Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Enjoyed the Global Tour with "Give Your Child the World"


I came across a lovely blog in a homeschool group on Facebook, www.simplehomeschool.net, written by Jamie C. Martin - and was immediately intrigued by her promotion of her new book, "Give Your Child the World" and her summer global reading challenge. I bought the book on Amazon and off to the library we went!

Each week, we were challenged to read from and explore a different region of our globe, and we gladly accepted the challenge! We gobbled up the delicious tales from all different countries and cultures. I especially enjoyed the variety of stories and recommendations from Jamie's book, and appreciated the time and devotion she put into this invaluable resource. We will definitely return to the book for reading recommendations beyond this summer challenge.

The challenge began with Multicultural books, in which we chose to read, "My Librarian Is a Camel" by Margriet Ruiz. We were truly thankful to have such easy access to our local libraries, and this book highlighted that and made us appreciate the love of reading around the world.

Next up, we read a book from Africa, "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters" by John Steptoe. This gorgeous Caldecott Honor award picture book is a lovely tale of two daughters, one sweet and the other, not so much. A delightfully illustrated story about kindness, selfishness and attitude choices.

Next, we travelled to Europe and chose "The Cats in Krasinski Square" by Karen Hesse. Having always been inspired by tales of kindness and bravery in WWII Europe, this story of two sisters helping those in need, despite the dangers of the Gestapo did not disappoint. 

The following week, we ventured to Asia, where we read "Tikki Tikki Tembo" by Arlene Mosel. This story of the boy with the very long name has been a favorite of mine for years, and I was overjoyed to share it with my kiddos.

Then, we packed up for a trip to the Middle East, specifically Egypt, which, to me, has always been THE place of mystery and dreams. Here, we chose "Mummies Made in Egypt" by Aliki. I have always loved the beauty and simplicity of Aliki's books, and the details and illustrations of this one are just perfect for kitties and older kids alike. 

Arriving in North America was a difficult decision on what to read, since we are so familiar with many of the choices. We ended up choosing "Follow the Drinking Gourd" by Jeanette Winter, for its historical value, as well as its beautiful and touching illustrations. It is a great introduction to the history of slavery in our country, without being graphic or frightening.

South of the border, in Latin America, we chose "The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest" by Lynne Cherry. My daughter is very aware of environmental issues, and this amazingly illustrated story touched us all. {Spoiler} We especially loved that hearts were changed at the end.

Our final stop was Australia, Oceania, and the Polar Regions, where my son chose "Balto and the Great Rave" by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel. He's been on a dog kick lately, and we've read short stories about Balto in the past. Who doesn't love a heroic dog story (especially a TRUE one)?


We really had a great time reading all of these wonderful tales and learning about the different regions, cultures, and children around the world. When we were finished, we added our link to Jamie's blog, and answered her wrap up questionnaire to be eligible to win some super cool prizes! We'll keep you posted on whether or not we win!

- Tell us about your family.
We are an off grid family of four. We live primarily in the White Mountains of Arizona, but spend as much time as possible in our home away from home in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

– Tell us about where you live and how long you’ve lived there.
We've lived in the White Mountains as a family for over 11 years. Prior to that, Mom lived in Phoenix, and in Florida. Dad lived in Greer, and in California and Mexico. 

– What do you think is unique and special about living where you do?
We live in Arizona, but it's not the desert like you might imagine. We're in the cool junipers of the mountains, and enjoy snowy winters and cool summers. In our Baja spot, it's right on the ocean, so it's cool, windy and wet!

– What languages are spoken there? If it’s different from English, can you help us learn a few common phrases?
In Arizona, we're right next to The Navajo Nation and many other Native American lands. We get to hear a lot of Native languages spoken. In Baja, Spanish is spoken most often, and we are all still learning the proper way to speak!

– What are some traditional foods there?
In AZ, we love traditional Navajo foods such as Indian Fry Bread....delicious sweet and savory! In Baja, we are spoiled by the riches from the sea, like abalone, lobster and languado (halibut), as well as local delicacies like lechon and burro!

– Tell us about the climate where you live.
In AZ, we enjoy mild summers and snowy winters. In Baja, we're right on the ocean, so it's always wet. Summer's can be super hot, but we dip in the sea to cool off.

