Book review: Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

NOTE: I was given an advance copy of the book Hannah, Delivered (affiliate link) in exchange for my honest opinion. Review and opinions below are my own.

"There's three things to learn about labor. It's work. It hurts a lot. And you can do it." - Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

When I got an email from a publisher with the subject line “Midwife Fiction”, you know that I was in! I am a bit of a natural birth junkie. I just love to hear how women learn to trust their bodies and how they discover their strength through childbirth. I actually visited my midwife just last week for my annual checkup and fell in love again with the entire practice. The old Victorian house, the cloth robe and cover, the corner of the exam room filled with toys for the kids, the comfy chairs I sat in while we chatted, with the sunlight streaming in the huge windows…So far removed from what I’ve heard about OB/GYN offices. I just love sharing the stories of my first natural birth and my second natural birth.

The mind-body connection espoused by midwifery is not so far removed from what we practice in yoga. The book that I was given a chance to read definitely delivered (if you will excuse the pun) on that reality. The book is called Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew (affiliate link) and it is about a young woman on her journey to become a midwife. She has built a safe, secure life for herself working in an administrative position at a hospital and one evening is called to assist in a birth. She accidentally ends up catching the baby and BAM! catches the midwifery bug. She will have to leave everything she knows: her job, her relationship, her state, and her security to train as a midwife, only to return to practice in a town where midwifery is only barely legal. Is that how this really happens? BAM!, just like that? To a woman who has never been a mother herself? I am not sure. I didn’t know much about birth, myself, until I read the book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy (affiliate link) almost 10 years ago. Shortly after, I also read Taking Charge Of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler (affiliate link). To say those two books shook up my idea of what my body was capable of and how our society has treated women would be an understatement. Some of these same injustices, mistrust, and misinformation are touched on in Hannah, Delivered. It is plausible that activism is a response to correct a wrong. But more importantly, Hannah’s journey to midwifery is a journey that has a goal of creating what is right: assisting women in the positive aspects of birth and allowing them to be free. The book is about how Hannah delivers herself from her old ideas of what she “should” be or isn’t, and allows herself to be born into what she is meant to be. She struggles with her place in the world as well as her own spirituality and the spirituality of her parents. It’s definitely not a Christian book, as the main character remains agnostic throughout the book. But I did not feel uncomfortable with it as a Christian, either. The Christ-followers in the book were presented in a positive and loving way.

The characters in the book were believable and I found myself caring what happened to them. There was enough of a twist for me to wonder what was going to happen, but enough of a reassurance that I didn’t feel the need to skip to the end to keep from getting anxious (not that I ever do that…) . I also found the end satisfying, unlike some of our recent Book Club books. I would happily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good fiction, whether or not you are a natural birth junkie.

Hannah, Delivered by Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

So if you’re getting ready to build your summer book list, add Hannah, Delivered — and let me know what you think!

My Self-Care List: suggestions needed

Drinking coffee & reading

This week, I was very inspired by this post by Green Moms Collective about self-care for moms. In the post, the writer encouraged us (even if we aren’t moms!) to make a list of things that make us feel renewed and happy, and even to write down how much time each of these activities take so that we can intentionally build them into our days. While this might sound unnecessarily detailed to some people, this approach sounds perfect for me! I loooove to multitask and I constantly have a list in my head and on my iPhone of various tasks that I mentally (and physically) arrange and re-arrange according to the length of time I have available and the length of time the task requires. So I thought I’d make a quick list of things I love to do and the amount of time I could allocate for them. Hopefully this will keep me accountable for actually taking breaks during the holiday season.

  • Read: magazine (like Green Child Magazine, Real Simple Magazine, or Shape) – 30 min
  • Read: book club book – 30 min
  • Read: other peoples’ blogs – 5-30 min
  • Read: bible/bible study – 30 min
  • Take a detox bath with epsom salt/baking soda – 20 min
  • Deep breathing – 1 min to 5 min
  • Take a nap – 25 min
  • Do a yoga vinyasa – 5-10 min
  • Entire yoga workout (Ashtanga series, from online instructor, or ad lib) – 20-45 min
  • Watch a TV something – 30 min
  • Drinking tea – 5 min
  • Eating something chocolate – 2 min

Well, that’s all that I could come up with off the top of my head, and I am realizing that unfortunately most of my “happy” things require at least 20-30 minutes. Which might explain why I never seem to have time to do what I enjoy. Who has 20-30 extra minutes?! Not me!

