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Give Your Child the World Book Club, Weeks 1 & 2

Several weeks ago, I received an email from a blogger I follow, Sarah MacKenzie, about a book club she was co-hosting. The nature of the book club intrigued me, so I clicked over to the co-host’s blog to find out more. I’m so glad I did, and I hope you’ll consider joining us in this fun endeavor.

Author/Blogger Jamie Martin released a new book, Give Your Child The World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time, based on the idea that one of the greatest ways to help children understand our global world is by reading to them about other countries and their cultures. Her book is outlined mostly by continent, and each chapter consists of recommended books for the specific area of the world. In all, she has over 600 recommended books which can educate your children to different parts of the world. I ordered her book on Amazon and it lived up to its book description perfectly!

Sarah and Jamie decided to host an online book club for 8 weeks this summer, which culminates in a contest at the end. They broke the chapters of the book into 8 weeks, and each week you read a minimum of one book to your children about the specific area of the world referenced in the assigned chapter. At the end of 8 weeks, there is a drawing for prizes.

To prepare for our first two weeks of the reading club, I went online to our local library’s website to determine if any of the books were available there. I was thrilled to learn that nearly all of the books in Give Your Child the World were available from my library! I reserved a dozen or so, and picked them up the next day.

IMAG0002As we conclude these first two weeks, we have thoroughly enjoyed our books and I wanted to share a couple of them with you.

This Is The Way We Go To School explains with vivid pictures and excellent vocabulary, how children across the world go to school. Some go via train, subway, bus, car or even boat while others walk, bike or – my absolute favorite – use a pedicab. Does anyone know what a pedicab is? I didn’t. My mom guessed it was a cab for pediatrics. Good guess, mom, but it’s not a cab for pediatrics!

As we are wrapping up Africa this week, Carter loved A is for Africa. This book goes through the alphabet and references an African custom for each letter. This was fascinating and as a rising 2nd grader, Carter quickly ascertained key differences between African and American cultures.

This book club is a great way to expose kids and parents to different cultures while also spending quality time together, identifying where missionary friends live, and daydreaming about places to visit in the future.

Consider joining the book club and sharing about your own adventures with friends and family. Here is a little peek (from Jamie’s website) at what we are reading each week:

Mon, June 27th – Multicultural Week 
Mon, July 4th – Africa Week
Mon, July 11th – Europe Week
Mon, July 18th – North America Week
Mon, July 25th – Middle East Week
Mon, Aug 1st – Asia Week
Mon, Aug 8th – Latin America Week
Mon, Aug 15th – Australia/Oceania/Polar Regions Week
Mon, Aug 22nd – A global link up for all families to take part in–details coming soon!

Note: I signed up to become an Amazon Affiliate so if anyone buys a book from any of my links, I will get a few pennies credited to my Amazon account.

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Fight Back With JOY!

My newsfeed was filled with condolences. Words of grief. Utter shock.

I quickly clicked on links trying to figure out if what I thought had happened, had indeed, happened. A couple of instant messages later, it was confirmed: The 32-year-old mother of three, loving wife and missionary had died during the night. My heart pounded as I tried to make sense of the loss this family would feel. Really, God? Really? Her cancer diagnosis had been grim, but wasn’t that just eight days ago?

Then I recalled my friend who had recently posted about her double mastectomy and a family friend undergoing radiation treatment for breast cancer.

As my newsfeed continued to flood with the tragic news, I held my 21–month-old twin girls tighter. I kissed them as I cried. And I texted my mom to call me.

Once my girls got down for a nap, I was scrolling through all the Facebook messages and I recalled I had been sent part of Margaret Feinberg’s newest book, Fight Back with Joy, to review and write a blog post about. (This is the post, FYI!) Frantically, I opened the book on my computer, seeking to find comfort on such a grim day.

Margaret is an author I worked with during my publishing career. I love Margaret. I love her wit, her charisma, her bravery, her writing. Over the past two years, Margaret was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not surprisingly then, on this Thursday morning while my news feed was flooded with grief because of a young woman who had died from breast cancer, I felt compelled to turn to Margaret, to read her new book, to find her secret to joy. Yes, joy in the midst of breast cancer.

Fight back with joy book coverI read the first three chapters in one sitting. I only had the first three chapters to read – otherwise, I would have read the entire book. I chuckled at the first line:

New Years resolutions are so yesterday. (I couldn’t agree more, Margaret!)

And then I smiled when she explained that today’s New Years resolutions are actually selecting a word that expresses what you want the year to represent. She explained why she chose joy.

But then, in her year of joy, she received a cancer diagnosis.

