Book Review: Kisses From Katie


Kisses From Katie (written by Katie Davis) is a book about a young lady who left everything to move to Uganda to serve orphaned children. Reading her story reminds me of picking up old missionary biographies, except that her story is happening today, right now. This book is newly released and Katie's story, in many ways, is still being written.

Katie left home after graduating from high school to move to Uganda. And she stayed there. Over the next few years, she adopted more than 10 orphaned girls and founded a ministry to help meet the needs of the thousands of desperately needy children in Uganda.

She left behind everything - family, friends, college, career, a boyfriend, a convertible, the promise of a comfortable life in America. She gave it all up for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who called His followers to love and to give and to go.

Katie's life is a combination of the faith of Hudson Taylor, the compassion of Mother Teresa, the depth of Amy Carmichael and the crazy love of Francis Chan. If you enjoy missionary biographies, pick this book up for no other reason than to read a first-hand account of a modern-day missionary serving amidst abject poverty and yet overcoming it with the love of Christ.

I enjoyed the book very much. The stories are touching and often heart-wrenching. Katie tells the whole story - the tender moments with little children and the difficulties of missing family and friends back in the US.

Time will tell if Katie will be able to continue her work in Uganda, if she will spend her entire life with the orphans she has come to love there. I see this as the only "downside" of this book - the fact that the real end is not known. Katie has begun very well but whether or not she will continue on to the end remains to unfold. She is only in her early 20s. She has remained in Uganda for about 4 years. Can she remain for 10 or 20 or 40 more? Will the luxuries of western culture eventually lure her back to America or will God call her to do something else that requires leaving Uganda. Time will tell. And yet maybe her staying for her entire life isn't necessary for her impact to continue on. Just in the few years she's been there she has touched countless lives, brought hundreds to Christ, and simply shown love in practical ways which alone can give hope in seemingly hopeless situations.

I realize that to recommend this book, I am encouraging other young people to consider Katie's path, which is so against-the-grain and radical. To encourage others to turn away from what our culture values and pursue a life of complete faith and dependence on God, learning to value what He values. "What will you do about college?" was a big question that Katie's parents had. Yet, Katie is off doing work she loves, living a life of meaning and purpose, changing the world for the better, storing up treasures in heaven. And in many ways her young age is an asset - she is living proof that one doesn't have to have a college education to impact this world. Young, old, rich or poor, you can be used of God to love others.

My pastor once said the following, as it relates to missions: "Each of our lives will be spent on something. The only difference is how we choose to spend it." We only have one life to live. Will we spend our days focused on self-preservation and achieving the American dream? Or will we be poured out for others, giving and giving and giving, leaving behind what is of lesser importance in order to attain what is eternal?

Katie has chosen the latter and her story is an inspiration.

I recommend reading the book and if you're interested in learning more, check out Katie's blog at (There's a brief video there that introduces Katie and shows a bit of the work she does daily in Uganda).

Black Friday Deals


I don't "do" Black Friday. I don't wait in lines or go shopping at midnight.

But I do shop at CVS and their "Black Friday" deals always start on Thanksgiving Day. I usually head out early on Thursday morning to see what freebies I can snag.

Here's what I was able to get this year: 4 packages of M&Ms, 2 King Size Hershey bars, a bottle of LA Looks hair gel, a box of Cool Touch Kleenex, a package of Carmex, a package of Breathe Right strips, a 90-count package of Dental Flossers, a 4-pack of batteries, a Balance bar, a package of Sheets energy strips, a package of Finish Quantum dishwasher tablets, a box of toothpaste, a box of Fiber One brownies, a 2-pack of toothbrushes, a pack of Advil PM, a pack of regular Advil, a pack of Listerine breath strips, a bottle of Excedrin, a box of Cepacol throat lozenges, a package of Benefiber drink mix, and some lip gloss. All of that is in the picture.

One item NOT in the picture is a $19.99 Christmas gift. (because my daughter often looks at my blog and I don't want to ruin her surprise)

How much did I pay for all of those items and the gift?

Go ahead and guess.


It's true. For $5 out-of-pocket, I got the $20 Christmas gift and all of the items in the picture. How? I paired coupons with their sales and their rewards bucks (called ECBs - Extra Care Bucks - like a CVS gift card to use on future purchases).

I consider my freebies to be a few more reasons why I continue to shop at CVS.