– What does school look like for the majority of kids where you live?
In AZ, we homeschool, and have a large homeschooling community. In Our Baja town, there is one main school  for most of the children. Little kids go to school during the day, and high schoolers go to school at night. There is a separate school for kindergarten.

– What does school look like for your family?
We homeschool in both locations, so school travels with us wherever we go. 

– Are there any special festivals or traditions you’d like to tell us about related to where you live?
In AZ, we enjoy a Blugrass & Acoustic Music gathering every summer, as well as rodeos and Native American celebrations. In Baja, the town holds traditional fiestas and surf competitions in the summer time. 

– If you ever had to move away from where you live, what do you think you’d miss most?
In AZ, I'd miss the snow, and our off grid farm. In Baja, I'd miss the ocean and the sand!

– Do you have a favorite book that takes place in your region/country?
We love books about Mexico and it's rich culture. 
We also enjoy books about Arizona, the Grand Canyon and the Wild West.
There are really too many to count!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Was Enchanted By Forever Friday.





The idea of this story sounded somewhat familiar,reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks' Notebook, but as I delved deeper into it, I realized it was nothing at all what I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the main characters of the story, though neither of them were alive. Interesting twist on a love story!

We follow Adam Colby, an estate sale businessman with a broken marriage, as he discovers a stash of postcards that become a roadmap of a timeless romance and perhaps the secret to a lifelong love. The postcards reveal the budding love of Huck and Gabe Alexander and continue throughout their 60 year marriage as a testimony of true love and devotion. In a world tainted by distrust and misdeeds, the tenderly written postcards sent to Huck every Friday from Gabe share a portrait of what many of us yearn for - unconditional, unbridled love. Adam is skeptical, of course, given his current state of divorce, and struggles with his own vision of what love is and how it lasts and he has trouble understanding exactly what the postcards mean. Enter Yevette Galloway, the daughter of the Alexander's former housekeeper. She holds on to many of the secrets that linger in the postcards, and if she is willing to share them with Adam, it just may change his heart forever.

I found the story captivating and endearing, a great romantic read with engaging characters, an air of mystery and a tinge of whimsy.

I received this copy of the book complimentary from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

is an Influenster! (review of my first VoxBox ~ JollyVoxBox)

My lovely friend, Kory got me to sign up for Influenster, and I did, but like many things, my activity fell by the wayside. Lucky for me, I got an email (and I do check that regularly) and was able to apply for a VoxBox just before Christmastime. For those of you not "in the know", a VoxBox is a cute little box of products that Influenster sends to a select few, in exchange for reviews, photos, Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram images, etc to promote the program and products. To be honest, I never thought I'd qualify for one, but by sheer dumb luck, or fate :), I was selected to receive the JollyVoxBox, so excited!!

Of course, my life being what it is, it's nearly impossible for me to make regular trips to the post office, it doesn't help that it's twenty-some-odd miles from my house...one way. I'm not making excuses, but it's a pain in the butt, and hopefully that situation will be changing soon. Soon after the turn of the new year, I decided I needed to get to the post office, I NEEDed my VoxBox!!

I'm so glad I did. Now I get to try all the goodies and blog about them! Yippee!! "Can you hear the children's laughter? Do you see the candy-colored lights lining the street? Can you taste the thrill in the air? It's the most wonderful time of the year: Filled with treasure to keep you smiling from ear to ear, the Jolly VoxBox is finally here!"

I really had no idea what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the deceptively little box and found this ~




It was a sweet little gift, just for me! So what's inside? 5 full size products to test, sample, enjoy, wear, eat and use! So cool! I was totally expecting sample sized items, maybe some coupons, but this is soooo much better! Thanks Influenster!! In this box, I received a Puffs Ultra Soft & Strong To Go Tissue Pack, an NYC New York Color HD Color Trio Eye Shadow in Long Beach Sands, a Rimmel London NEW Show Off Lip Lacquer in Celestial, a Ducklings Mini Roll fashion Duck tape, and a package of Skinny Cow Candy in Peanut Butter Creme. As I said before, I received these items complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster ~ if you would like to join my Influenster "team" please comment here with your email address and I will send you an invitation!

