaps us for disobeying, but a God who covers us with His love and grace, and has perfect patience as we seek to be more like Him. We don’t need to do it all as a parent, we just need to lead them to Him.

Throughout the book, Jeannie gives practical, hands-on advice for teaching our children the freedom and joy that extravagant grace brings, and I found myself nodding and thinking to myself “that makes sense”, many times. The book is also convicting, because it encourages parents that our walk with the Lord must be on the right track if we want to point our children to Him. Are we truly bathed in His love and grace, or are we just going through the motions? Do we see God as someone who is sitting there waiting for us to sin, so He can push us down and say “I told you so”?, or is He a loving, perfect God who picks us up when we fall and carries us in our most difficult times? Our perspective on who God is really influences the God that we portray to our children, and the way we parent. If we parent with grace, we portray grace. If we parent with unrealistic expectations of perfection, we portray harshness.

Parenting with grace doesn’t mean lack of discipline, however, and I like how Parenting the Wholehearted Child devoted several chapters on behavior expectations and discipline. Parenting is the hardest job in the world, and we will fail at times, but this book reminded me that the greatest thing we can do for our children is to point them to the only perfect parent…God. I recommend this book to all my mommy friends, and even dads.

Bottom Line: 9.5*/10* 

*Thank you to Booklook Bloggers and Zondervan for providing me a complimentary copy of this book for review. All opinions are my own, and have not been swayed or influenced.

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40 Lunch Ideas

Lunch has to be the most uninspired meal at our house. All too often we’re out and about, and end up picking up lunch instead of making it. Or, Stinker will make herself a PB&J (she says things “taste better” when she makes it herself), and I’ll get Junior some snacks and fruit and call it good. Thus forgetting to feed myself.

Since one of my 2014 goals is to eat more lunches at home, I’ve compiled 40 ideas for lunches. I’ve divided them into Home days (with use of oven and/or stove), Lunch Box (no heating source available), On the Go (easy finger foods), and Work (use of a microwave).

You can easily add soup or hot foods into your child’s lunch…simply pour boiling water into a thermos in the morning, dump it out, then add the soup or whatever you want to keep hot. If placed in an insulated lunch bag, it should keep warm for lunchtime!

What are your favorite ideas for lunches?

Home (uses oven/stove/crock pot)

1. English Muffin Pizzas

2. Pita Pizzas (Use #1, English Muffin Pizzas, replace English Muffins with Pita Bread)

3. Bagel Pizzas (Use #1, English Muffin Pizzas, replace English Muffins with Pita Bread)

4. Pesto Pasta

5. Pasta with Tomato Sauce

6.Crock Pot Baked Potatoes (Put potatoes in when you wake up, they’ll be done by lunchtime!)

7. Quesadillas

8. Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Soup

9. Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

10. Breakfast Burritos and Smoothies

11. Smoothies and Biscuits or Scones

Lunch Box (no heating source available)

12. BLT Sandwiches

13. Pasta Salad

14. BBQ Chicken Ranch Salad

15. Buffalo Chicken Salad

16. Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps

17. Pita and Hummus

18. Strawberry Balsamic Salad

19. Asian Chicken Salad

20. Tuna Sandwiches

21. Turkey, Bacon, Avocado Sandwiches

22. Pita “Pizzas” (Put pizza sauce, shredded cheese, and pepperoni in separate containers. Include a spoon to spread the sauce onto a piece of pita bread. Eat cold.)

23. Italian Sub Sandwiches

On The Go (finger foods)

24. No Bake Energy Bites, Fresh Fruit

25. Trail Mix, Yogurt (or portable yogurt tubes), Fresh Fruit

26. Peanut Butter or Almond Butter in a container, Cut Apples and Celery for Dipping, Raisins

27. Hard Boiled Eggs, Fruit, Crackers

28. Breakfast Cookies, Fresh Fruit

29. Popcorn, Fresh Fruit, Yogurt (or portable yogurt tubes)

30. Mini Sandwiches (use English Muffins or Dinner Rolls instead of bread for your sandwich)

At Work (uses microwave)

31. Bean and Cheese Burrito

32. Bean and Rice Bowl with Guacamole

33. Meatballs and Pasta (defrost a few meatballs using our Freezer Friendly Meatball Recipe!)

34. Stuffed Shells (defrost some using our Freezer Friendly Stuffed Shell recipe!)

35. Minestrone Soup (I freeze soups in one portion increments for my husband to take into work)

36. Chili and Corn Muffins

37. Chicken Noodle Soup

38. Chicken or Beef, Bean, and Rice Burritos

39. Twice Baked Potatoes (using our Freezer Friendly Twice Baked Potato recipe)

40. Quick and Easy Tortellini Soup

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Weekly Menu, Recipes, and a Goal…

I’m embarrassed to announce to the world that we ate out for lunch every day last week. I could come up with the excuses that Junior had doctor’s appointments every day around lunch time, and that I wasn’t feeling well, and that I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, but there’s really no excuse.

We have a tradition to eat out for lunch on Fridays with my husband as a way to celebrate the coming weekend and enjoy a meal out as a family. But, that should be a treat and not an expectation. In addition to costing a lot of money, I start to feel sick if I eat out too often.

So, you all are holding me accountable this week to make sure we eat at home every day! I planned ahead a little more to try and include a set lunch menu as well.

Lunch- Bean Burritos (I made a batch of beans the other day, and we finally finished them off today), Fruit
Dinner-Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Broccoli

Lunch- Smoothies and Breadsticks (using some leftover pizza dough from Sunday)
Dinner-Veggie Omelets, Bacon, Fruit Salad

Lunch- Ham Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner- Chili and Cornbread

Lunch- Ham Sandwiches, Fruit
Dinner- Leftover Chili and Cornbread

Lunch- Out with Daddy!!
Dinner- Baked Potato Bar, Broccoli

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“Is Ebates For Real??”

 Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

I get questions about cash back and points sites often. People want to know the whats, hows, and fine print before signing up. One site I receive frequent questions about is Ebates. Here’s the scoop:

1. How does Ebates work?
-The stores that Ebates offers cash back on give Ebates a referral commission for each purchase you make through them. For example, Home Depot might offer a 7% commission to Ebates for each purchase that is made going through the Ebates referral link. Of that 7%, you receive 3% cash back. Essentially, Ebates makes their money through your purchases, then shares the commission with you in the form of cash back. 

2. So, is Ebates legititmate?
-In short, yes. The site is a legitimate way to receive cash back on online purchases.

3. Okay, it sounds too good to be true. What is the fine print?
-There are some stipulations in order to receive your money. There must be at least $5 in your account in order to receive your check, which are sent out 4 times a year. Now, this isn’t usually an issue during Christmas time when I do quite a bit of online shopping, but there are times when I only receive one or two checks a year.

4. Are there any drawbacks to using Ebates?
-For me, there is the temptation to spend more, knowing that I will receive cash back on a purchase, so it’s been a testing of my self-control to only purchase what I was planning, and not making impulse buys :)

I have been using Ebates for about 3 years now, and have nothing but good things to say. And, since most of my shopping is done online anyway, it’s nice to get a little something back.

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*Links may be a referral link, but all opinions and ideas are my own, and have not been skewed in any way.