Now accepting ideas: things to add fun to the day that take less than 5 minutes?

Contentment vs Lack of Ambition

We’re reading Sheryl Sandberg’s inspiring book Lean In for book club this month. I know, I’m late to the party since I’ve actually already heard her speak at BlogHer 2013 in July. But I wanted to wait to read the whole book until I had the opportunity to discuss it with some really smart and thoughtful ladies in my neighborhood while drinking wine. I have found this book to be extremely balanced, and not at all about how we all need to be CEO’s or how women need to kick men’s butts in the workplace.

I particularly loved how she highlights that not all of us who are not CEO’s or even full time employees at the moment have made that choice due to lack of ambition. Sometimes it is because the way we are living our life right now is just right for us at this moment. This is a yoga principle as well — being content with where you are right now and accepting both your limitations and your current accomplishments.

"Many people are not interested in acquiring power, not because they lack ambition, but because they are living their lives as they desire." - Sheryl Sandberg

Changing Diapers: the end of my journey, the beginning of yours?

I reached a bittersweet milestone in my parenting journey in the last 2 weeks: I finally packed up all my cloth diapers! After consecutively and simultaneously cloth diapering two babies since 2009, it was my first time to start doing loads of tiny undies instead of cloth diapers.

Folding tiny undies
Folding tiny undies

I did, however, make sure to pack the cloth diapers safely after washing and stripping so they are more than ready for another baby that might come along…I am relatively sure that this is not the absolute end of my cloth diapering journey.

Storing cloth diapers for future baby
Storing cloth diapers for future baby?

As I look back on my time in the trenches of cloth diapering, I know that I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience. It was both harder and easier than I thought it would be. I never felt like the cloth diapers added more than I could handle to the challenges of raising two babies virtually at the same time, but there were also hiccups in leaking, washing, and repairing that I wouldn’t have envisioned when I started.

Out of all the advice I would give to parents who are looking into or just starting their cloth diapering journey, there is one resource that I would recommend above all others: a book by Kelly Wels, Changing Diapers: The Hip Mom’s Guide to Modern Cloth Diapering.

My #1 Recommendation for new cloth diapering parents: Changing Diapers by Kelly Wels

I received this book from Kelly after BlogHer 2011 and reviewed it here. I find it such a valuable resource that I still do not want to get rid of my copy. But, good news for all your cloth diapering parents: I received another copy this year as part of the EcoFab50 event in Chicago! Since hoarding two books is probably not cool, I am going to give away my second copy of this book to a family who is just at the beginning of their cloth diaper journey. It doesn’t have to be your first baby. You might have been cloth diapering for a few months and just now hit some snafus that this book can help you overcome (and it can!). Or you might be someone who works with young parents (a doula, a pregnancy resource worker, social worker, adoption advocate, etc.) who could give this to someone who needs it.

I’m going to run this contest for one week, ending Thursday, August 22.

In giveaway entry form, I’m asking newbies to share their #1 cloth diapering question and I’ll answer it. For those of you who are already on your cloth diapering journey, I want to know who you’re planning to give this book to!


Good luck, and I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have!

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Book tour: Early Childhood Activities For A Greener Earth

Patty Born SellyI am not an educator. Really, really not. But I do care about the wellbeing of our earth and I want to teach my children a sense of responsibility and love of nature so that they will also make conscientious choices in their lives. For those reasons, I am particularly excited to be included in the book tour for Patty Born Selly’s book Early Childhood Activities For A Greener Earth, a book that is full of green school activities for kids ages 3 through 8.

What the book is full of:

  • activities costing little to nothing
  • goals for each activity
  • National Science Education Standards
  • Fun!

The National Science Education Standards are important, I think, for people who homeschool. I do have to say that the it is an intensely educational book. There aren’t many pictures or illustrations. But that just leaves room for more activities! One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 4 “The Food We Eat”. I am excited to try some of the activities with Little Sir (3 years old) to help him learn to be a more adventurous eater.