First on the list to review, Puffs Ultra Soft & Strong To Go Tissue Pack. What can I say? Puffs are truly a leader in creating the softest and strongest facial tissues out there, I believe that they were the ones that came up with the lotion infused tissue, which I must say, was a GENIUS move!! With my allergies, I use tissues about a million times a day, and there's just no substitute for a good quality tissue! Yes, you'll pay a bit more, but as far as I'm concerned, my poor, abused allergy nose is worth it! I need some pampering on that over-used skin, and Puffs fits the bill! Here is a picture of my Puffs in my purse (shameless plug on the purse ~ it's from Grace Adele, Scentsy Fragrance's bag and accessory brand. Isn't it cute?! You can see all the styles to mix and match here and shop my personal party with my sweet and wonderful Scentsy sponsor, Jessica Roberts ~ https://jessicaroberts.graceadele.us/GraceAdele/Buy?partyId=208873004 p.s there's a 10% off SALE going on NOW through the end of January!!)


Next up, NYC New York Color HD Color Trio Eye Shadow in Long Beach Sands. This is a gorgeous trio of neutral shades, reminiscent of beach sand (hence the name Long Beach Sands, perhaps?). The colors are nicely pigmented, slightly shimmery and easy to blend. The color is very buildable, making a sultry and stunning neutral smokey eye obtainable for even the newbie artist. The packaging describes where to apply the colors, but get creative and mix it up a bit! The colors last for most of the day, though I recommend reapplying for your hot night on the town (you'll want to vamp up the highlighting color then anyway!!). The only downfall to this cute little pallet is the included applicator, which is really tiny. It's great for touch-ups, but I would rather use a full size eyeshadow brush for the initial application, to really get maximum impact of the colors. Overall, for the price I paid (free from Influenster) and for the retail price ($2.99) it's a great eyeshadow to tuck into your makeup bag!!! (shameless plug for my makeup bag ~ it's from mark. by Avon and it's available in my store at ! www.youravon.com/MIGHTY and search product # 210-630 the mark. Wild About Beauty Cosmetic Bag. It's only $14 and it's super cute!!)


Introducing the Rimmel London NEW Show Off Lip Lacquer in Celestial. OMG. Can I just give a HUGE shout out to the folks at both Rimmel London and Influenster (and maybe the NSA?)...do you people KNOW me or what?! This color is the most perfect and fabulous color for me, hands down. I don't think I could have picked a more perfect color for myself!! How DO you do it?! Seriously....it's like this color was crafted just for me. It was, wasn't it?!! Woot!! Joking aside, this Show Off Lip Lacquer is AWESOME! I'm a lip gloss junkie and I think I've found my favorite lip treat, ever (and that's saying a lot, as I sell lip gloss as one of my jobs!)!! This lacquer isn't sticky, either, which is something that's hard to say about many glosses and lacquers. It also smells nice, slightly fruity (my daughter says, Cherry) but not overpowering. It doesn't have a taste, which I think is good, because flavored glosses tempt me to lick, and then the gloss is gone. The shine is perfect. Not too shiny so that you look like a plastic bauble, but just enough to attract attention. It has decent staying power, better than a typical gloss, but not all day like a stain. You'll need to reapply during the day, but hey, that's when we pull out our "feminine wiles" to lure in all the man-folk, right? I like the packaging, too, it's large enough to be found in the bottom of my makeup bag, but small enough to fit comfortably in my hand to apply. The angled doe-foot style applicator has a unique reservoir in the center to deliver maximum lacquer with just one dip. Another plus is the shelf life of 24 months after opening, although I wonder what preservatives are in there to make it last so long....I did not receive the lacquer in it's full retail packaging (so that may be the one "ding" against it). Any who....what do you think?



I've always been a fan of those crafty folks that make cool crap out of duct tape, and thought it was genius when the Duck Brand decided to take that craftiness and make it work for them, by creating fun and colorful duct tape! Enter Ducklings Mini Roll fashion Duck tape!! The full sized sample I received was the cutest blue and white hibiscus print, I'm for real looking for things to use this tape on, it's THAT adorable! I took my son's "wallet" that came with his Subway meal yesterday, and spruced it up with some Duck tape to make it pop. I don't think he appreciates it as much as I do, but, meh, whatever :) . Now, my daughter is the creative one, and I'm sure this is the very last time I'll ever see this particular roll of Ducklings Mini tape....