In the midst of a cancer diagnosis, she didn’t just choose joy, she chose to cling to joy.

I hope you’ll take a minute to learn about Margaret’s book, Fight Back with Joy. It will give you not just a practical understanding of joy, but a Biblical understanding as well. There’s a reason we’re told joy comes in the morning. And Margaret, with a credible perspective, addresses this. She is witty, practical, vulnerable, and the kind of person you just want to know.

Take a few minutes to meet Margaret in this video. Read about her book. Buy her book and then read it. Start a book club or a Bible study to learn about how to live with pure joy.

JoyI emailed Margaret after I read her first three chapters and shared about the death of this young woman. I hesitated because is it really appropriate to tell someone who is fighting cancer about the death of another person who didn’t “win” against cancer? But I did it anyway.

And Margaret, with experienced wisdom, reminded me that the pain so many endure during cancer would not be something this young woman who have to face. In fact, she got to skip it all, and this, she says, though painful, is another reason to be filled with joy.

No matter what your circumstances, especially in this season of life, let’s commit ourselves to putting on the full armor of God and fighting back with joy. Who’s with me?

(Margaret asked me to write a blog post about Fight Back with Joy. I was honored she thought my blog-I-haven’t-blogged-on-for-nearly-a-year was worthy of her time. As far as I’m concerned, Margaret is worthy of everyone’s time so I do hope you’ll read her books. In exchange for this post, Margaret and her publisher provided me an advance copy of the first three chapters of her book free of charge. They also provided these fun social media memes you are welcome to re-post.)

Joyful we areJoy is a weaponGREAT-JOYmargaret joy

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My Bucket Runneth Over

I turned 40! December 16, 2014. There were no fanfares, no big parties, no balloon drops, and fortunately, no new identifiable wrinkles. At least not until the next day. There was, however, a trip to Charlottesville, VA where my husband and I took our daughter for a 2nd MRI of her brain. Last year, she was diagnosed with a condition in her skull that required surgery, and many follow-up MRI’s. It felt like an uneventful birthday, but in my role as “mom,” it was quite meaningful and very important. The day ended with a family trip to Panera, where we sat in front of the fireplace and enjoyed a nice, quiet meal. Oops. I meant to say, where I sat in front of the fireplace and watched my husband run after our three children while also balancing multiple trays and drinks so they wouldn’t spill. Welcome to 40!

Here we are after our full day and trip to Panera

Here we are after our full day and trip to Panera

So how’s that bucket list, Laurie?

So glad you asked! I can’t say I’ve accomplished everything on my bucket list. In fact, it feels like I’ve accomplished very little. But my objective in creating a bucket list (and this blog) was to fill my bucket, not kick it. And you know what? My bucket runneth over.

Bye Bye Legoland

Leaving Legoland with full hearts

Over the past year, I spent time with old friends from childhood, high school and college. We reconnected in wonderful ways . . . the kind where you text each other on a regular basis and actually feel . . . connected. We traveled some (not too much with three kids under 5) and enjoyed seeing family, Mickey and Minnie, Legoland, and my 89-year-old grandmother. We received many visitors. Too many to count, but enough to know I want more visitors this year! We converted to a Paleo diet and I’ve shed those stubborn twin pregnancy pounds and am working my way through those pounds-that-have-been-there-since-my-first-pregnancy pounds. We sent our son to Kindergarten.

I love this picture of our son greeting his sister one day after school

I love this picture of our son greeting his sister one day after school

My husband and I went on almost one date a month! I grew herbs (very successfully) and had a miraculous bounty of zinnias and dahlias. (So miraculous that the neighbors commented on them!) And, after living in Lynchburg for 5+ years, we finally found a church home for our family, invited people into our home for meals (not many, but a few), attended a few sporting events, and made some new friends. Life isn’t perfect, by any means, but I feel like turning 40 ain’t so bad.


This picture barely does the zinnias justice, but I really wanted to share them.

This picture barely does the zinnias justice, but I really wanted to share them.

But you know what I didn’t expect about this season of life?

I didn’t expect seemingly happily married friends to have extramarital affairs.
Or friends to divorce.
Or friends’ children to be sexually abused.
Or cancer to hit so young.
Or friends to die.
Or friends’ spouses to die.
Or friends with amazingly long-tenured jobs to be fired.
Or friends to leave a hospital after giving birth . . . empty handed.
Or that my own daughter would need brain surgery.

When you turn 30, someone should tell you about these unexpected turns in life. They should warn you that life gets harder as you approach 40. But they don’t, do they?