As a little taste of what you might find in Patty Born Seller’s book, here is a sample!

10 Things To Do With Rocks

10 Things To Do With Rocks

We’ve got little rock piles in every room of this house. We can’t help it-I’ve always been a saver of rocks, and L is too. Everywhere we go, she and I are collecting them, absentmindedly putting them in our pockets and bringing them home.

We dug out the stash of rocks and the kids came up with some very creative ways of using them. In no particular order, here are 10 favorites:

10. Use them as trucks. Long, flat rocks became bulldozers. Small round ones were steamrollers. J even designated one to be a feller buncher, his all-time favorite truck. (um, whose child is this?)
9. Use them as blocks. They make fantastic building elements. We created a cave, some bridges, and a “garage.”
8. How many can you stack to make a tower? Which kinds of rocks work best for stacking?
7. Use them as characters in a puppet show. They all have distinct personalities, have you noticed? Is this a bit of a stretch for you? Pick up a rock and make it “talk” to your child. He or she will likely get the other rocks involved in the conversation and you’ll soon see each rock’s personality emerge.
6. Wash the rocks. You can do this in the sink, a pan of warm water, or better yet, the bath.
5. Paint them. An old favorite, this activity never gets old. Tempera paints are bright and bold, what effect can you get using watercolors? Or forget the paints, how about pastels? Crayons?
4. Paint with them. Instead of using brushes, use rocks. Dip them in paint, press them on paper, roll them around in a tray lined with paper.
3. Sort them. Let your children decide on the categories: size, shape, color. Where found, boy/girl (for some reason, in our house, rocks have gender) etc.
2. Hide them around the house. In our house, we never seem to tire of “hide-and-seek” games. The kids love it when I hide their stuff so they can search for it. Rock hunting inside is a new challenge.
1. Roll them around on various surfaces and compare what happens. Watch how they move, listen to the sounds that they make. This is especially fun if you’ve first dipped the rocks in paint. (see #5 above)

You can order Early Childhood Activities For A Greener Earth from the Redleaf publishers today for 30% off with the code GREENEREARTH now through June 30!

This post has been a part of the Children For A Greener Earth Blog Book Tour.


NOTE: I was given a promotional copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own.


Green Wish List 2012

Everyone else is doing it, it’s THAT time of year…when bloggers publish their gift guides. While a lot of bloggers are paid to list certain products, I am not, so I am free to make an incredibly unrealistic wish list and no one can stop me, BWAHAHAHA! Here, in no particular order, are things I highly recommend or drool over:

  • NatureMill Automatic Composter – it’s a pipe dream, but I include this every year because it’s awesome. An under-the-counter composter that does all the work for you and just spits out beautiful compost! Of course, considering my kitchen layout, this gift would have to come along with a kitchen remodel.
  • Cuisinart 12 cup food processor – ever since I started reading my friend Stephanie Moram’s blog, Good Girl Gone Green, I’ve realized that my 3 cup processor just won’t work for vegan treats. I actually have the 7 cup version on my Amazon wish list, but if we are going to be unrealistic, let’s just go for the 12 cup, huh?!
  • Rain barrel – I’ve seen ways to make rain barrels out of trash cans on Pinterest, but when I clicked to the instructions they require a lot of messing around with tiny hoses, leaf grates, rubber seals, etc. Phrases like “cut a hole with a miter saw and use a plastic sealant” are used… Neither my husband or I are that handy. So my wish would be for a rain barrel that is ready to go as-is, that we can just hook our hose right up to!
  • Another Stokke Tripp Trapp – these aren’t just high chairs for babies, they are also great toddler, big kid, and adult chairs, depending on how you configure them. I really wish we had a second so that both my kids had one. My 3 year old hates the booster seat and I hate that all booster seats are a) unsteady and b) made of plastic.
  • New windows upstairs in our house – I’d always heard that installing more energy-efficient windows on a house can save on heating and cooling but now I know for sure. The previous owners replaced all the windows downstairs but none upstairs. In the winter, even though heat rises, it’s actually warmer downstairs than upstairs because the downstairs windows hold the heat in so much better! My son’s room upstairs is freezing cold sometimes, poor guy. I’d love to have some windows that would keep him more cozy and save us money on heating the whole house just to keep him warm.
  • Nest “smart” thermostat – we’ve drooled over this since long before it was available, but now that it’s out on the market and even in 2.0, we can’t really afford it. Any programmable thermostat would probably be preferable to our old-school manual model but this one can also be controlled from your smartphone and “learns” your heating and cooling habits. Fancy!
  • Green Apple workout clothing – being a Pilates instructor, I am in my workout clothing nearly all day at least twice a week. I like this brand because it is made from natural (eco-friendly) fabrics. We also sell it at the studio and I get it at a discount, so that makes it pretty handy! My wish would be for ALL OF THEIR CLOTHING.
I’m sure there are more, but I’m going to stop there for now.
What items are on your “green” wish list?
*NOTE: I was not paid by anybody to list their product, but it would be totally awesome if I was. Two of the links to the food processors are affiliate links, so if you click on them and actually buy a food processor, I think I get $2. Oooo.