Oh, mercy....Skinny Cow makes CANDY?? I'm doomed. Seriously.....doomed!! It's delicious in every way imaginable....chocolatey, ooey gooey peanut buttery....it should be illegal and I'll have to hide it from my children....excuse me while I hide under the covers and stuff my face.....okay, maybe I can be an adult and savor each. and. every. delectable. morsel. But I still have to fight off my children. Darn you Skinny Cow!! Darn youuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!!! This stuff was seriously so fabulous that I want to hide under the covers and eat it all up after the kids go to bed....is that wrong?? How about I just run to the grocery store and fill up my cart with Skinny Cow chocolates?? What? I can't? Well, shoot. I'll just have to indulge here and there and not feel one bit guilty about it (not that I ever do, mind you....I believe that chocolate is one of the roots of happiness, and I nibble whenever I get the urge!).


So, all in all, my first Influenster VoxBox was a HUGE hit!! I loved everything in it!! It was like my own little Christmas gift, so I must have been very, very good this year!! Thanks Influenster and all of the participating companies....what a great program!!


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

is Learning to FLY....

So, as some of you may know, I'm not your typical "housewife". I don't like to clean. I think I may be allergic to it, actually, but there comes a time when it's inevitable that SOMEthing MUST be done. So, I've tried many, many times to get a cleaning routine, but it just isn't "me". I'm the kind of person that would rather read, play with the kids, lounge in my jammies all day, ANYthing but clean!! But seriously, it's my job to clean and I want to be better at it. That's my main New Year's Resolution this year, because I truly believe that, if my home is clean and I have a routine in which to keep it that way, I can be a better wife and a better mom....and an all around better person. I'll have more time to devote to my kids' schooling, my personal businesses, and my life in general. Can the secret to my happiness lie within the walls of a clean house and a daily routine?? I think it just might.

Let me introduce you to the FlyLady. Some of you may already know her, some of you may already follow her....I have tried several times to do so myself, but I really don't think it was the right time for me, and as you know, timing is everything. So here I go, I'm going to learn to FLY (which is an acronym for Finally Loving Yourself, and isn't that the TRUE key to happiness??!!).....and I'm going to blog about it, because that's another one of my resolutions, to build this blog up a bit and share more of my life and all that it entails (won't always be fascinating, but I promise you, it will ALWAYS be REAL!!!).

So, here we go ~ the first thing that the FlyLady suggests is to join her mailing list. I suggest you do this as well, if you care to join me in the New Year, New You crusade.... you can do that my going to her website at www.flylady.net and clicking "Getting Started" ~ then your first "BabyStep" is to Shine Your Sink. Sounds kind of silly, when I'm swimming in a house that is taken over with clutter and dust.....but it's her way of easing into a routine and setting small, obtainable goals. This works for me, because I NEED a sense of accomplishment in order to stay motivated, and when it comes to cleaning, I'm VERY easily overwhelmed. So, instead of making the HUGE mistake I've done in the past with FlyLady (which is trying to do too much at once, get frustrated and giving up), I did what she told me. I signed up for the emails, I shined my sink (I also cleaned the countertop behind my sink because, well, it was gross ~ I figured this little bit more of a cleaning task wouldn't overwhelm me too much) and then I took a picture. I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I was done. It looks so pretty!!


And THAT, my friends, is the end of BabyStep 1. Shine Your Sink. Check. I must admit, it was nice to see a clean sink when I went to bed. And even nicer to see a clean sink when I woke up! Amazing.....

So, now it's day two for me and BabyStep 2 is to get dressed to lace up shoes, including hair and makeup. Now, hold up a minute, I'm not going anywhere, and normally I wouldn't get dressed until much later (if at all!) and I certainly wouldn't put makeup on to hang out at home. But here's the thing, and I really should know this, when we dress for success, we feel better about ourselves and get more accomplished. So, FlyLady has us get dressed every day and get ready to meet the day and it's goals. Pretty simple, right? It works. I got up, got dressed, got my kids dressed (they looked at me like, where are we going??) and we began our day.....





Since I've already accomplished today's goals, I decided to tackle a daunting task, cleaning my stovetop. It's just horrifying, and I cringe every time I look at it. I figured, I felt so good after shining my sink yesterday, why not give it a whirl with the old stove? It was in desperate need of attention, and no one else is tackling it...so here goes nothing. I gave myself 15 minutes to clean, then, I took a break, which is what FlyLady suggests in times of "crisis cleaning", that way, you won't get overwhelmed! I love it!! While cleaning the incredible ickiness, I took two breaks, and I'm quite pleased with the results. Now, to add a quick swipe after every time I cook, so that it will NEVER get that way again, and voila!! I've created a new, satisfying habit that will prevent future "crisis" stovetop moments.Tell me what you think!