And so, it is with a full bucket, a dose of honesty, and a renewed optimism that this new decade will bring continued grace-awaiting challenges and abundant blessings that I complete this first post as a 40-year old. Here’s to hoping/planning/believing for more posts about life . . . and where it’s taking us.

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The Bucket List

OnTurning40.com was launched on my 39th birthday with the intent to “fill my bucket, not kick the bucket” before my 40th birthday. I learned along the way that filling buckets are a life-long journey – It’s a mindset. This particular Bucket List represents some ways I’d like to fill up my current bucket, at this season in life. Part of the list is accomplished in day-to-day living; other aspects of the list are events or one-time events I want to make memorable.

The Bucket List

Bucket List #1: Write a Song
Bucket List #2: Grow a Garden
Bucket List #3: Run the VA 10 Miler
Bucket List #4: Visit High School Friends
Bucket List #5: Send My Son to Kindergarten
Bucket List #6: Plan A Family Vacation (with another family)
Bucket List #7: Develop and Sell a Children’s Brand
Bucket List #8: Date My Husband
Bucket List #9: Re-Capture Pre-Baby Body
Bucket List #10: Host A Swanky Birthday Party


Blogging On Hold, But I Still Filled My Bucket!

If you’ve ever been business woman turned stay-at-home mom (or dad), then you understand the utter loneliness that accompanies this new found calling. You begin to wonder, “Could I ever even carry on a sentence with an adult again?” Or, “I used to get paid big bucks to make important decisions. Now I get paid nothing to change dirty diapers and communicate in a completely different language.” I could go on about the ironies of staying at home with babies, but that is not the point of this post.

It must have been a fleeting five minutes when both babies were napping when I got the Facebook message. It was from a former business colleague during my publishing years and I loved hearing from her. Her note was very simple:

I know you’re busy but I wondered if you’d be interested in helping me with marketing the new Mark Burnett and Roma Downey movie, Son of God, about the life of Christ. If you have time, send me an email and we’ll chat.

My first thought was: A former colleague thinks I still exist!

My second thought was: And she thinks I am still capable of interacting with adults.

My third thought was: And she may want to hire me!

My fourth thought was: Sure, I could market a movie!

So I quickly emailed her and asked what she had in mind.

When I mentioned it to my husband, he said, “You mean Mark Burnett, the creator of Survivor?” Since I’d never seen Survivor, I wasn’t sure. So I did some googling.

After about 30 minutes of searching, reading, and watching videos online, I had concluded that whatever needed to be done to market this movie, I was in. And here’s why:

Mark Burnett (Yes, of Survivor, Shark Tank, The Apprentice and several others) and wife Roma Downey (Touched By An Angel) are not just married to each other, they are also followers of Christ. When I saw them interviewed about the film, I knew they were the real deal, and I sensed they had been anointed by God for such a time as this to make this once-in-a-generation film. There were two things they said that stuck with me, and convinced me it was worth my time and energy to market this film:

  1. Roma said she wanted to “bring Jesus to the water cooler conversation.” What a concept!
  2. Mark said they felt God had given them successful careers so they could do this movie; if doing this movie meant their careers were over, “it was worth it.”

Working on this film was the perfect marriage of my Bible publishing background, my personal passion for seeing Jesus in daily life, and my years as a professional marketer. So, as the new year began, so did my work balancing babies (literally), a 5 year-old in pre-school, laundry (it multiplies, I kid you not), doctors visits, snow days, meals, and on goes the list. I hired a couple of sitters to help me with the girls, who conveniently came down with separation anxiety the exact moment I started working on this project.

I won’t go into the details of what my “job” consisted of, but will say that we were a part of a much larger team working to promote the film within the Christian community. Lots of phone calls and emails later, I was thrilled that the movie opened in spot #2 on February 28. Though not on my official Turning 40 Bucket List, I have to say, this project certainly helped to fill my bucket!

What I loved about this entire project was that it was a project about Jesus. Simple as that. When I watched the film, I fell in love with Jesus again. I wanted to know Him more. Touch Him. See Him regularly. Talk with and to Him. Sure, the actor is a beautiful man; but so is our Lord.

Obviously, there were a few things I had to put on the back burner while doing this project – blogging being an easy choice. BUT! I was still filling my bucket!! Can’t wait to share some of those exciting adventures with you and share some pictures.

Here are a few pieces of media I found particularly interesting in regards to Son of God:

  1. Roma Downey’s opinion article in USA Today which discusses spiritual warfare on the set
  2. Liberty University students were invited to compete in a contest by creating video promos for the film. Check out one of the two winning clips.
  3. Scores of spiritual leaders embraced this film. I was particularly interested in the commentaries many of these leaders provided on different scenes from the movie and the Bible.
  4. For a little humor, I loved this Lego spoof on the Son of God trailer.
  5. I’ve also included a link (below) to Mark and Roma’s interview with Kathie Lee and Hoda on The Today Show.