Book review: Sirius Loss by Tim Edwards

Sirius Loss by Tim Edwards

Although I watched my fair share of Star Trek in high school and college (ALL of the TNG episodes…multiple times!…do not get me started on Voyager, Enterprise, or DS9), I have actually never read any Sci Fi books. Then, last year, my uncle wrote one! It’s called Sirius Loss: A Star Lost, a New Future by Tim Edwards.

First of all, I want to admit the nepotism inherent in this post. The author of this book is my uncle, obviously. I got the book for free (well, partially true – he gave me a copy for free but I actually read it on Kindle and I bought that one myself). Truth be told, I was a little nervous about reading it. Partially because I am pretty unfamiliar with this genre in general and didn’t know what to expect. Here’s the description of the plot from Amazon:

An unassuming astronomer and her family find themselves and the entire world dislocated after she makes a series of major interstellar discoveries that lead to the worst threat to Earth ever. Everyone tries to carry on with life as best they can, seeking normalcy in the midst of the news that the Earth has less than four years. Then she makes another discovery even more remarkable that opens the door to our first contact with an advanced civilization that has come to our rescue. The future of our solar system, the sun, and the Earth will never be the same again.

Although I know that the author worked with NASA scientists on the science parts of the book, the science was not too difficult to understand for a lay person, and the faith aspect was not overdone. The characters were believable and I actually found myself staying up past my bedtime one night to find out what happened at the end! Definitely recommend a read, and wonder about a sequel since only one of the scientific mysteries that were discovered in the book was resolved.

3 actions I’d love for you to take!

  1. Please “Like” the Sirius Loss Facebook page for updates and thoughtful blog post about the intersection of science and faith.
  2. Attend a book signing with the author, Tim Edwards, on September 8, 2012 (next week!) at the Barns & Noble in Plano, TX. I will be there! We can meet up! More info can be found on the Facebook Event page or the Barnes & Noble event page.
  3. Read the book. Of course! You can buy the book at the book signing or on Amazon, but I will make it even easier for you. You can enter my Rafflecopter giveaway, below!


This giveaway has ended, thanks for participating!

If you are local, I can actually deliver a copy to you at the book signing in Plano!

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Book: Cleaning House by Kay Wills Wyma

Today’s book review also comes with a neat little TV segment interview to give you a better idea of the topic of the book. Kay Wills Wyma actually goes to our church and is one of the teachers at the study I attend during the fall and spring. However, this book isn’t a “Christian” book – it’s a book about Kay’s life and an experiment she did with her kids. This book was not a “how to” or a “what to do”. It reads more like a blog than anything… and it is a blog too: The Moat Blog.

Kay realized a few years ago, to her horror, that her kids ages 2-14 years old were really unable to do even some of the most basic things on their own. She started seriously thinking of how our children are affected in the long term when we tend to do things “for” them instead of teaching them how to do those things themselves. We are afraid they’ll fail or they won’t do it right. Or we rescue them from situations they could have learned from. She has an article in the New York Times this week called Let Them Climb Trees (and Fall).