Now that my tasks are done for the day, I'm able to blog, hang out with my kids, read more about what lies ahead in my "FLYing lessons" and have a great New Year's Eve Day (and I won't forget to shine my sink before bed!!) Please subscribe to my blog, so you can follow along with me, I'd love to hear your feedback as I "learn to FLY"....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Needs to be more active in her blogging!

Sigh. I was recently deactivated from my Booksneeze account due to inactivity. What's a busy mom to do? I'm not above begging ~ so dear Booksneeze, please allow me to continue reviewing for you! I do so love the books that I have had the privilege of reading for free, in exchange for blogging them. I love to read. I devour books. I just sometimes have a hard time finding the time to post my reviews. Please give me another chance. I'll be good, I promise!!

For any of you out there that aren't as busy....or are at least more diligent in their blogging, please consider joining the Booksneeze.com program. They really have some wonderful books, and they don't ask too much in return....Here are their guidelines:

1. Apply using the registration form here ~ http://www.booksneeze.com/join

In order to best suit the needs of its members, BookSneeze has standard preferences we look for in its applicants. Based on the current needs of the program, these criteria may change, but typically the program hopes to attract bloggers with:

  • An actively maintained personal, public blog. The program does not accept Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads or any other type of community profile site as a viable form of blog.
  • Bloggers who have a visible minimum of 30 followers or subscribers. If the BookSneeze team cannot view this follower count, we cannot currently accept your application. There are multiple options in order to place a follower count on your blog, such as Google Friend Connect, Wordpress Follow Blog Widget, Blogger Buzz, Twitter follower buttons, Facebook follower buttons, and using a Feedburner Count.
  • Bloggers who regularly post content of at least once per week. 

  1. Select a book to review.

    View the available books and sign up for a BookSneeze® product that you are interested in reviewing. After you have requested a review copy, you will receive an email confirming your request that has links to additional reviewer resources. (Note that we will be shipping all physical books via USPS Media Mail which typically takes about 7-10 for domestic shipments.)

  2. Read the book, write your review, and post it.

    Read the book and craft a 200+ word review. The review can be positive or negative, it just needs to be based on the entire book. Post your review on your blog and any consumer retail website (Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com, borders.com, buy.com, christianbook.com, familychristian.com, costco.com, lifeway.com, overstock.com, and walmart.com all have a section on each book’s product page dedicated to customer reviews). To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, please mention as part of every Web or retail site review that the publisher has provided you with a complimentary copy of this book or advanced reading copy through Booksneeze. Click for details.

  3. Tell us about it. 

    Update your account so we can link to your review. This will allow you to sign up for another title to review.

  • Please note that not all titles are available for review and that some titles will only be available in limited quantities.
  • BookSneeze® will contact you by email from time to time to inform you about different products available for review or sale, to check on the progress of your reviews, and to keep you abreast of BookSneeze® news.
  • If your contact information changes at any time during your participation, you will need to sign in at http://booksneeze.com/blogger/profile and update your profile.
  • We reserve the right to deny any application.

Peeks into the Past....




A Bride for All Seasons ~ The Mail Order Bride Collection
By Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy, and Debra Clopton

"It all started with an ad in a mail-order bride catalogue . . .
This charming bouquet of novellas introduces you to four Hitching Post Mail-Order Bride Catalogue prospects in the year 1870, all eager for second chances . . . and hungry for happiness. Year in, year out, they'll learn that love often comes in unexpected packages."

The owner of the Hitchin' Post Mail-Order Bride Catalogue has a good, booming business. So, he changes a few of the advertisements a little and adjusts some of the correspondence....it's all for the good of his clients! See what trouble can occur when a few choice words are changed, or left out completely in this collection of novellas about brides-to-be and the bridegrooms that are expecting them....or are they?

"And then Came Spring" by Margaret Brownley

The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the Lord.
PROVERBS 16:33 NKJV
This story starts of with a jolt, as Mary-Jo barges into the church for refuge and crashes her fiancé's funeral. Not a good way to begin a marriage. Not to mention, she has discovered her fiancé's other "secret," his incorrigible son. Mary-Jo's first instinct is to high tail it back home, but does she really have a "home" to run back to? And is the sheriff brother of her dead groom as cold and callous as he seems?