I hope you’ll take a couple hours of your life to watch Son of God. It’s playing in over 3,000 local theatres. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve already seen the movie… what did you think of it?

Bucket List #10: Host a Swanky 40th Birthday Party

I LOVE parties. Not just any kind of party, but fancy, go all out and have a blast parties. And for my 40th birthday, I want to throw a big, old-fashioned, get-all-dressed up party. I have no idea where it will be, but I know there will be excellent food and drinks, great live music, dancing, and red velvet cake.

Actually, I should expand on my idea of the perfect birthday party. I love for my friends to meet each other. There is nothing that drives me crazier than going to a party and trying to start a conversation with someone who just stares back at you. Recently, I was at a party and I think it was obvious the host had put some thought into the table seating for her guests. Our table consisted of a husband and wife who lived in the area and a mother and daughter who were from out of town. I began talking with the mom and daughter, who were right next to me, and it was like pulling teeth out of a shark. (I’ve never actually done that, but I can only imagine it would be very difficult, thus the analogy.) I tried every topic. Even the “We have baby twins at home” thing didn’t get a smile or a few questions. Finally, I introduced myself to the couple across from us and turns out, they had twins too. We clearly had a lot to talk about. I finally concluded the host wanted us to meet the other twin parents, which I really appreciated.

Hosts, in my opinion, should put thought into how the guests will interact with each other, who should meet each other, and to an extent, what the conversation should be. In fact, one of the greatest joys I have in life is connecting my friends with each other. I’ve benefited from friends connecting me with others and this has resulted in new and amazing friendships. So… at my 40th birthday party, I want my friends to get to know each other, not just walk on eggshells and smile at others as they look across the table. I want them to talk about what they have in common, where they’re from, how they know me, and good grief, if they want to share embarrassing memories of me, I’ll let ‘em do it that one night!

But I also want the party to be glamorous. Who dresses up anymore? I love going to D.C. because men wear suits and women wear dresses. At 5 o’clock, there is a mass exodus from corporate America and by 7, everyone is back on the streets adorned in their cocktail attire. I love it! LOVE IT! People don’t even get dressed up to go to the Theatre anymore. For my 40th birthday, the dress is formal. Black tie. And I want all the women to feel like princesses and the men to feel like princes.

Whoops. Now that I’ve stated all of this, I’ve gotta figure out how to pay for it!

So what’s a great party look like to you? Do you love glamorous dresses or comfy jeans?

Bucket List #8: Date My Husband

Having a child rocked our world. I’m not really sure what we did with our time before we had Carter. Oh, wait, it’s coming back to me. Yeah, we ate out. Often. We really enjoyed fine dining. We had friends over and cooked. Often. We had a business. We were involved in church. We traveled. We went on long walks. We hiked and biked and went to Target without hearing a voice that says, “I need this” over and over and over again.

And then as if having a child didn’t rock our world enough, we decided to move to a small town and live with my parents for a season so my husband could go to Law School. We then had two miscarriages followed by a miserable twin pregnancy, the birth of twins, a new job, a new home, and hmmm… yeah, you get it.

I rarely see my husband. Don’t get me wrong. He is very present. He is there when I wake up in the night to take care of a crying baby. He makes me Peets coffee in the morning and puts babies in bed with me, after changing their diapers, so I can have a little more shut-eye. He comes straight home in the evening and helps with dinner, baths, and bed time. We collapse into our beds at night, and we repeat it all again the next day. Every day. Occasionally, I will look at him and say, “So THAT’S what you look like!” Truly, we don’t see each other because we are lost in the chaos of living life. Something is wrong, tragically wrong, with this picture.

As simple as it seems, I want to date my husband. Once a month (more if we can!) I want to go on a date. That means have a sitter, plan what we’re gonna do and then do it. Movies may be off limits because we must be able to SEE each other while we are on our date. We live too much of our lives in the dark as it is.

I’m curious – do you see your spouse? What kinds of activities do you do to stay connected and date each other?

Bucket List #5: Send My Son to Kindergarten (yikes!)

In addition to turning 40, another rite of passage is sending your children to kindergarten. And this year, not only will I turn 40, but I will also send my son to kindergarten. This isn’t a goal, it is a matter of fact. It will happen.