“Cleaning House” is a book documenting Kay’s journey to teach her kids some basic skills and how she watched them grow in confidence and capability, even when they resisted and failed along the away. In the end, the whole family gained a whole new set of skills and a whole new “can do” outlook on life.

I loved that this book made me laugh, sympathize, and keep reading! In fact, I had a book club book I was “supposed” to be reading at the same time but I kept putting it down to read this book instead! It’s a highly readable and relatable book. I plan to hang on to my copy and refer to it often over the years to help remind me to teach my kids to learn and fail on their own. I am already practicing this on the playground with my 2.5 and 1 year old, as I let them climb and play on their own. I’ve actually already done this most of their lives, so that when they fall sometimes now, they are able to brush themselves off and keep going, for the most part. There’s a bonus to letting your kids do more on their own, too – if they’re still napping, they seem to take better naps after a good independent playing session!

I’d love to hear if you’ve read this book and loved it as much as I did or if you plan to read it too!

NOTE: I did receive a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review, but all opinions are my own. If I didn’t like it, I promise I would tell you.

Barnes & Noble: I’m sorry your Nook sucks, I still love you!

Lately I’ve found myself at Barnes &’ Noble a lot. For one thing, it’s the closest, least crowded place with fast, free Wifi near my house. Plus, they don’t seem to mind if I bring my own coffee into their store. I’ve found myself there on most of my Mother’s Day Out days when I need to do some focused writing.

They also have a great kids’ area. Yesterday when I forgot it was a state holiday, we couldn’t go to the library so we headed to Barnes &’ Noble where Little Sir played with their Thomas the Tank Engine train table for at least 20 minutes straight (which is a record for him).

Train table at Barnes & Noble

This past weekend, Christian and I were blessed with an overnight date night getaway by my parents, who came into town to stay with the kids. After we had an early sushi dinner, we found ourselves at Barnes &’ Noble looking at books and reading things to each other. We used to love to do this while we were dating.

While we were there, I got to try out several of the demo Nook reader options. I have a Kindle and Christian has an iPad, so I guess I expected the Nooks to work similarly. At least, that’s what I thought I’d heard.

Boy, was I disappointed! From what I could gather without the help of anyone at the store (the first time there was no one around and the second time there was an employee there who made it clear that she had no idea how these things worked, and couldn’t actually make a sale either, even though another customer was trying to buy one. I guess that employee was just required to stand beside the Nooks?), there appear to be three levels of Nook: the SimpleTouch, the Color, and the Tablet. I could not tell the difference between the Color and the Tablet by playing with them. Apparently the difference is the memory and the additional capabilities of the Tablet.

The touchscreen response of the Nook Color and Tablet both seemed seriously under par in comparison to iPad and iPhones. Half the time, no matter how hard you tapped on something, the screen didn’t respond or it responded by overcompensating. Christian and I both tested this poor response on multiple demos by attempting to play the Ms PacMan game that came on the machine. It was literally impossible to play the game with such a poor touch response.

In all 3 of the models, the usability of the menu navigation was terrible. At least with the SimpleTouch, the navigation was a lot like the Kindle so I was able to figure out how to least read a book. But with the Color and the Tablet, I never could figure out how to close an app that I was using. There was no “X” inside the app and the “home” button only took you to different parts of the app itself, never to the home screen or a menu.

I would like to give you a more in-depth analysis of the Nook models but honestly, I gave up after about 10 minutes. If I have to spend more than 10 minutes figuring out how something works, or if it requires me to take a class or read a manual, that is not a well designed device. I’m afraid that owning Apple products has spoiled me in that regard. I know that easy-to-use, flexible products are possible so I am not willing to waste my time learning more confusing products.

If you have a Nook, feel free to defend it but for me, I’m happy with my Kindle, even if it is a 1st generation model.

And Barnes &’ Noble: I still love you, despite your inability to create a good e-reader. I will see you again on Thursday!