Book Review: Same Kind of Different As Me


Recently I heard a friend recommend the book Same Kind Of Different As Me. Knowing nothing more about the book, I requested a copy from the library.I didn't know what I was in for!

I love books. I love to read. This book is a real treasure. I laughed. I cried. I'm challenged to consider how I automatically judge someone based on what they look like, dress like, or the language they use. I'm challenged to get out of my comfort zone for the sake of showing love and grace to others.

This book tells the true story (the fact that it is true just makes that much more of an impact) of a wealthy man and his wife who begin to volunteer at a soup kitchen. They end up befriending a homeless man who has quite a past, quite a story to tell of growing up in near slavery in the South during the mid-1900s. It is hard to believe that his life - his poverty, his back-breaking labor and nothing in return - is true and happened in recent history. This isn't a story from the 1800s or pre-Civil War times but one that happened recently with its characters still alive to tell the story! It is shameful. It is beyond sad. And it was reality for this man... and probably for thousands of others like him.
The book is written from two perspectives - the wealthy white man's and the homeless black man's.

I highly recommend this book. It's an easy read but it's worth whatever time you spend getting to know Ron Hall and Denver Moore. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll weep over the darkness in the heart of man... and the darkness in your own heart too. And yet, you'll find love and hope springing up out of the darkness.

There's a brief video about the book here, if you're still sitting on the fence about it.

Denver Moore closes the book with these words: "I used to spend a lotta time worryin that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn't ever gon' have no kind a' future. But I found out everybody's different - the same kind of different as me. We're all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain't no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless - just workin our way toward home."

Give it a read! Find out that everyone you meet is really just the same kind of different as me... and you.

Children's Reading List: American Girl Kirsten and Lapbook


My daughter is rapidly working through the American Girl books and this week finished reading about the 4th girl, Kirsten, who lived in 1854 during America's frontier days. The Kirsten books reminded me a lot of the Little House on the Prairie books, which my daughter has read before. So she is quite familiar with the covered wagon era.

In the first book, Kirsten's family immigrated to America from Sweden and they included some of the stories about the boat ride over. I have ancestors from Sweden and Norway, so I found that to be interesting. I told my daughter that it's possible that Kirsten's life and was similar to the lives of her great-great-great-great grandparents. That's really neat to think about.

My daughter made a lapbook for Kirsten, as she's done for the other American Girls. All of the lapbook materials we use can be found here, for free.

Here she is with the cover - a picture of Kirsten that she drew.

Here's page 1 of the lapbook, showing mini-books about Kirsten's World, her mother, her father, conflict, fashion and 4 interesting facts about life in 1854.

And here is page 2, showing hobbies, pets, best friend, favorite things, what changes in Kirsten's life and a map of where Kirsten lived (Minnesota).

The pictures of Kirsten often show her with her long hair in pigtail braids, wound into circles. My daughter thought we should try this with her hair, so we did. She liked it and slept with it that way, leaving her usually straight hair very wavy the next day.

Four American Girls down and she's moving on. There's no slowing this girl down when it comes to reading!

Family Photo Friday


We made it to Friday once again. And November is more than half over! It is precisely because time passes way too quickly that we had some portraits taken of our kids this week. Here are a few favorite shots.

I love my daughter's smile in this first picture - just looks very genuine to me.

And here's my son's big cheesy grin!

A fun kiss on the cheek pose.

Can't help but smile to see a nose-to-nose shot... and the faces these two were making at each other!

Now a few "regular" snapshots from our week. My daughter had her friend Regan over for the day last Saturday. It was quite pleasant outside, so they rode bikes and scooters and played other outside games some of the time.

I spent quite a few hours sorting through clothes this week. I am proud of myself for whittling down 18 boxes of children's clothes to just 5 boxes left to keep at my house. The rest is gone to Goodwill or our church's clothing/food pantry. It feels good to clean house! My daughter wanted to stack the empty boxes ceiling high and pose with them. Such a silly goose!

Happy Friday to one and all!

Foster Parenting - Top 3 Fostering Resources


I am not an expert on foster parenting, nor am I a professional social worker. However, I've learned a lot about foster parenting in the last two years, as I trained and served as foster parent. So I am passing along my Top 3 Resources for learning about fostering.