It’s hard to believe my mom was 30 years old when I went to kindergarten back in 1980. Fortunately, we lived in a good neighborhood with a good public school. The running joke in our family is that I went to kindergarten and told my teacher that “my mom was having her history told.” In reality, my mom was having a hysterectomy!

Today, there are so many choices for education! Do you send your kid to public school? Private school? Do you home school? Maybe home schooling wouldn’t be the same emotional trauma of sending a child to school, but after serious dialogue with my husband about home schooling, that is not the path for us. (Let me interject that I have utmost respect for homeschooling families and have absolutely no idea how in the world you do what you do.) So this bucket list item is more of a matter-of-fact, it’s gonna happen. But the journey of getting there is something I want to enjoy. The process of selecting the right school for him, visiting schools, meeting teachers, interviewing, placement tests, meeting other kindergarten moms, and the list goes on. I’m excited for him. He’s a curious learner with a crazy imagination. He’s ready to go to school… is mom?

Bucket List # 6: Plan a Family Vacation with Another Family

Growing up, my family took family vacations almost every year with another family, the Howard Family. Our parents met when they all four lived in Albany, GA and attended the same church. At the time, the children included their daughter and me. They eventually added three more and my brother also joined the party for a total of six kids and four adults. Summer after summer we spent adventuring the country. It. Was. A. Blast. From Disneyworld to camping with skunks (yeah, that really happened) we made memories together and shared experiences that bonded us for life. Every family should have friends like the Howards. With the exception of the two years or so in Albany, our families never lived in the same city, but when we were together, it was as if we did life together 24/7.

My husband and I have been trying to figure out our vacation tradition. Or rather, we’ve been trying to figure out how to take vacations. The first few years after we were married, vacations consisted of extended work trips, travels from the east coast to the west to see his family, or piggy backing with my parents at their time shares. Nearly simultaneous with the arrival of our son was our adventure into law school, so vacations became husband-less summers with a few days together at my parents’ time share in Orlando. Sometimes with additional family, sometimes not.

I’d like to have at least one other family – maybe more – that we take vacations with on a semi-regular basis. Someone with kids similar in age so we can enjoy many of the same age-appropriate activities together. Not sure what we’re gonna do yet, or with whom, but what a fun memory to begin with our family!

What about you? Do you have a family vacation tradition? What is it? Do you have other families or friends with whom you vacation?

Bucket List #9: Recapture Pre-Baby Body

In the summer of 2000, my grandma Whaley died. She had lived with lupus for over 30 years, and while that was not the ultimate cause of her death, it was a debilitating condition that caused daily chronic pain. She would often say she would not wish lupus on her worst enemy. (not that she had any enemies)

You can imagine my surprise and fear when exactly one week after her death, I became stricken with odd symptoms and was eventually given a “you may have lupus” talk by my doctor. After several months of tests and treatments, I was still at square one and extremely frustrated. (One treatment caused me to have a panic attack episode in Target. I thought all the carts were chasing me. Not one of my better days.)

A colleague suggested I consider a nutritionist, which she had been seeing. Though I was skeptical, I went for a visit. The nutritionist did a complete overhaul on my diet and within a few weeks, some of the inflammation I was experiencing in my legs had decreased. Over the next several months, I began to feel the benefits of eating as a way to nourish my body, not just for the pure pleasure of it. 9 months later, I had shed the pounds we’d set as a goal, and I was a new person, on many levels. Most importantly, there were no signs of lupus whatsoever. I continued to see my nutritionist for a number of years, and she became a part of my life. She even read Scripture at our wedding.

Here is a picture of me before and after my massive eat-for-nourishment-not-for-pleasure overhaul. I wish you could see my legs in the “before” picture. The backs of them were bright red from the inflammation that was attacking my body. I lost 17 pounds, which may not seem like much, but when you’re just 5’2, that makes a big difference.

before after

Four pregnancies later, I find that my weight and my eating habits are not where they need to be. My body feels the lack of nourishment.

As I am in this 39th year of my life, my eating habits are becoming a priority and I am aiming to shed the rest of this unneeded, unwanted weight. I will be using a combination of the tactics I learned from my nutritionist as well as Weight Watchers. If I was in Nashville, I would see my nutritionist; since I am 8 hours away, I find Weight Watchers to have a good tracking system with wonderful tools. The programs are far from identical, but can be melded.

Losing weight has many benefits, and not just the obvious ones like wearing smaller clothes and looking great. The biggest benefit is to feel great. As my nutritionist said, “You put junk in, you get junk out.” So true and yet, so hard to live when you really think you enjoy “junk.”

What do you do to stay healthy? Or do you need a health challenge like me? Share your thoughts!