Zombies Can Eat Your Brain, but Can They Save Your Soul

A review of the book The Christian’s Zombie Killers Handbook, Slaying the Living Dead Within Written by: Jeff Kinley  Review by: Millie Minor-Gibson
** Please note this is a guest post although I think it is awesome and I wish I did write it! **

Over the years zombies have fluxed in an out of popular culture and have been part of folklore since around the 19th century. There are two main types of zombies: 1) the crazy, brain munching, soul-less reanimated corps that bite people turning their victims into a crazy, brain munching, soul-less reanimated corps, like in Sean of the Dead, Zombieland and all those George Romero  movies.  2) Someone dead or alive who is controlled by a sorcerer or Voodoo priest. The 2nd kind isn’t as popular, but was used in 1932’s White Zombie staring Bela Lugosi. (Personally, I feel #2 is a great metaphor for the way we allow sin to control our lives.) There is also interesting zombie folk lore regarding the Haitians and some very potent pharmaceuticals used on patients in the 1930’s. Some say Haiti is where zombie lore originated.

Since the reanimation of zombies in pop culture (pun intended) there have been zombie flash mobs, zombie parades, zombie proms, zombie walks, zombie movies, zombie TV shows, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and now a Christian Zombie book. It was only a matter of time before the Christian market monopolized on the popularity of zombies in pop culture.

It has always been a pet peeve of mine when Christian pop culture monopolizes off of whatever is popular in secular pop culture, but will not fully commit to it because it is too secular. Zombies are still popular, but defiantly on their way out; much like flash mobs, at least this is what the cool kids are saying. I suppose a zombie flash mob would be the most passé thing you could do, other than being really into Lost, (that’s a joke, for all of you who are like, WHAT?!? Lost, Flash Mobs, Zombies…they are still cool!)  I feel that if the Christian market would come up with original, creative, mind blowing ideas the secular world would sit up and notice. Great example, Veggie Tales; Yes, it has been around since the mid 90’s, but it is still great and I know even non-Christians watch and enjoy the talking vegetables with Christian morals.

So, here we are with a The Christian’s Zombie Killers Handbook by Jeff Kinley. This book alternates between a zombie story and a Bible study. I will explain a bit about the story later, but first I I want to start with the Bible Study portion. I had never heard of Jeff Kinley before, but with a bit of internet research I have found that he runs a ministry on and has written around 15 books. This book is intended to be a study guide, or a devotional of sorts. There are even packages you can order for a church youth retreat. Jeff Kinley has a lot of good things to say. As a Christian devotional writer he writes in a manner that is honest and easy to understand. However, I felt the metaphor of “the zombie inside us” was unnecessary for the message he wanted to convey. It was a gimmick; something to get the “on the fencers” who love horror and zombies sucked in. I get the monster inside of us that is trying to destroy and sabotage who we are intended to be in Christ, message. However, I am not sure the metaphor of zombie was best used here.  I found the metaphor to be distracting and somewhat confusing; as if the author couldn’t fully explain it himself. I also did not understand how the story, described below, fit in with the Bible study portion. It seems they just both talked about Zombies.

The other portion of the book told a story about Ben Forman: A normal guy who doesn’t have a relationship with God, is living in a world of zombies and is engaged to a woman named Crystal who he loves very much. The author goes into a bit of detail about the zombies: Some people are bitten and some people have the gene living inside of them since birth until one day, POW! You are a zombie. There are a few story developments I do not want to ruin in case anyone want to read the book that were mildly intriguing.  Despite other comments I read about this book this story is not horror. Yes, it is a zombie story, but it is not graphic, it is not scary, it is hardly suspenseful. There would have to be enough character development to become invested in the characters for you to be scared for them. The main character, Ben Forman, had a difficult time believing in God, but his struggles seemed undeveloped and watered down. I am a Christian; most of my friends are not. The author’s depiction of non-believers in the story and in the devotional part seem unrealistic and one dimensional. In the end he depicted non-believers to be something you should run from and fear, like a brain munching zombie. How are we to be a light to the world, if we are not out there influencing it?  I suppose that is a different topic for a different Christian book. Tinker Bell type fairies maybe.

Conclusion: This would be a fun book for a church youth retreat taken around Halloween. Jeff Kinley, though I don’t agree with everything, has many good things to say. I hope this book has touched someone less critical than me. 

NOTE: This book was provided to me free from BookSneeze in exchange for a review. I made Millie review it because it seemed so completely ridiculous to me that I was unable to read it myself. Obviously, the free product did not influence either of our opinions.