#3 - Your fostering agency. Depending on your state, there will be anywhere from 10 to 30 hours of pre-training required to become a foster parent. Those hours of training are helpful and provide a framework for understanding "the system." That is the time to ask questions and seek clarification, to better understand the role of the foster parent, the fostering agency, the case workers, and others. With that said, though, I would still only list this as the 3rd most helpful resource. I found the training to be helpful but not as helpful as it could've been. They provided some answers, but also left many questions unanswered. In many ways, we walked out of training with limited knowledge and didn't even know what questions we should've been asking at that point. We didn't know what all we didn't know yet.

That leads to an even more helpful resource:

#2 - The internet. I found it very helpful to locate my state's Department of Child Services website and read through their online foster parenting manual. Almost any question I had about procedures or technicalities (like, can you cut a foster child's hair without their parents' permission) was addressed in the state manual. It's lengthy and wordy (similar to trying to read the tax code)
but it was also pain-stakingly thorough, which is what I wanted when I had a specific question needing answered.

However, there was still one more resource that proved to be even more helpful in preparing me to be a foster parent:

#1 - A foster parenting podcast found here at This podcast is simply a California couple - Tim and Wendy - chronicling their years of experiences as foster parents. They are quirky and fun to listen to. They are Christians, so I can appreciate their heart as they approach fostering. And they are very honest about their experiences. My husband stumbled upon their podcast when we were just starting our foster parenting training. Their advice and tips were more valuable than any other training we had. I
started listening at episode 1 and listened all the way through to the current episode (as I write this, there are 109 episodes, each from 20 to 35 minutes in length). They have addressed everything related to foster parenting - attachment, discipline, security, schooling, therapy, relationships with birth parents, the role of the case workers, etc. They have fostered over a dozen children and ended up adopting two young girls through the foster care system a few years ago. They tell it like it is and don't sugar-coat the hard stuff. The only caveat is that they are in California so listeners must take that into account and consider laws and regulations in their own state, which may differ (quite a bit, even) from California.

If you are thinking of fostering or just want to learn more, I strongly encourage you to start by listening to Tim and Wendy's podcast to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly of foster parenting... and the reasons why you should still seriously consider it!

Homeschool: Cookie Fun


Recently I was inspired when I read about using cookie dough as a teaching tool in this blog post.

So this week we used her cookie dough recipe and had some cookie fun. My daughter was doing a unit study on bugs and was encourage to make a bug poster. Instead I had her create some edible bugs with our cookie dough. Then my son got involved and we just started creating for fun.

And of course we enjoyed eating our creations later!

When the time comes to study state history, we are definitely making an edible map of Indiana! :-)

Homeschooling with cookie dough - works for me!

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday yet again. Yippee!

Here are a few pictures from our week.

It warms my heart to see my kids reading together. Here my daughter was reading a book to my son. The book was about squirrels and they were prompted to choose this book after watching the squirrels outside on a crisp fall day.

We watched our little buddy Eli a few days this week. He is very curious and playful. He saw a broom, grabbed it and knew what to do with it! So sweet.

Happy Friday to you!

Children's Reading List: American Girl Josefina and Lapbook


My daughter is zipping through the American Girl books. She's now finished reading about the third American Girl - Josefina, who grew up on a ranch in New Mexico in 1824.

I've not read any of the Josefina books so I relied on my daughter to pass on the highlights of each book. For each American Girl, there are 6 main books that tell her story.

When my girl finished the books, we made a lapbook about Josefina just as we had done for the previous two girls. A lapbook is simply a fancy formatted book report or character study. All of the American Girl lapbook materials we use can be found online for free at this site.

Here's my daughter with her lapbook, showing the cover picture she drew of Josefina in her bright Mexican dress.

Here's the inside of the lapbook, showing mini-books on Who Is Josefina, Living in 1824, Hobbies, Favorite Things, What I Learned From This Story, Prized Possessions, Pets and What Josefina's House Was Like.

Then the lapbook unfolds to two more pages, showing mini-books on Living in 1824, Conflict, Josefina's Father's Job, My Favorite Book of the Series, Spanish Words and a map of the United States to show where Josefina lived.

My daughter liked the numerous Spanish words found throughout the story. She did very well coming up with a few facts about life in 1824 also, to put in the mini-books about that time period. For example, Josefina's family (being ranchers) had a bed in their house near the kitchen were orphaned lambs were kept and at Christmas a special play is performed, acting out scenes from the first Christmas with Jesus in the manger.

My daughter read through this series very quickly and is again itching to move on to the next historical American Girl - Kirsten, from the pioneer era. She is compelled by both her love of reading and her desire to take me up on my offer of a trip to Chicago to the American Girl store when she finishes all of the books!