"An Ever After Summer" by Debra Clopton

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares
the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm
you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
JEREMIAH 29:11 NIV
 

Matthew McConnell put an ad in the Hitching Post requesting a "practical woman to keep house and be a mother to his two-year-old baby girl. Bible believers need not apply..." what he received was Melvina Eldora Smith, Ellie, a lovely young woman with a sad past and a passionate hope for her future. When she steps off the stagecoach clutching her Bible, Matthew puts up a brick wall. Will Ellie's sweetness and faith be able to break down the barrier to Matthew's heart and find the happiness she is sure that God has planned for her?


"Autumn's Angel" by Robin Lee Hatcher

This means that anyone who belongs to
Christ has become a new person. 
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 NLT


Luvenna Abbott is heading west with her sister's orphaned children to meet her new husband, Clay Birch. Unfortunately, Clay doesn't know that Luvenna is a package deal; and he isn't all too thrilled with the prospect of an instant family. Now, instead of planning a bright future for himself, his new wife, and their opera house in dismal Grand Coeur, he has to figure out a way to gracefully send them all on their way....or does he?
 
"Winter Wedding Bells" by Mary Connealy

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the
shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art
with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
PSALM 23:4 KJV
 
When David Laramie puts in his ad for a wife in the Hitching Post, he made his request simple, "Prosperous Wyoming widower with two sons needs a wife. I seek neither beauty nor wealth nor education. But must love children, accept ranch life, be willing to work hard." When he receives a reply from Megan McBride, he doesn't hold back, and is honest when he expresses to her that he isn't expected to live for more than a year. However, the letters between the two are intercepted by Melvin Hitchcock, the owner of the mail order bride catalogue, and some details, specifically those involving David's illness are left out. When the truth comes out, will Megan high tail it away from David and his boys, or will her spunk and sass bring much more than a helping hand into the lives of the Laramie men? 


As a condition to my participation in BookSneeze®, and for the privilege to receive selected download electronic digital versions of Thomas Nelson published literary works, I hereby agree that Thomas Nelson grants me a limited, non-exclusive, revocable license to access and to make only personal, non-commercial use of such digital content. I may not transfer to, or lend the digital content to, another person. Thomas Nelson reserves the right to suspend or terminate my receipt of digital content at any time, for any reason, without prior notice.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com http://booksneeze.com/ book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you are interested in the BookSneeze program (it's free!!) please click the link to the right and join!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

is ready for a road trip!






Road Trip to Redemption ~ by Brad Mathias
"A disconnected family, a cross country adventure, and an amazing journey of healing and grace"

The premise of this book intrigued me, the metaphor of "life as a road trip" has always struck a chord of familiarity with me. Mathias "unpacks" the metaphor by stating, "We want to get our family safely to our destination, but we're afraid we'll get lost, distracted or wrecked - or just run out of gas...too often we forget to enjoy the process; we miss the fact that it's a privilege to take the journey at all." This made me excited to read on, this story is right up my alley, I thought.

Unfortunately, my expectations were a bit off kilter. The bulk of "Road Trip"is the backstory which, while important in its own rite, took so much time to develop that I was tired before the actual "trip" that I was eagerly anticipating even started. I realize it is important to get to know the players in the drama that is about to unfold, but I felt that I should have been given a chance to meet them along the way, instead of wading through the drawn out introductions before the "amazing journey" began. I appreciated Mathias' candid look at his family, his failures, his triumphs, but the entire first part of "Road Trip" felt to me to be a story of its own, a long prologue with some self help parenting and scripture sprinkled in to keep the momentum up. I was ready to pack the car up myself and get the show on the road. Mathias spends a great deal of the backstory discussing spending time with kids to promote an authentic faith, but I didn't feel as though he was "practicing what he preached."

By the time the family (and their extended family, Mathias' brother, wife and kids - of which there was no prior mention) starts out at 4:30 am from Nashville, ready to drive 2,500 miles to Canada in 2 1/2 days, I had to stop reading for a moment. What happened to "enjoying the process" and "the privilege of the journey?" Driving 1,000 miles a day with a family that isn't, by his own account, "road trippers" seems downright pushy. Now, I know everyone travels at their own pace, and my own family's method of a few hundred miles a day, stop and enjoy the journey, doesn't work for most families. But, when seeking "redemption," I felt that perhaps Mathias' and his family should slow down.