Deals Around Town


Here are a few deals I've found lately.

Each item in this picture was under $1 thanks to sale prices and coupons at my local Kroger. The toothbrushes were 25 cents each. The gum was 19 cents per package. The cans of pineapple were around 70 cents each. The small cans of baked beans were around 30 cents each.

These items were all free at Kroger, thanks to coupons and sales. Savings of about $12.

And these items were free at CVS last week, thanks to coupons and sale prices and Extra Care Bucks (like a gift card to use only at CVS). Savings of about $6.

I like getting things for free. A few dollars saved on these items means those dollars can go elsewhere - to savings, or to buy more groceries to give to a food pantry, etc.

Here's to stretching those hard-earned dollars!

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday. Yahoo and Yippee!
It turns out that I don't have any photos to share from our week.
Instead of new photos, I'm doing a "Walk Down Memory Lane" Photo Friday.
Here are fall pictures of our family from years gone by.As a new mom with my baby girl - fall 2003.

New daddy with his baby girl - fall 2003.

My daughter's first visit to a pumpkin patch - fall 2004.

My daughter riding her tricycle - fall 2005.

My daughter with her Indian head-dress and pilgrim hat, to celebrate Thanksgiving in 2006.

My daughter riding her bike - fall of 2007 (prior to little brother's arrival on the scene)

A sibling hug in the fall of 2008.

My kids playing in the backyard - fall 2009.

My daughter playing outside last year - fall 2010

And my son with a ball - fall 2010.

God's blessings fall into our lives like the leaves falling from the trees.
Cherish them!

My Boy is Growing Up


My boy is growing up. He's just weeks away from h
is 4th birthday. It seems that just recently he has grown a few more inches and taken strides in development too.

This week he surprised us all by being able to reach
his toothbrush way back on the counter.

Last week I was peeling carrots and he wanted to help. I wasn't sure about the wisdom of handing a peeler to a 3-year-old but I let him try it. He was actually quite good at it and peeled two entire carrots for me!

A few nights ago my husband was doing something in his workshop. He set up a piece of wood for my son to work on cutting with a very small saw. The little guy worked and worked at it, eventually cutting a small piece off. How excited he was to show off what he had done!

Potty training seemed a bit delayed, but I know that is common with boys. Now, though, he's got the hang of it and does very well all day long.

Recently my son has caught on to the fact that football players wear helmets. So when he heads outside to throw his own football around, he insists on wearing his bicycle helmet as well. :-)

Without much help from me, he has learned to count to 15 and can spell his name.

He has always been a little helper. He loves to help daddy with any project he's doing - insulation, drilling, building. When I wash dishes, he's quick to grab a stool and come over to help. When we head outside to rake leaves, he heads right to his kid-sized rake and joins in the work. He's different from my daughter in this, as she would rather run off to play than to willingly do work.

So, one of the people I'm thankful for this month is my boy. What joy he brings to our family! And how thankful I am to daily be a part of his growing up.

Works for Me Wednesday - Thankful Tree


November is here.
For us, that means that we get our "Thankful Tree" ready.
It is our November tradition.
Here's how it works.

Our family's 2008 Thankful Tree - our first ever

We cut out 30 leaves from construction paper - one for each day of November. We think of 30 things/people we're thankful for and write one on each leaf. Everyone helps to come up with these blessings, which always include things like food, a warm house, toys, family members. We tape the leaves onto a tree (also made from construction paper). Each day of November, we take one leaf off the tree and thank God for that blessing. Then that leaf goes on the bottom, at the base of tree.

Not only does this help us appreciate fall time, but it makes "thanksgiving" last for more than just one day during November. When Thanksgiving Day does roll around, we've already been thinking for weeks about God's bountiful blessings and all that we have to thank Him for!

A thankful tree - it works for me!

Our family's 2009 Thankful Tree

Our 2010 Thankful Tree, at the end of November! Dad helped make an awesome tree trunk that year!

Girl Scouts: Harvest Party


Last week our Girl Scout troop hosted a Harvest Party, which was held at a local corn maze.

Here's a shot of most of the group, as we started the maze. My daughter is in the middle row, second from the left.

There was face-painting.

Even the moms were in on the face-painting!

The kids decorated pumpkins with markers and stickers.

Giant spider on the farm!
Fall is fun!