Meeting storm after storm in the first days of their trip, and still pushing on, did show determination, at least on Mathias' part, but I began to sympathize with the family, trapped in their tiny SUV, hoping, as was I, for the freedom afforded from traveling. Six states in day one, waking up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (as Mathias put it, "a nice town....or so I've heard. We didn't stay long enough to find out.) - anticipating the much touted trip to Mount Rushmore, which was a two page blip of vague descriptions summed up as "a symbol of his (his son Caleb's) coming of age." I desperately wanted to feel and see this change in his teenage, youngest child, not be told about it. A flash of a writing professor's favorite criticism, "show don't tell," kept coming to me. The dirty rest stop in the next section got more descriptions than Caleb's ethereal "four chins." I found it difficult to stomach the scathing commentaries of the Indian reservations that gave an off-putting elitist air from Mathias and his kids. As though the "true meaning" of America lies in a town's material appearance of McDonald's and 7-eleven. Isn't part of traveling and redemption to get out of one's comfort zone and really see the world?

Day two ended in Billings, after a close encounter with a tornado and the vague, "we had seen some incredible sights that day..." for a book about a trip, I felt that I was barely getting the Cliffs' Notes version. Day three begins with a brief meeting with a family friend at McDonald's, which is given the summary of, "we enjoyed our time with her immensely" but more focus seemed to be on "some American Diet Coke and good ol' Egg McMuffins." The cross between the countries is uneventful and boring. The Mathias family is again very focused on McDonald's, which I found odd. At this point in the story, Mathias has used the words, "indescribable" on at least three occasions that cried out desperately for a description. Those "picturesque," "amazing," and "inspiring" sights could have used some superfluous descriptions. It seemed that the dawn of the first full day in Canada awakened Mathias' descriptive senses and gave me a renewed hope for a true feeling of what I knew the story was about. In these sections, I felt more of a connection to the idea that, "beauty is not dependent on our ability to grasp it's significance. It can inspire us whether we are aware of it or not." I love that. The few graphic descriptions in these paragraphs are delicious, the streams "like the arms of a giant octopus" and the metaphor of "God...asking us...to get out of the bus and put on our hiking boots..." and "our faith becomes little more that a convenient painkiller..." hit home. I enjoyed these passages where I could see and feel the journey.

The week in Canada comes to a close with a beautiful quote from St. Augustine of Hippo ~ "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page." What an inspiring sentiment (though I am still disappointed in Mathias' frequent use of "indescribable" as a description) to continue the journey. The family is headed to Yellowstone, and gets delayed by an onset of sickness in their eldest daughter. Strangely, this incident, and the hotel room setting where it plays out, is probably the most vividly described and heartfelt in its raw simplicity. Yellowstone is another mere blip, "more beautiful than any description I can share here" and another place where Mathias urges, "if you haven't gone...make it happen." I so wish he would have inspired me to go, instead of telling me to do so.

The next stop in the Grand Tetons, the last for Kevin (Mathias' brother) and his family, was truly my favorite. The realization of Kevin's connection to that particular spot was an endearing and insightful look at the brother whom was previously a mere mention. The remainder of the journey is a sprinkling of vague accounts, more "indescribable" sights, and the urging of "you should see it for yourself." The stories of each teenager's "personal message from God" are presented with more insight from the teens themselves. I particularly enjoyed Bethany's account, which offered a candid glimpse into the awakening soul of the 15 year old. The final chapter, more appropriately a synopsis of the story, discusses the "road signs" of each chapter. There is a vast amount of wisdom here, but it feels almost out of place. These "road signs" could have been more effective had they been placed within the respective chapters, helping to guide throughout. The "road signs" stop at chapter four, though, and feel almost like an incomplete thought. Paige's look back is filled with sentiment and a mother's memory of what was possibly the first and only trip of its kind. The appendix gives a brief guideline about planning one's own road trip, but is scarce on too many details.

As a whole, "Road Trip to Redemption" is a wonderful story and a powerful insight to finding, and guiding the search for, faith. What it lacks in descriptive narrative it makes up for in Mathias' earnest longing for his family to find comfort and support in their faith in God.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Tyndale House Publishers Tyndale Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”